LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/A
Prayer for Help
Isaiah 33/01-07: "Our enemies are doomed! They have robbed and betrayed, although no one has robbed them or betrayed them. But their time to rob and betray will end, and they themselves will become victims of robbery and treachery. Lord, have mercy on us. We have put our hope in you. Protect us day by day and save us in times of trouble. When you fight for us, nations run away from the noise of battle. Their belongings are pounced upon and taken as loot. How great the Lord is! He rules over everything. He will fill Jerusalem with justice and integrity and give stability to the nation. He always protects his people and gives them wisdom and knowledge. Their greatest treasure is their reverence for the Lord. The brave are calling for help. The ambassadors who tried to bring about peace are crying bitterly. The highways are so dangerous that no one travels on them. Treaties are broken and agreements are violated. No one is respected any more. The land lies idle and deserted. The forests of Lebanon have withered, the fertile valley of Sharon is like a desert, and in Bashan and on Mount Carmel the leaves are falling from the trees.
editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources
For February 10/14
The Road to the Arab Civil State/By: Ziad Asali/Asharq Alawsat/February 10/14
The Boycott Mirage/By: Efraim Inbar/Israel Hayom/February 10/14
Why Assad should keep an eye on Ukraine/By: Manuel Almeida/Asharq Alawsat/February 10/14
Eradicating a distorted ‘jihadist’ ideology/By: Samar Fatany/Alarabyia/February 10/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 10/14
Lebanese Related News
Report: Obama, Hollande to Discuss Extent to which Iran Can Help Lebanon Form
Suleiman: Committing to Lebanon More Important than Hanging on to Specific Minister
Aoun Meets al-Rahi: We Support Bkirki Treaty Because it Embodies Lebanon's Principles
Hezbollah says to remain in Syria
Hizbullah Calls for Overcoming 'Portfolio Rotation Obstacle', Warns of 'Impending Danger'
Sleiman slams Cabinet conditions
MP Fayyad calls for enhancing Hezbollah-FPM MOU
Lebanese businessman kidnapped in Jan. released
Julien Antoun Freed after Two-Week Kidnap Ordeal
Mansour Refuses to Compare Syrian Shelling of Lebanese Territory to Israeli Assaults
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Catholics support Francis, but many split on teachings: poll
Iran agrees new action to address U.N. nuclear concerns
Netanyahu Slams Iran Move to Send Ships towards U.S.
Israel Hawk Lieberman Champions Kerry Peace Efforts
Analysis: Target of IDF strike is key link in Gaza-Sinai radical Salafi terror network
Netanyahu: Those who strike Israel will be hit in return
IAF strikes suspected Palestinian terrorist in central Gaza Strip
Report: Russia and Egypt complete $2 billion arms deal funded by Gulf states
Activists: Syrian aircraft bomb Aleppo, kills 11
Syria Regime Team Arrives in Geneva for Peace Talks
Syria: Aid workers resume evacuations from Homs
Syria regime team arrives in Geneva for peace talks: TV
Russian anti-terror drive around Sochi leaves 10 dead. Female suicide suspects detained in W. Europe
Kuwaiti MP Proposes Saudi-Style Anti-Terror Law
Convicted Australian terrorist flees to Syria: reports
Islamist leader: Egypt became 'republic of fear'
Gen. Sisi: "Religious Discourse Greatest Challenge Facing Egypt"
Convicted Australian terrorist flees to Syria
I was smeared, persecuted and deported in Erdogan’s Turkey
Report: Obama, Hollande to Discuss Extent to which Iran Can Help Lebanon Form Govt.
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 February 2014/U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande are scheduled to hold talks in Washington on Monday to tackle a number of issues, including the situation in Lebanon, reported the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Sunday. It said that they are likely to address “the extent to which Iran can take part in forming a new Lebanese government.” They will also discuss the extent to which it can take part in a “plan to protect Lebanon,” revealed French diplomatic sources. Since his appointment in April, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has failed to form a new cabinet due to the ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps. The political forces are however leaning towards the formation of a government that grants eight ministers to each of the March 8 and 14 camps and centrists. Disputes have emerged however over the distribution of portfolios.
Hizbullah Calls for Overcoming 'Portfolio Rotation Obstacle', Warns of 'Impending Danger'
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 February 2014/Hizbullah on Sunday called for overcoming the controversial issue of portfolio rotation which is delaying the formation of the new cabinet, noting that “some parties had deliberately created obstacles with the aim of targeting a party that represents the majority of Christians.”“Why is there no agreement on an inclusive cabinet that represents all Lebanese according to their political and parliamentary weights and why should we keep spinning in an endless loop over the obstacle of portfolio rotation?” head of Hizbullah's juristic committee Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek said during a memorial service in Baalbek.
“Is portfolio rotation bigger than Lebanon and bigger than the impending danger that is surrounding it? Can't we overcome the obstacle of this portfolio rotation? Is there a hidden objective to push Lebanon to vacuum?” Yazbek wondered. He warned all Lebanese that "the impending danger" will only "lead to tragedies and will not spare anyone." "Let no one have the illusion that they can remain neutralized," Yazbek said, calling on the Lebanese to "unite and start confronting this terrorism and support the army and security forces in preserving security." The stalled cabinet formation process faced a new hurdle after Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun rejected the rotation of ministerial portfolios among sects and political parties, drawing solidarity from his allies in the Hizbullah-led camp, who have threatened to resign en masse from any so-called fait accompli government. Meanwhile, Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, the deputy head of Hizbullah's Executive Council, said Sunday that “the problem does not lie in the shares of Hizbullah and the Amal Movement in the cabinet, but rather in the fact that some parties had deliberately created obstacles with the aim of targeting a party that represents the majority of Christians.”“The core of the problem is that some parties do not believe in real partnership and are renouncing it,” Qaouq added, cautioning that “a divisive cabinet will deepen the problem and further threaten the fragile stability.”
Aoun Meets al-Rahi: We Support Bkirki Treaty Because it Embodies Lebanon's Principles
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 February 2014/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun announced on Sunday his support for the recently-declared Bkirki treaty, saying that he will see that it is implemented. He said: “We want to help implement it because it embodies the principles that Lebanon was built upon.” “These principles believe in stability and prosperity,” he remarked after holding talks at Bkirki with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi ahead of the Saint Maroun feast day mass. He added that he will not be issuing any further statements, saying that he will make political stances after his Change and Reform bloc's weekly meeting on Tuesday. For his part, al-Rahi stressed during the mass the importance of the Bkirki treaty that was announced earlier this week. He emphasized the need to adhere to the constitution, preserving national principles, and realizing the dangers facing Lebanon.“Priorities should be set in order to properly tackle Lebanon's future,” he explained. The treaty calls for holding the presidential elections on time, forming a new government, and protecting Lebanon from regional unrest.
Suleiman: Committing to Lebanon More Important than Hanging on to Specific Minister
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 February 2014/President Michel Suleiman deemed on Sunday as “shameful” the ongoing delay in the formation of a new government. He said: “Committing to Lebanon is more important than hanging on to a specific minister.” He made his remarks in an indirect reference to the Free Patriotic Movement's demands that it retain the Energy Ministry portfolio in the new cabinet. “Flaws have emerged in the manner in which we are managing political affairs,” Suleiman said ahead of attending the Saint Maroun feast day mass held at Mar Maroun Church in Gemmayzeh in Beirut. The mass was headed by Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar and attended by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, and a number of officials. Suleiman added: “Constitutional deadlines must be met because the people's livelihoods are at risk.” “A government that meets their aspirations should be formed,” he demanded. “The delay is not justified because the internal conditions to form it are ripe,” noted the president. “We must demonstrate our democratic merits,” he stressed. “We must demonstrate that we are capable of managing our country and institutions by ourselves,” declared Suleiman. Since his appointment in April, Salam has failed to form a new government due to the ongoing disputes between the March 8 and 14 camps. The political forces are however leaning towards the formation of a government that grants eight ministers to each of the March 8 and 14 camps and centrists. Disputes have emerged however over the distribution of portfolios. The March 14 camp has been demanding that it be granted the Interior and Defense Ministries portfolios. Matar meanwhile called during the mass for prayers “to end the wave of violence that is threatening to create strife in Lebanon.”“Strife will fail if we remain united,” he stressed, while hailing the Bkirki treaty, “which calls for all sides to cooperate to save Lebanon from dangers that are threatening it.”“Saving Lebanon lies in preserving its constitution and national structure and essence,” he stated.
Mansour Refuses to Compare Syrian Shelling of Lebanese Territory to Israeli Assaults
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 February 2014/ Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour stressed on Sunday the need for Lebanon to enjoy a strong army “capable of deterring any Israeli assault,” reported Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3).He told the radio: “We should not compare Syria's actions towards Lebanon to Israeli assaults against the country.” “The developments along the border with Syria are temporary, while those with Israel stretch back across history,” he added. Lebanese areas bordering Syria have frequently come under shelling from the neighboring country as part of the ongoing conflict between the Damascus regime and rebels.
Furthermore, Mansour thanked Saudi Arabia for its grant to the Lebanese army, saying: “The donation is dedicated to the whole of Lebanon and not one political camp against the other.”President Michel Suleiman announced in December that Saudi Arabia decided to donate three billion dollars with the aim of purchasing French weapons for the Lebanese army as soon as possible. Addressing the upcoming presidential elections, Mansour ruled out the possibility that Suleiman's term would be extended. Asked if he thinks that Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji will run for president, he replied: “He represents a national institution that the Lebanese people look up to.” “Qahwaji is keen on Lebanon's sovereignty and stability,” he noted. “He assured the Lebanese people during his last speech that the army will remain the sole guarantor of peace should the presidential elections be postponed,” said the minister. Suleiman's six-year term ends in spring amid growing fears that the ongoing disputes between the March 8 and 14 camps will result in the postponement of the elections.
Julien Antoun Freed after Two-Week Kidnap Ordeal
Naharnet Newsdesk 08 February 2014/A man that was kidnapped two weeks ago in the Oyoun al-Siman region was released on Saturday evening, the state-run National News Agency reported. "Julien Antoun was freed near the village of Aiat in (the northern Bekaa town of) Deir al-Ahmar and is in now in the army's custody,” the NNA detailed. It added later that he was reunited with his parents. "The release took place after several army raids in the region,” the same source explained. LBCI television revealed that the abductee was left inside a house by himself and was told to contact the army intelligence, who came to his release. It noted that no ransom was paid for Antoun's release. Antoun, 27, was kidnapped in late January in Oyoun al-Siman and media reports said then that a girl had lured him to meet her in Faraya region in Mount Lebanon.
Security sources had told al-Joumhouria daily that Antoun was held captive in the Bekaa village of Talia. The sources said that the area was cordoned off to block any attempts to move Antoun's location.
The kidnappers had demanded a ransom on three million dollars for his release. His SUV, 2006 Range Rover, carrying a license plate 5228 was found abandoned in the Oyoun al-Siman region.
Netanyahu Slams Iran Move to Send Ships towards U.S.
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 February 2014/Israel on Sunday denounced an Iranian announcement that it was sending naval ships towards the United States as further evidence that loosening sanctions on Tehran was counterproductive. The move to send warships to the Atlantic was announced by the commander of Iran's northern naval fleet on Saturday, who described it as a "message."The ships "have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa," said Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, in remarks quoted by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency. Iranian media reported that two ships -- a destroyer and a helicopter transport vessel -- had been dispatched on January 21. It was not clear how close the ships would travel towards the U.S. maritime border or when they would arrive. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the dispatch of the warships was clear evidence of Iran's "aggression" and proof it had not moderated its policies following a landmark deal with world powers to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. "The easing of sanctions against Iran by the international community has not caused Iran to moderate its international aggression - the complete opposite has occurred," Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting in remarks relayed by his office. Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, has long viewed Iran's controversial atomic program as a threat to its existence and has not ruled out military action to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has always insisted its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, and President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate elected last year, has vowed to allay Western concerns about it. In September 2012, Iran said it was planning to send naval forces to the Atlantic to deploy along U.S. marine borders to counter a beefed up U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf, Fars reported, with the navy chief saying the buildup would begin within several years. In December, the Pentagon said it was not planning to scale back its vast military presence in the Gulf despite the six-month interim nuclear deal. Source/Agence France Presse.
Syria Regime Team Arrives in Geneva for Peace Talks
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 February 2014/Syria's government delegation arrived in Geneva on Sunday for a fresh round of peace talks with opposition representatives, state television said. "The Syrian Arab Republic's delegation, headed by (Foreign) Minister Walid Muallem, has arrived in Geneva to take part in a second round" of the talks starting on Monday, it said. Sources close to the opposition said that some members of the National Coalition had also arrived in Geneva. "Some of them have arrived, each one arriving separately. Each member is traveling in from a different country," said one opposition source. The fresh round of a process dubbed Geneva 2 comes 10 days after previous talks ended with no concrete agreement on Syria's raging war, which in nearly three years has killed more than 136,000 people. Muallem is set to meet U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi at 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) in Geneva, a source close to the regime delegation told Agence France Presse. But the two warring sides appear far from reaching any compromise. While the regime insists the talks focus on fighting "terrorism" -- its term for the revolt -- the opposition demands the priority in Geneva be agreement on a transition that excludes President Bashar Assad. Source/Agence France Presse.
The Maronite malaise
Anthony ElGhossain/Now Lebanon
On their patron saint’s day, the Maronites have little to celebrate—and even less to offer Lebanon, the country they once built. The Maronite malaise, one of doubt and mediocrity, continues. In the early fifth century A.D., acolytes of Saint Maron—an ascetic monk who’d lived in Antioch and near the Orontes River—built a monastery in his honor. Monks, spiritual followers and students gradually coalesced around that monastery. However, the Maronites soon found themselves mired in early Christendom’s doctrinal controversies. At a battle near the monastery, the Byzantines slaughtered some 300 monks. The Maronites fled from the Orontes and settled in the northern reaches of Mount Lebanon, an inhospitable range of peaks dotting the Eastern Mediterranean shore.
They’ve called these lands home ever since. Indeed, for better or for worse, theirs is the story of Lebanon. In centuries of relative isolation, the Maronites nurtured a strong communal (almost ethnic) identity. Even so, as they engaged neighbors, regional powers and foreign participants, the Maronites drew themselves from the mountain.
Over time, particularly during the late Ottoman period, the Maronites laid Lebanon’s foundations. As their numbers grew, Maronite peasants populated areas to the south and east of their heartland. They coexisted with and displaced others, such as the Druze and Shiites; in turn, the Maronite Church displaced feudal elites at the top of the mountain, so to speak. Holding vast properties, controlling educational institutions, enjoying close ties with the West and deploying the power of the pulpit, the Church developed and pushed an increasingly sophisticated political vision: Lebanon as a homeland for the Lebanese—namely Maronites, other Christians, and necessary partners. As empires gave way to states, the Maronites made their Lebanon. In Beirut, Maronites interacted with their Muslim and Greek Orthodox counterparts to give Lebanon its capital city and political-merchant elite. The Maronites’ convergence with France gave Lebanon its borders; their subsequent convergence with Sunnis and the British gave Lebanon its independence. And, in a sense, Maronite political ambitions—unfolding in an Islamic legal and political setting—gave Lebanon the constitutional order that has defined its republic.
To be sure, the history’s a bit histrionic. But if the Maronites weren’t unique, they were certainly a step ahead.
So what about the Maronite malaise?
During the Lebanese civil war, the Maronites may have saved “their” republic, but they lost primacy within it. In the post-war period, the Maronites may have united to rid Lebanon of its Syrian overlords, but they fought over everything else. After the Cedar Revolution of 2005, the Maronites may have gained allies for Lebanon, but they lost a common cause.
Now, the Maronites adhere to two visions, rally around two chieftains and venerate two patriarchs. Worshiping in two Churches, they struggle for two Lebanons that are truly one and the same.
Some—too hopeful—believe ties with the West are natural and valuable; they believe that minorities should engage with, and not wall off, surrounding peoples. Made for the moment, their chieftain cannot escape his past. Clinging to the memory of a patriarch whose leadership cannot and need not continue, they celebrate a Church without critiquing it because they’ve invested far too much in its edifice.
Others—too bitter—believe the West has betrayed them before and will do so again; they believe minorities should converge and cooperate to keep the regional majority at bay. Made by his past, their chieftain cannot reconcile with the moment. Rallying around a patriarch with the ambitions of a king and the talents of a mayor, they defend a Church they once desecrated because their own dissonance is more tolerable under the new vicar.
None of these Maronites have a president. Since the civil war’s close, they’ve yet to see a statesman emerge. Or maybe they’ve yet to allow it.
Those who should have been presidents—Michel Mouawad, Nassib Lahoud, Butros Harb—never stood a chance. Occupiers and complicit elites stifled them to survive. Meanwhile, those who have been presidents—Elias Hrawi, Emile Lahoud, and Michel Suleiman—never stood for anything. They stifled themselves to ascend.
The Maronite malaise, however, runs deeper. Occupation, tutelage, foreign intrigue and internal divisions have long characterized—and helped create—Lebanon. For the first time in centuries, however, the Maronites offer no ideas, no initiatives and no leadership. In the last five years, they’ve failed to choose a president, agree on an electoral law, secure expatriate rights, push for women’s rights, craft a unified defense posture, converge on foreign policy or push for the more liberal order they once championed.
Having long since lost the driver’s seat in Lebanon, the Maronites aren’t even in the passenger cabin; they’re in the trunk. Without reinvigorating their community or giving hope to its individuals, the Maronites are merely betting that others will “equalize down.” After all, the Maronites aren’t unique in their malaise—just another step ahead.
This is the first in a two-part series on the “Maronite Malaise.” Next week, we will publish a plan to revive the community—for its own sake and for that of Lebanon.
**Anthony Elghossain is an attorney for a global law firm based in Washington, DC. He blogs at Page Lebanon.(He’s a Maronite—and somehow proud, reluctant, and indifferent about that.)
Russian anti-terror drive around Sochi leaves 10 dead.
Female suicide suspects detained in W. Europe
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 9, 2014/Russian special forces are engaged in a relentless offensive to pin down known Islamist terrorists on their home ground or hideouts in Dagestan, Chechnya, Kirgizstan and Kabardino Balkaria, casting a wide safety net around the Winter Olympic Games which opened in Sochi Friday, Feb. 7. debkafile’s counter-terror sources report this safety net has been spread across three European countries.
In the last few days, seven armed jihadis were killed in Russian operations; another three civilians died in terrorist action; and many arrests were carried out, targeting suspected female suicide killers in the Caucasian, as well as in France, Austria and Germany. Saturday, Feb. 8, Russian special forces stormed a third-floor apartment in Makhachkala, Dagestan on information that a gang was preparing to strike sporting events. Five Islamist fighters were killed resisting arrest and a sixth turned himself in. A second Russian force surrounded a building in the Dagestan town of Derbent, known as a jihadist stronghold, in which an armed Islamist terrorist suspect was holed up in a ninth floor apartment. He was killed after a woman and three children were allowed to leave. Thursday, Feb. 6, the day before the Games’ opening, Russian troops waged a six-hour firefight with a terrorist hiding in a building before he was killed. Seven months ago, a member of the same group ambushed the Derbent Habad Rabbi Ovadia Iskov in Debrent, gravely wounding him.
In another Muslim Republic within reach of Sochi, Kabardino-Balkaria, a terrorist “accomplice” was killed Thursday at a security roadblock set up in the town of Nalchik. Instead of stopping for a document check, the driver opened fire and was shot dead. His Volkswagen was found packed with weapons. Our sources report that relentless Russian preventive operations have managed to keep armed terrorists at bay from the Olympic town and the wide surrounding areas of the winter sports events. They need to keep the offensive up at top pitch for another two weeks until the Winter Olympics closing ceremony on Feb. 23.
That ceremony may be a special target for terrorists. Our sources report that the people responsible for security at the Sochi Games are most concerned about female suicide killers from one of the jihadists strongholds in the Caucasus or from a western European country slipping in on European passports with tickets of entry, to bide their time until the closing ceremony. The day the games opened Friday, Nadina Dzhamalutdinova was arrested at Kirgizstan UItash airport, suspected of heading out to serve as accomplice and guide for female suicide killers awaiting their moment to enter Sochi. She was held on a two-month detention warrant issued by the local court.
The Russians are believed to have been pointed in her direction by one of the French, German or Austrian intelligence agencies which last week began rounding up and interrogating women of Caucasian origin on watch lists. Some were sighted already on their way to Sochi. French police last week detained an unknown number of Chechen women at La Roche-sur-Yon and Strasbourg. In Austria and Germany, our sources report at least 10 terror suspects taken into custody, most of them females. The authorities there are keeping this operation closely secret.
Gen. Sisi: "Religious
Discourse Greatest Challenge Facing Egypt"
According to Egyptian media, during his recent speech at the Dept. of Moral Affairs for the Armed Forces, Gen. Abdul Fateh al-Sisi—the man who ousted former President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood in response to the June Revolution and who is seen as the nation's de facto ruler—declared that "Religious discourse is the greatest battle and challenge facing the Egyptian people, and pointed to the need for a new vision and a modern, comprehensive understanding of the religion of Islam—rather than relying on a discourse that has not changed for 800 years." Sisi further "called on all who follow the true Islam to improve the image of this religion in front of the world, after Islam has been for decades convicted of violence and destruction around the world, due to the crimes falsely committed in the name of Islam."
to the Arab Civil State
By: Ziad Asali/Asharq Alawsat
After decades of sustained oppression, Arab popular and political culture suddenly tried to assert its full mental and emotional capacities during the recent uprisings that led to the collapse of several tyrannical regimes in the region. The shift to being so abrupt, it’s not terribly surprising that the results of those uprisings were somewhat disappointing and that the so-called Arab Spring degenerated into conflicts that are taking the lives of tens and hundreds of thousands of people as they grind on in Syria, Yemen, Libya and even Egypt. The spillover from these conflicts has also added fuel to the smoldering fires in Iraq and Lebanon.
Syria is almost starting to look like Afghanistan with the menagerie of strange bedfellows engaged in merciless mayhem, mainly conducted by the Bashar Al-Assad regime, the Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group, and hundreds of Hezbollah militants. American National Intelligence Director James Clapper recently reported that Syria has turned into a safe haven for extremists. It is estimated that about 26,000 such extremists are in Syria, where terrorists groups such as the Al-Nusra Front may be preparing, or at least planning, to attack the West. Meanwhile, all of these groups sink their fangs in the flesh of Arabs without distinguishing between civilians and combatants, all under the cover of religious edicts that are pushing the region into the inferno of sectarian conflict. But the darkness of this reality, which is stained with blood and distorted by destruction, should not prevent us from recognizing the other, more encouraging, emerging currents. A new dynamic is developing in the whole region aiming at diagnosing the problems and searching for the new systems, ideas and values that can help build a better future for Arab world. Some manifestations of this process include several new constitutions, transforming media coverage, and new, decentralized communications and social forums, including online media.
One of the more obvious manifestations of this process is the approval of a new Constitution for Tunisia, followed by the formation a new consensus-based Tunisian government. This was accomplished politically, and primarily without violence. Tunisia, which fanned the winds of change for the rest of the “Arab Spring” countries, has just initiated the next phase of the transitional period that began in the Arab political worldview three years ago. Much of the transition was initially primitive and corrupt. But the Tunisian update includes both a new, agreed-upon constitution and the peaceable transfer of power between parties and individuals. Moreover, according to Article 2 of the new constitution, “Tunisia is a civil state that is based on citizenship, the will of the people, and the supremacy of law.”
It is true that the constitution also contains vague phrases about the role of religion and gender that may be interpreted by Islamists like Ennahda (if they return to power) in a discriminatory or abusive manner. But the net positives of both the process and the substance of the new Tunisian constitution set the stage for further progress. One of the most important features of the new constitution is that it allocates to Tunisian women half of the seats in Parliament. Call it “Tunisia 2.0.” It is a real basis for optimism and a clear sign that at long last the locomotive of change has made its first, but hardly its last, stop in the Arab world. The Arab uprisings that began three years ago were not homogenous in their aspirations. Some expressed a popular desire to be rid of tyranny and arbitrary, abusive rule. Others more directly sought specific forms of political and, perhaps, religious freedom.
Within this popular and factious movement—a virtual cacophony of public demands—another, very different, trend almost managed to take over the wave of change and impose itself on the future by claiming that what was taking place was not an “Arab Spring,” but actually an “Islamic Awakening.” Perhaps some people decided to test these assertions and experiment by giving political Islamists a chance to govern. This is exactly what happened in the Arab world’s most important country, Egypt.
However, these Islamist parties soon prompted the public to angrily reject them when they failed to meet the requirements of basic governance and the other fundamental expectations. This backlash led to the flourishing of Arab sentiments in favor of modernity, secularism, democracy and pluralism. In the Libyan parliamentary election, party balloting non-Islamists trounced the Islamist parties. Yemen is also moving in this direction, and Egypt, by far the most important and influential Arab country, rose up in one voice to reject the growing despotism of systematic religious extremism. In Syria, too, there is a second uprising by rebel groups, not only against the dictatorship but also against terrorist organizations. Yet this dynamic is still very fragile and the risk of backsliding remains all too real. This tumultuous period of transformation and change presents a historic opportunity for the Arab peoples, and their elites, to regain self-confidence and once again believe they have the ability to overcome their challenges and the power to determine their own futures. Explaining away uncomfortable realities by citing oft-repeated theories about “Zionist and international conspiracies” or “hidden hands” should not be allowed to seduce Arabs into any kind of withdrawal from the reality or the broader world around them. Such conspiracy theories are repeated with abandon. They rob the Arab people of their ability to assert their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and to take the initiative proactively to determine their own futures for themselves. It is high time that Arab societies face up to their internal problems and external challenges, rather than blaming others. They should develop new social compacts and legal and political processes that will allow them to unite and shape their own futures, rather than passively waiting for events to unfold, and all the while learning from the experiences of other regions and countries. There is a historic opportunity for a new, galvanized Arab intellectual life to inform and participate in empowering a new consciousness that embraces the inescapable reality of global competition and the urgent need for Arabs to raise the levels of efficiency and professionalism in their societies. Let’s begin by correctly identifying what’s going on: these are civic transformations that must be the basis for the creation of fully formed, well functioning modern societies that are united within themselves and competitive globally. But for this to happen, intellectual, social, cultural and political discourse in the entire spectrum of the Arab world must begin to find ways of promoting pluralism, tolerance, freedom, accountability, rule of law and real equality for minorities and women. This will not be easy. A recent UNESCO report that confirms that half the children in Arab states lack the fundamentals of a basic education demonstrates that all too clearly. The future of the Arab world relies on developing the necessary mechanisms for social and economic development and real international competitiveness. These challenges are gigantic, but the crucial thing is to begin moving in the right direction. Once the process is underway, it is the responsibility of like-minded people to work together and develop the necessary compromises and consensus views that can begin to coalesce on the ground and online to develop a better and safer future for the region. The path will be long and difficult, but it is unavoidable and failure cannot be an option.
**Dr. Ziad Asali is the President of the American Task Force on Palestine.
Why Assad should keep an eye on Ukraine
By: Manuel Almeida/Asharq
The political crisis in Ukraine is provoking diplomatic rows internationally, yet it is hardly capturing the attention of President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, who has plenty to be alarmed with at home. But should Assad worry about the fate of President Viktor F. Yanukovych of far-away Ukraine? Oddly enough, the outcome of the Ukrainian crisis could work either for or against Assad. Underlying the current Cold War-flavored tensions in Ukraine are two antagonistic strategic and cultural visions: the pro-Russian and the pro-European. The protests erupted when Yanukovych backed away from a pledge to sign political and free-trade agreements with the EU. He would not have done it with without Russian sponsorship, translated, among other things, into a 15 billion dollar bailout last December, which Russia has in the meantime suspended over the uncertainty surrounding Yanukovych. Anti-dissent legislation issued by the Ukrainian government in early January led to a renewed wave of massive protests. Neither the parliament’s vote to abolish that legislation nor the prime minister’s resignation did much to placate the political opposition’s intention to call for presidential elections. There is even increasing talk about the possibility of a civil war.
The angry rhetoric of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, characterizing the EU’s efforts to convince Ukraine to sign a free trade deal as “blackmail,” is indicative enough of how much Russia scorns the idea of a Western ally in power in a key country in its own backyard. Only last Thursday, an adviser to Putin on Ukraine accused the US of “unilaterally and crudely interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs.”
In the height of the Cold War, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, Syria was a preferred Arab client state for the Soviet Union. Hafez Al-Assad, Bashar’s father, visited Moscow in 1971, soon after he seized power in a military coup, strengthening the economic and military ties between both states. Under the leadership of President Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union diversified diplomatic relations with other Middle Eastern states (including Israel), and most Russian aid to Syria was cut with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet some important elements of the relationship remained, including the Russian naval presence in the Syrian port of Tartus. In January 2005, Bashar Al-Assad—then under Western pressure over Lebanon—met Putin in Moscow. Both leaders pledged to renew Cold War-era ties, and Russia wrote off 13.4 dollars billion of Syria’s debt: more than 70 percent of the overall Syrian debt to Russia.
Putin calls the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. Although he is nostalgic for the Cold War era, he is well aware that the days when the Soviet Union could, or thought it could, challenge America’s interests in virtually all corners of the globe belong to the past. The Middle East, in Russia’s perspective, is no longer an arena of direct superpower competition. As Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, told the Washington Post, “Russia is not involved in the geopolitics of the Middle East the way the Soviet Union was, so Syria’s not important as a foothold in geopolitical terms.”
Russian experts seem to agree that Russia today wants above all to remain relevant, preserve an image of global influence, and counterbalance American power—especially in the UN Security Council—without getting into armed conflicts over those goals. It seeks to uphold a world order in which liberal, pro-human rights and interventionist agendas do not supplant state sovereignty. Cynically, Russia makes exceptions when it decides it needs to meddle in its neighbors’ affairs. Russia has specific interests in Syria. The Syrian government remains an important recipient of Russian arms and Russia continues to use Tartus’s naval resupply facility. There are also Russian concerns about the wave of jihadism in Syria, which brings back the ghosts of Chechnya and the fears that it might affect Russia’s war against radical Islamists in Dagestan. Yet none of these interests are vital enough for Russia to define Assad’s hold on power as a crucial foreign policy goal. Iran, not Russia, is Assad’s key patron and supporter. However, it is evident that Russia’s position is not irrelevant to the outcome of the Syrian crisis. Russia accepted the 2012 Geneva Communiqué that calls for the establishment of a transitional government in Syria on the basis of mutual consent. It played a pivotal role in the agreement for the slow but ongoing removal of Syria’s chemical weapons. It has also sided with China in blocking most UN Security Council resolutions that could give the West a mandate to act more decisively against the Syrian government.
So what can the outcome of the Ukrainian crisis mean for Assad’s and Russia’s positions on the Syrian crisis? There are at least two scenarios. The support from the EU and the US for the opposition in Ukraine will put Russian diplomacy on edge, and thus possibly make it more intransigent in its position on Syria. Serious tensions between the West and Russia will be inevitable if Yanukovych loses the battle with the opposition and is replaced by a pro-Western government. Assad would benefit. If strong Russian backing helps Yanukovych fend off the opposition’s attempts to remove him and thus remains Ukraine’s strongman, or if he is simply replaced by another pro-Russian hardliner, that could work against Assad. More comfortable where it matters most, Russian diplomacy might then be more amenable to the idea of a transitional government in Syria without Assad, provided it receives guarantees about its basic interests in the Levant. The recent visit to Moscow by Ahmed Jarba, the leader of the opposition’s Syrian National Coalition, can be interpreted as an indication of that.
**Manuel Almeida is the assistant editor-in-chief of both Asharq Al-Awsat's and The Majalla's global editions
By: Efraim Inbar/Israel Hayom
US Secretary of State John Kerry is warning that Israel faces economic embargoes if a US-drafted framework agreement with the Palestinians fails to go forward. While the merits of the current American diplomatic initiative are debatable, Kerry's warnings clearly have a deleterious effect: they feed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign being waged by Israel's enemies, and create the false impression that this campaign is a significant threat to Israel. The BDS effort has thus far had little success. For the moment and for the near future, it constitutes a bearable nuisance for Israel, not more.
Due to wise economic policies that have gradually distanced Israel from its socialist past, the Jewish state has adapted well to a globalized economy. With the exception of isolated cases, Israeli exports are well received all over the world, particularly if they are competitive in quality and price. Israel has found ways to penetrate important markets and Israeli products are even imported by Arab states. Moreover, some Israeli-made products have unique qualities which make them indispensable. Israeli high-tech components have become part of core embedded systems of many global brands. Most Israeli businessmen hardly meet obstacles that are connected to political animosity toward Israel. Moreover, it is important to note that many previous American diplomatic efforts to bring peace in the Middle East have failed, yet this has not created long-term adversarial conditions for Israel – even if Israel was partly blamed for the lack of American success. The linkage between American diplomatic efforts and the fate of Israeli economy is tenuous, at best.
A survey of the international scene also indicates that the impact of BDS efforts is unlikely to grow dramatically in the coming years. Attempts to boycott Israeli products are unlikely to be successful in America, Israel's number one export country. American public support for Israel has remained stable for the past two decades at over 60 percent. A variety of legislative steps have already been adopted to prevent a boycott of Israeli products or institutions. Even the current administration, which has been more than once at loggerheads with Israel on Middle East issues, firmly states its opposition to BDS.
Several Western European states, prime recipients of Israel's exports, are indeed displaying a growing anti-Israel bias, despite good bilateral relations. Many Europeans have lost the shame of being anti-Semitic as Holocaust memories fade away. Therefore, a heightened boycott of Israeli products is conceivable. Yet as the Euro crisis lingers and the European population ages, the purchasing power of European countries is in decline. In addition, even in Europe there are strong pockets of pro-Israeli sentiment. The EU itself has announced that it has no plans whatsoever to boycott the Israeli economy. Israeli products originating beyond the Green Line are a different story, but only a small part of Israeli economic activity is sourced in the settlements.
Israeli exports are gradually, albeit too slowly, being redirected to Asian markets. The large Chinese and Indian economies are growing fast, and these societies do not carry historical anti-Semitic baggage. Moreover, Israel is generally viewed in Asia as a successful country and a model to be emulated. This is true even in Central Asian states whose populations are largely Muslim.
At the same time, the political clout of the Arab world – considered a natural ally of the Palestinians – is decreasing. The Arab world is in the midst of a deep political and socio-economic crisis, with failed states such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. Egypt, the most important Arab state, faces tremendous domestic challenges and is allied with Israel against Islamic radicalism. Saudi Arabia is more concerned with the rise of Iran than the Palestinian issue, as is most of the Sunni world. Finally, the growing energy independence of the US diminishes Arab leverage.
Thus, Israel has overcome the boycott of the relatively stronger Arab world, and the BDS movement's attempts to harm the Israeli economy are unlikely to produce a different outcome.
Indeed, it takes a lot of imagination to see a concerted international effort to boycott the Jewish State. If Israel continues to make products with a clear qualitative edge at competitive prices, there will be many customers to buy them. This leads to the conclusion that the boycott threat is exaggerated. Secretary Kerry is simply echoing the arguments of the Israeli political Left, which claims that an agreement with the Palestinians is the only way to escape international isolation. Moreover, irresponsible elements of the Left are asking for foreign pressure on Israel, realizing that they have no chance to change Israeli policies at the ballot box. The Left's electoral decline makes it more desperate and less democratic; hence its conclusion that "Israel has to be saved from herself" by the international community.
Fortunately, Israel is not internationally isolated and most of the world does not care enough about the Palestinians to sacrifice the benefits of good bilateral relations with Israel. Israel has the leeway to decide for itself what is good for its future.
**Prof. Efraim Inbar, director
of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political
studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Convicted Australian terrorist flees to Syria
AFP, Sydney/Sunday, 9 February 2014
Australian officials Sunday blamed a “fairly major breakdown” in border security for the reported escape of a convicted terrorist through Sydney Airport to join the conflict in Syria.
New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell expressed concern after media reports that Khaled Sharrouf, who served almost four years in prison after pleading guilty over a 2005 conspiracy to attack Sydney, had fled the country. According to News Corp Australia, Sharrouf boarded a flight to Malaysia at Sydney Airport last month using his brother’s passport and was now believed to be in Syria.
“I have to say I think that immigration and the federal police and customs have been doing a magnificent job,” O’Farrell told reporters when asked about the case. No comment
“But I look to see what caused what appears to have been a fairly major breakdown.” Police and customs have refused to comment on the case. Sharrouf, 31, had his passport confiscated and has been on international watchlists since his release from prison in 2009. He pleaded guilty to committing acts in preparation for a terrorist act by possessing clocks and batteries to be used in a bomb blast as part of the so-called “Terror Nine” conspiracy, which resulted in Australia’s largest-ever terrorism trial and the conviction of nine men. Sharrouf served three years and 11 months in jail for his part in the plot. Australia’s government expressed concern last month at the growing numbers of its citizens travelling to Syria to fight alongside rebel groups, with several reported deaths. Attorney-General George Brandis said he was concerned about Australians returning radicalised and with new skills to commit extremist acts after fighting in Syria, where a three-year civil war has left more than 130,000 dead.
smeared, persecuted and deported in Erdogan’s Turkey
Mahir Zeynalov/Al Arabyia
“You’re deported,” one of my colleagues told me, citing his police sources. “And the police are after you.” Within hours, the police phoned my editor-in-chief, asking him to hand me over.
That night, I purchased two one-way tickets to Azerbaijan, the country where I was born. At 5 a.m., I surrendered to airport police in Istanbul. “Hi, I was deported,” I told police officers. Surprised, they told me that the official procedure requires police officers to capture me at my house and deport me, thus I had to pay fine.
They tasked a police officer with escorting me out of the country and I was deported like a thief. It was the moment when I realized that I may never come back to the country again unless the Interior Ministry issues special permission. I left my family and friends behind, without even bidding them farewell.
Turkish authorities violated several laws with my deportation and a strong army of lawyers, who undertook the matter voluntarily, are fighting back. I had valid permission to stay in the country until March 10 and I was supposed to extend the permit for another year by providing necessary documents that indicate I work for my newspaper, Today’s Zaman.
Let’s imagine for a moment that I won’t be able to extend my press card, or that I will be fired from my newspaper and there is no company that would be interested in hiring me. I could then present a document that confirms my marriage to a Turkish citizen, which makes it possible for me to stay and work in Turkey. It also allows me to acquire Turkish citizenship in a year and a half. I feel it necessary to explain this because a massive campaign is underway that claims I was deported because my residence permit expired.
Deported over a tweet
According to a document leaked to the media, a notice issued by the Turkish Interior Ministry says I was deported because of tweets that are critical of Turkey’s powerful Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Deporting a foreigner over critical tweets is a first in the history of journalism and constitutes a black stain on Turkey’s hard-won democratic record – a precious system of checks and balances we are rapidly losing these days.
Erdogan will be remembered as an intolerant leader who sent a family to exile just because he wanted to
To save his regime amid a highly publicized corruption and bribery scandal, Erdogan is staging ruthless assaults on media, judiciary, business conglomerates, civil society organizations, ambassadors and “dark forces” in the West. For Erdogan, everyone is a traitor except those who give him a round of applause. Without even paying attention to profound negative consequences, his government is doing whatever it takes to contain the scandal ahead of three key elections. For a man who is deeply obsessed with consolidating power in his hands, performing badly in elections is the ultimate nightmare. His calculations suggest that the nation will vote his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) first in local elections next month and that it will be a response to corruption allegations. He did not make this secret in his speeches: “Our nation will bury all these graft allegations into the ballot box.” Until then, every anti-democratic and illegal move is halal, or allowed, for him.
He is trying to convince the public that the judiciary has been taken hostage by an “illegal gang” in a bid to justify removing prosecutors who could investigate these corruption allegations. It seems that this “illegal gang” is “unique” as it goes after those who violated the law.
Turkish media on life support
My deportation is part of this troubling trend that has wreaked havoc upon the freedom of the media in Turkey – driven by Erdogan’s never-satisfied appetite to shut down any voice that doesn’t applaud him. He sued me on Dec. 25, when I hit the tweet button on two news reports widely published in the Turkish media. The news reports were about the second wave of the graft operation, which was blocked by police officials appointed by Erdogan. Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi, who is on the U.S. global terrorist list, was among the suspects in the graft operation. Media outlets close to Erdogan launched a tremendous smear campaign against me, calling me a traitor to the country and accusing me of “attempting to show [that] Erdogan [is] protecting al-Qaeda.”
I was sent hundreds of insults every day by pro-government activists, many of them who were most likely paid to do so, aimed at provoking me for a response so that prosecutors would have a reason to jail me. Last month, I was called by police to testify. I dismissed the charges and said sharing two news reports that were published in the entire Turkish media should not be the basis for criminal charges. Being unable to press further charges due to a lack of evidence, the Interior Ministry ordered me to leave the country.
My wife, who is a Turkish citizen, was also forced to leave Turkey, leaving all her family, friends and career behind.
Erdogan, who was repeatedly re-elected with a convincing promise that he would lead Turkey to a consolidated democracy, has so far failed miserably to honor his vow. Instead, he will be remembered as an intolerant leader who sent a family to exile just because he wanted to.
Mahir Zeynalov is an Istanbul-based journalist with English-language daily Today's Zaman. He is also the managing editor of the Caucasus International magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirZeynalov
Eradicating a distorted ‘jihadist’ ideology
Saudi King Abdullah’s popularity continues to grow with his strong stand against extremists and the distorted “jihadist” militant ideology that is a major threat to our national security and social stability. The king has warned that any citizen who fights in conflicts abroad will be jailed for three to 20 years according to a royal decree released this week.
The decree also warned that “Saudis who join, endorse or give moral or material aid to groups it classifies as terrorist or extremist organizations, whether inside or outside the country, would face prison sentences of between five and 30 years.” Hopefully, this warning will dissuade those who continue to encourage our young to join “jihadists” in Syria and elsewhere.
Earlier an anti-terrorism law defined terrorist crimes as any act that “disturbs public order, shakes the security of society, or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of the state”.
Major General Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told reporters that so far 200 to 300 citizens had returned from Syria and that they would be placed in a rehabilitation program that has been established to combat militant ideology. Meanwhile, moderate religious scholars continue to speak out against Saudis joining Islamist militants involved in Syria’s civil war. However, the Interior Ministry estimates that around 1,200 Saudis have already gone to Syria and that many have lost their lives in this brutal and unjust war.
In recent times
Over the past decade, Saudi Arabia has imprisoned hundreds of people convicted for working with Al-Qaeda after the militant group carried out attacks inside the Kingdom from 2003 to 2006 and killed many innocent people.
Social institutions also have a responsibility to address the threat as well as draw up strategies to curb the spread of the extremist ideology
The anti-militant campaign was organized nationwide to confront the influence of the deviant ideology that is threatening the Muslim world today. However, this militancy continues to be one of the greatest challenges that this nation faces today. In order to address this threat, the government should initiate a more aggressive large-scale campaign nationwide to promote moderation and tolerance among Saudi citizens. More needs to be done to highlight the dangers of extremism. The public should be more alert and involved in the campaign to protect the young from the instigators of militancy and intolerance in society. Saudi citizens nationwide should all support the Ministry of Interior in its goal of eliminating this threat. Moderate religious scholars should be more serious in their sermons against the proponents of the militant ideology.
Social institutions also have a responsibility to address the threat as well as draw up strategies to curb the spread of the extremist ideology. Researchers should discuss ways to tackle the concept and raise awareness about the distorted views that produce a negative impact on Saudi citizens in particular.
The distorted interpretation of the concept of jihad in Islam has misguided many of the young who remain behind bars for committing terrorist acts and have become a danger to themselves and society. Religious extremists used this concept to recruit many young people, legitimizing their actions in the name of Islam. It is truly unfortunate that the perpetrators of this ideology have succeeded in manipulating the minds of innocent youths and that they have subsequently masterminded terrorist operations that continue to threaten the Muslim world at large. The government campaign to combat extremism and militant ideology needs to be more effective in addressing this dangerous phenomenon. This phenomenon needs to be eradicated to put a stop to the chaos and instability within the Muslim world at large. Those who adhere to the militant “jihadist” ideology have disassociated themselves from their societies and have chosen to be in constant confrontation with their fellow Muslims who reject their extremist views and principles.
It is the responsibility of both the state and academia to inform and educate the public about the danger that lies within and to encourage a peaceful and moderate environment for all citizens. The role of educators cannot be stressed enough in this process. Education can protect the youth from all elements with selfish agendas who threaten their harmony and peaceful way of life. The terrorists and their sympathizers have been very active while many imams, parents and government agencies have failed to recognize the extent of the threat to our peaceful society. Social scientists have conducted much research to identify the root causes behind the radicalization of young people. The negative influence of some religious leaders and imams, the inadequate standard of education that fails to prepare them for the work force, the neglect of uneducated parents and the traditional upbringing of many families who dismiss dialogue and communication are some of the major factors that have denied proper guidance for the young. A more effective awareness campaign is a vital step that would allow everyone to recognize that extremism has created hostile attitudes and an unhealthy environment. What is needed now is more support for a moderate attitude so that our youth can be more aware and contributing citizens. Let us hope that King Abdullah’s recent royal decree can change the mindset of our young ones who are continuously misled and exploited by terrorist organizations. Enough lives have been lost.
**This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Feb. 8, 2014.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”
lambasts Iran move to send ships towards U.S.
"The easing of sanctions against Iran by the international community has not caused Iran to moderate its international aggression - the complete opposite has occurred," Netanyahu said.
Israel on Sunday denounced an Iranian announcement that it was sending naval ships towards the United States as further evidence that loosening sanctions on Tehran was counterproductive.
The move to send warships to the Atlantic was announced by the commander of Iran's northern naval fleet on Saturday, who described it as a "message."
The ships "have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa," said Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, in remarks quoted by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency.
Iranian media reported that two ships -- a destroyer and a helicopter transport vessel -- had been dispatched on Jan. 21. It was not clear how close the ships would travel towards the U.S. maritime border or when they would arrive. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the dispatch of the warships was clear evidence of Iran's "aggression" and proof it had not moderated its policies following a landmark deal with world powers to roll back its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
"The easing of sanctions against Iran by the international community has not caused Iran to moderate its international aggression - the complete opposite has occurred," Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting in remarks relayed by his office. Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, has long viewed Iran's controversial atomic programme as a threat to its existence and has not ruled out military action to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful, and President Hassan Rowhani, a moderate elected last year, has vowed to allay Western concerns about it.
In September 2012, Iran said it was planning to send naval forces to the Atlantic to deploy along U.S. marine borders to counter a beefed up U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf, Fars reported, with the navy chief saying the buildup would begin within several years.
In December, the Pentagon said it was not planning to scale back its vast military presence in the Gulf despite the six-month interim nuclear deal.