February 11/14

Bible Quotation for today/Human Disobedience
Genesis 03/01-24: " Now the snake was the most cunning animal that the Lord God had made. The snake asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?” “We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden,” the woman answered,  “except the tree in the middle of it. God told us not to eat the fruit of that tree or even touch it; if we do, we will die.” The snake replied, “That's not true; you will not die. God said that because he knows that when you eat it, you will be like God and know what is good and what is bad. The woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good its fruit would be to eat, and she thought how wonderful it would be to become wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it.  As soon as they had eaten it, they were given understanding and realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and covered themselves.  That evening they heard the Lord God walking in the garden, and they hid from him among the trees.  But the Lord God called out to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; I was afraid and hid from you, because I was naked.” “Who told you that you were naked?” God asked. “Did you eat the fruit that I told you not to eat?” The man answered, “The woman you put here with me gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” The Lord God asked the woman, “Why did you do this?” She replied, “The snake tricked me into eating it.”
God Pronounces Judgment
Then the Lord God said to the snake, “You will be punished for this; you alone of all the animals must bear this curse: From now on you will crawl on your belly, and you will have to eat dust as long as you live.  I will make you and the woman hate each other; her offspring and yours will always be enemies. Her offspring will crush your head, and you will bite her offspring's heel.” And he said to the woman, “I will increase your trouble in pregnancy and your pain in giving birth. In spite of this, you will still have desire for your husband, yet you will be subject to him.” And he said to the man, “You listened to your wife and ate the fruit which I told you not to eat. Because of what you have done, the ground will be under a curse. You will have to work hard all your life to make it produce enough food for you.  It will produce weeds and thorns, and you will have to eat wild plants. You will have to work hard and sweat to make the soil produce anything, until you go back to the soil from which you were formed. You were made from soil, and you will become soil again.”Adam named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all human beings.  And the Lord God made clothes out of animal skins for Adam and his wife, and he clothed them.
Adam and Eve Are Sent Out of the Garden
Then the Lord God said, “Now these human beings have become like one of us and have knowledge of what is good and what is bad. They must not be allowed to take fruit from the tree that gives life, eat it, and live forever.”  So the Lord God sent them out of the Garden of Eden and made them cultivate the soil from which they had been formed.  Then at the east side of the garden he put living creatures and a flaming sword which turned in all directions. This was to keep anyone from coming near the tree that gives life.

Pope Francis

Let us pray for all good and faithful priests who dedicate themselves to their people with generosity and unknown sacrifices.

Pape François

Prions pour tous les prêtres bons et fidèles qui se dévouent au service de leur peuple avec générosité et sacrifice silencieux.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For February 11/14

DEBKAfile/Iran spreads its war wings: Hizballah deepens role in Syria. Israel, Syria, Lebanon regions of conflict/February 11/14
Washington finally discovered who’s behind al-Qaeda/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia/February 11/14
Taking bold steps to deliver aid in a broken Syria/By: Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabyia/February 11/14

Karzai fears the U.S. more than the Taliban/By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabyia/February 11/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 11/14
Lebanese Related News

Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon upbeat (Positive) over birth of all-embracing Cabinet
Future MPs: Hezbollah reneging (Go Back) on Cabinet deal
Hezbollah says to remain in Syria

IRNA: Hizbullah Dismantled Terrorist Cell Ran by Saudi Intelligence
Hizbullah Calls for Overcoming 'Portfolio Rotation Obstacle', Warns of 'Impending Danger'
Al-Mustaqbal, FPM Officials Deny Hariri-Bassil Meeting

Saniora Accuses FPM, Hizbullah of Hindering Cabinet Formation

Aoun says to help implement Bkirki charter
Bassil Hits Back at Suleiman from Dubai amid Reports of Meeting with Hariri
Defected Syrian Colonel Arrested in Arsal
ISF Seizes 3 Kilos of Hashish Hidden in Washer in Mastita

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Iranian admiral: The US can expect heavy losses at sea should it attack Iran

International security expert to ‘Post’: Iran’s nuclear research might be legally protected
Iranian Simulation: Missiles on Tel Aviv's largest plaza
Iran Says Will not Negotiate Missile Program

IAEA says Iran detonators deal only a ‘first step’

Maalula Nuns Appear in New Al-Jazeera Video

Rebel attack on Syrian Alawite village kills 40
Islamist Rebels Oust ISIL from Syria's Deir Ezzor
France Says will Propose U.N. Resolution on Syria Aid Corridors
Syrian rivals resume peace talks in Geneva


Iran spreads its war wings: Hizballah deepens role in Syria. Israel, Syria, Lebanon “regions of conflict”
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 10, 2014
In a fundamental policy makeover, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) high command has resolved to deepen the Lebanese Hizballah’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, with wide repercussions on the stability of Lebanon and the Syrian and Lebanese borders with Israel. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s terrorist and intelligence arm, the Al Qods Brigades, was appointed to execute this policy of expanded regional intervention. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that it embodies the latest decision by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to strictly separate Tehran’s approach to international nuclear diplomacy opposite the US from its intervention in regional conflicts – Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians – and direct confrontation with Israel. Henceforth, Iran’s tactics in nuclear diplomacy for the relief of sanctions, and in the negotiations resuming in Geneva, Monday, Feb. 10 for ending the Syria war, will be sealed off in a separate policy compartment from the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of its regional goals in the “war arenas” of Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah were notified of this change last week. It first surfaced in a call to arms by Hizballah’s second in command Sheikh Naim Qassem, which is reported to have drawn 5,000 new Shiite volunteers in its first push. The new intake will receive military training in crash courses for missions in Lebanon and a higher level of combat instruction for the Syrian battlefield.
Qassem announced in a pep speech in Beirut: "We will continue our work and remain in the field committed to our political stances. We will remain fighting where we are fighting. We are a resistance wherever we are: a resistance against Israel and its agents and a resistance fighting in Syria in defense of the resistance.”His meaning was clear. The organization would continue fighting in Syria while buttressing its positions in Lebanon and persevering in its “resistance against Israel and its agents.”That speech was also meant to raise the morale of Lebanon’s 3 million Shiites, who are down in the dumps as they facing bombing attacks by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in reprisal for Hizballah’s military support for Bashar Assad, and see their young men (17-25) being called up for more fighting. “Do not panic or be frightened of them or they will win,” Sheikh Qassam told them. “Our heads will remain high, as we combat the takfiris and those behind them. We will be victorious in the end...” One outcome of Tehran’s new strategy – revealed here for the first time by DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources - is that the formula Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zerif worked on during his Beirut visit in mid-January, to resolve Lebanon’s chaotic political scene, has gone by the board. He managed to bring Lebanon’s quarreling factions to agree on a national unity government with nine portfolios allotted to the Hizballah bloc, nine the opposition and six chosen by President Michel Suleiman. Hizballah was ordered by the hardline al Qods commander to revoke this deal.
Khamenei’s step to appease his hard-line factions has therefore dashed the hopes of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that nuclear diplomacy with Iran and sanctions relief would have a positive and stabilizing effect on other parts of the region. President Hassan Rouhani’s tactics for getting sanctions eased will not be allowed to interfere with Iran’s ambitions to foment discord and expand its grip on the rest of the region.


Iranian admiral: The US can expect heavy losses at sea should it attack Iran

By JPOST.COM STAFF/02/10/2014/The commander of Iran's navy threatens to sink American naval vessels, cites progressive naval capabilities after sending fleet toward US shores. warship
The commander of Iran's navy ratcheted up the Islamic Republic's recent rhetoric against the United States, threatening the Americans with major losses at sea should they chose to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.“The Americans can fully expect that their warships [and] aircraft carrier will be sunk with all 5,000 crew aboard, in combat against Iran, and they could find its hulk in the depths of the sea,” Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi was quoted as saying by semi-official Iranian Fars News on Sunday. Fadavi said that since the day that the US warships entered the Persian Gulf, the IRGC Navy has evolved all its capabilities, training, structures, organizations and weapons to counter Washington’s threats, and added that the IRGC vessels in the region are monitoring every move made by the Americans. In a display of naval power and confidence, an Iranian Navy fleet of warships is reportedly making its way across the Atlantic Ocean, reported Fars on Sunday. At the time, they reported that the ships would sail for at least three months. “Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message,” Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet was quoted as saying.Then, Iran’s Navy Commander R.-Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said the move would counter US presence in its waters in the Persian Gulf. Hours earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday the United States would overthrow the Iranian government if it could, adding Washington had a “controlling and meddlesome” attitude towards the Islamic Republic, Iranian media reported. Fadavi said though Americans might be able to hide themselves in various bases in certain Muslim countries in the region if they are faced with an Iranian military response, but “they cannot hide themselves at sea since the entire Middle-East, western Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz are monitored by us and there is no place for [them] to hide”. Iran's naval power was acknowledged in a Washington Institute for the Near East Policy report in 2008 on "reviewing the historical evolution of Iran’s approach to asymmetric warfare and assessing its naval forces." The report stated, "This study concludes that despite Iran’s overall defensive posture in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, it could take preemptive action in response to a perceived threat of imminent attack. And in the event of a US attack, the scale of Iran’s response would likely be proportional to the scale of the damage inflicted on Iranian assets."


International security expert to ‘Post’: Iran’s nuclear research might be legally protected

By MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/ 02/10/2014 07:11
Leading expert says ability of int'l community to constrain Iran’s R&D cannot be guaranteed “with even 90 percent assurance.” Bushehr nuclear Iranian
Iranian security official at Bushehr nuclear plant. Photo: REUTERS
WASHINGTON - Continued research and development on advanced nuclear technology in Iran might be protected by international law and will be difficult to curtail in the long term, says a leading independent expert on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that the ability of the international community to constrain Iran’s R&D cannot be guaranteed “with even 90 percent assurance.” Indeed, the UN’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – to which Iran is a signatory – only directs countries against developing or transferring nuclear weapons or devices, explicitly saying it should not be interpreted “as affecting the inalienable right of all the parties to the treaty to develop research.”Albright, quoted extensively by members of both parties on the Iranian program, testified last week on the matter in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he described the failure to address Iranian R&D as a “loophole” in the interim deal reached in Geneva in November. The deal effectively freezes Iran’s enrichment of uranium to near-high grades, and its construction of a plutonium nuclear facility, in exchange for $7 billion in sanctions relief from world powers. The deal expires in five months. “The weakness of the interim deal on centrifuge R&D needs to be fixed in the comprehensive solution,” Albright told the Senate committee. “Any long-term deal needs to limit significantly Iran’s centrifuge R&D program.”Albright said Iran’s work on advanced centrifuges may continue uninhibited for the next five months, allowing Iran to “make up for time lost” after the interim accord expires. Yet in conversation with the Post, Albright said it’s a hard needle to thread for reasons both legal and practical. “You can’t design a verification regime around detecting every scientist,” Albright said.
“The NPT is a little vague on this, but the modern interpretation is that we can restrict activity that is state-sponsored.”“States interpret it differently,” he continued, “but in Switzerland, the sheer possession of tested nuclear-weapons designs was illegal. The NPT is a living document, and some interpret it more broadly.”On several occasions, US President Barack Obama has alluded to the difficulty of limiting any country’s research into any topic already broadly explored. “I think it’s important for everybody to understand this is hard because [of] the technology of the nuclear cycle, “ Obama said at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in December. “You can get it off the Internet; the knowledge of creating a nuclear weapons is already out there.”
Testifying before the same Senate panel last week as Albright, Wendy Sherman, the chief US negotiator with Iran in the nuclear talks, noted that Iranian scientists “cannot unlearn what they know” about nuclear science and weaponization. US officials now say the priority of the Obama administration is to physically disable Iran’s ability to build a bomb.
The White House also seeks a strict and long-term verification program, run by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Sherman reflected that policy in her testimony last week.
Asked about the failure of the interim deal to address Iran’s research into nuclear weapons delivery systems, the top US diplomat said that the knowledge would be “almost irrelevant” if Iran is not able to produce a nuclear warhead. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told Sherman he hopes for a verification program that would last several decades.
Contacted for this article, a State Department official said that “R&D is an important issue for the comprehensive solution,” referring to the talks beginning next week between Iran and world powers geared to a final-status nuclear accord. Over the summer, Albright estimated Iran had expanded its program so significantly that it could have the fissile material required to build a bomb in less than two months.
“How do you know if a scientist some place is designing a nuclear weapon on a sheet of paper?” Albright said in the interview.
Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), a strong proponent of passing new sanctions against Iran, told the Post last week that Iran’s research should be treated as extraordinary, as it serves as a subterfuge to multiple international agreements. “Iran’s pursuit of advanced centrifuge technology should remind us that this terror-sponsoring regime ultimately wants nuclear weapons,” Kirk said. “There’s a reason why Wendy Sherman’s appeasement policy in North Korea failed – dictators will always embarrass the American politicians who side with them.” Sherman led negotiations with North Korea over its illicit nuclear program in the Clinton administration.
Meanwhile, Iran has agreed to take seven preliminary measures on nuclear cooperation with the IAEA by May 15, the country said in a joint statement with the UN nuclear watchdog on Sunday.
In a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency and issued after two days of “constructive technical talks” in Tehran, Iran and the IAEA did not spell out the measures, but said full details would be reported to the governors of the UN agency by the watchdog’s director-general. Reuters contributed to this report.


Iranian Simulation: Missiles on Tel Aviv's largest plaza
Ynetnews/02.09.14, 23:41 / Israel News
In video simulating drone attack, aired on Iranian television, Haifa, Tel Aviv appear to go up in flames. Which other sites does the Iranian bank of targets include?
Tel Aviv's Kikar Hamedina square, Azrieli towers, and the Panorama Towers in Haifa: These are just several targets for Iranian AUVs, at least according to a video shown on television in Teharan over the weekend. The Iranian "smile offensive" during negotiations with the West on Tehran's nuclear program did not bring the broadcasting of the inciting clips on local television channels to a stop.As part of a documentary titled "The Nightmare of Vultures" that was aired on an Iranian television channel over the weekend, the development of the Revolutionary Guard's drone industry was presented. The same clip also showed a computer simulation of an attack on Israel and the US Air Force stationed in the Persian Gulf with the use of the same UAVs.The bank of targets, according to the simulation, is extensive. The video begins with the bombing of Kikar Hamedina square in Tel Aviv, continues with missile strikes on Ben Gurion Airport and military bases such as The Kirya, (the IDF headquarters) and ends with Tel Aviv going up in flames. Also in danger, according to the clip, are the Azrieli towers, Panorama Towers in Haifa and the oil refineries in Haifa bay.The images are not new. The video presented images of victims of the 2006 Lebanon War, and Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz, were also shown, although they have not been in leadership positions for a while.
This isn't the first time that Iran simulated a missile attack on Israel. Three months ago, the state television aired an hour-long documentary program about the capabilities of Iranian missiles and the possibility of their use in response to foreign threats. The program included a video simulation of a potential response by Iran to an Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities.

Future MPs: Hezbollah reneging (Go Back) on Cabinet deal
February 10, 2014/The Daily Star-
BEIRUT: Future Movement lawmakers Monday accused Hezbollah of reneging on a deal that would see the formation of an all-embracing government by resorting to excuses and enlisting its allies in the March 8 alliance to sabotage the birth of a new Cabinet.
“When a solution on the Energy Ministry began to emerge they came up with the issue of the security portfolios and when names were proposed they started using vetoes,” Future Movement Ahmad Fatfat told a local television station. “What right do [MP Michel] Aoun and Hezbollah think they have to objecting to names put forward by the Future Movement?” Fatfat asked, noting that “Gen. Aoun and Hezbollah had said they would be naming their [sides].” Political sources last week told The Daily Star that the Cabinet formation process, which has been ongoing for 11 months, was still at an impasse over objections by Hezbollah over the allotting of two security ministries to the March 14 coalition. In January, the leader of the Future Movement, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, paved the way for the formation of an all-embracing government after saying he would be willing to share power with Hezbollah in the next Cabinet. “The political agreement [between Hezbollah and the Future Movement] stipulates the formation of an 8-8-8 Cabinet with ministry portfolios distributed evenly between the sects and the comprehensive and continuous rotation of ministerial portfolios,” Fatfat said. “These are the three main points of the agreement and we are sticking to them,” Fatfat added. One of the hurdles to the formation is Aoun’s opposition to the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios which would see his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, lose the Energy Ministry portfolio. Hezbollah, Aoun’s ally in the March 8 coalition, has urged Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to show more flexibility on the issue and warned that a Cabinet without representation by the Free Patriotic Movement is doomed to fail.
Future Movement MP Mohammad Hajjar alleged Hezbollah was obstructing the formation, reflecting what he said was a pattern of reneging on agreement by the Lebanese group.
“We are ready to offer all the possible concessions to reach a solution but the truth is that we are [going round in circles] because of Hezbollah’s [usual] backtracking on previous agreements and commitments,” Hajjar told Voice of Lebanon radio. “Today we are seeing a failure in commitments over the Cabinet formation .... the excuses are always ready as well as the means but what is sure is that there is always sectarian incitement that covers and envelops a lack of willingness by Iran at present to calm the Lebanese arena because of priorities for Iran’s project in the region,” he said. “Will President [Michel] Sleiman and Salam exercise their constitutional prerogatives and sign the decrees for the formation of the Cabinet?” Hajjar asked. “This is what we and all the Lebanese hope will happen,” he added.

Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon upbeat (Positive) over birth of all-embracing Cabinet
February 10, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon Monday voiced optimism on the formation of an all-embracing government but warned that a failure to do so could jeopardize the upcoming presidential election. Ghazanfar Roknabadi, during a gathering with journalists on the eve of the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, also predicted a rapprochement in the near future between the Islamic Republic and its regional rival Saudi Arabia.
“We are optimistic on the formation of an all-embracing government soon,” the Iranian diplomat said. “The dangers that the region will witness are much larger than this [government crisis],” he said. “We are optimistic and hope that all [political] sides will reach a deal,” he said. Eleven months have passed since Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam was nominated to form the next government. President Michel Sleiman’s six-year-term ends on May 25. Lebanon enters a two-month constitutional period on March 25 to prepare for the election of the next head of state. “If there was no understanding [between political sides] it will be very difficult to meet any challenges such as forming a government and electing a president,” he said. While stressing that his government did not intervene in Lebanon’s Cabinet formation process, he voiced Tehran’s readiness to “help in any way to end the [political] crisis.” Turning to the recent suicide bombings outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Roknabadi praised the work of Lebanese security agencies and said the probe of the deadly attack has seen progress. “Important results have been produced within a month of the attack and the [apprehension] of [Jamal] Daftardar and [Omar] Atrash,” he said, referring to two individuals in the custody of authorities.
Daftardar, a commander of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group that claimed responsibility for the Nov. 19 attack on the Embassy, was apprehended by the Lebanese Army mid-January. Atrash, a Sunni preacher, was arrested and charged last week over a spate of bombings in Lebanon and attacks against the Army. Roknabadi said Lebanon’s state security agencies, including Army Intelligence, the Internal Security Forces and the police’s Information Branch, had all contributed positively in the probe of the Embassy attack that killed 30 people, including an Iranian diplomat. He said Iran was also involved in the probe and was waiting for the final results of the investigation.
The ambassador also spoke about the crisis in Lebanon’s neighbor Syria and reiterated Tehran’s view on the upcoming presidential election there “We are with whoever emerges [victorious] from the ballot box in Syria,” he said. “Imagine the scene in Syria without [President] Bashar [Assad],” he said, noting the growing number of jihadist groups in the country. “There are rightful demands by Syrian people but the Syrian people want reform under Assad,” he said. Roknabadi also said his government had been urged to convince Assad not to run again for president. “[U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey] Feltman, during a visit to Iran last summer, asked officials to convince Assad not to run in the elections. The Iranian officials asked him: ‘What’s the problem if he runs,” to which Feltman responded: ‘If he runs, he will win the elections,’” he said. Asked to comment on calls for foreign fighters to leave Syria, Roknabadi said: “If we are thinking of a solution, we cannot be selective in calling for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters. You cannot focus on one group only. If Hezbollah alone pulled out, will that solve the problem?” “The United States must stop financing and arming the armed groups then foreign fighters should be pulled out,” he said. Speaking in Davos last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Mohammad Zarif called for the withdrawal of foreign fighters from Syria so that the people could decide their own futures. Roknabadi also reiterated Tehran’s support to Hezbollah, its Lebanese ally. “ Iran never sacrifices its allies for the sake of interests,” he said, when asked whether Tehran would abandon Hezbollah as part of any deal between Iran and the West. “We will not abandon our allies,” he added. The Iranian envoy also said recent measures by Saudi Arabia suggested a change in Riyadh’s foreign policy and he predicted a rapprochement was close at hand between Tehran and the Arab kingdom. “[We are seeing a] start of change in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy,” Roknabadi said, citing King Abdullah recent decree punishing Saudi citizens who fight in conflicts outside the kingdom. “ Iran is keen on the best of ties with the world, neighboring states, particularly Saudi Arabia,” Roknabadi said. “Reaching the state of a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement will not be long,” he said. “God willing, we will reach that stage soon.”“We insist on strengthening our ties with Saudi Arabia.”


Aoun says to help implement Bkirki charter
February 09, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement head MP Michel Aoun Sunday voiced support for the National Charter announced by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai earlier this week and said his party would work toward its implementation. "We support the charter and want to assist in its implementation because it embodies the principles on which Lebanon was established,” Aoun told reporters in Bkirki after a meeting with Rai. Aoun said he had discussed the National Charter with the Maronite patriarch and would address recent political developments during his weekly news conference on Tuesday. Rai met with Aoun hours before the prelate headed a Mass to commemorate St. Maroun Day. On Wednesday, Rai announced the National Charter, drafted by the Maronite Church, describing it as a roadmap for the critical stage that Lebanon and the region were passing through. In the charter, Rai called on the Lebanese, particularly officials, to return to the National Pact which guaranteed equal rights and representation for both Muslims and Christians. He also warned against foreign meddling and involving Lebanon in foreign war, saying the country should adopt a policy of neutrality and commit to the Baabda Declaration. The Charter also spoke about the presidential election, urging officials to hold the polls on time and consider revising the Taef Accord to increase the prerogative of the head of state. Rai also said the state’s security agencies needed to have the exclusive right to the use force.

Bassil Hits Back at Suleiman from Dubai amid Reports of Meeting with Hariri
Naharnet/Caretaker Energy and Water Minister Jebran Bassil on Sunday responded to remarks voiced by President Michel Suleiman about the issue of ministerial portfolios, as a media report said the minister met with former Premier Saad Hariri in Dubai. “Whether you understand us or misunderstand us, we are exerting efforts to make Lebanon bigger and more important than a ministerial portfolio,” Bassil said in remarks from Dubai to the Sawt el-Mada radio station, which is affiliated with the minister's Free Patriotic Movement. Meanwhile, NBN television said Bassil held a meeting in Dubai with ex-PM Hariri. “Is clinging to a certain minister, precondition or portfolio more important than clinging to Lebanon?” Suleiman asked rhetorically in remarks voiced earlier on Sunday. On Friday, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported that Hariri had telephoned FPM leader MP Michel Aoun, noting that “none of the parties has agreed to confirm or deny the phone call, although sources concerned have affirmed that the talks were positive and contributed to easing tensions.”The stalled cabinet formation process faced a new hurdle after Aoun rejected the rotation of portfolios among sects and political parties and insisted on keeping the energy portfolio with Bassil, his son-in-law. A rumor about an alleged meeting between Aoun and Hariri in Rome has been running for over a month, as both parties refuse to deny or confirm the report. Aoun himself refused to confirm or deny the news during an interview on al-Mayadeen TV on January 31.


Saniora Accuses FPM, Hizbullah of Hindering Cabinet Formation
Naharnet /Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora accused on Monday the Free Patriotic Movement of impeding the government formation with the help of Hizbullah, stressing that the two sides backed down on their commitments. “All parties agreed to facilitate the formation of the cabinet, however, now some sides are obstructing the matter and imposing condition,” Saniora said in comments published in the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa newspaper. He pointed out that ministries are not assigned to certain parties nor names, adding that this matter violates the constitution. The lawmaker stressed that those who reject the concept of rotating portfolios toppled al-Mustaqbal chief Saad Hariri's initiative to share power with Hizbullah in an attempt to end a ten-month political deadlock. He lashed out at the FPM, noting that “the party agreed on the formation of an all-embracing cabinet but backed down.” Saniora urged President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to take a final decision and form a cabinet. “If a de-facto cabinet was formed then we'll see the developments from that point,” he added. Salam, a 67-year-old moderate, was appointed in April two weeks after the resignation of Premier Najib Miqati. However, Salam has been facing a difficulty in forming his cabinet over FPM Chief MP Michel Aoun's unswerving stance to retain the energy and telecommunications ministries and his rejection to adopt the concept of rotating ministerial portfolios. Aoun has rejected the rotation of portfolios as part of a deal struck between the rival parties on the 24-member cabinet based on the 8-8-8 formula, hinting that he would pull his ministers out of it and drawing the support of his allies in the March 8 alliance.


Hizbullah Calls for Overcoming 'Portfolio Rotation Obstacle', Warns of 'Impending Danger'
Naharnet /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.”

IRNA: Hizbullah Dismantled Terrorist Cell Ran by Saudi Intelligence
Naharnet/Hizbullah has dismantled a dormant cell of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ran by Saudi spies in its stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported. IRNA quoted security sources as saying on Sunday that the network is led by the Saudi intelligence under the cover of businesses carried out by Syrian and Lebanese traders. Hizbullah has remained silent but informed sources told the agency that the party grew suspicious and put under its surveillance two croissant selling shops in the districts of Haret Hreik and Bir al-Abed. They said the Saudi intelligence had bought a franchise to manage the shops and allow ISIL terrorists from infiltrating Beirut's southern suburbs. Hizbullah “did not arrest the terrorists” but handed the Lebanese army the documents proving their operations, the sources told IRNA. The army, in its turn, followed the issue up with the judicial authorities and arrested the suspects, they added. A series of bombings have targeted Hizbullah strongholds in Lebanon as the party's participation in the Syrian war exacerbates sectarian tensions at home.
Sunni extremist groups have claimed responsibility for the relentless series of attacks on the Shiite parts of Lebanon. They say it is in retaliation for Hizbullah sending its fighters into Syria's civil war to support forces of President Bashar Assad against the mainly Sunni rebels seeking to topple him.

Al-Mustaqbal, FPM Officials Deny Hariri-Bassil Meeting
Naharnet/Officials close to al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri and caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil have denied that any meeting has taken place between them in Dubai. The officials, who were not identified, told LBCI TV network on Sunday night that no such meeting was held between Hariri and Bassil. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said that Hariri is currently in Riyadh and not Dubai.
The denial came after NBN said on Sunday that Hariri and Bassil discussed the cabinet deadlock in the emirate. Bassil did not confirm or deny the report but he responded to remarks made by President Michel Suleiman about the dispute on ministerial portfolios in the new government. “Whether you understand us or misunderstand us, we are exerting efforts to make Lebanon bigger and more important than a ministerial portfolio,” Bassil said his in remarks from Dubai to the Sawt el-Mada radio station, which is affiliated with the minister's Free Patriotic Movement. “Is clinging to a certain minister, precondition or portfolio more important than clinging to Lebanon?” Suleiman asked rhetorically in remarks voiced earlier on Sunday. FPM chief Michel Aoun has been accused of hindering the formation of the new cabinet over his rejection of the rotation of portfolios and his insistence to hold onto the energy ministry, which is led by his son-in-law Bassil.


Judge Saqr Charges Roumieh Corruption Suspects
Naharnet /State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged on Monday several officials with corruption, negligence and embezzlement of public funds regarding the case of renovating Roumieh prison.
According to state-run National News Agency, Saqr charged two ISF officers, several employees and a contractor with the previous charges. They were referred to First Military Investigation Judge Riyad Abu Ghida for further investigations. Financial Prosecutor Judge Ali Ibrahim referred the suspects last week to the military judiciary. Roumieh, the oldest and largest of Lebanon's overcrowded prisons, has witnessed sporadic prison breaks in recent years and escalating riots over the past months as inmates living in poor conditions demand better treatment.

Maalula Nuns Appear in New Al-Jazeera Video
Naharnet/A group of nuns from the historic Christian-majority town of Maalula in Syria appeared in a new video broadcast by the Qatar-based satellite news channel Al-Jazeera on Sunday. The women are reportedly 12 nuns from a Greek Orthodox convent of Mar Takla in Maalula who were taken by gunmen in early December. Al-Jazeera said the video it broadcast on Sunday was recorded on February 5. They appeared in the recording without audio, but a commentator said "they say they are in good health, haven't been mistreated... and they are waiting for their release to return to the convent." The report gave no indication of where the nuns were being held, but said that they were "Syrian and Lebanese" and had been "kidnapped." On December 6, the station broadcast a short video of the nuns in which they denied they had been kidnapped. They were reported missing from the town north of Damascus after rebel forces, including jihadists, seized control of Maalula in early December. Religious officials said 12 nuns and three maids had gone missing from the convent, although one of the nuns in the video said they were 13 nuns and 3 "civilians." Media close to the Syrian regime had accused rebels of using the nuns as human shields, and fears were expressed for their safety. In the latest footage, the nuns "thank all those who are seeking to obtain their release and call for the release of all prisoners," Al-Jazeera reported them as saying. It said "the kidnappers are demanding the release of women held in Syrian prisons to set the nuns free," without elaborating.
Maalula, a picturesque village cut into the cliffs some 55 kilometers (35 miles) from Damascus, has long been a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria. Its residents are some of the few left in the world who speak Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ is believed to have spoken.


Iran Says Will not Negotiate Missile Program
Naharnet/Iran's ballistic missile program will not be discussed in nuclear negotiations with world powers, the deputy foreign minister said in statements published Monday. The remarks by Abbas Araqchi, who is also Iran's lead negotiator in talks with world powers, came a week before negotiations were to resume on a comprehensive accord over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. "Iran's defense-related issues are not up for negotiations," Araqchi said, according to media reports. "We will not discuss any issue other than the nuclear dossier in the negotiations," he added. U.S. lead negotiator in the talks, Wendy Sherman, last week told a Senate hearing that Iran's ballistic missile program would be addressed in the comprehensive deal. "The defense-related issues are a red line for Iran. We will not allow such issues to be discussed in future talks," said Araqchi. Western nations and Israel have long suspected Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, allegations denied by Tehran. Tehran insists its program -- boasting long-range missiles with a maximum range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), enough to reach Israel -- is an integral part of its defense doctrine. It also denies ever seeking atomic weapons, saying its nuclear activities are for peaceful medical and energy purposes.
Iran struck an interim nuclear deal with world powers in November under which it agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear work in exchange for the release of billions of dollars in frozen assets and limited relief from crippling sanctions. Talks on a comprehensive nuclear agreement are due to resume on February 18 in Vienna. Source/Agence France Presse


IAEA says Iran detonators deal only a ‘first step’
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Monday, 10 February 2014
Iran’s promise to clarify its use of detonators marks only an initial step by Tehran to address long-standing allegations of past nuclear weapons research, the U.N. atomic watchdog said Monday. “This is the first step that is taking place now,” International Atomic Energy Agency chief inspector Tero Varjoranta told reporters at Vienna airport after returning from Iran. “There is still a lot of outstanding issues so now we are starting on the PMD,” he said, referring to alleged “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear activities, mostly before 2003. On Sunday, the Islamic Republic agreed on seven “practical steps” with the IAEA in talks seeking further safeguards to enhance transparency on Tehran’s nuclear drive, an Iranian nuclear official said. The plan included a pledge by Iran to provide “information and explanations for the Agency to assess Iran’s stated need or application for the development of Exploding Bridge Wire detonators.”These detonators, known as EBW’s, can have “non-nuclear applications”, noted IAEA said in a November 2011 report, but mostly they are used in weapons research and therefore Iran’s stated development of them “is a matter of concern”. The steps are meant to be implemented by May 15, Iran’s envoy to the Vienna-based body, Reza Najafi, told the ISNA news agency. Iran-IAEA ties have improved since last year’s election of relatively moderate leader Hassan Rowhani as president of Iran on a platform to ease the country’s international isolation. (With AFP and Reuters)


ISF Seizes 3 Kilos of Hashish Hidden in Washer in Mastita
Naharnet/The Internal Security Forces on Sunday managed to seize three kilograms of hashish in the Jbeil region. “Members of the Jbeil police station confiscated in the Jbeil area of Mastita three kilos of hashish,” state-run National News Agency reported. It said the drugs were hidden inside an obsolete washing machine that was put on a small truck used in the business of selling scrap metal. Iraqi citizens A. M. al-Omran, 20, T. A. al-Qassem, 20 and A. Kh. al-Omran, 17, were arrested in connection with the case. Investigations are underway to determine all the details of the operation, NNA said. (Archive image shows a quantity of hashish that was seized in Tripoli's al-Bohsas)


Defected Syrian Colonel Arrested in Arsal
Naharnet/The Lebanese Army on Sunday arrested a defected Syrian officer in the Bekaa border town of Arsal. “Mahmoud Abbas, a Syrian defected colonel and member of the Syrian Revolution Military Council, was arrested in Arsal's Wadi Hmayyed,” state-run National News Agency reported. It said the man was arrested at a Lebanese Army checkpoint in Wadi Hmayyed. But the army later announced arresting Syrian nationals Omar Mahmoud Othman and Radwan Mahmoud Ayyoush in Wadi Hmayyed. “As part of the mission of controlling the land borders, army forces in the Arsal area of Wadi Hmayyed arrested Syrian nationals Omar Mahmoud Othman and Radwan Mahmoud Ayyoush for attempting to enter Lebanon illegally,” the Army Command said in a statement. “The detainees are being interrogated under the supervision of the relevant judicial authorities,” the statement added. OTV had earlier reported that one of the men was a defected colonel and the commander of the jihadist al-Nusra Front in the Syrian region of Qusayr near Lebanon's border. Amid the Syrian refugee influx Arsal has witnessed since the eruption of the Syrian crisis in 2011, the Lebanese Army has several times seized cars loaded with arms and ammunition in the town and its outskirts.


France Says will Propose U.N. Resolution on Syria Aid Corridors
Naharnet/France said Monday it will propose a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding the immediate opening of humanitarian corridors to besieged Syrian cities. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the resolution represented an attempt to accelerate moves aimed at delivering urgently-needed medical and food supplies. "It is absolutely scandalous that we have been discussing this for some time but the people are still starving," Fabius said. "That is why, along with other countries, we want to propose a resolution on these lines," he added. Source/Agence France Presse


Syrian rivals resume peace talks in Geneva
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Monday, 10 February 2014/Negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition reconvened on Monday as the second round of the Geneva II peace talks began. Last month, the first round of talks ended with no firm agreements from both sides on the deadly conflict in Syria, although U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had said that some "common ground" had been reached and that the “ice was breaking.” Brahimi had also voiced hope that Russia and the United States would exert greater influence over the two sides of the Syrian conflict to bridge “quite large” gaps. Both sides had been trading insults at each other throughout the first round. The talks come a day after hundreds of people were evacuated from the besieged city of Homs under a three-day truce. The humanitarian deal for Homs was the first concrete result of talks launched two weeks ago in Geneva to try to end the country’s nearly three-year-old civil war that has killed over 136,000 people. The government insists the talks focus on fighting "terrorism," but the opposition says that the priority should be the removal of President Bashar al-Assad. The opposition has insisted that the government commit to the 2012 Geneva I communique, which called for the formation of a transitional government.


Rebel attack on Syrian Alawite village kills 40
February 10, 2014/ By Diaa Hadid/Associated Press
BEIRUT: Extremist Islamic rebels who overran a village in central Syria populated by the Alawite minority have killed at least 40 people, activists said Monday. Half of the victims in Sunday's attack were civilians, including women, while the other half were village fighters defending their homes in Maan in the province of Hama, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syrian state media described the attack as a "massacre" perpetrated by terrorists, a term the government uses to describe rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad. Extremist Sunni Islamic fighters have come to dominate the armed uprising against Assad, who is a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The raid on Maan is likely to bolster efforts by the government delegation to convey their narrative at the Geneva peace talks that the three-year uprising to overthrow Assad is dominated by al-Qaida extremists. The extremists see Alawites as apostates who should be killed. The reports of the Maan attack came as Syrian government and opposition delegates started a fresh round of U.N.-brokered peace talks in Geneva. The first face-to-face meetings adjourned 10 days ago having achieved little beyond getting the warring sides into the same room. Prospects for common ground appear unlikely as the two sides continue to disagree on the core issue of Assad's future. Fighting has escalated since the first round, with violence disrupting food distribution meant to ease the plight of civilians in the central city of Homs and near Damascus. In the Maan attack, those slain included 11 men and women from one extended family, said Rami Abdurrahman of the Observatory. Abdurrahman said the Islamic fighters overran Maan after Alawite villagers lobbed mortar shells on the rebels using the nearby roads. There have been heavy clashes for weeks between hard-line rebels and Assad loyalists in the nearby community of Morek, Abdurrahman said. Most of the Maan women and children were evacuated before the rebels stormed in but one family stayed put, said Abdurrahman. A man, his brother, his wife, their four daughters, three sons and son-in-law were all killed he said. A video uploaded by the rebels of the Jund al-Aqsa Brigade showed them waving an al-Qaida flag over the village rooftops as bearded, grinning men looted homes. The video corresponded with The Associated Press' reporting of the event. Abdurrahman initially said late Sunday that 25 Alawite fighters were killed, but revised the figure to 20 on Monday. Syria's state news agency, which reported the attack late Sunday, said the rebels killed 10 women. Disparate casualty numbers are common in the immediate aftermath of such large attacks. Syria's uprising began with largely peace protests against Assad's government in March 2011 but later descended into an armed uprising and a full-blown civil war with sectarian overtones. Islamic extremists, including foreign fighters and Syrian rebels who have taken up hard-line al-Qaida-style ideologies, have played an increasingly prominent role among the rebel fighters, dampening the West's support for the rebellion to overthrow Assad. Several of Syria's many minority groups have backed Assad, fearing for their fate should extremists come to power. The Alawite residents of Maan were particularly despised, with activists accusing them of killing residents in the neighboring Sunni village of Fan al-Shamali in 2012.

Islamist Rebels Oust ISIL from Syria's Deir Ezzor
Naharnet /The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant withdrew from the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor on Monday after a three-day battle with Islamist rebels, a monitor said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIL withdrew from the province, which borders Iraq, after fighting a coalition of opposition brigades including al-Qaida's Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front. ISIL is facing a widespread backlash from an array of rebel brigades angered by its abuses against civilians and rival opposition fighters. Though it grew from al-Qaida's onetime Iraqi affiliate, al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has distanced his organisation from ISIL and ordered it to return to Iraq. ISIL's chief has ignored the admonition and continued to engage in clashes with rebels across opposition-held areas of Syria. Al-Nusra had largely stayed out of the clashes with ISIL, but the Observatory said it joined around 10 other brigades in the fight against the jihadist group in Deir Ezzor. The loss of Deir Ezzor province could be a serious setback for ISIL, as it holds oil reserves and is a key conduit for the jihadists to receive weapons and fighters from neighboring Iraq. More than 1,700 people have been killed in the clashes between rebels and ISIL that began in early January, according to the Observatory. Source/Agence France Presse

Washington finally discovered who’s behind al-Qaeda
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia
10 February/14
The U.S. Treasury dropped a bomb when it announced a series of sanctions against Iran for its involvement in activities carried out in Syria by al-Qaeda, its military wing Jabhat al-Nusra and its representative Yassine al-Souri. The U.S. Treasury exposed how funding by Kuwaiti fools is being delivered to al-Souri in Iran and transferred on to Syria.
If most Sunni Muslims realized the truth about al-Qaeda and that it is linked to Iran, it would quickly collapse. What happened to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) over the past few weeks in Syria is proof that al-Qaeda could be toppled in the same way. The ISIS was viewed as a heroic organization in the eyes of the Sunni extremists due to its fierce fighting against Assad’s forces. However, it became a loathed organization after the media revealed that it is being run by the Assad regime and it targets opposition forces by assassinating them and occupying their territories. Al-Qaeda would lose its ideological legitimacy and funding if it is proven to be linked to Iran. But is this really the case?
We decline to imagine that a link could be formed between the terrorist Sunni al-Qaeda organization and the extremist Shiite Iranian regime. What is ironic is that during al-Qaeda’s initial years, suspicion and accusations were primarily directed at Saudi Arabia as it is seen as the representative of Sunni Islam and the most strict Muslim country in implementing shariah law. Also, Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden led the al-Qaeda organization.
Arousing suspicion
Suspicion was aroused after 16 Saudis were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. Before that, there was a history of links between Saudis and jihadist work in Afghanistan. In addition to that, some Saudis had been involved in daawa, propaganda and the collection of donations for jihad activities by al-Qaeda in the past.
The U.S. mocked our story that Iran is a major party in al-Qaeda’s activities. The U.S. described such opinions as ridiculous and malicious
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
However, with the passing of time, new events have surprised us with news to the contrary. During the years in which al-Qaeda was active in Iraq, it seemed strange that al-Qaeda’s targets were synonymous Iran’s targets against Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, the U.S. and Europe! There was information that Iran was hosting dozens of al-Qaeda members who fled Afghanistan after the Americans attacked the organization there. The Iranian government did not deny that but it alleged that Seif al-Adel, bin Laden’s son, and Suleiman Abu Ghaith were in detention.
In later years, information gleaned from information available via detainees’ testimonies and via monitoring al-Qaeda’s activity and contacts led the region’s countries to become more convinced that the Iranian and Syrian regimes are behind a lot of al-Qaeda’s operations.
Mocking our story
The U.S. mocked our story that Iran is a major party in al-Qaeda’s activities. The U.S. described such opinions as ridiculous and malicious, alleging that we want to collect our rivals - Iran, Assad and al-Qaeda - in one basket!
The westerners could not grasp the idea that an extremist Sunni group could ally or work with an extremist Shiite regime. They are right to find this allegation difficult to understand because it’s tantamount to saying that the U.S. runs and finances communist groups! Since I have written a lot about this subject - that is the suspicion relation - I will only repeat that in our region, it’s very important to be open-minded towards all possibilities. The Syrian and the Iranian regimes used Islamic Sunni groups, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon, and they also supported opposition Sunni groups in the Gulf. This is the reality in the Middle East, despite the contradiction between the aims and the means. The U.S. Treasury’s decisions, with their interesting details, are not just boycott lists and financial sanctions but an important condemnation of al-Qaeda. Such decisions must be the first step towards correcting the path of war against terrorism.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 10, 2014.

Taking bold steps to deliver aid in a broken Syria
Monday, 10 February 2014
By: Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabyia
The Geneva II peace talks ended just a week ago with no major political breakthrough. Participants, if they showed up, continued to bicker. The first round of talks in the Geneva II meeting ended on Jan. 31 without a concrete strategy on ending the violence, an agreement on a political transition or an agreement to ensure humanitarian aid.
Nevertheless, a small, yet important, agreement was reached—outside of the Geneva II process- based on humanitarian necessity: an international aid operation to bring food and medicine to thousands of Syrians plus the requirement to evacuate civilians trapped in Homs over three days was heralded as a step in the right direction. The point here is that despite the fact Syrian representatives were sidelined due to infighting, the international community - led by the international aid organizations spearheaded by the United Nations, under the courage of U.N. Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos - took a necessary and risky step to mitigate outbreaks of death, disease, and starvation in the fractured and broken state. Of course, a three-day humanitarian pause agreed between the parties to the Syrian conflict was broken almost immediately, illustrating sharply the chaos on the ground.
Not an easy matter
Humanitarian operations in a warzone are not an easy matter. The logistics and risks to all parties are, let’s face it, dangerous and ultimately may be deadly. The shrinking humanitarian space of neutrality no longer exists in today’s conflicts, especially in Syria. Immediately, nine Red Crescent and U.N. vehicles convoy came under fire in Homs threatening the lives of U.N. aid workers as well as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Attacks damaged two trucks but the team managed to deliver 250 parcels and 190 hygiene kits and chronic disease medicines. This delivery is an important first step but barely scratches the surface of the most serious humanitarian crisis in recent years, far out pacing those in Africa and other parts of the world from man-made, inflicted, warfare. To be sure, the first attempts to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Palestinian district of Yarmouk in south Damascus were suspended after clashes.
The multi-layered Syrian battlefield sees the deliverers of humanitarian aid as belonging to, or associated with, a party to the conflict.
Dr. Theodore Karasik
The situation in Syria is dangerous for aid workers. Just as in other warzones where humanitarian operations occur, major problems erupt. Primarily, the multi-layered Syrian battlefield sees the deliverers of humanitarian aid as belonging to, or associated with, a party to the conflict. Syrian “opposition” or “fighters” see humanitarian aid as an opportunity to re-supply themselves with food and medicines. Syrian factions are likely to raid current and future convoys to restock their own clandestine clinics and first aid stations plus replenish their food stocks if need be. If the aid and food is not required, then those materials will enter into the black market, where profit can be made plus the rebranding of supplies could occur to win the hearts of minds of the potential receivers. We have seen this type of activity throughout Middle Eastern conflicts for decades, in Chechnya, and even in Latin America. Solutions are tough to manage and multiple actors can manipulate the situation for political advantage. In fact, one could argue that the insurgent and terrorist goal in Syria is to disrupt and delegitimize the stabilization attempts around local populations. Thus, humanitarians and their operations are a candid threat and authentic targets. If true, even the Assad government will take advantage of the situation—from both angles—looking angelic and helpful versus bombing and killing those enemies of the state that are flushed out of their hiding places in search for medicine and food.
Hands full
Today, a fresh round of talks begins in Geneva on humanitarian aid issues. U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has his hands full. He is relentlessly trying to find a solution to the ongoing, expanding, Syrian crisis. But let’s be honest, this effort is not a Geneva III or even a Geneva II, but instead a valiant attempt by state actors and international organizations to stop the suffering outside of the Geneva I and II process by building on the humanitarian requirements as a launching point for cooperation.
Nevertheless, there are key stumbling blocks. The usual suspects are refusing to back today’s meeting because of politics selfishness. The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, and the Syrian National Council, a coalition of Syrian opposition groups based in Istanbul, said they would not participate. Most of the rebel groups fighting inside Syria, including Islamic Front and the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front, have refused to support the talks. These facts all create doubt over the National Coalition’s ability to hold various armed parties to a ceasefire for humanitarian deliveries, which has already been broken. Nobody expects the warring sides, which are protracted and fragmented, to help humanitarian aid into Syria; instead, they will only hinder the process for themselves and for political gain. There may be progress on aid programs to the most needy in Syria, but the aid only touches the tip of the iceberg—if the aid reaches its intended victims intact.
**Dr. Theodore Karasik is the Director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, UAE. He is also a Lecturer at University of Wollongong Dubai. Dr. Karasik received his Ph.D in History from the University of California Los Angles.

Karzai fears the U.S. more than the Taliban
Monday, 10 February 2014
By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabyia
As Afghan President Hamid Karzai makes efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban and as he stalls signing the security agreement with the United States, the Taliban remains busy obstructing presidential campaigns and planning further attacks. The advertising campaign for the presidential elections began last Saturday when Taliban members killed two elections workers in Herat.
As usual for the rebels - that is the Taliban in Afghanistan - the elections are considered the perfect opportunity to target people.
President Karzai, who was unknown until 2001, suddenly became president thanks to his friend Zalmay Khalilzad who holds Afghani and American citizenship and who represented Bush’s administration in post-Taliban Afghanistan. In the meantime, the man, who was considered a good friend of the Americans and particularly of former President George W. Bush, became the man who represents the biggest problem for the Obama administration.
Secret talks
Last week, the New York Times reported on Karzai’s secret talks with the Taliban before the meeting of the Loya Jirga (Afghanistan’s tribal elders) in Kabul in November. Afghan tribes leaders and individuals who influence tribes agreed to sign the security agreement with the United States. As usual for the rebels - that is the Taliban in Afghanistan - the elections are considered the perfect opportunity to target people
The surprise was that after all the time the Loya Jirga spent and after all the calls that the president sign the security agreement before the final date of foreign forces’ departure, President Karzai refused to sign.
Karzai thinks that the U.S. must satisfy “the angry brothers from the Taliban” before signing the security agreement. It seems the president himself participated in direct secret talks with them over the past few months.
Even though prominent members of the Taliban refuse Karzai’s calls to engage in peace talks, they are happy that Karzai rejects the signing of the security agreement and that he’s taken a stance against the Americans.
There’s a possibility that less influential Taliban-linked have engaged in talks with the president. Over the past few weeks, Karzai released hundreds of the most dangerous Taliban prisoners from Bagram prison despite protests. When talking about those extremely dangerous prisoners, Karzai said they are innocent Afghans who were tortured by the Americans to become hostile against their state and become rebels. In the meantime, Karzai, who escaped six assassination attempts, fears the Americans a lot more than he fears Taliban!
The president may be suffering from illusions according to people close to him. One of his aides secretly and unofficially told me that the president has lately suffered from the illusion of seeing American fighting jets pursuing his plane to bring it down. In the meantime, the entire country silently speaks about the president’s disease and illusions. Perhaps the Taliban benefits from Karzai’s enthusiasm about the peace talks in order to guarantee the release of its prisoners and dispel hopes of sealing a peace agreement with the U.S. Just as the world awaits the elections to see who the next president will be, the Taliban too hopes to control the country after the elections amidst the absence of foreign forces. Since cooperation with the current president is difficult at this time, it seems the U.S. has postponed talking about all issues - including the forces’ withdrawal and the signing of the security agreement - until after the elections in April. Since Karzai is not allowed to run for a third presidential term - as per the constitution - it’s difficult to trust the ballot boxes regarding the 11 candidates running for presidential elections in a country where corruption and fraud is rampant. When looking at the list of presidential candidates, we find that the president’ s brother - who owns an Afghani restaurant in Baltimore - is among them. A famous military leader from the south, who probably can’t read or write, and a bearded extremist Islamist, who previously invited Osama bin Laden to visit Afghanistan, are among the candidates.
Abdullah Abdullah, the former member of the northern alliance who came in second in the 2009 elections is once again running for the elections.

Estimations indicate that from among the total number of voters, which is 12 million, there are only 3.5 million eligible voters. Since women represent 35 percent of the total number of voters, we must expect that they will play a decisive role in case the elections are held without fraud. So far, the major questions are related to providing security for the April 6 elections. Besides the security issue, the lack of trust between Karzai and the Americans casts a shadow on the election.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 8, 2014.
**Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard