February 14/14

Bible Quotation for today/A Tree and Its Fruit
Matthew 07/15-20: "Be on your guard against false prophets; they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves. You will know them by what they do. Thorn bushes do not bear grapes, and briers do not bear figs. A healthy tree bears good fruit, but a poor tree bears bad fruit.18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a poor tree cannot bear good fruit. And any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do.

Pop's Francis Tweet for today
Pope Francis
Let us pray for seminarians, that they may listen to the voice of the Lord and follow it with courage and joy.
Pape François
Prions pour les séminaristes, afin qu’ils écoutent la voix du Seigneur et la suivent avec courage et avec joie.

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

U.S. “Chose to Stay Silent” on Muslim Persecution of Christians: November 2013/By Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/February 14/14
Taking a long view on Syria and the Sunni-Shiite divide/
By David Ignatius/The Washington Post/February 14/14

Obama's Hollow Promises Abroad/By: Daniel Pipes/The Washington Times/February 14/14

Israel at a Point of No Return - In the Right Direction/By David P. Goldman/PJ Media/ February 14/14

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

Hezbollah cancels annual rally after string of bombings

Mustaqbal-FPM Talks Push Cabinet Formation Forward and Bassil's Portfolio Remains a Problem

Suleiman Heads Security-Judicial Meeting in Baabda, Urges Swift Formation of Cabinet
Recent Arrests In Lebanon/Glimmer of hope
Rai warns against fait accompli government
Report: Aoun Rejects Handing Energy Portfolio to his Allies

Compromise over Energy post could see new Lebanese Cabinet

Al-Qaeda offshoot releases video of Iran embassy attack
Mansour, French envoy discuss aid conference
Prospects for Future and FPM ties
Fake medications seized in Bekaa Valley raid
Miqati Meets Matar, Voices Optimism Government Will Be Formed Soon

Suleiman Heads Security-Judicial Meeting in Baabda, Urges Swift Formation of Cabinet

Qaida-Linked Suspects Charged, Ordered to be Detained

Abu Qatada Criticizes Hizbullah, Says Suicide Bombings 'Defense Act'

Skier Jacky Chamoun Says Lebanese Support her Despite Photos

Jumblat: Discovery of Terrorist Networks Demonstrates there Can Be No Substitute to State

Qabbani Praises Army, Calls for Referring Suspects to Judiciary

Report: Lebanese and Gulf Nationals Transported Arms from Syria to Arsal

Abdullah Azzam Brigades Vows to Continue Targeting Hizbullah in Online Video

Jackie Chamoun deserves Lebanon’s support
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Saudi prince explains why he was in contact with Israelis
Mr. Obama’s new tone on Syria

Ceasefire in Syria's Homs extended - governor

Russia, U.S. Vow to Help 'Unblock' Syria Talks

Russia presents draft U.N. resolutions on "terrorism", aid in Syria
Putin says supports Sisi bid for Egypt presidency
Saudi cleric chides women for going alone to doctor

Italian PM Letta Resigns, Opening Way for Renzi

Hezbollah cancels annual rally after string of bombings
Ynetnews/February 14/14/New Agencies,7340,L-4488260,00.html
After a string of suicide bombings targeted Hezbollah's stronghold, terrorist group cancels annual public rally, opting instead for televised speech by Nasrallah. Meanwhile, sources in Lebanon point at growing threat against group amid Syrian involvement
The radical Shiite terror group Hezbollah says its leader will give a televised speech later this week to speak, but will not hold its annual public rally.The terrorist group's leader Hassan Nasrallah used to give a speech every year in mid-February marking the death of three of the group's leaders including Hezbollah's top military commander Imad Mughniyeh who was killed in 2008 by a bomb that ripped through his car in Damascus, Syria. Hezbollah did not give a reason for not holding the annual rally that is usually attended by hundreds of supporters in their stronghold south of Beirut, however the cancellation appears to be related to a wave of bombings in Hezbollah's strongholds around Lebanon that left scores of people dead over the past months. The attacks have been claimed by various jihadist groups, some of them linked to organizations fighting in neighboring Syria, including Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The groups say they are targeting Lebanon's Hezbollah for sending thousands of fighters into Syria to fight alongside the regime.
Party of the devil
Earlier Thursday, Jordanian Islamist cleric Abu Qatada, on trial for terrorism, said he supports a string of al-Qaeda-linked bombings against Hezbollah because it backs the Syrian government, highlighting how Hezbollah's involvement has fueled already volatile sectarian tensions in both the region and Lebanon. "I support the bombings in Beirut. The leader of Hezbollah (Hassan Nasrallah) sent fighters to Syria to back the regime. He is responsible for those killed in Lebanon," Abu Qatada told reporters at the state security court in Amman. "If Lebanon wants to protect itself, it should tell the party of the devil to get its fighters out of Syria," he added in a swipe at Hezbollah, whose name in Arabic means party of God. "The party of the devil started all of this. It should be pressured to get out of the Syrian conflict," Abu Qatada added, describing the bombings in Lebanon as "self-defense operations." Since July, 10 blasts have hit Lebanon, six of them involving suicide bombers. On Wednesday, Lebanon's security forces arrested the Naim Abbas, the leader of Abdullah Azzam Brigades which perpetrated a number of the attacks. Also on Thursday a Lebanese political official said the string of attacks were a message to Hezbollah, NOW Lebanon reported. Future Movement official Mustafa Alloush said that the recent arrest of Abbas could be part of a larger political campaign being mounted against Hezbollah. “The discovery of the suicide bombers could, in itself, be a political message aimed at Hezbollah, and therefore the groups responsible for these (suicide) operations wouldn’t mind revealing their identity,” Alloush told NOW Lebanon on Thursday. Hezbollah sources reportedly told NOW Lebanon of their “relief” at the news of Abbas' arrest and security forces success in dismantling two car bombs in Beirut and Beqaa Valley.
Associated Press and AFP contributed to this report


Mustaqbal-FPM Talks Push Cabinet Formation Forward and Bassil's Portfolio Remains a Problem
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 February 2014/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun agreed to nominate an Energy minister other than current officeholder Jebran Bassil, solving the deadlock that has lately haunted the cabinet's formation.However, a new challenge arose concerning which portfolio will be assigned to Bassil.
Sources revealed to al-Jadeed television that the Ministry of Energy will be handed to Tashnag Party MP Arthur Nazarian. "Al-Mustaqbal bloc came forward with this suggestion and it was a result of talks between Bassil and (former Primer Minister Saad Hariri's chief of staff) Nader Hariri,” al-Jadeed said.Earlier on Thursday, the prevailing political atmosphere signaled a near announcement of the long awaited council of ministers, however, disagreements over some details in the formation process delayed this step, LBCI television said. "The problem lies in insisting on naming Bassil for the Foreign Ministry, which would prevent the nomination of a Maronite Minister of Defense, in this case, it would prevent assigning the Defense Ministry to President Michel Suleiman's adviser Khalil Hrawi,” LBCI elaborated. Radio Voice of Lebanon (100.5) added: “And in case Bassil was not named the new Foreign Minister, the FPM insists on nominating him for the Transportation and Public Works Ministry.”"This stance is faced with Speaker Nabih Berri's rejection who insists on nominating his own candidates to both the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Finance.”LBCI revealed another difficulty that is awaiting to be dealt with and which concerns the Sunni figure al-Mustaqbal Party will be naming for the Ministry of Interior."After both (former ISF chief) Ashraf Rifi and (al-Mustaqbal bloc) MP Ahmed Fatfat were rejected as candidates for the Ministry of Interior for being provocative figures, MP Samir al-Jisr was nominated. But al-Jisr was later ruled out as a nominee for matters related to the delicate situation in (the northern city of) Tripoli.”Ongoing talks are currently discussing the names of former MP Salim Diab and current al-Mustaqbal lawmaker Jamal al-Jarrah for the Interior Ministry, according to the same source. LBCI revealed that March 14 candidates for the new cabinet so far are MP Michel Pharaon for the Ministry of Tourism, Phalange Party official Sejaan Qazzi for the Ministry of Information, MP Butros Harb for the Telecommunications Ministry, former head of Beirut Bar Association Ramzi Jreij as a Justice Minister and Alain Hkayyem for the Ministry of Economy.
As for March 8 coalition's nominees, they include caretaker Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil for the Ministry of Finance, Nazarian for the Ministry of Energy, Marada Movement's Rony Araiji for the Ministry of Labor, while Berri is expected to name a candidate for the Transportation and Public Works Ministry, according to LBCI.
The TV channel noted that the Education Ministry is pending FPM's nomination of a Foreign Minister, and it will be given to Bassil or caretaker Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun.
Centrist ministers, meanwhile, include PM-designate Tammam Salam, current deputy premier Samir Moqbel for the same position, Mohammed al-Mashnouq for the Ministry of Culture, National Struggle Front MP Akram Shehayeb for the Ministry of Agriculture, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour for the Ministry of Health, and Abdul al-Muttaleb Hennawi, who will be President Michel Suleiman's candidate.
"If no accord was reached on the final formula on Friday morning, an inclusive political cabinet will be announced and those who do not approve of it can either refrain from participating in the new government or submit their resignation,” sources told LBCI. "But Match 8 sources criticized these statements, describing them as political maneuvering.”Meanwhile, MTV quoted other sources as saying that difficulties are still arising, especially concerning the portfolio that will be handed to Bassil.


Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal explains why he was in contact with Israelis

02/14/2014/"I want to clarify my perspective," says prince of questions posed by Israelis at international conferences.
 Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal sought to explain why he was in contact with Israelis at the Munich Security Conference last month in an article published on Thursday in the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh. Faisal said that when he is at international conferences, which are open to all, he sometimes is posed questions from Israelis in the audience – both government officials and ordinary citizens. These contacts have raised questions, so “in this article I want to clarify my perspective… even if it was a mistake by me and of the devil,” he wrote. He then went on to explain how “our Palestinian brothers” have been suffering from injustice, brutal wars, occupation and so on, and that Saudi Arabia is making persistent efforts to support the Palestinian cause. Faisal also said that the only way to solve the “tragedy” is the adoption of the Arab Peace Initiative, first proposed in 2002, which includes a Palestinian state on pre-1967 boundaries with its capital in Jerusalem and a return of refugees, in return for normalization of Israel’s relations with the Arab world. Unfortunately, he said, Israel refused the solution. At the conference last month, Faisal said that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is the right person to lead Israel’s negotiating team. Livni’s office confirmed that during a question and answer session at the end of a panel on the peace process, featuring Livni, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and American envoy Martin Indyk, the Saudi prince asked Livni about the Arab Peace Initiative. At the end of the panel discussion, Faisal praised Livni, saying he “understands why [she was] chosen to be Israel’s negotiator.”“If only you could sit on the same stage with me and talk about it,” Livni responded. Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.


Jackie Chamoun deserves Lebanon’s support
Thursday, 13 February 2014/Joyce Karam/Al Arabyia

At a time when bombings, assassinations and political paralysis dominate the headlines in Lebanon, it is a breath of fresh air to see the Lebanese athletes Jackie Chamoun and Alex Mohbat taking part in the Sochi winter olympics and showcasing Lebanon on the world stage as a model for openness and civility. Oddly enough, the Lebanese government represented by the novice minister for Sports and Youth, Faisal Karami, does not appear to share this view. Karami is discrediting Chamoun by using a 3-year old video and showing her topless on the ski slopes of Faraya. The leaking of the video during the Sochi Olympics is intended to hurt Chamoun’s reputation, and the athlete took the high road and apologized for offending anyone. Yet, even with the apology, Karami would not let go. Karami’s ‘investigation’ The cabinet member saw in the photos a “threat” to Lebanon’s “reputation” and ordered an investigation that could ban Chamoun from representing Lebanon in the future. Yes, Lebanon has its sensibilities and is nowhere near France or Austria in embracing nudity or toplessness. But we tend to forget that the video was released without Chamoun’s permission, it infringes on her privacy, and undercuts her performance in Sochi. If anything, Chamoun deserves an investigation into the leak of the video, and the viral display of her photos on Lebanese websites. Chamoun is a self-accomplished skier and is by every measure a success story for Lebanon. Being one of only four Arabs at Sochi is a source of pride for Lebanon and the Arab world
But one cannot expect such a reaction from Karami. His performance in the government, and positions on women’s rights and individual freedoms have been horrendous. Last year, Karami described a draft law to protect women against domestic violence as a “blow to family values.” Those values could not protect Rola Yaacoub and Manal Assi when they were beaten to death by their husbands. Even actual threats in his own city Tripoli, have not caught his attention the way that Chamoun’s private video has. The illegal gun flow to Tripoli has doubled if not tripled in the years that Karami served in the cabinet, without an “investigation” in the matter.
Perhaps, Karami cannot be blamed for a flawed system that put him in office. He never won an election, and the ministry was handed to him on a silver platter, not because of his resume but because of his last name and for sharing a bloodline with two former prime ministers, his father and his late uncle.
Chamoun’s journey
In contrast, Chamoun is a self-accomplished skier and is by every measure a success story for Lebanon. Being one of only four Arabs at Sochi is a source of pride for Lebanon and the Arab world. It is a welcome departure from the narrative of terrorism and civil war that dominates the subject of Lebanon and the region in the West. The Lebanese people know it, and the outpouring of solidarity for Jackie Chamoun following the video speaks to this support and to their disdain of the toxic political environment in Lebanon. On social media, hashtags such as #stripforlebanon or #jackiechamoun are trending in Lebanon, and Chamoun’s facebook page has attracted over 50,000 followers. Even the Lebanese beer Almaza rolled out an advertisement in support of Chamoun. It is signed “this is our environment, this is who we are,” which in essence epitomizes the culture of diversity in Lebanon, celebrating individual empowerment and freedom that Chamoun represents. Even the Faraya ski slopes, where Chamoun trains, and where extremists such as Ahmed Assir have visited, are part of what makes Lebanon exceptional. The story of Chamoun, gives the Lebanese people hope that their country can still compete on the international stage, and that despite a corrupt and incompetent political class, the Lebanese can still seize the opportunity and excel globally. It is a story that deserves to thrive and continue, and not be hindered by theatrical “investigations”. **Joyce Karam is the Washington Correspondent for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Twitter: @Joyce_Karam


Prospects for Future and FPM ties
February 13, 2014/By Wassim Mroueh/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Free Patriotic Movement is enthusiastic to improve ties with its erstwhile opponent the Future Movement, according to party officials, with some even saying that high-level talks between the groups was in the offing, an optimism not shared by Future MPs. A senior FPM official said Wednesday that he believed it was possible to hold a meeting that could bring together FPM leader Michel Aoun and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora or even former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the leader of the Future Movement. “I believe there will be a high-level meeting [between the FPM and the Future Movement],” Antoine Nasrallah told The Daily Star. “I think both groups have the will to improve ties, but I believe restrictions are being placed on the Future Movement from its allies.”The Future Movement is allied to the Lebanese Forces, a staunch rival of the FPM. Last October, the FPM decided during a conclave to adopt a policy of openness toward all political parties regardless of policy differences in a bid to facilitate a resumption of activity in Parliament and other state institutions. The following month, MPs from the FPM and the Future Movement broke the ice during a meeting in Parliament and agreed to keep contact. Ties between both political parties have significantly deteriorated in the past years. The FPM is allied to Hezbollah, a bitter rival of the Future Movement. When Hariri left Lebanon in spring 2011, Aoun said during a news conference that he had bought Hariri a “one-way ticket,” in reference to his wish that Hariri would never come back to Lebanon. The Future Movement is also a staunch critic of the performance of caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law. It is only since last autumn’s conclave that relations have improved, Nasrallah said. Naji Hayek, another FPM official, said that officials from the FPM and the Future Movement had toned down their rhetoric against each other in media recently, adding, “This move was supported by us and them.” Hayek said that any party would have a false impression of another group if they never met, “But actually there is always common ground between people. I think we are on the right track.”
Hayek voiced hope that a government would soon be formed so that ties between the FPM and the Future Movement could improve further. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has been unable to put together his government for over 10 months, and a recent burst in activity appears to have come to nothing. Hayek would neither confirm nor deny media reports that Aoun met Hariri in January in Rome.
However, Future Movement officials do not share the FPM’s view of the situation. Future MP Jamal Jarrah said he didn’t expect a high-level meeting soon between Future and FPM officials, pointing to a number of unresolved issues between the groups. “During the meeting between MPs of both groups in Parliament, we tried to establish a base for discussions. We posed a number of questions to our colleagues in the Free Patriotic Movement on their stances on Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, on the state’s monopoly of arms and on how to build a state,” Jarrah said. “We were hoping that we would receive answers but we didn’t.” Jarrah said that the FPM had not asked for another meeting, adding however that the Future Movement was always ready to sit down with the party for talks. Bassem Shab, another MP from the Future bloc, said that while he had no idea about the status of relations between the FPM and the Future Movement, he was told that Aoun was saying good things about the Future Movement in private. This change in attitude is convenient, Shab suggested, given that there is just over a month before the start of the constitutional period to elect Lebanon’s new president, a position that Aoun hopes to fill. The constitutional period to elect the new president begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiry of President Michel Sleiman’s term.


Rai warns against fait accompli government
BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai warned Tuesday that a fait accompli government would plunge Lebanon into further turmoil, as the Future Movement said the formation of a national unity Cabinet hinged on MP Michel Aoun’s agreement to the rotation of ministerial portfolios. Rai’s warning and the Future Movement’s stance come as consultations to break the 10-month-old Cabinet stalemate have been suspended after mediation attempts failed to make Aoun drop his demand to retain the Energy Ministry, currently held by his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, for his bloc. Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of the parliamentary Future bloc, said the Cabinet crisis marked time with no solution in sight, blaming the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition and Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement for rejecting the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios among sects and parties in an all-embracing government based on an 8-8-8 lineup.


Recent Arrests In Lebanon/Glimmer of hope
February 13, 2014/The Daily Star
The arrest Wednesday of a leading figure of the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the dismantling of two explosives-laden cars represents a hugely welcome boost to the security atmosphere in Lebanon, and the Army must now be given the support it needs, both physical and psychological, to continue this crackdown. Completely overstretched and undersupported, the Army has, for the last couple of years, done its best to carry out several different, extremely taxing roles at once. On top of the already arduous task of patrolling the country’s southern border, the Army also now must monitor the north and eastern borders with Syria. It is a frequent mediator between sparring sides in Tripoli and elsewhere, mans checkpoints across the country, helps in emergency situations and directs traffic. And it does all this amid fierce and largely misdirected criticism, from politicians and the population alike, while working to the highest standards of discipline, without complaint, while also battling the same everyday problems all Lebanese face, under direct threat to soldiers’ personal safety.
In the face of all these obstacles, the Army has shown itself to be committed to the country as a whole and not one particular sect or party. Its preventive measures taken Wednesday will undoubtedly save dozens of lives.
The road ahead will not be without further security threats, but the Army must now be given the wholehearted support, both material and emotional, that it needs to persevere. Lebanon will only be a strong and independent country once it has an army that is the sole, legal armed institution in the land.

Al-Qaeda offshoot releases video of Iran embassy attack
February 13, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Qaeda-linked Abdallah Azzam Brigades allegedly released a video Wednesday showing footage of the Nov. 19 double suicide attack against the Iranian embassy in Beirut, for which it has claimed responsibility. The 18-minute video, entitled “The attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut,” went viral on social media after it was posted, although could not be independently verified. The video includes recorded warnings from the group's late leader, Majid al-Majid, who died last month in a Beirut military hospital, as well as from Mouin Abu Dahr, one of two suicide bombers who carried out the attack, which killed 30 people and wounded over 150 others. The group’s spokesperson, Sirajeddine Zureiqat, also appears in the video threatening the Defense Ministry and Lebanese Army Intelligence. “I tell [Hezbollah], the [Army] Intelligence and the heroes of the Defense Ministry, enough looking for al-Qaeda and terrorism cells, your oppression of the Sunnis is creating al-Qaeda in the hearts of the Sunni youths and a [reason] to confront you and to face the humiliation suffered by our people,” he says. The video features excerpts from Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches, and footage of attacks it claims are “led by Iran and its tools against Sunnis in several Arab countries” including Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Iran and Syria. Majid, who was wanted by Riyadh, Washington and Beirut on terrorism charges, was detained by the Lebanese Army on Dec. 26 but died in custody of kidney failure. In the video, he warns Hezbollah to withdraw its forces from Syria. “The operations conducted against Hezbollah so far are just the beginning; worse attacks will come if they do not withdraw all their fighters from Syria,” he says. “Let them know they will regret everything they did.”Abu Dahr, the suicide bomber, says that he chose to take his own life attacking the embassy “to cause more losses for the enemy.”“I chose suicide bombings rather than armed clashes because... [bombings] can reach places that battles cannot,” he says. Abu Dahr, who hailed from the southern city of Sidon and had links to a fugitive Islamist preacher, also criticizes Iran and blames the Islamic Republic for the misfortunes of Sunnis throughout the region. “The criminal country [Iran] is fighting Muslims, collaborating with the US in occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, supporting Huthis in Yemen, supporting the [Syrian] regime in killing our brothers and people in Syria, supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and protecting the border in South Lebanon from the Zionist enemy,” Abu Dahr says. Abu Dahr also reveals that he fought alongside Salafi Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir against the Lebanese Army in Sidon’s Abra neighborhood in June, 2013, “to protect my neighborhood and my religion.” “I could never forget what happened in Abra. No one forgets the attacks against his relatives and neighbors,” he says in the video. Abu Dahr also vows his group will continue attacks against Hezbollah, claiming that the number of “those who are ready to martyr is greater than the party's members.” He also calls for the complete withdrawal of Hezbollah from Syria, and the release of Islamist inmates in Roumieh prison. The video was released following the Army’s announcement that it had arrested a Palestinian leader in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and seized two cars in the Bekaa Valley and Beirut that had been rigged with explosives.

Compromise over Energy post could see new Lebanese Cabinet
February 13, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Talks of a compromise over the Energy Ministry portfolio has revived hopes of breaking the 10-month political deadlock over the formation of a new Cabinet, a March 8 coalition source told The Daily Star Thursday.
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has proposed allotting the Energy Ministry portfolio to MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc to ensure the lawmaker’s participation in an all-embracing government, the source said. “[Former] General Aoun’s party agreed to the proposal,” the source said. Aoun’s agreement marks an end to a major hurdle holding back the formation of the government. The source, however, noted that other items, such as the selection of a candidate for the Interior Ministry, needed to be resolved before Salam could move ahead with forming his Cabinet. Aoun has repeatedly rejected the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios, arguing that it is unconstitutional and aims solely at stripping his party of the Energy Ministry which is currently held by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil. The portfolio rotation was part of a political deal between Hezbollah and the Future Movement to form a new Cabinet based on the 8-8-8 lineup. The agreement was mediated by Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt. Hezbollah failed to convince Aoun to change his position on the rotation policy and urged Salam to soften his stance to help avoid resignations from any future Cabinet. According to the source, Salam’s proposal stipulates the Energy Ministry post be given to a Change and Reform bloc figure other than Bassil, allowing Aoun to retain the post. The source said the Change and Reform bloc would likely name Tashnag MP Arthur Nazarian as their candidate for replacing Bassil and energy minister. The bloc would also likely name Bassil as acting energy minister, the source added. A source close to the Cabinet formation process said Salam was still waiting for the Future Movement to name a candidate for the Interior Ministry. Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman said he hoped political leaders would recognize the dangerous phase the country is passing which he said should stimulate boosted cooperation toward the formation process. He also said that a new Cabinet would revive the executive branch of government and serve as a political umbrella for Lebanon and the Lebanese. Sleiman's remarks came during a meeting he chaired with several high-ranking security and judicial officials. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi attended the meeting at Baabda Palace. The meeting discussed the Lebanese Army's recent discovery of a terrorist cells and preventing terrorist attacks including car bombings and suicide attacks. The attendees agreed on the need to maintain cooperation among security agencies including the exchange of intelligence.


Mansour, French envoy discuss aid conference
February 13, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour Thursday discussed with the French ambassador preparations for an international donors’ conference set for March 5.
No statements were made following the meeting with French ambassador Patrice Paoli at the Foreign Ministry. France will host next month the donors’ conference for Lebanon – known as the International Support Group for Lebanon – aimed at helping the country cope with the influx of Syrian refugees. The International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon was inaugurated in New York in September on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly. During the opening meeting under U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, in the presence of President Michel Sleiman, participants at the ISG underlined the continuing need for strong, coordinated support for Lebanon in response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the crisis in Syria. Participants also highlighted the many ongoing pressures on Lebanon and again underlined the importance of burden-sharing. A total of 915,000 Syrian refugees are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, according to the latest report from the UNHCR. Thousands more refugees, however, remain unaccounted for.


Fake medications seized in Bekaa Valley raid
February 13, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Security forces and Health Ministry inspectors raided Wednesday a residential home and a warehouse where unlicensed medications were allegedly being manufactured in the central Bekaa Valley. The apartment and warehouse in the town of Majdal Anjar are reportedly owned by Palestinian national Nader Mohammad Zeidan. It wasn’t clear whether Zeidan was arrested during the raid or if he was still at large. The security forces confiscated equipment and raw materials used to manufacture the drugs, along with cardboard packages bearing forged medical trademarks.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 13, 2014, on page

Ceasefire in Syria's Homs extended - governor
February 13, 2014/Agencies/DAMASCUS/BEIRUT: A humanitarian ceasefire in the Syrian city of Homs was extended on Thursday for three more days, the city's governor told Reuters. "The ceasefire has been extended for an additional three days, starting from today, to allow the evacuation of the remaining civilians," Talal al-Barazi, the governor, said by telephone. He added that a total of 1,400 people had been evacuated from the besieged Old City since last Friday, when the U.N.-brokered ceasefire began. While women and children have been free to leave, males aged between 15 and 55 are deemed of fighting age by the Syrian authorities and are being vetted by the security forces. Barazi said 70 people had been cleared for release on Thursday. "The regime has said it would release men after they had been screened, and we expect them to keep that pledge," a US State Department spokesman said in Washington on Wednesday. "Given the regime's past actions, the international community cannot take this for granted and needs to monitor the fate of these men," Edgar Vasquez said. "The regime should know that the world is watching with deep concern what is taking place in Homs and the status of these male evacuees," Vasquez said. "Any attempt to arbitrarily detain them will not go unnoticed."


Putin says supports Sisi bid for Egypt presidency
February 13, 2014/Agencies
MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday endorsed Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's undeclared bid to head the strife-torn North African nation as the two leaders negotiated a massive Moscow weapons deal. Sisi came to Moscow with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy for talks aimed at securing Russian assistance -- stagnant since the late Soviet era -- that could replace subsiding support from Cairo's more recent ally Washington. Putin told Sisi that Moscow fully backed Egypt's new constitution and crucially made no mention of Cairo's crackdown on protests or the army-backed overthrow in July of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. "I know that you, mister defence minister, have decided to run for president of Egypt," Putin told Sisi in televised remarks. "I wish you luck both from myself personally and from the Russian people."The 59-year-old Egyptian field marshal has not actually declared his presidential ambitions but is overwhelmingly predicted to run in elections expected to be held later this year.
A Kuwaiti newspaper quoted Sisi as saying last week that he had "no choice but to meet the demands of the Egyptian people" and run for head of state. The army later denied the report.
Sisi would have to give up his title as head of the Egyptian armed forces in order to contest the election. Sisi and Fahmy earlier on Thursday met their Russian counterparts to negotiate a $2-billion arms deal the two sides initially discussed in Cairo in November -- a month after Washington suspended millions of dollars in assistance to the Egyptian army over Morsi's ouster. "Our visit offers a new start to the development of military and technological cooperation between Egypt and Russia," Sisi told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. "We hope to speed up this cooperation," Sisi said.
Top officials revealed no details of Thursday's military discussions while signalling that both sides were interested in the speedy conclusion of a deal.
Russia's defence chief Shoigu stressed that Moscow "was interested in seeing Egypt be a powerful and stable state." "In this connection, we need to discuss fairly important issues concerning military and technological cooperation -- their current state and prospects for the future. The head of Russia's state industrial holding company said after the Cairo meeting that Moscow was on the verge of reaching a landmark agreement to deliver air defence systems to Egypt's army.Rostec chief Sergei Chemezov said on November 18 that "some contracts (with Egypt) have already been signed -- particularly one concerning air defence systems."
But he later clarified that he was referring only to a framework agreement and not to firm delivery contracts.
Moscow's authoritative Vedomosti business daily on November 15 said the deals under discussion were worth more than $2 billion and could be financed by Saudi Arabia.
The Soviet Union was the main supplier of arms to Egypt in the 1960s and early 1970s. Cooperation between the two sides dropped after Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty and Cairo began receiving generous US aid.
Russia is now keen to revive those ties and Shoigu made clear on Thursday that Moscow fully supported the tough measures taken by Sisi against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement.
"We cannot but celebrate the adoption of the new Egyptian constitution," the Russian defence minister told Sisi.
"We view your efforts at achieving stability as effective."
Shoigu added that the two sides had touched on the possibility of Russian and Egypt conducting joint military exercises and the option of the North African country's officers undergoing military training in Moscow.

Russia presents draft U.N. resolutions on "terrorism", aid in Syria

February 13, 2014/Agencies/MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS: Russia has presented draft U.N. Security Council resolutions on humanitarian aid access and the fight against "terrorism" in Syria, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday. Moscow's calls for a resolution condemning acts of "terrorism" are in tune with rhetoric from Damascus, which uses the term to describe all those fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow earlier this week made clear it would reject a Western-Arab draft resolution on humanitarian aid access in Syria in its existing form, saying it was biased against the government of Assad. Lavrov said Russia's own draft on aid access set out "our vision of the role the Security Council can play if we want to foster a solution to the problems and not antagonise one side or the other". "We have presented our own draft resolution on Syria to the U.N. Security Council," Lavrov told a news conference, adding that it laid out "our vision of the role the Security Council can play if we want to foster a solution to the problems and not antagonise one side or the other".
Its own draft UN Security Council resolution on bringing aid to desperate Syrian civilians does not include the threat of sanctions on the Damascus regime. He said the original draft on humanitarian assistance backed by Western and Arab states "is prepared in the form of an ultimatum. There are threats of sanctions." "But we insist on the need to focus on practical work," Lavrov told reporters. "The difference between their resolution and our understanding of the situation is that they take a very selective interpretation of the situation," Russia's top diplomat said.
"They heap all the blame on the regime, without devoting the necessary attention to the humanitarian problems that are being created by the actions of the rebels."
Since receiving the original resolution, which was drafted by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan, Moscow has been outspoken in its opposition. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described it as "detached from reality," while U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin dismissed it as a "non-starter." On Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov added to Moscow's argument: "Its whole purpose and aim is to create grounds for future military action against the Syrian government if some demands it includes are not met." "It is unacceptable to us in the form in which it is now being prepared, and we, of course, will not let it through," said Gatilov, according to state-run news agency RIA. Several diplomats, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Churkin had told the Security Council on Tuesday he did not like 30 percent of the original draft resolution, but did not specify what aspects he disagreed with. The UN's mediator on the Syria conflict was to meet Gatilov and US diplomats in Geneva on Thursday. After three days spent trading blame for the violence wracking Syria, representatives of Assad's regime and the opposition National Coalition had no scheduled meetings in Geneva Thursday. "The presence now of the United States and Russia comes at the right time," opposition chief negotiator Hadi Bahra told AFP, saying there was a need to "straighten out the negatives." The talks that began on January 22 were initiated by Washington, which backs the opposition, and Moscow, a key ally of Syria.

Report: Aoun Rejects Handing Energy Portfolio to his Allies
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 February 2014/Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is refusing to give the energy ministry portfolio to any of his allies in the Amal movement, Hizbullah, Tashnag and Marada parties to facilitate the government formation process, An Nahar daily reported on Thursday. It quoted sources as saying that until late Wednesday, Aoun had not given a response to envoys mediating the cabinet formation process on a proposal to keep the portfolio as part of his Change and Reform bloc but not necessarily with an official from the Free Patriotic Movement. Tashnag and Marada MPs are part of Aoun's bloc. But al-Joumhouria said that a major breakthrough was made on Wednesday night when talks between the FPM and ex-PM Saad Hariri's al-Mustaqbal movement led to a deal to give Aoun a so-called sovereign portfolio in addition to another ministry that has a balancing role in return for granting the energy portfolio to a non-provocative consensual person. According to al-Akhbar daily, at least one telephone conversation has been held between Hariri and Aoun, while caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil and Nader Hariri are in continuous contact to discuss the details of the cabinet. The conflicting reports came as officials close to President Michel Suleiman told An Nahar that he was reassured with the path of the consultations on the formation of the government. The intense talks between the different parties to resolve the cabinet deadlock delayed a meeting that was scheduled to take place between Suleiman and Premier-designate Tammam Salam on Wednesday, the officials said. Salam is expected to visit Baabda Palace on Thursday, in a meeting described by al-Joumhouria as decisive. The daily said the cabinet formation decrees could be issued on Thursday night if Suleiman and Salam were convinced that the line-up was constitutional and in accordance with the standards set by the president.


Abu Qatada Criticizes Hizbullah, Says Suicide Bombings 'Defense Act'
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 February 2014/Islamist cleric Omar Mahmoud Othman, who is also known as Abu Qatada, strongly criticized Hizbullah on Thursday, calling on the cabinet to “pressure” the party to stop its involvement in the Syrian war. Abu Qatada, who is being tried in Jordan on terrorism charges, also expressed his support to suicide bombings carried out by the al-Qaida linked Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon and Abdullah Azzam Brigades on Lebanese territories. "I support the bombings in Beirut. The leader of Hizbullah (Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah) sent fighters to Syria to back the regime. He is responsible for those killed in Lebanon," he told reporters at the state security court in Amman. "If Lebanon wants to protect itself, it should tell the party of the devil to get its fighters out of Syria," he added in a swipe at Hizbullah. "The party of the devil started all of this. It should be pressured to get out of the Syrian conflict," Abu Qatada added, describing the bombings in Lebanon as "self-defense operations." Palestinian-born preacher Abu Qatada was condemned to death in absentia in 1999 for conspiracy to carry out terror attacks, including on the American school in Amman. However, the sentence was immediately commuted to life imprisonment with hard labor. In 2000, he was sentenced in absentia to 15 years for plotting to attack tourists in Jordan during millennium celebrations, and videotapes of his sermons were allegedly found in the Hamburg flat of 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Britain expelled him last summer after Amman and London ratified a treaty guaranteeing that evidence obtained by torture would not be used in his retrial and that the proceedings would be transparent. After his deportation, Abu Qatada was granted a retrial in line with Jordanian law, and military prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to carry out acts of terrorism. If convicted, he could face a minimum of 15 years' hard labor.

Jumblat: Discovery of Terrorist Networks Demonstrates there Can Be No Substitute to State
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 February 2014/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat praised on Thursday the “extraordinary procedures” that led to the discovery of terrorist networks that were planning to carry out attacks in Lebanon. He said in a statement: “The procedures demonstrate once more that there can be no substitute to the state and its security agencies that are operating under difficult and complicated circumstances.”
“The performance of the security agencies sends a strong message that the state can, once it chooses to, achieve accomplishments,” he continued.Furthermore, he stressed the need to firmly deal with terrorists, urging against providing them with any “political or non-political cover.” Jumblat hoped that the security agencies' achievements on Wednesday would pave the way for the discovery of all cells planning terrorist attacks in Lebanon.
“I take this opportunity to urge the entire Lebanese society to seize this important occasion and organize political disputes, should the means to solve them be unavailable,” said the MP.
“Perhaps their unity, despite their disputes could help ease the security weaknesses and prevent the country from slipping further towards fragmentation,” he remarked. The army succeeded on Wednesday in arrested Naim Abbas, a prominent member of the al-Qaida-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades Investigations with him led to the discovery of a booby-trapped car in Beirut's Corniche al-Mazraa neighborhood.

Skier Jacky Chamoun Says Lebanese Support her Despite Photos
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 February 2014/Lebanese Olympic skier Jacky Chamoun depicted in revealing photographs and a video that circulated on the Internet said her country's sports officials are "on my side."
Three years ago, Jacky Chamoun posed for a calendar photo shoot. Behind-the-scenes footage recently was posted online, and Lebanon's sports and youth minister reportedly ordered an investigation. But Chamoun said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press that most people have been "supporting me and defending me." Youssef Chamel Khalil, the administrator of Lebanon's Olympic Alpine team, said "there is no problem" for Chamoun, and she will compete in the Sochi Games. "It's OK. In Lebanon, there is a little bit another way to think," Khalil said. "Lebanon is a country of so many cultures." The 22-year-old Chamoun is scheduled to race in the slalom Feb. 21. She said the footage that found its way onto the Internet was never supposed to surface. She has spoken about the video with photographer Hubertus Von Hohenlohe, the German prince and skier who is competing in his sixth Olympics for Mexico. She said he apologized. "He's a really good friend. It's not his fault," said Chamoun, who is from Beirut and lives in Geneva. "Not one of us knew that someone was going to search for this and do this. We didn't expect it at all." She said that whoever put the images online was "someone who wanted to ... hurt me or the federation or the Olympic committee. We don't know. We cannot know the exact reason. It wasn't supposed to happen, but it happened." Reached by the AP, Von Hohenlohe said that in his shots of Chamoun for the calendar, "you can't see anything of Jacky."
"Basically, I don't know what they're talking about. I think someone wanted to do harm," he said. "The pictures I took and in my calendar, you cannot see anything. Something happened. ... I don't know what you see. I know that they're not naked." Chamoun said she initially was embarrassed the footage was on the Internet, but now she has come to terms with it.
"It happened," she said. "I have to go with it." Sourc/eAssociated Press.Lebanon.

Qabbani Praises Army, Calls for Referring Suspects to Judiciary
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 February 2014/Grand Mufti Sheikh Rashid Qabbani lauded on Thursday the Lebanese army in thwarting attempts to destabilize the country by those who aim at inciting sedition and kill innocent people. “The culprits should be interrogated and referred to the competent judiciary in order for people to feel safe in a stable and secure country,” Qabbani said in a statement issued by his press office. He expressed hope that the army and its leadership would be able to protect Lebanon amid direct attempts by some local sides to violate its constitution.
On Wednesday, the army announced the arrest of a Palestinian leader in the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades and seizing two booby-trapped cars in Beirut and the Bekaa.
Naim Abbas is described as the group's number two man in Lebanon. The army's endeavors were applauded by all Lebanese officials.

Abdullah Azzam Brigades Vows to Continue Targeting Hizbullah in Online Video
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 February 2014/The Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades shared a video on social networks, in which the group reveals how the attack was carried out, vowing to carry on targeting Hizbullah bastions if the party didn't withdraw from the conflict in neighboring country Syria. The video entitled “the invasion of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut,” which went viral on twitter, depicts an interview with one of the suicide bomber, who reveals that he chose to “martyr to achieve great loses in the enemy's side.”He notes in a Youtube video that he took part in the clashes that happened in the southern town of Abra, to protect his neighborhood and religion.
Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir's supporters engaged in armed battles with the Lebanese army in June in the area of Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque and nearby buildings in Abra. Asir, a 45-year-old cleric who supports the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, had been calling for Hizbullah to disarm. The suicide bomber Hizbullah secretary-general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, pointing out that the number of “those who are ready to martyr is greater than the party's members.”He called on Hizbullah to withdraw from Syria and the release of Islamist inmates in Roumieh prison in order to stop the attacks on the party's stronghold.
The video emerged a day after the army announced the arrest of a Palestinian leader in the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades and seizing two booby-trapped cars in Beirut and the Bekaa. Naim Abbas is described as the group's number two man in Lebanon. At least 23 people were killed and 150 wounded in twin suicide blasts that targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs of Bir Hassan in November. The powerful explosions just opposite the multi-storey embassy caused chaos, ripping the facades off nearby buildings and setting cars ablaze. Hizbullah has dispatched fighters to battle alongside the Syrian regime against rebels seeking the overthrow of President Assad. The conflict, pitting a Sunni-dominated rebel movement against Assad, has raised sectarian tensions in Lebanon and Lebanese Sunni fighters have also been killed while fighting alongside Syrian rebels. Lebanese parties are sharply divided over the crisis in Syria as the March 8 alliance continuously expresses its support to Assad, while the March 14 camp voices its support for the popular revolt.

Taking a long view on Syria and the Sunni-Shiite divide
By David Ignatius/The Washington Post
February 12/14

The 50th annual Munich Security Conference this month was a celebration of the power of the democratic vision in Europe — one that now stretches all the way toward Ukraine. But there was a sense of defeat in the room, almost of collective shame, when the subject turned to Syria. The international alliance that won the Cold War has been bootless in the case of Syria. That’s partly the fault of an indecisive Obama administration, but it’s really a much larger problem. The United Nations system for resolving disputes is failing in Syria, as it did in Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. The United States, this time, hasn’t been willing to organize a “coalition of the willing” to do the dirty work. “Things are bad and getting worse,” said Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy for Syria, who seemed near despair as he described the failure last month of his latest mediation effort, known as Geneva II. He is continuing his fraught mediation effort this week.
The Syria tragedy embodies a deeper intellectual failure. The Cold War was, at bottom, the triumph of an idea. What’s missing in Syria is an animating strategic framework that could power a U.S.-led coalition. Instead, we have a conflict driven by sectarian hatred between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, which in turn is fueled by the rivalry of Saudi Arabia and Iran. Diplomatic efforts are blocked by Russia, which still imagines itself as the United States’ rival.
What to do? In the short run, the United States should step up its training and assistance for the moderate Syrian opposition. This has multiple benefits: A stronger opposition can fight the Bashar al-Assad regime, push back al-Qaeda and safeguard humanitarian corridors. This week in Geneva, the opposition proposed a plan for a cease-fire and political transition. That’s a good step forward, but the rebels on their own can’t settle the conflict.
Breaking the Syria deadlock will require a strategy that defuses the sectarian war ravaging the Middle East. I’ve been hearing versions of this approach recently from Obama administration officials, from senior British analysts, from a few farsighted Gulf Arabs and even from Iranians. They all recognize that bridging the Sunni-Shiite schism requires a regional security accord that reconciles the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran, the engines of the conflict. This regional balance, in turn, requires an understanding between the United States and Russia.
Lebanon offers a lesson in how sectarian conflicts can be stabilized. This may sound paradoxical, given that Beirut always seems a few minutes from chaos. But the Lebanese usually avoid disaster with their compromise formula of “neither victor nor vanquished.”
My Lebanon tutorial came in a conversation with Prime Minister Najib Mikati. He explained that the Taif Agreement of 1989, which ended the Lebanese civil war after 15 years, was possible because of two breakthroughs: a regional agreement and U.S.-Russian cooperation. There were many diplomatic false starts along the way — in peace talks at Geneva, Lausanne and Cairo. It helped that the Cold War was ending, for until there was consensus at the top, Mikati noted, the Lebanese militias kept fighting.
A surprising public articulation of this approach came in Munich from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “Iran and Saudi Arabia share a common interest in a secure environment,” he told the conference. “Neither one of us will benefit from sectarian divisions, neither one of us will benefit from extremism.” It’s hard to take Zarif’s statement at face value when Iran is pumping Hezbollah fighters and Iraqi Shiite militiamen into Syria. But it’s the right concept.
To get Syria right, policymakers should ask themselves what they want the Middle East to look like in five or 10 years, and then reverse-engineer from that model.
A truly stable future will be possible only with a security balance that can accommodate Shiite Iran and the Sunni Gulf states. To be accepted as a regional power, Iran will have to reverse its nuclear program. The Sunni nations, meanwhile, will have to embrace reforms that can break the power of Muslim extremism. This Sunni empowerment will require a new Egyptian president who’s confident enough to stop jailing journalists, and a Saudi Arabia that’s prepared to move ahead under the next generation of leaders. It’s heartening that the Saudis this week stepped away from the jihadists and backed the Syrian opposition’s peace formula.
Here’s a group snapshot of a more stable future: The United States, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia sitting around a table to draft a deal that can stop the Syrian nightmare. The Syrians can’t resolve this tragedy without a strong push from above.


Mr. Obama’s new tone on Syria
By Editorial Board, Washington Post/Published: February 12
IS PRESIDENT Obama creeping toward a rethinking of his Syria policy? Some words he spoke Tuesday raised our hopes. At a news conference with French President François Hollande, Mr. Obama described the Syrian conflict, which he dismissed five months ago as “someone else’s civil war,” as “one of our highest national security priorities.” He acknowledged that his diplomatic strategy is “far from achieving” its aim of a political solution, while “we still have a horrendous situation on the ground.”
In essence, Mr. Obama confirmed what Secretary of State John F. Kerry privately acknowledged to a group of congressmen 10 days ago: U.S. policy is failing even as the threat to U.S. interests grows. “Nobody is going to deny there’s enormous frustration here,” the president said.The atrocities committed daily by the Syrian regime, even as peace talks in Geneva sputter, may be influencing Mr. Obama’s thinking. So, too, may the failure of efforts at the United Nations to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis. Mr. Obama’s strategy has counted on Russian cooperation, but Tuesday the president acknowledged that Russia is obstructing U.N. Security Council action to open aid corridors for starving civilians.
Above all, he can hardly ignore warnings delivered by his top intelligence aides, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan, who in the past two weeks said in public testimony to Congress that al-Qaeda is developing a refuge in eastern Syria that could be used to launch attacks against the United States. Having previously belittled the Syrian al-Qaeda branch as “JV,” Mr. Obama sounded more sober Tuesday in saying that “there are extremists who have moved into the vacuum in certain portions of Syria in a way that could threaten us over the long term.” Talks in Geneva won’t address that threat, nor can a president with three years left in office necessarily expect that “the long term” will arrive afterward.
What action is possible? Mr. Obama and his aides have often argued that the only alternative to their present policy is an Iraq-style invasion. So it was refreshing to hear Mr. Obama hint at other options. He said his administration would “continue to strengthen the moderate opposition”; we hope that means a return to a plan for stepped-up training that the president embraced and then abandoned last year.
Correctly, Mr. Obama cited the deal on Syria’s chemical weapons — in which a U.S. threat to carry out air strikes quickly produced a regime commitment to hand over its arsenal — as “an example of the judicious, wise use of military action.” He went on to ask “whether we can duplicate that kind of process when it comes to the larger resolution of the problem.” Maybe not, if “resolution” means a quick end to this terrible war. But the threat of force could help open humanitarian corridors and stop atrocities such as the dropping of shrapnel-filled “barrel bombs” on civilian targets.
Mr. Obama said: “Right now we don’t think there’s a military solution per se . . . but the situation is fluid and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue to solve this problem.” That is good news. The president has taken an important step in recognizing the gravity of developments in Syria. Now he needs to act on that analysis.


Obama's Hollow Promises Abroad
By: Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
February 12, 2014
As U.S. credibility and stature diminish in world affairs, the American president and his secretaries of state and defense engage in eloquent denial. Unfortunately for them, realities trump words, even persuasive ones.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, "where the water-cooler chatter was about America's waning influence in the Middle East," John Kerry proclaimed himself "perplexed by claims... that somehow America is disengaging from the world." Nothing could be further from the truth, he asserted: "We are entering an era of American diplomatic engagement that is as broad and as deep as any at any time in our history." Likewise, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called for "a renewed and enhanced era of partnership with our friends and allies."
In this spirit, Obama has made multiple promises to reassure allies.
To South Korea, which depends on the American "tripwire" to deter a demented dictator who could flatten Seoul within the first few hours of an artillery barrage, Obama promised that "The commitment of the United States to the Republic of Korea will never waver."
To Japan, which depends on the U.S. Seventh Fleet to deter increasingly aggressive Chinese encroachment on the Senkaku Islands, he reaffirmed that "The United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to Japan," which the State Department specifically indicated includes the Senkaku Islands.
To Taiwan, whose security against the Peoples Republic depends on the American deterrent, he "reaffirmed our commitment to… the Taiwan Relations Act," which requires the United States to maintain the capacity "to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security of" Taiwan.
To the Philippines, worried about its territories in the South China Sea claimed by China, particularly the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Reef, he reaffirmed a commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty that provides, in the event of an armed attack, that the United States "would act to meet the common dangers."
To Saudi Arabia, alarmed by Obama's appeasement of Iran in the Joint Plan of Action, he reiterated "the firm commitment of the United States to our friends and allies in the Gulf."
And to Israel, isolated in a sea of enemies, Obama declared "America's unwavering commitment to Israel's security," because standing by Israel "is in our fundamental national security interest."
Trouble is, first, that Americans doubt these fine and steadfast words:
Record numbers of Americans believe that U.S. global power and prestige are declining, according to the Pew Research Center. For the first time in surveys dating back to the 1970s, "a majority (53 percent) says the United States plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader than it did a decade ago," while only 17 percent thought American power has been enhanced. An even larger majority, 70 percent, "say the United States is less respected than in the past." And 51 percent say Obama is "not tough enough" in foreign policy and national security issues.
More than two thirds have a negative opinion of Obama's handling of Iran, the Mellman Group found; a majority (54-37 percent) support targeted military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities rather than allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
McLaughlin & Associates finds that 49 percent of respondents think that America's standing has been diminished during Obama's five years in office; 40 percent think America's adversaries now look at Obama with contempt.
Josef Joffe, editor Germany's "Die Zeit" weekly.
Second, Pew Research reports that half the publics in Britain, France, and Germany, as well as a third in the U.S. and Russia, see China eventually replacing the United States as the world's leading superpower. Two-thirds of Israelis think Obama will not stop the Iranians from getting nuclear weapons.
Third, world leaders in countries as varied as Japan, Poland, and Israel hear Obama's promises as unrelated to reality. Speaking for many, Josef Joffe of Germany's Die Zeit weekly finds "consistency and coherence to Obama's attempt to retract from the troubles of the world, to get the U.S. out of harm's way. … to be harsh about it, he wants to turn the U.S. into a very large medium power."
Successful "diplomatic engagement" (as Kerry calls it) must be backed by consistency, power, and will, not by nice words, hollow promises, and wishful thinking. Will the Obama administration realize this before doing permanent damage? Watch the Iranian nuclear deal for possible changes, or not.
**Mr. Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
The Middle East Forum

Israel at a Point of No Return - In the Right Direction
by David P. Goldman/PJ Media
February 12, 2014
I should like to advance a conjecture which I lack the qualifications to adequately develop: The global Left, and the Israeli Left most of all, perceives that the clock is running out, and has worked itself up into a froth of hysteria against Israel. The world of John Lennon's "Imagine," where there are no countries and no religions, is about to dissipate like last night's marijuana fumes. The demographic time bomb that worries the Left is not the relative increase of Arab vs. Jewish populations between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, speciously cited by John Kerry and a host of other errant utopians: it is the growth of the Jewish population itself, and Israel's transformation into the world's most religious country.
Israel now has a religious majority, as Times of Israel blogger Yoseif Bloch observes:
"According to our Central Bureau of Statistics, 43% of Israeli Jews are secular, 9% are haredi, and the remaining 48% are somewhere between masorti (traditional) and dati (religious): 23% the former, 10% the latter, and 15% smack in the middle. These five groups do not parallel the five groups identified by Pew, e.g. Orthodox is a denomination, while dati is a declaration."
So 57% of Israelis practice a form of Judaism that for the most part Americans would call "Orthodox," in that it recognizes normative Judaism in the rabbinic tradition (the presence of the "progressive" Reform and Conservative movements is almost imperceptible and largely limited to transplanted Americans). Many Israelis who are dati are far from completely observant, but there is a great gulf fixed between a semi-observant Jew who knows what observance is, and a "progressive" who asserts the right to reinvent tradition according to personal taste.
This majority seems to be expanding fast. I spent the second half of December in Jerusalem promoting the Hebrew translation of my book How Civilizations Die and was struck by the increase in commitment to religious observance, including among people who were steadfastly secular. Almost half of Israel's army officers are "national religious" and trained in pre-army academies that teach Judaism, Jewish history, as well as physical training and military subjects. The ultra-Orthodox are going to work rather than studying full time, little by little, but the little adds up to a lot. Naftali Bennett's national-religious party "Jewish Home" has created a new political focus for the national-religious. Outreach organizations like Beit Hillel are bringing once-secular Israelis back to observance. Beit Hillel's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, was in New York recently lecturing about Israel's religious revival.
Anecdotally, I see this in my own small circle of Israeli acquaintances. A musician friend told me that he attends a Talmud class every Shabbat — he can't stand praying, but he is hungry for Torah. A journalist friend dresses her young boys in the tallit katan, the fringed undergarment of the very observant. It is becoming normal in Jerusalem restaurants to wash hands before bread and to recite the Grace after Meals.
This is a crucial, counterintuitive story: Israel is swimming against the secular current, becoming more observant as the rest of the world becomes more secular. Perhaps the explanation lies in the observation of the Catholic sociologist Mary Eberstadt, who argued in a brilliant 2007 essay that it is our children who bring us to faith. Last year Mary expanded the essay into a book which I had the honor to discuss in Claremont Review of Books. It is a commonplace of demographers' correlation that people of faith have more children: Mary argues that the causality goes both ways, that having children reinforces our faith. Israeli is a standpoint in the modern world with a fertility rate of 3.0 children per woman (the closest second is the U.S. with just 1.9). Excluding the ultra-Orthodox the number is 2.6 children per woman, still outside the range of the rest of the industrial world. Secular Israelis are having three children. Not only does that defuse the much-touted "demographic time bomb." It ultimately changes the character of the country. It validates the hundred-year-old argument of Rabbi Isaac Kook, one of the founders of religious Zionism, that identification with the Jewish people eventually will lead Jews back to Judaism.
This national religious revival is not occurring at the expense of Israeli or West Bank Arabs. On the contrary, the Arab population between the River and the Sea is flourishing as no modern Arab population ever did. A fifth of Israel's medical students are Arab, as are a third of the students at the University of Haifa. Ariel University across the "Green Line" in Samaria, the "settler's university," is educating a whole generation of West Bank Arabs. The campus is full of young Arab women in headscarves, and the local Jewish leadership reaches out to Arab villages to recruit talented students. Israel's expanding economy has a bottomless demand for young people of ability and ambition. The Left calls Israel an "apartheid state" the way it used to call America a "fascist state" back in the 1960s.
The Israeli Left, with its soggy vision of univeralist utopianism, may be at a point of no return. It is becoming marginalized and irrelevant. The Europeans, whose experience of nationalism has been uniformly horrific, are equally aghast. Liberal Christians who abhor the Election of Israel because they abhor Christian orthodoxy cannot suppress their rage. And "progressive" American Jews, who have been running away from Judaism for the past three generations, are upset that Israel has embraced the normative Judaism they worked so hard to suppress. American "progressive" and unaffiliated Jews, one should remember, have the lowest fertility rate of any identifiable minority in the United States. Even if most of them did not intermarry (and the intermarriage rate in the past ten years approaches 70% according to the October 2013 Pew study) their infertility would finish them off in a few generations. Meanwhile 74% of all Jewish children in the New York area live in Orthodox families. The center of gravity of Judaism will shift decisively to Israel in the next generation, and the segment of American Jewry that most identifies with Israel–the Orthodox–will set the tone for American Judaism and eventually become the majority in a much smaller American Jewish population.
It is up to the Israelis, to be sure, to draw out the implications of these trends. But I am encouraged by the perceptions of religious leaders like Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, who perceive this revival in their daily work.
This is good news for Christians as well as Jews. The secularization thesis is refuted: a country with the world's greatest record of high-tech innovation is also becoming the industrial world's most religious country. It is devastating news for Lennonists as well as Leninists. The "Imagine" world turns out to be imaginary. Israel, as Franz Rosenzweig said of the Jewish people, is there to be "the paragon and exemplar of a nation." For all its flaws, the State of Israel stands as a beacon to people of faith around the world. It is honored by its list of self-appointed enemies. Will Israel prevail against the unholy coalition against it? As we say, b'ezrat Hashem.
**David P. Goldman is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Saudi cleric chides women for going alone to doctor
February 13, 2014/Agence France Presse
RIYADH: A top Saudi cleric has scolded women who visit male doctors without being accompanied by a male guardian, claiming that is prohibited by Islam, Al-Hayat daily reported Thursday.
His remarks follow the death of a university student last week after paramedics were denied access to her campus because they were not accompanied by a male guardian, or close relative, a must according to the strict segregation rules in the Muslim kingdom. "Women are becoming negligent in consulting doctors without a mahram (male guardian), and this is prohibited," Al-Hayat quoted Sheikh Qays al-Mubarak, a member of the Council of Senior Ulema (Muslim scholars), as saying. A medical check-up could include "a woman showing parts of her body to a doctor. This is not permissible... unless urgent," he said.
Women "must seek help from a male doctor only when a female medic is not available. When this happens, they must not be alone and the doctor must only look at the pain" part of the body, he said. The Council of Senior Ulema is the highest religious authority in the ultra-conservative kingdom. Al-Hayat said the notorious religious police in Eastern Province have enforced restrictions on women entering several private medical centres without a male guardian. "Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have entered a health and diet centre and prevented women from consulting a male dietician without the presence of a mahram," Al-Hayat reported. AFP could not immediately verify these allegations. In 2002, 15 girls died after a fire broke out at their school in the holy city of Mecca and religious police blocked their evacuation because they were not dressed in keeping with Islamic codes. Witnesses said male civil defence workers were kept at bay because, in their haste to escape the flames, the 12-to-14-year-olds had not put on their black abaya robes, which cover the entire body. Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic laws, notably a segregation of the sexes, and does not allow women to work or travel without the authorisation of a male guardian from her family. It is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving

U.S. “Chose to Stay Silent” on Muslim Persecution of Christians: November 2013
By Raymond Ibrahim on February 12, 2014 in Muslim Persecution of Christians
Gatestone Institute
The endemic rise of Christian persecution in the Middle East was noted in November when Pope Francis declared “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians” and stressed the importance of “the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practice one’s own faith” after he met with patriarchs from Syria, Iran, and Iraq, all countries where Christian minorities are under attack.
On the other hand, powers best placed to do something about the plight of Mideast Christians—namely, the U.S. Obama administration—made it clear that they would do nothing, even when well leveraged to do so.
In November, the wife of American pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned in Iran for over a year for practicing Christianity, said she and her family were devastated after learning that the Obama administration did not try to secure the release of her husband as part of the newly signed deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
“The talks over Iran’s nuclear program were seen by his [Abedini’s] family and those representing them as one of the most promising avenues yet for securing his release,” said Fox News. “But the White House confirmed over the weekend that Abedini’s status was not on the table during those talks.”
“I don’t think we have any more leverage,” said Abedini’s wife. “We now have to consider other avenues and having other countries speak out because our country when we could have used our leverage chose to stay silent.”
The rest of November’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity:
Islamic Attacks on Christian Places of Worship
Lebanon: An unidentified attacker firebombed the reception area of the newly built Christian cathedral of the town’s patron Saint, Mar Zakhya. Despite the loud boom heard in the town’s main square, there was limited damage; some building material used for the building process of the cathedral was destroyed. Although Lebanon was Christian-majority in the mid-20th century, today it is roughly 60% Muslim, 40% Christian.
Sudan: Police and security forces used a truck and two land cruisers to batter down the fence around Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, before breaking into the church and beating and arresting the Christians present as Muslim onlookers shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is greater”). The government, which has been destroying or taking over church buildings in retaliation to the secession of the mainly Christian South Sudan in July 2011, is belie
Syria: Nine children were killed and 27 people wounded after Islamic rebels targeted and fired mortar rounds at the St. John of Damascus Christian School and the school bus. Also, the aftermath of the rebel invasion and occupation of the city of Qamishli in the northeast near the Turkish border revealed and included—among other atrocities such as killing and beheading Christians and their clergy—the destruction of all Christian icons in the local church and theft of the church’s most prized possession, a reportedly two-thousand year-old icon of the face of Christ.
Turkey: Historically the oldest Christian place of worship in Istanbul, the ancient monastery of San Giovanni in Studion founded in 462, currently classified as a museum, is now going to serve as a mosque. This would be the third ancient Christian building and heritage site to be set to be transformed into a mosque. Earlier it was announced that the ancient churches of Hagia Sophia (St. Sophia) in Trabzon and in Iznik would also be turned into mosques.
Islamic Attacks on Christian Freedom: Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytism
India: TJ Joseph, a Christian college professor, was finally acquitted of all blasphemy charges, though he is still missing an arm. Back in 2010 he had his right hand and part of his arm cut off by a group of men, following accusations that some of his exams contained offensive questions about Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Although he had apologized, after he was mutilated, he was also fired by his college. According to one source: the most serious aspects of this episode “was the attitude of the police, who registered the complaint against him and also arrested him, and of the institution, which has suspended him from duty. Fortunately, the Mahatma Gandhi University, to which Newman College is affiliated, revoked the decision of the school authorities and has offered him his job back.”
Iran: The fate of Hossein Saketi Aramsari, a Christian known as “Stephen” among his friends, remained unknown. Iran’s secret police arrested him back in July, 2013, on suspicions that he was engaging in “evangelistic activities.” According to sources, apparently to increase pressure on him, authorities transferred him from one jail to another; he has also been in solitary confinement. Then, in October, a judge of the local Revolutionary Court “officially charged him with doing evangelism.” It is believed that he is currently held in the same prison where Benham Irani, another Christian “prisoner of conscience” is being held, abused, and refused medical treatment, also on the charge of proselytizing. Explaining this rise in crackdowns on evangelizing, Mohabat News said, “Conversion of youth and their families has become a major concern for the Iranian security authorities and Islamic leaders.” Separately, a former Muslim and drug addict who twice attempted to commit suicide before he converted to Christianity at a rehabilitation center at the hands of another former Muslim and ex-drug addict woman who had earlier become Christian, was, according to those close to him, falsely convicted of selling drugs in the facility, severely beaten, and sentenced to prison, after authorities learned that he himself had begun to proselytize in the rehabilitation center. Police also temporarily arrested Armin Davoodi’s parents at their home and confiscated his personal belongings, including the Bibles he used to take to the rehabilitation center. Relatives with strong government connections were able to get him released under numerous conditions, including a requirement that he state in writing that Christians had misled him into the faith and that he would never again go to a church or talk to other Muslims about the Gospel, and that if he did, he would be executed by the state. So he agreed to their proposal and has since fled.
Pakistan: Blasphemy cases against Christians have reached an all-time high. Four such cases were reported in November, which, according to activists, is four times higher than the monthly average recorded over the past two years. Activists and clergy further stressed that the overwhelming majority of blasphemy accusations are being used as “instruments of revenge” against Christians, as a sure way to see them get punished for whatever real or imagined grievance accusing Muslims may have. Separately, Younis Masih, a 35-year-old Christian who had been imprisoned and sentenced to death on blasphemy charges since 2005, was finally released after judges decreed he did not blaspheme Islam. He and his family are still in hiding since some Muslims still seek to kill him despite his being cleared of the blasphemy charge. According to Younis: “I have four children and I have no job, no one is helping me. I live with the fear of being killed.” And in the words of his lawyer: “Christians in Pakistan fear threats, attacks, violence, discrimination and hatred. The law of blasphemy is always a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads: Their life is not safe even after their release from prison.”
Somalia: A Muslim convert to Christianity living in Mogadishu was killed by Islamic gunmen accusing him of spreading the faith. Two men armed with pistols shot Abdikhani Hassan, 35, seven times as he approached his home after closing his pharmacy. He is survived by his wife, who is pregnant, and five children ranging in age from 3 to 12. He and his wife converted to Christianity back in 2000. Before killing him, one of the assailants told a neighbor, “We have information that Hassan is spreading wrong religion to our people, and we are looking for him.” According to a source, “The men who murdered Abdikhani [Hassan] are suspected to be Al Shabaab militia,” the Somali wing of al-Qaeda which has vowed to cleanse the country of any Christian presence.
Turkey: A Christian pastor was reportedly arrested on charges of organizing human trafficking and prostitution. The Christian community of Agape (or “Brotherly Love”) Church, where Orhan Picaklar, 42, is pastor, insists that he is innocent, and that “the allegations are entirely instrumental, as the Pastor was under observation for suspected ‘illegal missionary activity.’” Later, the church where the Agape community meets was damaged by vandals, although the congregation has obtained the formal status of “association” in 2005 (as with other Christian communities in Turkey, the government does not grant official recognition of “church” to new communities).
Central African Republic: 450,000 Christians have fled their homes in the 80% Christian-majority nation since the Islamic takeover in March 2013. Then, Seleka—a coalition of local and foreign Arabic-speaking Islamic militias—seized control of the capital, Bangui, in an orgy of violence, bloodshed, and rape, against Christians. As one analyst put it, “But Seleka does not rape, loot and kill indiscriminately. Rather, Seleka attacks Christians and spares Muslims, causing traditional community trust to evaporate, and creating a sectarian tinderbox.” And in fact, Christians, who make the majority of the African nation, are fighting back, leading to an extremely volatile situation. Christian Bishop Albert Vanbuel stated “a rebellion of religious extremism with evil intentions, characterized by profanation and planned destruction of religious buildings, especially Catholic and Protestant churches” is now in power.
Egypt: Three months after the Egyptian military liberated Delga from Muslim Brotherhood supporters and sympathizers—who were forcing Christians to pay jizya, or tribute, for right of life—they continued to terrorize Christians in other towns across Egypt. Especially throughout regions in Upper Egypt like Minya, extortionists using the threat of kidnap, torture and murder seized money, land and other property from Christians. One Copt was tied by his kidnappers as they repeatedly shot an automatic rifle next to his ear. According to Morning Star News, “Besides the emotional damage he suffered, the shockwaves exiting the rifle combined with the muzzle blast shattered the Christian’s eardrums and burned his face. The Copt begged his family to gather the ransom money, and eventually they paid the kidnappers some 50,000 Egyptian pounds (US$7,260). He returned to his family shattered and unable to speak of the ordeal until recently.” According to the founder of the Maspero Union, targeting Christians in the context of seizing their money and property is seen “as a religious duty.” The director of a human rights organization in Upper Egypt said, “This past month alone, we had nine cases of kidnapping in Minya, and they all paid their ransom, which was between 100,000 and 250,000 Egyptian pounds [US$14,500 to $36,300] for each case.” Separately in Minya, after a Coptic boy was accused of being in a relationship with a Muslim girl, “Muslims burnt down the house of the boy’s father and an adjacent house.”
Nigeria: After kidnapping a teenage Christian girl named Hajja, members of the Boko Haram terrorist organization kept her as a slave, eventually putting a knife to her throat and offering her one of two choices: convert to Islam or die. “If I cried, they beat me. If I spoke, they beat me. They told me I must become a Muslim but I refused again and again… They were about to slaughter me and one of them begged me not to resist and just before I had my throat slit I relented. They put a veil on me and made me read from the Koran.” According to Reuters, “She ceremonially converted to Islam, cooked for the men, carried ammunition during an attack on a police outpost and was about to be married to one of the insurgents before she managed to engineer a dramatic escape. She says she was not raped.” Recounting how her captors used her to lure people into traps, the 19-year-old told Reuters, and “They took them back to a cave and tied them up. They cut their throats, one at a time. I thought my heart would burst out of my chest, because I was the bait.” Among those who did the slaughtering was the Muslim wife of a leader, the only other woman in the band of jihadi terrorists. Separately, a Baptist high school principal and some teachers were beaten to a “pulp” and “state of coma” at the hands of “unknown persons,” who used, among other weapons, axes. The reason was that the school had earlier sent home a female student for wearing a veil, or Islamic hijab, while on school premises. Finally, over 70 Christians were killed by what were described as “Islamic extremists”: Boko Haram terrorists killed 34 Christians in Borno state, while “Muslim herdsmen” slaughtered 37 Christians, injured dozens, and looted and destroyed their homes, in coordinated attacks on four Plateau state villages.
Pakistan: An entire Christian community has been forced to flee a Lyarni neighborhood known as the “Slaughter House,” due to the endemic killings, rapes of young girls, thefts, drug dealing, and extortions. Before surrounding Muslims began their incursions, the residential area was 90% Christian, 10% Hindu, with four churches and three temples. “It is almost empty now,” disclosed a Christian elder of a Christian family. “We all are separated now. We won’t be reunited again.” “A lot of the families have left the compound since 2008, after their daughters were kidnapped and raped,” claimed another community elder. “No one knows where they have gone.” He recalled an incident when a teenage girl, who was dancing at her brother’s wedding, was kidnapped. “Her parents, brother and relatives cried and appealed to the kidnappers but they didn’t listen,” he narrated. “She was dishonoured and was left outside the compound the next morning. That family was never seen in the city again.”
About this Series
While not all, or even most Muslims are involved, the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws that criminalize and punish with death those who “offend” Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or second-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to India in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.