February 18/14

Bible Quotation for today/Jesus Speaks about His Suffering and Death
Mark 08/31-38: "Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will rise to life.”  He made this very clear to them. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  But Jesus turned around, looked at his disciples, and rebuked Peter. “Get away from me, Satan,” he said. “Your thoughts don't come from God but from human nature!” Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If any of you want to come with me,” he told them, “you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.  For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for me and for the gospel, you will save it.  Do you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! 37 There is nothing you can give to regain your life.  If you are ashamed of me and of my teaching in this godless and wicked day, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Pope Francis's Tweet for today
Pope Francis
To all who are sick, do not lose hope, especially when your suffering is at its worst. Christ is near you.
Pape François
Chers malades, ne perdez pas l’espérance, même dans les moments plus durs de la souffrance. Le Christ est proche de vous.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For February 18/14
106 Christians Brutally Murdered by Boko Haram Militants in Northern Nigeria/Release/February 18/14
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s surprise, a last minute withdrawal from politics/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia/February 18/14
Like moths to a flame: the effect of the Syrian war on Britons/By: H.A. Hellyer/Al Arabyia/February 18/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 18/14
Lebanese Related News

Salam Enters Grand Serail as Lebanon's New PM

Suleiman Hopes Ministerial Statement Will Be Swiftly Devised

Salam's Cabinet Faces First Test of Deal on Policy Statement

Aoun Confirms Meeting Hariri, Nasrallah as Part of 'Mediation' Efforts

Salam Seeks to Ease Tension between Foes, Comfort People

Syrian Opposition Urges Salam's Govt. to Withdraw Hizbullah Fighters

U.S. Vows to Work with Salam to Help him Overcome Challenges

Jumblat Hopes New Govt. Will Organize Political Disputes, Ease Tensions

Berri Hopes New Cabinet would Meet Challenges, Lead to National Dialogue

Berri Says Cabinet 'Best' Lineup amid Developments, Contacts Hariri over Hizbullah in Syria

Army Circulates Picture of 'Dangerous Fugitive'

Poisoning, Husband Held for Questioning

Four Arrest Warrants Issued against ISIL Affiliates

Raad: Lebanon Can Only Be Governed by All of its Factions

Associated Press Slams Salam's Cabinet Photo as 'Unacceptable'

Nasrallah Says Hizbullah Seeks Dialogue in 'Settlement Cabinet', Offered Portfolio Concessions for Country's Sake

Nasrallah: We will keep fighting in Syria

Lebanon’s new government: On a tight deadline
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Netanyahu: Iran engaged in 'subversive activities' in Latin America, world
Report: Israeli weapons dealers tried to send jet parts to Iran in violation of embargo

Syrian opposition coalition appoints new military chief, after year of fading influence

Ethiopian plane hijacked to Geneva by co-pilot who wants asylum in Switzerland; all are safe

Russia Rejects U.S. Charge of 'Enabling' Assad's Regime

Kerry in Abu Dhabi for Syria Talks

Agree New Damascus Area Truce

Syria Army Seizes Alawite 'Massacre' Village

Saudi Blames Syria for Failure of Geneva Peace Talks

EU Offers 12 Mln Euros to Destroy Syria Chemical Arms

Israel's Peres Says Abbas Serious about Peace

More than 450 Indian Migrants Dead in Qatar in 2012-13

Suicide Bomber Likely Behind Egypt Tourist Attack


106 Christians Brutally Murdered by Boko Haram Militants in Northern Nigeria
Christian Slaughter in Northern Nigeria Continues Unabated
2/17/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that106 Christians were brutally murdered by suspected Boko Haram militants in an attack on a Christian village in northern Nigeria over the weekend. According to reports, the vast majority of the Christians killed were men rounded up by the militants and executed by either having their throats slit or being shot in the village square. This marks the deadliest single attack on Christian in Nigeria in months.
According to BosNewsLife, the attacked on the Christian village of Izghe, located in Nigeria's northern state of Borno, began late Saturday night, Feb. 15. Around one hundred militants, suspected by Nigerian government officials to be connected to the Boko Haram terrorist network, wearing military uniforms surrounded the village with armed vehicles and began to round up Christian men living there.
After rounding up a large group of Christian men, the militants began to execute them in the village square. Survivors of the attack reported to the BBC that many of the Christian victims were shot, but several had their throats slit by the militants.
Next, the militants went door to door in the village searching for Christian men they failed to kill in the village square. In total, it is believed that 106 Christians were murdered in the attack on Izghe, which lasted 5 hours. Of those 106, 105 were men and 1 was an elderly woman trying to protect her grandson, the senator of Borno state told the BBC.
"All the dead bodies of the victims are still lying in the streets," resident Abubakar Usman told Reuters. "We fled without burying them, fearing the terrorists were still lurking in the bushes."
Boko Haram is an Islamic terrorist network group currently fighting the Nigerian government for control of northern Nigeria. The Boko Haram group desires to establish a separate Islamic state in Nigeria's northern states where it can enact an ultra conservative interpretation of Sharia law. Since beginning its armed insurgency in 2009, Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in Nigeria, often targeting Christians for some of the most brutal acts of violence. In early 2012, Boko Haram leaders demanded all Christians to leave northern Nigeria so that the group could create a purely Islamic society. Since then, Boko Haram has perpetrated church bombings, drive-by shootings and Christian pogroms across northern Nigeria.
U.S. Vows to Work with Salam to Help him Overcome Challenges
Naharnet /U.S. Ambassador David Hale said Monday that Washington stood ready to work with Prime Minister Tammam Salam to help his government overcome many challenges, including the threat of terrorism. “We stand ready to work with him (Salam) and his team to advance our bilateral relations and to help with the many challenges facing Lebanon,” Hale said following talks with the prime minister. “Lebanon cannot and need not deal with these challenges alone,” he said. The diplomat cited among the challenges the promotion of Lebanon’s policy of dissociation, ending terrorist acts and violence, helping Lebanese communities cope with the Syrian refugees, and protecting the opportunity for the Lebanese to choose their own leaders, as president and in parliament, freely, fairly, on time, and in accordance with the constitution. Hale said Lebanese leaders can help the people meet those challenges and bolster chances for peace by upholding the Taef Agreement and Baabda Declaration, and fully implementing U.N. Security Council resolutions 1701 and 1559. Hale expressed respect for the leadership that former Prime Minister Najib Miqati demonstrated during difficult times. “We value his moderation and his commitment to strong American-Lebanese relations. We look forward to continued partnership with him in the years to come,” he said.

Salam Enters Grand Serail as Lebanon's New PM

Naharnet/Tammam Salam was welcomed on Monday by staff members after he arrived at the Grand Serail to begin his work as Lebanon's new prime minister. Salam, who formed his 24-member all-embracing government after a ten month deadlock, was accompanied by Environment Minister Mohammed Mashnouq. He was welcomed by cabinet secretary-general Suhail Bouji and senior government staff at the Grand Serail that lies in downtown Beirut. Guards saluted him as Salam walked into the building to officially assume his post. The first challenge for Salam's government is to agree on a policy statement, which in the past has faced controversies in national unity cabinets. The cabinet will hold its first session at Baabda Palace on Tuesday to form the committee that would draft the statement.

Associated Press Slams Salam's Cabinet Photo as 'Unacceptable'
Naharnet /The Associated Press removed a government-produced picture of Lebanese officials posing with members of the new cabinet after learning of the photograph's manipulation.After learning of the photograph's manipulation on Sunday, the AP removed the image from its archives and issued an advisory to customers not to use it. "Adding elements to a photograph is entirely unacceptable and is in clear violation of AP's standards," said AP vice president and director of photography Santiago Lyon. The government-produced picture of Lebanese officials posing with members of the new cabinet was altered to include a picture of the speaker of parliament who wasn't actually there, an official with the presidential palace has acknowledged. The photo released Saturday portrays the Lebanese president Michel Suleiman, premier Tammam Salam and parliament speaker Nabih Berri posing outside the palace with members of the national unity government. The photo was distributed by The Associated Press and other news agencies. Local journalists later noticed that Parliament Speaker Berri was not at the palace in the early afternoon when the picture was taken — and that the picture was doctored to include him. Asked to comment about it on Sunday, Presidential media adviser Adib Abi Akl said: "So what?" He said the official photos were sent to the media and "it is your choice to use them or not." Earlier, he said that according to the Lebanese protocol all the top three leaders — the president, prime minister and parliament speaker — have to be in the group photo. The first shot was taken with Berri and the ministers present, after which Berri, who was headed for Kuwait, had to leave for the airport. When the missing ministers arrived, the group stood again for a new picture without Berri, who was then added by Photoshop. SourceAssociated Press

Suleiman Hopes Ministerial Statement Will Be Swiftly Devised
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman remarked on Monday that the formation of a new cabinet reflects a positive image of Lebanon when its rulers manage to agree on their affairs. He hoped that the cabinet will “swiftly devise a ministerial statement in order for it to be later subject to a vote of confidence at parliament.”Once approved, the cabinet can later work on meeting constitutional deadlines, such as staging the presidential elections on time, he added. Moreover, he hoped that the government will be able to make up for lost time and accomplish as many achievements as possible. Suleiman had held separate talks earlier on Monday with Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, and a number of new and outgoing ministers. The 24-member government was formed on Saturday after a deadlock that lasted nearly 11 months. It is set to convene on Tuesday in order to appoint the committee that will be tasked with devising the policy statement.

Berri Hopes New Cabinet would Meet Challenges, Lead to National Dialogue

Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri hoped that the new cabinet would receive parliament's vote of confidence to face many challenges, including terrorism, and would pave way for the resumption of the national dialogue. “Lebanon now has a government which we hope it would complete its policy statement and receive parliament's vote of confidence to confront many challenges,” Berri said during a dinner banquet thrown in his honor by Lebanon's Ambassador to Kuwait. Berri cited among the challenges the situation of Syrian and Palestinian refugees, and terrorism, saying security forces and the Lebanese army would not stop arresting suspects and thwarting terrorist plots. Among the other challenges are oil exploration and limiting the effects of the economic and social crises on the Lebanese. “The formation of the government should limit all tension, resolve political disputes and open the door for the resumption of the national dialogue,” Berri said in his speech. He expressed satisfaction that the cabinet was made in Lebanon away from the agenda of the region and the international community. Priority should be to strengthen the Lebanese army, the speaker said, hoping that the first decree to be approved by the government and referred to parliament would be the increase in the number of military personnel.
He also set a priority the approval of a new and modern electoral law. “Lebanon is about to turn into a terror battlefield and into a demarcation line for the Syrian crisis,” he warned. “The truth is that all of Lebanon is targeted through its existence, army, people, resistance, capital and its suburbs in addition to all its political personalities.” But he stressed that “Lebanon will not turn into a funeral” and “the will of the Lebanese to consolidate civil peace will emerge victorious.”Berri arrived in Kuwait on Saturday and held talks with Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim and Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah.

Berri Says Cabinet 'Best' Lineup amid Developments, Contacts Hariri over Hizbullah in Syria
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri lauded on Monday Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet, describing it as “the best we can achieve amid the critical situation the country is passing through." “The cabinet isn't technical nor neutral... It is a political government based on delicate balances,” Barri said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. He expected that Salam's cabinet will not include severe disputes between ministers. On Saturday, PM Salam unveiled a compromise government, capping nearly 11 months of political wrangling. According to the newspaper, Berri contacted al-Mustaqbal Movement Chief Saad Hariri after his speech at a mass rally commemorating the ninth anniversary of former premier Rafik Hariri's assassination at the BIEL exhibition center in Beirut. “You said that you are seeking to address with me a demand to convince Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from (neighboring country) Syria,” Berri said. “Ask me for anything but that... Am serious,” the Speaker added. Although officially neutral in Syria's conflict, Lebanon is deeply divided over the Sunni-led rebellion against President Bashar Assad, whose troops are backed by fighters from Hizbullah. Hizbulah's intervention in Syria has drawn accusations from some in Lebanon that the group is entangling the country in the war next door.


Lebanon’s new government: On a tight deadline
February 17, 2014/The Daily Star/Lebanon’s new government has a very short window of opportunity in order to make its presence felt – but its theoretically short tenure in office should also help it maintain focus on the areas in which action is needed most urgently. Some March 14 and March 8 supporters have been outraged by what they see as concessions to the other side in the formation of the government. The easiest way to dispel this anger is by getting results. The Cabinet of Prime Minister Tammam Salam will be obliged to resign if the May presidential election goes forward. Until then, its efforts should target several critically important tasks. Naturally, stability and security are the top priority, meaning that this government can make a solid contribution if it maintains and even steps up ongoing work against terror attacks. A second issue involves the huge burden of Syrian refugees – a functioning government with a solid plan for receiving, distributing and monitoring the assistance effort will only help the economic situation and restore the international community’s confidence in sending urgently needed humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Third, the presidential election must take place smoothly and on schedule. Salam’s government won’t be able to design and oversee long-term reform for the various problematic areas of governance and the national economy, but this task can be left to the next government, provided that the leading factions agree on how to ensure the election of a new president who enjoys the confidence of all sides. As things stand now, the new government has only several months to produce results, but if security, the economy and the presidential election process are managed competently, the results will satisfy the majority of Lebanon.

Army Circulates Picture of 'Dangerous Fugitive'
Naharnetظhe army on Monday circulated a picture of a man whom it described as a “dangerous fugitive” who is wanted “for committing a certain crime.” It called on “anyone who recognizes him to call the Army Command's operations center on the number 1701 or to inform the nearest military post or to use the LAF Shield mobile phone app.” The move comes after the army defused a booby-trapped car Sunday in the outskirts of the Baalbek town of Ham. The vehicle which infiltrated Lebanon from Syria contained around 240 kilos of explosives, 10 kilos of extremely flammable material and two 122 mm artillery shells. On Wednesday, the army announced the arrest of top militant Naim Abbas, one of the leaders of the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Following his interrogation, he told the army about a car rigged with more than 100 kilos of explosives which was dismantled in Beirut's Corniche al-Mazraa district.

Jumblat Hopes New Govt. Will Organize Political Disputes, Ease Tensions
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat hailed on Monday the formation of a new government, noting that the arduous negotiations resulted in the formation of an all-embracing cabinet that he had called for since the beginning of Tammam Salam's appointment as premier-designate. He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “We hope the government will help organize political disputes by taking them off the streets and to the cabinet table.”“Even though the disputes have become deep-rooted, we can help ease them through calming the political and media rhetoric until the circumstances are suitable enough to reach radical solutions to pending issues,” he explained. These issues include staging the presidential elections on time “in order to avoid vacuum that will strike a harsh blow to our democratic system,” remarked the MP.
The government must also tackle the terrorist and security threats facing Lebanon by raising coordination between the various security agencies and army, suggested Jumblat. A new government was formed on Saturday after a nearly 11-month deadlock. The formation has eased some fears that the presidential elections, set for spring, may be postponed.

Woman Dies of Poisoning, Husband Held for Questioning

Naharnet /The KAFA (enough) Violence and Exploitation organization on Monday announced the death of poisoning of a woman identified as Christelle Abou Shakra, revealing that her husband is in custody for interrogation.
“Less than a month after the killing of Manal al-Assi, the citizen Christelle Abou Shakra has met the same fate after she died of poisoning by a pesticide,” KAFA said in a statement. “Christelle's mother has filed a personal lawsuit against the husband R. H., who is currently being held for interrogation,” it added. The organization, which seeks to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and exploitation of women and children, said the woman died at Hayek Hospital and was expected to be buried on Monday, noting that Speaker Nabih Berri must be asked about the murder crimes that are targeting women. In this regard, KAFA urged the parliament speaker to “call for a legislative session that has on top of its agenda the draft law on protecting women from domestic violence, in order to approve it as soon as possible.” On February 4, Manal al-Assi was severely beaten by her husband, which resulted in her death the next day. The husband was eventually arrested by security forces. Another tragic story preceded the two incidents when Roula Yaacoub, 31, died of domestic abuse on July 9, 2013.
Several media reports said Yaacoub's husband beat her up to death with a club under the eyes of their five daughters.


Lebanon judge files warrants for three over ISIS links
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Monday, 17 February 2014/A Lebanese military judge Monday issued arrest warrants after interrogating three detainees suspected of having links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported. The NNA said Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan issued the warrants after interrogating Abdel-Majid Hmaydan, Mohammad Ali and Alaa Mohammad over charges of belonging to ISIS with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts. The three suspects are from Wadi Khaled in Akkar, north Lebanon, the NNA said. The judge also issued an arrest warrant for a Omar al-Satem who is believed to be in Syria. According to the NNA, the three suspects met the ISIS Emir in Dankuk after visiting Syria’s Yabroud.

Raad: Lebanon Can Only Be Governed by All of its Factions
Naharnet/Head of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad hailed on Monday the formation of a new government, while warning against attempts to exploit political rivalries in Lebanon to create Sunni-Shiite strife. He said: “Lebanon can only be governed by all of its factions.” “The other camp sought to form a neutral or de facto cabinet because it did not want to participate in rule with Hizbullah,” he continued. “They are now however part of an all-embracing political government after their calls for a neutral and de facto cabinet failed,” he said. Moreover, Raad added: “We want to protect the resistance and the people's interests.” “We want to preserve the country's sovereignty, independence, strength, and deterrent power,” continued the MP. Furthermore, he remarked that “all corruption in the Arab world stems from the American-Israeli axis.”“Takfiris and terrorists are pawns of this axis … We have been burdened by people who cannot cut off their ties with this axis,” he lamented. “We must adapt to this reality in order to achieve the dreams of freedom and dignity. The new government meets several of the principles that we aspire for,” Raad noted. “We will continue to challenge the other camp until is wakes up from its slumber,” he said. A new government was formed on Saturday after a nearly 11-month deadlock.

Four Arrest Warrants Issued against ISIL Affiliates

Naharnet/Military Examining Magistrate Fadi Sawan interrogated on Monday three suspects on charges of belonging to a terrorist Qaida-Linked organization and of planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Lebanon. Sawan also issued an arrest warrant against the three suspects and one in absentia against Omar al-Satem, who is still in Syria. The three allegedly belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They were identified as Abdul Majid Hmeidan, Mohammed Ali and Alaa al-Mohammed. The al-Qaida-affiliated ISIL claimed credit in January for the deadly bombing in the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik. Four people died and another 77 were wounded by a suicide car bomb in Haret Hreik. Wadi Khaled resident Qutaiba Mohammed al-Satem has been confirmed to be the suicide bomber who blew himself up in Haret Hreik, according to DNA testing, state-run National News Agency reported. Earlier, reports said the identity paper of a 20-year-old Lebanese University student named Qutaiba al-Satem was found near the bombing site in Haret Hreik district. According to the state-run National News Agency, the three detainees have recently headed to Yabrud – Rima Farms and then to Dankuk in Syria where they met with the Emir of the ISIL, who is known as Abou al-Kheir. The three have reportedly been taught about takfiris, suicide attacks and reasons to consider Shiites, Druze, Christians, Alawites, the Lebanese army, al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian army as takfiris. “They were arrested by the army at the Bekaa's al-Labweh checkpoint,” NNA added.

Nasrallah: We will keep fighting in Syria
February 17, 2014/By Jana El Hassan/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Sunday that his party would fight on in Syria despite the wave of car bombings targeting predominantly Shiite areas in Lebanon controlled by the group.
“I will not repeat what I explained before about the reason we went to Syria and why we are staying where we should be,” Nasrallah said during a televised speech commemorating three slain Hezbollah leaders.
Nasrallah warned that takfiri forces posed a threat to the entire region and that all of Lebanon was a target. “ Lebanon is targeted by these takfiri groups and they would have come sooner or later regardless of our involvement in Syria,” he said. He also accused Israel and the United States of benefiting from takfiri plots in the region. Nasrallah has argued that his party’s military intervention in Syria is designed to protect Lebanon from the threat of Al-Qaeda-linked takfiri factions blamed for a string of deadly car bombings and suicide attacks in areas where Hezbollah enjoys wide support.
The Hezbollah chief, whose group has been fighting alongside the Assad regime troops in Syria, warned that if extremists gain control of war-torn Syria, the repercussions would be felt throughout the Middle East.
“If these [takfiri groups] win in Syria, and God willing they will not, Syria will become worse than Afghanistan,” he said. “If these armed groups win, will there be a future for the Future Movement in Lebanon? Will there be a chance for anyone other than [takfiris] in the country?” Nasrallah vowed his group would emerge victorious in the battle against these groups. “We are convinced that we will win in this battle; it is just a matter of time.”
He insisted the group’s presence in Syria was worth all the sacrifices made by his fighters and supporters in Lebanon, and appealed to his followers to be patient. “This blood, wounds, patience and perseverance are part of the battle, and yes, it is worth it so that we do not lose our land, so that our children are not slaughtered and our property stolen.”
“It is normal that some martyrs should fall ... they [our enemies] lie and tell us ‘withdraw from Syria and we will leave you alone in Lebanon,’ but if these [takfiri forces] gain control over border areas with Lebanon, we will see even more car bombings.”Nasrallah urged the Arab states to help end the 3-year-old war in Syria in order to prevent strife spreading to the entire region. Addressing the Lebanese and all Arab states, he said: “If you want to avert an endless strife in the region, stop the war on Syria and allow the Syrians to reconcile.”Nasrallah also appealed to Palestinian factions to “prevent the exploitation” of Palestinians by groups fighting Hezbollah.
He said that some parties were trying to stoke hostilities between Palestinians living in refugee camps and their Shiite neighbors.
“I tell our Palestinian brothers, it is not enough to issue statements condemning bombings because there are some who are trying to exploit the Palestinians to achieve their goals,” he said.
Nasrallah’s comments follow the arrest last week of Naim Abbas, a Palestinian and a leading figure in the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which has claimed responsibility for several bombings in Lebanon.
Nasrallah also said that his group and its ally, the Amal Movement, were the ones who made “sacrifices” to allow the formation of a new government by dropping their demand for a 9-9-6 Cabinet proposal.
“Partnership is needed in Lebanon; we support having a state and we support partnership despite the disputes,” he said.

Russia Rejects U.S. Charge of 'Enabling' Assad's Regime
Naharnet/Russia on Monday dismissed U.S. claims that it was "enabling" Syria's President Bashar Assad to stay in power and failing to push for a transitional government that could help end the bloody conflict. "We have done everything we have promised," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters, referring to Moscow's efforts to get the Damascus regime to hold direct peace talks with opponents. "First of all, we are working with the Syrian authorities on a daily basis, and second of all, statistics clearly show that the main problems are created not by the regime but by the terrorist and extremist groups that have spread across Syria and that do not answer to any political structure." Syria's civil war has killed more than 140,000 people in nearly three years of fighting. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia on Monday of not doing enough to make sure the Syrian regime remained committed to the so-called Geneva II peace process that broke up in acrimony on Saturday without an agreement on further talks. Kerry said Russia "has stood up publicly with me on several occasions and said they're committed to that transition government... yet we have not seen the kind of effort to create the dynamic by which that can be achieved". Lavrov for his part noted that the Syrian opposition delegation at the Geneva negotiations was not represented by some of the most important members of the National Coalition umbrella group. "They (Washington) assured us that they will be doing everything possible to ensure there is a truly representative opposition delegation," Russia's top diplomat said. "For now, they have been having trouble doing this."Lavrov added that Russia was looking into reports about some foreign opposition backers working on the creation of a new Syrian opposition organisation that favored the military overthrow of Assad instead of further talks. "They want this new group to replace the National Coalition," said Lavrov, without specifying which countries were involved or where the information had come from. Source/Agence France Presse

Kerry in Abu Dhabi for Syria Talks
Naharnet/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Abu Dhabi late Monday for talks on Syria and the Middle East hours after criticizing Russia for "enabling" the Assad regime. Arriving from Jakarta on the sixth day of his latest diplomatic tour, Kerry began a meeting with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed. He is expected to join them later for dinner. "They will discuss important regional issues of mutual concern including the ongoing situation in Syria, specifically the humanitarian crisis and the Syrian regime's unwillingness to engage constructively in the Geneva talks," a senior State Department official said. Earlier after meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Kerry lashed out at Russia for supplying arms to Syrian President Bashar Assad, despite committing to trying to find a political solution to end the three-year war. The Syrian regime "stonewalled" the Geneva peace talks, which ended in failure at the weekend, and continued to "destroy their own country," Kerry told reporters during a visit to the Indonesian capital. "And I regret to say they're doing so with increased support from Iran, from Hizbullah and from Russia," he said. "Russia needs to be a part of the solution and not be distributing so much more weapons and so much more aid that they're in fact enabling Assad to double-down. Which is creating an enormous problem." The United States has become increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress in trying to oust Assad and bring in a transitional government to end the war which erupted in 2011, has cost over 136,000 lives and sent millions fleeing their homes. But the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, despite being the single largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, has steadfastly refused to provide heavy weapons to the rebels fighting Assad. As the uprising has descended into sectarian warfare, riddled with outside foreign fighters, concerns have risen in Washington that arms could fall easily into the hands of Islamic extremists. Kerry said Russia "has stood up publicly with me on several occasions and said they're committed to that transition government... yet we have not seen the kind of effort to create the dynamic by which that can be achieved." No date was set for a third round of peace talks and it was unclear whether they would be held at all. Kerry also planned to brief the leaders of the United Arab Emirates on talks with Iran, which are to resume Tuesday in Vienna with the aim of hammering out a comprehensive deal to rein in Tehran's controversial nuclear program. Source/Agence France Presse

Syria Army, Rebels Agree New Damascus Area Truce

Naharnet/Syria's army and rebels agreed a truce in the capital's southern suburb of Babbila Monday, the latest in a series of local ceasefires in Damascus flashpoints, Agence France Presse reported. The truces come more than a year into fierce daily battles in and around several areas of the city that have led to rebels and President Bashar Assad's forces deciding to compromise, with neither side able to claim victory.
In addition to Babbila, deals have been struck for local ceasefires in Qudsaya, Moadamiyet al-Sham, Barzeh, Beit Sahem, Yalda and Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp. The accords are negotiated by public personalities from disputed areas, including businessmen and former ministers. They involve a ceasefire, a siege being lifted and food allowed to enter rebel-held areas, with opposition fighters handing over heavy weapons and the regime raising its red, white, black and green flag there. A new agreement is reported to be in the offing for Harasta, a rebel bastion northeast of Damascus, and talks over Daraya southwest of the capital are also taking place.
An AFP journalist visiting Babbila accompanied by official regime escorts on Monday saw dozens of cheering residents chant: "One, one, one! The Syrian people are one!"Journalists saw streets completely destroyed by bombardment and fire. On Babbila's main street, every single building had been either destroyed or damaged. On Monday, regime troops raised the Syrian flag over the municipality of the southern suburb, which had been used as a rebel rear base until several months ago when the army laid siege to it.Armed rebels were still present in the area, as the terms of the agreement also included an amnesty, a security source said.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, rebels and regime loyalists have even set up joint checkpoints in some areas such as Qudsaya. Syria's nearly three-year war is estimated to have killed more than 140,000 people and forced millions more to flee their homes. An activist from Damascus said the local ceasefires are strongly backed by people who lost their homes and are paying exorbitant prices for basic daily needs, amid skyrocketing inflation and corruption. Just two key rebel bastions in the Damascus area remain in open conflict with the regime: Douma to the northeast and Daraya to the southwest. Both are besieged and being shelled daily.
Activists say the wave of truces comes after the army turned to siege tactics after being unable to take and neutralize pockets of resistance near the capital, and as rebels failed to achieve their goal of breaking into Damascus proper. Source/Agence France Presse

Syria Army Seizes Alawite 'Massacre' Village
Naharnet/The Syrian army recaptured on Monday an Alawite village in central Hama province where rebels "massacred" civilians earlier this month, state news agency SANA said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that at least 25 members of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect were killed by Islamist fighters in the village of Maan on February 9.U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon later expressed "great shock" at the killings and demanded that "perpetrators of this massacre" be brought to justice. SANA, quoting a military source, said "army units have established total control over Maan, after crushing the terrorists who had infiltrated (the village) and committed a massacre against its civilian residents, killing dozens of them, including women." State television also reported the army's recapture of Maan but gave a higher death toll, saying 42 civilians had been killed by "terrorists," the regime's term for rebels. The Observatory -- which had reported 14 women among the dead -- said Maan was retaken "after shelling and fighting." The monitoring group, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground, meanwhile reported renewed regime air strikes on the central city of Homs Monday for the second day running. The United Nations and Syria's Red Crescent evacuated last week some 1,400 who had been trapped inside rebel-held areas besieged by the army for more than 18 months. The operation was made possible by a deal that included a ceasefire. But it was suspended after clashes and shelling erupted on Sunday, with the rebels and the regime blaming each other undermining the humanitarian operation. The Observatory also reported that a jihadist of German origins was killed alongside other fighters in a bomb blast in the rebel-held town of Minjeb in the northern Aleppo province. Syria's revolt began as a peaceful anti-Assad uprising in March 2011, but morphed into a bloody insurgency after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent.
More than 140,000 people have been killed in the conflict and millions have been forced to flee. Source/Agence France Presse

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s surprise, a last minute withdrawal from politics
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr surprised us when he announced that he was quitting politics and warned that his followers should refrain from getting engaged in politics too. Does his decision imply a secret agreement whereby one of the remaining candidates has a better chance of winning Iraq’s upcoming elections? Perhaps it is part of a deal in which Nouri al-Maliki wins because he does not have to stand against Sadr? Or, is Sadr angry at his movement’s representatives in parliament who obey him when he is present and disobey him in parliament? Or, is the decision a political tactic preceding the elections?
We simply don’t know. But what is certain is that by quitting politics, he has ruined observers’ analyses and their forecast for the elections. Sadr’s many followers will not hesitate to vote during the elections which are to be held in a few weeks. Now that he has quit politics, the question is: who will the millions of these followers vote for? These supporters count for a lot because they are capable of shifting the outcome of the elections.
A brave character
Sadr is an interesting and brave character. He is the only Shiite leader who continued to fight the Americans for seven years. He also thwarted Nouri al-Maliki’s plans and defied him. He is the only Shiite leader to speak of reconciliation with the Sunnis and announced that he stood against the hostile targeting of revered Sunni symbols. He was thus subjected to Shiite extremist threats and slander campaigns and was mocked by Sunni extremists.
Sadr is an interesting and brave character. He is the only Shiite leader who continued to fight the Americans for seven years
With his withdrawal happening at a dangerous time for Iraq, he has placed the political arena and everyone in it in a chaotic situation as questions pile up as to the reason and timing of his departure.
What could have been
Sadr could have withdrawn from politics after the elections. He could have personally withdrawn and assigned someone he trusts to lead his movement as complete withdrawal will only enhance Maliki’s chances of winning the premiership again. Maliki would thus have the chance to rule Iraq for 12 consecutive years, strengthening his dictatorship. Many Iraqis say they sacrificed a lot to get rid of such dictatorships, such as that of Saddam Hussein’s.
Toppling Maliki in these elections is not solely aimed at eliminating Maliki from the political scene, but at consolidation a system of political participation, accountability and institutions’ independence. All this was shattered in eight years due to Maliki’s semi-absolute authority. He has more authority than Saddam Hussein more money than any Iraqi cabinet since the establishment of the republic six decades ago.
Sadr’s decision would have been good if it sought to neutralize institutions and if it was part of a move to keep all religious references away from politics. However, his decision was a unilateral one that left the political area open to wolves and foxes.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 17, 2014.

Like moths to a flame: the effect of the Syrian war on Britons
Monday, 17 February 2014
By: H.A. Hellyer/Al Arabyia
One of the interesting side effects of the Syrian uprising is the effect it has had on non-Syrians. Not on a political level – obviously, many countries in the region and internationally have engaged with the issue. But on a social level, the conflict has had repercussions – even as far afield as the UK. Last month, Charles Farr, the director general of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, suggested that more than 200 “UK-linked” individuals had gone to fight in Syria against the brutal Assad regime. He declared it with some alarm – and he is not the only one. Many in the UK, and more broadly in Europe and the West, are worried about this trend – and it has provoked a serious response from the political and security establishments. Is there something to be worried about? What is the appropriate response to such a tendency developing?
In the contemporary age, it is common to find a conflict drawing in members of other non-associated nationalities. Modern modes of communication ensure that details of such conflicts spread far and wide – no less so than today, where Syria-watchers in London might know specifics about an attack in Homs before others do in Syria itself. In the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, the famed writer George Orwell left England to fight, without being directed as part of the British armed forces. In Bosnia, many Europeans and Americans fought without being part of national armies; the same had happened in Afghanistan in the 1980s. During the revolt in Libya, there were also fighters from Europe and the United States.
The religious component
Most (although not all) of these fighters going to Muslim countries were, and are, themselves Muslim, and fought, as most of the foreign fighters in Syria today now do, due to what they consider to be a religious obligation to assist their oppressed brethren against a tyrannical regime. For Western governments and security services, that is the main difference between these fighters, and those who went to Spain in the 1930s and elsewhere – the religious component. The fear is quite simple: is this religious obligation part of a wider religious ideology, which will then translate into these fighters engaging in hostilities against Western countries, if they ever return home?
Rapists, murderers and paedophiles do not have their citizenship removed from them – they are charged, judged, and sentenced, but they remain British
It’s a concern that warrants careful attention. From what we know about the brigades that Western fighters are joining, they are often made up of radical extremists who support an al-Qaeda style neo-religious fanaticism. Pretending that they are all simply pro-revolutionary freedom fighters would be naïve beyond measure. Nevertheless, given the scarcity of knowledge about these fighters, it is also important not to automatically jump to conclusions about each of them. In the last few decades, there were many Muslim Westerners who went abroad to fight in what they considered to be just (and religiously warranted) struggles, and returned back home to the West (and elsewhere) without any disturbance.
Careful attention, however, ought to be just that – careful attention. Careful attention means, for example, a public official interviewing, and debriefing, such individuals upon arrival back in the UK – if, indeed, they return. Many go on such missions to Syria expecting never to return, with no intention of ever returning. Those that do ought to be interviewed upon returning to the UK, with decisions about follow-ups to continue afterwards. Such debriefs take place with any soldier in the British Army upon returning to the UK, or at a station before coming home – it ought to be the same for any non-British Army fighters.
Legally barred
What is not, however, “careful attention” is what is currently being considered. There have been multiple reports of Britons who have travelled to Syria being legally barred from returning to the UK altogether, and having their citizenship stripped from them. If such an eventuality were not bad enough, such procedures have been known to take place without even notifying the Briton in question. The British state ought to make it clear: British citizenship is not something the state is permitted to remove from the citizen, even while it reserves the right to investigate its citizens, under the law. The Crown is the guarantor of the law for all citizens – whether he or she is a criminal sentenced to life imprisonment, or the highest noble in the land. The government serves at the Crown’s pleasure – and as such ought to guarantee citizenship, always, to the citizens of the United Kingdom. If they are suspected of a crime, then they should be investigated, and if guilty, convicted. But summarily stripping their citizenship is another matter entirely.
Rapists, murderers and paedophiles do not have their citizenship removed from them – they are charged, judged, and sentenced, but they remain British. Why should fighters who go to Syria be treated differently? If the Briton in question is a security threat, then he ought to be accorded the same due process that any Briton receives. At the very least, if there are deeply extenuating circumstances that require the removal of citizenship, such circumstances ought to be made abundantly clear in a transparent court of law – not via an executive decision that may or may not be revealed.
Resolving concerns
There are, of course, solutions to resolving these concerns. The first is to ensure that Turkish authorities recognise those concerns, and co-ordinate with European allies on when fighters return. The second is to establish a transparent and open system that debriefs fighters when they return home, and keeps in touch with (or tabs on) them, should that be deemed necessary. If executive action of any sort is deemed to be necessary, then it ought to be carried out after openly applying in court, with full legal measures applying. It is not that such returning fighters ought not to be treated with a degree of initial suspicion – but suspicion ought to mean an investigation. Not an executive decree without due process.
Finally: none of these fighters would be going to Syria at all, were the international community not failing the Syrian people so abysmally. The quickest way to ensure that no British and Western citizens travel to Syria to fight with, or on the same side, as radical extremists, is simply to ensure they have no reason to. That, incidentally, would solve quite a few problems – including the tens of thousands of innocent Syrians that continue to pay the price for this brutal conflict.
Dr. H.A. Hellyer, non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, the Royal United Services Institute, and ISPU, previously held senior posts at Gallup and Warwick University.


Netanyahu: Iran engaged in 'subversive activities' in Latin America, world
By HERB KEINON/02/17/2014/J.Post/Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Peruvian President on Monday in Jerusalem, where the two discussed relations between Israel and Peru and spoke of recent developments with regards to the Iranian nuclear program. Speaking about Iran's global influence, especially in Latin America, Netanyahu accused Iran of inflammatory behavior, saying that "Iran is engaged subversive activities around the world, including in Latin America." The two leaders met on the eve of nuclear talks between world powers and Iran due to re-start Tuesday in Vienna, and Netanyahu told the Peruvian president that a different policy is required than what is currently in place. "A policy that requires Iran to stop its aggression, to stop its nuclear military program, and to become a nation among the nations, not a rogue state that arms itself with nuclear weapons." he said. The prime minister continued: "I think it is important for Israel, I think its important for Peru and I think its important for world peace." Iran is believed to have bases in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Humala, in his comments, spoke warmly about increasing economic and global cooperation with Israel, but steered clear of Iranian issue. Netanyahu rebuffed comments Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made Monday. Khamenei said he was not against nuclear talks with western powers but he didn't think they would lead anywhere. In response, Netanyahu jested that the nuclear talks had indeed already gone somewhere, allowing Iran to escape from sanctions. Netanyahu thanked the Peruvian president for supporting Israel's recent inclusion as an observer in the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American trade bloc comprised of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. Netanyahu said its beneficial for both Israel and Peru. Netanyahu recalled the meaningful relationship between the two allies. "We remember that Peru supported Israel's bid for statehood is 1947. This is a relationship with roots, and I believe it will have big branches in coming years."


Report: Israeli weapons dealers tried to send jet parts to Iran in violation of embargo
By JPOST.COM STAFF/02/17/2014/Israeli weapons smugglers tried to send fighter jet parts to Iran in violation of an arms embargo, Greek daily Kathimerini reported on Monday, citing the findings of a probe carried out by US Homeland Security and Greece's Financial Crimes Squad. The arms dealers attempted to send the spare parts for F-4 Phantom aircraft via Greece, according to the report. The illegal transaction was carried out in two phases, in December 2012 and April 2013. The spare parts shipment originated in Binyamina, south of Haifa, and was shipped to a Greek company near Athens registered under the name Tassos Karras SA. Greek authorities determined that the firm was a ghost company. Greek authorities confiscated the shipment before it could be sent to Iran, which has a large fleet of F-4 Phantom aircraft.
In November 2013, a court in Athens ruled that the confiscated parts should be delivered to US authorities, Kathimerini reported.
The Greek report did not reveal the identity of the Israeli firm or individuals who shipped the goods.