February 21/14

Bible Quotation for today/Christ Our Helper
01 John 02 -06: " I am writing this to you, my children, so that you will not sin; but if anyone does sin, we have someone who pleads with the Father on our behalf—Jesus Christ, the righteous one. And Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone. If we obey God's commands, then we are sure that we know him. If we say that we know him, but do not obey his commands, we are liars and there is no truth in us. But if we obey his word, we are the ones whose love for God has really been made perfect. This is how we can be sure that we are in union with God: if we say that we remain in union with God, we should live just as Jesus Christ did."

Pope Francis's Tweet For Thursday
Lord Jesus, make us capable of loving as you love.
Pape François ‏
Seigneur Jésus, rends-nous capables d’aimer comme toi.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For February 21/14
DEBKAfile/Obama’s Iran policy wins key point: Saudis drop its lead antagonist Prince Bandar/February 21/14
A little less stick, a lot more carrot for Assad/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia/February 21/14
From Ukraine to Syria: Obama pokes the Russian bear/By: Joyce Karam/Al Arabyia/ February 21/14
Who's responsible for Geneva II failure/By: Raed Omari/Al Arabyia/February 21/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 21/14
Lebanese Related News
Bir Hassan Death Toll Rises to 10, DNA Confirms al-Mghayyar One of Suicide Bombers
Suleiman: Discussions on Defense Strategy Will Help Fight against Terrorism
67 Kiev Protesters Dead and EU Sanctions Ukraine Officials 'with Blood on Their Hands'
Arab Democratic Party Official Shot Dead in Tripoli amid Flare up
Fabius Voices Support for Govt. 'in All the Challenges it is Facing'
Loyalty to Resistance Demands 'Short' Ministerial Statement Tackling Security, Resistance
Berri: Policy Statement Focus Should be on Security not Politics
Ministerial Committee Meets on Policy Statement, Salam Proposes 'Non-Contentious' Draft
Salam Says Policy Statement to Be 'Short:' We'll Focus on Priorities Awaiting the Presidential Elections
Syria Sentences Zuhair Siddiq, Murad Akram for 'False Hariri Trial Testimony'
Bulgaria Identifies New Suspect in Burgas Bombing
Hariri to Discuss with Rahi Presidential Polls, Rejects Vacuum
Serra Visits Salam, Lauds LAF over Cooperation Under 'Very Challenging Circumstances'
Suspect Confesses a Task to 'Monitor the Iranian Cultural Center and al-Manar TV'
March 14 Officials Seek to Appease Geagea as Maarab 'Reconsiders' Ties
U.N., U.S. Condemn Double Suicide Bombing, Reject Terrorism
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Iran Bans Newly Launched Reformist Newspaper
Kerry Holds New Paris Talks with Abbas
Syria to Miss Chemical Destruction Deadline
Syria Jihadists Raise Rebel Banner in Truce Suburb
Six Dead in Car Bomb at Turkey-Syria Border Post
Syria Rebels Battle to Prevent Regime Seizing Strategic Town
Four Dead in Clash in Saudi's Shiite East
Libyans Called to Polls amid Mounting Anger over Insecurity
Attack in Central Nigeria Kills 13, Including 9 Children
Going to Mars is ‘Haram,’ new fatwa says

Obama’s Iran policy wins key point: Saudis drop its lead antagonist Prince Bandar
DEBKAfile Special Report February 19, 2014/The live wire of the Saudi royal house’s drive against President Barack Obama’s détente with Tehran has been dropped. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s National Security Adviser and Intelligence Director, has not been seen for more than a month. He was reported by DEBKAfile’s US and Saudi sources Wednesday, Feb. 19, to have been removed from the tight policy-making circle in Riyadh. For Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu, this counts significantly as the loss of the only other Middle East leader ready to publicly decry President Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria as promoting the negative forces in the region and damaging to America’s own interests. As recently as Tuesday, Netanyahu declared: “I would like to tell the world today that Iran has changed neither its aggressive policy nor its brutal character... Iran continues to support the Assad regime which is slaughtering its own people.” Prince Bandar was widely reported in the Middle East to be in secret ties with Israeli intelligence on Saudi and Israeli moves against Iran. Tehran claimed more than once that he had paid clandestine visits to Tel Aviv. Those ties, such as they were, may be presumed to have been discontinued following his removal. There has been no official word from Riyadh disclosing any change in Bandar’s status. Our sources report that the prince, a long-serving ambassador to the United States, vanished off Saudi and Middle East radar screens in mid-January, shortly before he was scheduled to visit Washington to arrange President Obama’s forthcoming trip to Riyadh in the last week of March. Bandar never arrived in Washington and no one in Riyadh was ready to answer questions about his whereabouts. US sources were more forthcoming - although less complimentary. In some reports he was dismissed as “hotheaded” or “erratic.”The Saudi intelligence chief crossed the Americans by supplying weapons and money to Syrian rebels belonging to Islamist militias – though not al Qaeda. He was the driving force behind the formation of the Islamic Front coalition, which last month beat the Free Syrian Army backed by Washington into the ground.
Some Gulf sources say he is paying the price for the kingdom’s failure in Syria. Bandar promised King Abdullah thatg he would take care of getting rid of Bashar Assad. He not only fell down on this task, but he generated a clash between the Obama administration and the Saudi throne on the Syrian issue, say those sources. The most striking evidence of his comedown came from his absence from the secret conclave held recently by Middle East intelligence chiefs to coordinate their positions on Syrian with Washington. Instead of Prince Bandar, his seat was taken by his leading adversary on Syria, the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.
Prince Mohammed is a favorite at the White House and a close friend of Secretary of State John Kerry and CIA Director John Brennan. The Saudi interior minister, by taking Bandar’s place at this important forum, may also be stepping into his shoes as intelligence chief – albeit without the formality of an official notice from Riyadh.

Salam Says Policy Statement to Be 'Short:' We'll Focus on Priorities Awaiting the Presidential Elections
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 February 2014/Prime Minister Tammam Salam announced on Wednesday that the ministerial policy statement will be “short,” noting that his cabinet will only take office for three months until the presidential elections are held. “All points in the policy statement are to be discussed and there is no draft that has been agreed on by all factions, but we have the intention to have a heterogeneous statement,” Salam announced on Future TV, in his first televised interview since the cabinet's formation. He added: “The cabinet will rule for three months and therefore, we will not prepare a 30-page policy statement. We have to work while taking into consideration that the presidential elections will take place on time.” He also stated that the slogan of his council of ministers will be "let the people live."The premier stressed that communication between all political factions in the country is necessary to reach an accord on the policy statement. He also revealed that the atmosphere was positive earlier in the day during the ministerial committee's meeting over the policy statement. The ministerial committee tasked with devising a government policy statement met on Wednesday afternoon at the Grand Serail amid reports that Salam will present it with a draft statement. Reports said the statement was discussed “with positive attitudes” and that issues of contention, such as the army-people-resistance equation, were postponed for coming session. On the 10-month long process that lead to the cabinet’s formation, Salam considered that many concessions were made to give way to the government's birth. “All political factions realized that they have to offer concessions at one point. Concessions were first about the rotation of ministerial portfolios, and then they were manifested in Hizbullah and March 8's acceptance of the 8-8-8 lineup.”He then remarked that ex-PM Saad Hariri was the one to take “positive steps and who eased the cabinet's formation.” “Trust became mutual and it eventually lead to the cabinet's formation,” Salam said. “What we achieved was 'made in Lebanon' without any diplomatic interference or international conferences and this issue wasn't highlighted in the media.”He also praised president Michel Suleiman who “suffered with him and supported him” throughout the process. “There is total harmony between us and this is because we are not linked to any political faction,” he explained. Salam finally announced on Saturday the formation of a 24-minister cabinet, ten months and a week after his appointment. The ministers have been distributed equally between the rival March 8 and 14 camps and centrists. Commenting on Wednesday morning's double blast in the Beirut neighborhood of Bir Hassan, Salam urged both the March 8 and the March 14 camps to unite to “face this situation.”“We rely on security institutions that are doing their job. But even if these resisted to the situation, one political statement can blow up everything and therefore we urge all forces to adopt a positive rhetoric that strengthens the state's institutions.”

Ministerial Committee Meets on Policy Statement, Salam Proposes 'Non-Contentious' Draft
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 February 2014/The ministerial committee tasked with devising a government policy statement met on Wednesday afternoon at the Grand Serail amid reports that Prime Minister Tammam Salam will present it with a draft statement. "The committee convened in the Grand Serail and the meeting was presided over by Salam,” the state-run National News Agency reported. "The seven members of the committee were all present in the meeting,” the NNA noted. The committee is composed of State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammed Fneish, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb, Health Minister Wael Abou Faour, Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi, and Interior Minister Nuhad al-Mashnouq. LBCI television revealed that Salam prepared a draft policy statement that he will distribute to the ministerial committee during the meeting.  Sources close to Salam told LBCI that there are priorities on which the ministerial statement will be based. "These priorities include security matters, the issue of refugees and the presidential elections." “A ministerial policy statement proposal was discussed with a positive attitude meeting,” LBCI quoted Health Minister Wael Abou Faour as saying.  Radio Voice of Lebanon (100.5)a also said a positive atmosphere prevailed in the first meeting of the ministerial committee. "The brief statement proposal does not include any controversial articles,” LBCI remarked. Later in the evening, the same source noted that the army-people-resistance equation has not been tackled yet in the meeting. However, Hizbullah sources told the the television channel that the party will not accept to abandon the army-people-resistance equation in the ministerial policy statement. Telecom Minister Butros Harb announced from the Grand Serail that a decision has been made to speed up an agreement on a policy statement and to come up with one that “does not deceive the people.”“There will be no issues of contention in the ministerial statement and we will agree to a consensual one,” Mashnouq told LBCI. Meanwhile, ministerial sources told MTV that studying the draft requires three or four meetings before voting on it at the cabinet.  Earlier in the day, An Nahar daily reported that the ministerial committee will avoid discussions on controversial issues and instead focus on the principles of the Constitution and the resumption of the national dialogue to resolve the differences between the rival parties,. An Nahar quoted al-Mashnouq as saying that the members of the committee would be able to agree on a blueprint acceptable by all political parties.
“We should be able to agree on a plan that backs the role of the state and stresses that only the state would be responsible for the Lebanese in political, military, economic and security issues,” he said. As Safir newspaper also said that Salam will propose to the committee a “blueprint that satisfies everyone.” It quoted several unidentified ministers as saying that the policy statement would focus on “the Lebanese government's commitment to all the principles that were consolidated by the Lebanese cabinets since the Taef Accord.”Such wordings would avoid a controversy on the “people-army-resistance” equation which Hizbullah was holding onto before the formation of the cabinet. They would also appease the March 14 alliance that was sticking to its call for the adoption of the Baabda Declaration as the basis of the policy statement. Hizbullah's al-Manar TV confirmed that neither the “people-army-resistance” equation nor the Baabda Declaration would be mentioned in the blueprint, a sign that both the March 8 and March 14 camps have agreed to steer themselves clear of a dispute inside the committee. The new government's main task will be the preparation for the presidential elections. It was formed on Saturday after a ten-month deadlock and has only a few months of authority before the polls to choose a new president by the time Michel Suleiman's term expires in May.

Berri: Policy Statement Focus Should be on Security not Politics
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri has said that the government's policy statement should focus on the security problems that the country is suffering from and avoid controversial political issues. In remarks to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Thursday, Berri said: “The government has a three-month lifespan. It should prioritize the security situation.” “There isn't enough time to deal with political issues,” Berri told reporters aboard the plane that carried him from Tehran to Albania, in the first official visit of a Lebanese politician to Tirana. The speaker told al-Akhbar that he has reached an agreement with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat to have a common vision on the blueprint. The ministerial committee tasked with drafting the policy statement met under the chairmanship of Premier Tammam Salam for the first time on Wednesday.
It is coming under pressure to finalize the draft quickly so that the government receives parliament's vote of confidence. Berri spoke to al-Akhbar after hearing the news on Wednesday's double suicide bombing that targeted an Iranian culture center in the Bir Hassan neighborhood of Beirut's southern suburbs. “The government should take a united stance from what happened because terrorism is targeting both the March 8 and 14 alliances,” Berri said.
He expected the March 14 camp to be more encouraged in confronting the wave of bombings that has rocked Lebanon lately. “The formation of the government improved the conditions of the confrontation,” Berri said. The speaker met with his Albanian counterpart on hursday.

Fabius Voices Support for Govt. 'in All the Challenges it is Facing'

Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/France on Thursday said that it supports the new Lebanese government “in all the challenges that it is facing,” hoping the agreement over cabinet will also involve the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. In a congratulations letter he sent to his Lebanese counterpart Jebran Bassil, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius lauded “the spirit of national responsibility that led to the formation of the cabinet,” hoping it will also apply to “the upcoming constitutional junctures.” Fabius stressed “France's commitment to the freedom, sovereignty, stability and unity of Lebanon, and its support for the Lebanese government in all the challenges that it is facing.”He underlined that “the International Support Group for Lebanon will convene on March 5 in Paris with the aim of providing tangible assistance and preserving Lebanon's stability in the face of the Syrian crisis' repercussions on it.”The top French diplomat expressed “the importance of Lebanon's commitment to U.N. resolutions, especially those related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and (Security Council) Resolution 1701,” which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah. Fabius wished Bassil success and noted that he is willing to work with him to “strengthen ties between the two countries” and “support Lebanon and its institutions.” Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Saturday announced the line-up of his 24-minister government, describing it as a “cabinet of national interest.”
Consensus over the cabinet formation is likely to apply to the ministerial policy statement.

Loyalty to Resistance Demands 'Short' Ministerial Statement Tackling Security, Resistance
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/The Loyalty to Resistance bloc hoped on Thursday that the ministerial statement would be “short” and that it would tackle national “priorities” like security and resistance matters.
“We are following up with concern on the meetings of the ministerial committee tasked with drafting a policy statement,” MP Mohammed Fadlallah said after the MPs' weekly meeting. “And we hope a consensus is reached over a proposal that is short and that tackles priorities like security matters, politics, the resistance and daily life issues,” the bloc's statement added. The statement expressed that the new cabinet was produced after a settlement, adding that Hizbullah has offered concessions to ease the formation of the council of ministers. “This is a political consensus cabinet that aims at transitioning the country towards stability and we have contributed to the government's formation and did not stop at ministerial portfolios because we preferred to put the country's interest first.”The bloc continued: “Our priority is to resist to terrorism and elect a new president who launches an active initiative to achieve a total national consensus, agree on a just electoral law, and adopt an acceptable defense strategy.” “We call for taking advantage of the prevailing positive atmosphere and to stop giving reasons for perpetrators.” The lawmakers condemned Wednesday's deadly double blast in the Beirut neighborhood of Bir Hassan, a Hizbullah stronghold, calling for a “large official campaign to renounce this phenomenon.”

Syria Sentences Zuhair Siddiq, Murad Akram for 'False Hariri Trial Testimony'
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/A Syrian court has sentenced two men to prison for giving "false testimony" implicating Damascus in the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, a Syrian newspaper said Thursday. The Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government, said a court on Wednesday sentenced Murad Akram to 10 years in prison, including five years with hard labor, and Zuhair Mohamed Saeed Siddiq to 20 years in prison with 10 years of hard labor. Siddiq was sentenced in absentia, but Akram has been in custody in Syria since May 2011, when he was transferred from Lebanon after serving out a prison term for drug trafficking there. The two men, both Syrians, were accused of providing false testimony to an international tribunal investigating Hariri's 2005 assassination. Their testimony implicated the four highest-ranking officers in Lebanon in Hariri's death, accusing them of collaborating with Syria to kill him. The four Generals, Jamil Sayyed, Ali al-Hajj, Raymond Azar and Mustafa Hamdan, spent years in prison in Lebanon before being released for lack of evidence. Al-Hajj sued Siddiq and Akram in Syria for giving false testimony, leading to the sentences handed down on Thursday. Both men later recanted their testimony, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that investigated Hariri's death ultimately failed to implicate Syria in the assassination. Instead, it is hearing the case against five members of Hizbullah, a close ally of Syria. Hariri was killed in a powerful suicide bomb attack in February 2005 in downtown Beirut. The STL began hearing the case against the five Hizbullah suspects earlier this year, but the men are being tried in absentia as the party has refused to turn them over. Source/Agence France Presse.

Bulgaria Identifies New Suspect in Burgas Bombing
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/Bulgaria's chief prosecutor says investigators have identified a fourth person they think was involved in the July 2012 bomb attack that killed five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver. Sotir Tsatsarov told reporters Thursday that because of the new evidence, the indictment will be delayed. He did not elaborate on the identity or the nationality of the new alleged accomplice. Two Hizbullah members had previously been accused of being involved in the attack. Bulgaria has identified the two suspects as 32-year-old Meliad Farah of Australia, also known as Hussein Hussein, and 25-year-old Hassan El Hajj Hassan, a Canadian citizen. Both are of Lebanese origin. The suicide bomber who died on the spot in the bombing at Burgas Airport on the Black Sea coast has not been identified. The attack was the deadliest on Israelis abroad since 2004 and Israel immediately blamed it on Iran and its "terrorist" proxy Hizbullah, but Bulgarian investigators have however been more cautious. Iran denied involvement. Source/Agence France PresseAssociated

Hariri to Discuss with Rahi Presidential Polls, Rejects Vacuum

Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri announced Thursday that he would discuss the presidential elections with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, stressing his rejection of a vacuum in the top post. “I will go to Rome and I will have the opportunity to meet the patriarch … to see what his stance is on the presidential elections,” Hariri told reporters at the end of his two-day visit to Egypt. Hariri reiterated that he rejected a vacuum in the presidential post, saying the elections should be held on time. He will meet with al-Rahi in Rome on Friday.
The road to moderation is not an easy one but it is the path of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Mustaqbal movement chief said in response to a question. Hariri condemned the “cowardly terrorist” double suicide bombing that rocked the Bir Hassan neighborhood of Beirut's southern suburbs on Wednesday. “Hizbullah's presence in Syria is rejected,” he said. “That's why the Hizbullah leadership should put Lebanon's interest first.”Hariri met on Thursday with Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, in the presence of MPs Samir al-Jisr and Jamal al-Jarrah, former MPs Bassem al-Sabeh and Ghattas Khoury, his advisor Radwan Sayyed and Nader Hariri. He also contacted the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, who is currently in Kuwait, and they agreed to hold a meeting at a later date.

Serra Visits Salam, Lauds LAF over Cooperation Under 'Very Challenging Circumstances'
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/UNIFIL Commander Major-General Paolo Serra lauded on Thursday the Lebanese army for its exemplary resolve in working with U.N. peacekeepers under “very challenging circumstances.”Serra visited Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail along with U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly and U.N. Deputy Special Coordinator and UNDP Resident and Coordinator Ross Mountain Following the meeting, Serra said: “I was very encouraged by this first meeting with Prime Minister Salam. I was pleased to have this opportunity just days after he assumed office to brief him on UNIFIL’s mission and related developments in south Lebanon.”He said he informed Salam that “the situation along the Blue Line and in the UNIFIL area of operations remains relatively stable, and that the parties have reiterated their commitment to (Security Council) resolution 1701 and to upholding the cessation of hostilities.”“I conveyed my particular appreciation for the Lebanese Armed Forces that continues to demonstrate exemplary resolve and professionalism in working with our peacekeepers under very challenging circumstances,” he said. Serra told journalists that Salam “had strong words of support for UNIFIL.”“He acknowledged the importance of the work we are doing together with the Lebanese Armed Forces to maintain a safe and secure environment in the South,” the commander said. Serra told Salam that it was important for the Lebanese government to keep its support for UNIFIL, stressing that the mission stands firm in its commitment to working with the Lebanese authorities in the implementation of resolution 1701. Plumbly also said that the delegation extended condolences for the victims of Wednesday's double suicide bombing in the Bir Hassan district of Beirut's southern suburbs. They “reiterated the U.N.’s strong condemnation of such indiscriminate terrorist actions.” “The formation of a new inclusive government under Prime Minister Salam’s leadership seems to me to send the strongest possible message from all of the country’s political parties that such terrorism is rejected,” he said.

Suspect Confesses a Task to 'Monitor the Iranian Cultural Center and al-Manar TV'

Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/The Internal Security Forces Information Bureau had arrested before Wednesday's twin blasts in South Beirut, a Lebanese national of al-Halfa family who confessed of being tasked by the Lebanese Sheikh Sirajeddine Zouraykat of the Abdulllah Azzam Brigades with monitoring al-Manar TV and the Iranian Cultural Center, An-Nahar daily reported on Thursday. Had the attack been delayed one more day, it could have been thwarted due to the confessions of the suspect, the daily added. The twin suicide car bombings in the Beirut suburb of Bir Hasan near the Iranian Cultural Center killed six people and wounded more than 100 others, the second attack in less than four months targeting Iranian interests in Lebanon. Investigations were also able to uncover the identity of one of the suicide bombers, Nidal Hisham al-Mogheer, a Palestinian from the Baisariyyeh camp in the southern city of Sion. His family had reported al-Mogheer missing for several days, and his father identified the picture circulated by the Lebanese army after the blast.
Based on the confessions of the al-Halfa, the Minister of Interior, Nouhad Mashnouq, issued an order requesting security enhancement in the proximity of al-Manar TV.
According to the National News Agency, a group of angry men in Sidon burnt down on Wednesday night al-Mougheer's family house and a car that belonged to his father. Meanwhile, al-Liwaa daily said that well informed sources voiced fears that terrorist groups could be working separately. Hence capturing one cell could not necessarily lead to another. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the double bombing, vowing additional attacks in retaliation to Hizbullah's involvement in the Syria war.

March 14 Officials Seek to Appease Geagea as Maarab 'Reconsiders' Ties

Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/A minister from the March 14 alliance will visit Maarab in an attempt to shore up strained ties between the Lebanese Forces and al-Mustaqbal movement, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Thursday. The daily said that the envoy, who was not named, would discuss with LF chief Samir Geagea the issues that were a source of contention between him and the rest of his allies in March 14. Al-Joumhouria quoted an LF official as saying that Geagea was currently silent and adopting a wait and see approach after his allies decided to participate in the government of Prime Minister Tammam Salam. Geagea had been adamant to stay out of the cabinet, saying he would not share power with Hizbullah. He has also reportedly expressed dismay at the recent rapprochement between al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri and his foe Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun. “Something happened lately and it provoked us,” the LF official told the newspaper. “We cannot overcome this yet we won't take a hasty stance from it.” “We need to reconsider the past stage and the current issues,” the unidentified official said, adding “We will study the benefit of the continued alliance between us.”An Nahar newspaper said that a meeting was held on Wednesday between al-Mustaqbal bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora, MP Marwan Hamadeh and several other lawmakers, in addition to March 14 general-secretariat coordinator Fares Soaid. The talks came to complement a meeting held with Geagea on Tuesday and a telephone conversation held between him and Hariri, the daily said. It quoted the sources of the conferees as saying that March 14 was united despite the different viewpoints on the government.

U.N., U.S. Condemn Double Suicide Bombing, Reject Terrorism
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/The United Nations and U.S. have “strongly condemned” the double suicide bombing that targeted an Iranian cultural center in Beirut's southern suburbs. The 15-member Security Council “strongly condemned” Wednesday's attack in the Bir Hassan neighborhood and “reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.” “Any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” the Council said in a statement issued to the press. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also condemned the attack. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Ban extended his condolences to the families of the victims and the Lebanese government and people. “The Secretary-General notes the active efforts of the Lebanese army and security forces in working to detain terrorist suspects and prevent attacks, and calls for the perpetrators of this crime to be brought to justice,” his spokesperson added. Washington condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the bombings. “We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We stand firmly with the new government, with the people of Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the internal security forces as they combat terrorism,” said deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.
“This wave of terrorism threatens the principles of stability, freedom, and safety that the people of Lebanon have worked so hard to uphold,” Harf said. “We urge all parties to refrain from retaliatory acts that contribute to the cycle of violence,” the spokesperson told journalists, adding “We support the government of Lebanon in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.” The explosions occurred as Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Angus King of Maine were in Beirut. The senators are on a weeklong trip that includes Israel and the West Bank and Egypt. "We condemn the violence and we have deep condolences for the victims and families and feel for the Lebanese people," Kaine, a Democrat, said.
The senators spoke in a telephone interview with The Associated Press in Beirut after meeting with President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Tammam Salam. Kaine, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on near eastern and central and south Asian affairs, said the work of this new government in combating terrorism is critical.
"We hope the formation of the government will build some trust that will enable the country to maneuver those steps as well," he said.

Bir Hassan Death Toll Rises to 10, DNA Confirms al-Mghayyar One of Suicide Bombers
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr announced Thursday that DNA tests have confirmed that Palestinian national Nidal al-Mghayyar is one of the two suicide bombers who blew up two bomb-laden cars Wednesday in Bir Hassan. “The DNA tests undergone by Nidal al-Mghayyar's father have matched the DNA of one of the suicide attackers,” state-run National News Agency quoted Saqr as saying. A fake ID carrying al-Mghayyar's picture was found wednesday at the site of the blast. The Army Command later circulated the photo, describing al-Mghayyar as a “dangerous fugitive.”The man's father consequently recognized the picture of his son and headed to an army intelligence post to give his testimony. NNA described al-Mghayyar on Wednesday as a supporter of fugitive Islamist cleric Ahmed al-Asir.
Later on Wednesday, a number of citizens torched a house and properties belonging to Nidal's family in the southern town of al-Bissariyeh. Meanwhile, a health ministry source said Thursday that the toll from Wednesday's double suicide car bombing near an Iranian cultural center in Beirut's Bir Hassan has risen to 10. "The death toll in the blasts has risen to 10 after the remains of an additional four people found at the site of the explosion were identified through DNA testing," the source told Agence France Presse. On Wednesday, the health ministry had put the death toll at six, with 129 people injured in the attack. A judicial source said work was still underway to identify the second suicide bomber. The attack was claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a jihadist group inspired by al-Qaida. The cultural center is located in the same neighborhood as the Iranian embassy, which was hit by a double bombing in November that killed 25 people and was also claimed by the Azzam Brigades. The group said Wednesday's attack was to punish Hizbullah and Tehran for their role in the conflict in Syria. Extremist groups have claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in recent months against areas considered strongholds of Hizbullah that have killed dozens of civilians.

Arab Democratic Party Official Shot Dead in Tripoli amid Flare up
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/An Arab Democratic Party official, who is the father of one of the suspects in the mosque bombings in the northern city of Tripoli, was on Thursday killed in the area of al-Mina.
Abdul Rahman Diab, known as Aboudi Nwasi, was gunned down in his car by an unidentified motorcyclist. Abdul Rahman, a Alawite residing in Jabal Mohsen, is the father of Youssef Diab. Youssef, who is in detention, has been charged along with several others in connection with the August bombings of the two mosques in Tripoli. The charges include the formation of an armed gang for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities and the bombing of al-Taqwa and al-Salam mosques on August 23. He has admitted to parking a booby-trapped car that exploded near al-Salam mosque. As news broke out about Diab's assassination, gunmen from the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh engaged in sniper attacks. At least six people were injured in the clashes that later involved the use of Rocket Propelled Grenades.
The army, which responded to the sources of fire, blocked the highway that links Tripoli with the northern district of Akkar and helped the evacuation of students from several local schools. It later brought in commando reinforcements in the hotspots and erected checkpoints. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr tasked military police with launching an investigation into the clashes. Tripoli has been the scene of frequent deadly clashes between Alawite residents of the Jabal Mohsen district, who hail from the same religious sect as Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Sunnis in neighboring Bab al-Tabbaneh who support the Syrian rebels.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam condemned the killing of Diab, saying his murder was an attempt to create retaliatory acts that would lead Tripoli into a security chaos. Salam gave orders for the army to act quickly and decisively to pursue the assassin.He also hoped that Tripoli MPs and personalities would exert efforts to prevent a further deterioration in the security situation.

Suleiman: Discussions on Defense Strategy Will Help Fight against Terrorism
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/President Michel Suleiman highlighted on Thursday the importance of the defense strategy in combating terrorism in Lebanon. He said: “The measures taken on the ground to combat terrorism can be complemented by the resumption of talks on a national defense strategy.” The talks that were started at the national dialogue table include a section on confronting terrorism, he explained after holding talks with acting General Prosecutor Samir Hammoud on the latest findings on the terrorist blasts that have taken place in the country. “Discussing a defense strategy has become a necessity in order to limit the danger of terrorism and completely eliminate it from Lebanon,” stated Suleiman. In addition, the president praised the security, military, and judicial authorities on their handling of terrorist cases. The latest bombing to take place in Lebanon targeted the Beirut southern suburb of Bir Hassan on Wednesday. Six people were killed and over 100 were wounded in the twin blasts that targeted the Hizbullah stronghold. The al-Qaida-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was aimed at pressuring the party to withdraw its members from Syria where they are fighting alongside the country's ruling regime against a rebel uprising.

67 Kiev Protesters Dead and EU Sanctions Ukraine Officials 'with Blood on Their Hands'
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/ ..More than 60 protesters died from gunshot wounds on Thursday in fresh clashes between thousands of demonstrators and heavily-armed riot police in the heart of Kiev, a medic who works with the opposition said. "More than 60 protesters died today. They all have gunshot wounds," the EuroMiadan Medical Center coordinator Svyatoslav Khanenko told Agence France Presse. Kiev authorities said 67 people were killed in the riot that first broke out on Tuesday. "Sixty-seven bodies had been delivered to the forensics bureau" by Thursday afternoon, the Ukrainian city administration said in a statement that provided the highest official casualty figure from the violence to date. Ukraine's police force said Thursday that it used live munitions in self-defense during the clashes. "For the purpose of preserving the lives and well-being of law enforcement officials, a decision was taken ... to use weapons in self defense," the interior ministry said, adding that its staff "have the right to use firearms" if their lives or well-being are threatened.
The Ministry of Interior also revealed that protesters have "seized" 67 police, adding that it reserved the right to use firepower to free them. "Radical extremists have seized 67 interior ministry servicemen," the ministry said in a statement. "Law enforcement officials can resort to all legal means (to secure their release), including the use of arms." Ukraine's brittle truce was shattered on Thursday in fierce clashes between baton-wielding protesters and riot police that claimed at least dozens of lives just as EU envoys were holding crisis talks with the embattled president. Bodies of anti-government demonstrators lay amid smoldering debris after masked protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and stones forced gun-toting police from Kiev's iconic Independence Square -- the epicenter of the ex-Soviet country's three-month-old crisis.
The retreating police unleashed a hail of rubber bullets on protesters as plumes of acrid smoke billowed into the air amid the explosions of stun grenades. The lobby of the Ukrainian hotel overlooking the square was turned into an impromptu morgue. Bodies of seven dead protesters lay side by side under white sheets on the marble floor in front of the reception desk.
An Agence France Presse photographer saw spent live cartridge shells littering the ground on the square. It was unclear who had used the ammunition. The main government building nearby was evacuated while lawmakers ended a session of parliament early after the violence. Ukraine's three main opposition leaders called the unrest a "planned provocation" by the pro-Russian government while Moscow blamed it on "extremists and hardliners" who were bent on sparking a civil war. The clashes left in tatters a truce that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had called late Wednesday in response to a spurt of violence that killed more than two dozen people in less than two days. Meanwhile on Thursday, Yanukovych discussed a possible "roadmap" out of the country's political turmoil with three EU foreign ministers, said a German delegation source.
The envoys from Germany, France and Poland took the plan to opposition leaders and said they would stay in Kiev for more talks on Friday. They had been due to return to Brussels on Thursday for a meeting to discuss sanctions against the Ukrainian government over the bloody escalation in the three-months-old standoff. In over four hours of talks in Kiev, the foreign ministers and embattled Yanukovych discussed "ideas for a roadmap" toward a peaceful solution, the German delegation source said.
Neither Yanukovych nor the opposition had so far given their formal consent to the proposals, the source said.
A French diplomatic source said the three ministers had gone to Kiev with "some ideas" - including to try to "bring a halt" to the violence, start real negotiations, revise the constitution in a more democratic direction and hold early elections. On this basis, "a form of mediation is taking place," added the source. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski earlier said on Twitter that the three would also hold talks with the opposition "so as to test proposed agreement", without elaborating. In a last-minute change of plan, the ministers -- France's Laurent Fabius, Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Poland's Sikorski -- stayed on in Kiev rather than fly to Brussels to join their EU colleagues. Diplomats told AFP that the three ministers, whose report on events in Kiev was keenly awaited by the their 25 European Union counterparts, would communicate with them by phone or video link. The EU ministers were meeting to consider sanctions, including a possible arms embargo. against Ukraine.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who convened the bloc's top diplomats for the crisis meeting, said she had spoken to the three ministers and would brief their colleagues in Brussels. Russia said Thursday it is sending a representative to Kiev at the request of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to act as a mediator in talks with the opposition. Yanukovych called Russian President Vladimir Putin and "proposed that the Russian leader send to Kiev a Russian representative to participate as a mediator in the talks with the opposition," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies. "Putin has decided to charge the human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin with this mission," he said. Lukin advises Putin on human rights and has criticized some court decisions, such as the jailing of Pussy Riot members.
Peskov said that Lukin, a former ambassador to the United States and opposition politician, had "very rich diplomatic experience" and "commanded authority among human rights campaigners."Lukin had been due to stand down this month after 10 years in the position. The crackdown by the authorities has triggered a storm of condemnation from the West and a new war of words with Moscow that carried the diplomatic echoes of the Cold War.
The U.S. State Department announced it was imposing visa bans on about 20 senior Ukrainian officials "complicit in or responsible for ordering or otherwise directing human rights abuses".The European Union also agreed to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on Ukrainians with "blood on their hands."Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said after Ukraine crisis talks in Brussels with her EU counterparts that the sanctions would be imposed "very rapidly in the next hours."France said ahead of the meeting that sanctions would be prepared specifically against those responsible for the violence.
Moscow meanwhile has issued a string of outraged comments condemning both the protesters and the West.
As a response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned threatened sanctions against Ukrainian officials as an "attempt at bullying.""The possibility of sanctions is nothing but an attempt at bullying," Lavrov said during a news conference in Baghdad, in remarks translated from Russian into Arabic.Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Russia's cabinet that Moscow intended to follow through on its commitment to issue the next tranche of a $15 billion bailout that Putin and Yanukovych agreed shortly after Kiev rejected the EU pact. But Medvedev said Moscow needs "partners who are in good shape and for the authorities that work in Ukraine to be legitimate and effective." Lavrov accused Ukrainian "extremists and hardliners" of seeking to spark a civil war. Moscow supports negotiations between Ukrainian authorities and the opposition, so they can try to overcome "this crisis and together fight extremists and hardliners who are trying to provoke a civil war," Lavrov said, in remarks translated from Russian into Arabic.
Ukraine's crisis was initially ignited by Yanukovych's shock decision in November to ditch an historic EU trade and political association agreement in favor of closer ties with Kiev's historic masters in the Kremlin.
But it has since evolved into a much broader anti-government movement that has swept through both the pro-Western west of the country as well as parts of its more Russified east and exposed the deep historical fault lines between the two. Yanukovych had appeared determined Wednesday to end the crisis by force after the country's security services announced plans to launch a sweeping "anti-terror" operation.
He also sacked the army's top general -- a powerful figure lauded by the opposition for refusing to back the use of force against those who had come out on the street.
But he then received three top protest leaders and told them he would take no immediate action against those who have taken to the streets against his rule.
The president was dealt a further embarrassing blow when Kiev mayor Volodymyr Makeyenko resigned Thursday from the ruling Regions Party in protest at the "tragedy" of the unrest.
Source/Agence France

Libyans Called to Polls amid Mounting Anger over Insecurity
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 February 2014/Libyans went to the polls on Thursday to elect a constituent assembly in the latest milestone in the chaotic political transition from the ousted dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi.
But there was none of the voter enthusiasm that marked Libya's first free election in July 2012 as public frustration mounts over the post-Gadhafi government's failure to restore order. Just 1.1 million of 3.4 million eligible voters bothered to register compared to more than 2.7 million 19 months ago, and that only after several extensions to the deadline. A threat by powerful former rebel militias to dissolve the interim General National Congress elected in 2012 ramped up pressure on the weak central government on the eve of the vote. In the more than two years since Gadhafi was captured and killed, former rebel brigades armed with heavy weapons looted from his arsenals have carved out fiefdoms across the sprawling country, with many refusing demands to disarm or join the armed forces. The persistent lawlessness was highlighted by the brief abduction of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan by former rebel militia in the capital last October. The new charter is to cover key issues such as Libya's system of government, the status of ethnic minorities and the role of Islamic sharia law. But Libya is to go ahead with elections to a new transitional authority rather than wait for the constitution to be finalised. Following angry street protests over its decision to extend its mandate until the end of the year, the GNC agreed on Sunday to organise early elections to a replacement body. Polls were to open from 0600 GMT to 1700 GMT in the election for a 60-member assembly tasked with drawing up a new constitution. In principle all of the 692 hopefuls are standing as individuals, as political parties have been barred from fielding candidates. They include 73 women. The assembly will have at least six women members as six seats are reserved for women. Another six seats are reserved for members of Libya's three main ethnic minority groups -- the Berbers, Toubous and Tuareg. But the two Berber seats will go unfilled as the main Berber organisations called a boycott to protest the failure of the interim authorities to guarantee the community, which played a major role in the 2011 uprising, a bigger say in drawing up the new charter. The Supreme Council of Berbers in Libya declared Thursday a day of mourning and asked people to wear black in protest, adding that it would not recognise the new constitution. The U.N. Support Mission in Libya expressed its backing for the "long awaited achievement" of the assembly election.
"It calls upon all Libyans to contribute positively to this democratic process and to provide the suitable atmosphere for this important event that paves the way towards putting the basic foundations for a modern Libyan state," U.N. envoy Tarek Mitri said in a statement. The 2012 election was marred by some violence on polling day, particularly in the restive east, a stronghold of hardline Islamist groups. The interior ministry said at least 25 security personnel would be deployed in each of the North African nation's 1,500 or so polling stations on Thursday. Source/Agence France Presse.

Media Release: Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Québec’s Bill 52 will likely go to a vote in the Québec national assembly on Thursday, February 20.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and its Québec counterparts would like you to know:
• Bill 52 gives Québec doctors the right to lethally inject their patients when they are physically or psychological suffering.
• Bill 52 does not limit euthanasia to terminally ill people. The bill states that a person must be “at the end of life” but the bill does not define end of life. Bill 52 allows euthanasia for psychological suffering, which cannot be defined.
• Bill 52 targets people with disabilities. Bill 52 states that a person must be in “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability.” Many people with disabilities fit these criteria. Since the bill does not define "end of life" euthanasia will be extended to people with disabilities.
• Euthanasia is defined as homicide in the federal Criminal Code. Bill 52 defines killing by lethal injection as "health care" in order to avoid the Criminal Code prohibition from causing death.
Bill 52 is unconstitutional and needs to be challenged in the court.
Bill 52 is imprecise and open to abuse.
Bill 52 is lethal.
Link to other articles:
• Québec’s euthanasia Bill 52 is lethal.
• Expert’s condemn Québec’s Bill 52.
For more information contact:
Nicolas Steenhout (Montreal) Director General, Living With Dignity –
Hugh Scher (Toronto) EPC Legal Counsel: (416) 816-6115 –
Amy Hasbrouck (Montreal) Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet (450) 921-3057 –
Dr Will Johnston (Vancouver) EPC-BC Chair (604) 220-2042 –
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (London) (519) 439-3348

Going to Mars is ‘Haram,’ new fatwa says
A fatwa issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the UAE claimed a trip to the red planet was prohibited by Islam.
By Staff Writer | Al Arabiya News/Thursday, 20 February 2014
Muslims banking on a holiday to Mars will have to cancel their plans after religious clerics took the time out of their schedule to issue a decisive decree on space travel. A fatwa issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the UAE claimed a trip to the red planet was prohibited by Islam, local English-language daily Khaleej Times reported Wednesday. “Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam,” the committee said. “There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.”The committee warned that those who participate in the “hazardous trip” will likely die for no “righteous reason,” causing them to be liable to a punishment of those who commit suicide. The Khaleej Times story speculated that the edict could have been a reaction to the Mars One company inviting volunteers in April 2013 to fly to and live on Mars for a small fee of $38. The catch, however, was that there was no return ticket. The venture aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Over 200,000 applications from 140 countries volunteered to participate in the mission, including 500 Saudis and other Arabs. The second round of selection will start in 2014, where the candidates will be interviewed in person by a Mars One Selection Committee. The Islamic committee expressed disdain that some volunteers want to leave the planet in order to escape punishment or evade standing before Almighty Allah for judgment.
The one-way journey to the distant planet, which is reportedly costing the Dutch company $6 billion, is set to take off in 2022. Applicants for the unorthodox trip were required to be between 18 and 40 years old and in good physical condition.
Last Update: Thursday, 20 February 2014

A little less stick, a lot more carrot for Assad
Thursday, 20 February 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia
In August 2013, Damascus' Ghouta was shelled with chemical weapons. 1,700 citizens were killed. Most of those killed were women and children. Footage of the attack made everyone cry. Although the Syrian war is cruel and ugly, we've never - before the Ghouta incident - seen this many dead children.

Of those who survived, many suffocated by Sarin gas, an internationally prohibited chemical weapon. Although this wasn't the Syrian regime's first attack on civilian neighborhoods, the scene was horrifying and anger reached its peak.

U.S. President Barack Obama's stance was harmonious with the gravity of the incident. After verifying that the attack was one carried out by prohibited chemical substances, the United States said it would militarily respond to the Syrian regime's crime against civilians. The rest of the story is well-known as it was later agreed with the murderous regime that it hands over his chemical weapons in exchange of halting the military attack.

Repercussions of halted military intervention

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continued to kill thousands of people using explosive barrels, jets, tanks and cannons. The chemical attack thus practically served the regime as it prolonged its rule and gave the Syrian people the impression that the regime has lasting power.
The chemical attack also granted the regime more time to hand over its chemical arsenal and in the meantime it received massive support from Hezbollah and Iran through thousands of fighters. The regime also received advanced weapons from Russia.

From Ukraine to Syria: Obama pokes the Russian bear
Thursday, 20 February 2014
Joyce Karam/Al Arabyia
If Saturday’s hockey game in Sochi is any indication, U.S. relations with Russia are very icy and President Barack Obama is poking the Russian bear after years of scratching and dancing around their differences.
Washington’s shift is most evident in Syria where a policy escalation is expected, and in Ukraine, where the U.S. is upping its criticism against the crackdown by the Russian supported government in Kiev.
After a day of fiery protests in Independence square in central Kiev that left hundreds injured and around 25, Washington blasted Moscow’s ally Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, barring 20 senior Ukrainian officials from traveling to the United States, and threatened further measures if the violence continues.
Russia-U.S. rivalry
The Ukrainian crisis in Russia’s backyard adds to a very long list of contentious issues between Washington and Moscow, and parallels the transition of their relations from the “reset” in 2009 to a bitter rivalry today.

Whether the topic is adoption, Edward Snowden, arms sales in the Middle East or intelligence sharing, the U.S.-Russia relations have been frosty and diplomatic ties have turned colder in the last three years. Russian President Vladimir

Putin has not visited Washington since Obama took office, and the U.S. President canceled his Moscow stop last fall, and has sent a very low level delegation to the Sochi games.
It is not the cold war given U.S. continues to have the upper hand economically, militarily and diplomatically, but it’s certainly a rivalry, with a more defiant and empowered Putin.
Even sports cannot escape this rivalry. The hockey face-off in Sochi ending with an exceptional victory for the American team 3-2, was certainly a thrill for the Olympics.
But the game quickly turned political with the U.S. celebrating the first win since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Obama and Congress congratulated the American team, while national security advisor Susan Rice quipped on twitter “U.S.A, U.S.A, U.S.A”.
The short-lived reset between Moscow and Washington in Obama’s first term, while focused on issues of nuclear disarmament and Russia’s ascension into the World Trade Organization, did not materialize on key challenges in Syria, missile defense, intelligence sharing, and cooperation in Eastern Europe.
In recent weeks, the events in Ukraine, the resignation of U.S. ambassador to Russia “Mr. Nice Guy” Michael McFaul, Pussy Riot activisits’ visit to the United States, Egypt’s Sisi meeting with Putin last week, and the Snowden case, all speak to an atmosphere of confrontation between Washington and Moscow.
It is not the cold war given U.S. continues to have the upper hand economically, militarily and diplomatically, but it’s certainly a rivalry, with a more defiant and empowered Putin.
Escalation in Syria
The post Geneva II conference and the abject failure of 40 international representatives to promote confidence building measures in Syria is ushering in a new phase in U.S. policy towards the conflict. There is a sense of disappointment in Washington over Russia’s inability to deliver any substantive compromise from the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime.
Washington is actively pursuing a full reevaluation of its policy and reconsidering, according to the Wall Street Journal, the options of arming and training the Syrian moderate opposition as well as establishing a no fly zone on the border with Jordan.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia of “enabling Assad to double down” by providing more arms and political cover at the United Nations Security Council.
U.S. officials do not hide their distrust of the Russian role in Syria, but realize the need to do more to alter the Kremlin’s calculus, and to prove that “Assad cannot win.”
Sources tell Al-Arabiya News that the secret meeting of regional spymasters including Saudi Arabia and UAE and Turkey in Washington last week tackled the need for coordinated regional support to Syria’s rebels among other military covert scenarios. Washington appears to be preparing for the long haul in Syria, and for fierce fighting that could extend over one year.
The continuation of the Syrian crisis, Putin’s support for the government in Ukraine, his push to make inroads in the Middle East with arm sales to Iraq, and the issue of Egypt, all promise to create a bigger rift between U.S. and Russia -- a rift that makes the “Cheeseburger summit” between Obama and Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev in 2010 a distant memory, while an even greater conflict seems to be on the horizon.
Meanwhile, the rebels only received a negligible amount of basic weapons. The balance of powers changed due to this agreement, and the Assad regime regained control over vast areas which it had lost control over in the past two years.
The story may be old but the moral here is that despite many verbal threats, the Assad regime has received a little stick and lots of carrots.
This is what makes people really angry today. If the opposition had been allowed to buy anti-aircraft missiles and cannons, the Assad regime would have collapsed a long time ago because it's a military-security regime that represents a small minority.
The U.S. would have delivered a clear message if it had dared attack the Syrian regime.
Unfortunately, the only victory was confiscating 11% of the regime's chemical arsenal. We know that the regime may buy itself more time with the rest of its supplies.
Syrian regime’s lasting power
In the end, it will hand over most of its prohibited weapons but 10% of the Sarin gas it possess is enough to cause enough harm among unarmed civilians.
The chemical attack thus practically served the regime as it prolonged its rule and gave the Syrian people the impression that the regime has lasting power.
The regime may have not lasted this long if it had not used the deadly chemical.
It bought time, place and alliances. It terrified millions of people until it forced more than 5 million people to flee their homes either to other places inside Syria or to other countries.
Assad was rewarded for committing one of the most hideous crimes in the history of modern wars. We have a list of more than 140,000 people who were killed by his forces. Thousands died of hunger, siege and undocumented murder, and thousands others died in the regime's jails.
This means that the around 250,000 Syrians may have been killed by the regime and no one has done anything to stop this massacre which has been on for over three years.
We think it's not fair that the world has remained silent over this hideous massacre for so long. It makes no sense that the world only talks about al-Qaeda and its branches which are fighting in Syria. What about the millions of displaced people, widows and orphans who are confronting a criminal security regime?
This is not only the opposition's and the neighboring countries' responsibility but everyone's responsibility.
Syria has been inflicted. It crisis has touched us a lot more than other crises have, and its wounds will be painful to many.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 20, 2014.

Who's responsible for Geneva II failure?
Thursday, 20 February 2014
By: Raed Omari/Al Arabyia
Now that the recently concluded Geneva peace conference on Syria has proved to be a big failure indeed, the fundamental question of who to blame for the deadlock in the much-derailed talks remains contested.
Though much of the blame has been given to Syria's warring parties, it was the Americans and partially the Russians who failed the long-awaited peace talks. Full stop.
Russia and America’s failure
The Americans have put no considerable pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to make any concessions during the talks nor have they provided enough political support to the Syrian opposition, let alone military assistance. It was as if they meant to fail the conference. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was outspoken before the conference, insisting on the absence of al-Assad in Syria's future, did nothing to press for that end during the negotiations and has been silent following the talks though he was unquestionably its "godfather." Aside from the stubborn counter position of the pro-Assad Russians as opposed to that of the anti-Assad Americans, the U.S. could have done a lot to break the deadlock in the Syrian peace talks, giving only as proof the Syrian regime's obedience to Washington's orders following its threat of military attack after the "forgotten" Aug. 21 chemical attack on Damascus' eastern Ghouta. The Russians were silent about this.
With this in mind, one would be wondering why the Americans have not pushed adequately for a political solution to the Syrian war that they have been advocating almost since the time the pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011?
U.S. apathy
Some days even before convening Geneva talks, a friend of mine very familiar with Washington's foreign policy on Syria – in fact from within the U.S. Department of State – spoke to me about Kerry's apathy to the face-to-face negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition, unveiling the American top diplomat's eagerness to go the United Nations Security Council instead. Though my friend was very surprised, he was totally convinced of the incapability of Geneva talks to achieve any breakthrough in the whole Syrian file, citing as a reason the U.S.'s indifference to both the regime and the opposition. What my friend said has proved to be 100% correct. However, we disagreed over why the U.S. would go to the Security Council, where it may face again the Russian and Chinese veto on any resolution on Syria. On that matter, he was also certain that the Americans and Russians have reached a deal on the need to pass a resolution on Syria humanitarian assistance. My friend has proved to be right again with reference to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov welcoming a U.N. resolution on Syria aid access if the Security Council does not "politicize" the issue. One would be wondering why the Americans have not pushed adequately for a political solution to the Syrian war that they have been advocating almost since the time the pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011?
Raed Omari
Now aside from what my friend has said and regardless of the proved authenticity of his remarks, the failure of Geneva talks is just proof of the uselessness and meaninglessness of the talk about a political solution to the Syrian crisis. A solution to the almost three years of conflict in Syria is to be imposed and not agreed on by Syria's warring sides. The Syrian regime insisting on discussing only terrorism and the opposition insisted on a transitional government during the talks is a proof of the impossibility of the two parties reaching a deal if not dictated from outside. A political solution to the Syrian crisis has long been projected as an alternative to a military interference with no third option suggested and with the decaying possibility Syria's opposing parties attaining a peace deal, then it should be plan B again.
Military interference
Talks regarding military interference and providing lethal weapons to the Syrian opposition’s military arm, the Free Syrian army, followed the failure of Geneva conference. Many news agencies have also cited intelligence reports which discuss the training of Syrian rebels by the United States. Though all reports are still speculative and difficult to trace as based on intelligence leaks, a military interference in Syria or a strongly-worded and abiding Security Council resolution are the only remaining options to end the ongoing struggle unless the Americans prove otherwise. The abrupt visit of President of the Syrian Coalition Ahmad al-Jarba to the rebel-held areas in Idlib province while Geneva conference was still not officially concluded is a proof of the oppositions' dissatisfaction over any political solution on Syria. Day by day, the issue of Syria appears to not be an urgent matter for the Americans to address until other elements are resolved, including the chemical weapons stockpile, extremist groups, mainly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah. Indecisiveness on Syria has proved to be the United States’ unannounced policy, at least for the time being. All in all, the Middle East for the U.S. has never been tackled as a combination of countries each with different conditions and distinctive characteristics but as one "package" of interrelated considerations. In other words, the Syrian people have to wait for resolutions for other Middle East issues to have the crisis addressed or have to wait for the war to be placed within a larger regional framework to be resolved.