LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
for today/Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
Mark 11/12-25: The next day, as they were coming back from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He saw in the distance a fig tree covered with leaves, so he went to see if he could find any figs on it. But when he came to it, he found only leaves, because it was not the right time for figs. Jesus said to the fig tree, “No one shall ever eat figs from you again!” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. I assure you that whoever tells this hill to get up and throw itself in the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. For this reason I tell you: When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for. 25 And when you stand and pray, forgive anything you may have against anyone, so that your Father in heaven will forgive the wrongs you have done.”
editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources
For February 24/14
Lower education/By: Daniel Doron/Israel Hayom/February 24/14
Turkey takes fight with Israel to the waves/Ynetnews/Michael Tanchum/February 24/14
Opinion: Combatting terrorism in Kuwait/By: Huda Al Husseini/Asharq AlAwsat/February 24/14
Conspiracy, the theory that doesn't die/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia/February 24/14
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. to cooperate on Syria/Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabyia/February 24/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 24/14
Lebanese Related News
Suicide bomber kills three in e. Lebanon
Lebanese Army detains terror suspect
Forensics struggle to find traces of Hermel suicide bomber
Local, international condemnations pour in over Army attack
Hariri hints he might return for presidential poll
Two peacekeepers die in s. Lebanon road accident
President Gemayel says possible candidate for president
Hermel Suicide Bomber Had Doctored ID Carrying Brital Resident Name
Suleiman: Army Has Become Main Target of Terrorist Attacks
Report: Policy Statement May Be Announced Monday after Overcoming Resistance Obstacle
Rifi Launches Initiative for Tripoli, Says Only State Must Tackle Security Problems
Report: Geagea May Visit Saudi Arabia soon, to Meet with Hariri
Report: Concerns Raised that Army Will Be Terrorists' New Target
International Missions in Lebanon Reiterate Support for Army after Hermel Blast
Maronites redeem land from Shiites in Hadath
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Pope to prelates: no intrigue, favoritism, gossip
Netanyahu: Iran still getting everything, giving nothing
US: Iran might be allowed ‘limited’ nuclear program
Mursi accused of leaking Egypt secrets to Iran
Syrian Dissident Writer Arrested
Syria insists on its 'sovereignty' in UN aid resolution
Saudi 'Seeking Pakistan Arms for Syrian Rebels'
Car Bomb Hits Syria Hospital near Turkey
Ukraine Ushers in New Era, President's Whereabouts Unknown
Merkel Voices Support for Kerry's Middle East Peace Bids
Two peacekeepers die in s. Lebanon
February 23, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Two peacekeepers with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon died Sunday in a road accident south Lebanon, the National News Agency said. The casualties were identified as a Spanish and Salvatorian soldiers. Three others were injured after their military vehicle overturned near the Wazzani area.
Lebanese Army detains terror suspect
February 23, 2014/The Daily Star/HERMEL: Army Intelligence detained Sunday a terror suspect in the eastern region of al-Qaa, a security source told The Daily Star. The man, identified as Qassem Atrash, is suspected of involvement in terrorist acts including arms transport and smuggling, the source said. Local media reported that Atrash is the uncle of Omar Atrash, who was killed in October after a rocket hit his vehicle somewhere in the narrow valley that separates the mountainous area of Arsal and Syria. Omar Atrash is also the cousin of Sunni Sheikh Omar Atrash who was charged in connection with separate car bombings in the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Heik in January.
Pope to prelates: no intrigue,
February 23, 2014/Associated Press
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday gave his new cardinals what amounted to a code of conduct : "no intrigue, gossip, power pacts, favoritism." Francis also urged the 19 men he elevated to cardinal a day earlier to avoid behaving as if they were in a royal court. During his homily in St. Peter's Basilica, Francis told the cardinals to strive to "be saints." To achieve that, he advised them to simply love those who are hostile to them, bless those who speak badly of them, and "smile at those who perhaps don't merit it." Advocating humility, Francis is trying to reform a church hierarchy that has been criticized as arrogant, egotistical, petty and nasty. Scandals involving alleged corruption and power plays tainted the Vatican's top bureaucracy in the last few years before Francis was elected in March. Later Sunday, while addressing the faithful and the curious in St. Peter's Square, Francis was interrupted by resounding cheers and applause when, wagging his finger, he told them that bishops, cardinals and the pope need to be "good servants, not good bosses" of God's people. As his papacy draws near the one-year mark, Francis has been drawing huge crowds for the traditional Sunday noontime appearance from a window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking the square. On Sunday, a breezy, cool day, the vast square was packed with tens of thousands of people. That is about two or three times the size of the crowds that his predecessor, Benedict XVI, usually drew on similar occasions. One draw has been Francis' simple language and down-to-earth ways. During the Mass for the new cardinals, Francis urged churchmen to keep their priorities straight, saying Jesus didn't die on a cross "to teach us drawing room manners."
Forensics struggle to find traces of
Hermel suicide bomber
February 23, 2014/By Rakan al-Fakih/The Daily Star
HERMEL: Lebanese authorities struggled Sunday to find traces of the suicide bomber who targeted an Army post a day earlier in the northeastern town of Hermel, as the Lebanese Army released photos of the two soldiers who were killed in the attack. The bomber, who was driving a black Grand Cherokee, was "scattered into tiny pieces," making it difficult to collect samples for DNA testing, a security expert told The Daily Star. The bomber detonated at an Army checkpoint at the main entrance of Hermel Saturday night, killing three people including two soldiers and wounding 17 others. The Lebanese Army released photos of the soldiers who were identified as 25-year-old officer Elias Khoury from the eastern town of Zahle and Hamzeh Faitruny, 26, from Baalbek. The Lebanon branch of Nusra Front, the radical rebel group fighting in Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack citing Hezbollah’s role in the war-torn country. Hermel is one of several areas associated with Hezbollah. The Lebanese Army said the bomb contained 125 kilograms of explosives while a security source said the 1994 Grand Cherokee was most likely smuggled from Syria. The explosion damaged a number of nearby shops and residential buildings and set ablaze several vehicles which were thrown meters away by the force of the blast.Security forces cordoned off the site of the deadly blast and opened an alternative road for residents to enter the town. President Michel Sleiman offered his condolences to the families of the victims and said the Army had become the main target of terrorist acts. "I salute the Lebanese Army, which, as a result of carrying out its national duty in protecting citizens from terrorism and crime, has become the primary target of terrorist acts,” Sleiman said in a statement. He also said "the martyrdom of a soldier is the price the military pays for preserving the lives of young men and women, the elderly and children." He also called on the military and security forces to be more determined to face terrorism and safeguard the country. This is the third suicide attack this year in Hermel.The most recent explosion was on Feb. 1 when a suicide car bomber killed four people in an attack also claimed by Nusra Front in Lebanon. Hours after the Hermel explosion, the Army vowed to carry on its fight against terrorism “regardless of the sacrifices,” urging the public to rally around the military institution. “Once again, the Army pays the price of combating terrorism and seeking to preserve civil peace,” the military said in a statement. "The Army will not end its fight against those trying to harm Lebanon and will continue working to uncover terrorist networks and pursuing the perpetrators regardless of the sacrifices,” the statement said. The Army has recently arrested a number of suspects belonging to Al-Qaeda-linked groups, including the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Nusra Front.
Suicide bomber kills three in e.
February 22, 2014/By Dana Khraiche/The Daily Star/HERMEL/BEIRUT:
A suicide car bombing targeting an Army post in the
northeastern town of Hermel killed three people including two soldiers and
wounded 17 others Saturday, a security source told The Daily Star. The Lebanon
branch of the Nusra Front, a radical Syrian rebel force, claimed responsibility
for the suicide bombing, saying it was part of a “series of vengeful attacks.”
The group, listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, has vowed to
carry out attacks in Lebanon in retaliation to Hezbollah’s military role in
Syria. Saturday’s bombing was the second such attack this week following twin
suicide bombings near the Iranian Cultural Center just south of Beirut which
killed 10 people. Army officer Elias Khoury, soldier Hamzeh Faitruny and
Mohammad Ayyoub were killed in the explosion, the source, speaking on condition
of anonymity, said. Four soldiers were among those wounded. The suicide bomber,
who was driving a Grand Cherokee, detonated the bomb after soldiers grew
suspicious of him at a military checkpoint set up at the entrance of Hermel, the
source said. Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene of the explosion
which occurred around 7 p.m. Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr tasked the
Military Police with collecting evidence and beginning DNA tests on the human
remains found at the site of the attack. This is the third suicide attack this
year in the northeastern town where Hezbollah enjoys broad support.
The most recent explosion was on Feb. 1 when a suicide car bomber killed four people in an attack also claimed by Nusra Front in Lebanon. Hours after the explosion, the Lebanese Army said the suicide bomber detonated his vehicle shortly after soldiers stopped him at the checkpoint, vowing to carry on its fight against terrorism. “Once again, the Lebanese Army pays the price of combating terrorism as [the military] seeks to preserve civil peace,” the Army’s General Directorate said in a statement. “Today, soldiers were martyred in a suicide attack targeting the Lebanese Army with the aim of intimidating it and spreading chaos,” it added, without specifying the number of casualties. It also said that Saturday’s deadly attack should be reason enough for citizens to increase their support for the Army. "The Army will not end its fight against those trying to harm Lebanon and will continue working on uncovering terrorist networks and pursuing the perpetrators regardless of the sacrifices,” the statement said. The Army has recently arrested a number of suspects belonging to Al-Qaeda-linked groups including the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Nusra Front. Meanwhile, British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher condemned the attack, saying his country would help rebuild the checkpoint and offer protective kits to the Army.
“Appalled that our [Lebanon] army allies hit by cowardly terrorism tonight. We'll help rebuild Hermel checkpoint+offer $500,000 of protective kit,” Fletcher said in his Twitter feed.
Local, international condemnations pour in over Army attack
February 23, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The suicide attack that targeted an Army post in northeastern Lebanon Saturday night drew condemnations from far and wide over the weekend, with the U.N. vowing to continue its support for Lebanon and its military during “these difficult times.” Prime Minister Tammam Salam condemned the suicide bombing, calling on the public to rally around the Lebanese Army. "This is a terrorist attack and targeting the military institution in any area in Lebanon surpasses an ordinary crime because it aims to serve a blow to the nation’s main pillar,” Salam said in a statement. "I call on everyone to rally around the Army and security forces, which will always be the backbone of the country,” he added. A suicide bomber attacked an Army post in Hermel Saturday evening, killing three people, including two soldiers, and wounding 17 others.
The Lebanon branch of the Nusra Front, the radical rebel group fighting in Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack citing Hezbollah’s role in the war-torn country. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri phoned Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi and offered his condolences over the death of the two soldiers. During the phone call, Hariri expressed his full solidarity with the Lebanese Army and security forces in their mission to maintain security and stability. Hariri, the head of the Future Movement, also said that the fallen soldiers were the martyrs of the whole country.
Interior Minister Nuhad Mashnouk reiterated his party's demand that Hezbollah withdraw from Syria, adding that such a terrorist attack should inspire Lebanese authorities to cooperate with the international community to combat rising terrorism. "The attack should prompt the concerned political groups to contribute on the political level to shutting down the [smuggling routes] between Lebanon and Syria and reconsider their stance from the ongoing war in Syria,” Mashnouk said in a statement, referring to Hezbollah. "This cowardly terrorist attack will not deter us from continuing our efforts in fighting terrorism and terrorists who are trying to harm Lebanon and incite strife," he added. "[Such terrorism] requires us to cooperate with the international community and its experts to combat this blind takfiri terror who does not understand anything but killing,” Mashnouk, a Future Movement MP, said. For its part, Hezbollah said Saturday’s attack demonstrated that such terrorism does not discriminate among Lebanese and poses a threat to the entire country.
“This latest crime is only proof that ... terrorism does not need justifications or reasons to carry out its crimes. It kills, slaughters, marginalizes and destroys without discriminating between soldiers and civilians or between people belonging to one sect or another in Lebanon,” Hezbollah said in a statement. “Such an approach is the enemy of every Lebanese, regardless of its sect or neighborhoods. It is a danger to all of us, even those trying to justify the crimes as reactions to some other acts,” it added. Hezbollah also said it saluted the heroism of the Lebanese Army which, it said, is manning “deadly checkpoints.” The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly strongly condemned the attack and extended his condolences to the Lebanese army and to the families of the victims. “The Special Coordinator said the tireless efforts and sacrifice of the Lebanese army and the security forces to detain terrorist suspects and prevent such attacks were worthy of the highest praise,” his office said. Plumbly also said the recurrence of acts of terrorism should strengthen support for state institutions, particularly the Army and security forces. “The Special Coordinator reiterated the U.N.'s support for Lebanon and its army during these difficult times and hoped that all those responsible for today's bombing and all other acts of terrorism will be brought to justice as soon as possible,” according to his office. British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher also condemned the attack, saying his country would help rebuild the checkpoint and offer protective kits to the Army. “Appalled that our [Lebanese] Army allies [were] hit by cowardly terrorism tonight. We'll help rebuild Hermel checkpoint+offer $500,000 of protective kit,” Fletcher tweeted.
The U.S. Embassy to Lebanon also condemned the bombing, saying an attack on the Army was "an attack on all Lebanese." On its Twitter feed, the embassy said Washington’s support for the Army was steadfast, expressing solidarity with the military on the “front lines of the battle against terror in Lebanon.”
Hariri hints he might return for
February 23, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri hinted over the weekend that he might return to Lebanon in the spring for the presidential election and defended his party against allegations that it was meddling in the Syrian crisis. “My return to Lebanon is dependent on the political and security moment I see fit. We have presidential elections that should take place and I will not be absent from it and I will be a part of it,” Hariri told an Egyptian channel during a television interview in Cairo. “I will not set a date for my return to Lebanon because that’s dangerous, but I will return very soon,” the head of the Future Movement said. “There is presidential election in Lebanon and I have repeatedly said that we will not allow a vacuum in that post. I am serious about that and at that moment you will see Saad Hariri in Lebanon,” he added.
Hariri left Lebanon in early 2011, months after the collapse of his National Unity government. He has repeatedly cited security concerns for his absence. Hariri also spoke about the negotiations which led to the formation of a new government in Lebanon, saying deteriorating security and sectarian divisions prompted him to “make sacrifices to safeguard Lebanon.” “ ... Tensions and divisions between Lebanese Sunnis and Shiites have reached unprecedented levels and this presents to us major challenges to prevent the country from exploding,” he said. “There is no doubt that there is a radical difference between us and Hezbollah but we have a political role to play for the sake of the country and the people,” Hariri added. He also voiced optimism that Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government would draft a policy statement and be granted Parliament’s vote of confidence, despite disputes over the ministerial statement. “I think this government will be granted Parliament’s vote of confidence and they will find ways to swiftly draft the policy statement because there are people in Lebanon who have the skills to find a smooth way out,” he said. He also reiterated his refusal to include the tripartite formula of the “Army, the people and the resistance” in the policy statement. Hariri also repeated his demand that Hezbollah withdraw from Syria. “Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria will do away with the justification these suicide bombers use to attack Lebanon,” he said, adding that the country can no longer tolerate the “repercussions” of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria. “In Lebanon, there are young men who were not particularly organized but who saw the massacres in Syria and joined Al-Qaeda, ISIS or and similar groups in Syria. They were brainwashed and turned into ticking time bombs, carrying out suicide attacks in Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s interference,” he added. Hariri also defended the March 14 coalition, particularly the Future Movement, from Hezbollah’s allegations that they were funding and arming opposition groups. “We support the opposition politically, but we do not arm it or recruit fighters for it. We do not have the capability to do so,” he said. “Our ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries and Egypt have always been distinctive but they don’t arm the March 14 coalition or the Future Movement."
President Gemayel says possible
candidate for president
February 22, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel said he might run in the next presidential election and called for unity among the Lebanese to confront terrorism. “I don’t rule out the option [of running for president], but it depends on the [timing] and the conditions [on the ground],” Gemayel said during an interview with the Tehran-based Arabic-language Iranian television channel Al-Kawthar. Gemayel also said the presidential election, set to take place in May, should be held on time. He emphasized that his Kataeb party rejects a “vacuum in the presidential post.” He called for a consensus among Christian leaders to ensure a "strong President that represents his [Christian] community like other leaders in Lebanon, such as the prime minister and parliament speaker.”Gemayel also said the Lebanese need to unite to confront terrorism following a wave of bombings. “What the Lebanese need is a national united position to confront the terrorism that has flourished under the protection provided by some politicians,” he said. “There must be international and regional cooperation between major countries like the United States, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia to confront terrorism and limit it.”
Maronites redeem land from Shiites in
The land in the town of Hadath (Agencies)
BEIRUT - The Maronite League redeemed a huge tract land in the town of Hadath near Baabda after lengthy negotiations with the main buyers from the Shiite sect.
The land, around 80,000 m² in size, was redeemed in exchange for at least $40 million, a well-informed source told NOW. Its location is considered strategic, as it separates Baabda, Kfarshima and Hadath.
It was originally sold for $27 million to Shiite businessmen: Nasser Abbas Soueidan, Hussein Ahmad Issawi, Adnan Ali Awad, Adel Ali Diab, Mohammad Haidar Hoteit, Zou al-Faqar Haidar Hoteit, Tareq Talaat Hadi, Faisal Talaat Hadi, Yasmeen Adnan Ayad and Mohammad Adel Diab.
The buyers obtained building permits to erect more than 1,500 apartments in the land.
After the news spread, a number of Christian organizations, especially the Maronite League and the Archdioceses of Beirut, decided to take action since the land is located in a mainly-Christian populated area.
According to the information, the Shiite buyers tried to stall the purchase by repeatedly increasing the land’s price.
“Every time the mediators succeeded to provide the amount of money to redeem the land, the [Shiite] buyers would increase the price under the pretext that land prices in the area were increasing,” the source said.
The Maronite Archdioceses in Beirut played a great role in redeeming the land by helping with $5 million, in addition to the Antonin Order, the Antonin sisters and several Christian businessmen.
Head of Saint Antony Monastery in Baabda, Father George Sadaka, considered that the deal was “a great accomplishment for the residents of the area from all sects.”
“It is unacceptable that large purchase operations take place in any area,” Sadaka said.
“The Antonin Order is following up on the land sale issue with great interest,” he added
Syria insists on its 'sovereignty' in
UN aid resolution
February 23, 2014/Agencies
DAMASCUS: Syria said Sunday it is ready to cooperate with a rare UN Security Council resolution to allow humanitarian access, so long as it respects "state sovereignty." A Saudi source, meanwhile, said Riyadh is in talks with Pakistan to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to Syrian rebels to try to tip the balance in their war against the regime. In Damascus, the foreign ministry said the "root causes" of the humanitarian crisis must be treated, singling out "foreign-backed terrorism" and sanctions placed on President Bashar al-Assad's regime by Western and Arab countries. The Security Council, which has been sharply divided over the nearly three-year Syrian conflict, unanimously adopted resolution 2139 on Saturday, calling for humanitarian aid convoys to be allowed access across the war-torn country. According to the ministry statement, carried by state news agency SANA, Syria is ready to cooperate with the UN mission and international humanitarian organisations "to agree on the implementation of resolution 2139." It said the resolution must be implemented "with respect for the principles laid out in the UN Charter, international law and the basic foundations of humanitarian work, especially state sovereignty and the role of the state, and principles of neutrality, transparency and non-politicised assistance."
Damascus said the resolution, which condemns terror attacks by Al-Qaeda-linked organisations, was an "admission" by the Security Council of the presence of "extremist Al-Qaeda-linked terrorism" in Syria. It described the UN condemnation as "a step in the right direction." Since the March 2011 start of Syria's uprising -- which began as peaceful protests but escalated into a civil war after security forces repeatedly attacked demonstrators -- Assad's regime has blamed the violence on foreign-backed "terrorism." An estimated 140,000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising and millions more have been displaced. Syria's staunch ally Russia, with support from China, had blocked three previous resolutions aimed at pressuring the Damascus regime since March 2011. But Moscow and Beijing, two of the five permanent Security Council members, did not do so this time, sending a strong message to Assad, whose government is accused of serious rights violations. The Security Council resolution calls on "all parties to immediately lift the sieges of populated areas." An earlier draft of the resolution had threatened sanctions should Syria fail to comply, but Russia refused and distributed a draft of its own, which included the language on "fighting terrorism" in Syria. The resolution is the second Security Council decision since Syria's war began. It follows a decision ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, after an August 21, 2013 chemical attack near Damascus killed hundreds of people. Nadim Houry, a Middle East deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said the resolution was "a political breakthrough but words will not feed Syrians in desperate need of food." Without the threat of sanctions, "it is up to Syria's allies, particularly Russia and Iran, to ensure that the Syrian government gets the message, and stops using the starvation of civilians as a weapon of war," he said. Reflecting scepticism on the ground, an activist from Douma near the Syrian capital told AFP: "We would really like humanitarian corridors to become a reality. But I really doubt it, especially as the resolution doesn't mention sanctions."On the international scene, a Saudi source said Riyadh was seeking Pakistani arms for the Syrian rebels it supports in the wake of the failure of Geneva peace talks earlier this month. The source, requesting anonymity, pointed to a visit to Riyadh earlier this month by Pakistan's army chief of staff, General Raheel Sharif, who met Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz. Pakistan manufactures shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, known as Anza, and anti-tank rockets -- both of which Riyadh is trying to get for the rebels, said the source, who is close to Saudi decision-makers. In the latest violence, a car bomb explosion hit a hospital on Syria's border with Turkey on Sunday, killing two people and wounding several more, a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blast struck close to Orient hospital near the rebel-held border town of Atmeh. Activists reported that at 14 people were killed in the attack.
Mursi accused of leaking Egypt secrets
AFP, Cairo /Al Arabyia/Sunday, 23 February 2014
Prosecutors Sunday accused deposed president Mohammed Mursi of leaking state secrets to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as part of a plot to destabilize Egypt, at the second hearing of his trial for espionage. The trial, one of three that are under way against Mursi, is part of a relentless government crackdown targeting him and his Muslim Brotherhood movement since his ouster by the army in July. Prosecutors accuse Mursi and 35 others, including leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, of conspiring with foreign powers, Palestinian militant movement Hamas and Shiite Iran to destabilize Egypt. On Sunday, the second hearing since the trial opened on February 16, they detailed the charges against Mursi and his co-defendants. They were specifically accused of "delivering to a foreign country... national defense secrets and providing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with security reports in order to destabilize the security and stability of the country". The statement read in court did not identify the “foreign country.” But prosecutors said Mursi and the defendants carried out espionage activities on behalf of the "international Muslim Brotherhood organization and Hamas with an aim to perpetrate terror attacks in the country in order to spread chaos and topple the state" from 2005 to August 2013. During Mursi’s one year presidency, ties flourished between Cairo and Hamas, a Palestinian affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood which rules neighboring Gaza. But since July, Egypt’s military-installed government has accused Hamas of backing Mursi and his Brotherhood, and carrying out terrorist attacks inside the country. At Sunday’s hearing Mursi was held separately in a soundproof glass cage, designed to keep him and the other defendants from interrupting the proceedings with outbursts. But this did not stop defendants including Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie, his deputy Khairat al-Shater and other Islamist leaders from shouting and rejecting the accusations against them. “Void, void,” they shouted when the judge asked them if they accepted the charges, an AFP correspondent said. If found guilty, the defendants could face the death penalty. Most of the defendants were also accused of moving armed groups in and out of Egypt in January 2011, in a bid to attack army and police installations and prisons to facilitate the escape of inmates. Also on Sunday the defendants were represented by a new team of 10 defense lawyers appointed by the lawyers’ union, to replace the original team that withdrew from the case. The trial was adjourned to February 27. Mursi is already on trial for the killing of protesters during his presidency and a jailbreak during the 2011 uprising that ousted his predecessor Hosni Mubarak. Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, also faces trial for “insulting the judiciary.” A date for that has yet to be set.
Conspiracy, the theory that doesn't
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabyia
According to some, Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein only invaded Iran during Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule because he was implicated by foreign parties and only invaded Kuwait after he received hints from America's envoy in Baghdad. Some argue the Libya’s revolution against Muammar Qaddafi was a foreign act and the toppling of Egypt's Husni Mubarak was also a conspiracy. Some think the Brotherhood made it to power because of America’s planning. The Brotherhood think Egypt’s General Abdelfattah al-Sisi turned against them because of Western interference. And for three years now, the Syrian regime has been saying that the West is behind the revolution against it while the rebels insist there's a conspiracy to besiege their revolution for the sake of keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. A few days ago, my colleague Eyad Abu Shaqra wrote an article saying that it's time to acknowledge there are conspiracies being planned outside our region. My colleague, Eyad, is not the only one who sees a conspirator behind every crisis. For decades now, this has been the common belief among intellectuals. This belief was strengthened by literature that became famous in the 1960s and 1970s like The Game of Nations by Miles Copland. I don't want to completely deny conspiracy theories because secret apparatuses from each country take part in activities that are meant to influence situations in a direction that best benefits their country.
But there exists an exaggeration of conspiracies when reading modern history.
Clout vs. Conspiracy
There's a lot of mix up between exploiting events to alter their path and between triggering the events themselves. For example, the fall of Iran's Shah in 1979 was almost inevitable as a result of the unrest in Tehran. The West preferred to support Ayatollah Khomeini and favored him from among all competitors. Sending Khomeini to Tehran via an Air France jet from Paris strengthened his chances among other competitors from the leftists and nationalists parties. But Khomeini was already a prominent figure, not an invention of the West. When Saddam decided to invade Iran a year after Khomeini seized authority, the decision was his alone and it reflected his mentality and his naive understanding of the world around him. He thought that the fall of his enemy, the Shah, and the chaos in Iran, represented a chance to regain what he considered occupied Iraqi lands.
There's no doubt that the U.S. exploited Saddam's stupidity -- especially considering he was a character whose stupid actions were easy to predict. The possible conspiracy in this is not that the West pushed Saddam towards crossing the border but is the reestablishment of relations with him after he got involved in the war and after arms warehouses were opened for him. Meanwhile, Israel was selling arms to Iran. We, Arabs, hold onto conspiracy theories whenever there's something we cannot settle or understand. This is because conspiracy theories are a comfortable pillow on which those who want to justify their failure or incapability can sleep on.
This was an exploitation of the situation aiming to put rivals in a long state of war because Khomeini and Saddam were rivals of the west. This is not a conspiracy as much as it is an exploitation of the stupidity of two leaders who hated one another and who wanted each other's land. The same thing happened in Kuwait. Saddam made several indications about his intent to occupy Kuwait. These indications represented his greed and ignorance of the principles of superpowers' higher interests. The fact that the American envoy did not prohibit him from invading Kuwait doesn't signify anything important. Back then, the Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, said that the Americans conspired against Saddam; claiming that’s why the latter invaded Kuwait.
They also claimed that the Americans were conspiring to occupy Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, meaning that Saddam had to be supported. All this turned out to be false. The same is being said about Syria's revolution. But the reason behind this revolution is that the Bashar al-Assad government is truly a regime which expired following the death of Hafez al-Assad. The decadent sectarian security regime eroded, making a coup or revolution inevitable. It's a natural result. The revolution's incapability to see the revolution through is a result of Iran's and Russia's interference. Hurting the cause further, the American president is not enthusiastic to engage in another war. In the end, the regime will fall -- but unfortunately the price will be very high.
We, Arabs, hold onto conspiracy theories whenever there's something we cannot settle or understand. This is because conspiracy theories are a comfortable pillow on which those who want to justify their failure or incapability can sleep on. Those who use conspiracy theories the most are people who failed to come through with the empty promises they made - like Abel Nasser, Saddam, Qaddafi and Assad. I am not saying there is no merit behind some conspiracy theories but most of them are an exploitation of emergent circumstances which we create. Each party is conspiring to gain from these circumstances but we must blame no one but ourselves. There are countries which rose from the ashes throughout history such as Japan, Germany and Turkey, and no one prevented them from being successful. This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 23, 2014.
Opinion: Combatting terrorism in
By: Huda Al Husseini/Asharq AlAwsat
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz issued royal decree which punishes citizens who fight abroad, belong to, or financially support extremist and terrorist groups whether inside or outside the Kingdom. Such offenses result in a prison sentence of no less than three and no more than 20 years. This was followed by a move from the Saudi Ideological Security Directorate (ISD).
In remarks to Reuters, ISD head Abdulrahman Al-Hadlaq confirmed that the Syrian conflict has led to a new, greater threat of Islamist radicalism in Saudi Arabia, adding that this requires an aggressive “war of ideology” on the Internet. Hadlaq said that his unit focuses on those who use the Internet to recruit Saudi jihadists to fight abroad. He said that “before the problems in Syria started, the role of Al Qaeda and the radicals were declining.”
The Saudi royal decree elicited a varied response across the world, but the most prominent reaction was felt in Kuwait. MP Nabil Al-Fadl called for similar legislation in Kuwait given that, according to the parliamentarian, the situation in Kuwait now is similar to that in Saudi Arabia before the issuance of the royal decree. Fadl claimed that there are those in Kuwait who are recruiting and sending Kuwaiti youth to fight in Syria, also citing the way that donations are collected with the authorities knowing little about how the money is ultimately distributed. He added that one Kuwaiti citizen has announced on social media that he intends to raise 60,000 US dollars to buy surface-to-air missiles for Syrian rebels.
Meanuwhile, Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim has ruled out the possibility of parliament ratifying the Gulf Cooperation Council security pact during this year’s legislative round ending this June.
Fadl said that he believes that Syria has turned into a place rife with people obsessed with bloodshed and unconcerned about whether they are killing civilians or militants. He therefore put forward a draft law along the lines of the Saudi King’s decree, affirming that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are facing similar threats, and therefore “our laws should resemble one another’s.”The problem, according to Fadl, is that Kuwait is the only country that does not have counterterror laws worthy of the name. He said that counterterror court rulings are failing to develop correctly in Kuwait, pointing the finger of blame squarely at the presence of “Muslim Brotherhood” MPs.
Fadl also expressed concerns about veteran fighters returning to Kuwait from Syria. The number of Kuwaitis fighting in Syria is unknown. In a report published by the Kuwaiti Al-Seyassah newspaper last Friday, Kuwaiti security apparatuses warned of the presence of cells affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front in Kuwait. Both are militant groups associated with Al-Qaeda.
In remarks to the Al-Shahed newspaper, Kuwaiti MP Saleh Ashour warned of an “internal catastrophe,” given the potential return of “at least 20,000 Arab and Gulf fighters from Syria to Kuwait.”The Kuwaiti government is not involved in any activities associated with sending fighters and weapons to Syria. Rather, its policy is based on helping distressed civilians. Kuwait has held two Syria donor conferences, securing over 5 billion US dollars in pledges. The government has also suspended all preachers who call for jihad in Syria. However, authorities cannot do anything about someone on Twitter raising money to buy weapons for fighters in Syria. This simply is due to the lack of legislation criminalizing such practices in Kuwait.
Fadl said that he would like to see the Saudi royal decree being adopted as a general procedure across all GCC states: “We are seeking integration [in the GCC], and this includes the signing of security, economic and federal agreements.”
“I do not know why we want security in our country while we export terrorism to other countries. This is a shame!” he added. When asked about reports of protests in Kuwait against the GCC security pact, Fadl issued a denial, saying that meetings had been held behind closed doors against the pact on the pretext that it is unconstitutional.
“There are several reasons for these negative attitudes. The Brotherhood sees in the pact a conspiracy aimed at restraining and defeating them. I personally think the pact will undermine the Brotherhood’s authority, which must come to an end,” he said. Kuwait is the only GCC country that opposed the security pact because it said it had articles that contradict its constitution and the Kuwaiti government only approved the pact after amendments were introduced.
Fadl accused the Kuwaiti government of negligence in its promotion of the GCC security agreement, allowing some of the groups in Kuwait to falsely claim that the pact violates the constitution. The security pact gives precedence to national legislation and international agreements in each country. Therefore, there is no fear of any country being forced to violate its laws and international agreements.
Opponents of the agreement claim that it will lead to Saudi patrols entering Kuwaiti territory. However, the pact clearly stipulates that no Saudi patrols will cross borders.
The government’s negligence in promoting the pact was accompanied by the silence of the majority of Kuwaitis. In other words, like Egypt, Kuwait also has its own version of the Hizb El-Kanaba, the Couch Party [a term that first emerged in Egypt to refer to those who did not take part in the January 25 Revolution, akin to the ‘silent majority’].
According to Fadl, the pact will save Kuwait from what he calls the “disaster” of dual citizenship. He claimed that there are thousands of Gulf nationals who hold Kuwaiti citizenship but only come to Kuwait every four years to vote for their MP.
“The pact would help the Kuwaiti authorities learn about Kuwaiti nationals in Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries and thus help contain the dual citizenship issue,” he said.
“The National Assembly in Kuwait has a bad history regarding ratification of international agreements,” he said. In fact, some agreements have been reported to have been ratified 14 years after they were signed.
In addition to this, once an agreement is ratified by the National Assembly, any Kuwaiti citizen can appeal against it on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court in Kuwait has a long record of revoking royal decrees and national assembly resolutions.
The problem with Kuwait is that those who oppose the GCC security pact would rather make a scene than follow the legal channels of protest.
Netanyahu: Iran still getting everything, giving nothing
By HERB KEINON/J.Post/02/23/2014/PM warns that granting
Iran new uranium enrichment capabilities will help Tehran to "practically
realize its plan to become a nuclear threshold state."
Even as the US top Iran negotiator is in the country saying Iran could be allowed a small peaceful nuclear program, Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu continued to warn Sunday against granting Iran any uranium enrichment capabilities. "Iran will practically realize its plan to become a nuclear threshold state, with enrichment [capability] and the ability to develop intercontinental missiles. This combination of enrichment, weapons, and the ability to launch missiles creates a situation where Iran gets everything and gives nothing," he said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting.On Saturday night, US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who participated in the talks between Iran and the world powers in Vienna last week, said in Jerusalem that "I would like there to be zero enrichment. I would like there to be no facilities, I would like there not to be an indigenous program. I would like many things in life. But that does not mean I will get them."Sherman is in the country briefing top officials on the talks, and from here will travel to Saudi Arabia, which is as concerned as Israel at the prospect of Iran gaining nuclear capabilities. Over the last two weeks Netanyahu has once again stepped up the rhetoric against Iran's nuclear program, saying that the country has not altered any of its aggressive policies. This is expected to be one the key issues he discusses next Monday when he is scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington.
US: Iran might be allowed ‘limited’ nuclear program
By TOVAH LAZAROFF/02/22/2014/J.Post/Iran could possibly
have a small nuclear program for "practical needs" as part of a final deal, says
US undersecretary of state Wendy Sherman. Iran could be allowed a small peaceful
nuclear program, should an agreement be reached in diplomatic talks, US Under
Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said on Saturday night in
Jerusalem. “At the end of the day, if they [Iran] do want to have a small,
discreet, limited program that addresses practical needs, it is envisioned as a
possibility in the joint plan of action,” Sherman said. “It would have to be
highly constrained, monitored, and verified on a regular basis,” Sherman said.
She spoke both publicly and privately with Israeli journalists as part of a
drive to solicit support for the diplomatic process, which she said is the best
way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Sherman arrived in Israel on Friday to update officials on the talks held this week in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 countries (US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany). The EU was also party to the talks. Last week, the sides set a framework for negotiations toward a final agreement that is expected to be hammered out by July 20. Israel has said that Iran will continue to be a nuclear threat as long as it has the ability to enrich uranium, and that a peaceful nuclear power program does not require that ability. It has warned that Iran is using the talks to play for time to develop nuclear weapons.
“I would like there to be zero enrichment,” said Sherman. “I would like there to be no facilities, I would like there not to be an indigenous program.
I would like many things in life. But that does not mean I will get them.”The key words when monitoring a potential peaceful nuclear program, she said, would be “verify, verify, verify.”
Sherman noted that in the first month of the process, Iran appeared to have met its commitment, although she noted that it is just the start of a very long road. The talks are progressing, said Sherman, who heads the US team. She urged critics of the process to give the six powers time to allow diplomacy to work. It would be a mistake, she said, for the US Congress to pass legislation for new sanctions at this time, even if the start date for those sanctions were after July 20. “It would send the wrong signal” and could “create real problems,” she said. “Our view is that if an action risks the negotiation and risks the diplomacy, then the onus comes on the person who has created that risk,” she said. “This is a very difficult negotiation and the consequences are enormous. We are asking everyone to be thoughtful about the steps that they take, so that we have the time and space to get to a comprehensive agreement,” Sherman said. She said she had explained the need for patience when she met with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which favors additional sanctions. Sherman said she imagines it will be a topic of debate when AIPAC holds its policy meeting at the start of March in Washington. “I would urge AIPAC to create this space [for diplomacy],” she said.
In response to a question by The Jerusalem Post, Sherman said, “I understand that sanctions with tremendous leadership by the US Congress helped bring Iran to the table.” However, she said that with the diplomatic process under way, additional sanctions would only place international cooperation for the process at risk. The US and Israel are joined in the goal of ensuring that Iran does not have nuclear weapons, but do not agree on every tactical approach, she said. She promised that a comprehensive agreement would address all concerns and that the US would maintain its veto power until it is certain that the nuclear danger had been thwarted.
Sherman said progress had been made in Vienna and that a framework had been reached to guide negotiations for the next five months. “Unless we are satisfied, there will be no agreement. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Sherman said. She heads from here to Saudi Arabia.
by Daniel Doron/Israel Hayom
February 23, 2014
A top-notch higher education system that promotes critical thinking is a must for an advanced economy and society. It is a prerequisite for advanced scientific research and technological expertise, both of which are crucial for economic growth. But what is a good university? What kind of education should it offer and at what cost? "Will Dropouts Save America?," asked Michael Ellsberg in a 2011 piece published by The New York Times, a paper that reveres universities and is considered the flagship publication of the American liberal Left. Ellsberg said most of the high-tech entrepreneurs and the drivers of the Internet economy -- from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg -- were college dropouts, having realized that they were wasting their time in class. "American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees," Ellsberg wrote. "But we don't have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren't traditional professionals, but startup entrepreneurs. ... No business in America -- and therefore no job creation -- happens without someone buying something. But most students learn nothing about sales in college; they are more likely to take a course on why sales (and capitalism) are evil." Things are much worse in Israel. Universities help shape a radical view where entrepreneurship is frowned upon. The ethos they espouse is diametrically opposed to the Zionist vision that touted hard work as the linchpin of a merit-based society. Liberal arts programs focus on "redistributing wealth" rather than on pursuing a successful career, as if wealth just descends from the heavens and simply needs to be distributed "fairly" (whatever that means). What's worse is that students are told that profit is a product of exploitation and therefore any transaction is a zero-sum game. But that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Israelis students come out of university determined not to be suckers; they make sure their clients and business partners will forever be at a disadvantage. Human capital is Israel's most important asset. But in academia, the social sciences and humanities are dominated by a group of postmodern neo-Marxist zealots who shun anyone who is not like them, anyone who does not adhere to their radical economic and political principles or subscribe to their anti-capitalist ideology. They have devoided higher education of any critical thought that is grounded in reality. (Remember that dissertation that accused Israeli soldiers of racism because they wouldn't rape Palestinian women?)
Hundreds of thousands of young Israelis enter universities because they want to get a better job, only to be systematically brainwashed on dogmatic principles. They graduate from universities without the proper skills, having been denied useful information or analytical tools for what lies ahead. It is then that they realize that their hard-earned diplomas have no real value on the job market (the accumulated annual expenditure on tuition -- which is state-subsidized in many cases -- amounts to millions of shekels). Their peers might be impressed by their ability to quote Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida and Slavoj Zizek, but that is no way to make a living. The demonstrators who took part in the social justice protests in 2011 lamented that their degrees have led them along an uncertain career path. Their concern is shared by others all over the world and it has had an adverse economic impact on Europe and the U.S. The lack of real pluralism in Israeli universities poses an existential threat to our economy and society. Wouldn't the massive subsidies that help students obtain useless degrees -- which have no vocational value and create an inflation of hundreds of pseudo-academics -- be better spent on vocational training and real know-how?
**Daniel Doron is founder-director of The Israel Center for Social & Economic Progress (ICSEP), a public policy think tank, and a fellow of the Middle East Forum.
Turkey takes fight with Israel to the
Ankara's costly expansion of naval capabilities could adversely affect its prospects of benefitting from the new Israel gas fields.
At the end of December 2013, Turkey took a major step towards shifting the balance of maritime power in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It signed a contract for the construction of a multi-purpose amphibious ship that could function as an aircraft carrier, providing the country with an unprecedented degree of maritime control in the region. The change could exacerbate the perception of a Turkish threat by Israel, Cyprus and Greece, and will influence the upcoming Israeli decision on whether the export of its natural gas to a liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal in Cyprus, or to construct an undersea pipeline to Turkey. The upcoming diplomatic moves by Turkey could make the difference between a comprehensive regional agreement that would lead to the Israeli export to Turkey of the gas found in the eastern Mediterranean, or a maritime arms race, which Turkey cannot win. In March 2012, Turkey's Navy Commander Admiral Murat Bilgel outlined the country's strategic goals: "To operate not only (near) the shoreline, but in the heart of the sea." Bilgel was not signaling an intention to expand to oceanic activity, but rather to expand Turkey's military prowess in the Mediterranean Sea. The admiral identified the Turkish navy's goals for the coming decade as "improving naval defense and a growing capability to project limited force."
$3 billion naval project
Turkey's latest warship, which boasts a helideck, is part of the "National Ship" initiative (known by its Turkish initials MILGEM) that Ankara is undertaking at a cost of $3 billion. The new warship will dwarf even the largest ships currently serving in the Turkish fleet. The landing helicopter dock (LHD) will endow Turkey with the capability to operate in open seas and deploy sizeable force in any arena – including around the off-shore natural gas facilities that Cyprus and Israel have built in open waters. No country can afford to ignore this new capability. In its amphibious assault capacity, the LHD can deploy 1,000 soldiers and 150 vehicles – including tanks – in landing crafts from open waters. As an aircraft carrier, the warship's deck can carry 18 fighter jets of two varieties: V/STOL and STOVL, vertical and/or short takeoff and landing and short takeoff and vertical landing.
In September 2013, the new Turkish Navy commander, Bulent Bostanoglu, claimed that the perception of Turkish maritime threat is grounded on energy issues and identified defending Turkish interests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea as the Turkish Navy's "top priority." In this context, the acquisition of an LHD ship by turkey will affect the process of Israel's decision-making about how Israel exports its sea-based natural gas deposits at the Tamar and Leviathan fields.
The developers of the Israeli gas fields – American company Noble Energy and its Israeli partners Avner and Delek – signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in June 2013 with Cyprus about establishing a natural gas terminal in Vasilikos, on the southern coast of Cyprus. The MoU also raises the possibility of creating an EU market export route that would go through Greece and bypass Turkey. The development of such a potential export arrangement is the product of tripartite cooperation in the energy and security arenas of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, created after the deterioration in ties between Israel and Turkey from 2008-2012, and especially in 2010, when Turkey's National Security Policy Document, commonly known as "The Red Book", noted Israel as a threat to regional security and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged that "the eastern Mediterranean Sea will see Turkish battleships with higher frequency." A more economical route to exporting natural gas from Israel would be through an undersea pipeline from the Leviathan gas field to Turkey. According to JP Morgan, constructing such pipeline would yield a higher and quicker return on investment than the planned liquefied natural gas terminal in Cyprus. Turkish companies Zorlu Energy and more recently Turcas Petrol have already to Israel expressed their interest in the pipeline project. But Ankara's intended purchase of the LHD ship, together with its hostile political policy towards Israel, creates in Israel an a greater perceiveed threat, and therefore Jerusalem cannot afford to risk strategic ties with Nicosia and Athens. Moreover, the proposed Leviathan-Turkey pipeline would go through Cyprus' continental shelf, thus requiring approval from Nicosia. The absence of a political settlement in northern Cyprus, along with the acquisition of the aircraft carrier, also increase the perception of a Turkish threat in Nicosia, and also impact on strategic considerations. From Ankara's perspective, its strategic options are tied to its improved naval capabilities. But if these do not go hand in hand with a diplomatic process to secure energy export agreements with Israel, Cyprus and Greece, it would be a wasted opportunity. Instead, Ankara would actually initiate a maritime arms race, when Turkey itself does not have the economic resources to win. Israel, on its part, does not need to enter into an arms race with Turkey to create an effective counterbalance. For both countries, there is no benefit in being trapped in such a situation.
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. to cooperate
Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabyia
The complaining by Saudi officials over the past months seems to have paid off. The Obama administration is moving to patch up differences between the two countries. A little over a month before the one-day summit between the U.S. President and Saudi King Abdullah, there is optimism. The visit of Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef’s to Washington is setting into play a new understanding on the Syrian situation. Significantly, King Abdullah put Mohammed bin Nayef in charge of the Syrian file, a move that makes Washington policymakers relieved. Simultaneously, the Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh praised the Interior Minister’s role in “relief of Syrian people, support for their cause, alleviation of their sufferings.” This religious endorsement is extraordinarily significant.
Nayef a good fit
Nayef is perfectly suited for the Syrian portfolio. For one, he, just like Saudi Minister of the Saudi Arabian National Guard Prince Miteb, was never a supporter of interfering in Syria. The Saudi Interior Minister is well respected by the United States, and within the Kingdom, and is well liked by fellow Saudi princes and tribes. Most importantly is Nayef’s successful de-radicalization program meant to convert violent extremists to peaceful, pious individuals. The program, already successful in the kingdom, is now a foreign policy mechanism and has a militarized component. The Saudi program to organize, train, and equip moderate fighters through the Islamic Front is significant given Nayef’s expertise in de-radicalization. The future of anti-Assad fighters in the Islamic Front, and others who seek to join the rebels, will possibly be vetted and monitored for jihadist tendencies and rhetoric.
According to The Washington Post, the meetings in the U.S. capital was also attended by intelligence chiefs from Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and other countries that have been supporting the rebels. Sources said these countries agreed to coordinate their aid so that it goes directly to moderate fighters. But what Nayef is trying to do with the Americans is set the stage for a Geneva III. His new mandate opens up this possibility. And Obama wants the Saudis on board in order to achieve Syrian opposition cohesion and transfer of the Geneva talks to Damascus itself.
Dr. Theodore Karasik
His Highness also set up the agenda of the March Summit to discuss Syria but also to explain face to face the kingdom’s viewpoints on Iran, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Egypt. His argument, according to interlocutors, is that Riyadh’s actions, such as with Egyptian Field Marshal al-Sisi, are aimed at stopping the chaos that will ultimately affect America. But there are other issues at play in understanding the new stage. The Saudis, according to Arab sources, are facing a threat of the 15,000 radicalized and violent Saudis in Syria and 7,000 in Iraq. The king’s royal decree issued in early February imposing tough prison sentences (most up to dozens of years in prison) on any Saudi national who “participates in hostilities outside of the Kingdom in any way” explicitly criminalizes fighting abroad, and was aimed squarely at those sympathizing with extremist rebel groups in Syria.
In other words, the Saudi nationals are not to return home. This policy may mean that those fighting in the Levant on behalf of al-Qaeda will need to fight to the death or move elsewhere. This fact may not play well with the United States who sees the Syrian battle-space as a terrorist incubator; a point that has has been argued over and over again.
Regulate and coordinate military activity
The United States and Saudi Arabia have reportedly agreed on the need to regulate and coordinate military activity on the ground and to concentrate on key regions where the Islamic Front can seize control and negotiate peace settlements with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, one meter at a time. The two countries also see that Syrian President al-Assad is not going to capitulate anytime soon so the two countries—including other key Arab states—see summer elections occurring in Syria. In other words, the Saudis see Assad ultimately becoming the Queen of England while the prime minister, whoever that will be—most likely a Sunni—will hold real power; a scenario the Saudi’s were originally seeking in the first place. The country will become a type of confessional state and will seek to eradicate al-Qaeda completely. Clearly, America and Saudi Arabia now agree that Assad will not be deposed. In fact, the Saudi official media no longer issues bitter condemnations of the Syrian president like it did a few months ago. When the two leaders meet, it is very likely that President Obama will tell the Saudi King that the kingdom’s policies need to be renewed or Saudi Arabia will face their own troubles—a fact already well known. The American president will make clear that all previous policies of the now disgraced and rogue Prince Bandar bin Sultan will be reversed and that the U.S. will support Saudi Arabia on the Syria file within Nayef’s mandate, both publically and privately.
But what Nayef is trying to do with the Americans is set the stage for a Geneva III. His new mandate opens up this possibility. And Obama wants the Saudis on board in order to achieve Syrian opposition cohesion and transfer of the Geneva talks to Damascus itself—before the Syrian presidential elections are to be supposedly held. The process in play is stabilizing Syria jointly and internationally, finding unity and rebuilding the Syrian state in a new manner. Finally, President Obama will argue that the biggest threat is the jihadists and that American-Saudi cooperation on this issue is the most important point of all. This bi-lateral effort is now over ten years old. All of the above is to be completed in a one day summit, eye-to-eye. Overall, Nayef’s appointment speaks volumes about cleaning up the mess in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. He is now the king’s point man on Syria. The minister of the interior is supported by many friends and colleagues in the United States. The two countries seem to have found a way to agree on the Syrian file in the short term through Nayef’s visit and discussions regarding Riyadh’s regional objectives. Unlike a few weeks ago, when no plan and recklessness seemed to be the order of the day, a framework now seems to be in play that is acceptable to the Saudi leadership.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is the Director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, UAE. He is also a Lecturer at University of Wollongong Dubai. Dr. Karasik received his Ph.D in History from the University of California Los Angles.