LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Jesus
the Real Vine
John 15/01-17: " “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit. You have been made clean already by the teaching I have given you. Remain united to me, and I will remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine. In the same way you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. Those who do not remain in me are thrown out like a branch and dry up; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, where they are burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you wish, and you shall have it. My Father's glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and in this way you become my disciples. I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. And you are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. This, then, is what I command you: love one another
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For January 05/14
The Lebanese Fait accompli Cabinet loses steam/By Antoine Ghattas Saab/The Daily Star/January 05/14
A year of anxiety lies ahead/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat/January 05/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 05/14
Lebanese Related News
ISIL Claims Responsibility for Haret Hreik Bombing
March 14 commemorates Shatah's assassination
Fait accompli Cabinet loses steam
Important library in north Lebanon torched: security source
Tripoli Figures Condemn Torching Famed Library as Father Sarrouj 'Forgives
Library Owned by Father Ibrahim Sarrouj Torched in Tripoli
At Least 7 Injured in Renewed Sniper Activity in Tripoli
Majed al-Majed Dies after Deterioration of his Health
Berri, Jumblat Warn against Forming 'Neutral Cabinet'
Report: March 14 Planning Constitutional Disobedience to Confront Situation in
Six Arrested for Building Captagon-Producing Machine
Report: U.S. Backs Forming New Govt., but Rejects Steps that May Jeopardize Lebanon's Stability
Geagea: March 14 Won't Sign Constitutional Concession at Any Cost
Jumblatt stresses stability with Turkey
Al-Satem's Family Receives His Remains as Reports Say He Recruited Syria Fighters
Miscellaneous Reports And News
New Syria Rebel Alliance Declares War on Al-Qaida as Rebels Kill, Capture Scores of Jihadists
Syrians Launch New 'Revolution' against Qaida Group
Al Qaeda defeats a major Iraqi army offensive, invades Ramadi and Falluja
Iraq army shells Falluja to dislodge Qaeda, tribes
Fallujah Outside Iraq Government Control
NATO Soldier Killed in Afghan Multiple Suicide Attack
Egypt Summons Qatar Envoy amid Row over Brotherhood
Egypt Vows "Full Force" against Brotherhood
Thirteen Egyptian protesters killed in clashes with police
Kerry on Third Day of Mideast Shuttle
Kerry Says Some Peace Issues 'Resolved' in Mideast Talks, to Visit KSA Sunday
Israeli Ex-PM Sharon's Condition Unchanged
Israel Denies Killing Buenos Aires Bombers
U.S. Condemns 'Barbarism' by Qaida Fighters in Iraq
Majed al-Majed Dies after
Deterioration of his Health
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/The army announced on Saturday the death of Majed al-Majed, the “emir” of the al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, after the deterioration of his health. The Army Command said in a statement that he died while he was being treated at the central military hospital. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr later told al-Jadeed television that Majed was in a coma before his death, adding that he tasked a forensic pathologist to examine his corpse. Majed was suffering from kidney problems, said Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) earlier on Saturday. The suspect was being held at Baabda military hospital since his recent arrest due to his “poor health,” reported Agence France Presse on Friday. He was suffering from kidney failure and required daily dialysis. Majed is the suspected head of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which claimed responsibility for the November 19 attack against the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing 25 people. According to Islamist websites, Majed was revealed to be the leader of the Brigades in 2012. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades group was designated in the United States in 2012 as a "terrorist organization". It was formed in 2009 and is believed to have branches in both the Arabian Peninsula and Lebanon.In 2009, Lebanon sentenced Majed in absentia to life in prison for belonging to a different extremist group, the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah al-Islam.
The Lebanese Fait accompli Cabinet
January 04, 2014/By Antoine Ghattas Saab The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The option of forming a fait accompli government Cabinet looks to have lost momentum following Thursday’s blast in Beirut’s southern suburb of Haret Hreik and in light of warnings issued from key groups, political sources told The Daily Star Friday.
Both Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai expressed reservations over the exclusion of any group from the new government.
According to sources close to President Michel Sleiman, he and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam are unlikely to announce a new government within the coming days and will hold off for now to give a new opportunity for a national unity government.
Sleiman has insisted on the formation of a new government before he leaves office on May 25.
The sources went on to say that the nature of the government would not be known until Sleiman, who is on a private holiday abroad, returns to Beirut Saturday and evaluates the overall situation with Salam and others, including Rai. Rai has urged Sleiman to ensure that the election for the next head of state takes place on time. The sources also spoke of the prominent role played by Jumblatt in terms of bringing opposing views together to agree on a compromise formula that will take into consideration the demands and conditions of rival parties, keeping in mind that he is proposing several formulas regarding the makeup of the Cabinet and its policy statement. There is a movement among political mediators on reducing conditions set forth by both parties regarding the formation of a Cabinet; otherwise a neutral government would remain the lesser of two evils, the same sources added.
A formula had been outlined by Speaker Nabih Berri in coordination with some political powers, including Jumblatt, but it has been rejected by March 14.
Berri has joined Hezbollah in warning against forming a neutral, nonpartisan Cabinet, saying such a government would be toppled by a no-confidence vote in Parliament.
According to Salam, rival political factions still have some chance to agree on the formation of a transitional Cabinet that would pave the way for the presidential election.
“The new Cabinet will be transitional because it will pave the way for the presidential election and will change after the election. Probably, its role will be to facilitate a consensus on the election of a new president,” Salam told As-Safir newspaper in remarks published Friday.
“Therefore, we will give the political parties some chance to agree on the formation of a Cabinet that can pull the country out of the current predicament,” he said. He added that taking more time to form a new Cabinet was harmful for the country. He also met with United Nations Special Coordinator to Lebanon Derek Plumbly Friday, and the two discussed the latest developments in Lebanon and the region.
Salam, who was appointed premier-designate on April 6, said he was waiting for the return of Sleiman to discuss with him the shape of the next Cabinet.
Salam’s attempts to form a new Cabinet have been stymied by conflicting conditions set out by the March 8 and March 14 parties over the role and shape of the government.
Given the nine-month stalemate, Sleiman was reported to have agreed with Salam to seek the formation of a neutral Cabinet before Jan. 25.
The move is likely to throw the country into further turmoil after the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition has warned against such a government. Hezbollah and its allies have demanded a 9-9-6 Cabinet formula representing all the political parties as a way out of the deadlock. Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad said Friday that a neutral, nonpartisan government would result in more tensions and expose Lebanon’s security.
“A fait accompli or neutral Cabinet will open the doors to more security and political exposure and open the doors to additional tensions,” he said in a televised comment.
“How can [a Cabinet] be neutral if its head is a March 14-affiliate,” Fayyad added.
He also said there should be no boycotting of the Cabinet and no delay in the presidential polls, adding that political differences should be dealt with through the democratic process of forming a government and addressing pending issues. He said nothing could justify turning the dispute of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria into the boycotting of the Cabinet.
Future MP Ahmad Fatfat, for his part, emphasized that Lebanon was in dire need of a Cabinet as further delay would harm the country. “The terrorist explosions need to hasten the formation of a Cabinet since the country’s security has become exposed,” he said. Also Friday, head of the Future bloc Fouad Siniora met with American Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale, in the presence of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s advisers, and discussed the latest developments in Lebanon and the region. No statements were issued after the meeting.
Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, the deputy chairman of Hezbollah’s executive council, called Friday for the formation of a unity government that takes into account “effective partnership” at the height of political tension, and not a government of provocation and division. Echoing Fayyad’s comments, Qaouq said a neutral government could not be formed if it was headed by a March 14 political figure. Qaouq was speaking at a dinner held in honor of Hussein Moussa Barakat, who was killed in fighting in Syria’s Deir al-Zor city of Husseinieh. “ Lebanon today is at a crossroads. A Cabinet can either take it toward the path of security and stability and fortify national unity, or toward a path filled with mines,” Qaouq warned, stressing the need to agree on a national unity government that does not exclude or provoke any party.
He said that the March 14 coalition was aiming to form a government that would exclude Hezbollah, and that “the reason behind the obstruction has become clear.”
For his part, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that in terms of the presidential election, it was necessary to wait for the constitutional period, which begins on March 25. Mikati noted the impediment in forming a new Cabinet, adding that “every party is hanging on to its own judgment, and is not looking at the situation realistically.” The prime minister cited the dangers facing the country and the need to find a solution rather than impose conditions and excluding the other.
March 14 commemorates Shatah's
January 04, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition commemorated seven days on the assassination of former Minister Mohammad Shatah Saturday, vowing once again to “liberate” Lebanon from Hezbollah’s control by arms. Shatah, senior aide of former PM Saad Hariri, was killed in a car bomb on Dec. 27 in Downtown Beirut along with seven others including a 16-year-old boy. The explosion also wounded dozens.
Former PM Fouad Siniora, head of the Future bloc, along with March 14 figures and Shatah’s family attended the memorial where the veteran was laid to rest last week at the mausoleum of former PM Rafik Hariri in Martyrs’ Square. During the memorial, Future Movement's secretary-general Ahmad Hariri said the March 14 group would remain firm in the face of “illegitimate arms,” in a clear reference to Hezbollah who the coalition blamed for Shatah’s killing. “We prefer to be killed a thousand times by their weapons rather than carry our own [arms] against the state,” Hariri said. “We will not surrender but we will protect Lebanon from the destruction of arms. We will face the culture of death with our love for life and remain the righteous crowd that eliminates strife through awareness and wisdom,” he added. “We will instead be armed with the ideas of state-building and the strength of justice to liberate Lebanon from the known and exposed threat of illegitimate arms,” Hariri said. Hariri also spoke about the so-called “Cedar Revolution” in 2005 when thousands of people led by figures of the now- March 14 coalition took to the streets demanding the withdrawal of the Syrian Army from Lebanon, saying the group would remain committed to “the peaceful resistance.”
“Those who never gave in to the [Syrian] occupation or tutelage will never give in to the occupation of arms,” he said. “The Lebanese who filled the arenas in 2005 have got enough courage to protect their freedom ... Neither you nor your weapons will kill this freedom or oppress it,” Hariri added. “For nine years, we have been resisting peacefully and politically, and today, the killers will not be victorious as long as we insist on this peaceful resistance [...] that exposed those weapons murdering Lebanese and Syrians alike,” he said. The Future Movement and its allies in the March 14 group staunchly oppose Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, saying the resistance group’s presence there was a danger to Lebanon, and setting their withdrawal as a condition for forming a national unity government.
Berri, Jumblat Warn against Forming 'Neutral Cabinet'
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat stressed the importance of forming a “consensual government” in order to avert any political conflicts, reported various media outlets on Saturday. The two officials have warned against the formation of a neutral cabinet, “which will have catastrophic repercussions on Lebanon,” As Safir newspaper quoted Jumblat as telling Suleiman during a meeting earlier this week. Such a cabinet will have catastrophic results on the presidency and Taef accord, cautioned the MP. For his part, Berri reiterated his stance that a consensual government will help stage the presidential elections. He added that a government that lacks parliament's confidence cannot hold the elections. Jumblat advocates the formation of a cabinet that consists of nine ministers to each of the rival March 8 and 14 camp and six to centrists. Suleiman had previously suggested the formation of a cabinet capable of staging the presidential elections even if it lacks parliament's confidence.
The proposal was rejected by the March 8 camp that deemed it as unconstitutional. Suleiman's six-year term ends in May, but there are fears that the differences between the March 8 and 14 camps would lead to a vacuum in the country's top post.
Important library in north Lebanon
torched: security source
Agence France-Presse/Posted at 01/04/2014 /TRIPOLI - A decades-old library owned by a Greek Orthodox priest in north Lebanon's majority Sunni city of Tripoli was torched late Friday, a day after a sectarian scuffle, a security source said. "Unknown assailants torched the Saeh Library in Tripoli, destroying two thirds of some 80,000 books and manuscripts housed there," said the source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. Civil defence teams were deployed to put out the fire, "but there are fears that more books were damaged by the water used to try and put out the flames," he added. The attack came a day after "a pamphlet was discovered inside one of the books at the library that was insulting to Islam and the prophet Mohammad," said the source. "After that, the library owner, Father Ibrahim Surouj, met with Islamic leaders in Tripoli. It became clear the priest had nothing to do with the pamphlet, and a demonstration that had been planned in protest over the incident was called off," said the source. "Then on Friday night, the library was torched," he added. The library is located in the historic heart of Tripoli, Lebanon's second city and scene of frequent Syria-related violence pitting Sunnis against members of the minority Alawite community, to which Syria's President Bashar al-Assad belongs. Sectarian violence involving the city's Christians has been extremely rare in recent years. But Friday's incident comes amid a backdrop of growing religious radicalism in Lebanon related to the war in neighbouring Syria.© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse
Library Owned by Father Ibrahim
Sarrouj Torched in Tripoli
Naharnet Newsdesk 03 January 2014/..Unknown assailants on Friday set fire to a famous library owned by Father Ibrahim Sarrouj in the northern city of Tripoli. “Firemen are trying to extinguish the blaze that erupted in Father Ibrahim Sarrouj's library in Tripoli's al-Rahbat street,” LBCI television reported. The torching of the al-Saeh Library comes after reports that claimed the father had published a book deemed insulting to Islam. Bashir Hazzouri, an employee at the library, was shot and wounded on Thursday in the old souks of Tripoli. Al-Saeh Library is considered one of the most renowned libraries in Tripoli and the second largest in Lebanon.
Sarrouj says the library contains more than 70,000 books.
Tripoli Figures Condemn Torching Famed
Library as Father Sarrouj 'Forgives Attackers'
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/..Several northern leaders condemned on Saturday the torching of Father Ibrahim Sarrouj's historical library in the northern city of Tripoli, considering that this act does not conform to the teachings of Islam. Hundreds of civil society members also took to the streets of Tripoli to protest the torching of a decades-old library owned by the Greek Orthodox priest. The demonstrators held up banners that read "Tripoli, peaceful town" and "This is contrary to the values of the Prophet," in reference to the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. Meanwhile, Father Sarrouj announced that he "forgives those that burned down the library.""I pray for God to protect Tripoli,” OTV quoted him as saying. LBCI television revealed that two people were behind setting the library on fire, and that security bodies were able to identify them. "They will be detained by Sunday,” it added.The torching of the al-Saeh Library came after reports claimed that the father had published an article deemed insulting to Islam.
However, Internal Security Forces commander in Tripoli General Bassam al-Ayoubi announced at a press conference that Sarrouj has “absolutely no links to the published article.”
"The perpetrators will be penalized,” al-Ayoubi assured. Sarrouj and other northern figures were also present at the press conference. Tripoli Salafist cleric Sheikh Salem al-Rafei stressed that “Islam denounces any unjust act against anyone.”He noted: “Some groups want to incite sedition between Muslims and Christians in Tripoli.” "Christians have never migrated from the city and this will not change. We will keep living side-by-side.” Meanwhile, northern MP Robert Fadel stated that Tripoli will always remain a city of religious coexistence, adding that “no local or regional problems will change this reality.”
He continued: “Security forces know the suspects behind the attack and we demand arresting him as this is the only way to deal with this incident.”Mufti of Tripoli and the North Sheikh Malek al-Shaar offered his consolation to Father Sarrouj. “This cannot happen and these acts that incite strife must be stopped,” he said addressing security forces.
He added: “Security forces must disclose the names of the attackers behind this awful crime as well as their political and religious affiliation until they get the punish they deserve.”
Al-Shaar also insisted that the torching of the library “does not conform to Islam.”“To Christians I say that this attack is not against them and we are ready to embrace them.”
Earlier in the day, former ISF chief Ashrad Rifi assured that Tripoli “will bear the responsibility of rebuilding the library.” "We insist that Father Sarrouj and his library must be present in the city to protect our heritage and religious coexistence,” he said. He remarked that the library was not entirely burned, saying that, nevertheless, the “loss is huge.”Rifi explained that the study that tackles Islam and Prophet Mohammed, and which was rumored to have been written by Sarrouj was actually prepared by a non-Lebanon national called Ahmed al-Qadi. "It has no links to Sarrouj,” he revealed. "Sarrouj is a cleric that lived his entire life in Tripoli, communicating with all its residents and his writings prove his respect to religious values, dialogue, and religious coexistence.” Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati also condemned the incident, stating his rejection to “any offenses and reactions against Tripoli and its residents.”Former premier Fouad Saniora considered burning the library a “suspicious crime.”
"Those behind the attack are serving the enemies of Lebanon and distorting the image of Tripoli by portraying it as a city of extremists.” The Orthodox Archdiocese in Tripoli and Koura considered that “agents of sedition that have been extending to Tripoli were able to fabricate lies and accusations and blame an article on Father Sarrouj, although he has nothing to do with.”"We urge concerned authorities to conduct a transparent probe to unveil the perpetrators, try them and penalize them,” a released statement said. "They need to become aware of the fact that attacking the city and subjecting it to dangers is a crime and that they will never achieve their goal.” The Archdiocese expressed also that this is an attack on “culture, wisdom and on humans.” "It reminds us of the torching of the libraries of Baghdad and Alexandria and of what followed afterward like ignorance and degeneration,” the statement said.
A meeting for the March-14 affiliated Tripoli Declaration committee was held in al-Mustaqbal MP Mohammed Kabbara's northern house to tackle this issue. “March 14 condemns and deplores the attack that only signals the immoral character of the perpetrators,” Kabbara said after the talks, stressing that March 14 forces “insist on religious coexistence in Tripoli.”He added: “It is security's forces' duty to unveil the attackers and the instigators and punish those that were negligent in protecting people's properties.”Kabbara said that “nothing stands in the way of implementing the Tripoli Declaration.”“We all stress on the necessity to end the spread of weapons because this has become a must to protect religious coexistence.”March 14 forces general-secretariat coordinator Fares Souaid also highlighted the the importance of religious coexistence in Tripoli. “We are Lebanese people against any Christian, Sunni and Shiite extremism,” he said. Caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami “strongly” deplored torching the library, accusing political leaders, the educated and the social elite and the silent majority of accepting to transform Tripoli into a “refuge for outlaws.” Addressing Sarrouj, he said: “Do not ask for someone's permission, for a permit of stay, or for fake security measures. You are from the city and your presence is a priority.”Friday evening's attack left the shelves and walls of the library charred. Bashir Hazzouri, an employee at the library, was shot and wounded on Thursday in the old souks of Tripoli.
Al-Saeh Library is considered one of the most renowned libraries in Tripoli and the second largest in Lebanon.Sarrouj says the library contains more than 80,000 books.
ISIL Claims Responsibility for Haret
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/The al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on Saturday claimed credit for the deadly bombing in the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik. ISIL managed to penetrate the "security system of the Party of Satan (Hizbullah)... and crush its strongholds... in a first small payment from the heavy account that is awaiting those wicked criminals," according to a statement obtained by U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group. The statement was published on the ISIL-affiliated Itissam Foundation's account on the social networking website Twitter Four people died and another 77 were wounded by a suicide car bomb in Haret Hreik on Thursday. It was the latest strike against the party, whose fighters are aiding Syrian President Bashar Assad. The army said Saturday that a young man from the North was the bomber who blew himself up. "The DNA test results on the remains of a suicide attacker found in the car used in the bomb attack... confirm they belong to the youth Qutaiba al-Satem," said the army. "Investigations are ongoing by the relevant judicial authorities to uncover the full details of the event," it added. An official from Satem's native area of Wadi Khaled told Agence France Presse on Friday suspicions over the 20-year-old's role were based on a family document found at the scene of the blast. Satem's father was then called in for DNA tests. Source/Agence France Presse
Geagea: March 14 Won't Sign
Constitutional Concession at Any Cost
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed that political assassinations will fail in coercing the March 14 camp to back down from its positions on dialogue and the formation of a new government, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Saturday. He told the daily: “We will not sign any constitutional concession regardless of the cost.” “We will not provide cover to any government that includes Hizbullah and that will place Lebanon in a confrontation with the Arab and international communities,” he added. “We will only accept dialogue when the party announces a schedule to its handing over of its arms to the state,” continued Geagea. “We will not allow the return of civil or the return of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon,” stressed the LF chief. Moreover, he said that a “political camp in crisis would resort to killing and the elimination of the other.”
Geagea had held talks on Friday with a March 14 delegation on the latest developments in Lebanon. The delegation announced after the talks that the period after the assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah will be nothing like the period that preceded it. On December 27, Shatah, his bodyguard Tareq Bader and six other people were killed in a powerful car bombing in the Starco area in downtown Beirut.
The March 14 camp blamed the attack on Hizbullah and the Syrian regime. Both parties have dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.
Report: March 14 Planning Constitutional Disobedience to Confront Situation in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/The March 14 forces are preparing for a political and diplomatic campaign to confront the current situation in Lebanon, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Saturday. It said that this campaign will pave the way for their announcement of “constitutional disobedience.” To that end, they will contact the majority of foreign ambassadors in Lebanon, especially those of major nations, in order to explain their positions on the developments in the country that are linking it to the situation in the region. This will include Hizbullah's involvement in Syria, which is creating a “critical and dangerous security situation” in Lebanon that was embodied in the assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah and Thursday's bombing in Haret Hreik, reported al-Joumhouria. Shatah was assassinated in a major car bombing in downtown Beirut on December 27. Seven other people were killed in the blast. On Thursday, killed four people were killed and at least 70 wounded in an explosion in the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik. The Lebanese army intelligence believes a young man from the north of the country may have detonated himself in the attack.
Report: U.S. Backs Forming New Govt.,
but Rejects Steps that May Jeopardize Lebanon's Stability
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/The United States supports the formation of a new government in Lebanon, but it also sets as a priority the preservation of stability in Lebanon, As Safir newspaper on Saturday.
It also opposes any measure that may jeopardize Lebanon's stability, U.S. Ambassador David Hale told President Michel Suleiman during a meeting they held away from the media spotlight between Christmas and New Year's eve. He warned that such as measure may lead to Hizbullah seizing control over the whole of Lebanon. In a related development, An Nahar daily reported on Saturday that Suleiman, in agreement with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, had decided to “give a new chance to the formation of an all-embracing cabinet.” Sources monitoring the government consultations told the daily that Suleiman's envoy Khalil al-Hrawi relayed the president's position to head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora on Thursday and to the political aide of Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hussein Khalil. For his part, Salam had held talks with Saniora to this end on Thursday. Salam had also discussed the government formation efforts with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Friday. The sources revealed that the president and PM-designate are urging all political powers to abandon the conditions and counter-conditions they are placing on the formation of a cabinet. Jumblat is playing a major role to this end, they told An Nahar. The March 14 camp has been demanding that a new government should not include Hizbullah members. Jumblat and the Hizbullah-led March 8 camp have meanwhile warned against the formation of a “de facto” cabinet, suggesting instead the formation of a national government that grants nine ministers to each of the March 8 and 14 forces and six to centrists.
Six Arrested for Building Captagon-Producing Machine
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/..The anti-drug bureau in the Bekaa arrested on Thursday four Lebanese and two Syrians on drug dealing charges, reported the National News Agency on Saturday. It said that the security forces arrested in their possession an electrical captagon pill-producing machine. The machine was previously used as a candy-producing machine. The suspects were arrested during a raid on a farm in the northern Bekaa town of Younin and a garage in the Baalbek-al-Kiel region. Due to its small size and ease of transportation, the captagon-producing machine would have been difficult to detect. The security forces also confiscated 300 liters of amphetamines, the main component of captagon. The cost of a liter sells for 2,500 dollars, added NNA. Other assorted equipment used for the production of captagon pills were also discovered along with 10 kilograms of locally-produced cannabis and 50,000 packaged pills. NNA added that the drugs were going to be smuggled to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Kerry on Third Day of Mideast Shuttle
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was Saturday seeking to brush aside bitter recriminations and push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on a third day of shuttle diplomacy.
After five months of mostly sticking to a deal not to air their grievances in public, the mutual distrust between the sides has burst into the open with the top U.S. diplomat's 10th trip back to Israel.
And U.S. officials acknowledged that agreement on a framework to guide the negotiations forward would not be reached on this trip, but would need more time.
Palestinians protested against Kerry as he met Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank for six hours late on Friday. About 100 people from the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) waved Palestinian and red flags in Ramallah's central square after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Abbas and the Palestinians of not being committed to peace.
But Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Kerry as telling American students on Friday that he was still hopeful. "I am a believer in the possibility... we could achieve something," Haaretz quoted him as telling students in an impromptu appearance at his Jerusalem hotel. "But it will be very, very difficult." One student was quoted as saying that Kerry explained he was "wading through a volatile cocktail of issues".
Kerry reportedly added that "the U.S. is working with a lot of goodwill, and 'both leaders recognize the consequences of failure'." The direct negotiations had been frozen for almost three years, but after intense diplomacy by Kerry the two sides agreed to resume talks in July. Kerry himself came under fire from veteran U.S. Senator John McCain who is also on a visit to Israel.
McCain said he shared Netanyahu's serious concerns about the emerging framework to guide the negotiations into the next phase towards a peace treaty. "Netanyahu has serious, serious concerns about the plan as has been presented to him, whether it be on the ability of Israel to defend its borders or the reliability of a Palestinian state and their intentions," McCain said in Jerusalem after meeting the premier. Top Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo was also unenthusiastic about the proposed framework accord, saying Thursday it "limits Palestinian sovereignty" on the West Bank. Kerry was to meet Abbas again in Ramallah, and then later Saturday with Netanyahu, with whom he has already held eight hours of talks. The Israeli leader set the tone when he launched a scathing attack on Abbas at the start of Kerry's visit.
Addressing Kerry, he said: "I know that you're committed to peace, I know that I'm committed to peace. But unfortunately given the actions and words of Palestinian leaders, there's growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace."Referring to Israel's release of long-serving Palestinian prisoners as part of the talks, Netanyahu said Abbas had "embraced terrorists as heroes", calling such glorification "an outrage".
U.S. officials have refused to release any details about the framework, but hope to conclude it soon.
It has also not yet been decided whether the document will be made public, but it is unlikely to be signed by both sides.
Kerry stressed the framework was building on ideas from both sides over five months of talks, and would set out the agreements and disagreements on the core issues.
These include the contours of a future Palestinian state, refugees, the fate of Jerusalem, security, "mutual recognition and the end of conflict and of all claims", said Kerry.
The Palestinians want borders based on the 1967 lines of before the Six-Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank, including now annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
But Israel wants to retain existing settlements it has built inside occupied Palestinian territory since then. Israel also wants to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan.
The Palestinians have insisted there be no Israeli troops in their future state, but are open to the idea of an international force to guarantee security.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Israeli Ex-PM Sharon's Condition Unchanged
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 January 2014/The condition of Israeli former prime minister Ariel Sharon, described Friday as in a "slow, gradual" decline after eight years in a coma, was unchanged Saturday, public radio said.
"At this time we cannot report any change in the condition of former prime minister Ariel Sharon," the station reported from Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv. Sharon is reportedly nearing death, with the 85-year-old's health worsening Wednesday as he suffered serious kidney problems after surgery. "Tests show a slow, gradual deterioration in the functioning of his vital organs... His state has not changed. He's still in critical condition, and his life is in danger," Tel Hashomer hospital director Zeev Rotstein was quoted by public radio as saying Friday in the last official bulletin on his condition before the Jewish sabbath. "I don't think the situation will improve with time, and we know what usually happens in cases like this," he added, suggesting that Sharon might die soon. Rotstein said there were traces of infection in Sharon's blood, and that it had not been possible for him to undergo renal dialysis since his other organs were in such a fragile state. News website Ynet quoted medical sources Wednesday as saying Sharon was taken into intensive care a month ago. His health then stabilized but suffered a "significant deterioration" over the past few days. The long-time leader of the right-wing nationalist camp in Israeli politics suffered a massive stroke on January 4, 2006, slipping into a coma from which he has never recovered.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Al Qaeda defeats a major Iraqi army offensive, invades Ramadi and Falluja
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 3, 2014/Al Qaeda’s most
significant victory in the Syrian war was achieved this week in the Iraqi arena.
Its Iraq and Syrian branch (ISIS), under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,
resoundingly defeated the Iraqi army which two weeks ago launched a major
offensive to relieve the country of the jihadist grip. Baghdadi’s troops were
able to throw back the Iraqi army’s crack 7th and 1st divisions and keep going
to capture large sections of Ramadi and Falluja, the key Sunni cities of western
and central Iraq.
This victory enabled ISIS to forge a territorial chain of control stretching from Ramadi in central in Iraq, 110 km west of Baghdad, all the way to the northern Syrian town of Al-Raqqah, 160 km from Aleppo.
It also brought the Iraqi military offensive to a standstill. Soldiers downed arms and fled and units still intact started falling back toward Baghdad, dumping their heavy weapons to hasten their retreat.
debkafile’s military sources report that Al Qaeda owes much of its victory to the decision of the Sunni tribes of western Iraq to join and spearhead its counter-attack on Iraqi forces. After smashing whole Iraqi units in the two cities, these tribal militias opened the door for the ISIS jihadists to march in.
Ironically, the tribal militias backing al Qaeda are the same “Awakening” groups which the US army sustained and armed for the battle to root out Al Qaeda from western Iraq during the 2005-2007 landmark “surge” campaign devised by Gen. David Petraeus.
That surge wheel has clearly turned round in favor of al Qaeda. Iraq’s military downfall is the worst it has suffered since the US invasion of the country in 2003 and al Qaeda’s greatest Middle East battlefield triumph, following which its commander Al-Baghdadi has vowed to proclaim the first Middle East caliphate stretching between western Iraq and eastern Syria.
This development has many critical ramifications:
1. There is no military force in the region capable of going into Iraq and stopping al Qaeda’s advance, which was allowed to happen in consequence of the US army’s precipitate exit from the country three years ago.
2. Al Qaeda’s fortunes in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula have received a major boost. The Sinai affiliates in particular are in close touch with Al Baghdadi.
3. The hook-up between them exacerbates the terrorist threat hanging over Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
4. The Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, has acquired strategic depth in Iraq. Its leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani (Golani) is expected to announce that his movement will join the new Islamist state.
5. A merger of the Iraqi and Syrian al Qaeda branches could draw in a host of sympathetic Middle East Islamist groups.
6. The ISIS victory in Iraq represents a humiliating setback for Tehran, which heavily backed the Iraqi army offensive led by its pro-Iranian prime minister Nouri al-Maliki for cleansing the country of the violent Al Qaeda presence.
7. The US, by its decision to send weapons to the Iraqi army for its engagement with al Qaeda, was shown to have backed the losing side.
8. The Iraqi army used up all its reserves for this offensive. Its only remaining option now is to fall back to Baghdad and regroup for the defense of the capital.
9. For Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Hizballah ally, Hassan Nasrallah, the Iraqi military debacle was the worst possible news. It struck them at the tipping moment of the Syrian war. Just as they gained the advantage over the rebel movement, they were confronted with a fresh war arena against al Qaeda now invigorated by its Iraq victory.
A year of anxiety lies ahead
By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat
As the year 2014 begins, the Arab world finds itself in a
worrisome situation. The Syrian crisis, which in less than three months will
enter its third year, has exposed many international agendas, a fact only the
obstinate, prejudiced or stupid would deny. The Mashreq in particular is facing
a future where anything can happen.
In both the Levant and the Arab Gulf, fear and anger, along with deep-seated resentments and a growing sense of injustice, are now being fed by regional aspirations. Furthermore, the lack of a sense of responsibility and moral scruples in the international community has allowed the popular uprising in Syria to turn into a “global war on terror,” as was the desire of the new Russian “Tsar” and his Chinese partner, with Beijing sharing Moscow’s relentless bid to end the unipolar world the United States has enjoyed since it emerged victorious from the Cold War.
The US, in turn, appears to have grown tired of the burdens of its unipolar status, convincing itself that it is no longer qualified to shoulder this task. Thus it has chosen to resign its duties and abandon its spheres of influence for others to fill. Is it possible to change this stance? Well, only American voters, through the ballot box, can do that. If and when they realize that the US is being weak or negligent, they could withdraw their confidence from the administration of President Barack Obama in the forthcoming midterm elections.
This, in fact, is what they did at the height of the Cold War, when the American voters perceived President Jimmy Carter as a weak leader, dismissing his idealism as mere naiveté. Despite Carter being, in my opinion, a far better and nobler human being and politician than Ronald Reagan was, his misreading of the status quo led to his bitter defeat by the Republican Party’s hawks. Subsequently, as we all know, the Republican Party managed within a short time to end the Soviet Union, having forced Moscow to exceed its capabilities in the nuclear arms race. The Reagan administration restrained and exhausted the Soviet Union with several regional wars, until an unwise Mikhail Gorbachev emerged as the General Secretary of the then-aging Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev unconditionally surrendered to Reagan’s coercive policies, thus overseeing the collapse of the Soviet state he had claimed to be striving to revive.
In Washington today, there is a new version of Carter. His name is Barack Obama.
Two factors helped Obama win a second presidential term. First was the Americans’ fear that the severe economic and financial crisis might do away with the social and medical care “safety net.” Second was that the Republican Party pursued an extremist ideological line after the far-right Tea Party managed to impose its agenda on a large sector within the party.
Add to these factors Americans’ weariness of former president George W. Bush’s aggressive foreign policy, and Obama became convinced of the necessity to turn to domestic politics and abandon any active role abroad. As a result, the Arab Mashreq is now paying a high price for Obama’s much-trumpeted “principled” and “humanitarian” policies, which, as the regional events unfolded, have proven to be neither of these things.
In his famous speech in Cairo in early 2009, Obama adopted the highly promising “new beginning” slogan. Those who were listening delusively believed that his idealism and rich political culture would enable the newly elected president to adopt an approach that would deal with the roots and causes of the problems afflicting the Arab and Muslim worlds. However, Obama failed at the first obstacle when he was confronted—and indeed humiliated—by the uncompromising Israeli position on the settlements in the West Bank.
From then on, Obama’s foreign policy began to flounder until it completely collapsed with the deal the US struck with Iran, without the knowledge of Washington’s Arab allies. The deal, which followed months of secret negotiations, most likely included colluding with Moscow on the Syrian crisis. According to reliable figures, more than 220,000 Syrians are now dead or missing and ten million have become internal or external refugees. In 2013 alone, the agreed death toll in Syria hit the 60,000 mark.
With the countdown to the “Geneva II” peace talks on Syria under way, Washington has ignored the scorched-earth policy increasingly pursued by the Syrian government. The White House has also remained silent about Moscow’s frequent calls to shift the focus of Geneva II from implementing a peaceful power transfer in Syria to “fighting terrorism.”
What is more sinister still is that Washington has turned a blind eye to Iran’s direct involvement in the war in Syria via 25 Shi’ite militias from around the world, the most prominent of which are the Lebanese Hezbollah and 15 Iraqi militias, such as the Abu Fadl Al-Abbas Brigade and Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, not to mention other Yemeni, Afghan and Pakistani factions.
Last but not least, there have been several reports of former and current US and Israeli officials saying publicly that they would rather see President Bashar Al-Assad remain in power than allow fundamentalist and jihadist groups to take over Syria.
Personally, I do not think any Syrian, Arab or Muslim will accept Assad being allowed to stay in power amid the dead bodies of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, as well as the rubble of the country. And I presume such a decision will sooner or later lead to the emergence of a disparate and extremist environment that will only serve as an “incubator” of terrorism, and eventually lead to the partition and fragmentation of the region.
What is happening in Syria, coinciding with the return of the criminal spate of political assassinations in Lebanon and the overt sectarian practices of Iraq’s rulers—who were helped into power by Washington—proves that the borders of the Mashreq, drawn in 1920, are now shaking and rapidly fading away.
A redrawing of the borders would mean that the region would be either divided under a joint Iranian–Israeli mandate or subdivided along sectarian and ethnic lines amid much pain and suffering.
All this because the Obama administration cannot or does not want to differentiate between being an aggressive world-leading power and a responsible one.
**Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with the newspaper since 1978.
Canadian MP Maurice Vellacott speaks
out on needed changes to Canada's prostitution laws
For Immediate Release January 3, 2014
OTTAWA - MP Maurice Vellacott would like to see the elimination of all forms of sexual exploitation in Canada. Vellacott supports a Canadian adaptation of the Nordic model of law and policy on prostitution.
Changing the law so that it criminalizes the purchase of sexual services will help change attitudes about prostitution, and indicate that in Canada we will not tolerate or condone sexual exploitation.
Vellacott says, "We need to adapt law and policies that have proven successful elsewhere to work within Canada's constitutional requirements."
Vellacott recommends that we criminalize the purchase and attempted purchase of sex.
Vellacott believes we should maintain prohibitions against profiting from sexual exploitation.
Vellacott sees it necessary to amend our Canadian laws so that we don't treat as criminal the individuals who are being prostituted, but rather invest in exit programs and support for prostituted persons.
"Obviously an extensive public awareness campaign would have to accompany such a change in the law," says Vellacott.
The Nordic model, first enacted in Sweden in 1999, recognizes that the vast majority of prostituted persons are not prostituting willingly. The Nordic model focuses on eliminating the demand for purchase of sexual services in an effort to abolish prostitution.
Vellacott points out that in Sweden, by criminalizing the buyers, pimps and traffickers, the rates of prostitution and sex trafficking have been significantly reduced. Norway and Iceland have successfully taken the same approach.
As a result of the 10 year experience of the Nordic model, countries like the Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand are rethinking their approach of legalization, decriminalization and efforts at regulation. Countries like Israel, Ireland and Scotland are taking steps toward laws targeting the purchase of sex. Recently, France's Parliament voted in favour of proceeding with legislation that would impose strict fines on individuals who purchase or attempt to purchase sexual services.
Vellacott says, "We need to shift the focus of our laws toward those who exploit. There is no justice served by further victimizing individuals who have been abused and marginalized. Prostitution is a form of violence, abuse and control of vulnerable women, children and men."
Vellacott noted, "Currently in Canada, prostitution itself is legal, but virtually all activities surrounding it are not. There's something terribly incoherent about such an approach."
Vellacott concluded, "Our laws and policies in this area are badly in need of change!"
- 30 -
For further comment, call (613) 992-1966 or (613) 297-2249