LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Witnesses
Sirach 05/ Don't rely on money to make you independent. Don't think you have to have everything you want, and then spend your energy trying to get it. Don't think that no one can exercise authority over you; if you do, the Lord is certain to punish you. Don't think that you can sin and get away with it; the Lord does not mind waiting to punish you. Don't be so certain of the Lord's forgiveness that you go on committing one sin after another. Don't think that his mercy is so great that he will forgive your sins no matter how many they are. He does show mercy, but he also shows his furious anger with sinners. Come back to the Lord quickly. Don't think that you can keep putting it off. His anger can come upon you suddenly, and you will die under his punishment. 8Don't rely on dishonest wealth; it will do you no good on that day of disaster.
Sincerity and Self-control
Be certain about what you believe and consistent in what you say. Don't try to please everyone or agree with everything people say. Always be ready to listen, but take your time in answering. Answer only if you know what to say, and if you don't know what to say, keep quiet. Speaking can bring you either honor or disgrace; what you say can ruin you. Don't get a reputation for being a gossip, and don't tell tales that will hurt people. Just as robbers will suffer disgrace, so liars will suffer severe condemnation. Do nothing destructive, whether it seems insignificant or not,
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For January 13/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 13/14
Lebanese Related News
STL: Wheels of justice turn
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Pope Names 19 New Cardinals
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/Pope Francis on Sunday named 19 new cardinals, 16 of whom will hold voting rights in the conclave that elects the pontiff. The 16 new cardinals under the age of 80 -- who can vote in the conclave -- include four Italians, two from other European countries, five from South America, one North American, two Africans and two Asians. With the geographical division of his first batch of cardinals, the pope appeared to place a greater emphasis on what he terms the "periphery" of the Roman Catholic Church at the expense of the center. The cardinals will be officially appointed on February 22, bringing the conclave up to 122 members. The pope also baptized in the Sistine Chapel 32 children including one from a single mother. Source/Agence France Presse.
Zarif Arrives in Beirut, Says Iranian
Team to Probe Details of Bir Hassan Attack
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday announced that an Iranian judicial delegation would visit Beirut soon to probe the details and circumstances of the twin bombing that targeted the Iranian embassy in Bir Hassan. The announcement comes after the death at the military hospital of Majed al-Majed, the Saudi chief of the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the alleged mastermind of the deadly attack. “We congratulate the Lebanese government on the major achievement of arresting the terrorist Majed al-Majed and we laud its efforts in this regard,” Zarif told reporters at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport as he arrived in Lebanon for an official visit. “An Iranian judicial delegation will visit Beirut to probe all the details of the bomb attack on the Iranian embassy,” he said. “Establishing the best relations with the neighbors is among Iran's essential principles and we're seeking to have the best relations with Saudi Arabia because that would positively contribute to peace in the region,” Zarif added.
The top Iranian diplomat described Lebanon as “a country of resistance,” noting that it is “a role model for the people in the region.”“Lebanon and Iran are facing many common challenges, such as terrorism and takfirism, and these problems are affecting all the peoples of the region, that's why joint efforts must be exerted to fight them,” said Zarif. “We will discuss with the Lebanese officials means to develop and strengthen the good ties we have,” he added. Zarif's visit to Beirut is part of a tour that will also take him to Damascus, Amman and Baghdad. He is scheduled to meet with top Lebanese officials for talks on “the current situations in Lebanon and the region in light of the latest regional developments, especially in Syria, in addition to bilateral ties between Iran and Lebanon,” state-run National News Agency reported. "We stress that the only solution to the Syrian crisis is a political solution and the best way to curb terrorism and takfirism is allowing Syrian people to freely express their opinions through ballot boxes," said Zarif. He noted that his country is not seeking an invitation to a January 22 peace conference on Syria at all costs. "If we receive an invitation without any preconditions, we will participate in the 'Geneva 2' peace conference, but we won't act in order to receive an invitation," said Zarif. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon last week sent invitations to 30 countries to attend the conference, but did not include Iran, the main regional backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are to meet on Monday in a bid to decide Iran's role in ending the nearly three-year conflict.
Jumblat Meets Berri, Says 'Positive' Developments in
Cabinet Formation Process
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Sunday reported “positive” developments in the cabinet formation process, noting that Speaker Nabih Berri “always facilitates things.” Jumblat, who visited Ain el-Tineh with caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, told al-Manar TV that “meetings with Berri always lead to positive things.” “We stressed the importance of a political solution in Syria,” Jumblat was quoted as saying. “The meeting with Berri was comforting and it involved discussions over all topics. Speaker Berri always facilitates things and we sense his keenness on stability,” he added. For his part, Berri's aide Ali Hasan Khalil told al-Manar that "Jumblat tackled Berri's (recent) visit to Tehran," adding that they "discussed the political solution to the Syrian crisis."
Meanwhile, MTV said the Berri-Jumblat meeting “did not lead to anything new except for the mutual praise between them.” Reports that Berri was expected to meet Sunday with al-Mustaqbal bloc chief Fouad Saniora turned out to be unfounded and talks between the two leaders are likely to take place on Monday. The cabinet formation process was put on the front burner after Berri proposed a revised 8-8-8 government formula and President Michel Suleiman said he would form a so-called neutral cabinet if the political rivals don't agree on an all-embracing government within ten days. Al-Manar said “Saniora will visit the PM-designate (Tammam Salam) after he meets Berri to inform him of the final stance of the March 14 forces." Amid the Lebanese Forces' rejection of Hizbullah's participation in the cabinet, the March 14 camp has reportedly accepted the 8-8-8 formula in principle but it is awaiting answers pertaining to the ministerial policy statement and the rotation of portfolios among political parties. Meanwhile, March 8 sources told OTV that the March 14 forces are “putting the cart before the horse by raising the issue of the ministerial policy statement.” The TV network quoted sources close to Salam as saying that “there are no new developments in the cabinet formation process but the indications are positive.”
“We're serious in our intent to reach an agreement, but it should be over clear points, before we can join a political cabinet,” OTV quoted Mustaqbal sources as saying. MTV said the “confirmed thing” is that the controversial army-people-resistance formula “will be replaced with another equation” in the ministerial statement. “Berri is awaiting to hear from Saniora March 14's approval of an all-embracing, political cabinet and he will then answer these forces' questions,” a high-ranking March 8 source, meanwhile, told LBCI TV. “Suleiman informed Saniora that the presidency cannot guarantee any answers to the questions of the March 14 forces and that's the reason behind the Berri-Saniora meeting,” LBCI said.
Aoun to meet Pope Francis
January 12, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun left for Rome Sunday where he is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at The Vatican. Aoun, a former Army general, departed from Rafik Hariri International Airport to the Italian capital. The MP’s visit comes amid a flurry of political activities aimed at breaking the deadlock and forming a new government in preparation for the upcoming presidential election.
President Michel Sleiman’s six-year-term in office expires on May 25. Sleiman insists on forming a new Cabinet regardless of whether rival groups agree on a government lineup. He also opposes an extension to his term.
Gemayel: Judicial Course in The Hague
to Enhance Stability in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel on Sunday noted that the verdicts that will be issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon against the killers of former premier Rafik Hariri and his companions would “enhance stability” in Lebanon. “Justice is the normal gate to stability, peace, national unity and partnership,” Gemayel said during a meeting with a delegation from the Beirut and Tripoli bar associations. “The judicial course (of the STL) in The Hague will lead to enhancing stability after the verdicts are issued,” Gemayel added. Gemayel, whose son Pierre was murdered in 2006 while serving as industry minister, said he was counting on the STL to achieve justice for assassination victims in Lebanon. “Unfortunately, we were not able to achieve justice through the Lebanese judiciary for the known reasons,” he added. Pierre Gemayel's assassination is not covered by the STL's mandate, which involves Hariri's murder and other attacks that occurred in Lebanon between October 1, 2004 and December 12, 2005. "The trial ... will reflect positively on national unity and the constitutional institutions, starting by the cabinet, the parliament and the presidential election, which will happen within its constitutional timeframe, in addition to restoring the Constitutional Council's role and the rest of institutions,” added Gemayel. The STL announced in December that the trial in the case of the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Hariri will kick off on January 16, 2014 in The Hague. In 2011, the court accused four Hizbullah members -- Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra – of being involved in the attack. A fifth Hizbullah suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted in 2013. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli scheme targeted against his party. He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects, who remain at large, will never be found.
Fletcher Meets Hariri in Paris, Welcomes Imminent Start of STL Trial
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher on Sunday held talks with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Paris, the embassy announced. “Fletcher passed on Britain's condolences following the assassination of (ex-minister) Mohammed Shatah, a huge loss to Lebanon,” said the embassy in a statement. The ambassador welcomed “the imminent start of the Special Tribunal (for Lebanon) trial,” added the embassy, noting that “justice was not a concept that should end at the Lebanese border.” “Britain would commit a further £1 million to the Tribunal in support of its unique and important effort,” it said. Fletcher also welcomed ongoing efforts to “overcome the challenges preventing the formation of a new government.” Britain would work closely with “any government that prioritized stability, sovereignty and neutrality,” said the embassy. The STL announced in December that the trial in the case of the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri will kick off on January 16, 2014. In 2011, the court accused four Hizbullah members -- Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra – of being involved in the attack. A fifth Hizbullah suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted in 2013. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli scheme targeted against his party. He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects, who remain at large, will never be found.
Mazloum Reiterates Bkirki's Support
for 'All-Embracing' Government
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/Bishop Samir Mazloum denied claims of tensions between the Maronite patriarchate and President Michel Suleiman, reported the Kuwaiti daily al-Seyassah on Sunday. He reiterated to the daily Bkirki's support for the formation of an “all-embracing” government. He explained: “Only an all-embracing cabinet can be formed given the current circumstances in Lebanon.” This government should pave the way for staging the presidential elections in May, he remarked. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi had held talks on Saturday with Suleiman. Mazloum stated that the talks were part of routine visits the patriarch pays to the president on various holidays and national occasions. Suleiman's six-year term ends in May. There are growing fears that the ongoing dispute between the March 8 and 14 camps over the formation of a new government may result in the postponement of the elections.
Report: Saudi Aid to Lebanese Army Will Take Effect within a Month
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/The high demand on some of the military equipment pledged by Saudi Arabia to the Lebanese army will result in a short delay in delivering them to the military institution, reported the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Sunday. A French source told the daily however that the Saudi grant will take effect “within a month.” In December, the kingdom pledged to grant 3 billion dollars in aid to the army. A delay in the delivery of helicopters that are included in the deal is expected due to their unavailability because of the high demand on them. The source stressed however the need to implement the deal as soon as possible. It emphasized that Saudi Arabia and France seek to bolster the army “because they view it as a state institution that represents the whole of Lebanon and not just one political camp against the other.”A French delegation is expected to head to Lebanon within weeks in order to tackle the upcoming presidential elections. It will also most likely address the grant to the Lebanese army. On December 27, President Michel Suleiman announced that Saudi Arabia has decided to donate three billion dollars with the aim of purchasing French weapons for the Lebanese army as soon as possible.
Woman 'Suicide Bomber' Roaming Beirut Streets
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/Lebanese woman Rima Najdi has come up with a unique way to protest the recent deadly bombings that have rocked Lebanon. She wrapped herself in a hoax suicide vest and roamed several Beirut streets on Sunday. The woman "wore a vest carrying fake sticks of TNT and wandered in Beirut's streets on Sunday," the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported. People rushed to take pictures with the “suicide bomber,” said the newspaper. Najdi announced her stunt on Facebook. “Madame Bomba - TNT Project: Popular Protest. Mobile dynamite roaming Beirut's streets,” she said. Al-Hayat said the woman walked through Hamra, Ain el-Mreisseh, Downtown, Gemmayze, Ashrafiyeh and Ras al-Nabaa to “shed light on the meaning of being Lebanese and how you don't know when you might be the victim of a bombing or a terrorist act.”
According to the newspaper, Najdi is a painter and performer who lives in Berlin and shuttles between Lebanon and Germany. She inaugurated a painting exhibition in New York in November.
Report: French Diplomatic Delegation Heads to Beirut to Discuss Presidential Elections
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014ظFrance is exerting efforts with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in order to highlight to Lebanese leaderships the dangers of failing to hold the presidential elections, reported the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa daily on Sunday. It revealed that a French diplomatic delegation is expected to visit Lebanon soon in order to discuss with Christian leaders the upcoming elections. It will stress the need to avoid having Christians become victims of the Sunni-Shiite conflict in the region. It will explain that the new president should be elected through the Lebanese parliament as stipulated by the constitution. The delegation will travel to Lebanon later in January. Meanwhile, western diplomatic sources told al-Anbaa that the United States, Britain, and France, in cooperation with Russia and China, will pressure Lebanese powers in March to hold the presidential elections and avoid any vacuum. The sources stated that the elections are more important than the formation of a new government. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May. There are growing fears that the ongoing dispute between the March 8 and 14 camps over the formation of a new government may result in the postponement of the elections.
Hariri Holds Talks with Lavrov in Paris
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks Sunday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the French capital Paris, where the latter was holding preparatory meetings for the Geneva 2 Syria peace conference. According to a statement issued by Hariri's office, the meeting was also attended by Russian Deputy FM Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian Foreign Ministry director of Mideast dept. Sergey Vershinin and the ex-PM's advisers Nader Hariri and George Shaaban. The talks involved “a thorough discussion of the situations in Lebanon and the region,” according to the statement. Lavrov was also expected to hold talks with his American, French, and Jordanian counterparts, as well as United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. A meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Brahimi, and Lavrov is set to be held on Monday.The Geneva II peace conference will be held on January 22.
Qabbani: Divisions Will Drag Lebanon towards Sectarian Conflicts
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014/Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani noted on Sunday that Lebanon is passing through a very dangerous and critical phase. He warned: “Divisions among the Lebanese will pave the way to dragging them towards sectarian conflicts.”He made his remarks on the occasion of the Prophet Mohammed's birthday, which falls on Monday. “The wise and reasonable people among us must realize the sensitivity of the situation in Lebanon because maintaining the country's stability and security is everyone's responsibility,” stressed Qabbani. Furthermore, he said that any action that does not enjoy the consensus of all powers will lead to fragmentation and division among the people. “The people's unity is crucial in deciding their fate and they should steer clear of statements that incite division,” added the mufti. He hoped that political powers will succeed in forming a government that will revitalize state institutions.
Hariri Heads March 14 Delegation for
STL Opening Session
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Saturday that he will attend the opening session of the trial of the alleged killers of his father, late premier Rafik Hariri, on January 16 in The Hague. “Hariri will head a March 14 delegation to attend the opening session of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” radio Voice of Lebanon (93.3) reported on Saturday afternoon. The STL announced in December 2013 that its Trial Chamber has scheduled the start of trial in the case of the 2005 assassination of late premier Hariri and his companions for January 16, 2014. The STL also confirmed that it has received Lebanon’s share of the 2013 budget from the government. The full sum of 29, 386, 609 euros, amounting to 49 per cent of the tribunal's budget, was transferred to the STL's bank account, it said. In 2011, the court accused four Hizbullah members -- Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra – of being involved in the attack. A fifth Hizbullah suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted in 2013. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli product bent on destroying the party. He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects, who remain at large, will never be found.
Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive car bomb in Beirut on February 14, 2005.
Jarba Says 'Friends of Syria' Agree No Role for Assad and Family in Country Future
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014ظAhmad Jarba, the leader of Syria's opposition National Coalition, said Sunday that the U.S.-led "Friends of Syria" grouping had agreed that President Bashar Assad and his family will have no role in the country's future. Jarba did not announce whether or not the opposition would take part in peace talks with representatives of Assad's regime due to start next week in Switzerland. The Coalition, which is under intense pressure to confirm its participation, has said it will decide on the issue on January 17. “We stressed the need for offering quick support to the Free Syrian Army,” said Jarba after talks with the Friends of Syria group in Paris. “We all agree that neither Assad nor his family can have a role in Syria's future,” he added, noting that “there is undisputable consensus on the issue of ceding power."
"We have entered the decisive period, which we know how difficult it will be, and we thank all friends," Jarba went on to say. For his part, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the so-called Geneva 2 conference must lead to the formation of a "transitional government with full executive powers in Syria." "The Syrian tragedy can only end through a political solution and it is important to hold Geneva 2 for this purpose," he added.
Fabius accused the Syrian regime of being the party that is "fuelling terrorism." "If we want to eradicate terror, the regime must leave," he added. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined ministers from 10 other countries at the Paris meeting, which was aimed at persuading the opposition National Coalition to attend a first round of talks scheduled for Montreux, Switzerland on January 22. The Swiss talks have been organized in an attempt to revive a long-stalled framework for peace involving a cessation of hostilities and the creation of a national transitional government that could involve figures from the current regime and the opposition. But opposition leaders are wary of being drawn into a process they fear could result in Assad clinging on to power and have yet to give a commitment to attending.
In a statement issued at the end of Sunday's talks, the 11-nation Friends of Syria urged the opposition to respond positively to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's invitation to send a delegation to the Montreux talks. Jarba has called for Assad to stop using heavy weapons, lift sieges on a number of opposition-held areas and allow the opening of humanitarian corridors as a show of good faith ahead of any talks. There has been no sign of progress on those issues but U.S. officials have expressed confidence that, with little prospect of securing a military victory after nearly three years of fighting, the opposition will come to Montreux. "I think in the final analysis they won't want to miss that opportunity, because frankly there's no other game, really," a U.S. diplomat told reporters. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was in the opposition's interests to attend the talks and try to end a conflict that has caused 130,000 deaths and created more than two million refugees. "In the end, there's got to be a political solution in Syria," Hague told Sky News from Paris. "This is going to put the Assad regime on the spot if everybody turns up at those peace talks." German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier echoed Hague's remarks.
"I know that it is not an easy decision for the opposition in Syria," he said. "We want to work to convince them today in Paris and remove the last obstacles that may arise.
"We must get down to work in earnest. I fear that we will not be successful if we do not manage to include the opposition in these talks." The balance of power in the conflict in Syria appears to have tipped in Assad's favor over the last week as deadly clashes have erupted between the mainstream opposition and an al-Qaida-linked group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with which they were previously allied.
According to NGOs monitoring the conflict, at least 700 people have been killed since the fighting started January 3 and the ISIL is threatening to abandon frontline positions in the area around Syria's second city, Aleppo.
The fighting has exacerbated concern in western capitals over the strength of radical Islamist groups within the broad alliance of forces fighting Assad. Hopes of progress towards peace in Syria rose last year when Assad agreed to give up the regime's chemical weapons after the West pulled back from the brink of threatened military intervention. Opposition leaders fear that deal, which involved Syria's ally Russia becoming a pivotal player in the efforts to end the conflict, has diluted the West's determination to see Assad removed from power. Among the other issues that were discussed on Sunday was whether Iran, an important backer of Assad, will have any role in peace talks further down the line. Russia has been lobbying for Tehran to be brought into the process and the issue is likely to dominate discussions on Monday between Kerry, his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League special envoy to Syria.
Iran Says Nuclear Deal to Take Effect January 20
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 January 2014ظIran said on Sunday that the landmark agreement the Islamic republic clinched with world powers on its disputed nuclear program will take effect from January 20. "The implementation of the joint plan of action will start from January 20," foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told Mehr news agency. Media reports said Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi was to hold a news conference later on Sunday. Iran and the European Union agreed Friday on how to implement the deal on containing Tehran's nuclear program, but it still must be approved by each country before it can take effect. The EU represents the so-called P5+1 group of world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- in the decade-long nuclear negotiations with Iran. Under the deal reached in November, Tehran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear drive for six months in exchange for receiving modest relief from international sanctions and a promise by Western powers not to impose new measures against its hard-hit economy.
Western nations and Israel have long suspected Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program, charges denied by Tehran. SourceظAgence France Presse.
Two critical weeks for the Mashreq
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat
The physical and psychological warfare raging in the Arab theatre of operations against the backdrop of the Geneva II conference may be clearly pointing to the future map of the much-talked-about New Middle East.
Several manipulative statements have come and indeed continue to come from Moscow demanding that the conference change its agenda from that of “turning the page on the regime of Bashar Al-Assad” and his police state to one of waging a “war on terrorism”—in this case Sunni terrorism. This war would start in Syria and spread to the entire region, taking place in cooperation with Iran, the erstwhile ally of Russia.
Equally, whispers, leaks and maneuvers have emerged from Washington, some of which pertain to the regime in Damascus which has now been revealed to be a pawn of Iran as well as a virtual bridge between Iran and Israel. Other rumors have emerged about the efforts being made to resuscitate the moribund Palestinian–Israeli peace process.
In addition come Washington’s attempts to reassure friends and allies of the nature of the developing US–Iranian relationship while continuing with all of its old policies, which only serve to raise suspicions and urge one to expect the worst. The best example of this is the US speeding up of its delivery of arms to Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s government in Iraq after adamantly refraining from imposing no-fly zones over Syria.
What we are currently witnessing is an indication of the emergence of an ill-intentioned regional strategy which seems to be to a sequel to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and a license to Iran to further infiltrate the Mashreq and use its increasing hegemony in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon as a bargaining chip in Tehran’s negotiations with Washington on the region.
Over the next few days and weeks, the region will be preoccupied with two events, the links between which will now become more evident than ever before. The two events to which I am referring are the Geneva II conference on the Syrian conflict and the start, on January 13 this year, of the proceedings of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was set up by the UN to bring the assassins of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to justice. The assassination of Hariri was first and foremost a politically motivated crime, seeking political aims and sending political messages. In brief, murdering Lebanon’s former prime minister was the first bullet in the Sunni–Shi’ite regional conflict which has been gaining pace to the point where it has now reached the level of an all-out sectarian war.
Others might argue that the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the US occupier’s subsequent administration of the country, including the disruption of Iraq’s judicial, administrative and military institutions, marked the true beginning of the current sectarian strife. However, the liquidation of Hariri and the diligent annihilation of what and whom he represented is now evidently part of a bigger picture. The Syrian dimension of the Arab Spring has come to expose what had been almost completely hidden. It is now clear to the entire world that the regime of Hafez Al-Assad founded in 1970 was entrusted with certain “duties” in the region. The Assad regime has been part of the calculations of several main actors with intersecting interests, offering certain services in return for pre-agreed rewards. For example, the Syrian Army’s entry to Lebanon in the 1970s was part of the task assigned to Damascus in order to strike the Palestinian resistance forces and liquidate the Lebanese National Movement (LNM); and this is exactly what the elder Assad did.
What has been taking place over the past three years in Syria under Bashar Al-Assad, and the way the major regional players have dealt with the Syrian tragedy—which has turned from being a popular uprising into a religious¬–sectarian war with international reverberations—is truly remarkable.
From the outset, Assad has chosen to adopt two approaches: first, he confronted the uprising with maximum force and endless bloodshed. Second, he blackmailed the international community with the help of his regional and international backers. Assad has openly threatened the entire world with the eruptionof the region. The purpose behind this threat is obvious, given the reality of the pluralistic demographic in Syria and the Mashreq.
For a while, the international community still had a chance to rapidly adopt a decisive deterrent stance once the Syrian regime chose to respond to peaceful demonstrations with a bloody crackdown. Incidentally, one may remember that warnings about the rise of Al-Qaeda were not issued only by Assad: Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi had previously resorted to such tactics himself. In fact, the Syrian regime has a long history of wheeling and dealing with Al-Qaeda, its offshoots, or other like-minded groups. Even Maliki’s government, which is currently in the same boat, once accused the Assad regime of collusion with extremist groups, claiming that Damascus was facilitating one such group’s entry into Iraq in order to fight US forces.
This now looks to be a part of Iran’s shrewd plan to benefit from Washington’s war to remove Saddam Hussein and the Sunni leadership, thus empowering the Shi’ites to grab hold of Iraq. The plan also included harassing the occupation forces in order to force them to withdraw. At this point, the Assad regime’s contribution became positive and direct, after coming to an understanding with Tehran, among others. The withdrawal of the US forces was the culmination of Washington’s recognition of Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
It is true Russia had a role in executing the plan; however, Moscow’s role was more often exploitative and troublesome than it was strategic and constant. Tehran does not consider itself to be a strategic ally of Moscow. However, the two states do not mind coordinating their efforts to frustrate a Washington retreating from the region and preoccupied with other international concerns.
The terrible escalation in Syria has followed agreement by the superpowers that the only solution available is a peaceful one. The Assad regime is keen to weaken and fragment the Syrian opposition before Geneva II. Following the eruption of the war among the factions opposed to Assad—after it became clear how dangerous the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and some other extremist factions were in light of the marginalization of the Free Syrian Army (FSA)—the international community allowed itself to be convinced that Assad remaining in power (and, by extension, handing the security of the region over to Iran) could be better for the West than the emergence of a new Al-Qaeda hotbed on the borders of Israel. We have even heard voices loudly singing this same tune in Washington.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, Maliki’s government now stands accused of instigating a war in the Sunni stronghold of Anbar province under the pretext of fighting ISIS. The emergence of the Al-Qaeda-linked group in Fallujah and Ramadi has supported Maliki’s claims and given credence to his policies, although they have come under increasing criticism from all sides in the Iraqi political spectrum—not only the Arab Sunnis.
The assassinations and deadly bombings in Beirut have also made a comeback just before the trials of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which has already accused five of Hezbollah’s members of murdering Hariri. Meanwhile, ISIS officially announced its entry onto the exhausted scene in Lebanon by claiming responsibility for last week’s car bomb in Beirut’s Shi’ite southern suburb. That announcement, which may find some justification from the inflamed passions of the Sunni public, is in fact a golden opportunity for Hezbollah, which aspires to be granted an international mandate to protect the region’s minorities as well as the borders with Israel. A situation like this surely would relegate the Special Tribunal to history.
How will Sharon be remembered?
By: Sima Kadmon 01.13.14, 00:14 / Ynetnews
Op-ed: A glorified commander or the man who got Israel entangled in unnecessary wars? A man of war almost his entire life or a man who strove for peace in his final years? Ariel Sharon was a multi-faceted, complex man, who people loved and hated with the same intensity . One of the recommendations Ariel Sharon liked to give, and acted on his entire life, was that you should always confuse the enemy. Throw him off balance, he used to call it. He applied it both in battlefield and in political life. On Saturday, 10 days in which after the media held its breath and counted down his minutes, one can say that Sharon did it in his death too. He managed to confuse us. And if he could summarize these days, he would surely laugh his joyful laugh, right? The one everyone loved imitating, and with his fantastic theatrical ability he would describe how he managed to deceive us. With malicious sarcasm he would describe the wait for his death at the hospital lobby. Not to mention the cynicism he would use to address the way his lovers and haters stood up one after the other on Saturday and eulogized him. My condition continued to deteriorate even after my death, he would say.
But this time Sharon can no longer say – as he would always say when he thought someone was trying to take his place, to eulogize him prematurely – that we should calm down, that he is planning to be here for many more years. Over and done with. After eight years of coma and more than one week of dying, the man who even those who didn't like him, and there were such people, cannot ignore his huge contribution to the shaping of this state, for better or for worse, has passed away. A person who it seems has always been here, and who even during the many years he lay unconscious, was both present and absent. The living dead.
Nothing came easy to him, to Sharon. He reached his good years, during which he gained public recognition even among circles in which he was an outcast, hated and despised for nearly his entire life, in the last five years of his healthy life. After Lily, the woman who stood by him throughout all the bad years, passed away.
One of the most unforgettable pictures from the album of his life is from 2001, after he beat Ehud Barak in the elections. On the stage at the Exhibition Grounds, a moment after he was declared the winner, one could see the magnitude of the moment on Sharon's face. A mix of the joy of victory with the weight of the responsibility, of the pride upon recognizing the achievement – almost wonder – along with great solitude.
Anyone who followed the course of his life could have learned a lot about the political system. About its hypocrisy, disloyalty, inconsistency. Sharon was familiar with it more than anyone else. Less than a year before he was elected prime minister, he was still sitting in the Knesset cafeteria on his own, a white-cloth napkin attached to the collar of his shirt, while his assistant passed by the journalists and begged them to go sit with him.
Several years later, he won unprecedented popularity and was on his way to lead a party consisting of more than 40 Knesset seats. One can say that Sharon proved on himself what he had always advised his friends in politics to do: Even when you're at the bottom, always make sure to stay on the move.
The secret of his charm
Many things can be said about Sharon. Not all of them are good. There are quite a few people among us who feel they are victims of his lack of restraint, of his destructiveness, of his ambitions. They include bereaved families whose sons were led by Sharon to the first Lebanon War, the biggest wound – not to mention the stain – in his remarkable career, which he only managed to blur in his last years.
But alongside the criticism, one has to mention the charisma, the capabilities, the magnetism, the ability to make fun of himself. A meeting with Sharon was pure joy. He was a man with unusual diagnoses, with a fantastic understanding of the human soul, its motives and impulses, who knew how to identify weak points and didn’t hesitate to use them. But Sharon also knew how to charm people, and mainly women. An instinctive person, who knew how to flirt with the same joy with which he ate, listened to music or inhaled the scents of nature. A warm person towards his lovers, and a cruel person like no other towards his rivals.
It seems to me that in all the years I have worked in the political system I have never met a person who succeeded, like Sharon, to recreate himself in such an exemplary manner. To turn from one of the most hated people to the loved grandfather he was in his last years. From the man who led the IDF into Lebanon, went up to the Temple Mount and ignited the Second Intifada – to a person who acknowledged the pointlessness of the occupation. The man who was the father of the settlements and the first to dismantle them. A person who did not believe Arabs for a single minute in his life, but realized the need to disengage from them. A person who built an entire career on lack of discipline and obedience to orders, and today we all miss his responsibility and discretion.
Had he died then, eight years ago, on that cold night in which he lost consciousness and never woke up again, Sharon would have had a funeral reserved for outstanding personalities. Who wouldn't have arrived to attend the last journey of a leader who turned into a legend, a legendary figure both in his life and death?
His sudden departure at the time caused a shock. Like Rabin, it left a sense of a missed opportunity. What would have happened if? What would have happened if Sharon had been reelected prime minister, continued the unilateral disengagement from the Judea and Samaria communities as well, and maybe even taken Israel back to the 1967 borders?
What would have happened if this warrior, who never stopped at nothing, would have set red lines which would have allowed us to live a sane life? What would have happened if at times like these we had a strong leader, who knew how to make decisions and also knew how to execute them? But what ended eight years ago was completed on Saturday, and Ariel Sharon ended his life.
How will he be remembered? As a glorified commander and legendary fighter, or as a man who got Israel entangled in unnecessary wars more than once; as the person who established the settlement enterprise or as the first who identified the damage of this enterprise; as the prime minister who took Israel out of Gaza but failed to take Gaza out of us; as the man of war he was almost all his life, or as the man who in his final years strove for peace, or at least for no combat?
And perhaps this is the secret of his charm. That he was all of these. A multi-faceted and complex man, the man who people loved and hated with the same intensity.
STL: Wheels of justice turn
January 13, 2014 The Daily Star
The battle over forming a new Cabinet in Lebanon, the spillover from the war in Syria and the tense security situation in general are all making the headlines and occupying the public’s attention as 2014 begins. But the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will finally begin its trial proceedings this month, and if the proceedings go smoothly, the case could make a huge contribution to political and criminal accountability in this part of the world.
For nearly nine years, the supporters and the opponents of the STL have had their say, and January 2014 will allow the international justice system to have its say. Obviously, the opponents have been busy casting doubts on the credibility of the STL in a systematic attempt to discredit it. The proceedings will give people a chance to choose for themselves – having been inundated with reports, rumors, analysis and commentary for years, they will finally be able to watch as the evidence is presented, arguments and counterarguments are made, and the wheels of justice turn. The most useful political approach to the STL would be one of watching and waiting, and holding off on the passing of judgments until the tribunal completes its work. Even then, an appeals process would mean that a phase two of the STL will follow. The overall impact of the STL will be profound, on various levels: People will finally discover the truth behind the Hariri assassination, and establishing the precedent of punishment for political crimes could leave a lasting mark on the region. Whether or not people support the STL, it’s difficult to deny the stakes are high and the benefits for the region are potentially huge