January 14/14


Bible Quotation for today/Witnesses to Jesus
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.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For January 14/14

Have all sides become exhausted in Syria/By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed /Asharq Alawsat/January 14/14

A piece of Lebanon’s heritage destroyed/By: Ataollah Mohajerani/ASharq Alawsat/January 14/14

US and Iran “insulate” nuclear negotiations from “tensions” over Iran’s regional policy/DEBKAfile/January 14/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 14/14

Lebanese Related News

Geagea Warns against Forming a 'Cabinet of Contradictions'
Contrary to Predecessors, Suleiman Will Emerge Stronger at the End of his Term
STL to Hold Hearing on Joinder of Merhi, Ayyash et al. Cases
Zarif says Iran-Saudi ties needed for region

Suleiman, Zarif Agree on Importance of Friendly Ties between Iran, Regional Countries
President Calls on Political Foes to Bridge Gap, Overcome Details
Berri Voices Optimism over Cabinet Formation Process, Praises Hariri's Endeavors

Saniora Holds 'Good' Meeting with Berri: We Will Continue Consultations on New Cabinet
ISF Detains Two Kidnapping Gangs North of Beirut
Hariri Assassination Trial to Open against Bloody Backdrop

Deal sets stage for 8-8-8 Cabinet

Charbel Says Several Suspicious Vehicles Recently Seized

Lebanon Army discovers arms cache in Hermel
Iranian robbed at gunpoint on Beirut airport road

Berri hails Hariri over Cabinet formation efforts

Phalange: We Won't Take Part in Cabinet that Protects Illegitimate Arms
Iranian foreign minister meets Hezbollah chief

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Pope Hopes Geneva 2 Will Launch Peace Process in Syria

General Security Team, Qatari Delegation Meet Representatives of Nuns Abductors
Ariel Sharon laid to rest near Negev ranch

With Sharon burial within rocket range, Israel sends stern warning to Hamas

While everyone talks about statesman and commander, former advisor remembers the private Sharon

Report: Al-Masri to Succeed al-Majed as Head of Azzam Brigades

World powers, Iran to resume nuclear talks in February

U.S., Russia Call for 'Local Ceasefires' ahead of Syria Talks
Kerry, Lavrov say broach cease-fire zone for Syria

ISIS jihadists seize 'most' of north Syria town: activists

Kerry Heads to Vatican ahead of Papal Holy Land Trip
Chemical Watchdog to Name Syria Arms Port on Thursday

Gaza Projectiles Hit Israel after Sharon Burial

Dubai Ruler Urges Lifting of Iran Sanctions


Geagea Warns against Forming a 'Cabinet of Contradictions'
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 January 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Monday warned against forming a cabinet containing representatives of both the March 8 and March 14 rival political camps. “An active cabinet that can pull Lebanon out of this dangerous abyss can only be a cabinet driven by a single horse in the right direction and call it whatever you want to call it,” said Geagea at a rally titled “Era of Justice” that was held in Maarab on the occasion of the imminent start of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon trial. Addressing President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, Geagea added: “We all want a new cabinet as soon as possible, but not any cabinet is a real cabinet. A cabinet of contradictions will not be able to achieve anything or do anything.” “We want a real government. We are all waiting for you and Lebanon is waiting for you, so don't be late. Do not give up your constitutional powers and act according to your beliefs,” he went on to say, addressing the two leaders. Commenting on the assassination of former minister Mohammed Shatah in a powerful car bombing in downtown Beirut, Geagea said “they did not kill Mohammed Shatah because he was holed up in Qusayr, Qalamoun's mountains or Aleppo” in Syria. “They did not kill him because he posed a takfiri threat to Lebanon or because he was recruiting suicide bombers,” he added. Geagea noted that “they killed Shatah because he represented a moderate, open-minded approach that exposed the major chasm between him and them.”
“They killed you because they did not want the Lebanon that resembles you in moderation, tolerance and enlightenment, but rather the image of (fugitive Fatah al-Islam chief) Shaker al-Absi, which would justify their existence,” added Geagea. “They killed you because they belong to the abominable dark ages,” he said. The LF leader called for adding all the assassination cases to ex-PM Hariri's case, which is being probed by the STL, “given the fact that they are all connected.”  “The era of justice and truth for Lebanon has come. It is the first time that we sense the presence of a serious will to achieve justice,” he said, referring to the start of the STL trial on January 16. “It would have not been possible to achieve a sense of justice in Lebanon had it not been for the heroic steadfastness of the Lebanese in the face of the killing machine,” he noted. “The era of justice has come so that life can return to normal. Our objective is not punishment, but rather to protect Lebanon from the hands of criminals and to establish a real state,” Geagea clarified. He emphasized that “the triumph of justice would be a triumph for all the Lebanese,” pointing out that “those saying justice would undermine coexistence want neither justice nor coexistence." In an apparent reference to Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, who has said that the rival political camps “are causing all the bombings,” Geagea said “someone who is suffering from despair and a blurred vision has put the blame equally on both parties.”“If both the victim and the criminal are responsible for the crime, then this is the the end of the world with all due honesty,” said Geagea. “Choosing between the state and the fictional state, the criminal and the victim, stability and instability, justice and tyranny, freedom and oppression, and enlightenment and darkness is exactly like choosing between good and evil. There is no place for retreat or neutrality,” he added. The cabinet formation process was put on the front burner after Speaker Nabih Berri proposed a revised 8-8-8 government formula and President 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. Amid the LF's 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.


General Security Team, Qatari Delegation Meet Representatives of Nuns Abductors
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 January 2014/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim on Monday said that officers from his directorate met with representatives of the kidnappers of the Maalula nuns, in the presence of a Qatari delegation, as part of efforts to release the abducted women. In an interview with An Nahar newspaper, of which excerpts were published in the afternoon, Ibrahim said he held talks at his office with the Qatari team that is tasked with following up on the ongoing negotiations. “General Security officers who are following up on the procedural negotiations on the ground have met with representatives of the kidnappers, in the presence of the Qatari delegation,” Ibrahim added. Asked whether the release of the nuns was imminent, Ibrahim said “the negotiations are on the right track.” Al-Akhbar newspaper had reported earlier on Monday that a Qatari delegation was headed for Yabrud in the Syrian region of Qalamoun via the Lebanese border town of Arsal with the aim of holding talks with the kidnappers on the expected date to release the nuns -- who are “in good health.”
Around 3:00 p.m., OTV reported that the Qatari team was still in Syria's Yabrud. Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said “a high-ranking Qatari delegation visited Arsal and met with representatives of the Syrian opposition to inquire about the health of the abducted Maalula nuns and the developments of the negotiations.” LBCI television said the abductors are demanding the release of a number of Islamist inmates from the Roumieh prison in return for the freeing of two Lebanese nuns who are among the ranks of the kidnapped women. “Several Lebanese officials are working on the case of the Maalula nuns and reports said the negotiations are complicated,” LBCI said. In December, Ibrahim traveled to Qatar to tackle the case of the nuns. He told LBCI that he was tasked by President Michel Suleiman to address the case in the Arab Gulf state.
LBCI said at the time that the General Security chief had contacted Al-Jazeera television to inquire about the source of the videotape in which the nuns had appeared. Jihadists and opposition fighters on Monday entered the Syrian Christian town of Maalula and took 12 Lebanese and Syrian Greek Orthodox nuns from the Mar Takla Monastery to the Yabrud area in Qalamoun, near Damascus. The 12 nuns join two bishops and a priest who are already believed to be held by hardline rebels, deepening concerns that extremists in the opposition's ranks are targeting Christians.The abducted nuns have appeared in a video broadcast by Al-Jazeera, in which they reassured that they are in good health.

Ariel Sharon laid to rest near Negev ranch
Procession continues to Negev where Sharon is buried next to his wife Lily; Gantz says at graveside that IDF will continue in his footsteps; Sharon's son Gilad says his father "turned the impossible into reality." Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was laid to rest near his Sycamore Ranch in the Negev on Anemone Hill in a military burial on Monday afternoon. The ceremony attracted thousands of mourners from across the political spectrum. Following the Knesset ceremony Monday morning, the procession continued to Latrun, where a special meeting of the IDF’s general staff was held.IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said at the Negev funeral that generations of fighters came to the funeral to bid Sharon farewell. Gantz recalled Sharon as a warrior, music lover, farmer and spoke of Sharon's creation of Unit 101 in his fight against terror and his determination to carry out his mission. "I came to tell you that the IDF you so cherished will continue in your footsteps for many years," Gantz said at Sharon's graveside. The former premier's two sons, Omri and Gilad Sharon both spoke during the ceremony near the ranch.Omri said, speaking to his father, "I was privileged to work with you and watch you worry over Israel's future." Gilad Sharon recalled of the tragic impact of his brother Gur's death in 1977 on his father and their family.He continued by recounting his father's impossible missions in Gaza and in Sinai, and the massive building project he carried out for the Russian immigrants. He also referred to his fathers involvement in the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, saying that Gaza evacuees, before they attack his father for destroying settlements, should remember that he built 100 others in his lifetime more than anyone else. Gilad said, speaking of his father said, "time & time again you turned the impossibly into reality."Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Supreme Court President Asher Grunis lay flower wreaths on Sharon's grave. US Vice President Joe Biden, former prime minister Tony Blair and dignitaries from all over the world also lay wreaths. Sources close to Sharon expressed concern Sunday that extremists would try to disrupt the funeral.

US and Iran “insulate” nuclear negotiations from “tensions” over Iran’s regional policy

DEBKAfile Special Report January 13, 2014/The Obama administration has promised Iran to ease progress toward a nuclear accord by treating Tehran’s aggressive regional policies as a separate issue and so keeping the path clear of any obstacles which may be raised by such opponents as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Monday, Jan. 14, senior administration sources admitted: “The United States and Iran have sought to insulate the nuclear negotiations from the tensions over Iran’s regional policies.”Washington has thus given Tehran a free ride to a nuclear accord over the heads of regional objectors and also a license for continuing its destabilizing military intervention in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon - just so long as Iran sticks to productive nuclear diplomacy.
Sunday, the White House issued this welcome: “Beginning January 20th, Iran will for the first time start eliminating its stockpile of higher levels [20 pc] of enriched uranium and dismantling some of the infrastructure that makes such enrichment possible. Under the landmark deal reached in November, Iran will also halt parts of its enrichment program for six months in exchange for modest relief from international sanctions.”
The US statement confirmed the starting date of Jan. 20 announced by Iran’s Dep. Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi with European Union concurrence.
US officials translate “modest sanctions relief” into $5 bn of revenue. debkafile reports that this figure has no relation to the real amount of revenue about to pour into Iranian coffers. The oil-for-goods transaction Moscow has just signed with Tehran is alone worth $18 bn a year and many more international bidders for business were knocking on Tehran’s door before the nuclear negotiations with the six world powers got started in Geneva last November. The penalty regime is crumbling and even if Tehran fails to abide by its commitments under the six-month interim accord, sanctions are history.
In addition to Israel, Lebanon stands to pay the price for the US-Iranian agreement to separate nuclear and regional issues.
The late Ariel Sharon, during his years at the helm of Israel’s defense, gave high priority to the high strategic importance of Lebanon as pivotal to Israeli security, a policy which his posthumous admirers found unacceptable at the time. This tradition is consistently avoided by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Gen. Benny Gantz.
Since the former prime minister passed away Saturday, Jan. 11, those leaders have immersed themselves in funeral arrangements and nostalgic memories of the fallen hero, possibly in an attempt divert Israelis from the security disasters unfolding around the country in neighboring Damascus and Beirut. Vice President Joe Biden, who leads the US delegation to the funeral, will no doubt act as though nothing is amiss in Syria and Lebanon. And even if it was, it has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian question, which alone should concern the Netanyahu government.
President Barack Obama, in his message of condolence, cited Ariel Sharon’s care for Israeli security as akin to his own. The gap between words and actions was as wide as ever.
Secretary of State John Kerry was unable to attend the Sharon funeral because he was preoccupied with the Syrian question, the State Department spokesperson explained.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is just as busy: He plans to visit Damascus Wednesday, Jan. 15 and continue to Beirut, while the same day, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem arrives in Moscow at the head of a large party. There is nothing spontaneous about this flurry of diplomatic travel; it is well coordinated between Washington, Moscow and Tehran - the outcome, debkafile’s sources reveal, of Obama administration approval of the new Russian-Iranian strategy, which is to shunt the Syrian conflict onto two outside tracks, Iraq to the east and Lebanon to the west of Syria - and north of Israel.
Al Qaeda’s Iraqi arm (ISIS), having just taken a beating in Syria, is grabbing territory in central and western Iraq. Al Qaeda-Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, is falling back against superior Syrian army strength and redeploying in Lebanon which has an exit to the Mediterranean.
The two al Qaeda branches, rivals on the battlefield, are after the same spoils of war: a share of Syria’s oil industry and an assured outlet to the sea.
It is worth remembering how, in the not- so-distant past, Bashar Assad strongly supported al Qaeda’s campaign of terror against the American troops massed there from 2003 to 2009, and how Iran abetted that campaign with training facilities and arms for the suicide bombers. Today, the rulers of Tehran and Damascus are preparing to sacrifice parts of Iraq and Lebanon to rid Syria of the brunt of al Qaeda’s military drive.
This strategy works for Moscow - anything goes that keeps the jihadists focused on Iraq and away from Sochi, the Russian Black Sea resort where the Winter Olympics open on Feb. 7.
The Obama administration sees great advantage in removing radical Islamic forces to countries outside Syria: it reduces the complexity of the effort to reach an agreement or, at least, an understanding, between the Assad regime and the fractured opposition camp at the Geneva 2 conference meeting in the Swiss town of Montreux on Jan. 22 for a political solution of the Syrian conflict.
Sharon’s eulogizers commended his extreme tenacity and capacity for unexpected action. It is hard to believe he would have let Israel be drawn into the dangerous trap to its national security taking shape across its borders. He would have come up with a surprise tactic for jumping clear and even turned the tables. The contrast between his proactive style of government in defense of Israeli security and the attitude of Israel’s incumbent leaders could not be greater. Obama and Putin, well acquainted with their passivity, feel free to cut Israel out of their regional considerations to the point of absolving Iran of its troublemaking in Iraq and Lebanon as a separate arena from its nuclear conduct. Although governments near and far will attend Geneva 2, there is no thought of inviting Israel, although the events taking place in next-door Syria and Lebanon directly impinge on its security. Sharon would not have taken this snub lying down. He would have been on the phone to Putin (in fluent Russian) and given him and John Kerry a piece of his mind.

STL to Hold Hearing on Joinder of Merhi, Ayyash et al. Cases
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 January 2014/The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Monday that its Trial Chamber will hold a session on Tuesday, January 14 to hear "preliminary submissions from the Prosecution and counsel for Hassan Habib Merhi on the possible joinder of the case against Mr. Merhi with the Ayyash et al. case." Both cases relate to the February 14, 2005 bomb attack in Beirut, which killed 22 individuals, including former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and injured 226 others. The hearing, which will commence at 11:30 (Central European Time), will be held in public, but the judges may decide to go into closed session if confidential matters need to be discussed, the STL said. On July 31, 2013, STL Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen confirmed an indictment submitted by STL Prosecutor Norman Farrell against Merhi. And on December 20, the Trial Chamber issued a decision to try Merhi in absentia after the Lebanese authorities failed to apprehend him. In late December, the Prosecution filed an application to the Trial Chamber in the Ayyash et al. case to join the two cases. The trial in the Ayyash et al. case will begin on Thursday. Merhi is charged with a number of crimes including "the crime of conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act."  He is alleged to have acted in a conspiracy with Hizbullah members Mustafa Amin Badreddine, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra in relation to the attack on February 14, 2005. The accused Merhi is alleged to have coordinated the preparation of the purported claim of responsibility as part of the preparations for and in furtherance of the attack. The STL has described Merhi as “a supporter of Hizbullah” who was born on December 12, 1965 in Beirut. It said he has resided in Burj al-Barajneh. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli conspiracy against his party. He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects will never be found.

Hariri Assassination Trial to Open against Bloody Backdrop
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 January 2014/Four Hizbullah members go on trial in absentia this week at the U.N.-backed tribunal for the 2005 killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri in a case increasingly overshadowed by sectarian bloodshed at home. Nine years after a massive Beirut car bombing killed Hariri, leading to the exit of Syrian troops from Lebanon, and three years into Syria's own bloody civil war, prosecutors are finally to open their case on Thursday in a suburb of The Hague. The seafront bombing killed 22 people besides Damascus opponent Hariri and wounded 226, leading to the establishment by the U.N. Security Council of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in 2007. Although the attack was initially blamed on pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, the court in 2011 issued arrest warrants against Mustafa Badreddine, 52, Salim Ayyash, 50, Hussein Oneissi, 39, and Assad Sabra, 37, all members of Syrian-backed Hizbullah. A fifth suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, 48, was indicted last year and his case may yet be joined to the current trial. The STL is unique in international justice as it was set up to try the perpetrators of a terrorist attack and because it can try the suspects in absentia. The four suspects have been charged with nine counts, ranging from conspiracy to commit a terrorist act to homicide and attempted homicide.
Chief prosecutor Norman Farrell said in his indictment that Badreddine and Ayyash "kept Hariri under surveillance" before the Valentine's Day suicide bombing, while Oneissi and Sabra allegedly issued a false claim of responsibility to mislead investigators. Hariri was on his way home for lunch when a suicide bomber detonated a van full of 2.5 tons of TNT as his armored convoy passed. A video was then delivered to the Beirut office of pan-Arab satellite broadcaster al-Jazeera in which a man "falsely claimed to be a suicide bomber on behalf of a fictional fundamentalist group called 'Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria'," prosecutors said.
They will aim to prove the four men's involvement through tracking their alleged use of mobile phones before, during and after the attack. The STL initially sparked fierce debate in Lebanon, sharply divided into the camp led by Hizbullah and its rivals in the March 14 movement, set up in the wake of Hariri's assassination and led by his son Saad, also a former prime minister, who is expected to attend the trial's opening.
His movement is united by its opposition to larger neighbor Syria, which was forced to end an almost 30-year occupation of Lebanon in the wake of the bombing.
Hizbullah has denied responsibility for the attack, and its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has dismissed the tribunal as a U.S.-Israeli conspiracy, vowing that none of the suspects will be arrested. "We have always said that the STL has been set up illegally in the first place," Badreddine's court-appointed lawyer Antoine Korkmaz told Agence France Presse. "The (U.N.) Security Council has been manipulated for political reasons," he said ahead of the trial. Hariri's assassination was "not an act of terrorism, it was a political attack," Korkmaz said. Sectarian tensions have soared in Lebanon since Hizbullah openly intervened in the conflict in neighboring Syria alongside President Bashar Assad's forces last year. Syria and Hizbullah were blamed for the December 27 assassination of former finance minister Mohammed Shatah, an aide to Saad Hariri, in another downtown Beirut bombing.
Shatah was the ninth high-profile critic of the Syrian regime to be killed in Lebanon since Hariri's assassination, and his death served to remind many Lebanese that no one has been held accountable for those killings.
A string of attacks linked to the Syrian conflict have strained Lebanon's fragile multi-sectarian political system. "Unfortunately Hariri's assassination has been overtaken by other events in the region," said Hilal Khashan, political science professor at Beirut's American University. "The main concern for people is no longer Hariri's tribunal, but whether or not there will be an explosion today or tomorrow," he told AFP.
Source/Agence France Presse.


Contrary to Predecessors, Suleiman Will Emerge Stronger at the End of his Term
Naharnet/13 January 2014/President Michel Suleiman's recent positions and political choices have sparked debates between the various Lebanese political factions. The president, who may have been “consensually” elected in 2008 through the Doha Accord that was brought about by Hizbullah's actions on May 7, 2008, is now in a semi-overt confrontation with the party over its internal and strategic choices.
The president, who did not protect the March 14 camp when he was army commander at the time of Hizbullah's actions on May 7, 2008, its occupation of downtown Beirut in 2006, and siege of then Premier Fouad Saniora at the Grand Serail, is now closer to adopting the March 14 camp's solutions to the government deadlock and Hizbullah's arms and fighting in Syria. The president had enjoyed common stances with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi since the latter's election over two years ago. His current positions on the government, as well as the parliamentary electoral law, however have become contradictory to those of the patriarch.
The president views as unjustified the Shiite AMAL and Hizbullah's rejection of the formation of a neutral government as an alternative to the crisis created by the March 8 and 14 camp's disagreement over a new cabinet. He had informed Speaker Nabih Berri and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's envoys, during their last visit to the Baabda Palace, of his stances that protect Hizbullah on the internal, regional, and international scenes. These stances alleviate the negative repercussions of the party's historic error in intervening militarily in Syria, which was a violation of the Lebanese state's official stand of distancing itself from the crisis. Lebanon could have now been suffering from isolation, due to Hizbullah's confrontation with Arab and western powers, had it not been for Suleiman's positions towards these powers. His positions defend the party even if it refuses to acknowledge it.
Suleiman was clear in informing Berri and Nasrallah's envoys that he is defending the March 14 camp at this current stage for the same reasons he used to defend AMAL and Hizbullah when the camp enjoyed greater authority. The president is therefore practicing his role of ensuring balance among the Lebanese factions to prevent any side from monopolizing power.
Despite his efforts, Suleiman is slightly disappointed with the March 14 forces, and even more so with al-Rahi, because some of its leaders, especially the Christian ones, are making compromises over government and presidential positions at a time when they should support his proposal on the formation of a neutral cabinet. He is disappointed with Bkirki because it has retracted its support for a neutral government without consulting him. Suleiman viewed this change as a translation of al-Rahi's fears that the presidential elections may be postponed in light of AMAL and Hizbullah's threats that they may obstruct the polls should a neutral cabinet be formed. A neutral government devoid of the March 8 and 14 camps will dump both of these sides out of power should either of them thwart the elections. They will therefore have to reach a consensus on a new president if they want to take part in rule. An all-embracing government, where both sides share power, will allow either one of them to hinder the elections should they believe that their candidate does not have a chance of winning.
At a time when both political camps are struggling with their political choices, Suleiman has emerged with a complete plan to ensure the rise of the state and its institutions. It has become evident that the Baabda Declaration, which he made all participants of the national dialogue adopt, was not an “improvised measure.” The president followed up this step by presenting a national defense strategy that preserves the resistance, but places its political and military decision-making power in the hands of the state. He also demonstrated that he has a clear vision to achieve his goals even after the March 8 camp shied away from respecting the Baabda Declaration. The 3 billion dollar Saudi grant to the Lebanese army is a demonstration of this political vision and evidence of his commitment to his choices against the political maneuvers of others. His success in earning Arab and international protection of Lebanon's state and institutions against the internal and foreign compromises of others is also further proof of this vision. It seems that Suleiman's recent unwavering positions during the last few months of his term stem from his keenness on strengthening state institutions. Other presidents, during the end of their term, would have focused their efforts on guaranteeing that it be renewed or extended.
History may one day write that Suleiman was an exception to Lebanese presidents who start off their term strong and end it weak. Michel Suleiman will end his term stronger than how he began it because he would prefer to be remembered as a political leader in Aamchit rather than a “constitutional compromiser” in Baabda.


Iranian foreign minister meets Hezbollah chief
January 13, 2014 /The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks Monday with Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, a statement from the Lebanese party said. The brief statement said the meeting took place in the presence of Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi and involved comprehensive discussions on the situation in Lebanon and the region at different levels.
Zarif is on an official visit to Lebanon


Suleiman, Zarif Agree on Importance of Friendly Ties between Iran, Regional Countries
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that it was important for Iran to engage in dialogue with Arab countries to preserve stability in the region. Their stance came during a meeting held at Baabda Palace, which said in a statement that Suleiman “stressed the importance of Iranian dialogue with Arab countries and of having good ties with them to preserve stability in the Middle East.”The president also hoped that the Geneva II peace conference would come up with a roadmap to resolve the Syrian crisis and allow the people to decide on the fate of their country. The statement said that the Iranian FM, who arrived in Beirut on Sunday as part of a tour that will also take him to Damascus, Amman and Baghdad, lauded Suleiman's role in achieving unity and stability in the country. He stressed the importance of having good relations between Iran and Arab countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, to protect regional stability. The statement also quoted the visiting official as saying that Tehran would continue to work for stability in the region whether it was invited or not to the Geneva talks. Zarif later inspected the site of the Iranian embassy bombing in the Bir Hassan district of Beirut's southern suburbs. He expressed confidence in the Lebanese agencies and the judiciary to resolve the case of the attack, said Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5). Zarif announced at Rafik Hariri International Airport on Sunday that an Iranian judicial delegation would visit Beirut soon to probe the circumstances of the twin suicide bombings that targeted the Iranian embassy in November. The announcement comes after the death of Majed al-Majed, the Saudi chief of the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the alleged mastermind of the deadly attack. Later Monday, the Iranian foreign minister visited Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain el-Tineh.


President Calls on Political Foes to Bridge Gap, Overcome Details
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman called on Monday on the political foes to bridge the gap and seek the formation of an all-embracing cabinet by passing over the details. “We must not let the social situation in the country deteriorate further or allow the diminution of the role of the state institutions,” Suleiman stressed. He urged the rival parties to compromise in order to achieve the nation's higher interest, pointing out that “those who are obstructing the ongoing endeavors to form a cabinet must be held accountable for any failure.”Suleiman warned that “those who assume that they are stronger than the state as its power and its dialectics will remain the safe haven for everyone.”The government formation process has witnessed an intensified a political activity in an attempt to end the standstill since Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam was appointed in April.
The cabinet formation process was put on the front burner after Berri proposed a revised 8-8-8 government formula and 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. 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. The 8-8-8 formula divides ministers equally between the centrists and March 14 and 8 alliances, in which each get eight ministers with “decisive ministers” for the March 14 and 8 coalitions.


Saniora Holds 'Good' Meeting with Berri: We Will Continue Consultations on New Cabinet
Naharnet/Head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora described as “good” a meeting he held on Monday with Speaker Nabih Berri. He said after the talks: “We had a good and beneficial meeting and we will continue consultations over the formation of a new government.” For his part, Berri sufficed with reiterating Saniora's remarks. The Ain el-Tineh meeting was also attended by Berri's aide, caretaker Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. Al-Manar television said on Sunday that Saniora is expected to meet with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam after meeting Berri. The speaker had held talks on the government formation process on Sunday with Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat. 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. 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.


Berri Voices Optimism over Cabinet Formation Process, Praises Hariri's Endeavors
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri expressed optimism on Monday over the ongoing contacts to form a new cabinet between the political foes, hailing the efforts exerted by head of al-Mustaqbal movement former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. “Ex-PM Saad Hariri isn't only cooperating with endeavors to form an all-embracing cabinet but also cooperating to remove all obstacles confronting it,” Berri said in comments published in local newspapers.
Asked about the deadline set by President Michel Suleiman to form a cabinet, the speaker said that “the deadline encouraged the process of cabinet formation.”The president said recently that there was a need to form a new government before March 25, the deadline set by the Constitution for the parliament to meet to elect a new president. Suleiman's tenure ends in May 2014. The government formation process has witnessed an intensified a political activity in an attempt to end the standstill since Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam was appointed in April. The 8-8-8 government lineup awaits that March 14 approval, while al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc has set a series of questions regarding the cabinet's ministerial statement, the rotation of portfolios and the veto power. The 8-8-8 formula divides ministers equally between the centrists and March 14 and 8 alliances, in which each get eight ministers with “decisive ministers” for the March 14 and 8 coalitions. Asked if the March 8 alliance answered the March 14 coalition's questions, Berri said there were “no questions, answers or conditions but suggestions to improve the cabinet lineup.”Concerning the rotation of portfolios, the speaker said that “Salam was the first to propose such a measure and I support it on the basis of justice and inclusiveness.”
“It is time to end a custom in Lebanon that ministries become owned by those who fill them,” Berri said.


Phalange: We Won't Take Part in Cabinet that Protects Illegitimate Arms
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 January 2014/The Phalange Party announced on Monday that it is more concerned with the policy statement of the new government rather than how many seats it obtains. MP Sami Gemayel said after the party's weekly politburo meeting: “It would be impossible for us to take part in a cabinet that protects illegitimate arms and protects Hizbullah's fighting in Syria.” “We do not care about the lineup of the government as long as we receive clear assurances about its ministerial statement,” he explained. The Phalange Party had previously said that it is awaiting the March 14 camp's position on whether it will take part in a new cabinet. The camp has yet to present its stance to Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam. Speaker Nabih Berri had recently breathed new life in the government formation process after proposing a formula that grants eight ministers to each of the centrists and the rival March 8 and 14 camps. President Michel Suleiman had threatened to form a neutral government should the political powers fail to agree on an “all-embracing” one. The March 14 camp had allegedly agreed to the 8-8-8 formula, but it is awaiting answers to inquiries it raised about its ministerial statement, the rotation of power, Hizbullah's fighting in Syria, and a number of other issues.

ISF Detains Two Kidnapping Gangs North of Beirut
Naharnet/The Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau detained two gangs formed to carry out abduction operations, the state-run National News Agency reported on Monday. According to NNA, a joint force comprised of the intelligence bureau and Jounieh police department detained overnight a three-member gang for abducting citizen Georges Simon al-Hawa. The gang is comprised of 30-year-old Abbas A. R., 44-year-old Sadeq D. and his wife Hasna, 44. The kidnappers demanded a ransom in exchange for al-Hawa's, 61, freedom. The suspects were seized in Jounieh, north of Beirut. The same unit also detained in Tabarja, north of Beirut, 49-year-old Dani A. for forming a gang specialized with abduction. The news agency said that the detainees were refereed to the competent judiciary. Lebanon has been witnessing a kidnapping spree targeting businessmen or investors, but the authorities have vowed to put an end to the phenomenon.


Lebanon Army discovers arms cache in Hermel
BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army is in pursuit of a number of individuals following the weekend discovery of an arms cache at the residence of one of the suspects in Hermel, northeast Lebanon. In a statement Sunday, the military said it raided houses in Al-Qasr belonging to suspects it said were involved in a shooting incident in the northeastern border town earlier in the day. "The Army raided the houses of several people who were involved in the shooting incident and found in one of the residences a number of hand grenades, ammunition, several telecommunications devices, Syrian and Lebanese license plates, and military gear," the Army said. The military said it had also confiscated a Mercedes Benz outside one of the houses and was in pursuit of the suspected shooters.


Iranian robbed at gunpoint on Beirut airport road
January 13, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: An Iranian national was robbed at gunpoint on Beirut’s airport road Sunday night, a security source, citing a police report, told The Daily Star.  The Iranian, 45, told police he was on the airport road when four men on two motorcycles intercepted his car – a Nissan.  One of the assailants pointed a gun at his head and stole $2,000 as well as two Persian carpets he had inside his vehicle, the report said. The Iranian provided police with a description of the men


U.S., Russia Call for 'Local Ceasefires' ahead of Syria Talks
Naharnet/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday called for "localized ceasefires" in Syria ahead of peace talks later this month in Switzerland. Lavrov and U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi also said Damascus ally Iran should take part in the so-called Geneva II talks due to start in Montreux on January 22, after a meeting in Paris. "We talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire, maybe a localized ceasefire beginning with Aleppo (north of Syria)," Kerry said. Both said they hoped ceasefires could be in place before the talks, along with plans for prisoner exchanges and the opening of humanitarian corridors. "What can be done before the beginning of the conference should be done," Lavrov said. "We are going to try to send signals to all the Syrian sides on the need for the establishment of a localized ceasefire."Lavrov added, however, that these issues would not be a precondition to the talks. He also reiterated Russia's support for Iran taking part in the peace talks, which has been repeatedly rejected by the United States. Kerry said Tehran could take part in the talks only if it agrees to the principles set out at the first Syria peace talks in Geneva, including the goal of creating a transitional government. "Iran has yet to state whether or not it supports implementing the Geneva 1 communique," Kerry said. "We would welcome Iran participating if Iran is coming to participate for the purposes of the conference." "I invited Iran today to join the community of nations... and be a constructive partner for peace," he said. The Swiss talks have been organised to try and revive the idea of moving to a transitional government in Syria -- where the nearly three-year conflict has killed 130,000 people -- including figures from the current regime and the opposition. The Syrian opposition has in the past called for President Bashar 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 -- to no avail. Source/Agence France Presse


Report: Al-Masri to Succeed al-Majed as Head of Azzam Brigades
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 January 2014/Saudi national Abed al-Masri is allegedly the successor of Majed al-Majed, who died in Lebanon last week, as the “emir” of the al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Monday. According to the daily, al-Majed “recommended before departing the Palestinian Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon , to engage in battles in Syria, the appointment of al-Masri as his successor if he was hurt.” The newspaper reported that al-Majed's recommendation came during a meeting attended by prominent figures in the brigades including al-Masri, Toufik Taha, Mohammed and Haitham al-Shaabi, Khaled al-Abeed and Abou Ons, who is also known as Abdul Malek al-Yamani.” The report described al-Masri as an radical character with a strong personality. Al-Majed, a Saudi national, died in Lebanon while undergoing treatment at the Central Military Hospital after his health deteriorated, the army said in a communique. Al-Majed, who is also wanted by Saudi Arabia on terrorism charges, was arrested by the Lebanese army in connection with the twin suicide bombings that targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs in November. Al-Akhbar pointed out that the men “are currently present in (Ain el-Hilweh) refugee camp and are moving between Lebanon and Syria when necessary.” However, a source from inside the refugee camp told the newspaper that al-Masri “is currently in Syria,” estimating that the brigades member Sirajeddin Zreikat or another Saudi man would succeed al-Majed. Information obtained by the daily said that the brigades Shura council, which is formed of seven members, has already appointed 40-year-old al-Masri, three days after the death of al-Majed.
The report said that al-Masri was allegedly summoned by al-Majed into the refugee camp to supervise the brigades in Lebanon.
Arik's legacy: Being a human being

Op-ed: While everyone talks about statesman and commander, former advisor remembers the private Sharon
Erez Halfon Published: 01.13.14, 11:03 /Ynetnews
These days everyone's talking about the national Arik – the statesman, the military man, the strategist, the builder of the land, the politician. But what touches everyone more is the private Arik.
For seven years I walked by Arik Sharon's side in all the many events he took part in. And then another eight years. A lifetime. I can write countless pages about what I learned from him in the professional sense and in many other senses. But I would like to talk about what I learned from him on the personal level, which was the most important to him: Being a human being.
Being a human being is the smile he gives you, the sarcastic remark, the deep questions about every detail in my life and in my family's life, noticing every single look or concern, as well as the joyful moments.
Being a human being is seeing the pain, and there was a lot of pain around him during the difficult years of the Intifada, and looking people in the eyes, feeling their pain, carrying it on his back and sharing their difficulty with them. Being a human being is entering the other person's mind and trying to understand what he should understand.
In the past eight years I stayed by his side and mainly by his family's side. Every time someone asked me how he was doing, part of my heart ached and another part went on believing that this man, who is still fighting, will return to us. Nothing prepares you for the moment of farewell, and it's difficult saying goodbye.
In the difficult moments I reminded myself that the private legacy Arik left us – not just the national one – is to continue being a human being.
**Erez Halfon served as an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from 20001 to 2006

Kerry Heads to Vatican ahead of Papal Holy Land Trip
Naharnet Newsdesk 13 January 2014/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet top officials at the Vatican Tuesday to discuss Middle East peace efforts ahead of Pope Francis's first visit to the Holy Land in May. Kerry's spokeswoman Jen Psaki said he would meet with Secretary of State of the Holy See Pietro Parolin "to discuss foreign policy priorities, including Pope Francis's vocal leadership on the Middle East Peace Process, poverty and humanitarian issues". Kerry, who is Catholic, was in Paris Monday, where he has taken part in talks on the Syria crisis. He will travel on to Rome and the Vatican and then to Kuwait City for a Syria donor's conference. The 77-year-old pontiff, who has made many appeals for peace in the Middle East, said earlier this month he would visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem in May. Kerry has made a fierce push to coax Israel and the Palestinians towards an elusive peace deal, making repeated visits to the region. Direct negotiations began in late July with the aim of reaching a deal within nine months, but so far there has been little visible progress.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Have all sides become exhausted in Syria?
By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed /Asharq Alawsat
The Syrian opposition, the regime, its allies, and the Syrian people in general all seem exhausted. The country has witnessed three difficult and violent years—the worst in its history. These three years reflect the desire of many Syrians to rid the country of Bashar Al-Assad and his regime. They have also stood witness to the regime’s ability to ensure its survival using the security network it has established on the ground in Syria, a terrifying security and military apparatus rivaling that of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist Iraq and Kim Jong-Un’s North Korea. The regional struggle, pitting Tehran against Riyadh, has reached a peak with neither side giving ground. The Iranians have made military, economic and political efforts to support Assad, while Riyadh has done the same for the Syrian opposition. The battle continues, even as parties prepare for the Geneva II conference.
Saudi Arabia has stated through the public statements of its foreign minister, that the upcoming Geneva conference must be based on the recommendations and decisions of the previous Geneva conference. That conference decided on a Syria without Bashar Al-Assad, and with an interim government put in place to oversee the transitional period. With no side able to overcome the other, the situation on the ground in Syria is now exhausting all parties. This mutual exhaustion foreshadows a long war and suggests the regime will continue to hold power over the capital while opposition forces battle the Syrian army across the country. Amid all this, all rival parties, except for the Assad regime, may reach an agreement on narrowing the gap between the two camps. This is where the Geneva II conference comes in, as a venue where the idea of a transition of power may be revived. Some doubt the opposition’s ability to deal with this development, internally divided as it is and, given its own internal power struggles, incapable of upholding any solution it adopts.  Usually, political solutions are only successful after all parties have exhausted both themselves and all the other options. The people, too, become more willing to accept compromises at that point. Are we at that point now, and is everyone ready to accept the solution of a transition of power?

A piece of Lebanon’s heritage destroyed

By: Ataollah Mohajerani/ASharq Alawsat
The news about the destruction of the Saeh Library—which also served as a cultural center—in the Lebanese city of Tripoli came as a real shock, and made me wonder how such a crime against culture should be understood. Who was behind the attack, and what was their justification? Bookshops are an important part of the identity of our cities.
There are a few points to ponder. First, it is no secret that in the East, and the Middle East in particular, we—as Muslims, Christians, Hindus and so on—are not as concerned as we should be with, nor do we pay enough attention to, our cultural heritage.
Second, like a caricature that shows a deformed picture such as a person with a head like a pea but with a bloated stomach as big as a ball, politics in our communities is taking up all the space. Strangely enough, following the burning and destruction of the Saeh Library in Tripoli, numerous political pronouncements were published by all parties, governments, religious leaders, politicians and so on. In October 2012, Father Ibrahim Srouj, the founder and owner of the Saeh Library, gave a TV interview with MTV in which he very frankly stressed his deep concerns, revealing that the Saeh Library was on the verge of vanishing. No one paid attention. Clearly, when the sound of the gun is so loud, the light of culture becomes extremely weak.
In the city of Oxford in the UK, there is a historic bookshop on Broad Street: Blackwell’s, founded in 1879. The collection is so huge and thorough that it would be a challenge to go there and not find the book you are looking for. This library is one of the places that make Oxford such a prestigious city. In Oxford, you can find churches and colleges—and pubs—founded four or five centuries ago. These places collectively form the identity of the city.
We have thousands of years of history of culture and civilization, and yet we destroy our identity and neglect our heritage. When the minaret of Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque was destroyed in the fighting, I wrote here in Asharq Al-Awsat that the priceless minaret was more valuable than Assad’s regime.
Third, Tripoli has a mixed Christian and Muslim identity. The people of Tripoli, with a strong sense of humor, call Father Ibrahim Srouj a “Christian Muslim.” When you talk with Father Srouj, you forget that you are Muslim and he is Christian. The Saeh Library had both Islamic and Christian books placed next to each other.
Fourth, I think we need to establish NGOs in our cities to organize campaigns to protect our cultural heritage. Fortunately, some of the youth of Tripoli gathered at the Saeh Library and tried to protect the books that survived. After seeing them, Father Srouj said that the library would be rebuilt, even better than before, showing the light of hope in both his words and eyes.
Fifth, there is an Arabic proverb that I often hear from my Lebanese friends: “Many a harmful thing turns out to be beneficial.” If Lebanon’s people reflect on this bitter event, they will see the value of devising a program to protect all Lebanon’s cultural heritage. I think such heritage belongs to both countries and people, while governments are only guests. A government is not the owner of the country, and so its members are willing to sacrifice everything to keep their own power. Unfortunately, governments often do not look at the far horizon, trapped as they are in the short-term demands of the moment. Memory in politics is short, and it evaporates into the air, but culture is the essence of existence, and so it remains. This is the great lesson of history.
Sixth, it is said there are two excuses offered for the arson attack that burned down the Saeh Library. Firstly, an unknown group claimed that Father Srouj had a connection with the publication of a study seen as insulting to the Prophet of Islam. Clearly, this is false. Everyone who knows Father Ibrahim Srouj understands that his heart is full of love to all prophets. I can say he knows and has tasted the spirituality and beauty of the Qur’an, far more than even some Muslim clergymen! Since his mother tongue is Arabic, he knows the elegance of the divine verses of the Qur’an.
It has also been said that the reason behind the Saeh Library incident might be a commercial one: that the owner of the building wanted to sell it, and so the bookshop had to go. I have no idea if this rumor is true, but what I do know is that the municipal authorities and the mayor of Tripoli could use their powers to register and protect all cultural and historic buildings. In addition, it is their responsibility to keep such things alive and vibrant. The Ottoman building where the Saeh Library existed should be rebuilt. In Beirut, I visited some very beautiful cultural buildings that were renovated by the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Tripoli is the second city of Lebanon, and the Saeh Library was the eye of the city. Such a bright and beautiful eye needs an ophthalmologist, not a butcher.