January 20/14

Bible Quotation for today/Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good
Romans 12/17-21: "If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good.  Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.”  Instead, as the scripture says: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame.”  Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good"

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For January 20/14

The War on Terror: A Key Part of Syrian Regime’s Survival Strategy/By: Raghida Dergham/January 20/14
A Miracle on the Nile/By Dr. Walid Phares/January 20/14

Iraq: Has Brotherhood Hijacked Protests/By: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/Islamist Gate/January 20/14

Egypt's Multiple Power Centers/Adel El-Adawy/Washington Institute/January 20/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 20/14

Lebanese Related News

Report charting persecution of Christians worldwide reveals most abuse in Muslim countries

1 Dead, 21 Hurt as Clashes Enter Third Day in Tripoli

Tripoli Clashes Renew as Intense Sniper Activity Recorded

Hezbollah MPs welcome Hariri Cabinet stance

Waste piles up in Beirut as landfill sit-in enters day 3

Geagea denies March 14 rift after Hariri Cabinet stance

Hariri meets U.S. Ambassador Hale in Paris

U.S. ambassador says no compromising over STL

Presisent Amin Gemayel Urges Formation of Inclusive, Interim Cabinet ahead of Presidential Vote

Premier-designate Tammam Salam 'Cautiously Optimistic' after Hariri's Upbeat Note on Cabinet
Suleiman Asks Security Forces to Protect Towns on Border with Syria, Congratulates Egypt on Referendum

Al-Rahi: True Official Does Not Use his Supporters for Own Interest

Hale Says Source of Lebanon Divisions is Violence that STL is Confronting

Hezbollah: Israeli bug found in Lebanon  

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Canada'sPrime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Israel on inaugural Middle East visit
Islamist rebels reject 'hollow' Syria peace talks
Iraqi forces assault gunmen in crisis-hit city

'Diabolical' Arab countries behind Iraq strife: Maliki

Putin downplays planned no-show of key Western leaders at Sochi

Syria warplanes bomb Aleppo, killing 34: activists

Saudi, UAE Back Syrian National Coalition Decision to Join Geneva II

Russia Welcomes Syria Opposition Decision to Join Peace Talks

Syria says Interfax Assad comments on not giving up power inaccurate

West Hails Syria Opposition Vote to Join Peace Talks
Russia welcomes Syria opposition decision to join peace talks: diplomat

Egypt charges secularists alongside Morsi in new case

Istanbul protest for murdered Turkish Armenian journalist

Israelis engage in diplo-babble instead of preparing for Palestinian diplomatic intifada in April


Report charting persecution of Christians worldwide reveals most abuse in Muslim countries

By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON 01/19/2014/J.PostThe majority of anti-Christian persecution in the world in 2013 took place at the hands of Muslims, according to a list by Open Doors USA. The nondenominational group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide recently released its 2014 World Watch List, which describes and ranks anti-Christian persecution in a list of the 50 worst countries for 2013. It reported increasing violence against Christians in Africa, and said radical Muslims were the main source of persecution in 36 countries on its list – both in Islamic countries and in non-Muslim countries such as Kenya (ranked 40th), Ethiopia (17th) and Tanzania (49th). The top country where Christians suffer, for the 12th consecutive year, remains communist North Korea, though the nine following countries in the top ten are Islamic: Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen. Open Doors said earlier this month that it had documented 2,123 “martyr” killings over the year, compared with 1,201 in 2012. There were 1,213 such deaths in Syria alone last year, it said. Christianity is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2 billion followers, or 32 percent of the world population, according to a survey by the US-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “The one glaring fact that emerges from this report,” American-born scholar Raymond Ibrahim said in his analysis of the statistics on the Christian Broadcasting Network News website, “is that the overwhelming majority of Christian persecution around the world today is being committed at the hands of Muslims of all races, languages, cultures and socio-political circumstances: Muslims from among America’s allies (Saudi Arabia) and its enemies (Iran); Muslims from economically rich nations (Qatar) and from poor nations (Somalia and Yemen); Muslims from ‘Islamic republic’ nations (Afghanistan) and from ‘moderate’ nations (Malaysia and Indonesia); [and] Muslims from nations rescued by America (Kuwait).”Ibrahim, the son of Coptic Christian Egyptian parents, is a Shillman fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum and author of a new book, titled Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, that documents the suffering of Christians in the region. He said that in contrast to the persecution in Muslim states, Christian suffering in North Korea was likely temporary, and would end with the regime’s fall just as religious persecution did after the fall of the communist Soviet Union. In Islamic countries, he said, the opposite tends to be the case.
He noted that in countries that underwent “Arab Spring” uprisings, increased persecution occurred after the regimes collapsed. After the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and in places where the Syrian regime has lost power, Christian suffering has increased, he said.“Muslim persecution of Christians,” Ibrahim said, is “part of a continuum that started nearly 14 centuries ago.”
Reuters contributed to this report.


1 Dead, 21 Hurt as Clashes Enter Third Day in Tripoli
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 January 2014/Clashes continued Sunday in the northern city of Tripoli, raising the casualty toll to one dead and 21 injured in two days of fighting. “Abir al-Kayyal has died of wounds she incurred in the ongoing clashes between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen while the injury toll has risen to 21 after Mohammed al-Khaled was wounded,” state-run National News Agency reported in the evening. Three army soldiers and a member of the General Security were among the wounded, NNA said. The agency identified 13 of the wounded as Shadi al-Hasan, Saad Mishhawi, Mohammed Hasan, Walid al-Hamawi, Ahmed Nasser, Yahia Awad, Hamdi al-Baqqar, Yahia Saleh, Mohammed Khodr, Firas Abdul Aziz, Kamel Yamen and Jihad Haydar. It said Haydar suffered “critical wounds” and was rushed to the Islamic Hospital in the city. “Army troops backed by armored vehicles raided places in al-Riva area after several people were wounded by sniper fire on Syria Street,” Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said. “Clashes are ongoing on the frontiers of al-Riva, Starco, al-Bazar, Baal al-Darawish and al-Shamal Street amid sniper activity on all frontiers in Tripoli,” it reported earlier. According to LBCI TV, the army closed the eastern lane on the Tripoli-Akkar highway and kept the western land open to traffic. The fighting had renewed on Saturday evening on several frontiers after a brief lull. “Fighting is taking place in al-Mallouleh, Baal al-Darawish, Starco, Talaat al-Omari, the surroundings of al-Nasiri mosque, Souq al-Qameh, Hara Barranieh, the Hariri Project, al-Baqqar and al-Amercan in the city,” NNA said. It reported intense sniper activity on the international road that connects Tripoli to Akkar. “Amy forces responded to the sources of fire, using illumination bombs to locate the positions of snipers and gunmen,” NNA added. The current round of fighting in Tripoli was sparked by the Friday death of Taleb Assi of Jabal Mohsen from injuries he had sustained when unknown assailants opened fire at him in Tripoli's al-Qobbeh area.


Premier-designate Tammam Salam 'Cautiously Optimistic' after Hariri's Upbeat Note on Cabinet
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 January 2014/Officials close to Premier-designate Tammam Salam expressed a cautious optimism on the government formation process and said ex-Premier Saad Hariri proved his good intentions when he announced he was ready to share power with Hizbullah. Salam is “cautiously optimistic” over the latest developments after nine months of stalemate on the cabinet formation, the officials told al-Mustaqbal daily published on Sunday. There was some progress in the past two days, mainly after Hariri announced on Friday that he did not want to keep anyone outside the cabinet, the officials said. But Hariri, who spoke after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon trial in his father's assassination started, denied making concessions over sharing power with Hizbullah in the government. The officials, who were not identified, told al-Mustaqbal that Hariri's upbeat note left a huge impact on the Lebanese. “Some people were expecting the start of the trial in The Hague to have a negative impact on the cabinet but ex-PM Hariri avoided the spirit of vengeance to prove once again his good intentions that go along with the logic of state building,” they said. “The new stance gave a push to the consultations on the cabinet,” they said. The officials told the daily that Salam was holding onto his position to discuss the policy statement after the formation of the government. The policy statement is a source of contention between the March 8 and 14 camps. March 14 has been insisting on making the Baabda Declaration as the basis of the statement


Al-Rahi: True Official Does Not Use his Supporters for Own Interest
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 January 2014/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi said Sunday a real official does not take advantage of the people to seek his own interests. In his sermon during mass held in Bkirki, al-Rahi lamented that Lebanese officials seek the support of their followers to get personal benefits at the expense of the nation. A true official does not use his influence for his personal interest. On the contrary, he sacrifices for the common good, he said. Al-Rahi hoped that the Lebanese and Christians in particular would unity and overcome their differences. “We should come out of our differences that are a deep wound,” he said. He warned that the latest security incidents would lead to a further deterioration in the security situation. Al-Rahi also hoped that the long-awaited Geneva II peace talks on Syria would be successful. The talks open open Wednesday.


U.S. Ambassador to Beirut David Says Source of Lebanon Divisions is Violence that STL is Confronting
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 January 2014/The political violence that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is confronting is the source of sharp divisions among the Lebanese, U.S. Ambassador to Beirut David Hale has said.
“I don't think that the Tribunal caused the divisions in Lebanon,” he told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat published on Sunday. He said the axis of political violence that the court is confronting now is the source of the divisions. The diplomat rejected attempts to take advantage of assassinations, bombings and violence to terrorise rival politicians. The victims resorted to the international community to ask for justice rather than resorting to violence, he said. Asked about reports that the U.S. had not cooperated with the investigators on the mobile phones data, Hale said he should not make comments that would hint any interference in the trial but stressed that Washington has always supported all of the Tribunal's aspects. Nearly nine years after a suicide truck bomb killed ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and 21 others, the trial started Thursday in The Hague for four Hizbullah suspects accused of plotting the assassination. The four suspects are Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Assad Sabra and Hassan Oneissi. A fifth was Hassan Habib Merhi, who was indicted later than the other four suspects and is not currently being tried.
All five of them are not in custody. Lebanese authorities have failed to arrest them. The STL prosecution's case is made up of evidence including large amounts of data from mobile phones allegedly used by the plotters to plan and execute the bombing.  The U.S. call for stability in Lebanon needs law enforcement and the Tribunal is participating in this process to a big extent, Hale said. He denied that Washington would reach a settlement on the court if dialogue between the U.S. and Hizbullah-backer Iran made further progress after the nuclear deal that Tehran struck with the West. Hale said it was in the interest of the Lebanese people to stick to the dissociation policy. But unfortunately Hizbullah is trying to drag the country into the Syrian conflict. Hizbullah has sent its members to fight alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops despite the Baabda Declaration, which was adopted in 2012 by the rival parties, including Hizbullah, to distance Lebanon from the region's turmoil. Asked about the formation of the new government in Lebanon, Hale stressed that the process should be held without any foreign interference. He shied away from answering on whether the international community backed the extension of President Michel Suleiman's term, which expires in May. He said the U.S. “strongly backed” efforts to choose a Lebanese president. “Lebanon is no longer occupied by a foreign force,” he said in reference to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in the aftermath of Hariri's assassination in 2005.

Waste piles up in Beirut as landfill sit-in enters day 3
January 19, 2014/ By Jana El Hassan The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Garbage piled up on the streets of the capital and other parts of the country over the weekend, with waste collectors still unable to address the problem due to an ongoing sit-in by activists at the landfill serving Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Places such as Hamra and Hay al-Sellom were among the many Beirut areas to be affected by the pile up of garbage on streets. Some roads were inaccessible and a number of residents woke up to find their vehicles trapped in heaps of rubbish. The Mount Lebanon area was also affected. Sukleen, the private firm responsible for sweeping and cleaning the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, said Saturday its work has been hampered since Friday by the sit-in at the Naameh landfill, some 15 kilometers south of the capital. In a statement, the company apologized to citizens, saying the blocking of roads leading to the landfill was preventing the collection of garbage. “The sit-in outside the Naameh landfill and the preventing of trucks from emptying garbage ... led to the piling up of waste,” Sukleen said in the statement.  “Closing roads leading to the Naameh landfill prevented workers from collecting garbage from Beirut and Mount Lebanon,” it added. Meanwhile, residents of Naameh and surrounding villages, joined by environmental activists from dozens of non-governmental organizations, continued for a third day their open sit-in in protest of the overfilled dump. Mark Daw, an environmental activist taking part in the protest, told The Daily Star Sunday that the problem at the Naameh landfill was worsening. “The landfill expanded to an area of 300,000 square meters and is now over loaded with 10 million tons of waste,” he said, noting that the site was designed only to support 2 million tons of waste. “This is negatively affecting residents in the area and things cannot go on this way,” he added. The Naameh landfill was created in 1997 following the closure of the Normandy seafront dump in the Lebanese capital.  Naameh was initially supposed to operate for six years, but it continues to receive garbage from the Metro Beirut area and the local community has been complaining for years that it is filled far beyond capacity and poses a health and environmental risk. Daw said the sit-in would remain open ended until Lebanese officials vowed to find solutions. “We are waiting for politicians and officials to take action and make vows and present assurances that they will soon address the Naameh landfill problem,” Daw said. “Until now, no official has said a word.” In its statement Saturday, Sukleen said the securing of an alternative landfill was the responsibility of the Lebanese state and that the Council for Development and Reconstruction as well as relevant authorities were looking for solutions to the problem. Sukleen added that workers would in the meantime spray disinfectants around waste bins to prevent the spread of germs.

Hezbollah MPs welcome Hariri Cabinet stance
January 19, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Hezbollah welcomed Sunday former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s announcement that he could join a government with his March 8 rivals but said the ministerial statement, divisive for some in the March 14 alliance, needed to be dealt with after the Cabinet was formed.  “We do not want to discuss the content and details of the ministerial statement now and our convictions cannot be shaken by thunder and they [March 14 alliance] perhaps uphold their convictions that they want to include in the debate over the policy statement,” MP Mohammad Raad, who heads Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, said.
Raad’s stance on the ministerial statement, which mirrors that of Speaker Nabih Berri, contrasts with that of the Lebanese Forces which insists agreement be reached prior to the Cabinet formation.
“Any Cabinet that will be formed should be backed by political consensus of March 14 and should have a prior and clear formulation of the ministerial statement,” LF leader Samir Geagea said Saturday.
Geagea called for dropping the tripartite “The Army, the people and the Resistance” equation, present in previous ministerial statements, and adopting the Baabda Declaration – a pact that calls for distancing Lebanon from the Syria crisis.He also denied any rift in the March 14 coalition after Hariri voiced readiness to share power with Hezbollah in a national coalition Cabinet, describing the Future Movement leader’s stance as a “good-will gesture.”
In an interview with Reuters published Friday, Hariri, who leads the March 14 coalition, said he was ready to share power with Hezbollah in a national coalition government if that’s what it takes to end the political deadlock in the country. Raad stressed Hezbollah’s and the March 8 coalition’s “openness” so long as the initiative aimed at taking the country out of the “current crisis.” “But this requires concessions from both sides,” Raad added. Hezbollah MP Nawaf Moussawi also welcomed Hariri’s stance over the Cabinet formation. “We recently heard positive stances [over the Cabinet]. We have been positive to efforts to form a national unity Cabinet right from the beginning,” he said. “We are here today to say we will meet positivity with positivity and we will reply in kind because we are keen on preserving the unity of our country to confront challenges facing it,” he said, apparently referring to the Future Movement leader's recent comments. Hariri’s remarks this week are expected to seal a political deal on an all-embracing Cabinet based on 8-8-8 lineup which would break the 10-month government deadlock. The deal, suggested by Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, will most likely involve the Future Movement, the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance and Jumblatt's parliamentary bloc.


Suleiman Asks Security Forces to Protect Towns on Border with Syria, Congratulates Egypt on Referendum
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 January 2014/President Michel Suleiman on Sunday announced that he has asked security forces to protect Lebanese towns near the border with Syria “from any attack.” “Suleiman has asked military and security officials to take all the necessary measures to protect Lebanese villages and towns near the border with Syria,” said a message published on the president's Twitter account. “Protecting Lebanon's regions and residents is a priority in the face of any attack, whichever side it may come from,” Suleiman added. Nine people were killed on Friday in a rocket attack on the border town of Arsal. Five of the killed were children from the same family. Several other people were also wounded when rockets landed in nearby towns in northern Bekaa. Separately, Suleiman congratulated Egypt's Interim president on the outcome of the latest referendum on the Constitution. In a telephone conversation with Interim president Adly Mansour, Suleiman welcomed the choice of the Egyptian people, who sought for moderation and democracy. Suleiman also hailed the leading role that Egypt plays in the region and the world. He hoped for stability for the Egyptian people and their country. Egyptian voters have approved a new constitution by 98.1 percent, the elections chief said Saturday, in what the government declared a popular endorsement of the army's overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. The result of the Tuesday-Wednesday vote had never been in doubt, as Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists boycotted it, but the authorities wanted a large turnout in the first democratic test since the ouster in July.


Amin Gemayel Urges Formation of Inclusive, Interim Cabinet ahead of Presidential Vote
Naharnet Newsdesk 19 January 2014/Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel on Sunday called for the formation of an “interim” and “all-embracing” cabinet that would prepare for the upcoming important junctures, especially the presidential election. “We are before three essential and critical junctures that would decide Lebanon's future: the presidential vote, the formation of the new cabinet and the presidential elections,” Gemayel said during a press conference. He suggested what can be described as a roadmap for the three junctures. “We demand the formation of an interim cabinet that would oversee the presidential vote and whose mission would end with the end of this juncture. That would be followed by forming another cabinet that would prepare a new electoral law, under which a new Lebanese parliament would be elected and would be tasked with defining the country's domestic and foreign policies,” Gemayel said. He noted that “what's happening in Geneva between the U.S. and Iran has repercussions on the Lebanese situation.” “But we're concerned with people and their security and the country's future and we're seeking the triumph of Lebanon, not the triumph of one camp over another,” added Gemayel. “We're in round-the-clock contact with the president over the formation of the new cabinet and in constant contact with ex-PM Saad Hariri and with all our allies, as well as with the other camp, in order to form a cabinet that would satisfy our conscience,” he said. Gemayel noted that the Phalange Party would voice its final stance on the issue of joining the new cabinet in light of consultations with President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, stressing that the government must be “competent and unifying.”

Islamist rebels reject 'hollow' Syria peace talks
January 19, 2014/BEIRUT: A powerful alliance of Syrian Islamist rebels rejected upcoming peace talks on Sunday, meaning that even if the talks reach an unlikely breakthrough in the three year old civil war, it will be harder to implement it on the ground. Syria's main political opposition group in exile, the National Coalition, agreed on Saturday to attend the talks beginning on Wednesday in Geneva, setting up the first meeting between President Bashar al-Assad's government and its foes. But the Islamic Front, an alliance of several Islamist fighting forces that represents a large portion of the rebels on the ground, said on Sunday it rejected the talks.
Syria's future would be "formulated here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the front lines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don't even represent themselves," Abu Omar, a leading member of the Islamic Front, said on his Twitter account. Some 130,000 people have been killed and a quarter of Syrians driven from their homes in the civil war, which began with peaceful protests against 40 years of Assad family rule and has descended into a sectarian conflict, with the opposing sides armed and funded by Sunni Arab states and Shi'ite Iran.
In what appeared to be a symbolic conciliatory move ahead of the talks, Syria permitted some aid to reach a besieged suburb of Damascus on Saturday and Sunday, state media said.
Saturday's shipment included only 200 food parcels for Yarmouk, a camp of Palestinian refugees where 15 people have died of malnutrition so far under a seven-month siege. U.N. Relief Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said it would feed just 330 of the camp's 18,000 residents for a month. It was not immediately clear how much aid made it through on Sunday.
Cold War foes Moscow and Washington, which have emerged as the leading pro- and anti-Assad powers, have urged both parties to make concessions, including ceasefires, access for aid and prisoner exchanges, to build confidence before the conference. Russian news agency Itar-Tass cited Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov as saying that the opposition Coalition had made "a correct decision" in agreeing to attend.
"We have been saying the entire time that it is necessary to go to the forum and enter into dialogue with the government."
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, on a visit to Moscow this month, said he had given Russian officials a plan for a truce in Aleppo, Syria's biggest city, and said the government was ready to swap lists of prisoners to be freed. But there is little sign of violence abating or of either side winning a final victory on the battlefield. Activists around the country, from the capital to Aleppo to the eastern province of Deir al-Zor on the border with Iraq, said that the Syrian air force was using jets and helicopters to bomb rebel-held areas. Rebel fighters from Syria's Qalamoun mountain range, near the border with Lebanon, said more than 60 opposition militants had been killed in an ambush by forces loyal to Assad on Sunday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, said that helicopters over Aleppo were using crudely-made and inaccurate "barrel bombs", which can collapse entire apartment blocks. It said 194 people had been killed on Saturday. Death tolls on such a scale have become almost routine as fighting has intensified in the past year.
After two years when Western countries believed Assad's days were numbered and rebels seized whole swathes of the country, the past year has seen the war largely go the president's way.
Rebels have fought each other, with groups turning against a powerful al Qaeda-linked Islamist faction. Assad's forces have recovered lost ground, and the rise of Islamists among the rebels has cost them Western support.
A last-minute decision by Washington in September to scrap plans for strikes to punish Assad for using chemical arms effectively ended more than two years of speculation that the West might join the war against Assad, as it did in 2011 against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. Russia's Interfax news agency reported on Sunday that Assad had told Russian lawmakers he would not yield power. Syrian state media denied the quotes as "not accurate", however. It was not immediately clear why Damascus would object to a Russian agency reporting the president's defiant line. State media said later on Sunday that Assad had met Russian religious leaders and parliamentarians and called for an international effort to fight "terrorists", the label Damascus uses for the armed opposition.

A Miracle on the Nile
By Dr. Walid Phares

Saturday, January 18, 2014
Canada Free Press/A miracle on the Nile has been accomplished this week. Tens of millions of Egyptian citizens from all walks of life, Muslims and Christians, conservatives and liberals, seculars and religious, young and old, and in some instances, healthy and sick, have come out to cast a vote in the referendum of the century: either to say yes to new moderate constitution, relatively democratic, or to say no and revert to an Islamist constitution adopted by the previous Muslim Brotherhood regime.
Most likely, an overwhelming majority of voters will chose to move away from the 2012 Islamist regime of Mohammed Morsi and select a more liberating draft, one that reinforces fundamental rights to women and minorities. The referendum will seal a popular uprising that exploded almost a year ago, and culminated in two gigantic peaceful demonstrations last summer against the political oppression of the Ikhwan regime. In short, we are finally witnessing a real democratic revolution emerging in the largest Arab Muslim majority country in the world. As I predicted in my book The Coming Revolution, published before the Arab Spring, the first unorganized wave of protests against authoritarianism would unsettle dictators only to open the door to allow very well organized Islamists to seize power, albeit by elections. But soon enough thereafter, as we are seeing in Egypt and Tunisia, a third wave, more conscious of the totalitarian goals of the fundamentalists and better organized as civil societies, will topple the nascent Islamist regimes before they take root. This wave will redirect the countries back toward the initial dreams of the Arab Spring. Few in the West are catching the nuances of this three stage evolution of the uprisings. One major reason behind that inability to understand the immensely positive news coming out of the Nile Valley is the coordinated and powerful push back against the anti-Brotherhood revolution, funded by petrodollars and unfortunately disseminated by large segments of specialized Western academia and mainstream media.
Indeed, most of the American foreign policy establishment, in and outside government, has taken a friendly attitude toward the Muslim Brotherhood since the start of the “Spring” for a variety of reasons, the central one being the immense influence the Islamists enjoy and have enjoyed within the Middle East Studies circles in North America for decades. It is natural that when the Brotherhood finally seized power in the region, and in Egypt, their sympathizers would praise them and criticize their opponents in the West. Even after tens of millions of Egyptians rose against the Ikwan regime, apologists in U.S. media relentlessly described the Islamists as moderates and the masses as hysterically pro-military. Egypt’s civil society revolution, if anything, broke the myth of a balanced and fair Western press.
But the most worrisome in Western Muslim Brotherhood apologia is the extent to which it went to cover for the Islamists and smear the silent majorities of the region. The apologists, while hesitantly admitting that Morsi’s regime “displayed mistakes,” criticized the masses of Egypt for provoking a regime change. The critics argued that Egypt’s opposition should have waited for the next election and sought to win them. This hypocritical argument did not inform the Western public of the real threat to democracy in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood have hijacked the mechanism that oversees the elections in a way that ensures no future elections would have ever brought back an opposition to power via the Islamist institutions. Such control is similar to what happened in Iran and was also the case in the Soviet Union. It is true that Morsi came to power via democratic elections, which some argue he had rigged, but regardless of that charge, he nevertheless transformed the country in a fascist state, reminiscent of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in the 1930s: elected almost-democratically, but ruled undemocratically. In such a situation, the Egyptian people acted better than peoples in any other nation in the world. They went by the book and achieved a miracle on the Nile. In June, a petition to recall Morsi gathered 22 million signatures, the largest in the Arab world. The Islamist dictator resumed his authoritarian actions and unleashed his brown shirts on demonstrators. The army did not budge. On June 30, thirty three million citizens from all walks of life marched peacefully in Cairo and other cities demanding Morsi’s resignation. Normally, when an overwhelming popular majority demands recall, chief executives resign and call for new elections. Instead, in a speech in response to the recall, Morsi declared Jihad, opening the path for regime sponsored terror against his own people. It was at that time that the armed forces, led by General Abdelfattah el Sisee, asked the president, who had turned to violence, to refrain and find a solution with the opposition—but to no avail. The popular revolution, defending itself against a violent, even if elected, president wanted him out, wanted the armed forces to organize the interim government and commit to a referendum followed by legislative and presidential elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood unveiled their masks by transforming their movement, once removed from power, to a massive armed insurgency while al Qaeda linked Jihadists went on a rampage in the Sinai. The Ikhwan shredded their own legitimacy when they leaped to terror, exactly as did the national socialists and fascists of Europe when they destroyed their own legitimacy when they submitted their voters and citizens to bloodshed. Egyptians moved courageously, step by step, to form an interim government, create a constitutional committee, fight the Jihadists in Sinai, and resist the Brotherhood urban violence across the country. No military regime was established—though the army was capable of having generals directly rule the country. Egypt has passed the era of military coups and regimes, despite the accusations by pro-Ikhwan elites in the West.
The latest stage in Egypt’s march towards the real Spring was the first fully democratic referendum in the modern history of the Arab world. Fifty three million voters participated in the constitutional exercise that uprooted any legitimacy to the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims of being elected. Three to four times more Egyptians voted against the Islamist constitution than all the Morsi voters, which included those who voted for him simply as a protest against Mubarak. The Egyptian people are finished with the Ikhwan for good, legally, politically and morally, even if the sympathizers of the fundamentalists are still loud in the West. The country is marching firmly towards the future. They will have legislative elections and then a presidential election and will certainly have lots of problems, all characteristic of a new Arab democracy working its way toward becoming a Mediterranean democracy, somewhere between Turkey and Spain – two countries with comparable military and Islamist pasts.
What the public needs to understand is that a miracle took place on the Nile. An Islamist regime on its way to becoming a Taliban-like power was unsettled by a peaceful popular revolution. There will be debates about the role of the military, the future of the Brotherhood, and the social disparities in the country. But none of these issues can overshadow the fact that a Middle Eastern people rose successfully against totalitarianism with non-violent means, that a silent majority spoke loudly, and that democracy has claimed a major victory—sadly against the goals of current

The War on Terror: A Key Part of Syrian Regime’s Survival Strategy

By: Raghida Dergham/Translation from Arabic by: Karim Traboulsi
In the coming days, all eyes will be on Montreux, Davos, and The Hague, where historical events will unfold, intimately involving Iran, Syria, and their allies – especially Russia and Hezbollah, even if for different reasons. The battles for marketing each camp’s positions in their public relations campaigns are intriguing if sometimes ludicrous, especially when the Russian-Syrian-Iranian axis with Hezbollah and China portray its campaign as part of the war on terror, to impose this as the foremost priority for the Geneva 2 conference meant to discuss the future of Syria, and scheduled to begin on January 22 in Montreux. In The Hague, the capital of international justice, Hezbollah and its allies Syria and Iran are in the dock, following the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s (STL) indictment of four individuals with close links to Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, on charges of involvement in the terrorist attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others. Moscow has decided that the terrorism that concerns it is exclusively Sunni terrorism, represented by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, being its direct enemy in Chechnya but now also in the heart of the Russian homeland. Tehran has decided to play a duplicitous game by pursuing a diplomacy of apparent engagement with Saudi Arabia, while tasking its allies Damascus and Hezbollah with railing charges against Saudi Arabia of backing terrorist groups, yet without making any distinction between the government’s position in Riyadh and what Saudi families and individuals may be undertaking in this regard. Iranian President Hassan Rohani will take his “broad-smile” diplomacy to Davos in the Alps, regardless of whether or not his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will attend the international forum on the banks of Lake Montreux to discuss the future of Syria – an issue that may be of as much interest to Tehran as nuclear negotiations. Indeed, in Davos, where the 44th World Economic Forum will be held, lie many important keys towards easing the sanctions on Iran. But perhaps the most important weapon there will be the charm of the “broad smile” in the new diplomacy of Iran.
In Montreux and then in Geneva – where negotiations are set to be launched over implementation of the Geneva 1 communiqué to establish a transitional authority with full executive powers – the biggest challenge will be how to prevent Damascus and its allies from tearing apart the Geneva 1 communiqué and burning it in the folds of the presumed war on terror.
Terrorism is certainly present in Syria, at the decision of many actors, financiers, and volunteers. This terrorism grew at the hands of more than one local, regional, or international party. Combatting this terrorism has become the pillar of an American-Russian-European-Chinese partnership. However, the Syrian government sees terrorism on its soil as a ticket to join that partnership, if not become an icon thereof, bringing the regime salvation from accountability.
The Neo-Terrorists coming to Syria from Europe, Russia, the United States, Asia, Africa, as well as the Arab countries, are the enemies of the Syrian people and the future of Syria, no matter how much some may believe that those terrorists have the means to counter some of the brutality of the Syrian government. Their battle is not for the sake of Syria; it is an ideological war at the expense of Syria’s children and future generations. So certainly, countries must come together to fight them.
Nevertheless, what is happening in Syria today, under the banner of the war on terror, is a U.S.-European failure, as Washington, London, and other European capitals tread the the path that Damascus and its allies have drafted for them. The scramble by U.S. and European intelligence services to Damascus – as revealed in this column two weeks ago – is starting to come out into the open at the decision of the regime in Damascus, which intends to take advantage of this to forge a serious partnership that would render it indispensable in the war on terrorism. The regime is the self-styled façade and instrument of this war. It is ready to use the Neo-Terrorists to intimidate all those who are reluctant to join the partnership. To be sure, the war on terror has become a key part of the regime’s strategy to survive in power. The first step towards the partnership in question was agreeing to dismantle the chemical weapons arsenal. The second step is the war on terror, according to the Russian- and Iranian-backed strategy.
There is no counter-strategy by those who oppose President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power – be they local or regional parties. International partiers, such as the U.S. and other Western powers, pretend to have a strategy based on waiting for mutual exhaustion in the war of attrition raging between the regime forces and the forces that back them, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) or Hezbollah, and the Neo-Jihadist forces or Takfiris as they are currently being termed. For its part, Russia has wagered on defeating Islamic extremism in Syria to keep it away from its cities, only to find it chasing it now to the motherland, vowing revenge against Russia for its exploits in Syria. Russia might not be alone in facing such a predicament in the future.
The Neo-Jihadists vow revenge against to all those who do not endorse their destructive ideology – including those who are supporting them today. For this reason, they can never be the answer, no matter how deep frustration in Syria becomes. They are ultimately a tool against the Syrian people, one that has succeeded in undermining the Syrian revolution and the opposition.
If the Syrian regime’s strategy is to use Neo-Jihadists to help it remain in power, then there is an urgent need for a counter-strategy – one that would not be arbitrary – for those who do not want Bashar al-Assad to remain in his post. The Montreux and then Geneva milestones are a good occasion to do more than thinking along the lines of anger, blame, and complaints against this or that party. It is an opportunity to reassess and determine what has led to failure or defeat, and to launch alternative strategies.
First of all, there is a need to prevent Geneva 2 from being pigeonholed as an anti-terrorism conference, in order to evade implementing the Geneva 1 communiqué agreed back in June 2012, and UN Security Council resolution 2118, which requires supporting the mission of Joint International-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Brahimi insists on the implementation of Geneva 1 as the reference frame for Geneva 2.
Whatever reservations Gulf parties may have on Brahimi, the veteran diplomat is no ally of Damascus, and he is not willing to give the regime a chance to hijack Geneva 2 for goals other than the ones he set forth, namely, agreeing on a transitional body in Syria with full powers.
Brahimi certainly believes in the need to stop the Neo-Jihadists from seizing Syria and turning into a battlefield for their own sick purposes. But Brahimi is sensible enough not to reduce the issue to being one of a war on terror. Furthermore, he is fully aware of who the other players in the Syrian arena are, including Hezbollah and the IRGC – which is an essential part of why he overtly wants to see Iran present at the negotiating table.
Second, there are Gulf and Saudi voices in particular demanding a seat for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at the nuclear negotiations table between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany. Others are talking again about secret negotiations between some of these countries and Iran over Iran’s regional role. Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are an open arena for Iranian regional ambitions. Therefore, any chance for Iran to be present at the table together with the relevant Gulf countries should be an immediate Gulf demand, not only to influence Iranian attitudes with the help of international momentum and pressure, but also because the Syrian tragedy requires an end to the bloodletting, while Iraq and Lebanon, too, are in danger of collapsing.
Third, it is worthwhile for the Gulf countries to enter as a direct party in the war on terror, to thwart the Syrian strategy that is deliberately portraying these countries as supporters of terror. It is time to turn the tables on that equation and on the goals behind it.
Fourth, instead of continuously questioning the sincerity of the diplomacy of moderation coming from Tehran and led by President Rohani, investing in that moderation would be an important cornerstone of a new strategy for the Gulf countries. If this moderation proves to be sincere, then the Gulf countries would be its partners. If moderation defeats extremists and hardliners in Tehran, then the Gulf countries would be in accord with the new leadership. If moderation is defeated, then the Gulf countries would have had proven their good intentions and determination to open a new chapter with a moderate Iran, and would also be on the side of the Western powers supporting moderation. Fifth, an in-depth reading of U.S. attitudes leads to the conclusion that President Barack Obama will not back down on his engagement with Iran, no matter what. This is now a fixed U.S policy, requiring a serious and practical strategy that does not make threats without being willing to deploy the instruments of confrontation in earnest – should the Gulf countries choose confrontation with the United States. As the saying goes: If you can’t beat them, join them. Sixth, nothing justifies the stunning Gulf absence from the public relations battle where Damascus, Tehran, and Moscow are making huge gains. It is time for a public relations strategy to accompany the new necessary strategy for the Gulf countries. It is not enough to complain about Damascus’s achievements or the West’s passionate reception of the charm of Tehran’s broad-smile diplomacy, no matter how long Tehran continues to pursue a policy of deliberate ambiguity and prevarication. When President Hassan Rohani arrives in Davos, he will steal the limelight. He will have a precious opportunity and an open forum to charm those he had not won over when he visited the United Nations in New York. There is no similar Gulf strategy. The World Economic Forum would not close its doors to Gulf leaders if they wish to participate in the event at the level of kings and emirs. It is a gathering of more than 40 heads of government and state. There are regular relations between the World Economic Forum and GCC countries and periodical joint conferences held in the latter. However, Gulf leaders are habitually absent from this important forum in Davos. It is time to reconsider this as well.
In Davos, the Tunisian experience will be present as a model of what can be achieved when there is a determination to ensure the success of the process of change in the Arab region. There will be focus on the international responsibility towards the tragedy of the Syrian refugees, and on the outcome of the Geneva 2 conference in Montreux to be held on the same day Davos – which will convene for the next four days – will begin. This requires Arab and Gulf presence in particular, with a different level of representation than usual, especially since Iran appears set to take advantage of the event exclusively to its advantage.
The Gulf countries must realize that their absence will be noted, and that the world will see their role in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon as others portray it. Kuwait, to which credit should be given, hosted a donor conference, which pledged $2.4 billion for Syrians affected by the crisis. But this is not enough for the Gulf countries to say that they have done their duty.
Geneva 2 may turn into a protracted process just like the Middle East peace process. This would be a painful result, as it would mean the continuation of the fighting and negotiations simultaneously. The international community may spare themselves from blame through humanitarian positions, but this may not attain the level of opening humanitarian corridors to deliver aid.
The first stop of the new required strategy would be to participate meaningfully to make Geneva 2 a success, so that it may achieve its stated goals, rather than circumventing them under the guise of the war on terror or through fig-leaf humanitarian measures.
It is an opportunity that the Gulf countries must not miss. It is an occasion for a comprehensive, practical, and groundbreaking surprise.
Translated from Arabic by Karim Traboulsi

Iraq: Has Brotherhood Hijacked Protests?

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/Islamist Gate
January 18, 2014
Decades of suppression under Saddam Hussein's Baath party has either kept political Islamist forces led 'ideologically' by the Muslim Brotherhood in their shells or forced their leaders into self-imposed exile in several Western countries.Saddam's iron-fist policies have curtailed the expansion of the Brotherhood and Islamists in general.
Today, the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq has no 'formal' organization. The closest-linked affiliate body ideologically is, however, the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), whose support base is almost exclusively Sunni Arab.
The IIP's most prominent member in recent years was Tariq al-Hashimi, the vice-president who fled to Turkey in the face of an arrest warrant in December 2011 and a subsequent death sentence in absentia after being convicted in court of masterminding and financing terrorist operations and targeted assassinations of Shiite figures.
Following on from the government's arrest warrant against the bodyguards of another leading Sunni politician, Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi in December 2012, the IIP started to play a prominent role in organizing protests in Sunni Arab areas against the Shiite-led government.
The protesters in the very beginning of their sit-in (which started in late 2012) were united against 'one enemy'; namely, the prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki and his government. They were chanting in unison against what they perceived as marginalization and discrimination by Shiite Maliki.
But later on, several political slogans and placards that had nothing to do with their 'cause' started to become more visible at several protests especially at the main sit-in camp in the city of Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni Anbar province (the largest in Iraq with joint borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia).
For example, in the city of Samarra, on one Friday protest demonstrators were holding placards with the "R4BIA" symbol, featuring a yellow background and a black hand with four fingers upheld to commemorate the hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood protesters killed after Egyptian security forces broke up by force the main protest camp for the Islamist group in August of last year.
One of the placards featuring the R4BIA symbol read: "The Sunnis of Iraq are With You.. Oh People of Egypt." At other protest sites, Brotherhood-leaning clerics could be heard denouncing the 'coup' in Egypt as a conspiracy organized by the Coptic Church and Western powers against Islam.
Such politicized slogans among other reasons have actually divided the Sunni community down the middle.
The heavy-handed government approach against the protesters has paved the way to the emergence of old insurgent Sunni groups like Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshibandia (JRTN: a Ba'athist-Sufi armed group led by Saddam's right-hand man Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri) in the form of "Military Councils for the Revolutionaries of Sunni provinces (known as MCRs).
Some of the prominent Sunni politicians and their tribes have further chosen to throw their lot into the government camp.
Anbar governor, Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi, who up to late December had supported the Sunni protesters, is backing now Maliki, who had ordered the breakup of the Ramadi protest camp, alleging that it had become a cover-up to Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Furthermore, the MCR insurgents and their supporters - many of whom are driven by a belief that Sunni Arabs constitute a demographic majority in Iraq and that therefore the Shiite-led government in Baghdad should be overthrown - view the IIP as a collaborator with Maliki, deriding it as the "Party of Surrender" (al-Hizb al-Istislami, playing on al-Hizb al-Islami) and have accused IIP-affiliated militants of the "Iraqi Hamas" of siding with "Maliki's militias."
This anger towards the IIP is also reflected at the wider popular level in Sunni Arab areas, and has culminated in the recent burning by MCR-linked fighters of the IIP's headquarters in Fallujah.
Even among those who decided not to take up arms against the government as happened in Fallujah and some parts in nearby Ramadi, the IIP is heavily criticized for not taking the initiative in calling for a Sunni federal region in western Iraq. They accuse the IIP leaders of being complacent as they insisted on 'reforming' the incumbent government rather than toppling it.
Consequently, the 'moderate' IIP has become largely marginal in recent months with militant, tribal Sunni groups having the upper hand in dictating the course of action.
Given that the revived Sunni insurgency is expected to take several months if not years to quell at the minimum, the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole in Iraq is likely to remain on the peripheries for quite some time.
**Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University.

Egypt's Multiple Power Centers

Adel El-Adawy/Washington Institute
Given the limitations and internal divisions of Egypt's various power centers, neither the military nor any other single institution is solely in charge at the moment.
The overwhelming "yes" vote in Egypt's army-backed constitutional referendum this week, based on a respectable reported turnout of around 40 percent, has led some observers to conclude that the military alone now runs Egyptian politics. True, the military remains the central pillar of all state institutions amid the ongoing turmoil, but it is not the sole decisionmaker. For example, since the June 30 revolution that ousted President Muhammad Morsi, other actors besides the military have made major political decisions such as cabinet appointments, formation of the fifty-member constitutional committee, and the drafting of the constitution itself. In fact, the post-Mubarak era has been defined by the emergence of multiple power centers that continue to influence the country's political trajectory.
Former president Hosni Mubarak led a tightly knit, centralized decisionmaking process driven almost entirely by the executive branch. Until around 2005, he was Egypt's strongman -- he trusted few, and he always had the final word about what would transpire in the domestic political scene. To be sure, he lost some control to his family members during the last five years of his presidency, a time when institutional and personal tensions were building within the executive amid wide disapproval of the plan to have his son Gamal succeed him as president. Nevertheless, Mubarak was still "the man" in Egypt, and if anyone convinced him of a policy, he had the resources and power structure to implement it. But all this abruptly changed after his February 2011 ouster.
One of the challenges for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took over after Mubarak stepped down, was adapting to a new political reality without proper preparation. With millions of Egyptians empowered by the revolution, the executive branch could not have full control over the political system. Throughout its rocky eighteen-month rule, the SCAF struggled to operate in an environment where new power centers -- the street, nonstate actors, media, new political parties, the business community, and so forth -- had significant influence on political developments. Field Marshall Muhammad Hussein Tantawi and Army Chief of Staff Sami Anan spearheaded a transition that drew much criticism and even made some senior military officials wary. Since last summer, however, the military -- under the leadership of Defense Minister Abdul Fattah al-Sisi -- has absorbed and accepted the new reality of other power centers exercising influence.
Among Egypt's handful of current power centers, some actors are more important than others, but they all affect Cairo's decisionmaking and the overall political situation. These power centers can be divided into three categories: state institutions, the executive branch, and nonstate societal actors. The complex interactions between these blocs are key to understanding the power dynamics in post-Mubarak Egypt.
In the first category, the main players are the state institutions that deal with security, economics, rule of law, and foreign affairs. The executive category includes the president and his cabinet. The nonstate category includes the street, NGOs, media, the business community, various political parties or organizations, and religious institutions. These power centers have been shifting continuously over the past three years, at times aligning themselves with strange bedfellows.
On the eve of last June's revolution, most of Egypt's power centers were aligned against the Muslim Brotherhood government, and Morsi had lost complete control. All state institutions and most nonstate actors had turned against him. The police, intelligence, and military were frustrated with what they regarded as an incompetent presidency; in their view, Morsi was jeopardizing national security by ignoring serious domestic grievances, allowing jihadists to establish a stronghold in Sinai, and pursuing a foreign policy that alienated Persian Gulf governments. Similarly, the judiciary believed it was under attack, with Morsi issuing a constitutional declaration in November 2012 that put himself above the rule of law and appointing a prosecutor-general whom many viewed as illegitimate. Civilian state institutions felt completely sidelined as well; for example, Morsi advisor Essam al-Haddad served as the de facto foreign minister, much to the chagrin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Yet the main catalysts for the June 30 revolution were the nonstate actors who had turned against the Brotherhood-led government months earlier. Millions of Egyptians joined the "Tamarod" (rebellion) movement to demand Morsi's removal, and a broad spectrum of political forces, NGOs, business leaders, and private media outlets encouraged people to take to the streets on June 30. Even major religious institutions such as the Coptic Church and al-Azhar endorsed the post-Morsi roadmap following his July 3 ouster. Of course, the security apparatus indirectly encouraged the Tamarod movement as well based on its own suspicions about the Brotherhood's intentions and actions. Nevertheless, the fact is that most power centers had genuinely turned against the government, making it practically impossible for Morsi to continue governing.
Egypt's power configuration has shifted dramatically since last summer's revolution. The key power centers remain anti-Brotherhood, but two ideological camps have been battling each other as well: a nationalist camp and a "liberal" camp. The former prefers a strong state represented by a strong security establishment and military, while the latter opposes the idea of an assertive security and military establishment playing a major role in governance. Both camps are well represented in the current power structure. Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi, his deputy Ziad Bahaa Eldin, and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy are all considered part of the "liberal" camp, while the nationalist faction includes officials such as Housing Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim, Minister of Local Development Adel Labib, and Aviation Minister Abdel Aziz Fadel.
The media are divided along similar lines, with Abdel Rahim Ali, Adel Hammouda, Tawfik Okasha, and Ahmed Moussa considered part of the nationalist camp and Lamis al-Hadidi, Bassem Youssef, Mona Elshazly, and Mahmoud Saad placed in the liberal camp. Among nonstate actors, the Tamarod movement is considered nationalist, while the "April 6" movement and some socialist factions are in the liberal camp.
Strong tensions and frustrations have been building up between these two camps in all of Egypt's power centers, as reflected in the decisionmaking process. For example, during a November cabinet meeting, an intense rift erupted between Deputy Prime Minister Bahaa Eldin and Interior Minister Ibrahim over the proposed protest law, which led to a delay in its issuance. The nationalist camp was fully supportive of the law, while the liberal camp was more hesitant about it. Another point of contention has been the idea of reconciliation with the Brotherhood, which the nationalist camp completely refuses, in sharp contrast to the liberal camp. The prime minister has failed to bridge the gap between these two camps, rendering his cabinet ineffective in governing.
In policy terms, the government is focused on three main portfolios at the moment: security, the economy, and the transitional roadmap. Although the security apparatus is handling the first portfolio, the cabinet and the president's office are still involved in all major security decisions to one degree or another, including the dispersal of pro-Morsi protestors at Rabaa al-Adawiyya Square and al-Nahda Square. The economic portfolio and transitional roadmap are being handled by the cabinet and President Adly Mansour himself. And while Defense Minister Sisi serves as the first among three deputy prime ministers, he has not used that position to interfere in non-security issues in Beblawi's cabinet. Thus, "full military control" is not an accurate way to describe Egypt's current political or decisionmaking process.
Since Mubarak's fall, a paradigm shift has taken place inside Egypt's complex power structure, with many key players now influencing each other. The military is of course a major pillar in this structure, but many other important forces surround it and help shape the country's political decisions. Understanding the limitations of these internally divided power centers indicates that neither the military nor any other single institution is solely in charge.
**Adel El-Adawy is a Next Generation Fellow at The Washington Institute.

Canada'sPrime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Israel on inaugural Middle East visit

By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press – JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Stephen Harper ‘‘a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people‘‘ at a welcoming ceremony for the Canadian prime minister on Sunday. Netanyahu said Harper has shown "great moral leadership" in fighting terrorism and also lauded Harper for his stands on anti-Semitism, Iran and Middle East peace.
"I think in all this and in so many other things you‘ve shown courage, clarity and conviction," Netanyahu said. "The people of Israel and I deeply appreciate your friendship, and the friendship of the people of Canada to us."
Harper said he was delighted to be in Israel but would save further comments for his speech to the Knesset on Monday. He arrived earlier Sunday to kick off his inaugural visit to the Middle East.
Harper and a sizable entourage landed in Tel Aviv under sunny skies at Ben Gurion International Airport.< He and his wife, Laureen, were greeted by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign affairs minister, and by Vivian Bercovici, Canada’s ambassador-designate to the Jewish state.< The Harpers travelled in a motorcade along a winding, scenic highway to Mount of Olives to take in its spectacular views of Old Jerusalem. At various points along the way, children stood at the side of the road to watch the motorcade go by.< As the sun beamed in their eyes, Haim Cohen, a research fellow at the University of Haifa, pointed out the many points of interest to the couple, the most imposing being the Dome of the Rock.< The Mount of Olives is important in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, and has been used a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years. It’s named after olive groves that once grew on its hillside.< The prime minister left Ottawa yesterday with a large entourage in tow on a six-day trip that will include visits to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.<
Harper is travelling with six cabinet ministers, a senator, 30 top business executives that include David Asper, Philip Reichmann and Air Canada CEO and president Calin Rovinescu. Twenty-one rabbis and a priest also accompanied Harper.< In total, there are just over 100 people in the entourage, and Canadian taxpayers will be covering the entire cost of travel and accommodations for at least 30 of them.Stephen Harper has been a passionate supporter of Israel, and he will be the first Canadian prime minister to address the Knesset _ Israel’s parliament.Spokesman Jason MacDonald says Harper will promote commercial relations, as well as peace and security in the region, when he meets with Israeli leaders and, later in the week, with the King of Jordan.

Syria says Interfax Assad comments on not giving up power inaccurate
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Syrian state media dismissed as "not accurate" a report by news agency Interfax that President Bashar al-Assad told visiting Russian parliamentarians he has no intention of giving up power and the issue is not up for discussion. Assad was quoted as telling the visitors days ahead of an internationally sponsored peace conference on Syria that "if we wanted to give up, we would have done so at the very beginning. We are on guard for our country. This issue is not up for discussion." Syrian state television said that the Assad quotes on Interfax "are not accurate". It also said Assad "did not conduct an interview with the agency", although Interfax had not said that it had. The comments attributed to Assad underscore differences between participants ahead of the January 22 talks in Montreux, Switzerland, seen as the most serious global effort yet to end Syria's three-year conflict, during which Assad has enjoyed Russia's protection. Syria's main political opposition group in exile agreed on Saturday to attend the talks, dubbed "Geneva 2", and said that three rebel groups supported the move.
But the fractured National Coalition itself has little influence on the ground in Syria and other major opposition fighter units have rejected its authority and peace talks. The United Nations hopes the talks will bring about a political transition in the country, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that Syria's future had no place for Assad. Syria, however, said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week that its focus at the peace conference would be on fighting "terrorism". Alexander Yushchenko, parliamentarian and member of the delegation to Syria, was quoted in Itar-Tass, another Russian news agency, as saying Assad "suggested that his opponents announce their candidacy and run against him for the votes of the people... but so far however, no one has done it." Syria's civil war, which started when the opposition armed itself following months of security forces shooting at pro-democracy protests, has devastated the country and caused millions to flee their homes. Hundreds of thousands are trapped in besieged areas and polio has broken out in the country as vaccination rates plummet. The war has left more than 100,000 dead. In the besieged Damascus Yarmouk district, where 15 people have died of malnutrition, 200 parcels of food aid were delivered on Saturday, said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The delivery is tiny compared to the needs of the roughly 18,000 trapped residents and Gunness said it would only feed about 333 people for a month.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove in Moscow and Oliver Holmes in Beirut; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Israelis engage in diplo-babble instead of preparing for Palestinian diplomatic intifada in April
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 18, 2014/Israeli politicians, left, right and center, are resorting again to their familiar clichés to trade accusations over where ongoing negotiation with the Palestinians should or should not be going. Meanwhile, the Palestinians have other plans, the first of which is to terminate peace talks with Israel.
In that sense, little has changed in the thirteen years since the United States began taking a hand in the “Middle East peace process.”
In 2000, President Bill Clinton brought Israel’s prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Camp David, purportedly to knock their heads together for a peace agreement. He was perfectly aware that Palestinian plans were in place for the suicide bombing intifada war a month hence in September, and that nothing would come of the heavily televised encounter.
In the repeat performance today, those three faces have changed but little else. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have compiled a peace proposal. But when it was put before Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, his mind was elsewhere.
Without waiting for the peace talks to wind down the end of April, as agreed, Abbas, according to intelligences reports, was deep in plans to enlist 63 international organizations for a massive anti-Israel boycott. The same number of teams was busy drawing up separate applications for these organizations to join boycotts against Israel in every field of endeavor, according to their respective spheres.
Among the addresses is the International Court at the Hague which is to be asked to indict Israel for hundreds if not thousands of alleged war crimes and the practice of apartheid.
Abbas is fond of telling everyone that he is against terrorism. He is therefore setting up a “diplomatic intifada” – without the violence the Palestinians demonstrated in their former assaults on the Jewish state. However, debkafile’s counter-terror sources have found that, in recent weeks, Abbas and his security agencies have lost control of suburbs in the West Bank towns under their rule, and especially the 19 refugee camps which have been taken over by local armed militias.
These militias, as well as Hamas, Jihad Islami and other violent bands, are getting organized for a fresh outbreak of terrorist operations including suicide bombers.
In the Nablus and Bethlehem areas of the West Bank, some Palestinian gangs are also preparing to shoot Qassam rockets at Jerusalem and other Israel towns.
In the year 2000, the Israeli powers-that-be, led by the IDF Chief of staff at the time, Shaul Mofaz, kept Palestinian preparations for their intifada away from the public notice, so as not to upset peace diplomacy.
The incumbent army chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, likewise complies with government directives to keep the true situation dark so as not to derail Kerry’s peace efforts.
The State Department spokeswoman was correct when she declared, in a rebuke to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s derogatory comments, that the Secretary was working night and day to ensure Israel’s security and future.
At the same time, the forthcoming eruption of a Palestinian diplomatic-terrorist war on Israel will not only terminate yet another peace process, it will gravely jeopardize Israel’s legitimacy and international credibility, which is its object. It has to be said that Netanyahu went a lot further toward meeting Palestinian demands than expected, including extensive territorial concessions in Jerusalem. He is gambling on major concessions convincing the Obama administration that if anyone is to blame for the negotiations running aground when they do, it is not Israel.
debkafile questions the effectiveness of this high-wire tactic. Once Palestinian violence explodes, no one in the international community will want to remember precisely how far Netanyahu and Kerry were willing to go along the path of peace. Thirteen years ago, questions focused on whether Yasser Arafat had orchestrated the suicide attacks on Israeli civilians or whether it was spontaenous. This time, the same circles will try and show that Abbas is not responsible for the terrorism and maintain that his diplomatic campaign is legitimate.
While pacifying Washington with one hand, Netanyahu ought, with the other, to be making a start on reorganizing the economy and the army for the challenges awaiting the country in just four months.
This he does not appear to be doing - and is under no popular pressure to do so. Israel’s media fill their screens and front pages obsessively with tidbits of scandal and endless items on crime, parading mob leaders, their victims and their lawyers in long interviews and segments.
There is scant room left over for serious reporting on security and national affairs. And so the prime minister and his government can conceal worrying realities from the public fairly undisturbed.
Any utterances heard from government ministers tend to be just hot air – such as Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s solemn advice for Israel to part from the Palestinians in peace.
How does this sort of diplo-babble fit in with the Palestinian rejection this week of Kerry’s own proposals for keeping the negotiations afloat, on the grounds that they promised the Palestinians nothing but a state without frontiers, a capital, or border crossings.
Abbas’s tactics are built around never parting from Israel, but staying uncomfortably close and proving to the world that Israel is an occupying power which denies them independence. Disengagement would spoil the game which has kept Abbas in power since Nov. 2004 as Arafat’s successor.
Calls on the prime minister from the political left wing to take “courageous steps” are likewise divorced from this reality. However courageous his steps may be, Abbas will still say they are not enough and try and squeeze more. Nothing Israeli or the most diligent US Secretary of State does will divert him from this strategy and the path he has set himself.
Some time in April, therefore, Israel will face the onset of a disastrous Palestinian diplomatic assault on its legitimacy, backed by their friends in many countries. Only time will tell how it evolves.