January 22/14

Bible Quotation for today/

Bible Quotation for today/God created man in his own image, in the image
Genesis 1:27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Today's Inspiring Thought: In the Image of God"
We humans are as diverse and different as our marvelous Creator's mind is capable of creating, yet we all share the astounding quality of being made in his image. This thought is amazing and so true because people are people who ever they are and where they are no matter how they look skin colour or size wise.. Although as people we look distinct and dissimilar yet in our worship of God, we experience unity and a common bond of love, peace, and fellowship. We were reflecting the image of our Creator. We are truly God's children and have a holy obligation to act accordingly

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For January 22/14

Syria's Assad accused of boosting Al-Qaeda with secret oil deals/The Telegraph/January 22/14

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon sets judicial standards/Diana Moukalled/Asharq Alawsat/January 22/14
The U.S. and Christian Persecution/By: Raymond Ibrahim/January 22/14

Better the Devil we Know/By: Manuel Almeida/Asharq Alawsat/January 22/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 22/14

Lebanese Related News

4 Dead in Haret Hrek Suicide Bombing, 'al-Nusra Front in Lebanon' Claims Attack

Officials Denounce Haret Hreik Blast amid Call for Unity

West Strongly Condemn Haret Hreik Blast, Offer Condolences to Victims

Robbers of Cars Used in Haret Hreik, Hermel Explosions Arrested

Sulaiman Calls for Unity in Confronting Terrorism, Regrets Wasted Time over Cabinet Formation

Ban Hails Suleiman over Dissociation Policy, Says Presidential Polls Should be Held on Time

Salam Says New Cabinet Can Embrace All Parties

Teen Dies in Dahieh Blast after Saying She Escaped Three Bombings

Geagea Says Army Hasn't Identified Nature of Maarab Drone: Efforts to Assassinate Me are Ongoing

Hariri Rules Out 'People-Army-Resistance' Equation, Says 'Only Death' Separates Him from March 14 Allies
Masour Says All Countries Should Participate in Geneva II to Guarantee its Success

1 Dead in Renewed Tripoli Clashes

Israeli Infantry Unit Crosses Barbed Wire Fence in al-Wazzani

Syrian Strangles 8-Month-Old Son over 'Annoying Cries'

Poultry Truck Flips Over in Araya, Four People Injured

FPM Insists on Rejecting Rotation of Ministerial Portfolios

Aoun Rejects Portfolio Rotation, Warns against 'Tampering' with Christian Representation

Garbage Crisis Looms as Road to Naameh Landfill Blocked Anew

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Canada Condemns Beirut Bombing

Harper's speech to Israeli Knesset garners international attention
Harper, Netanyahu sign broad agreement in Jerusalem meeting

Iran Says U.N. Withdrew Syria Talks Invite 'Under Pressure'
Syrian warring sides to meet under world's gaze

Muallem Says Assad's Future 'Red Line' as Regime, Opposition Delegations Arrive in Geneva
Lavrov: Booting Iran Out of Syria Talks a 'Mistake'

Report 'Extremely Alarming'

Officials: Pakistan Jet Fighters Kill 20 Militants

Iraq Executes 26 Men on Terrorism Charges

Netanyahu Says Iran's 'Military Nuclear Program' Will be Stopped

Israel PM Threatens to Teach Hamas Lesson 'Very Soon'
Israeli missile strike in Gaza kills two Palestinian gunmen
Kerry Heads for High-Stakes Syria Talks


Canada Condemns Beirut Bombing
January 21, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“Canada condemns today’s suicide bombing that killed at least four people in the southern Beirut neighbourhood of Haret Hreik—the second such attack in just two weeks on the same street. On behalf of all Canadians, I express condolences to the families and friends of those killed and wish a swift recovery to the injured. “Lebanon cannot allow itself to be pulled into the Syrian conflict, and I call upon all Lebanese to abide by the principle of neutrality in regional affairs, especially in Syria. Canada calls on all Lebanese leaders to maintain peace and security through a national dialogue and the formation of a government.“Canada strongly condemns all attempts to destabilize Lebanon. We stand firmly with the Lebanese people and urge them to maintain unity in the face of such terrorist threats.”

Syria's Assad accused of boosting Al-Qaeda with secret oil deals

The Telegraph/January 20/14
Western intelligence suggests Bashar al-Assad collaborating with jihadists to persuade West the uprising is terrorist-led
By Ruth Sherlock, in Istanbul and Richard Spencer7:53PM GMT 20 Jan 2014
The Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad has funded and co-operated with al-Qaeda in a complex double game even as the terrorists fight Damascus, according to new allegations by Western intelligence agencies, rebels and al-Qaeda defectors. Jabhat al-Nusra, and the even more extreme Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), the two al-Qaeda affiliates operating in Syria, have both been financed by selling oil and gas from wells under their control to and through the regime, intelligence sources have told The Daily Telegraph.
Rebels and defectors say the regime also deliberately released militant prisoners to strengthen jihadist ranks at the expense of moderate rebel forces. The aim was to persuade the West that the uprising was sponsored by Islamist militants including al-Qaeda as a way of stopping Western support for it.
The allegations by Western intelligence sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, are in part a public response to demands by Assad that the focus of peace talks due to begin in Switzerland tomorrow be switched from replacing his government to co-operating against al-Qaeda in the “war on terrorism”.
“Assad’s vow to strike terrorism with an iron fist is nothing more than bare-faced hypocrisy,” an intelligence source said. “At the same time as peddling a triumphant narrative about the fight against terrorism, his regime has made deals to serve its own interests and ensure its survival.”
Intelligence gathered by Western secret services suggested the regime began collaborating actively with these groups again in the spring of 2013. When Jabhat al-Nusra seized control of Syria’s most lucrative oil fields in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, it began funding its operations in Syria by selling crude oil, with sums raised in the millions of dollars.
“The regime is paying al-Nusra to protect oil and gas pipelines under al-Nusra’s control in the north and east of the country, and is also allowing the transport of oil to regime-held areas,” the source said. “We are also now starting to see evidence of oil and gas facilities under ISIS control.”
The source accepted that the regime and the al-Qaeda affiliates were still hostile to each other and the relationship was opportunistic, but added that the deals confirmed that “despite Assad’s finger-pointing” his regime was to blame for the rise of al-Qaeda in Syria.
Western diplomats were furious at recent claims that delegations of officials led by a retired MI6 officer had visited Damascus to re-open contact with the Assad regime. There is no doubt that the West is alarmed at the rise of al-Qaeda within the rebel ranks, which played a major role in decisions by Washington and London to back off from sending arms to the opposition.
But the fury is also an indication that they suspect they have been outmanoeuvred by Assad, who has during his rule alternated between waging war on Islamist militants and working with them.
After September 11, he co-operated with the United States’ rendition programme for militant suspects; after the invasion of Iraq, he helped al-Qaeda to establish itself in Western Iraq as part of an axis of resistance to the West; then when the group turned violently against the Iraqi Shias who were backed by Assad’s key ally, Iran, he began to arrest them again.
As the uprising against his rule began, Assad switched again, releasing al-Qaeda prisoners. It happened as part of an amnesty, said one Syrian activist who was released from Sednaya prison near Damascus at the same time.
“There was no explanation for the release of the jihadis,” the activist, called Mazen, said. “I saw some of them being paraded on Syrian state television, accused of being Jabhat al-Nusra and planting car bombs. This was impossible, as they had been in prison with me at the time the regime said the bombs were planted. He was using them to promote his argument that the revolution was made of extremists.”
Other activists and former Sednaya inmates corroborated his account, and analysts have identified a number of former prisoners now at the head of militant groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS and a third group, Ahrar al-Sham, which fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra but has now turned against ISIS.
One former inmate said he had been in prison with “Abu Ali” who is now the head of the ISIS Sharia court in the north-eastern al-Qaeda-run city of Raqqa. Another said he knew leaders in Raqqa and Aleppo who were prisoners in Sednaya until early 2012.
These men then spearheaded the gradual takeover of the revolution from secular activists, defected army officers and more moderate Islamist rebels.
Syrian intelligence has historically had close connections with extremist groups. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph after he defected, Nawaf al-Fares, a Syrian security chief, told how he was part of an operation to smuggle jihadist volunteers into Iraq from Syria after the 2003 invasion.
Aron Lund, editor of a website, Syria in Crisis, used by the Carnegie Endowment to monitor the war, said: “The regime has done a good job in trying to turn the revolution Islamist. The releases from Sednaya prison are a good example of this. The regime claims that it released the prisoners because Assad had shortened their sentences as part of a general amnesty. But it seems to have gone beyond that. There are no random acts of kindness from this regime.”
Rebels both inside and outside ISIS also say they believe the regime targeted its attacks on non-militant groups, leaving ISIS alone. “We were confident that the regime would not bomb us,” an ISIS defector, who called himself Murad, said. “We always slept soundly in our bases.”


The Special Tribunal for Lebanon sets judicial standards
Diana Moukalled/Asharq Alawsat/In Lebanon, murder has been adopted as a means to govern and wield power in public life. The country has the highest percentage of political assassinations in the world, taking into consideration its size and short history. Ever since Lebanon’s creation, an enforced harmony was established, with murderers who spread their culture of death taking the lead. These killers eliminated their victims in any way they could, either using explosions, assassinations or permanent abduction. A formula granting murderers a post in public and political life was fixed. Meanwhile, all the victim had to do was die and fade away silently. If some survived for some reason, all they had to do was accept the fact and thank God they were alive. All this was adopted under a formula that asserted that murdering rivals was the peak of patriotism.
However, the core of this formula was shaken a few days ago by the spectacular realism the Lebanese and the rest of the world demonstrated through the workings of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which began its trials for the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The prosecution presented a live audio and visual representation of the events that led up to the crime that took place on February 14, 2005, and presented evidence that five Hezbollah members were involved in monitoring Hariri and preparing the explosion that killed him. We watched the movements of the accused for months before the crime and saw authenticated data of their communications.The show that the STL prosecutors put on resembled the work of investigative journalists. But isn’t investigation a practice of both journalists and judiciaries?
And just like journalism can deviate from its role, the judiciary can too, tampering with its major task of achieving justice. This is what happened in all previous assassination cases that hit Lebanon—the judiciary was incapable of fulfilling its role and its hands were tied.
But this STL is the first time a serious and efficient judicial route has been taken for a crime described as terrorism. The Lebanese and the Arabs have not experienced trials that are this efficient until now. To be more accurate, the public’s interest has never been held by any trial before because the idea of justice, in its procedural and judicial meaning, and not in its spiritual meaning, has not been that common in our states.
The STL now breaks with all this. Calmly yet forcefully, based on the data, someone has narrated our story in this country for us—or, rather, documented our story as part of the wider region. When I looked into the history of the tribunal, I realized why it had been the target of massive political and media campaigns over the course of the last nine years. Of course, these campaigns have now resumed, with some returning to the rhetoric of “resistance” that keeps repeating that the tribunal is politicized and hasn’t presented anything new. Accusations that the trial was boring also recently emerged.
The course of justice may be long, and even boring, but this is the nature of justice. Unlike murder and violence, speed and excitement are not features of justice.
The Lebanese people’s story concerning this tribunal has not ended yet. It will certainly see more chapters unfold. Everything that has happened in Lebanon during the past nine years is directly or indirectly linked to the STL. The tribunal may not bring security quickly to Lebanon, but it’s certainly a real introduction to the concept of accountability.


4 Dead in Haret Hrek Suicide Bombing, 'al-Nusra Front in Lebanon' Claims Attack
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/..A suicide bombing rocked on Tuesday Beirut's southern suburbs for the second time this month, leaving at least four people dead, the health ministry and the state-run National News Agency reported. A group calling itself al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, believed to be a franchise of the Syrian al-Qaida-linked group, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group said via Twitter that the attack was aimed at retaliating to Hizbullah's alleged massacres in Syria and the Lebanese northeastern town of Arsal. Al-Nusra Front is the official branch of al-Qaida in Syria, and late last year a group calling itself the al-Nusra Front in Lebanon emerged. The health ministry said four people were killed and 46 were wounded when according to NNA a suicide bomber in a silver Kia Sportage blew himself up in the Haret Hreik district. NNA said the vehicle was loaded with mortars. Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said the Kia was stolen in Kfarhbab last year. Its owner is Khallas Youssef al-Kallas. TV footage showed black smoke rising from the area of the explosion. Firefighters rushed to the district to douse a fire that engulfed several cars and gutted the facade of a residential building in the busy al-Arid commercial street. Ambulances, their sirens wailing, also transported the wounded to hospitals in the region. The authorities and the Lebanese army have not yet confirmed whether the blast was carried out by a suicide bomber as in previous attacks. Red Cross Operations Director George Kettaneh said human remains were found in the area. An eyewitness also told Hizbullah's al-Manar TV that the person inside the vehicle, who was driving recklessly, blew himself up even before parking the car. Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr tasked military police to investigate the blast, which the army said in a communique that it was caused by a car bomb. An investigation is underway to determine whether the human remains belonged to a bomber.
Wadi Khaled resident Qutaiba Mohammed al-Satem was the suicide bomber who blew himself up also in Haret Hreik in early January. Tuesday's bombing was the fifth attack to hit the Hizbullah bastion since the group announced its intervention in Syria last year. Less than a week ago, a car bomb exploded in Hermel, a town in the eastern Bekaa valley, also a Hizbullah stronghold. The attacks are apparently in retaliation for the group's fighting in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad's troops. The Traffic Management Center asked residents to clear the area of the blast to allow rescuers to help the wounded after hundreds of people flocked to the scene of the blast. Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar was quick to point the finger at Israel. He told reporters that the explosion aimed at undermining the country's security, unity and civil peace.


West Strongly Condemn Haret Hreik Blast, Offer Condolences to Victims
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/..Several western countries denounced on Tuesday the car bombing that targeted a residential and commercial street in Beirut's southern suburb of Haret Hreik that has killed and wounded a number of people. The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly considered the explosion “a further deeply disturbing act of indiscriminate terror.”He pointed out that “such acts cannot be justified and are contrary to the interests of all the Lebanese.”Plumbly called for unity among the Lebanese “at this difficult time.”He also encouraged support to the state institutions, including the army and the security forces in order the “safeguard the country's security and stability.”The U.N. officials hoped that those responsible for the attack “and all other acts of terrorism will be brought to justice as soon as possible..”The U.S. embassy in Beirut also denounced the attack, it offered its condolences to the victims and their families via twitter. “We condemn all forms of terror in Lebanon,” the embassy said. For his part, British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher considered that any attack across Lebanese territories is “an attack on all Lebanon.”He described the bombing as “sad news of another despicable terrorist bomb in Beirut.”

Lebanese Officials Denounce Haret Hreik Blast amid Call for Unity
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/Lebanese officials denounced on Tuesday a suicide attack that targeted Haret Hreik district, a Hizbullah stronghold, which was rocked by a similar blast in early January. Officials called on the Lebanese to united, considering that the attack targets Lebanon as a nation and not only Dahiyeh. President Michel Suleiman condemned the terrorist attack in Haret Hreik, considering that “violence only leads to more violence.” Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati urged officials to cooperate and confront the ordeal, calling on officials to meet on common grounds to face the dangerous situation in the country. PM-designate Tammam Salam described the bombing as a “hideous terrorist act,” calling for “fortifying the local political and security situation.”Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat stressed that Lebanon entered “the circle of madness,” considering that the “takfiries are aggravating their terrorism.”The blast left scores of casualties. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea offered his condolences to the victims and families, considering that the authorities should swiftly end the security chaos across the Lebanese-Syrian border to prevent gunmen from crossing over into Lebanon and vice-versa. Meanwhile, Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel voiced a notable stance, calling for holding "a national conference aimed at immunizing Lebanon against these takfiri movements, because it has become the victim of a certain approach that is destroying our national unity and aggravating conflicts.”
“This national conference would support and strengthen the security agencies so that they become an effective tool in combating these takfiri movements that are tampering with our security and stability.”
He earlier said that “Lebanon as a whole is the victim of bombings and not only Hizbullah.” Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh slammed the attack, saying that “innocent people are paying the price of terrorism.”
AMAL Movement Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said that the “battle with terrorism is open.” He pointed out that “terrorists want to create chaos in the country with no other aim but kill.”
Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi said in comments that "security agencies should coordinate among each other to preserve the security situation." He also called for the end the strong rhetoric.
Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc Fouad Saniora urged all political parties to adopt the policy of dissociation for Lebanon's interest. The Baabda Declaration was unanimously adopted during a national dialogue session in June 2012. It calls for Lebanon to disassociate itself from regional crises, most notably the one in Syria. Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar condemned the Dahiyeh blast, accusing Israel of being behind the bombing.
He said that “the explosion aims at undermining the country's security, unity and civil peace.” Later, Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani said the blast is a sign that plotters will blow up every attempt to restore security in the country. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi also denounced the blast, calling for prioritizing dialogue and brotherhood between the Lebanese. The blast is the sixth in a string targeting Hezbollah-dominated areas since the group announced it was sending fighters to support President Bashar Assad's troops in neighboring Syria.


Sulaiman Calls for Unity in Confronting Terrorism, Regrets Wasted Time over Cabinet Formation
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/President Michel Suleiman called on Tuesday for unity among the Lebanese to confront terrorism, urging the upcoming cabinet should work on safeguarding the country's stability once it's formed. “The next cabinet should work on safeguarding the country's security and stability,” Suleiman said after meeting with the consular corps in the Baabda Palace. He called on western countries to dissociate the country from the regional turmoils based on the Baabda declaration and the Taif Accord. The president stressed that “any political solution regarding Syria should include Lebanon as the negative repercussions of the conflict in the neighboring country has a direct impact on Lebanon.” The Baabda Declaration was approved unanimously during a June 2012 national dialogue session. Suleiman expressed regret over the time wasted by officials on the formation of the new cabinet, hoping that this experience doesn't occur again. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, who was appointed in April, has so far failed to form his government over conditions and counter condition by the rival parties. The cabinet formation process was put on the front burner after Speaker Nabih 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.


1 Dead in Renewed Tripoli Clashes
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/One person died and several others were injured in renewed gunbattles in the northern city of Tripoli on Tuesday. Omar Alloush, who was among 3 civilians injured from sniper fire in Tripoli's Syria Street, has died, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported. Two more soldiers were wounded, it said. Alloush's death raised the death toll in the latest round of fighting to seven. On Tuesday morning, a hand grenade was tossed at an armored personnel carrier in Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood. The clashes between the rival Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen districts erupted last Friday when a Jabal Mohsen man was shot dead in nearby al-Qobbeh.


Hariri Rules Out 'People-Army-Resistance' Equation, Says 'Only Death' Separates Him from March 14 Allies
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 January 2014/Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Monday his total rejection to the people-army-resistance equation, stressing also that he will never abandon his allies. “The people-army-resistance equation is completely rejected, full stop,” Hariri said in an interview on Future TV. Hariri explained his controversial decision to take part in a cabinet with Hizbullah ministers.
“If I though about this matter from an emotional perspective only, I would not hold dialogue with other factions in the country in the future,” he said. “My duty calls for using logic. I have said there are many disagreements with the March 8 camp, especially with Hizbullah.”Hariri continued: “Our problem with the other camp is their insistence on the 9-9-6 cabinet lineup, as well as on other conditions. We told them before that we are ready to give them the government they want but that they have to withdraw from Syria. We told them to form a neutral cabinet for people's sake.” “We are against giving them the one third number of ministers with the veto power, and we support rotation of ministries and the Baabda Declaration, not the people-army-resistance equation,” he added. The former premier stressed that he insists on this stance.
“And if they say they do not want to reconsider their conditions regarding the ministerial statement, we will not change ours as well,” he stated. Despite the disagreement with some March 14 parties regarding taking part in the cabinet, Hariri assured that he will stand by his allies “till death.” “We are still communicating with our allies, whether with the Lebanese Forces or with other parties. We explained our point of view to them and I hope (LF leader) Samir Geagea would rethink his stance on participating in the cabinet.”He assured, however, that he will stand by Geagea regardless of the decision the LF leader takes.
“We will never leave his side,” Hariri said. The interview with the Sunni leader comes few days after the works of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was launched to try the suspects accused of killing his father, former premier Rafik Hariri. “They accused me of abandoning the STL but it has become a reality and it is continuing its work and other suspects may be revealed in the future," Saad Hariri said, reiterating that he is not covering the suspects in any of the recent assassinations in the country. He added: “What is happening in The Hague is a very significant matter that can cause severe problems in the country.”
“Those who killed Rafik Hariri will be tried and will not escape justice.” Earlier in the day, Hariri told France's Europe 1 radio that while "the accused are Hizbullah members. Everybody knows it was (Syrian President) Bashar Assad who gave the order.""For 50 years, political assassinations were part of Lebanese politics," Hariri said commenting on the STL's work to Europe 1. "For the first time a court is trying to put an end to impunity." Hariri also denied in Monday evening's interview covering Hizbullah's presence in Syria.
“I am convinced that its involvement there brings chaos and destruction into Lebanon,” he stated. “Hizbullah's decision to get involved in the Syrian war caused the explosions in Lebanon.”
Addressing Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, he reiterated calls for withdrawing from Syria and returning to Lebanon. “The Free Syrian Army is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other extremists and hence, what is Hizbullah's mission in Syria today? It must drop the 'fighting the Takfiris' justification,” he pointed out. Hariri wished Hizbullah would realize that Assad is a “criminal that does not want any good for Lebanon.”
“There is one Takfiri only and it is Bashar Assad. All his supporters are also Takfiris.” He also urged Nasrallah to hand over the suspects accused of assassinating late premier Rafik Hariri.
On the presidential elections, Hariri stated that a March 14 candidate will be nominated to run for office. “We will nominate a March 14 candidate for presidency and we want a head of state that rejects foreign orders and that puts Lebanon's interest first,” he stressed. The former premier also expressed that President Michel Suleiman represents Lebanon “very well.” “I am with amending the constitution so that a president can run for two terms. Suleiman said he is against the extension of his mandate and I think he represents Lebanon very well,” Hariri elaborated. Separately, Hariri called for punishing those putting the northern city of Tripoli's security at risk.
“Who is the party benefiting from the chaos in Tripoli? Where is the army intelligence? Why aren't these forces doing their job after the 19th round of clashes? the army must act with an iron fist.”“There are some third parties involved in Tripoli's clashes,” he noted. On his highly anticipated return to Lebanon, he said he will come back when “he decides it's time.” "But each time I take the decision to return, someone is assassinated,” he remarked.
In his interview with Europe 1 radio, he had said earlier on Monday that "he will return to Lebanon for the elections and will one day become prime minister." Hariri thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for offering three billion dollars in aid to arm the military institution, considering that the donation indicates that KSA supports the states' institutions. He revealed also that Suleiman was the person who sought after the donation.

Salam Says New Cabinet Can Embrace All Parties
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has said the 24-member government could embrace all political parties, confirming an agreement on the rotation of portfolios.
In remarks to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Tuesday, Salam said: “We are running out of time.” “The cabinet and the portfolios could embrace everyone. There are 22 portfolios for 22 ministers in a cabinet of 24 members,” he said. “This means that the participation of all parties is settled through the full rotation of portfolios,” Salam added. His comments came despite reports that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is rejecting the rotation over fears that his party would lose the energy and telecom ministry seats that are currently held by FPM officials. Aoun allegedly prefers to make the rotation in the government that will come after the cabinet led by Salam following the presidential elections. Salam hailed the decision of the rival parties to “take the opportunity of political changes” in Lebanon to speed up the government formation process.
He did not reveal what kind of changes had occurred in the status quo. The premier-designate made his remarks as the different parties continued consultations on the new government.

Geagea Says Army Hasn't Identified Nature of Maarab Drone: Efforts to Assassinate Me are Ongoing
Naharnet Newsdesk 20 January 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea warned on Monday that his assassination would have major repercussions on the March 14 forces and Lebanese policies in general. He told al-Arabiya television: “Preparations to assassinate me are ongoing.”He confirmed media reports that spoke of drones flying over his Maarab residence, saying: “The espionage planes are part of a policy of intimidation against the March 14 camp.”He stressed however that such methods will not intimidate him “as they will not succeed in assassinating me.”“They will try to assassinate me again seeing as such a development will have major repercussions on the March 14 forces,” Geagea noted. On the surveillance planes, he said that he had first noticed it some 15 days ago, adding that security personnel at Maarab noted that the sound generated by the plane differed from normal planes and its course also differed from regular ones. The mysterious plane flew over Maarab on January 8 at around 12:30 am, he revealed. The plane flew over the residence for a few minutes, but the suspicious activity prompted the state security forces at the facility to contact the Army Command to inform it of the development, said the LF chief. After the necessary investigations, the Army Command failed to determine the nature of the plane. A similar incident took place on January 14, but the plane hovered over Maarab for about two hours between 5:30 and 7:30 pm at a relatively low altitude, Geagea stated. He consequently directly contacted Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji. Qahwaji said that the plane “was definitely not a Lebanese one." "And I personally believe that they were not Israeli surveillance drones as they usually fly over the South and the Bekaa, not over this specific region," Geagea added. “Military experts informed me that it was unlikely that the plane was Israeli because the drones do not usually hover over a region for a long period of time,” he continued. Qahwaji pledged to Geagea that he will follow up on this issue. “I believe that the army will be able to determine the identity of this plane the next time it flies over Maarab,” he remarked. Geagea suspected that the mysterious plane is linked to telephone threats that have been made against numerous March 14 officials. Geagea escaped an assassination attempt by snipers as he was taking a walk in the garden of his Maarab residence in April 2012.


Ban Hails Suleiman over Dissociation Policy, Says Presidential Polls Should be Held on Time
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon lauded President Michel Suleiman on Monday for holding onto the dissociation policy and encouraged the rival parties to ensure that the presidential elections are held on time. “I commend President Suleiman’s leadership to uphold the country’s disassociation policy. This is vital to prevent the Syrian crisis from exacerbating tensions in Lebanon as we have seen with recent acts of terrorism and bombings,” said Ban in remarks to the Security Council open debate on the situation in the Middle East. “I welcome the momentum to form a government, and encourage all parties to ensure that presidential elections are held on time,” he said. “The people of Lebanon look to their leaders to work together to steer their country through this difficult time.” Ban also welcomed the start of the trial in ex-PM Rafik Hariri's Feb. 2005 assassination at the seat of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague. The opening of the trial is a reminder of the fight to end impunity in Lebanon, he said. Also in his remarks, the U.N. Secretary-General said “violations of Lebanon’s border with Syria continue, including a worrying escalation of rocket firing and airstrikes into Lebanon’s Bekaa region.”“Refugees continue to cross into Lebanon in large numbers, now totalling over 860,000 - a six-fold increase over last year.”Turning to southern Lebanon, Ban said the situation in the area south of the Litani river where U.N. peacekeepers are deployed remains relatively stable due to the cooperation of the Lebanese and Israeli authorities with UNIFIL to contain recent incidents. “All must build on the stability that has prevailed along the Blue Line under resolution 1701,” he said.


Israeli Infantry Unit Crosses Barbed Wire Fence in al-Wazzani
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/Israeli troops crossed on Tuesday the barbed wire in al-Wazzani hills and deployed at the river's eastern bank, the state-run National News Agency reported.
According to NNA, the Israeli infantry unit was composed of 25 soldiers. However, the soldiers did not cross the U.N.-drawn Blue Line. The Wazzani spring is a major source of the Hasbani river. An Israeli bulldozer was later reported to have crossed the technical fence in the town of Rmeish in the Bint Jbeil district. According to NNA the bulldozer began digging in Wadi Qatmoun. The incident comes a day after Israeli troops dismantled and removed two electronic devices from the Lebanese border town of Adaisseh, south of the Blue Line, as Lebanese soldiers and UNIFIL peacekeepers stood guard and monitored the process. The Lebanese army said in a communique that the step happened “in the presence of army forces and U.N. peacekeepers.”A two-piece object resembling a spying device was found planted under a tree in Adaisseh on Saturday. The Lebanese Army issued a communique on Saturday saying that two computers with Hebrew writing were found in the disputed area. Tension has spiked on the border between the two countries since a Lebanese soldier gunned down an Israeli soldier driving near the frontier on December 16. Israel's border with Lebanon has been largely quiet since the 2006 war with Hizbullah.


FPM Insists on Rejecting Rotation of Ministerial Portfolios
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/The Free Patriotic Movement rejects the concept of rotating portfolios on claims that Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam's government will only be formed for a short period of time to oversee the presidential elections. A prominent source in the FPM said in comments published in As Saifr newspaper published on Tuesday that the cabinet will be formed “for a period of four months maximum, wondering the necessity of the rotation of portfolios in this cabinet.” The source pointed out that the concept of rotating portfolios should be adopted in the cabinet that follows Salam's government, which will be formed after the presidential elections. Head of the FPM MP Michel Aoun had previously stated that he opposes the rotation of portfolios. Caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil held talks on Monday with President Michel Suleiman and Salam to discuss the cabinet formation process. Sources described the meeting as “negative” as Bassil insisted during talks with Salam on handing over the Telecommunications and Energy ministries, which are currently held by the FPM, to the party without offering any alternatives. However, Salam, who was appointed in April, held onto the concept of “fair, balanced and comprehensive rotation of portfolios.”The cabinet formation process was put on the front burner after Speaker Nabih 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.

Masour Says All Countries Should Participate in Geneva II to Guarantee its Success
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour stressed on Tuesday that Iran shouldn't be banned from taking part in this week's Syria peace conference as each country could play a role in making the talks succeed. “Iran shouldn't be barred neither Saudi Arabia. Their presence is of significant importance,” Mansour told reporters at the airport ahead of traveling to Switzerland to attend Geneva II peace talks on Syria. He pointed out that all countries play a important and delicate role concerning the peace conference as each country could positively contribute in it. United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon withdrew the invitation to Iran, the Damascus regime's main regional ally, less than 24 hours after it was issued despite reservations from the United States and Syrian opposition groups. Iran refuses to consent to a transitional government in Syria, which was agreed in the first international gathering in June 2012 to end the deadly civil war. Tehran is accused of providing military and financial support to Damascus. It staunchly backs the government of embattled President Bashar Assad during the conflict that began in 2011 and is estimated to have killed more than 130,000 people. Iranian participation in the peace talks has long been a thorny issue in preparations for the forum dubbed Geneva II and due to begin on Wednesday in the Swiss town of Montreux. Russia, a Damascus ally and co-initiator of the talks, has urged that Iran be involved in the process.


Poultry Truck Flips Over in Araya, Four People Injured
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/Four people were wounded on Tuesday after a trucks loaded with live poultry overturned in Araya in Baabda district. The Traffic Management Center warned of diesel leak on the road. According to the state-run National News Agency, municipality workers began spreading sand on the road to avert the risk of slipping. The accident caused bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The U.S. and Christian Persecution
by Raymond Ibrahim/National Review Online
Prominent indicators confirm that the U.S. is the chief facilitator of the persecution of Christians around the world today. According to the recently released 2014 World Watch List, which ranks the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted, Syria is the third worst nation in the world in which to be Christian, Iraq is fourth, Afghanistan fifth, and Libya 13th. All four countries receive the strongest designation, "extreme persecution" (other designations are "severe," "moderate," and "sparse" persecution). Aside from being so closely and harshly ranked, these four nations have something else in common: heavy U.S. involvement. Three—Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya—were "liberated" thanks to U.S. forces, while in the fourth, Syria, the U.S. is actively sponsoring "freedom fighters" against the regime, many of whom would be better labeled "terrorists."
The Syrian situation alone indicts U.S. foreign policy. According to Reuters: Open Doors, a non-denominational group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide, said on Wednesday it had documented 2,123 "martyr" killings, compared with 1,201 in 2012. There were 1,213 such deaths in Syria alone last year, it said. "This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm," said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Estimates by other Christian groups put the annual figure as high as 8,000.
While most Americans are shielded from the true nature of the war by the U.S. media's reluctance to report on it, Arabic media, websites, and activists daily report and document atrocity after atrocity—beheadings and bombed churches, Christians slaughtered for refusing to convert to Islam, and countless abducted for ransom or rape—at the hands of those whom the U.S. supports.
It's enough to point out that "the largest massacre of Christians in Syria," to quote a top religious leader, was left wholly unreported by any major U.S. news network.
At any rate, the statistics speak for themselves: Syria, which used to be religiously tolerant, is now, in the context of the United States' trying to bring "democracy" to it, the third worst country in the world in terms of "extreme persecution" of Christians.
The Blaze reports that Dr. David Curry, president of Open Doors,
charged that the Obama administration has essentially declined to make the protection of religious minorities a priority . . . "There are many instances where the vacuum of leadership and spokesmanship has created a real problem," said the human rights leader. "I would say that every significant data point on this year's '2014 Watch List' is worse—and I think a factor in it is a lack of leadership from Western governments including . . . the U.S. in terms of religious freedom."
But it's worse than that. Far from taking any action or providing leadership—or simply ceasing to support the terrorists responsible—the Obama administration recently tried to go to war with Syria on behalf of the "freedom fighters," amazingly, in the name of "human rights" (Apparently the unsubstantiated rumor that Assad massacred people is enough for the U.S. to go to war, but the ongoing and well-documented massacres of Christians and other civilians at the hands of the opposition is not enough for the U.S. to stop supporting them.)
What's worse, even the most misinformed mainstream-media-watching American today knows that the so-called "Arab Spring," which was hailed to justify U.S. support for "rebels" of all stripes—in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (which months ago destroyed some 80 churches); in Libya, al-Qaeda, which has turned Benghazi into a terror zone; and now the "freedom fighters" in Syria—is not what it was touted to be.
In other words, at this point, whenever the U.S. intervenes in an Islamic nation, Islamists come to power. This is well demonstrated by the other three nations to which the U.S. brought "democracy" and where Christian minorities suffer "extreme persecution":
Afghanistan: The supposedly "moderate" Karzai government installed by the U.S. upholds many of the draconian laws enforced by the Taliban—including the apostasy law, fiercely persecuting those who seek to convert to Christianity—and, in 2011, under U.S. auspices, it destroyed Afghanistan's last Christian church.
Iraq: After the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein, Christian minorities were savagely attacked and slaughtered, and dozens of their churches were bombed (see here for graphic images). Christians have been terrorized into near-extinction, with well over half of them fleeing Iraq.
Libya: Ever since U.S.-backed, al-Qaeda-linked terrorists overthrew Qaddafi, Christians—including Americans—have indeed suffered extreme persecution. Churches have been bombed; Christians have been tortured and killed (including for refusing to convert); and nuns have been threatened.
Surely a common theme emerges here: Where the U.S. works to oust secular autocrats, the quality of life for Christians and other minorities takes a major nosedive. Under Saddam, Qaddafi, and Assad, Christians and their churches were largely protected. Moreover, while George W. Bush was responsible for Afghanistan and Iraq, the argument can be made that, back then (2001 and 2003), this pattern of Islamic radicalization that erupts once autocrats are gone was less well known than it is today. There weren't many precedents.
Conversely, the Obama administration has had both Afghanistan and Iraq to learn from—and yet still it supports Islamists and jihadis. But by now, what happens once they assume power—religious persecution, terror, oppression—is no longer a secret. Incidentally, those who care little for the fate of Christians or other minorities in the Islamic world would do well to remember a simple truism: Wherever anti-Christian elements come to power, anti-American forces come to power. The two are synonymous. Put differently, Muslim persecution of Christians is the litmus test of how radical an Islamic society has become. In all those Muslim nations that the U.S. has interfered in—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt (till the Egyptians revolted, to the chastisement of the U.S.), and now Syria—the increase of religious intolerance is a reflection of the empowerment of forces hostile to Western civilization. I am often asked, "How can we help persecuted Christians?" At this point, one must respond: "How about starting with getting the U.S. government to stop being the chief facilitator of Christian persecution?" Altruism aside, it would be in the interests of all who value freedom, religious or otherwise—and especially their descendants.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (Regnery, April, 2013) is a Middle East and Islam specialist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Harper, Netanyahu sign broad agreement in Jerusalem meeting
By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press | The Canadian JERUSALEM -

JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a wide-ranging set of bilateral goals Tuesday and agreed to expand a free trade pact during their meeting in Jerusalem. The two leaders said free trade negotiations would be held in Israel from Feb.3-9 to expand and modernize the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement initially signed in on Jan.1, 1997. The prime minister said the aim of the new round of talks is to reduce technical barriers to trade, more quickly resolve market access irritants and create new opportunities for Canadian agriculture, agri-food, and fish and seafood companies in the Israeli market. “An expanded and modernized trade agreement with Israel will generate more jobs and economic growth at home and in Israel, while strengthening the close friendship that both countries enjoy,” said Harper.
The two leaders also agreed Tuesday to a lengthy list of common interests to pursue under what's called the Strategic Partnership memorandum of understanding.
The measures include growth in security and intelligence co-operation, enhanced defence and security relations, more business links and closer academic ties.
The memorandum the two leaders signed in Netanyahu’s office also covers innovation, energy, international aid and human rights. The goal is to build on bilateral merchandise trade between the two countries, which the Prime Minister’s office says was worth $1.41 billion in 2012. Harper said in a statement that the memorandum ‘‘lays out a strategic direction for stronger future relations between the two countries.‘‘‘‘The many areas in which we both want to deepen and broaden co-operation is truly a testament of the goodwill between our two nations,” he added. Six federal cabinet ministers joined Harper at the meeting: Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Employment Minister Jason Kenney, Industry Minister James Moore, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, Development Minister Christian Paradis and Trade Minister Ed Fast.
Following his meeting with Netanyahu, Harper again touched on Canada's full-throated support of Israel. "I wouldn't want to say there is no price for Canada in the Arab world," he said. But Harper added that differing opinions can be respected if they're appropriately expressed. Netanyahu added that there is now a "new Middle East." Harper met with Netanyahu, who routinely refers to ”Stephen” as a ”friend of Israel,” after a warm reception from Shimon Peres at the president’s office. After being welcomed by Peres on a red carpet in a courtyard, Harper entered an elegant vestibule and penned a lengthy message in a guestbook. In his remarks, Peres said Harper is visiting during a challenging time, adding that “Syria is broken, Iran is broken.” Harper replied that every time he and Peres speak, he finds it ”very thought provoking,“ and noted Canada is the ”polar opposite of Israel“ because it has ”much geography but very little history.“ He said they agree that the future is the knowledge economy and there is no better example of that than Israel. Following his meeting with Netanyahu, Harper was scheduled to visit the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum on the third day of his visit to the region. On Monday, Harper delivered a historic speech to parliamentarians in the Knesset in which he warned of a new age of anti-Semitism and said those who oppose the Jewish state are little more than hateful anti-Semites. Harper earlier met with the president of the Palestinian Authority and offered $66 million in new aid to the Palestinians.

Iran Says U.N. Withdrew Syria Talks Invite 'Under Pressure'
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday the United Nations had abruptly withdrawn Tehran's last-minute invitation to highly anticipated peace talks on Syria "under pressure"."We regret that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has withdrawn the invitation under pressure," Zarif told reporters in Ashgabat before flying back to Tehran, the ISNA news agency reported.
Ban withdrew the invitation to Iran, the Damascus regime's main regional ally, less than 24 hours after it was issued despite reservations from the United States and Syrian opposition groups. Iran refuses to consent to a transitional government in Syria, which was agreed in the first international gathering in June 2012 to end the deadly civil war."I made it clear in numerous phone conversations with the secretary general that Iran does not accept any preconditions to attend the talks," Zarif said. "It is also regretful that Mr Ban does not have the courage to provide the real reasons for the withdrawal," he said, claiming that "Iran was not too keen on attending in the first place". Zarif added that had Tehran been represented, he would have sent his deputy because "the proper time to invite a foreign minister had already passed". SourceAgence France Presse.

Lavrov: Booting Iran Out of Syria Talks a 'Mistake'
Naharnet Newsdesk 21 January 2014/Russia said on Tuesday that an unprecedented decision by the United Nations to bar Iran from taking part in this week's Syria peace conference was a "mistake" that cast a shadow on the reputation of the global body. At the same time the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov downplayed the move, saying the conference in the Swiss town of Montreux on Wednesday was a "one-day event".
"Of course this is a mistake," Lavrov told reporters. "But no disaster has happened," he added. "In any case we are talking about a one-day event on January 22 to which some 40 foreign ministers of various states including from the most remote regions have been invited." "Of course, despite the largely ceremonial nature of this event, Iran's absence from a list of 40 states cannot but cause questions." "The symbolism is still important," he added. "I am just sorry that this whole story did not boost the authority of the United Nations." In an abrupt reversal, the U.N. barred Iran Monday from the peace conference after it refused to back calls for a transitional government to end the three-year war in Syria. The unprecedented diplomatic action averted a Syrian opposition boycott of the talks. But a key bloc in the opposition coalition broke away in protest at the proposed talks with President Bashar Assad's representatives. "The Syrian crisis has laid bare the contradictions that have accumulated in the region including within the Muslim world," said Lavrov.
SourceAgence France Presse.

Better the Devil we Know?

By: Manuel Almeida/Asharq Alawsat
The Geneva II conference, the cornerstone of the efforts to reach a negotiated solution to the Syrian war, will convene today. It will be held despite the diplomatic pandemonium generated by the UN’s last-minute invitation to Iran and the subsequent withdrawal of that invitation on Monday, following US pressure and the Syrian opposition’s threats to not attend the conference.
With various Western governments backing the process and the US deeply involved in it, the question arises as to whether the recent turn of events on the Syrian battlefield will or should have any influence over the West’s approach to the conflict.
Over the last few weeks, heavy fighting between various rebel opposition groups has taken place in the governorates of Aleppo, Raqqa, Idlib, Hama and Deir Ezzor in northern and eastern Syria. The fighting has the Al-Qaeda affiliate Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the moderate military opposition, in opposition to one another. However, the Islamic Front, a coalition of Islamist rebel groups, has also sided with the FSA against ISIS. In Aleppo, the radical Al-Nusra Front also fought alongside the FSA against ISIS. As a result, ISIS has been expelled from areas it had previously held.
These armed clashes are not simply a result of competition among rival groups for control of swathes of Syrian territory. The practices of ISIS, including kidnappings, executions and the imposition of its extreme ideology in the areas it controls, are a key factor behind the opposition infighting. The brutal assassination of doctor Hussein Al-Suleiman, a commander of the powerful Ahrar Al-Sham rebel group that is part of the Islamic Front, seriously escalated the tensions.
The statement of the Islamic Front after Suleiman’s death read: “They kidnapped him and tortured him, and then killed him and disfigured his corpse, in a way unknown to the Syrian people prior to the revolution, even when it came to the branches of the criminal Assad regime’s security bodies.”
So why do these developments matter? They confirm the deep fragmentation of the opposition, surely. But they also come to challenge the notion so prevalent in Western capitals that the most radical groups are the most powerful opposition forces on the ground. It also serves as a reminder that Islamist and jihadist groups operating in Syria are not monolithic, and certainly not all of them pay lip service to Al-Qaeda’s strategy and transnational ideology.
Even with very limited military support from Western governments, the moderate rebels have sent a signal of resilience. The forces of President Bashar Al-Assad have tried to capitalize on the opposition infighting by re-capturing some positions in Aleppo and elsewhere, but so far reports indicate their gains have been relatively insignificant.
The Western governments’ choice of a very light footprint in terms of military support to the opposition might prove to be counterproductive in more than one way. It is not only about the need to place more pressure on Assad and provide the opposition with more leverage to negotiate from a stronger position. It is also about assisting those who are the only real obstacle to the spread of radical groups in Syria, and consequently elsewhere in the Levant. This is all the more relevant at a time when the idea that Assad can be an obstacle to the spread of those groups appears to be more than a mere rumor. Assad’s instrumental use of radical jihadists is longstanding and well-documented.
Endless points have been put forward to support the prioritization of a diplomatic solution to the conflict over stepping up the military support to the opposition. Central among these is the Geneva Communiqué of June 2012, which aims at peaceful resolution and supports the formation of a transitional government. It also includes an expression of commitment to the sovereignty, independence, national unity and territorial integrity of Syria and opposition to any further militarization of the conflict. Another main reason is the fear that weapons provided to the moderate opposition falling into the hands of radicals, some of whom reside in the West and will one day return home.
The West’s cautious approach to the presence of Al-Qaeda in Syria is puzzling, given its far more aggressive stance (in some cases, too aggressive) against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, or the Sahel. In this context, to not provide weapons to the moderate opposition—the only real obstacle to the spread of these groups in Syria—out of fear that such a move might have a boomerang effect seems incoherent. Reports of preparations of terrorist attacks in the West by Syria-based jihadists shows that threat can knock on the West’s door whether it gets more involved or not. In fact, the conflict dragging on plays in the extremists’ favor.
At this point, the Western governments’ endorsement of Geneva II seems to be driven more by a determination to not get involved than to put an end to the conflict. Less reluctant to support Assad militarily are Iran—the key Assad ally and patron—Hezbollah, and Russia. Iran is against the idea of a transitional government without Assad, and thus it will not be represented at the conference. The Russian government accepted the Geneva Communiqué, but it continues to supply the Syrian regime with weapons and military advice.
So when Western delegates in Switzerland sit at the table to negotiate with the Syrian government and the opposition, they might find out that the incentives for the Assad regime to compromise are very few, and the pressure for it to so is very small.
In the meantime, ordinary Syrians and the moderate opposition remain caught between a barbaric regime and radical groups. A Syrian poet cautioned Syrians about it:
There are two gangs: one is ruling in the name of patriotism but has none of it.
Another gang claims good faith; and religion forbids their sayings and acts.
Two gangs. My people, be aware, of both! Both drink from the same evil waters.
These words were written in 1979, when Assad’s father was still in power. Tragically for all those Syrians who have to live through war and a harsh winter, this warning is more relevant than ever.
**Manuel Almeida is the assistant editor-in-chief of both Asharq Al-Awsat's and The Majalla's global editions.
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