January 24/14


Bible Quotation for today/A Mother's Request
Matthew 20/20-28: "Then the wife of Zebedee came to Jesus with her two sons, bowed before him, and asked him for a favor. “What do you want?” Jesus asked her. She answered, “Promise me that these two sons of mine will sit at your right and your left when you are King.” “You don't know what you are asking for,” Jesus answered the sons. “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I am about to drink?”“We can,” they answered. “You will indeed drink from my cup,” Jesus told them, “but I do not have the right to choose who will sit at my right and my left. These places belong to those for whom my Father has prepared them.” When the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with the two brothers.  So Jesus called them all together and said, “You know that the rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it shall be among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest;  and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others—  like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.”

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For January 24/14

Assad's Indispensable Foreign Legions/Jeffrey White/Washington Institute/January 24/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 24/14

Lebanese Related News

Lebanese TV LBC allowed onto IAF base to send Hezbollah a message
STL's 2nd Day of Testimonies Focus on Truck Seen in CCTV Footage near Hariri Blast Site

Global Money-Laundering Ring Busted by Australian Police Funding Hizbullah

Report: Kia that Exploded in Haret Hreik Came from Sabra

Geagea: Govt. Won't Make Any Difference, We'll Only Join if Baabda Declaration is Policy Statement

Suleiman Calls for Immediate Stop to Interference in Syria's Affairs

Army: Abdullah Azzam Brigades Terrorist Killed in Bekaa Clash

Army Foils Armed Group Bid to Infiltrate Lebanon from Syria via al-Qaa

Brother, Nieces of Owner of Phone Number on STL List Killed in Peru

Loyalty to Resistance: Inclusive Cabinet Basis of Dialogue, Our Partners Must Reassess Choices

PSP Official Shot Dead in Aley

Jumblat Vows to Close Naameh Landfill, Orders Opening Blocked Roads 'Immediately'

State Plays Down Naameh Residents Demands as Garbage Piles

Tripoli Goes on Strike on Friday to Denounce Deadly Fighting

Abou Faour Relies on Cooperation of Rival Parties to End Cabinet Deadlock

Salam Calls for Grabbing Cabinet Opportunity

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Pope Francis: Internet a 'gift from God' for dialogue, but Catholics shouldn't claim absolute truth

Netanyahu: Rouhani continues trying to fool the world
Rouhani: If Israel attacks Iran, it will rue the day

Rouhani: Iran wants good relations 'with all countries we officially recognize'
Netanyahu: Israel isn't what's wrong with Middle East, it's what's right with Middle East

Iran dismisses Peres's offer to meet with Rouhani

Canada Announces Aid to Help Jordan with Syria Refugees

Jarba Says 'World is Now Sure Assad Cannot Stay, Won't Stay'

Some Nations Ready to Deploy Syria Peacekeepers, Says Kerry

Syrian Kurds Protest 'Exclusion' from Geneva II Talks
Canada Shocked by Scale of Syrian Brutality
Zawahiri Urges 'Immediate' End to Syria Islamist Fighting

Ukraine Parliament to Meet on Crisis after Deadly Clashes

Israel PM Urges European 'Fairness' in Mideast



Lebanese TV LBC allowed onto IAF base to send Hezbollah a message
In rare use of public media, Israeli air force allow Lebanese television network to film inside base, interview IAF commander in bid to send Hezbollah a clear, direct threat  

Roi Kais Published: 01.24/Ynetnews/A Lebanese network was given rare and unprecedented access to an Israeli Air Force base as part of a larger attempt to send Hezbollah a message. A reporter from Lebanon's LBC interviewed Ramat David Air Force Base commander, as well as Captain Avihai Aderi, head of Arab media at the IDF Spokesperson Unit. At the beginning of the report, the Lebanese network focused on attempted to reach an agreement regarding Syria: "While world power are at the Geneva II conference to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis, head of the Ramat David Air Force Base sends a threatening message, warning against the continued transfer of strategic arms from Syria to Hezbollah, threatening that his army will work to prevent arms' transfer."
The air force unit commander – who like all IAF pilots and commanders must remain unnamed and masked – said in the rare interview that "We are closely following attempts to smuggle arms from Syria to Lebanon and attempting to prevent it from reaching Hezbollah." He further noted that "Hezbollah has begun receiving the type of weapons that are superior to those of independent and neighboring countries and we must prepare for such a scenario." Aderi, the Arab language IDF spokesperson, told LBX that "Hezbollah has turned 200 villages in southern Lebanon into munitions caches, using them to threaten the Israeli home front. The IDF cannot let Hezbollah to harm Israelis so easily." Eventually, the message the IDF was panning on sending Hezbollah was made crystal clear: "The IDF understands that the arrival of such strategic arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon will be what sparks the next war." **Yoav Zitun contributed to this report

Netanyahu: Rouhani continues trying to fool the world

By HERB KEINON 01/23/2014/J.Post/PM says goal of the "regime of the ayatollahs hiding behind Rouhani's smiles" is to ease sanctions without giving up nukes. The world must not be duped by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s soft words and pleasant smiles, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres said in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, soon after Rouhani launched the second phase of his charm offensive at the World Economics Forum. “Rouhani can say something, but it doesn’t make it real,” Netanyahu said of the Iranian leader’s claims not to want nuclear weapons and his expressed opposition to foreign intervention in Syria. “It sounds nice, but it is false.” The Iranian’s conciliatory words “have no connection to what is going on on the ground,” the prime minister said. Rouhani, who fascinated much of the international community during his first major address to the international community at the UN General Assembly in September, was given another prestigious stage and the legitimization it confers, and he took the opportunity to appeal to the world’s business leaders in Davos to invest in his country. Iran was determined to negotiate a comprehensive deal on its nuclear program in order to develop its battered economy, he said. Rouhani stressed his commitment to achieving a final settlement. “Iran has a serious will to come to an agreement with the P5+1 [powers],” he told the assembled business and political leaders. “I do not see a serious impediment in the way of this agreement. The Iranian will is strong.”Asked what might prevent a long-term settlement, he cited the risk of “pressure from other parties” – a veiled reference to Israel, which denounced the interim deal that went into effect on Monday as a “historic mistake.” Rouhani promised to pursue a consistent foreign policy of “prudence and moderation” to revive his nation’s economy. He called for cooperation with all of Iran’s neighbors, but did not mention Gulf rival Saudi Arabia by name, and refused, when pressed twice, to include Israel among states with which Iran sought friendly relations.
Netanyahu addressed the forum some four hours after Rouhani, and in his prepared remarks steered clear of any reference to Rouhani, addressing Iran only when former Norwegian foreign minister Espen Barth Eide, who moderated the session, asked him about the shifting Middle East. Netanyahu said many countries in the Arab world were “not reassured” by Rouhani’s speech. “Believe me, they get it,” the prime minister said.
“There is a change of words without a change in deeds.”According to Netanyahu, many in the Arab world understand that Tehran “remains aggressive, supports terror, participates in the slaughter in Syria, and is pursuing the development of ballistic missiles and plutonium for nuclear weapons. They get it right, and we get it right. We all wish there was a real change in Iran; we don’t see that. We have to look at their deeds, not the soft words they utter.” Peres, who will be feted at a special session at the conference on Friday, held a press conference after Rouhani’s speech to respond to the Iranian leader. “The most significant remarks were the ones he didn’t make – he didn’t express support for peace in the Middle East,” Peres said. “He is the only leader I know who didn’t say clearly the time has come to make peace between Israel and the Arabs.
He excluded the reference to peace, and when he was asked if his vision included all countries he said it included only the ones that Iran will accept. That is some definition.” Netanyahu, who is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the conference on Friday, said during his address that investment in Israel was good not only for Israel and those doing business in Israel, but “also for peace.”
“An investment in the economic peace assists the development of political peace,” he said. “It could be of great benefit to all our neighbors, but especially to the Palestinians, because we’ve had some beginnings of cooperation, including in the hi-tech field, between Israeli entrepreneurs and Palestinian entrepreneurs.” The prime minister presented Israel as the “innovation nation,” and listed a number of reasons for its success in innovation and technology: the synergy between the defense and civilian sectors; the country’s excellent universities; the Jewish emphasis on knowledge; the country’s small size that encourages close cooperation; and the fact that it had to innovate throughout its history to survive. “Israel is not what’s wrong with the Middle East,” Netanyahu said, calling this a “great misperception” that he wanted to correct. Rather, “Israel is what’s right in the Middle East.
“The future belongs to those who innovate,” he said. “Israel is a great seller of innovation. This is an invitation to the innovation nation. Israel is open for business; it’s open for your business.”
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu participated in a session on global information technology. Some of the world’s business leaders were in attendance, including CISCO chairman and CEO John Chambers, Hewlett-Packard director Anne Livermore and Qualcomm chairman and CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs. He also met with Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, new Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and a delegation of Republican US congressmen led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Abbott, according to a statement put out by Netanyahu’s office, emphasized the closeness between Australia and Israel, and said that with the exception of Israel, Australia was the only country in the world where Jews have served in the positions of head of state, president of the Supreme Court and commander of the army.
Reuters contributed to this report.

Rouhani: If Israel attacks Iran, it will rue the day

By JPOST.COM STAFF 01/23/2014/ US Secretary of State Kerry tells Al Arabiya US is willing to use military option if Iran reneges on deal with West. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Israel on Thursday of attacking his country's nuclear facilities, saying Israel will "rue the day" if it does. Netanyahu says if Rouhani agrees to recognize Israel, he would consider meeting him"Israel knows very well what the response would be. Israel knows well our regional capability," he told CNN's Fareed Zakaria. "When it comes to practice, the Israelis cannot do that. If they do such a crazy thing, our response will make them rue the day." On the ongoing nuclear talks with the West, Rouhani insisted Iran would not destroy any of its existing centrifuges "under any circumstances." "In the context of R&D and peaceful nuclear technology, we will not accept any limitations," Rouhani said. While Rouhani was displaying a tough front on CNN, US Secretary of State John Kerry told Al Arabiya Thursday that should Iran break its interim agreement with the West and continue enriching uranium, the US will consider using the military option. "If they broke out, if they decided they were going to throw this agreement away and go start enrichment again, sure they can turn around, but guess what - if they do that, the military option that is available to the United States is ready and is prepared to do what it would have to do," Kerry said. "I don't think that would last very long. I don't think that's a wise choice for Iran," he added. On the future of US-Iran relations, Kerry said that if accomplishments can be made on the nuclear issue, Washington would tackle more issues with Tehran, like its support of Hezbollah and its funding of terrorism in the Middle East. "Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is sponsoring Hezbollah right now. Hezbollah is engaged in the violence in Syria. We find that very objectionable. And there are other ways in which Iran has supported terror in the region. We don't agree with that, nor do our friends," he said.
"But you have to take it one step at a time. We are focused on the first step, which is the nuclear program. We are prepared to engage with Iran on the other issues," he continued.When asked if the United States will ask Iran to disarm Hezbollah, Kerry said "absolutely," adding that the US believes Iran "should stop supporting Hezbollah completely and totally."

STL's 2nd Day of Testimonies Focus on Truck Seen in CCTV Footage near Hariri Blast Site
Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/..The Special Tribunal for Lebanon continued on Thursday hearing the testimonies of various witnesses linked to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Witness Robyn Fraser, who had worked for the STL Office of Prosecution between August 2009 and August 2011, continued the testimony she had started on Wednesday. Wednesday's proceedings tackled the cases of two witnesses who were directly affected by the February 2005 blast, while Fraser's testimony focused on the CCTV camera footage taken in the areas surrounding the blast scene. Senior Trial Counsel Alexander Milne carried out the cross-examination on behalf of the Office of the Prosecution, while Defense co-counsel for suspect Mustafa Badreddine Iain Edwards carried out the cross-examination on behalf of the Defense team. The Prosecution focused its questions on the CCTV footage taken by a camera at the HSBC Bank near the Hariri blast site. Attempts were made to determine the route of the lorry, suspected of carrying the explosives used in the attack, as it made its way out of the Suleiman Franjieh tunnel, making its way in front of the Phoenicia Hotel and later HSBC Bank before the explosion took place. The Prosecution showed various stills taken by the camera at the bank, including some taken before and after the blast. Fraser explained that the camera footage is not of high quality and the investigation was unable to make any clear closeups of any individuals or vehicles at the scene.
The Defense made an observation that given the proceedings of the testimonies, it has not yet been established that the white lorry seen in the footage is the white Mitsubishi that is suspected of carrying the explosives used in Hariri's assassination. In addition, Fraser said that the lorry preceded Hariri's convoy by about a minute and that it was moving at a pace ten times slower than other vehicles. Following the Prosecution's cross-examination, the Defense focused its questioning of the witness on whether the lorry seen in the various CCTV footage was one and the same. Edwards pointed out that the quality of the footage made it impossible to make out the license plate number of the truck. The Defense said that given the inability to find any unique characteristics of the lorry and the inability to view the front of the vehicle, it would not be unlikely that the witness may have been looking at two different lorries. He also stated that an expert would be needed to determine whether the lorry in the footage were all of the same vehicle, given that there were no distinguishing features to the vehicle.
Fraser said that she seeing as she was not an expert in such matters, she was unable to verify the make and model of the lorry. The Defense then concluded the cross-examination.
Three witnesses will make their testimonies on Friday and more testimonies will be made on Monday. Thursday's session was adjourned to 11 am Beirut time on Friday.
Wednesday's hearing tackled the CCTV footage taken by cameras at the Suleiman Franjieh tunnel and one camera at the corner of the Phoenicia Hotel. Four Hizbullah suspects – Mustafa Badreddine, Hassan Oneissi, Salim Ayyash and Assad Sabra - have been indicted in Hariri's murder in what prosecutors say was a suicide truck bombing that killed him and 21 others on the Beirut seafront. The suspects are being tried in absentia because they haven't been arrested. The fifth to be indicted was Hassan Habib Merhi, who was indicted later than the other four suspects and is not officially a suspect in the trial that started Thursday but several accusations have been made against him. His lawyers are attending the trial in observer status.


Report: Kia that Exploded in Haret Hreik Came from Sabra
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 January 2014/The booby-trapped Kia car that exploded Tuesday in Haret Hreik came from the Sabra area in Beirut, which lies on the outskirts of the southern suburbs and hosts a Palestinian refugee camp, a report said on Wednesday. The Kia took off from outside the al-Rabih residential complex in Sabra and headed towards the Chatila roundabout, LBCI television said. It then took the airport road and passed opposite the headquarters of Ghobairi Municipality and the Sahel Hospital, the TV network added. The driver of the explosives-rigged car normally stopped at the army checkpoint in Ghobairi before continuing his journey, according to LBCI. He then headed to Haret Hreik and made his way slowly due to traffic jam in the area.While in Haret Hreik, the driver passed by the al-Hasanayn Mosque and the municipality building before crossing the segment of al-Arid Street which was targeted by a previous suicide bombing on January 2. The car then blew up in the middle of the road outside the Sibai Center while the engine was still operating, LBCI added. Citing reports, the TV network said “the group of the Palestinian Ahmed Taha has links to the suicide bombing." Three people were killed and around 35 others were injured in the suicide bombing on Tuesday morning, the second such attack to target the same street in one month. Later on Tuesday, the Internal Security Forces announced arresting the man who stole the Kia, saying he was also behind stealing a car that exploded in Bekaa's Hermel.
The robber was identified as Nabil Ahmed al-Moussawi.

Global Money-Laundering Ring Busted by Australian Police Funding Hizbullah
Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/Australian police revealed Thursday they had cracked a major global money-laundering ring with operatives in more than 20 countries and funds syphoned off to groups reported to include Hizbullah. The Australian Crime Commission said more than Aus$580 million (US$512 million) of drugs and assets had been seized, including Aus$26 million in cash, in a year-long sting codenamed Eligo targeting the offshore laundering of funds generated by outlaw motorcycle gangs, people-smugglers and others. According to the ACC, the operation had disrupted 18 serious and organised crime groups and singled out 128 individuals of interest in more than 20 countries, tapping information from agencies including the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Eligo saw 105 people arrested on 190 separate charges and resulted in the closure of three major clandestine methamphetamine labs and Australia's largest-ever urban hydroponic cannabis hothouse in Sydney last November. "The task force focused on high-threat money laundering activities and, as a result, revealed a range of different crime types which has led to these extraordinary outcomes," said Australia's Justice Minister Michael Keenan. "Seizing more than $550 million worth of drugs and cash is a significant blow to the criminal economy," he added. Legitimate international cash wiring services were a major focus of the operation, with the government's anti-laundering agency AUSTRAC saying they had been identified as at "high risk of being exploited by serious and organised crime groups". According to a Fairfax media expose on the operation, criminals targeted foreign nationals and students in Australia awaiting remittances from overseas, hijacking the transaction by depositing dirty money to the payee and then taking the cash wired from offshore. Fairfax said at least one of the exchange houses used in the Middle East and Asia delivered a cut from every dollar it laundered to Hizbullah, which is banned as a terrorist organisation in Australia. "It was just never-ending," said ACC acting chief Col Blanch. "We were regularly finding bags of $500,000 and $400,000." Organised crime is estimated to cost Australia Aus$10-15 billion per year by the ACC, with drugs, money-laundering, fraud, firearms and high-tech cyber offences the major issues. Profits from transnational organised crime were estimated at US$870 billion in 2009 -- the latest available data -- according to the ACC's 2013 report into the sector. That represented about 1.5 percent of global GDP at the time. Source/Agence France Presse.

Suleiman Calls for Immediate Stop to Interference in Syria's Affairs
Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/President Michel Suleiman said Thursday that distancing Lebanon from the Syrian crisis comes through the immediate end to interference in all of the neighboring country's internal affairs. In a statement issued by Baabda Palace, Suleiman held onto the official policy of dissociation from the Syrian war. “This is done through an immediate stop to meddling in all of Syria's internal affairs and mainly the fighting there no matter what the justification is,” he said. The president was mainly referring to Hizbullah. The party has sent members to Syria to fight alongside troops loyal to President Bashar Assad against rebels seeking to topple him.
Sunni fighters generally from northern Lebanon have also went to the neighboring country to help the rebels. Suleiman called for a political solution that would bring back stability and security to Syria and help the return of the refugees back home. The president hoped for the success of the Geneva II peace talks to end the Syrian crisis. The U.N.-sponsored conference -- the biggest diplomatic effort yet to resolve Syria's devastating civil war -- opened in the Swiss town of Montreux on Wednesday with heated disagreements among the two sides and world powers.

Salam Calls for Grabbing Cabinet Opportunity

Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has warned that the current political and security situation in Lebanon cannot wait for more procrastination in the government formation process.
In remarks to As Safir daily published on Thursday, Salam said: “The efforts are underway to form the cabinet as soon as possible.”But he stressed that it was no longer acceptable to wait because the situation in Lebanon does no longer tolerate the waste of more time. There is now an opportunity to form an all-embracing government through regional and international support, he said. “We should speed up in grabbing it and investing it before it goes,” Salam said. His remarks came as informed sources told An Nahar newspaper that both President Michel Suleiman and Salam have an intention to settle the cabinet crisis end of this week.
The two officials have two choices – they would either issue a decree on an all-embracing government and take the risk of a boycott by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun or return to their previous choice of a non partisan cabinet. Aoun has rejected the rotation of portfolios in the all-embracing 24-member government despite a mediation by its ally Hizbullah. Officials close to Salam have quoted him as saying that he holds onto his authority to distribute portfolios on the different parties in cooperation with Suleiman.  They said the premier-designate also sticks to a balanced distribution of portfolios and takes into consideration the sectarian and political balances in the country.

Tripoli Goes on Strike on Friday to Denounce Deadly Fighting

Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/The Traders Association of Northern Lebanon and civil society groups have called for a strike on Friday to denounce the deadly gunbattles that have rocked the northern city of Tripoli.The association, public and private schools and civil society groups said Friday's strike will begin in the morning and end by noon prayers. It is aimed at denouncing the chaos in the city and attacks on all security agencies. One soldier died and eight others were wounded on Wednesday in the latest round of fighting between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. But one of them identified as Fadi al-Jamous succumbed to his injuries on Thursday morning. The clashes also injured at least four civilians. The two impoverished neighborhoods are the scenes of frequent sectarian clashes linked to the war in Syria.
The gunbattles erupted last Friday when a Jabal Mohsen man was shot dead in nearby al-Qobbeh. Political figures, including caretaker PM Najib Miqati, and clergymen held a series of meetings on Wednesday to contain the clashes. On Thursday, army units began deploying in the two areas and mainly Syria Street which separates the districts. It erected checkpoints on the outskirts of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen and carried out patrols in the city's streets. But hundreds of families that have fled the two neighborhoods in the past six days have not returned, and schools near the restive districts remained closed.

Army: Abdullah Azzam Brigades Terrorist Killed in Bekaa Clash

Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/The army said Thursday that a Palestinian suspect who was killed during a clash in the eastern Bekaa Valley was a member of an al-Qaida-linked group. Ibrahim Abdul Mohti Abou Maaileq, known as Abi Jaafar, succumbed to his wounds in hospital on Wednesday, the army said. He was shot after he attempted to flee a checkpoint the military had erected in an attempt to stop him. Abi Jaafar, who is a member of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, was in a black Chrysler when he hit a soldier at the checkpoint while trying to flee. He also opened fire on the unit deployed there, injuring an officer, the army said. He was also wounded when the members of the checkpoint fired back at him. He later died in hospital. The army said that it was searching for another suspect who was with him at the time of the incident but has escaped. The army communique said the suspect had ties with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and coordinated with its leader in the Syrian area of al-Qalamoun that lies near Lebanon's eastern border. Abi Jaafar smuggled suicide bombers to Lebanon and plotted terrorist bombings, it said. An ID in the name of Ahmed Omar Saleh was found with him, it added. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings that have targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs in November. Its leader, Majed al-Majed, was arrested by the army last month and said he later died at a military hospital in Beirut from a chronic illness.

Army Foils Armed Group Bid to Infiltrate Lebanon from Syria via al-Qaa

Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/The Lebanese Army on Thursday clashed with gunmen who were trying to infiltrate Lebanon from Syria through the Masharii al-Qaa border area.
"At 5:30 p.m., the Lebanese Army thwarted at attempt by an armed group to infiltrate Lebanon from Syrian territory," Lebanon's National News Agency reported. The gunmen were attempting to enter the country through the al-Naamat barren mountains and the illegal border crossings in Masharii al-Qaa, NNA said. The army opened fire at the gunmen and prevented them from crossing the border, the agency added.
Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) described the group as "extremist," without elaborating on whether it has links to a certain organization. The clashes did not cause any casualties, according to the radio network. For its part, al-Mayadeen television said "the army has deployed in some points in Masharii al-Qaa after detecting movements by armed groups in the Eastern Mountain Range."


Loyalty to Resistance: Inclusive Cabinet Basis of Dialogue, Our Partners Must Reassess Choices
Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc on Thursday stressed that “an all-inclusive, political cabinet” is the constitutional basis for returning to dialogue among the country's components, urging “our partners in the country” to reevaluate their “choices.”Commenting on the cabinet formation process, the bloc said: “We hope things will reach a happy ending in order to relaunch the work of institutions, accomplish the constitutional junctures and immunize the country against takfiri and Zionist terrorism.”“An all-embracing, political cabinet is not a circumstantial need, but rather the constitutional framework of national accord among the country's components and the basis for returning to dialogue,” Loyalty to Resistance added. “We call on our partners in the country to reevaluate their choices,” it said. The bloc lamented that “terrorism is still enjoying a cover from the March 14 camp, despite its continuous assertion that it is keen on civil peace.” “We condemn the security chaos in Tripoli and the attacks on the army,” Loyalty to Resistance added.
It also deplored the deadly bombings that rocked Hermel in the Bekaa and Haret Hreik in Beirut's southern suburbs, two strongholds of Hizbullah, as well as the rocket attacks that targeted Arsal, Hermel, Ras Baalbek and al-Fakiha. The bloc blamed the deadly rocket attack on Arsal on “takfiri groups,” after the town's municipality and dignitaries accused Hizbullah of being behind the shelling. “The takfiri terrorism is a threat and those who are supporting it and taking advantage of it politically are contributing to the destruction of their country,” the bloc warned. “Our people who defied Israel will defeat the objectives of the new takfiri terrorism,” it stressed. It noted that “the takfiri terrorism is being financed by well-known countries and groups in a scheme aimed at fragmenting our countries.”Turning to the issue of Israeli violations on the border, the bloc noted that “integration between the army and resistance is the effective way to prevent the enemy from achieving its objectives.”Commenting on the Geneva II peace conference that got underway in the Swiss town of Montreux, the bloc said: “The Syrian crisis needs a political solution and we hope Syrians will agree on a roadmap for this political solution in order to achieve stability, reform and responsible freedom.”It stressed that “the aspired solution must be sought by the Syrians themselves.”“The priority in the process to reach a political solution must be putting an end to the support and financing of takfiri terrorism, which poses a threat to the entire international community, not only to Syria and Lebanon,” it added.

PSP Official Shot Dead in Aley

Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/The body of a Progressive Socialist Party official was found on Thursday in the Mount Lebanon town of Aley, the state-run National News Agency reported. "The body of Sami Marroush was found inside his car in the Aley area of Ras al-Jabal,” the NNA detailed, noting that he was a former official of internal affairs in the party. The same source revealed that Marroush's body had gunshot injuries from a hunting rifle.Meanwhile, OTV said two bullets in the head and in the lower abdomen killed Marroush. He was PSP leader MP Walid Jumblat's adviser, according to OTV. The NNA said Jumblat contacted security and judicial authorities, reiterating his trust in these bodies “that rushed to do their jobs after the crime to uncover the details behind it and adopt all necessary procedures.”"We will wait for the results of the investigation and for arresting and trying the perpetrators,” he stressed. "We call for calm after the incident,” he added.  MP Akram Shehayeb refused to accuse anyone of killing Marroush. "The concerned agencies are carrying out their duties to the fullest. We urge supporters to remain calm," he told al-Jadeed television. OTV noted that PSP supporters blocked al-Sham road in Shwit in protest at Marroush's death.

Brother, Nieces of Owner of Phone Number on STL List Killed in Peru
by Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/A Lebanese man and his two daughters were gunned down in mysterious circumstances in Peru in Latin America , media reports said on Thursday. According to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3), Rouhad Ezzeddine, who is in his forties, was found shot to death along with his two daughters Zainab and Leila at their house in Peru. The details of their death were unclear. The family hails from the southern town of Kafra. Meanwhile, al-Jadeed television revealed on Thursday evening that Rouhad Ezzeddine is the brother of M. Ezzeddine, whose phone number was included in the list of numbers that were used in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, according to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, M. Ezzeddine confirmed that he has owned the phone number that ends with 967 since 2002, according to al-Jadeed. The number was mentioned in the list of phone numbers presented in the trying session of the four suspects accused of assassinating Hariri at The Hague.  These numbers are owned by Lebanese nationals and were put in service a while before Hariri's assassination. The incident comes day after Lebanese woman Assil Ali Srour, 20, from the southern town of Batoulieh was killed in mysterious circumstances in the the state of Michigan in the United States.
On Tuesday LBCI television reported that Hussein al-Saghir, 30, from the southern town of al-Khrayeb was also killed in the United States. He was shot during a robbery at a gas station in the city of Chicago where he works

 with his brother. His brother survived the crime.

Jumblat Vows to Close Naameh Landfill, Orders Opening Blocked Roads 'Immediately'

Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblat vowed on Thursday to close al-Naameh landfill, urging protesters in the coastal Shouf city to reopen the roads in the area. "We pledge to close the Naameh landfill for good the moment the extended contract ends on January 17, 2015 and we vow that we will not allow any new extension of ownership of the plummet to take place,” Jumblat said in a releases statement, pointing out to the “unprecedented dangerous environmental situation in the surroundings of the landfill that was caused by the continuous extension of the contract.”He noted: “We must take advantage in the meantime to find the necessary scientific, technical and environment-friendly solutions to the current landfill, and produce energy that surrounding regions can benefit from.”"We must also find an alternative to get rid of garbage in Beirut,” he added. “Each region in Lebanon must bear the responsibility of processing its own garbage.”“The National Struggle Front will follow-up on issuing two draft laws that the MPs proposed at the first session of the parliament," Jumblat announced. The National Struggle Front head elaborated: “The first draft law deals with paying the municipalities' fiscal dues that were not covered since 2008, and the second tackles exempting all municipalities that are close to the landfill of their debts to the Independent Municipal Fund.”The Druze leader expressed that he understands “people's suffering,” urging them to give way to the efforts exerted to draw an end to this case “for good.”
"This would restore the normal situation and puts and end to the accumulating environmental crisis in the area,” he remarked. "I demand the reopening of the roads immediately and without any delay, especially that the country cannot suffer additional problems amid the current political and security situation.”The roads of the capital and its surrounding regions became flooded with waste after Sukleen, the only company tasked with collecting garbage in the governorates of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, announced on Saturday that it will suspend collecting garbage there. “People's sit-in near the Naameh landfill and blocking the road in front of the company’s trucks for the second day in a row lead to the piling up of garbage that were ready to be plumbed,” a statement released by Sukleen explained.

State Plays Down Naameh Residents Demands as Garbage Piles Up

Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/Activists and protesters near the Naameh garbage landfill complain that the government is not dealing with their demands “seriously” as the road leading to the dump remained shut. The Council for Development and Reconstruction deems that there are no swift solution to the problem. “The most realistic solution is finding a new landfill to sort and compose (organic) waste before transferring them to Naameh landfill,” a source in CDR said in comments published in As Safir newspaper.He pointed out that finding a new land and a disposal waste treatment plant would require at least 6 month. The source said that only the government can pledge to close the Naameh landfill. The blockade of the road leading to Naameh landfill by protesters kicked off on Saturday after activists and residents in the nearby areas complained of what they described as bad living conditions. The protesters prevented Sukleen dump trucks from entering the landfill, calling on the state to resolve the matter. Garbage in Beirut and Mount Lebanon piled up on roadsides as Sukleen assured that street sweepers would continue cleaning streets and that dumpsters would be sprayed with pesticides. The latest Sukleen statement had noted that the Council for Development and Reconstruction and other relevant authorities were looking into alternative solutions to the problem, pointing out that finding a new landfill was “the Lebanese state's responsibility, not the company's.”Protesters expressed good will gesture and opened the road leading to the landfill for 48 hours, however, the road was blocked again after negotiations with CDR failed to resolve the crisis. Landfills are not designed to break down trash, merely to bury it Ajwad al-Ayyach, the spokesman of “Campaign to Close the Naameh Landfill,” stressed in comments published in As Safir newspaper that the protesters will go on with their open-end sit-in, rejecting any negotiations. “We demand that the competent authorities set a deadline to close the landfill... End garbage burying in the landfill and formation of a committee by residents to oversee the process,” he noted. Sukleen is the only company tasked with collecting garbage in the governorates of Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

Abou Faour Relies on Cooperation of Rival Parties to End Cabinet Deadlock

Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour stressed on Thursday the cabinet stalemate doesn't necessarily indicate that negotiations between the rival parties have slowed down. “As long as there is political will to form a national unity cabinet that safeguards the country” the cabinet would see the light, Abou Faour said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. He expressed hope that the political foes remain cooperative in order to wrap up the matter. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, who was appointed in April, is holding onto the concept of “fair, balanced and comprehensive rotation of portfolios,” which is rejected by the Free Patriotic Movement. The cabinet formation process was put on the front burner after Speaker Nabih Berri proposed a revised 8-8-8 government formula and President Michel Suleiman said he would form a so-called neutral cabinet if the political rivals don't agree on an all-embracing government within ten days. Amid the Lebanese Forces' rejection of Hizbullah's participation in the cabinet, the March 14 camp has reportedly accepted the 8-8-8 formula in principle, but it is awaiting answers pertaining to the ministerial policy statement and the rotation of portfolios among political parties.
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. Source/Agence France Presse.

Geagea: Govt. Won't Make Any Difference, We'll Only Join if Baabda Declaration is Policy Statement
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 January 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Wednesday stressed that there is no “fundamental dispute” with the Mustaqbal Movement, noting that the LF would only join the new cabinet if the Baabda Declaration was adopted as the ministerial policy statement. “I'm more and more convinced that the LF won't take part in the cabinet,” Geagea said in an interview on Future TV, before underlining that his party would join the new government “if the Baabda Declaration was adopted as the only political component of the ministerial Policy Statement.” “When (Hizbullah MP) Ali Ammar says that they insist on the army-people-resistance equation, what can you expect from such a government?” Geagea asked rhetorically. In response to a question, the LF leader said: “The relation with (ex-PM Saad) Hariri is something and the political stance is something else,” pointing out that his stance on the cabinet formation process “reflects a major decision by the party's executive committee” and not only his personal viewpoint. “Emotionally speaking, we all want a cabinet and we want ministerial portfolios, but rationally speaking, I cannot fool myself as this cabinet will not make a difference,” Geagea noted. “I have not discussed, at any moment, the issue of ministerial shares or portfolios, and claims that we've rejected to join the cabinet because we'll only have one portfolio are totally unfounded,” he stressed. “There is no fundamental dispute with Mustaqbal but during negotiations we had a procedural disagreement on whether we should join the cabinet before or after reaching a political agreement with the other camp,” he said. Geagea noted that a cabinet that can “change people's lives” is a cabinet that can make “political changes.”
“I've been surprised by the public opinion, which knows the type of governments it wants and will not settle for any cabinet,” he said. He stressed that the unstable security situation in the country will remain the same after the formation of the new cabinet, “because Hizbullah is fighting in Syria.”
“Of course I don't want to throw Hizbullah into the sea, but I can't continue to bear the repercussions of the actions it does without consulting anyone,” added Geagea. “The country is being depleted due to Hizbullah's policies and whatever we do, we won't be able to change anything unless it changes its behavior,” he emphasized. Geagea pointed out that according to the information he's been hearing, “Hizbullah will have more than 8 ministers.”
“I've learned that Suleiman's share will include a minister for the party and Salam's share will include another ... We hope this will change,” he added. Geagea noted that Hizbullah has only “theoretically” backed down from the so-called 8-8-8 cabinet formula. “The solution is to maintain my political stance and continue struggling for the success of my project, and had I wanted to sit with them, I would've done that years ago,” he went on to say. Geagea revealed that some March 14 independents and the National Liberal Party “will also not take part in the cabinet and portfolios were never the concern of March 14.”“Let us not forget that we are being assassinated on the streets and that we are being pursued,” he said. “The calls for dialogue after every assassination have become suspicious calls by individuals who do not want to shoulder their responsibilities,” Geagea stated. “If we are the party that is keen on the country, should we cover up for the policies that are harming the country? We tried a national unity cabinet led by Saad Hariri between 2010 and 2011, but they toppled it with the first juncture,” he explained. Geagea said that in a coalition cabinet, the March 14 camp “would only be splitting spoils with Hizbullah.” “The events of the past two weeks have created a state of disarray in the March 14 coalition and this camp must prepare well for the presidential election,” he said. Geagea pointed out that “March 14 has significant chances to elect the candidate it wants as president of the republic.”
Asked whether he would run in the presidential election, Gegaea said reaching the Baabda Palace would be meaningless if he couldn't implement his “political project.”In response to another question, Geagea said: “I believe that Hariri has not changed his stance on nominating me for the presidency.”He added that he supports electing a partisan candidate as president. “I'm with electing either a March 8 candidate or a March 14 candidate and the president would then implement its project. If Lebanon is divided, should we create a state that combines Hizbullah's statelet and the Lebanese state? The answer is no. The conflict is over political plans,” added Geagea.The cabinet formation process was put on the front burner after Speaker Nabih Berri proposed a revised 8-8-8 government formula and President Michel Suleiman said he would form a so-called neutral cabinet if the political rivals don't agree on an all-embracing government within days. Amid the LF' rejection of Hizbullah's participation in the cabinet, some compnents of the March 14 camp have accepted the 8-8-8 formula in principle, but are awaiting 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.

Pope Francis: Internet a 'gift from God' for dialogue, but Catholics shouldn't claim absolute truth
By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press
VATICAN CITY - The Internet is a "gift from God" that facilitates communication, Pope Francis said in a statement released Thursday, but he warns that the obsessive desire to stay connected can actually isolate people from their friends and family. Francis made the observations in a message about Catholic Church communications, meditating on the marvels and perils of the digital era and what that means for the faithful going out into the world and interacting with people of different faiths and backgrounds. In comments that will likely rile the more conservative wing of the church, Francis suggested that in engaging in that dialogue, Catholics shouldn't be arrogant in insisting that they alone possess the truth. "To (have a) dialogue means to believe that the 'other' has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective," Francis wrote. "Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the pretense that they alone are valid and absolute." According to church teaching distilled by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Catholic Church holds the "fullness of the means of salvation" — a message that has long been taken to mean that only Catholics can find salvation. Church teaching also holds that those who don't know about Jesus but seek God can also attain eternal salvation.
Pope Benedict XVI was a strong proponent of engaging in interreligious dialogue, but Francis has offered a softer approach in his sermons and gestures. In one famous off-the-cuff homily, he suggested that even atheists can find salvation. He also riled some conservatives when he washed the feet of two Muslims during the Holy Thursday re-enactment of Christ washing the feet of his apostles.
Archbishop Claudio Mario Celli, the head of the Vatican's social communications office, said he didn't think Francis was making an official policy statement on interreligious dialogue, noting that the message was merely a reflection, "not a conciliar or dogmatic text." But he acknowledged that Francis is shaking things up in much the same "providential" way Pope John XXIII shook up the church in launching the Second Vatican Council.
"We are realizing that there are sensations of, I wouldn't say difficulty, but of discomfort sometimes in certain circles," he said. "I think step by step we must rediscover a sense of the path, of what the pope wants to tell us."
In his message Thursday, Francis said the Internet offers "immense possibilities" to encounter people from different cultural and traditional backgrounds and show solidarity with them. "This is something truly good, a gift from God," he wrote. But he warned: "The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us." He called for communications in the digital era to be like "a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts" and for the church's message to not be one of bombarding others with Christian dogma. "May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful neighbours to those wounded and left on the side of the road," he said.


Canada Shocked by Scale of Syrian Brutality
January 21, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement in response to reports, supported by a massive release of more than 55,000 images, indicating the systemic torture and killing of an estimated 11,000 prisoners by the Assad regime. This comes ahead of the Geneva II conference tomorrow, where Minister Baird will speak about the challenge of achieving peace in Syria.
“These photographs are overwhelming evidence, and yet another stark reminder, of the terror Assad’s war has brought upon his own people. This horrific and inhumane behaviour, including the torture, maiming and murder of prisoners, is not new to the Assad regime. The scale and brutality of this systemic murder is shocking. “Canada condemns this abhorrent mistreatment of prisoners in the strongest possible terms. We call on the Assad regime to treat its prisoners with the respect and dignity that all people deserve and to adhere to its international obligations. “Assad has invited Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, into Syria to torture prisoners and terrorize civilians. He has promoted sectarianism and opened the door to foreign terrorism for the sake of his own personal privilege and power. “It is time for the leaders of Syria to put the people of Syria first. Those taking part in the Geneva II peace talks must do so with openness, honesty and with the people of Syria as the principal focus of our efforts.”

Iranian president says his country is 'ready to engage' with world
By John Heilprin, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – By John Heilprin, The Associated Press
DAVOS, Switzerland - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says his country is ready to do business and co-operate on global issues like climate change and Syria's crisis, in a speech aimed at persuading world leaders that Tehran is committed to ending years of international isolation. Rouhani claimed the spotlight at the annual World Economic Forum on Thursday owing to a variety of factors: Iran's pivotal role in the Middle East; its exclusion from peace talks to end the 3-year Syrian conflict; and a nuclear deal with world powers that has businesses in Europe and beyond preparing to rush back into the country. Iran, he said, is "fully prepared and ready to engage with all neighbouring countries to achieve shared practical solutions" on a range of issues including environmental concerns, business ventures, Palestinian rights, Persian Gulf security and Syria's humanitarian crisis. The Iranian president, accompanied by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who negotiated a deal with world powers to limit Iran's nuclear program, emphasized that Tehran will abide by the terms of that deal in exchange for some sanctions relief and the unfreezing of about $4.2 billion in overseas assets. Over the next half-year, Iran and world powers will try to forge a permanent deal. The agreement paves the way for new business deals, which Rouhani and Zarif will be eager to discuss at Davos, which brings together hundreds of corporate tycoons. "We intend to reopen trade, industrial and economic relations, with all of our neighbours" including Turkey, Iraq, Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Rouhani said. Rouhani said he hopes Iran's historical deep economic ties with Europe will be normalized and suggested that U.S.-Iran negotiations over the nuclear deal could pave the way to better relations. He reiterated, however, the country's position that it has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons but has the right to continue pursuing peaceful nuclear energy. He said he "does not see an impediment" to following up on the nuclear deal, but warned other countries might lack the political will. As he spoke, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who helped broker the nuclear deal, sat in the front of the hall, listening intently. "I see the status of Iran pursuing policies of moderation, prudence and hope in the future global economy as greater than predicted," Rouhani said. "Iran's economy has the potential to be among the world's top 10 in the next three decades." On the eve of the first face-to-face talks between Syria's government and opposition in Geneva, Rouhani suggested that "the best solution is to organize free and fair elections in Syria" and that once the ballots are cast "we should all accept" the outcome. Iran's Shiite-led government and financial support is central to President Bashar Assad's grip on power.

Iran displays energy facilities to illustrate capabilities, entice international investors
By The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – By The Associated Pres/ASALOUYEH, Iran - Iran has taken international media on a tour of partially completed natural gas facilities and other elements of its energy sector to display its capabilities, just days after the easing of sanctions in an effort to entice foreign investors. Tehran could use outside expertise to further develop the sector, including a massive natural gas field it shares with the nearby Arab nation of Qatar. The tour of South Pars gas field Wednesday was a way to show investors the energy sector's potential. It came just three days after Iran began implementing a November deal with world powers under which Tehran capped its uranium enrichment in return for the easing of some Western sanctions. In December, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran intends to significantly increase production from the field by 2017.

Zawahiri Urges 'Immediate' End to Syria Islamist Fighting
Naharnet Newsdesk 23 January 2014/Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri called for an end to clashes between al-Qaida-linked jihadists and Islamists fighting to oust Syria's regime, in an audio message posted on the Internet.
Zawahiri urged all jihadist groups and "every free person in Syria seeking to overthrow (President Bashar) Assad... to seek an end to fighting between brothers in jihad and Islam immediately," in the recording uploaded on YouTube late on Wednesday. A new front in Syria's nearly three-year-old conflict opened in early January when powerful rebel groups combined to attack bases of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.
The jihadists were initially welcomed by other rebels, but allegations of brutal abuses against civilians as well as rival opposition fighters sparked a backlash, and even accusations that they were serving the interests of the regime.
In some cases, Al-Nusra Front, the officially recognized al-Qaida franchise in Syria, participated in fighting against ISIL whose leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called for reconciliation on Sunday. In Wednesday's audio message, Zawahiri said that "these organizational ties can be sacrificed without second thought if they conflicted with your unity... against your enemy." "Jihadist groups are our brothers whom we refuse to accuse of apostasy," added the al-Qaida chief. Most rebels in Syria are Sunni Arab, and have fought against the regime of Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. But ISIL has faced a rebel backlash in Syria and has been hit by days of fighting against a coalition of moderate and Islamist rebels, including with Nusra. Baghdadi had sought to merge his group with Nusra, but they rejected the alliance and pledged allegiance directly to Zawahiri. Since then, the two groups have functioned separately, though Nusra has remained largely neutral in the latest infighting, and the group's leader has called for an end to the clashes, warning it would benefit the regime.
But ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani sounded a defiant tone in his own audio message earlier in January, calling for ISIL forces to "crush them (the rebels) totally and kill the conspiracy at birth."
Source/Agence France Presse.Middle EastPoliticsSyria.

 PolicyWatch 2196

Assad's Indispensable Foreign Legions

Jeffrey White/Washington Institute
Assad is still standing, but he is not standing alone -- and he likely no longer makes decisions alone either.
Since 2012, the Syrian regime has drawn from its allies to create a force of foreign combatants that have become essential to its survival. The presence of these fighters is a major factor in the conflict and will have significant influence on the eventual military or political solution. At this point, President Bashar al-Assad probably cannot decide the regime's course for the war on his own -- like Rome inviting the barbarian tribes to defend its gates, he has effectively mortgaged his independence to his Iranian, Hezbollah, and Iraqi allies, and their withdrawal would likely turn the war back against the regime. According to Assad's narrative, the Syrian Arab Army is winning the fight against the rebels, but it is the foreign legions that have made such claims possible.
Several factors have led to the presence of foreign forces in Syria. First, the dynamics of the war created a need for large numbers of additional infantry. Based on reported casualties and the estimated effects of defection, desertion, and unreliability, the regime's regular forces have been whittled down from over 300,000 to perhaps less than 100,000, with even fewer available for combat operations. Data from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) indicates that some 37,000 regular forces have been killed in combat, and the actual number is likely thousands higher. Many more have been wounded. Defections, especially from the army, have further reduced the available manpower, as has the unreliability of Sunni personnel whom the Alawite regime has asked to help pacify the country's largely Sunni populace.
The regime has responded to the decline of its regular forces by creating a variety of irregular forces (shabbiha militias, Popular Committees, local militias, the Baath Party Militia) and then merging them under the so-called National Defense Forces. According to Israeli estimates, Damascus has already generated over 50,000 personnel for this umbrella force and is aiming for 150,000.
The ready availability of forces from regime allies has been a factor as well. Hezbollah fighters, Iraqi Shiites, Palestinians, and Iran have produced some of the manpower Assad needed. As with regime irregulars, these foreign forces have become more effective in their military roles over time. Combat operations in places such as al-Qusayr, Aleppo, and Damascus have made clear that the regime is more successful where its foreign allies are present than where they are not. Without them, the regime would likely be unable to undertake significant ground offensives at this point in the war, and it would have difficulty defending some areas of the country where it is still holding on.
The two main groups of foreigners fighting for the regime are Hezbollah personnel and Iraqi Shiites. They provide the extra combat power the regime requires. Hezbollah has been the most important contributor because of the wider scope of its activities, but the Iraqi role has been significant and appears to have expanded over time.
Hezbollah probably maintains around 4,000 men in Syria at any one time, and it has likely rotated much larger numbers through the country -- perhaps as many as 10,000. The group's fighters are found on all key battlefronts, and it plays an important role in training, advising, and bolstering regime regulars and irregulars. It was instrumental in the regime's victory at al-Qusayr last spring, in the defense of Damascus and Aleppo throughout much of 2013, and in offensive operations in Aleppo province and the Damascus suburbs later in the year. The casualties Hezbollah has suffered testify to its deep involvement: at least 300 have reportedly been killed (probably many more) and hundreds wounded.
Iraqi Shiite fighters are also present in large numbers, joining a number of different Shiite formations and often fighting alongside Hezbollah. Originally centered in the Damascus area -- especially the Sayyeda Zainab shrine, but also the broader southern suburbs and East Ghouta -- they can now be found on other battlefields, including Aleppo and Qalamoun. Multiple Iraqi-associated combat units have been identified in action, the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade being the most cited. Like Hezbollah, the Iraqis are taking significant casualties, with around 300 killed based on SOHR reporting.
Palestinians have played a much smaller role. Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command have fought on the regime's side in refugee camps around Damascus, especially the hotly contested Yarmouk camp in the southern suburbs.
Iran's role has been primarily as a coordinator and facilitator of foreign forces in Syria; its direct role in combat appears to be quite limited. Tehran encouraged -- and perhaps dictated -- Hezbollah's decision to intervene directly in the war, and it has helped Iraqi Shiite fighters with training, movement, and arms. In addition, it provides military assistance, advice, and technical expertise to the regime, in some cases by deploying military specialists on the ground. Although Iran does not appear to have committed large numbers of combat troops, personnel from the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force are operating in Syria, and some have been killed.
Small numbers of other foreigners have been reported on the regime's side as well, including Yemeni Houthis, Turkish Alevis, Russian "mercenaries," Afghans, Pakistanis, and even North Korean. But the evidence for this is limited, and in any case their effect on the fighting would be minimal. Overall, Israeli and other estimates indicate that something like 10,000 foreigners are currently fighting for the regime, though the figures are soft.
The importance of the foreigners lies in their effect on the war, not in their numbers. Allied fighters perform a wide variety of roles for the regime. Hezbollah and Iranian personnel are reportedly involved in determining the war's strategic direction and the conduct of combat operations -- according to a regional security source, they have formed a joint command center with the regime.
On the ground, foreigners provide critical military capabilities, especially reliable light infantry. Their willingness to fight has been crucial to regime offensive and defensive operations in Homs province (al-Qusayr), the Damascus suburbs, and Aleppo province and city.
In addition, Hezbollah and Iranian Qods Force personnel have reportedly played a key role in training regime regular and irregular forces for counterinsurgency and urban operations. This has allowed the regime to raise thousands of irregular forces to compensate for casualties among its regular units, and to reorient regular forces to a counterinsurgency mission.
Without the foreign legions, the regime's ability to conduct the war would likely have declined dramatically and perhaps decisively in 2013. Instead, its downward trend was arrested and its military fortunes improved. The synergy among regime regular and irregular forces and the foreigners has fostered success on the battlefield. Rebel forces have suffered defeats in Homs and Aleppo provinces and the Damascus suburbs, and their combat losses have increased. When the regime chooses to commit significant firepower and combat forces, including foreigners, the rebels have not been able to respond effectively. And while the foreigners have suffered casualties, especially Hezbollah and the Iraqis, the losses seem manageable thus far.
The role of foreign Islamist extremists in the Syrian opposition has tended to obscure the role of foreigners on the regime side. Yet there are likely as many or more foreigners fighting with Assad than against him. This issue should be addressed in the international Geneva II negotiations currently under way, especially if the regime attempts to focus the discussions on "foreign terrorists" supposedly conspiring with Western and regional governments against Syria.
Assad's foreign legions have been instrumental in keeping the regime in the war. They are not the only factor that has done so -- the regime's internal mobilization and the provision of financial assistance, diplomatic support, and weapons from its allies have played major roles as well -- but they are important. The foreigners have helped prolong the fighting and changed the slope of the battlefield in the regime's favor. Their departure would be a major blow to the regime, arguably more damaging than the departure of Sunni foreign fighters would be to the rebels. They also give Iran and Hezbollah a voice in the military and political processes that will eventually end the war. In short, Assad is still standing, but he is not standing alone -- and he likely no longer makes decisions alone either.
**Jeffrey White is a Defense Fellow at The Washington Institute and a former senior defense intelligence officer.