LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Jesus
the Real Vine
John 15 /01-17: " “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit. You have been made clean already by the teaching I have given you. Remain united to me, and I will remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine. In the same way you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. Those who do not remain in me are thrown out like a branch and dry up; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, where they are burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you wish, and you shall have it. My Father's glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and in this way you become my disciples. I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. And you are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. This, then, is what I command you: love one another.
Let us pray for Christian unity. There are so many beautiful things which unite us
Prions pour l’unité des chrétiens. Elles sont nombreuses et très précieuses les choses qui nous unissent
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from
miscellaneous sources For For January 29/14
Lebanon, the land of cedars or terrorism/By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabyia/January 29/14
Quiet Partnerships for a New Era: Emerging Opportunities for Arab-Israeli Cooperation/By: Alon Paz /Washington Institute/29 January/14
Don't Cry for ME-Argentina/By: David P. Goldman/Asia Times/January 29/14
Education and Egypt’s New Constitution/By: Isobel Coleman/Council on Foreign Relations/January 29/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous
Sources For January 29/14
Lebanese Related News
STL listens to firefighter’s testimony
Geagea urges immediate formation of neutral Cabinet
Aoun: Any Cabinet Breaching Constitution is Illegitimate, PM-Designate Must Resign after 10-Month Failure
Lebanon: Enough Aoun antics
Report: Nasrallah Telephoned Aoun to Resolve Cabinet Crisis
Al-Rahi Says Bkirki to Issue New National Pact Next Week
Salam: Delaying Lebanon Cabinet threatens stability
Circulated List Urges Security Checkpoints to Seize Eight 'Suspicious' Cars
Berri Postpones Legislative Session for 9th Time
Lebanese woman hospitalized after alleged gang rape
Lebanese designer gets shoutout at Grammys
Atrash confesses, Muslim scholars cry foul
Interrogation ongoing with Atrash: Qortbawi
Lebanon’s trade deficit widens by 2.5 pct in 2013
Russian Deputy FM to Voice Support to Govt Formation during Lebanon Visit
U.N.: Lebanon, Jordan need growth
Gunmen Assault Two Men Passing in Jabal Mohsen
AQIM Mourns Majed Al-Majed, Threatens Hizbullah if Continues to 'Oppress' Sunnis
Kuwait's Emir Meets Saniora, Says Ready to Help Lebanon Overcome Crises
Military Vehicle Flips Over in Qartaba, ISF Member Killed
Syrians Gang-Rape Woman from Akkar
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Poll: Most Americans think Obama not doing enough to stop Iran
Iran says Israel using nuclear issue to hide 'crimes'
Israeli DM, Ya'alon: US 'detaching from the Middle East'
US and Israeli buffer zones under Syrian rebel control designed to contain al Qaeda advances
Suspected al-Qaida members indicted for plotted terrorist bombings in Jerusalem, US embassy
US ship departs to destroy Syrian chemical agents
Syrian peace talks on hold for the day
ISIS leaders killed, captured in Aleppo
No New Session at Syria Talks after Regime Says U.S. 'Arming Terrorists'
Key al-Qaida militant reportedly killed in Syria
Hasan Ali al-Miqdad who is wanted for shooting was arrested in e. Lebanon
Lebanon stamp to honor Armenian 'martyrs
The National Council of Canadian Muslims demands apology from Canada's PM, Harper, chief spokesman over comment
Egypt's ousted president, locked in glass-encased cage, defiant at start of prison break trial
Morsi Tried forJailbreak as Top Egypt Police Officer Murdered
Gunmen kill Egyptian general, ousted president defiant at trial
Death toll in northeast Nigeria attack rises to 85
Pope Francis makes cover of Rolling Stone
Lebanon, the land of cedars or terrorism?
By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabyia
The Lebanese are loved as a people over the world but loathed as groups, militias, and terrorists. This fact is not easy to grapple with, but essential to dealing with our differences and moving on. The Lebanese have traveled the world spreading ancient wisdom, a rich culture and unique characteristics. People love our food, how could they not? The Lebanese cuisine competes with the world’s best culinary offerings. Lebanese talent has put its mark on science, entertainment, journalism, literature, business, entrepreneurship, and politics globally. We are a smart people. There is no doubt about that. “The healing starts when we admit to ourselves that we are more different than we are alike.
The reason why we can’t talk to each other is because we are different beyond reconciliation. You cannot love life and love death at the same time. ”
We are also some of the most challenged people. We are masters of the double standard and we live on past glories. We praise the successes of others and alienate ourselves with failures -- rarely do we wish each other success. All the while, we fail to spend the necessary time building our own successes and rebounding from our own failures.
We have ambassadors everywhere from Mars to the moon to the seven seas and from pole to pole. We conquer the highest summits and the lowest points on earth, proudly planting a cedar etched with our beautiful flag.
At the same time, others drag us down daily to quagmires of servitude and slavery. Those are mud-lovers, death seekers, and believers in conspiracies.
When I wonder why I never give up on Lebanon despite all the warnings from governments asking their nationals to stay away citing security concerns, I remember all the beautiful souls and the creative minds that carry in them so much talent, so much ingenuity and so much beauty to share with the world.
The healing starts when we admit to ourselves that we are more different than we are alike. The reason why we can’t talk to each other is because we are different beyond reconciliation. You cannot love life and love death at the same time. We cannot love peace and love war at the same time. You cannot love freedom and seek slavery simultaneously.
We are two different forces pulling in opposite directions. We won’t stop pulling until one force wins over the other. I choose life, creativity, advancement, peace, love, and freedom. That’s my Lebanon. The other side of Lebanon, whose existence I acknowledge but do not and will never support, I will fight it until my last breath.
This article was first published in al-Nahar on Jan. 27, 2014.
Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.
STL listens to firefighter’s testimony
January 28, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon listened Tuesday for a second day to the testimony of Khaled Toubaili, among the first firefighters to reach the blast site of the Valentine’s Day bombing in Beirut that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Toubaili recounted the efforts of some 70 firefighters who battled to extinguish blazing cars at the site of the explosion. It took nearly two hours for firefighters to put out the fires, Toubaili said, and several more to cool down the smoldering scene. The court looked at several photographs taken soon after the attack that killed Hariri outside the St. Georges hotel in 2005. Several photos depicted the crater left after the blast.
Although several members of the court asked Toubaili about the crater, he said his attention was focused elsewhere. "I did not care about the crater. I was only interested at the time in the fire and the injured people," he told the court. "The crater did not include any cars on fire or any inured people."Toubaili’s testimony Monday about shattered windows a significant distance from the blast site could be important evidence for the Prosecution’s theory that an explosives-laden van led to the killing of Hariri as opposed to an underground bomb detonation, a theory that the defense has posited.
Geagea urges immediate birth of neutral Cabinet
January 28, 2014/ The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea reiterated Tuesday his call for the immediate formation of a nonpartisan neutral Cabinet, blaming the “narrow interests” of his Christian political rival MP Michel Aoun for prolonging the months-long government crisis. “President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam should not waste any more time and they should use their constitutional powers to form a neutral government [that excludes] the March 8 and 14 coalition,” he told the Central News Agency. “Such a step has become urgent for the interests of the nation,” the LF chief said. “For the first time, experience is showing that the formation of a so-called all-embracing government is facing major obstacles related to political issues and narrow details, calculations and interests,” he said, in an apparent reference to Aoun. Aoun, a member of the March 8 coalition who wields the second largest parliamentary bloc, has rejected the rotation of ministerial portfolios in an all-embracing government, a key demand by the March 14 alliance. Geagea repeated that the new government’s policy statement should include the Baabda Declaration, a pact by Lebanese political rivals to distance the country from regional conflicts, particularly in neighboring Syria. The LF leader said the present circumstances in the country required a “capable and effective” Cabinet. “A neutral government is the only one ... that [can] lead to stability in the country and distances itself from the logic of [sharing of spoils],” Geagea said.
Report: Nasrallah Telephoned Aoun to Resolve Cabinet
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 January 2014/Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has personally telephoned Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun to resolve the last knot preventing the formation of the new all-embracing government, al-Liwaa newspaper reported on Tuesday. But Aoun's stance on the rejection of the 8-8-8 formula and the rotation of portfolios among sects has remained so far unchanged.
The FPM chief is rejecting to give up the energy and telecommunications portfolios that are part of his movement's share in the resigned government of caretaker Premier Najib Miqati. An Nahar daily said that Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam will be informed on Tuesday about Aoun's final answer to the deal struck among the rest of the factions on the 24-member cabinet and the rotation. The newspaper said the countdown for the formation of the government starts on Tuesday as Salam holds onto the 8-8-8 formula and the concept of rotation. Reports said that President Michel Suleiman and Salam could resort to a neutral government or an all-embracing cabinet excluding the FPM if Aoun remains adamant to reject the rotation of portfolios.
Aoun: Any Cabinet Breaching Constitution is Illegitimate, PM-Designate Must Resign after 10-Month Failure
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 January 2014/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday warned that any cabinet line-up that does not respect the constitution and coexistence among the Lebanese would be considered “illegitimate.”“Any cabinet formed in contravention of the constitutional, legal and coexistence norms – regardless of the intentions that pushed for its formation – will be illegitimate, and the bloc's stance will be decided accordingly,” Aoun said after the weekly meeting of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc in Rabieh. “The biggest violation that an official might threaten the Lebanese people with is the formation of a fait accompli cabinet,” Aoun added in a written statement, noting that PM-designate Tammam Salam must resign after he failed for 10 months to form a new cabinet. Aoun accused Salam of not exerting “any effort to resolve the crisis” during that period. “As we seek to reconcile all the components of the country, we sense that some parties are acting otherwise for unjustified reasons,” Aoun lamented. He accused the PM-designate of “tampering with the standards that ensure a proper cabinet formation process.”“Have those in charge forgotten that there is no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts coexistence in terms of marginalizing any component of the country's components?” Aoun added. “This principle does not bear any exceptions or manipulation, because … it is a very critical principle under which any president, premier or official can be sacked and resisted should he be accused that his policies, stances and acts are creating sectarian divisions,” Aoun cautioned. “It is our destiny to be always targeted during critical junctures when the issue is related to state institutions and our choice is to reject and confront the imposed situation in order to preserve the country and the state,” Aoun emphasized. The FPM leader slammed “this behavior,” noting that “the toppling of the constitution has undermined the principles of good governance, impoverished people and accumulated debt.” Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has personally telephoned Aoun to resolve the last knot preventing the formation of the new all-embracing government, al-Liwaa newspaper reported on Tuesday. But Aoun's stance on the rejection of the 8-8-8 formula and the rotation of portfolios among sects has remained so far unchanged. The FPM chief is rejecting to give up the energy and telecommunications portfolios that are part of his movement's share in the resigned government of caretaker Premier Najib Miqati. An Nahar daily said that Salam will be informed on Tuesday about Aoun's final answer to the deal struck among the rest of the factions on the 24-member cabinet and the rotation of portfolios. The newspaper said the countdown for the formation of the government starts on Tuesday as Salam holds onto the 8-8-8 formula and the concept of rotation. Reports said that President Michel Suleiman and Salam could resort to a neutral government or an all-embracing cabinet excluding the FPM if Aoun remains adamant to reject the rotation of portfolios.
Al-Rahi Says Bkirki to Issue New National Pact Next Week
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 January 2014/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi announced on Tuesday that a national pact will be issued after the monthly meeting of the Council of Maronite Bishops on February 5.
“The accord will focus on three constituents, which are the national principles, concerns and priorities,” al-Rahi said. He told his visitors that the pact will be made of 10 papers, noting that articles in it were discussed with various political leaders. Al-Rahi expressed concern over the local situation, describing it as “dangerous.” He called on Christians to “play their expected pioneer role that amid the ongoing developments in the region.” Concerning the cabinet formation process, al-Rahi urged politicians to facilitate the formation of an all-embracing government to prevent any vacuum at constitutional institutions. The cabinet formation process reached an impasse after being put on front burner after Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun insisted that his bloc retain the Energy and Telecommunications Ministries portfolios, currently held by caretaker Ministers Jebran Bassil and Nicolas Sehnaoui respectively. In addition to his rejection to the concept of rotation of ministerial portfolios. However, 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.
Berri Postpones Legislative Session for 9th Time
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 January 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri postponed on Tuesday for the 9th time a parliamentary session dedicated to tackling several controversial draft-laws over lack of quorum.
Berri set the new day to March 4. Several parliamentary blocs are boycotting the session over a dispute with the speaker over its agenda, which included 45 articles. Berri is insisting on keeping the 45 draft-laws on the agenda intact and had previously vowed to continue to call on MPs to a General Assembly meeting until the agenda is discussed. Several blocs and caretaker Premier Najib Miqati argue that the parliament cannot convene under a resigned government.
Lebanon: Enough Aoun antics
January 28, 2014 12:20 AM The Daily Star
A tense, bitter stalemate has taken shape in Lebanon over the fate of the Energy Ministry portfolio in the next Cabinet, thanks to the Free Patriotic Movement’s stubborn insistence that the job represents a “guarantee for Christians.” The FPM’s rhetoric over the matter has blazed new ground in terms of its divorce from reality. The controversy has nothing to do with safeguarding a given minister’s “achievements” or protecting religious minorities, but is merely the latest round of jousting in the run-up to a presidential election in May. FPM leader Michel Aoun is anxious because his March 8 allies have yet to endorse him as their candidate – the solution, for him, is to ratchet up tension on side issues such as portfolios, and to hell with the consequences. The problem with the stale arguments being used in this battle is that they don’t have a long shelf-life. Aoun’s allies have tired of his antics, and are probably offended by his blatantly sectarian grandstanding, along the lines of only he can protect Lebanon’s poor Christians. Aoun and his team should re-think their stances, based on several things. First, portfolios have never been reserved ad infinitum for a single sect or party. Second, Lebanese Christians aren’t protected by certain ministerial portfolios, but rather by a commitment to coexistence, equality, justice and the Constitution. Third, the most divisive group in Lebanon, replete with its own schisms and dismissive attitude to other Christians, has no business talking about being a mediator between other sects. The sooner that the FPM realizes that stubbornness and sectarian scare tactics have led it nowhere, the better.
Hasan Ali al-Miqdad wanted for shooting arrested in e. Lebanon
January 28/14, The Daily Star /BEIRUT: A wanted Lebanese man was arrested in Baalbek, east Lebanon, the Army said in a statement Tuesday. The military said Hasan Ali al-Miqdad, who has an arrest warrant “for opening fire,” was apprehended Monday after soldiers in the Baalbek village of Harabta stopped a black Chevrolet jeep he was in. The Chevy driver, Hasan Ahmad al-Miqdad, was also arrested, the statement added. Three assault rifles, three pistols and five hand grenades, in addition to a quantity of ammunition and military equipment, were seized from the jeep, the Army said.
It said the men were referred to the relevant authorities.
Lebanon stamp to honor Armenian 'martyrs'
January 28, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Caretaker Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui announced Tuesday the commission of a stamp to honor the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
Lebanon has a large and vocal Armenian community with around 200,000 Lebanese of Armenian origin in the country, a result of forced displacement after the partition of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the World War I.
While Turkey still resolutely denies genocide took place, last April saw over 10,000 Armenians rallying in Downtown Beirut on the 98th anniversary of the genocide.
The stamp depicts a drawing of a statue honoring Armenian martyrs found in Bikfaya. The stamp will be in circulation in a month's time.
Interrogation ongoing with Atrash: Qortbawi
January 28, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi said Tuesday that the Military Intelligence is continuing its interrogation of a Sunni preacher in connection with recent bombing attacks in Lebanon. ”Interrogation with [Omar Atrash] will continue and if there was no evidence that he was involved in any security act, he will be released,” Qortbawi told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. He stressed that the interrogation, conducted by Lebanese Army Intelligence under the supervision of Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr, remained secret. “No one but the interrogator and the judge supervising the investigation know what is going on,” Qortbawi said. “Therefore, everyone must wait for the outcome [of the interrogation] and should stay away from speculation and avoid leaks,” he added. Atrash confessed that he transported suicide bombers and rigged cars linked to the recent attacks in areas where Hezbollah enjoys wide support, a security source told The Daily Star Monday. The preacher also admitted he was involved in twin suicide attacks that targeted two Army checkpoints east and north of the southern city of Sidon last month. A Lebanese soldier was killed and three others were wounded in the December attacks in Majdalyoun, east of Sidon, and the Awali Bridge at the northern entrance to the city. Lebanon has witnessed a spate of bombing attacks, mainly targeting areas where Hezbollah enjoys strong support. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross denied issuing comments about the case.
"There have been confusing and wrong information circulating in some media stating that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited Sheikh Al Atrash and confirmed that he was not subjected to torture,” the organization said in a statement. “The ICRC would like to clarify that no such statement was done by the ICRC," it added. ICRC acknowledged it had visited Atrash as part of “periodical checkups of detainees" across Lebanon but said the humanitarian institution does not make its observations public. "The fact that it visits places of detention in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world, does not mean an acknowledgement that the conditions of detention or treatment of detainees comply with international standards," the ICRC said. It said findings and recommendations are shared with the relevant authorities through secret, bilateral talks.
Israeli DM, Ya'alon: US 'detaching from the Middle East'
By JPOST.COM STAFF/01/28/2014
In INSS speech, Defense minister rejects doctrine that peace with Palestinians will help drive to stop Iran nukes in apparent dig at Obama. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday that the United States is detaching from the Middle East as it seeks to shed its role as "the policeman of the world." Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) annual conference in Tel Aviv, Ya'alon said that the increased Iranian influence in Iraq which has followed the US military withdrawal from the country is an example of the US policy of separating itself from conflict areas.Ya'alon also said that Washington's decision not to become more involved in the Syrian conflict has led Russia to be the main exterior player in the civil war, with its unwavering support for President Bashar Assad. In an apparent critique of US President Barack Obama, Ya'alon rejected the doctrine that peace with the Palestinians would help Israel enlist the help of Arab states against Iran's nuclear ambitions. Obama made the same suggestion at his first White House meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in May 2009. Ya'alon also rejected the notion that current peace talks being led by US Secretary of State John Kerry could yield a sustainable peace deal with the Palestinians. He said that until the Palestinians recognize the legitimate right for Israel to be a Jewish state and give up the "right of return," there could be no peace agreement. Earlier this month, Ya'alon caused controversy when he was quoted as saying that Kerry was "naive and messianic" in his handling of the peace talks. Ya'alon said that 2013 had a been a relatively quiet year for Israel in regards to securty, despite the turmoil in the region. The defense minister said that the deterioration of states in the Middle East is causing chronic instability in the region, but is also creating opportunities for Israel. He said that the Sunni axis of states, which includes Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain has common enemies and common interests with Israel. He said that, like Israel, the Sunni states also see the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and al-Qaida as a threat. In addition to the Sunni axis, the Middle East is now broken up into the Shi'ite axis, led by Iran, which includes Assad and Hezbollah, as well as a third axis consisting of Turkey and Qatar, which are the only states which still support Hamas rule in Gaza, Ya'alon said. Ya'alon expressed pessimism about the possibility of the interim agreement with Iran stopping the Islamic Republic's drive for nuclear weapons. He said that the Iranians would take advantage of the nuclear deal to establish themselves on the nuclear threshhold. He called the West's deal with Iran a "historic missed opportunity," which wastes the momentum gained by international sanctions which had Iran on its knees. "Let us not be confused, Iran wants regional and international hegemony. They want to obtain a nuclear umbrella for their activities and perhaps over time will use force as well."
Poll: Most Americans think Obama not doing enough to
By LAHAV HARKOV LAST UPDATED: 01/28/2014/J.Post
Zionist Organization of America poll shows over half of Americans believe Obama could have done more to prevent development of nuclear weapons in first place. The American public overwhelmingly supports Israel in most issues, but opposes US President Barack Obama's positions on related matters, according to a poll commissioned by the Zionist Organization of America released Tuesday.
“President Obama and [US] Secretary of State [John] Kerry should heed these results. They should understand that the American people expect our government to support Israel; stop promoting a Palestinian state; stop condemning Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem as ‘illegitimate’; support Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital; stop funding the Palestinian Authority and impose stronger sanctions on Iran to persuade it to terminate its nuclear weapons program," ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said. Only 31 percent of Americans believe Obama is a close and reliable friend of Israel.Most Americans - 51% - believe Obama has not done all he can to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons, as opposed to a mere 28% who believe that he has. In addition, 59% of Americans advocate the imposition of stronger sanctions on Iran to convince it to stop developing nuclear weapons, as opposed to a mere 17% who believe the US should weaken sanctions on Iran to convince it to stop developing nuclear weapons. As for the conflict with the Palestinians, 59% of Americans believe a future Palestinian Arab state would be hostile to Israel and support terrorism. By a ratio of over 3 to 1 (47% –– 14%), Americans believe that Jews have the right to settle in the West Bank, according to the poll. An overwhelming majority of 72% Americans oppose Obama’s plan to give the Palestinian Authority $440 million, while only 15% believe that he should. Over half - 55% - of Americans believe Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel, and 63% believe that the PA should recognize Israel as the sovereign state of the Jewish people. “Pro-Israel organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, should cite these results to promote stronger support for Israel," Klein stated. The WZO poll was conducted by McLaughlin Associates, surveying 1000 Americans, consisting of Protestants (46%), Catholics (30%), Jews (3.6%), African Americans (13%), Hispanics (12%), Asians (3%) and Whites (70%). Politically, the respondents were 42% Democratic supporters and 41% Republican supporters. “The results of this latest, very detailed and highly representative survey of American opinion show gratifyingly high, indeed, overwhelming levels of support for positions Israel takes, as opposed to the position the Obama Administration takes," Klein said. "It also shows an understanding of the dangers Israel faces from a terror-sponsoring PA.” “Large majorities of Americans clearly understand that a Palestinian state, if established, will not live in peace with Israel and will simply be another Mideast terrorist state," he added.
Klein pointed out that the poll indicates that "only a small percentage [of Americans] believes in the racist, anti-Semitic Palestinian position that only Palestinians have the right to live there.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims demands apology
from Canada's PM, Harper, chief spokesman over comment
By The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press – OTTAWA - A major Canadian Muslim group is demanding an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his chief spokesman for a comment it says links the organization to a terrorist group. The National Council of Canadian Muslims has filed a notice of libel in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that accuses Jason MacDonald of acting maliciously when he made the comment earlier this month. The council had criticized the inclusion of a controversial rabbi in Harper's delegation that went to the Middle East last week. The libel notice quotes MacDonald as saying, "We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas." The notice is the first step in what could become a formal libel suit. The council says MacDonald's comment was a deliberate attempt to discredit the group and Harper is responsible for the words uttered by his spokesman. "The defamatory words were stated maliciously in order to discredit and insult an organization that did nothing other than exercise its constitutional right to freedom of expression to criticize a decision made by the prime minister," the libel notice says. "Mr. MacDonald simply made up that statement in an effort to discredit NCCM and deflect its criticism of Mr. Harper."The council describes itself as an independent, non-partisan, non-profit group which has worked for 14 years on human rights and civil liberties issues on behalf of Canadian Muslims. A half-dozen other rights groups, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of University Teachers, have offered support to the Muslim group.
Comment by: Elias Bejjani on the above report/The statement in question was not against the Canadian Muslims, but it addressed a stance adopted by the The National Council of Canadian Muslims in regards to its open support to Hamas. when Hamas is a listed terrorist group in Canada, where is the problem?
Don't Cry for ME-Argentina
By: David P. Goldman/Asia Times
I wish I had a nickel for every prediction of social unrest in China that I've read in the past year. Apart from the risk of stampedes at shopping malls before the Lunar New Year, China is tranquil. Meanwhile there are several dozen dead in Cairo overnight, central Bangkok remains under lockdown, street protests are out of control in Ukraine, Argentines are looting stores during power outages, and the stink of tear gas still overhangs the public squares of Istanbul from last year's demonstrations.
There is social unrest in a lot of places other than China, and it goes together with the collapse of local currencies. The Chinese aren't rioting because they are gainfully occupied and their wages are rising 15% to 20% a year. Other so-called emerging markets are in trouble because they are teeming with people who have nothing remunerative to do.
Most of the world's people farm for a living, but we need perhaps 1% of the world's population to grow crops at American standards of productivity. The rest are marking time. We will need less unskilled factory labor as automation takes hold, which implies dire consequences for most of the farmers who managed to get to a city and get an entry-level factory job.
Turkey was supposed to be the poster-boy for prosperity through Muslim democracy. Instead, it has become an object lesson in emerging market mediocrity, and its currency is collapsing because it pretended to be something better than that.
The Turks can spin polyester into sweaters for the Russian market, build washing machines for Southern Europe, and assemble cars for the Koreans. They can't build a smart phone, let alone a modern aircraft, although their military has put some down-drones in the air. There are a handful of fine universities that produce good engineers and financial types, but not enough to make a dent in the country's overall economic backwardness.
Turkish Stock Market ETF, Past 12 Months
Turkish Lira to US Dollar
Argentine Peso to US Dollar
Turkey is in trouble because the Turks aren't very good at anything in particular, but acted as if they were the next China. They borrowed vast sums from the international market against a glorious future that was never to be. Among all of the world's big economies Turkey has the worst current account deficit, at nearly 8% of economic output, roughly where Greece was before its national bankruptcy. Investors reckoned that with high economic growth, Turkey would have no problem carrying its debt; what they did not take into account is that the growth itself was largely an illusion, a carnival of consumption and construction that depended on increasing debt in the first place.
Of all the so-called emerging markets only China addressed the problem of a sidelined population, by methods that appear cruel, even repugnant in Western eyes. The one-child policy, surely the worst intrusion by any state into personal life in modern history, stopped the growth of the peasant population.
By main force, China will move 700 million people - the equivalent of all Europe from the Urals to the Atlantic - to cities from the countryside within little more than a single generation. This great migration has great costs - separation of families, arbitrary removal of farmers from their land, and the occasional construction of a city in the wrong place. But Chinese household income has risen 16-fold since 1987 as a result. And the Chinese by and large do not riot because they are too busy working. There is no reserve of idle farmers to bus into the center of the capital for a few dollars a day apiece, as in Thailand.
Unrest, to be sure, has different proximate causes in different places. The Ukrainians want to join the European Community so that they can leave Ukraine and go to places where they can earn money. The Turks object to the ruling party's stealth construction of an Islamic dictatorship with its attendant cronyism and corruption. But the common thread in all the financial and social crises which broke out during the past several months is this: the world economy has left behind large parts of the world's people.
The Egyptians, with 40% illiteracy and a more than 90% rate of female genital mutilation, dependent on imports for half their food while 70% of the population languishes in rural poverty, are the worst off. The Turks have a future, but it is a humbler and poorer one than their leaders have promised them. The adjustment of expectations will be wrenching, perhaps violent.
Argentina, whose currency collapsed last week, is another case in point. Blessed with great natural wealth, the Argentines have resented the oligopolies who control their resources, and try to vote themselves rich with depressing regularity. One government after another offers handouts to the querulous voters, who have learned that this practice breeds inflation and currency devaluation. The Argentine game is to be first in line at the public trough, and first in line at the foreign exchange counter to get out of local currency before it collapses yet again.
The industrial countries have the same kind of problem just below the surface. In America, fewer than half of adults available to work with a high school education or less actually are working.
US Labor Force - High-School Graduates
That is, only 58% of the noninstitutional adult civilian population with only a high school degree is counted in the labor force. For adults with less than a high school diploma, the labor participation rate falls to just 44%. Deduct the unemployed, and the result is that less than half of Americans without college are at work. That's why 60 million Americans are on food stamps, and why a third of all American households have at least one member receiving means-tested government subsidies.
Meanwhile employers report shortages of skilled labor in numerous fields. It is hard to find skilled machine operators, who require the equivalent of a couple of years of college math to master the computer controls on industrial equipment, for example.
Spain's unemployment rate remains at 26%. Spanish workers are now willing to take jobs at 700 euros (US$957) a month making clothing to compete with Chinese imports. That's roughly what better-qualified Chinese workers earn with overtime. The low end of the European labor market, that is, already has converged with the high end of the Chinese labor market.
US Labor Force - High-School Dropouts
The risk is that the unproductive, unskilled and unemployable portions of the industrial world's people will decide to vote themselves rich. Their leaders encourage this by focusing on income inequality. That is President Obama's message as well as the consensus at the World Economic Forum last week at Davos, and it is nonsense.
The problem isn't inequality of income, but inequality of knowledge. One pilot flying a modern military aircraft could destroy the whole of an ancient civilization. One farmer from Nebraska can replace a hundred in Egypt. A thousand years ago, everyone knew how a watermill worked; 200 years ago, most people knew how a steam engine works; how many people today know how a computer works?
East Asia is faring better than the rest of the world in this great transformation because its culture imposes a merciless meritocracy. The West should be able to do better than this. If we can't, we can see our future in Argentina.
**David P. Goldman is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Quiet Partnerships for a New Era: Emerging Opportunities for Arab-Israeli Cooperation
Alon Paz /Washington Institute
Regional circumstances point to both the possibility and the need for enhanced Arab-Israeli efforts to address challenges in the security, energy, food/water scarcity, and public-health domains.
The uprisings in the Maghreb, Egypt, and the Levant have transformed the region's security landscape and spawned new challenges for Israel and its Arab neighbors. Jihadist groups have established themselves in ungoverned spaces; Iran is expanding its influence in the Levant at a time when many fear that ongoing nuclear negotiations may confirm its status as a nuclear threshold state; and the very existence of the state system that has underpinned the region's security architecture since World War II is at risk of being undermined by instability and violence. The problems that Israelis and Arabs face are too large for any single nation -- even a great power -- to address alone. Rather, they require a degree of cooperation among regional states if they are to be managed, if not resolved.
EXISTENTIAL THREATS CREATE NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Israel has long worked quietly with Arab neighbors to achieve common goals, including security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and Jordan to thwart terrorism, as well as intelligence sharing with Gulf Cooperation Council states regarding the Iranian threat. Yet one can also discern the beginnings of new cooperative approaches to emerging challenges, such as Egyptian-Israeli efforts against jihadist groups in Sinai, Israeli-Jordanian efforts to contain spillover from the war in Syria (reportedly including reconnaissance drone flights along the Syria-Jordan border), and a recent water cooperation agreement between Israel, the PA, and Jordan that will enable them to tackle shared scarcity problems. These developments may be a sign that more extensive Arab-Israeli cooperation on hard (military) and soft (nonmilitary) security challenges is possible.
Such cooperation would serve the interests of all parties; in fact, it is increasingly becoming an existential imperative. For Israel, unilateral military solutions have become less applicable to, and less effective against, the various security threats along and beyond its borders. Likewise, many Arab states feel imperiled by the threat of domestic unrest catalyzed by food/water scarcity and governance challenges. They also fear that violent extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and external actors such as Iran may exploit the situation. The growing unrest has even revived public health challenges long thought to be solved, as seen in Syria's recent polio outbreaks.
Under these unprecedented conditions, old approaches are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Whether it be Hamas supporters, Gulf Arabs, and wounded Syrians seeking medical care in Israel, or the PA and Jordan working with Israel on water security, people in dire straits will put politics aside when it is in their vital interest to do so. Going forward, more Arab states may overcome their traditional reluctance to engage Israel due to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, perhaps even setting conditions for progress in peace negotiations.
POTENTIAL AREAS OF COOPERATION
Arabs and Israelis have ample room to increase their cooperation in several hard and soft security domains:
Intelligence. Although much is already happening in this domain below the surface, Israeli and Arab intelligence services could do much more. In particular, they could share information about terrorist cells, activities, organizations, routines, plans, and smuggling infrastructure, thereby gaining a better understanding of threats in the region. Routine intelligence sharing also creates working relationships that enable agencies to develop early warning channels for terrorist plots, arms transfers, and movement of suspects, as well as a basis for action to counter such activities.
Interdicting arms supply lines. Since the outbreak of Arab uprisings in several countries, the Middle East has become even more of a magnet for arms transfers and those seeking to wage jihad. Iran and al-Qaeda have exploited existing smuggling routes and created new ones in order to push arms to Syria, Yemen, and Gaza. Regional cooperation could help thwart some of these arms transfers.
Virtual centers of excellence. Since most countries in the region share the same security challenges, unilateral learning is less beneficial than shared learning. Israel and its Arab neighbors should therefore consider sharing the lessons they have learned regarding border, sea/airport, and homeland security. While conducting such exchanges in person might not be possible, the countries could form a virtual center of excellence based on cloud technologies and third-party services.
Pooling of military capabilities. Through third parties, Israel and Arab countries could exchange military equipment they no longer need, desire, or maintain, but which might be useful to other parties engaged in internal security and counterinsurgency operations (assuming they have an urgent need that cannot be met through traditional arms supply relationships). Such transfers have occurred in the past, and there is even greater potential for such cooperation in the future.
Critical infrastructure protection, border and maritime security, and homeland security. At a time when new offshore natural-gas projects are emerging in the Mediterranean, terrorist groups continue to target energy facilities (e.g., in Iraq, Sinai, and Mali). This increases the importance of international cooperation regarding airport, seaport, and maritime security technologies and doctrines, remotely-guided vehicle operations (air, ground, and sea), critical infrastructure protection, as well as cooperative civil defense and consequence management.
Cross-border planning. Through third parties or indirect negotiations, Israel and its neighbors could work on ways to improve and integrate their roads, waterways, sewers, electricity, and communication networks, creating beneficial synergies between their respective national infrastructures.
Water and food security. The best way to deal with the region's numerous water and food challenges is to pool funds, land, and knowledge. Israeli innovations in water management and drip irrigation, along with other modern agricultural techniques, could help Arab countries boost domestic food production (instead of, for example, Gulf states buying thousands of acres of farmland in Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Mozambique).
Public health and preventive care. Ongoing violence in Syria and elsewhere could lead to public health threats that require cooperation among relevant agencies in all neighboring states.
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
For such cooperative efforts to succeed, they need to be pursued quietly. They must also be accompanied by conciliatory attitudes on the peace front: Israel should adopt a more flexible approach to dealing with the Palestinians, while Arab states should show their support for a two-state solution through words and actions.
Most of these efforts need to be government-led and pursued on an opportunistic, nontransactional basis. At the same time, governments should empower private businesses and NGOs to seek their own opportunities for cooperation. They should also encourage Jewish and Arab diaspora communities to catalyze cooperation in the region through individual partnerships in these domains, including joint investments.
THE U.S. ROLE
While Washington has tended to emphasize high-level diplomacy as the primary means of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, new regional realities make it imperative to take a two-track approach. Enhanced low-key cooperation between Israel and Arab countries is both a U.S. interest on its own merits and a means of bolstering peace diplomacy. Quiet U.S. support for initiatives that build bridges between the parties would not only help lay the foundation for future success in the peace process, but also counter the growing regional perception that the United States is decreasing its role in the region or leaving entirely.
This approach will bear fruit even if current U.S. peace diplomacy does not lead to rapid success. Continuous, multifaceted efforts to encourage cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors would help Washington manage instability and shape future realities in a region that will remain of vital importance for decades to come.
**Lt. Col. Alon Paz, Israel Defense Forces, is a Visiting Military Fellow at The Washington Institute.
Education and Egypt’s New Constitution
By: Isobel Coleman/Council on Foreign Relations
0 8 Last week, Egyptians approved a new constitution with a Mubarak-like 98 percent yes-vote in a referendum. Many observers have been critical of the constitution, noting that it gives unprecedented powers to the military and fails to protect important human rights. Others, however, see it as cause for celebration, citing the document’s provisions on gender equality, religious freedom, and secularism as important steps forward. A relatively low voter turnout of less than 40 percent combined with ongoing deep divisions in society over several constitutional clauses make it unclear how effectively the new constitution will be implemented or how long it will last. But one element of the constitution should have the strong backing of all Egyptians – the little-noticed new provisions on education.
Article 19 expands on the right to free education included in previous constitutions, dating back to 1971, and includes important new language about instilling the values of “citizenship, tolerance and non-discrimination:” ideals that are arguably more critical than ever in Egypt given the country’s deepening ideological and sectarian rifts. Article 19 also stipulates that the government “spend no less than 4% of the GDP on education.” Article 21 similarly specifies that no less than 2 percent of GDP will be spent on university education.
Some might complain that setting such specific numbers hamstrings the government’s fiscal decisions, perhaps preventing the government from allocating funds to more worthwhile investments. But the reality is that Egypt has regularly underinvested in education and has few resources other than its abundant human capital: 85 million people, half of whom are under the age of 25. On education, it has fallen behind other developing countries – both in terms of spending and outcomes.
Over the past twenty years, Egypt has made considerable progress in getting kids in school and closing a woeful gender gap. Today, more than 90 percent of children attend primary school, and there is rough parity between boys and girls. (USAID deserves no small credit for helping Egyptian girls get into school.) But teaching quality is poor, and Egyptian children still struggle with basic literacy and numeracy. Adult illiteracy also remains a significant problem and detracts from the country’s overall economic competitiveness. The International Labour Organisation’s 2014 Global Employment Trends report found that Egyptian schools “struggle to deliver graduates with the necessary skills for finding productive jobs,” which contributes to unemployment and economic stagnation.
Quality issues are not addressed by simply throwing more money at the problems, but the new spending quotas might help Egypt catch up to other emerging markets. Prior to the 2011 revolution, Egypt was an emerging market darling (investors dubbed it a CIVET country, grouping it with Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Turkey). But several of those countries are investing considerably more resources in schools than Egypt is and, not surprisingly, are outperforming Egypt in education. In recent years, Vietnam has devoted more than 6 percent of its GDP to education and its dramatic Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results demonstrate the pay-off from this investment: it ranked seventeenth on the PISA tests, while the United States was ranked thirty-sixth. Columbia has similarly spent more than 5 percent of GDP on education. Egypt’s education spending, meanwhile, has hovered below 4 percent of GDP. Other developing countries have used constitutional provisions to ensure sufficient investment in education. Brazil, for example, made educational spending commitments in its 1988 constitution, and has enjoyed strong educational gains over the past twenty five years.
The new constitution also calls for expanded technical and vocational education “in line with the needs of the labor market.” This too is positive, although much depends on implementation. The Egyptian government has for years acknowledged the need for better vocational training programs (Egyptians love to complain about their lack of competent plumbers and auto mechanics), but has fallen short on delivering quality training. This is an area where Europe and the United States can assist. Indeed, establishing workforce development programs that provide Egyptian youth with technical training has been a focus of USAID efforts in recent years. Germany has also worked with the Egyptian government to establish a version of its vaunted apprenticeship programs. But more is needed.
In addition, the new constitution’s commitment to increase spending on scientific research is promising. Egypt has significantly increased the share of its GDP devoted to research and development in recent years, from .24 percent of GDP in 2009, to .42 percent in 2011. Article 23 commits the country to spending “no less than 1% of Gross National Product to scientific research,” which would entail more than doubling current levels. Egypt has produced many notable scientists over the years, but too many leave the country due to lack of world-class labs. Ahmed Zewail, for example, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1999, but for research done in the United States, not in Egypt. It’s unclear to me if spending 1 percent of GDP on scientific research is the appropriate level for Egypt, but this should still benefit the country’s long-term economic prospects.
Given that the army controls the country’s purse-strings, setting out aspirational spending targets on education and research and development in the constitution might help move the budget in a productive direction. Over the long term, the new education-related provisions could be among the most positive developments for Egypt to come out of its new constitution.
Stephen Harper Drips Platitudes, Hypocrisy, and Lies in Israel’s Knesset
by Jim Miles/Foreign Policy Journal
January 23, 2014
Canada’s Conservative leader, Stephen Harper, spoke earlier this week in front of the Israeli Knesset. It was a short speech, beginning with homilies, platitudes, and economic references and then turned towards the righteous values he deems paramount in both Canada and Israel.
In his introduction, he talked about Jewish Canadians: “[Jewish Canadians] are also immensely proud of what the people of Israel have accomplished here, of your courage in war, of your generosity in peace, and of the bloom that the desert has yielded, under your stewardship…”
Notice that he only referenced Jewish Canadians in his speech. There are many Canadians who would consider the statement to be hypocritical if not an outright lie. Courage in war is arguable, considering the overall propensity of Israel to use pre-emptive attacks on neighboring countries and to use the military to control the occupied Palestinian territories. Beyond that, the Israeli use of chemical weapons (white phosphorous) and other weapons targeting from helicopters, drones, and fighter jets hardly smells of courage.
I would wish for some references for their generosity in peace, which may be true if there were a peace to behold. As for the desert blooming under their stewardship, this buys into the mythological Israeli narrative that the land was empty desert before the Jewish immigrants arrived. The Palestinians had a healthy agricultural society working before the advent of the European settlers.
Harper continues, “the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland.”
Okay, well and good, but here is a double standard: why do not all the Palestinians, now subject to martial law in the occupied territories and apartheid laws (more on this later) in Israel 48, deserve the same?
Shortly thereafter Harper speaks another platitude from his Conservative political platform, “a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.”
Well, no, that is not exactly a Canadian tradition, as much as Harper would like it to be. Canada has in most cases followed the lead of the U.S. in world foreign affairs, has aligned itself with the corporate agenda of “free trade”, and is one of the leaders of mistreating indigenous populations abroad for corporate mining rights (not to mention right here in Canada). Oh, okay, yeah, that is not really popular, perhaps convenient.
Finally Harper gets to the heart of his Islamophobia, his fear of his invented word, Islamicism. Although he never says the word in his speech (too close to the killing grounds?) it is implicit in what he says, “support today for the Jewish state of Israel is more than a moral imperative it is also of strategic importance, also a matter of our own, long-term interests.”
Hmm, strategic importance, undefined, but rest assured it is a reference to the Islamic menace he see threatening everyone from everywhere. Before adding more to this he provides more of his beloved homilies, “Israel is the only country in the Middle East, which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. They are the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be the only ground in which human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity, may flourish.”
Anchored in human rights? Oh please…..! Israel has consistently denied the human rights of the Palestinian people. Their land has been expropriated, annexed, stolen. They are subject to martial law and apartheid law. The “wall” is condemned as a violation of human rights. They have destroyed vast areas of agricultural land, destroyed civic institutions such as hospitals, education, and power generation, and not allowed their reconstitution. Israel has assassinated many of the Palestinian leaders and then complained they have no one to negotiate with. They have unilaterally broken ceasefires and then attacked the people of Gaza and Lebanon with overwhelming force (and underwhelming results).
That pretty much eliminates democracy as well, as one cannot be a violent occupier and a violent initiator of military attacks and call oneself democratic. The rule of law may be there for some people, but whose rules? Whose laws? Those arbitrarily made up by the military? And in green line Israel, why are there so many rules that prohibit the movement and freedoms of the Arab people living there?
Having extolled the virtues of the Israeli human rights record, Harper then continues with his Islamophobia, “Those who scorn modernity, who loathe the liberty of others, and who hold the differences of peoples and cultures in contempt. Those who, often begin by hating the Jews, but, history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not them. Those forces, which have threatened the state of Israel every single day of its existence, and which, today, as 9/11 graphically showed us, threaten us all. And so, either we stand up for our values and our interests, here, in Israel, stand up for the existence of a free, democratic and distinctively Jewish state or the retreat of our values and our interests in the world will begin.”
It is obvious to Canadians, if not the world, that Harper’s implication here is that the Muslim world is the world of evil (as many other right wing Christian dominionists also see it), lacking modernity (whatever that is; they seem to use modern communications and weapons quite well, as well as being able to work their way around the financial parameters of our society – i.e. oil and U.S. fiat reserve currency), and obviously threatening us all. Global polls indicate that Israel and the U.S. are perceived to be the main threats to world peace.
Harper makes a short reference to the Palestinians being able to have the same kind of state as Israel, “a sincere hope that the Palestinian people and their leaders… will choose a viable, democratic, Palestinian state, committed to living peacefully alongside the Jewish state of Israel.”
This of course references the idea of a two state solution, an idea that is becoming extremely doubtful as more and more settlements are built on stolen Palestinian land. It always has been doubtful as the so-called peace talks over the past thirty years have been used mainly as a cover for the Israelis to continue building more and more settlements. There is no real contiguous land left for the Palestinians to have their own sovereign state, just bits and pieces of bantustans.
A two state solution is possible, it is just that it is overwhelmingly improbable. It would take a true miracle to make the settlers give up their settlements and benefits to return to Israel ‘proper’. The two main remaining solutions are quite different to each other.
One solution is a free and democratic state with equality in law for all peoples. This initiates the great demographic fear as the Palestinian population is increasing faster than the Israeli population, even after the huge Russian immigration of the 1990s. A subset of this idea is a binational state with separate institutions (education, civic laws et al) within a larger society of equal rights before the law. Another possible solution is the status quo, with the small Palestinian bantustans remaining forever as apartheid settlements while Israel develops the land around them, hoping that eventually the Palestinians will tire of their suffering and move out.
US and Israeli buffer zones under Syrian rebel control designed to contain al Qaeda advances
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 28, 2014/The Obama administration announced Tuesday, Jan. 28, that selected Syrian rebel militias would receive American light weapons including anti-tank – but not anti-air – rockets. And Friday, Jan. 24, an Israeli intelligence officer disclosed that his government was “rethinking” its neutrality policy in the Syrian war owing to the massing of 30,000 al Qaeda fighters on its Syrian border.
debkafile’s intelligence and counter-terror sources say these disclosures add up to a strong shift in the US and Israeli governments’ non-intervention policies on the Syria conflict. That shift appears already to be evolving into joint action for a limited military venture on Syrian soil – not by the deployment of their own troops, but through Syrian rebel militias unassociated with radical Islamist organizations.
These rebels are already taking delivery of American and Jordanian arms and training, and receiving logistical, medical and possibly intelligence assistance from Israel.
Mostly local militias, they are assigned with manning two security buffer zones taking shape in southern Syria and warding off attempts by al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) to reach Jordanian and Israeli borders. The main thrust of this American plan is to create security zones for sealing those borders against both Bashar Assad’s army and the various Islamist militias including al Qaeda, by means of local anti-Islamist rebel groups provided with arms, funding and logistical aid allotted respectively by the US, Israeli and Jordan. Israel for instance will carry on proffering medical aid and evacuating injured Syrians from the south – its most conspicuous form of support. The plan has taken around 10 months to mature, starting from the deployment of 15,000 US special forces troops at the King Hussein Air Base at Mafraq in April 2013. The incoming units set about converting parts of the base into facilities for Jordanian military instructors to drill Syrian rebel fighters, before sending them back to Syria equipped with American weapons.
Two security sectors are taking form in South Syria. One enclave, 45 km long and 75 km wide in the south west, is wedged between the Jordanian and Israeli borders. (See attached map).
The difficulty is its situation on the edge of Druze country, where 180,000 tribesmen living in 120 scattered villages, have taken care to stay out of the Syrian civil conflict and held back from acting against the Assad regime - thus far. But initial Al Qaeda encroachments on their territory may have persuaded Druze leaders to get off the fence.
If they do decide to throw in their lot with the US-backed rebels controlling this buffer zone, the enclave will acquire strategic depth and this part of southern Syria would grow into a powerful military entity capable of standing up to Assad’s and al Qaeda forces alike. The second enclave is being rolled out further north (see map), to eventually give Syrian rebel militias control of a 30-km wide strip running the 60-km length of the Syrian-Israeli Golan border which, including Quneitra, has a population of around 300,000. Eventually, US planners expect to connect the two buffer zones as a safe haven and stronghold in southern Syria for moderate Syrian opposition elements, safeguarded by US, Israel and Jordanian military support.
Pope Francis makes cover of Rolling Stone
Yahoo News –Pope Francis — bishop of Rome, sovereign of the Vatican City State, his holiness — has another title to add to his papal resume: Rolling Stone cover subject.
The pope graces the cover of the iconic music magazine this week for "The Times They Are A-Changin':
Inside the Pope's gentle revolution," a 7,700-word profile by contributing editor Mark Binelli, who went inside the Vatican to report on Francis' swift break from tradition.
"In less than a year since his papacy began, Pope Francis has done much to separate himself from past popes and establish himself as a people's pope," Binelli writes.
More from the profile:
Surprising desk clerks at the hotel where he'd been staying during the papal conclave by showing up to pay his own bill; panicking bodyguards by swigging from a cup of maté (the highly caffeinated tealike beverage popular throughout South America) handed to him by a stranger during a visit to Brazil; cracking up cardinals with jokes at his own expense hours after being elected (to those assembled at his first official dinner as pope, he deadpanned, "May God forgive you for what you've done").
After the disastrous papacy of Benedict, a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares, Francis' basic mastery of skills like smiling in public seemed a small miracle to the average Catholic. But he had far more radical changes in mind. By eschewing the papal palace for a modest two-room apartment, by publicly scolding church leaders for being "obsessed" with divisive social issues like gay marriage, birth control and abortion ("Who am I to judge?" Francis famously replied when asked his views on homosexual priests) and – perhaps most astonishingly of all – by devoting much of his first major written teaching to a scathing critique of unchecked free-market capitalism, the pope revealed his own obsessions to be more in line with the boss' son.
Francis has been on other major magazine covers, including Time magazine, which declared him its 2013 Person of the Year last month. (It was the second time in a year Time had run a pope cover.)
Francis is the first pope to make the cover of Rolling Stone, the so-called "music bible" founded in 1967 by Jann Wenner, something bands including the Velvet Underground, Public Enemy, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine each failed to do.