June 02/14


Bible Quotation for today/Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.
 Mark 16,15-20/‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 02/14

Neither a hawk nor a dove, President Obama is naïve/By: Maria Dubovikova/Al Arabiya/June 02/14


The Daily Star Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 02/14

Lebanese Related News

Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek Says Only State Can Acquit Israeli Collaborators as Bkirki Refuses to Respond to Criticism

Geagea's candidacy a farce: Karami

Three teens kidnapped, tortured in east Lebanon

FPM: No further extension for Parliament

Minister: 1,250 random refugee camps in Lebanon

Jihadists vow to liberate Lebanon’s Islamist prisoners

Hezbollah’s presidential candidate clear: official

LF lawmaker’s wife accidentally shot

AUB graduates look to the future

Hezbollah calls for speedy presidential election

Bassil inaugurates 'Expat Forest' in n. Lebanon

Amal MP warns teachers against boycott

Gemayel congratulates Sisi on election win

Car free day for Beirut’s Hamra Festival

Lebanon: Syrians who return will lose status

Salam Says to Deal with Presidential Vacuum in 'Exceptional Way'
Harb Criticizes Aoun, Holds him Responsible for Presidential Impasse

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Kuwait’s emir makes landmark visit to Iran

Kerry phones Abbas ahead of Fatah-Hamas unity gov't announcement

Is Mehdi Nemmouche the Brussels al Qaeda killer – or accomplice who removed the evidence?

Suspect in Jewish museum killings went to Syria

Brussels shooting suspect allegedly admits to attack in video

Israel calls for intl boycott of Palestinian Cabinet

Syria bomber was Florida-born, middle class

Bombing at northeast Nigeria football match kills at least 40: police
Pope to packed stadium: families are under attack

U.S. Says Taliban Prisoner Swap May Renew Talks with Movement as Mullah Omar Hails 'Big Victory' 


Head of Hizbullah's Juristic Committee Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek Says Only State Can Acquit Israeli Collaborators

Bkirki Refuses to Respond to Criticism
Naharnet /Head of Hizbullah's Juristic Committee Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek on Sunday stressed that only the Lebanese state can condemn or acquit the Lebanese who fled to Israel in 2000, responding to recent remarks by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi.“The Israeli enemy used these Lebanese to kill other Lebanese … and when the liberation happened, we said back then that this issue is in the hands of the state,” Yazbek said during a memorial service in Baalbek.“We reiterate that this issue is in the hands of the state, which alone must say who is Lebanese and who is not Lebanese. This is for the state to rule on and it's not about certain viewpoints from here or there,” Yazbek added.He stressed that “the victory in 2000 was behind changing the equations” in the conflict with Israel.
“They tried (to change the equations) after the year 2006 to no avail,” the Hizbullah official added, referring to the 2006 war with Israel.
Meanwhile, Bkirki sources told MTV that Patriarch al-Rahi "has nothing to say" about his controversial trip to Israel and the Holy Land, underlining that "his visit achieved a historic success.""We refuse to comment on the remarks issued against al-Rahi's statement and we don't want to engage in a debate with anyone," the sources said. "The file of the Lebanese in Israel is humanitarian, not political," the sources pointed out. For his part, Maronite Bishop Boulos Sayyah told MTV that Bkirki "will not respond to anyone's remarks regarding al-Rahi's statement."
"We do not want Israeli agents among us in Lebanon, what we suffered during the occupation was enough, and just like they are not proud of their Lebanese identity, we are too not proud to call them Lebanese,” MP Ali Meqdad, member of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc, announced.
On Friday, al-Rahi said the Lebanese state must not deal with those who fled to Israel in 2000 as “criminals,” noting that they are not the ones who have “impeded the presidential election.”
During a visit to the Israeli village of Isfiya near the city of Haifa, al-Rahi called for a “reconciliation” in the issue of those who collaborated with Israel during its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon.
“We are not collaborators. I did not see any Lebanese collaborating against Lebanon,” he added. According to LBCI TV, al-Rahi rejected in his speech that their possible return to Lebanon be tied to “an amnesty or international resolutions.”
“Had they fought against Lebanon? Had they fought against the Lebanese state? Had they fought against Lebanese institutions?” al-Rahi asked rhetorically.
Israel has invaded Lebanon several times, occupying part of the country's territory for 18 years until it withdrew in 2000 following armed resistance. In 2006, a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead. Lebanon bars its citizens from visiting Israel or having business dealings with Israelis. However, Maronite clergy are exempt from the ban to enable them to stay in touch with the faithful in the Holy Land. Trained, financed and armed by Israel, the South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia battled Palestinians and Hizbullah fighters during the occupation of southern Lebanon.
Al-Rahi arrived in Israel earlier in the week to join a brief visit by Pope Francis. The Maronite Patriarch was condemned by media close to Hizbullah, which said traveling to arch-enemy Israel would be a "sin." His critics have also said the pilgrimage implies normalization with Israel at a time when the two countries.

Salam Says to Deal with Presidential Vacuum in 'Exceptional Way'
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam reiterated on Sunday that the country is passing through “extraordinary” circumstances capped with a vacancy at the helm of the country's top Christian post. He called in comments to MTV channel on the political arch-foes to swiftly elect a new president. Salam said that his cabinet will deal with this “stage in an exceptional way.”Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on Sunday with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last four sessions due to a lack of quorum. The presidential vacuum raised fears that it would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite. The cabinet assumes the executive tasks of the president as stated by the constitution until a new head of state is elected.


Hezbollah’s presidential candidate ‘clear’: official
June 01, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: A Hezbollah official said Sunday that the party’s presidential candidate was clear even if he remained unidentified, blaming the March 14 coalition for the presidential void. “Our stance is clear and settled over our presidential candidate, let everyone know that no pressures or intimidations can change our presidential stance,” Hezbollah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouk said during a party ceremony. “Our presidential candidate is obvious, and they know him without us naming him, that’s what clearness is."He also said that the March 14 coalition still hadn’t settled on its “real presidential candidate” and was only maneuvering in naming Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea as its candidate, causing the presidential void. “The presidential election is a national obligation and we do not want void or vacuum, but the problem is that the March 14 coalition still hasn’t settled their real candidate,” he said. “[March 14] adopted the strategy of wasting time. ... They resorted to electoral maneuvers, and the result was that the nation paid the price." Although giving the impression of supporting Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun for the presidential bid, Hezbollah has not endorsed its Christian ally for the election. Aoun himself also has not officially announced his candidacy. Both groups have boycotted the parliamentary sessions to elect a new head of state.


Harb Criticizes Aoun, Holds him Responsible for Presidential Impasse
Naharnet/Telecom Minister Butros Harb slammed on Monday the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Michel Aoun, considering him responsible for the ongoing presidential deadlock.
“Aoun refuses to engage in any electoral process if he wasn't 100% sure that he will be elected” as the new head of state, Harb said in comments published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Sunday. He lashed out at the March 8 alliance, saying: “The problem is not with the March 14 coalition but with Aoun and his allies.” “We (the March 14 camp) are ready at any time to participate in any electoral session, even if he will win,” the minister noted. He held Aoun responsible for “the risks threatening the country due to the vacuum at the presidency.”
Harb called on the Lebanese people to hold the FPM chief accountable for “jeopardizing the political system in order to become a head of state.”Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last four sessions due to a lack of quorum. The presidential vacuum raised fears that it would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite. The cabinet assumes the executive tasks of the president as stated by the constitution until a new head of state is elected.The next session is scheduled for June 9. Aoun has not nominated himself to the presidency but the Democratic Gathering bloc candidate MP Henri Helou and the March 14 alliance nominee Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea are the only candidates who have submitted their candidacies. Harb told Asharq al-Awsat that the March 14 alliance could nominate a figure other than Geagea for the presidency, especially, after the LF leader said that he would withdraw from the race if a deal was reached to back the candidacy of another March 14 alliance member. “We will not make any new move before we are certain that the rival party will respect the democratic game,” he added.

Jihadists vow to liberate Lebanon’s Islamist prisoners
June 01, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: An Al-Qaeda-affiliated group’s religious guide Sunday vowed that Islamists imprisoned in Lebanon’s prisons will be liberated. “Preach to our prisoners in Lebanon and especially Roumieh Prison, and in the Ministry of Defense, that your liberation is our main aim, and I say to your imprisoners: today you arrest our men, tomorrow you will be arrested!” Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades wrote on his Twitter account. Some 300 Islamist prisoners have been detained without trial since 2007 on suspicion of engaging the Army in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon and belonging to Al-Qaeda affiliated Fatah al-Islam. The inmates have been behind several riots inside Roumieh prison. Zuraiqat wrote that the group will not forget any of the Muslim prisoners, and that Sunnis do not accept the oppression being exercised against them in the country.  “How many criminal Lebanese leaders have proven to have worked with the Jews [Israel]? Where are the executions? Or are they only for Sunnis?” he asked. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades have claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in Lebanon, most notably the double suicide attack on the Iranian Embassy in the Beirut suburb of Bir Hasan last November, which claimed the lives of 30 people and wounded scores more.  The group was formed in 2009 with the goal of carrying out attacks against Western interests in the Middle East. Zuraiqat wrote Sunday that if Lebanon had a “just” criminal law, all of the prominent Lebanese leaders would be imprisoned, naming Speaker Nabih Berri, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, and Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel as examples. “The death penalty in Lebanon is for Sunni youths, and innocence for the agents of the Jews and spies,” Zuraiqat tweeted. The Sunni spends 10 years in prison over a suspicion! And an agent for the Jews is released within months!”

Geagea's candidacy a farce: Karami
June 01, 2014/By Antoine Amrieh /The Daily Star /TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s presidential candidacy was shameful and desspicable, former minister Faisal Karami said Sunday. He spoke at a rally in Tripoli marking the anniversary of the assassination of his uncle former Prime Minister Rashid Karami. “The election of Geagea is a boring and trivial farce but what’s outrageous is that this nomination happened with the consent of the Lebanese political class under the pretext of democracy,” Karami said from Abdel-Hamid Karami Square in the north Lebanon city.  “The mere existence of Geagea in the [Lebanese] political arena defies Lebanon’s judicial rulings and the country’s democratic system.”Karami also said that it was necessary the current presidential vacuum not lead to a political vacuum that would disrupt the country and its institutions and lead to tensions on the streets. Karami added that the nomination of a “criminal” for the presidency was a blow to the national charters of co-existence.  Thousands of supporters gathered at the Abdel-Hamid Karami Square to mark the 27th anniversary of Rashid Karami’s killing. Officials, religious and municipal figures attended the rally. Karami was assassinated in an explosion that went off while on board a Lebanese Army helicopter taking him to Beirut from Tripoli in 1987. Geagea was sentenced to life in prison for his alleged involvement in the assassination, something he continues to deny, claiming that it was a lie fabricated by the Syrian regime – a dominant force in Lebanon at the time. The LF nominated Geagea to run for the presidency in April. His candidacy was endorsed by the March 14 alliance. “Rashid Karami was killed because he stood as an impregnable rock in the face of the division of Lebanon,” Faisal Karami, a former youth and sports minister said. “No matter how much they defend Geagea, and no matter how much they try to polish his image, and no matter how much money and mansions they throw at him, Geagea will remain a criminal who was convicted by the highest judicial body in the Lebanese state,” he added.


Parliamentary polls should be held even if under old election law: FPM
June 01, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun said that the parliamentary polls scheduled for later this year should be held even if based on the old election law.
“The priority is, of course, for holding a presidential election, but if the [presidential election] is obstructed, we must hold the parliamentary polls,” Aoun said in an interview to Al-Liwaa daily to be published Monday. “If we were not able to issue a new electoral law, we do not mind holding the elections based on the 1960 law so that we can produce a new Parliament that can elect a president,” he said. We " reject extending Parliament’s term." Parliament last year extended its own mandate after lawmakers failed to agree on a new electoral law to replace the old bill dating back to 1960.
The 1960 law adopts the qada as an electoral district and was used in the 2009 elections. It was rejected by several political groups from the rival March 8 and March 14 camps last year, including Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces. The parliamentary elections are scheduled for November this year. Lebanon has also failed last month to elect a new president, leaving the country in the state of presidential void.
Aoun said that Lebanese forces leader Samir Geagea should support his Christian rival, MP Michel Aoun, for the presidency because “he ranks No. 1 among the Christian population.”
He said that his group was discussing the presidential election and parliamentary polls with the Future Movement and the prospects for the next phase in the country. “However, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri is still in the 'no decision stage,' waiting for the circumstances to become more clear,” Aoun said. Contacts were recently renewed between the Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement in what both groups classify as an openness policy. Speaker Nabih Berri has called for a Parliament session on June 9 to vote for a new president, but the chances of success are dim in the absence of a political consensus between rival groups.


Three teens kidnapped, tortured in east Lebanon
June 01, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Three teens were briefly kidnapped and tortured over the weekend in the northeastern town of Arsal, the National News Agency said, with media reports linking the abduction to the Nusra Front. The kidnappers, a group of Syrians and Lebanese, abducted the boys, all below the age 16, beat them up and broke their fingers after accusing them of stealing a motorcycle, the NNA said. Media reports identified the kidnappers as members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, a radical group taking part in the Syrian war. One of the boys was identified as Hasan Shaheen while the other two are from the Smaili family. They were snatched from Arsal at around 9 p.m. Saturday and were detained for seven hours in the outskirts of Arsal. The boys were released Sunday at 4 a.m. They were all transferred to Arsal’s field hospital for treatment. The border town of Arsal hosts a large population of Syrian refugees in the country. The outskirts of the town are also a hub for Syrian militants who were fighting in Syria but crossed into Lebanon after the Syrian government troops regained control of some Syrian border areas earlier this year. Kidnappings and security incidents rose significantly in the Sunni-dominated town, where most residents oppose the Assad regime. Islamist groups fighting in Syria have previously enacted savage punishments under the pretext of applying Shariah law.


Minister says Lebanon has 1250 random refugee camps across the country
June 01, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas estimated Sunday that there were now at least 1,250 Syrian refugee camps spread across Lebanon. “The number of random Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon has become 1,250,” the minister told LBCI television channel. The minister said the Lebanese authorities had the complete records of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The number of refugees registered with the UNHCR exceeds a million, but the Lebanese government estimates there are far more unregistered Syrians who have fled the battles in their war-torn country. Lebanon has resisted the establishment of official refugee camps, and most of those seeking shelter from the Syrian war are living in Lebanese towns and villages. There are also thousands of Palestinians from Syria who have sought refuge in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps. Derbas said the government had been discussing the conditions for giving Syrians refugee status, adding that only those Syrians coming from “unsafe zones” in their country would be classified as refugees. Lebanon's Interior Ministry warned Syrians against traveling back to their home country Saturday, suggesting those who cross the border would be denied refugee status if they return to Lebanon. “In the framework of organizing the entry and exit of Syrians in Lebanon, all Syrian refugees registered with the UNHCR are asked to refrain from entering Syria starting June 1, 2014, or else they might be stripped of their refugee status,” the ministry said in a statement. Lebanon has long had a sizeable population of migrant Syrian workers living in the country, making it difficult to distinguish refugees from those already accustomed to coming to Lebanon for work.

Suspect in Jewish museum killings went to Syria
Paris, AP—A suspected French jihadist arrested over killings at a Belgian Jewish museum had traveled to Syria and claimed responsibility for the shootings in a video, prosecutors said on Sunday.
Fears have been mounting in European countries that the hundreds of European radicals who are joining the fight in Syria against President Bashar Al-Assad could stage attacks when they return home. Police in the southeastern French city of Marseille arrested the suspect, Mehdi Nemmouche, on Friday after he arrived on a bus from Amsterdam, Paris Prosecutor François Molins told reporters. The suspect had an automatic weapon like that used in the Brussels attack, and ballistics analyses were under way to determine if it is the same weapon, Molins said.
It was not immediately clear what Nemmouche was doing in Syria, but the suspect’s gun was wrapped up in a white sheet scrawled with the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an extremist group fighting in Syria, Molins said. He said the suspect had spent about a year in the country. Molins also said that Nemmouche, a 29-year-old from northern France, had a criminal record, with seven convictions for crimes like attempted robbery—but nothing related to terrorism. At a separate and nearly simultaneous news conference in Brussels, Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said the suspect had tried to film the killings on May 24, but his camera failed. A video found after his arrest shows his weapons and clothes, and includes his voice claiming responsibility for the attack, Van Leeuw said. Belgian police carried out raids in the Courtrai region of Belgium on Sunday morning, where the suspect is believed to have spent time, and are questioning two people there, Van Leeuw said.
“The new elements in this investigation draw attention once more to the problem of the ‘returnees’—in other words the people going to Syria to participate in combat and return afterward to our country,” he said. “All European countries are confronted at this moment with this problem.” The Brussels killings, which came on the eve of European parliament elections in which far right parties had a strong showing, led Belgian officials to boost their anti-terror measures, and raised fears of rising anti-Semitism. Two Israeli citizens and a French citizen were killed. A fourth victim remains hospitalized between life and death, the Belgian prosecutor said Sunday. Video of the attack showed an athletic man with a cap walking into the small Jewish Museum. The whole assault took a minute at most.
The suspect has been handed to anti-terrorist investigators and could be held at least through Tuesday under French counterterrorism law. French President François Hollande promised Sunday to “fight” homegrown radicals who come home from Syria with violent plans. Hundreds of people have left from France alone to fight in Syria’s three-year-old civil war with Islamic extremists. The French government recently introduced new measures to try to stop disaffected youth from leaving in the first place, and better track those who go to Syria and come back. Hollande said those efforts would be “amplified” in the coming months, without elaborating. “The whole government is mobilized to follow the jihadists, and prevent them from being able to cause harm” especially when they come home to France or elsewhere in Europe, Hollande said on an official visit to Normandy.

Is Mehdi Nemmouche the Brussels al Qaeda killer – or accomplice who removed the evidence?–-or-accomplice-who-removed-the-evidence-

DEBKAfile Special Report June 1, 2014/Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, the jihadi arrested Friday, May 30, at Marseille bus station, carried in his luggage guns and ammunition of the types used to murder four people, including the Israeli couple Mira and Emmanuel Riva, at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24.
Nemmouche was described at simultaneous news conferences in Paris and Brussels Sunday, June 1, as an activist in Islamist extremist groups, who spent most of 2013 fighting in Syria and was under the close watch of French security agencies.
According to one source, the suspect, who is of Algerian origin, fought in Syria with the Islamist State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS), whose commander, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, frequently threatens to carry his jihad into the US and Europe.
If Nemouche’s guilt is proven, he will be the first European Islamist who after serving in Syria committed an act of terrorism on his return to Europe.
That would be the most disturbing news about this episode - not just for Jews in those countries and Israel, but it would bear out the worst fears voiced of late by Western governments, that the growing numbers of their nationals fighting in Syria will return home armed with terrorist motivation and skills.
Nemmouche was arrested Friday in a customs inspection at the Saint-Charles bus station in Marseille when he arrived on a bus from Amsterdam via Brussels. His home town of Roubaix in northern France is no more than 100 km from the Belgian capital.
So far he has kept silent under questioning. The AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle, ammunition and revolver found on him will be subjected to ballistic tests to establish whether they were used in the murders in Belgium.
Also in his luggage was a GoPro portable camera, which is also being checked for content. According to the Belgian federal prosecutor, a video was found too, showing him claiming responsibility for the attack “on the Jews.”
There was also a large bundle of press clippings covering the Brussels attack.
If indeed Nemmouche was the shooter, it is hard to explain why he spent the next five days in Brussels although he knew that every policeman was looking for him. That is one enigma.
Neither he nor the two heavy pieces of luggage he carried on the bus to Marseilles were searched when the bus departed, or when it crossed the Belgian-French border, although there was a manhunt on for the Brussels killer.
From the Marseilles station, the suspect was driven to the French police counter-terrorism center at Levallois-Perret near Paris and will remain in detention until Thursday, June 5. Depending on the evidence against him, he may be brought before a judge for further remand in custody – or freed. He is not yet cooperating with the inquiry.
Nemmouche had a past record of theft and jail time. According to his record, he never stayed in one place for long and was constantly on the move. Before his year in Syria, he was known to have traveled to Turkey, Lebanon, Belgium and Britain among other places. From Marseilles, he planned to leave for Algeria.
His constant travels point to a further line of inquiry, that he served as bagman for Islamist terrorist organizations and was paid to ferry smuggled weapons, ammo, funds and drugs among various cells. In Syria, too, it is suspected that his main employment was to smuggle arms in from Turkey and Lebanon for the Islamist militias fighting Bashar Assad.
If that was his role, then the suspect may not have been the lead perpetrator in the Brussels museum attack but an accessory hired to pick up the weapons and other incriminating evidence from the killer as he fled the scene.
Nemmouche may even be just a decoy, and the real murder weapons and evidence long gone with the prepetrator. Even so, his interrogators may hope to have caught a big fish with valuable information about his contacts and the terrorist networks who hired him.
But he is unlikely to have much to give away. His contacts will be nameless parties whom never met face to face. The goods he was paid to deliver will have been left at secret pick-ups that were used just once. And the Brussels killer will not have stayed in West Europe. He will have got away clean and taken a new identity.

Kuwait’s emir makes landmark visit to Iran
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Sunday, 1 June 2014
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah started on Sunday his first visit to Iran since his inauguration as the Gulf state’s ruler in 2006.
“Iranian President Hassan Rowhani on Sunday welcomed His Highness the visiting Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah,” Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA reported Sunday.
The landmark visit focused on mending fences between Shiite Iran and the Sunni-ruled monarchies in the Gulf.
The two-day visit comes amid a thaw in ties between Tehran and six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) since the election of Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rowhani in June 2013.
Sheikh Sabah flew in at the head of a high-level delegation including the foreign, oil, finance, commerce and industry ministers.
“Our ties with Kuwait are very important to us and we hope this trip would be a new chapter to boost cooperation,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
Agreement signing
The two sides signed several agreements including a memorandum of understanding to coordinate their security efforts.
The visit will also focus on controversial regional issues, including Iran’s military involvement in Syria, the situation in Iraq and Egypt, and the Middle East peace process, Kuwaiti officials said.
Relations between Iran and the Gulf, namely signs of rapprochement between regional power brokers Saudi Arabia and Iran, will also be discussed during the visit, Kuwaiti foreign ministry under-secretary Khaled al-Jarallah told al-Hayat newspaper.
He said Kuwait, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the GCC - which also includes Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - has balanced links with Tehran and is willing to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran.
While Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has invited his Iranian counterpart to visit Riyadh last month, the kingdom and its GCC partners are still deeply suspicious of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and wary of the talks under way between Tehran and Western powers aimed at striking a long-term compromise.
Regional differences
Riyadh is also at odds with Iran over the Syria war, in which Tehran backs the government and Saudi Arabia the rebels, as well as its involvement in Iraq, Bahrain and other countries in the region.
The UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed al-Nahyan said on Saturday during his German counterpart’s visit to the capital Abu Dhabi that regional differences with Iran are not only about Tehran’s nuclear program but also with other issues agitating its neighbors.
Sheikh al-Nahyan said issues with the Islamic Republic stem from its “interference” with the affairs of neighboring Arab countries.
Saudi Arabia has also invited Iran to attend a two-day meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that opens on June 18 in Jeddah, with Tehran welcoming the invite as a “friendly” gesture.
But Zarif told IRNA on Sunday that he will not be able to attend because the timing coincides with the next round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, scheduled for June 16-20 in Vienna.
In December, Zarif toured Kuwait, the UAE, Oman and Qatar, but skipped Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Kuwait’s ambassador to Tehran, Majdi al-Dhafiri, told Kuwait’s official news agency KUNA that Sheikh Sabah and Rowhani will discuss a number of “strategic projects” useful for the whole region. He did not elaborate.
(With AFP)

Neither a hawk nor a dove, President Obama is naïve
Sunday, 1 June 2014
Maria Dubovikova/Al Arabiya
“America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will.”
“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”
“The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it.”
These and many other statements were made by Nobel Peace Prize winner U.S. President Barack Obama during his speech at West Point military academy.
The ideas expressed are not new for the U.S. political establishment and its foreign policy, but do they fit the world we’re living in? And does the evaluation of the ongoing trends and events given in the speech correspond to reality?
Isolating Russia and China
The West Point speech has revealed that the U.S. government and policymakers, as well as policy advisers have great problems with professionalism and competence. Obama’s placing of “girls kidnapped in Nigeria” and “masked men occupying a building in Ukraine” both in one line is a declaration of his achievement in isolating Russia on the world stage. Finally, U.S. propaganda has officially become avowed.
The more the U.S. will try to preserve its dominance the more it will lose it
Maria Dubovikova
Also, mentioning the menace of China’s economic rise and military reach casts doubt on the adequacy and professionalism of the president’s team and their analysis and valuations. It’s not far-sighted at all for the U.S. to spark tensions with China, which will overtake the U.S. this year as the world’s largest economy and bolster its alliance with Russia.
This wishful thinking in declarations on Russia’s isolation is unallowable for any adequate leader who can soberly estimate the disposition of forces on the geopolitical playground. So Obama doesn’t seem to be on the case. The quality of work of State Department officials doesn’t seem encouraging either.
And with all this, team Obama is still aiming to lead on the world stage? It’s naive. However it’s naive in general to seek global leadership in the modern world, especially having such a little success in the past.
These years the world has become too complex to be managed using terms and categories of the past. The emerging BRICS markets, the rise of China and Russia politically and economically, the increased interdependencies between the players all over the world, as well as a relative but steady return of realpolitik and national interests should warn any global player against seeking the hegemony and obtrusion of its own will.
Efforts to shape desired opinion in the global community through traditional media, in other words to make the propaganda machine work, are dubious as well, taking into account free access to information all over the world through internet and social networks.
America’s European allies
Obama’s stance on the importance of allies is laudable. But the problem is that allies can be lost. Assertive recommendations from the U.S. to the EU to introduce new sanctions against Russia, or requests to cut down the consumption of Russian gas, and practically the governance of the European Union though telephone calls, consultations and meetings lead to deep concerns. And all this is apparently with no understanding of the deepest independences between the EU and Russia, as well as of the harm deeper confrontation with Russia can cause to America’s European allies.
Such approaches on harming Russia do not remain acceptable, neither by European business circles nor by ordinary people. To what can it bring in the visible future? Just look at the results of the recent European elections and the results of each country, especially the one with a combination of economic, historical and cultural ties with Russia, more than any other Western European country; France.
Marine le Pen is the only French leader that promises to withdraw France from NATO, to guarantee the country’s independent internal and external policy. Populist or not, the recent trends show that the French people want this more and more. The current president seems to be a shadow of the U.S. with regards to his foreign policy.
The more the U.S. will try to preserve its dominance the more it will lose it, especially with those who are sitting now both in the White House and in the State Department. The West Point 2014 message to defend foreign policy, both from “hawkish” parts of the political establishment, partisans of interventionism, and “dovish” parts, partisans of relative isolationism (as they equally criticize Obama who is right in the middle of these two extremes) can be considered as a failure as well as practically the whole Obama’s foreign policy.
So after being a "hawkish dove" or a "dovish hawk" for trying to defend his foreign policy, he has finally predetermined himself as a limping duck for the remainder of his presidency.

U.S. Says Taliban Prisoner Swap May Renew Talks with Movement as Mullah Omar Hails 'Big Victory'

Naharnet/U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed hope Sunday the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl would lead to direct U.S. talks with the Taliban, as the extremist movement's leader hailed the prisoner swap as a “big victory.”
"It could, it might and we hope it will present an opening," Hagel said in an interview from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan with NBC's "Meet the Press."Hagel noted that the United States had engaged in talks with the Taliban before, until they were broken off in 2012, and that it strongly supported an Afghan-led effort to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban. "So maybe this will be a new opening that can produce an agreement," he said.
Bergdahl, 28, was released Saturday near the Afghan-Pakistani border after nearly five years in Taliban captivity, in a surprise development that came as the United States is winding down its 13-year intervention in Afghanistan. Hagel credited Qatar and its emir with Bergdahl's release in a trade for five high-level Taliban militants held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Hagel denied that the United States had negotiated with terrorists, as Republican critics are charging, and defended the trade as an effort to save Bergdahl's life.
"This is a guy who probably went through hell for the last five years," he said. "And let's focus on getting him well and getting him back with his family."
Meanwhile, Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar hailed Sunday the prisoner swap as a "big victory."
"I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the entire Afghan Muslim nation, all the mujahideen and to the families and relatives of the prisoners for this big victory regarding the release of five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo prison," he said in a rare statement.
"I thank the government of Qatar, especially its emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad (al-Thani), who made sincere efforts for release of these leaders and for their mediation and for hosting them," he added.
Mullah Omar was Afghanistan's de facto head of state during their 1996-2001 rule over Afghanistan. He has continued to lead the group's insurgency since they were ousted from power.
His current whereabouts are unconfirmed but some observers believe he is hiding inside Pakistan.
The five transferred Taliban detainees have been named by the U.S. State Department as Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq.
A Taliban source in the Pakistani city of Quetta told Agence France Presse that the five had been officials in the Taliban regime driven out by the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and that they remained influential.
Later on Sunday, the United States defended its decision on the prisoner swap. Republican lawmakers have sharply criticized the move, saying it sets a bad precedent and endangers U.S. soldiers still in Afghanistan.
Some have even suggested that the administration of President Barack Obama may have broken the law by failing to notify Congress 30 days before the Guantanamo detainees were transferred.
But National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Bergdahl's health was deteriorating, and Washington had no choice but to do whatever was necessary to bring the 28-year-old army sergeant home.
"When we are in battles with terrorists and terrorists take an American prisoner, that prisoner still is a U.S. serviceman or woman. We still have an obligation to bring that person back," Rice told CNN.
"Because it was the Taliban that had him did not mean that we had any less of an obligation to bring him back."
Rice said the U.S. government acted on the chance to gain Bergdahl's freedom in part due to mounting concerns about his health.
"He had lost a good bit of weight and we were very concerned that time was not something we could play with, that we needed to act when we had the opportunity," she said.
On the issue of congressional notification, Rice said Bergdahl's failing health had created an "acute urgency" to act, which made it "necessary and appropriate" not to adhere to the 30-day notification requirement. Following that requirement "would have potentially meant that the opportunity to get Sergeant Bergdahl would have been lost," she said, adding that Congress was notified before the detainees were transferred.
"We could not take the risk of losing the opportunity to bring him back safely."
Rice refused to provide specifics about the security arrangements made with Qatar about the five Taliban figures, reiterating only that their movements and activities would be restricted.
Meanwhile, an informed Qatari source said the five Taliban members will spend a year in the Gulf state.
"They will stay for one year in Qatar," the source told Agence France Presse, requesting not to be named.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said the Qatari government had given assurances of measures to protect U.S. national security in mediating the release of Sergeant Bergdahl in exchange for the Taliban prisoners, who arrived in Doha on Sunday afternoon.
A Taliban statement said earlier that the five men were transferred from Guantanamo Bay with the help of the government in Qatar where they have now joined their families, adding that the move had brought "great happiness and pleasure."
Later on Sunday, Bergdahl arrived in Germany, according to the U.S. military medical center there.
Bergdahl will now remain at the Landstuhl center in southern Germany while he continues what the U.S. army called his "reintegration process", the base said in a statement.
The base said there was "no pre-determined amount of time involved" for Bergdahl's recovery process, adding the medical staff at Landstuhl were "sensitive" to what he had gone through and would "proceed with his reintegration at a pace with which he is comfortable."
"The full focus of the Landstuhl team is to provide necessary medical care and a safe environment for his recovery," the statement added.
But Kabul called for the immediate release of the five detainees sent to Qatar, branding their transfer to a third country illegal.
The transfer of the five Taliban "goes against the laws", the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Under international laws, "no government can hand over a country's citizens to a third country as a prisoner," it said, adding that Kabul is "strongly protesting" the move.
"The government of Afghanistan ... calls for the release of its citizens so that they can, in accordance with international laws, enjoy their freedom," it added.
Agence France Presse