June 10/14


Bible Quotation for today/God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’
John 4,21-24/Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today

May we never talk about others behind their backs, but speak to them openly about what we think.
Pape François
Ne disons pas du mal des autres par derrière, mais disons leur ouvertement ce que nous pensons.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 10/14

An open letter to President Sisi/Faisal J. Abbas/Al Arabiya/June 10/14

Can Egypt rise with Sisi in power/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/June 10/14


Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 10/14

Lebanese Related News

Strike six in presidential election

Hale Meets Soaid: Functioning Presidency, Parliament, Govt. Allow Lebanon to Tackle Challenges

Geagea Proposes Selecting 2 Candidates Besides Himself, Aoun to End Presidential Deadlock
Mustaqbal MPs Criticize 'Disastrous' Wage Hike Draft, Say Won't Push Lebanon into Bankruptcy
Lebanese politicians to consider public-sector workers’ demands

SCC Heads Towards Showdown with Bou Saab over Official Exams as Teachers Threatened with Prosecution

Wage hike, new hires widen 2014 deficit

Future: Wage hike drives Lebanon into bankruptcy

Salam slams ministers for disrupting Cabinet work

France clarifies stance after Nasrallah claim

Interior minister meets Qatari officials in Doha

Head of Journalists Union challenges STL charges

Ambassador to Argentina demands apology for insult

Judge issues arrest warrant for Omar Bakri

Beirut’s real estate a sure bet for the mega rich

Hajj Hasan: 35 percent of youth unemployed
EDL: More power cuts unless allocations raised

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Gantz: IDF gets set to target 50,000 Al Qaeda fighters piling up around Israel in Syria and Iraq

Iran’s Rouhani in Turkey says tackling “terrorism” a priority

Iran-US nuclear talks in Geneva 'constructive': Tehran

Meeting privately with US, Iran suggests more time for nuclear talks

Iran, Turkey pledge cooperation despite split over Syria

Iran says 6-month extension of nuclear talks may be necessary
Activists claim regime forces across Syria kill 40

Syrian president declares amnesty for prisoners

Syria’s Grand Mufti: voting for Assad was commanded by the Prophet

45 dead in clashes between jihadists in Syria

Lavrov slams EU Russia policies, NATO expansion

After talks begin, new fighting in east Ukraine
Set politics, rhetoric aside



Strike six in Lebanon's presidential election
June 09, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Parliament’s latest session to elect a president failed, with observers saying lawmakers seem more focused on the fate of Tuesday’s legislative session over the salary scale.
Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the session to elect the new president to June 18, after it failed to convene due to a lack of quorum. Political sources told The Daily Star that the atmosphere of the electoral session was not serious at all. Berri was meeting with Education Minister Elias Bou Saab and Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil to discuss the wage hike issue as the scheduled noon start for the electoral session approached. The majority of lawmakers from the March 14 coalition arrived in Parliament while the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah maintained their boycott. However, only 64 lawmakers were present Monday, compared with 70 in previous sessions. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt was absent from the session, the first one he has missed since Parliament started meeting to vote for a president. Lawmakers have now botched six attempts since April 23 to elect a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25, with the last five failing due to lack of the two-thirds quorum of the legislature’s 128 members.
Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra said that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea maintained his candidacy for the election. He argued that lawmakers do not have the right to boycott Parliament’s session to elect a new head of state in light of presidential void. “Do those who are obstructing the session and violating the constitution know that their right to absent from the sessions drops in light of presidential void?” he asked. Former President Michel Sleiman renewed his call for the election of the new president away from the foreign intervention. “It is not right to accuse the foreign community of obstructing the presidential election while we are setting preconditions and counter-conditions for the features of the new president,” Sleiman said in a tweet. “Let us keep the foreign community away from the presidential election and take part in the parliamentary session to vote for a new president,” he said. “It is not suitable for Lebanon, known for its democracy, to have enough with dancing in the celebrations of neighboring and brotherly elections,” he said in reference to the Syrian election of President Bashar Assad. Geagea, who followed up the course of the session from his Maarab residence, described the day as another “sad” one and called on the Lebanese people to hold lawmakers accountable for obstructing the election. “The Lebanese people should address the lawmakers that they elected who are obstructing quorum and question the motives behind their action,” Geagea said. Following the session, Berri met with Sidon MP Bahia Hariri and he previously held talks with the head of the Future bloc former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.


Geagea Proposes Selecting 2 Candidates Besides Himself, Aoun to End Presidential Deadlock
Naharnet /Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Monday presented three “solutions” to end the presidential impasse, 15 days after former President Michel Suleiman left office with no successor to take his place in the coming six years. Among his suggested “solutions,” Geagea proposed selecting two nominees from the March 14 and the March 8 coalitions other than himself and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, and voting for one of them at the parliament. “We have three solutions for the current impasse. First, General Aoun can attend the parliamentary session and whoever wins we will congratulate them, and the battle could be consensual if Aoun wanted,” Geagea said in an interview on MTV on Monday evening. “And if Aoun does not agree on this solution, I, speaking on behalf of March 14, call for agreeing on two consensual names and electing one of them at the parliament,” he added. As for the third option, Geagea said he is ready for any other suggestion proposed by his political foes. But the Christian leader announced that he will not support Aoun's run for office. “I cannot eliminate myself and my history and agree on Aoun, and you cannot call this a 'historic settlement' but an elimination of all my alliances and my history,” he explained. “I cannot be asked to stop all of this and accept Aoun (for office).”“General Aoun currently rejects any suggestion and is holding onto his nomination. I have told him honestly that I cannot accept him (as president),” Geagea added. “Since the beginning I have said that it is not a 'myself or no one else' issue, but (Hizbullah deputy chief) Sheikh Naim Qassem's ally General Aoun is the one rejecting to discuss candidates other than himself.” Geagea also considered that National Struggle Front's nominee MP Henri Helou cannot remain a candidate if he perceives that Aoun and himself are both nominees. "(Progressive Socialist Party leader) MP (Walid) Jumblat, who is an expert on the Lebanese Pact, cannot obstruct the elections then,” he remarked.
Geagea revealed that he approves of all names in the Bkirki list of nominees for presidency. The list includes former Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, Demianos Qattar and Roger Deeb.
The LF leader also said he would “certainly” endorse Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi if he decided to take part in the presidential race.  “But I do not advise him to submit his candidacy because he is a religious man and the presidency is a political post,” he said.


Hale Meets Soaid: Functioning Presidency, Parliament, Govt. Allow Lebanon to Tackle Challenges
Naharnet/United States Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale stressed on Monday the need for Lebanese powers to elect a new president, urging parliament to do so soon. He said: “Only with a fully functioning presidency, parliament, and government will Lebanon be able to address effectively, with international support, the challenges it faces. He made his remarks after holding talks with March 14 General Secretariat coordinator Fares Soaid. “This was an opportunity for me to offer reassurance that the United States remains committed to the foundations of our policy toward Lebanon: support for full implementation of the Taef Accord, U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1701 and 1559, and the Baabda Declaration, as well as support for the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” added Hale. “These provide the ingredients for the stability of Lebanon. We stand with all Lebanese who seek to fulfill the obligations related to these pillars,” he stressed. “However, a prolonged presidential vacancy threatens Lebanon’s stability,” he warned. “It is for the Lebanese to elect a Lebanese president, but we urge parliament to do so soon,” he noted.
“Meanwhile, the United States will remain a strong and engaged partner with the Lebanese people and institutions of the state,” he continued. The recent visits by Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Central Command Commander General Lloyd James Austin are the latest demonstration of this commitment, he said. “To date, the United States has delivered the largest contributions both to Lebanon’s security services as well as to humanitarian relief agencies aiding in your response to the spillover from the Syrian conflict,” Hale continued.
“We are encouraged by evidence that other states are increasing their support for Lebanon as well, and look forward to next week’s conference in Rome in support of the Lebanese army,” he added.
Commenting on Hizbullah's involvement in the fighting in Syria, he stated: “Nothing has changed in our policy toward Hizbullah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization which is playing a destructive role in Syria.”“By sending fighters into Syria, Hizbullah has violated its own commitment to the Baabda Declaration and Lebanon’s policy of dissociation from the Syrian conflict,” he remarked.
“Hizbullah should withdraw its fighters from Syria immediately,” demanded Hale. “They are only perpetuating the Syrian regime’s brutality against its own people, drawing extremists into the region and Lebanon, and contributing to the insecurity that is driving refugees to seek shelter in Lebanon,” he noted. “Those who have influence with the Syrian regime need to use it to move the regime toward a negotiated political solution, not to cause more bloodshed and participate in the regime’s campaign against its own people,” said the U.S. ambassador.


Mustaqbal MPs Criticize 'Disastrous' Wage Hike Draft, Say Won't Push Lebanon into Bankruptcy
Naharnet /Al-Mustaqbal bloc on Monday announced that it will not take part in “pushing the country towards bankruptcy,” hinting hence that its MPs will boycott a parliamentary session dedicated for voting on the new wage scale draft law scheduled for Tuesday. Bloc head MP Fouad Saniora explained after an extraordinary meeting at the Center House that the new wage scale draft in its current format has “disastrous” consequences on the state's finances. “If adopted in its current format, the draft will increase the imbalance of public finances, it will influence the purchasing power and might drive the country into inflation,” a released statement read by Saniora said.  It added: “The proposed draft does not tackle serious revenues or provide the needed amounts to fund the new wage scale... It does not deal with reforms, control squandering and corruption, and it includes expenditures and wage hikes without any noteworthy improvement in the types of services citizens receive.”
"The deficit is a financial index and Lebanon has striven for years to get out of this impasse. More than ever, Lebanon needs to get out of its recession and this is the only safety boat for its economy,” the MPs considered. And the Budget does not include the new wage scale's costs, which are still unknown and may raise the deficit, they noted. Accordingly, the conferees declared that adopting the new wage scale draft is a “hasty step that will have disastrous consequences on citizens' livelihoods.” “The bloc will not agree on driving Lebanon towards bankruptcy and turning it into a failed state,” said Saniora.
The MPs also lamented “turning students and families into hostages and using exams as a tool to achieve demands.”“There are attempts to drive the country towards deterioration for hidden political goals,” they said. Separately, al-Mustaqbal bloc also discussed the presidential vacuum, reiterating its support for Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in the race for office.
“The bloc considers that the maneuvering of the March 8 alliance, not announcing its candidate, and obstructing the (electoral) sessions are harmful matters that contribute to obstructing this important constitutional juncture and pave the way for foreign interference that subjects it to dangers,” Saniora said. It also urged “all parties to think of serious steps" to overcome the presidential vacuum.

France clarifies stance after Nasrallah claim
June 09, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: French Ambassador Patrice Paoli Monday clarified his government’s position after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Paris had proposed a tripartite power sharing formula to replace the Taif Accord. “We discussed various issues and I renewed the French government’s support for the Lebanese Constitution and Lebanese institutions,” Paoli told reporters after meeting Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. In a speech Friday, Nasrallah said France had first proposed the idea to Iran, arguing that the Taif Accord was no longer valid as a ruling system in Lebanon.
Nasrallah said the Iranians rejected the proposal, which called for replacing the current Muslim-Christian power-sharing system with a tripartite formula of Christian, Shiite and Sunni power.
“There are some questions about France’s stance and I have clarified matters to Minister Bassil,” Paoli said. “I renewed France’s known stance,” he said when asked about Nasrallah’s tripartite power allegations. Paoli stressed that Paris was the first to support the Lebanese Constitution and the Taif Accord. “This is the message I had carried to Speaker Nabih Berri, and today I’m carrying the same message to [Bassil],” he said. Paoli urged lawmakers to elect a new president based on the state’s Constitution after MPs botched a sixth voting attempt Monday


Judge issues arrest warrant for Omar Bakri
June 09, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda Monday issued an arrest warrant against detained militant Sheikh Omar Bakri Fustoq on charges of terrorism and preparing to establish an "Islamic emirate" in north Lebanon. Abu Ghayda interrogated Fustoq for three and a half hours in the presence of his lawyer, Mohammad Hafezah, before issuing the warrant.
The judge charged the Syria-born preacher with belonging to an armed group, giving lessons encouraging terror acts, preparing to create an Islamic emirate in north Lebanon, and inciting against the Lebanese Army, the state and its civilian and military institutions. If convicted, Fustoq could face the death penalty. Abu Ghayda also interrogated the landlord who rented Fustoq the apartment in Aley where the militant sheikh was hiding at the time of his arrest on May 25. The judge issued an arrest warrant against the landlord for helping Fustoq evade justice. The Tripoli-based preacher, who in 2005 was barred from returning to Britain, where he had lived for more than a decade, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, urging the radical Syrian rebel group to “reactivate its cells” in Lebanon.


Head of Journalists Union challenges STL charges
June 09, 2014/ The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The head of Lebanon’s Journalists Union, Elias Aoun, Monday challenged the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's accusations of contempt against Al-Jadeed television and Al-Akhbar newspaper. “I am addressing you as a media official asking you to deal with the cases of our two colleagues Khayyat and Amin with honesty and impartially,” said Aoun in a letter addressed to the STL judges. “I also hope the Publications Court in the Lebanese Justice Palace would be the only reference in any dispute between the international tribunal and Lebanese media,” he added.
“I also hope you do not use double standards [in dealing with the Lebanese and international media] especially that I, like the majority of the Lebanese, doubt the truth of the accusation by your court against the two colleagues." Al-Akhbar newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim al-Amin and Karma al-Khayyat, the deputy head of news at Al-Jadeed TV, were charged with contempt and with obstructing the work of the STL. Khayyat last month pleaded not guilty during the STL’s first hearing, while Amin accused the tribunal of "oppression" during a second session he attended via video-link.
The STL is tasked with prosecuting those responsible for the Feb. 14, 2005, bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others and plunged Lebanon into political turmoil.
The STL accusations came after Al-Akhbar, a pro-Hezbollah newspaper, published two news reports in January 2013 that included personal details of individuals it said were going to testify in the Hariri case and after reports by Al-Jadeed TV that also revealed alleged witnesses. Aoun said that the union “received several letter from Lebanese expats voicing surprise at the accusations to the Lebanese press of obstructing the work of the international tribunal. He said that the Lebanese judiciary should hold the Lebanese press accountable when mistaken and called on the STL to leave such “trivial” issues and focus on revealing the truth about Hariri’s assassination.


SCC Heads Towards Showdown with Bou Saab over Official Exams as Teachers Threatened with Prosecution
Naharnet/Public sector employees and teachers held on Monday a sit-in in Beirut amid a deepening row with lawmakers on the wage scale draft-law and with the education minister on the official exams that are set to start on Thursday. Meanwhile, Educational General Inspectorate threatened teachers with legal prosecution if they boycott the supervision of exams.
The Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has called for a two-day strike after Education Minister Elias Bou Saab pledged to hold the official exams on time even if parliament failed to approve the pay hike. Head of Public Secondary School Education Teachers Association Hanna Gharib asked contract teachers to unite with the SCC and boycott the exams until the approval of the controversial raise for the public sector. “We will all participate in the boycott,” he told the protesters near the education ministry.
Gharib urged them to hold a similar protest near the ministry at 10:00 am Tuesday. Mahmoud Ayyoub, the head of the association of elementary school teachers, called on lawmakers to attend a parliamentary session on Tuesday to approve the raise. “No one other than the SCC, with all due respect to the minister, is capable of holding the official exams,” Ayyoub told the demonstrators.
He urged teachers not to accept any invitation to monitor the exams. The head of the association of state employees, Mahmoud Haidar, also made a speech during the protest. “We will continue our battle on the wage scale,” he said. Despite the SCC's pleas and threats, Bou Saab is determined to hold the exams on Thursday.
“I ask students to head to the exam centers on Thursday,” he said following talks with Speaker Nabih Berri in parliament. “There is a possibility to approve the wage scale on Tuesday,” he told reporters.
He reiterated on Sunday that he had put in place an unprecedented plan. “It’s only up to the education ministry to decide to hold or not to hold official exams.” Meanwhile, education inspector-general in the Central Inspection Board Faten Jomaa called on the administrative and the teaching bodies in public schools to “perform their national and professional task concerning the official exams.”“Those who don't will be legally prosecuted,” she warned. The SCC denounced Jomaa's announcement, but assured that her “terrorizing and intimidating” calls will not influence teachers' stance and will make them more committed to their demands. "Educational inspectors were at the forefront of strugglers and of those demanding their neglected rights for 20 years, and have staged several protests in front of the Central Inspection Committee and taken part in all our movements,” a statement released by the SCC said in the evening. And on Monday afternoon, contract teachers at vocational schools held a press conference and stated that their decision to monitor official exams is not directed against the SCC, stressing also that “they are on the same boat” with the committee. "In fact we support its demands, but we are seeking the interests of the students. We perceive that it is in the students' interest to supervise exams,” they explained. As for correcting exams, the conferees said the decision in this respect is postponed. “We are waiting to see how things will go.”They continued: “We are demanding concerned authorities to adopt the new wage scale and to eliminate the article on halting employment in the coming years because it is unfair.” “We will not back down and we call on the Minister of Education to treat us justly.”But later in the day, head of private school teachers syndicate Nehme Mahfoud reiterated that the official exams will not be held on Thursday unless the new wage scale was adopted. “We are for holding the exams and adopting the new wage scale at the same time,” he stated at a press conference.
“The syndicate and its council are committed to the decision issued by the provinces' general assemblies. The teachers are the ones who recommended the boycott and we're implementing their decision,” Mahfoud said. “The official exams will only be held with the approval of the SCC,” he stressed.
“And if the exams did take place it will be a sham. Who will correct them? Parents or the civil state?” Mafoud wondered. He added: “Official exams are not a mere technical issue, but rather an educational act par excellence and there are examining committees for each subject, each comprised of 10 to 15 teachers. The heads of a school subject should have many years of experience, and there should be a first and a second correction. Education matters should not be handled by anyone (who is not qualified)."Addressing Bou Saab, the head of private school teachers asked: “Why did you deprive private school teachers of supervising exams for over 30 years? How did the supervision of exams become a task that anyone can do? What happened to your speeches about teachers' rights? What happened to institutional work?”“The only solution is adopting the new wage scale tomorrow and holding the exams. There is no other solution,” Mahfoud insisted. “There are one million Lebanese waiting for issuing the new wage scale, and 100,000 others waiting for the exams.”
However, Bou Saab confirmed later to LBCI television that official exams will take place on Thursday “despite all escalation.” A quorum for Tuesday's parliamentary session seemed secured after Berri expected Change and Reform bloc MPs, who had previously boycotted it, to attend the meeting. Al-Mustaqbal MPs Ghazi Youssef and Serge Torsarkissian also told respectively An Nahar daily and Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) that the bloc is mulling to participate in the session. But Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel stressed that the bloc's lawmakers will continue to boycott the session to protest the failure to elect a new president.Despite the possible quorum, it is not clear whether MPs will approve the wage scale because the different parties represented in parliament remain divided over proposed taxes to fund the raise.
The public sector employees and teachers are holding onto a 121 percent increase in their salaries. But a ministerial-parliamentary committee has proposed to reduce the total funding from LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion). It has also called for raising certain taxes, which are a source of controversy among parliamentary blocs.

Lebanese politicians to consider public-sector workers’ demands

Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 9 Jun, 2014
Rivals hint they are ready to put differences over presidency aside to avert strikes
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanese politicians are preparing for a parliamentary session on Tuesday to consider demands by public-sector workers for better pay and conditions, despite continued wrangling among Lebanese parties over the failure to elect a new president. Despite reports in local press to the contrary on Sunday, a parliamentary session to elect a new head of state on Monday was unable to muster a quorum due to a boycott by one of the country’s main political blocs, the March 8 Alliance. March 8, which includes Hezbollah, opposes the candidacy of Samir Geagea, a controversial former warlord, for the position. Monday’s session marked the sixth attempt to elect a new president, and the fifth that has failed to reach a quorum of two-thirds of the 128 members of parliament, leading to fears that parliament will be unable to meet to discuss public sector pay demands, which have led civil servants and teachers to threaten industrial action.
The Lebanese presidency has been vacant since May 25, when the term of Michel Suleiman ended. Under Lebanon’s complex, confessional-based political system, the post of head of state is traditionally reserved for a member of the Maronite Christian community. Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces Party, is a member of the other major political bloc, the March 14 Alliance. The bloc’s Christian parties announced on Sunday they would boycott all forthcoming parliamentary sessions, claiming that parliament cannot legislate in the absence of a president.
The biggest party in the March 14, the Future Movement, backed their colleagues’ position.
However, followers of Geagea’s March 8 rival, Michael Aoun, say they are ready to proceed with a parliamentary session to address public sector pay demands on Tuesday.
Ibrahim Kanaan, and MP for Aoun’s bloc, said on Sunday that he was consulting with other legislators in an attempt to “reach a common ground to allow the General Secretariat of the parliament to ratify the decision on [state] employees’ salaries and working conditions.”
Meanwhile, senior sources from the March 14 Alliance told Asharq Al-Awsat that the continuing wrangling over the presidency was caused by underlying divisions over the distribution of power between the country’s patchwork of religious communities.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one source said: “The tug of war between March 14 and March 8 is a struggle between the Taif Accord group, which decided on an equal share of power between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, and the third-share group,” which desires to split power three ways between Sunnis, Shi’ites and Christians.
The Taif Accord, signed in the Saudi city of the same name in 1989, ended the Lebanese Civil War and established the contours of Lebanon’s postwar political system.
According to the sources, Samir Geagea backs the Taif Accord, while Aoun is the “third-share candidate.”
“The difference with the other side is not personal; it is a difference over a plan, which requires sovereign forces to stay with their candidates to the end, despite the ongoing difficult political circumstances,” one source said. Geagea is expected to discuss his candidacy in a TV interview on Monday, as well as his position on the open dialogue between Aoun and the leader of the Future Movement, ex-PM Saad Al-Hariri. A senior official from Geagea’s party, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “contacts between the two parties do not cause concern for the Lebanese Forces.”
He added that “Hariri met Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and we never lost confidence in him, so what if he meets Aoun?”
Meanwhile, Progressive Socialist Party chief and the leader of Lebanon’s Druze, Walid Jumblatt, has announced he will not withdraw his nomination of Henri Helou for the presidency–even if Saad Al-Hariri and Michel Aoun reach an agreement—in an open indication of his opposition to Aoun becoming president.
The religious leader of Lebanon’s Maronite Christians, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, warned on Sunday that “failure to elect a new president of the republic is a dangerous violation of the constitution which will paralyze the constitutional institutions.”
In his Sunday sermon, Rahi said: “The election of a government which replaces the president for an indefinite period is a dangerous violation of the charter and agreement, because the Christian–Maronite constituent will be excluded from the presidency; leaving the parliament unable to carry out its legislative role and the government unable to exercise its powers.”


Syria’s Grand Mufti: voting for Assad was commanded by the Prophet
Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News/Monday, 9 June 2014
Syria’s Grand Mufti has told a Syrian television channel that he voted for Bashar al-Assad as an “enactment of Prophet Muhammad’s commandment.”In the television report being circulated on the internet, Ahmed al-Hasoon claimed that the Prophet declared the “army of the Levant” to be worthy of his followers’ support. He translates this hadith, or saying, as an explicit commandment to support the Syrian military. He added that casting his vote for al-Assad pays homage to the “martyrs who have fallen protecting Syria.”Sheikh Hasoon also reminded viewers of al-Assad’s announcement that “this will be a long battle...and we will succeed nonetheless." The Grand Mufti’s remarks are seen as a display of how religion is intertwined with political discourse in Syria. This is not Sheikh Hasoon’s first outspoken support for the Syrian military. In 2013, he reiterated the sanctity of supporting al-Assad. He called it a “religious obligation” carried by all Muslims, inside and outside of Syria. Sheikh Hasoon made these statements after issuing a fatwa compelling Muslims to come to the aid of al-Assad against the rebels. In a televised statement in 2013, he advocated that parents in Syria push their children to join the army. He comforted the parents by explaining that their children “will not be killed, but be rewarded by god.”

Gantz: IDF gets set to target 50,000 Al Qaeda fighters piling up around Israel in Syria and Iraq
DEBKAfile Special Report June 9, 2014/IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz’s cryptic remark Monday, June 6, that “The Israeli Air Force will next month dramatically change its mode of operation,” meant that a decision has been taken to start directing the IAF’s fire power against military and terrorist targets in the Syrian and Iraqi arenas – in particular the al Qaeda forces foregathering ever closer to Israel’s borders with Syria, Iraq and Jordan. By aerial fire power, the general meant not just warplanes but also Israel’s long-range unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters.
He was lecturing to the Herzliya meeting of the Interdisciplinary Center’s policy and strategy institute.
On May 28, foreign sources were quoted as reporting that the Israeli Air force had shut down its last AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters squadron, which had served manly for strikes against armored and ground targets. Instead, lighter and cheaper drones have been commissioned for use against those targets.
Asked what he meant by “a dramatic change in the IAF’s mode of operations,” Gen. Gantz replied: A different kind of enemy is at our door. It is “more mobile, better at concealment and comes from farther away.”
If we count the jihadists present in the northern part of the map (.i.e., north of Israel) and add them to those scattered in the south and east (Iraq, Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula), we come to a total of 50,000 armed Islamist fighters, he said..So how do we handle them? Two divisions? That may work for the Gaza Strip. But this enemy is widely scattered and not susceptible to our usual military tools. Still, we are obliged to deal with this menace and “we also have the opportunity to do so.”That was all the chief of staff was ready to say on the subject.
He made it clear that conventional military divisions are obviously no use for combating Al Qaeda’s 50,000 terrorists because they are not a standing, regular army deployed on fixed front lines. They move around stealthily in deeply remote desert regions and wadis, which are often unmarked even on military maps.
But they do have command centers, some of them mobile, and are beginning to take over strategic points in Syria and Iraq, including main road hubs, bridges, small towns and oil fields and pipelines.
The intelligence to support aerial combat against these targets is also different from the kind which supported the IDF hitherto.
Gen. Gantz touched on this when he said: “We understand that we must turn to a method of warfare that hinges on intelligence, which means bringing our intelligence into those places.”
In other words, before Israeli aerial vehicles approach jihadist targets, Military Intelligence Corps combat field units must be on hand, operating over broader stretches of terrain than ever before.
All this adds up to the IDF and IAF undergoing a process of radical change in its military-air-intelligence strategy, which, say debkafile's military sources, brings them close to the American methods of operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan to be introduced after the US troop withdrawal at the end of the year.
It is safe to assume that the two armies will work together in close rapport in the war on Al Qaeda.
The Gantz doctrine has not been accepted by all of Israel’s generals and commanders. On May 21, former Navy Chief, Brig. (Res.) Elie Merom made bluntly critical remarks on what he referred to as the “monopoly on firepower in depth” which Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon proposed to award the IAF. He said this imbalance was unhealthy, that the air force has many limitations and putting all one’s eggs in one basket is asking for glitches and uncertain consequences.
Merom added: “These days, automatic fire can be initiated from any platform just as well and accurately as from airplanes. It’s also cheaper.”
A kind of competitive dispute has sprung up among the IDF’s top generals and commanders over whether it is the task of the armed forces to define and locate targets for the air force to strike, or whether other combat units can manage to provide firepower of the same quality, efficacy and precision as the air force.

Iran’s Rouhani in Turkey says tackling “terrorism” a priority

Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 9 Jun, 2014
Meeting comes as Ankara seeks lower prices for Iranian natural gas
Ankara, Reuters—President Hassan Rouhani, whose country’s relations with Turkey have been strained by the Syrian civil war, said in Ankara on Monday Iran would make tackling extremism, sectarian conflicts and terrorism its chief objective.
Pragmatist Rouhani, whose foreign policy of “prudence and moderation” has eased Tehran’s international isolation since his landslide election last year, arrived in Turkey on Monday for a two-day visit, a first by an Iranian president since 2008. Iran and Turkey have found themselves on opposite sides of the political fence over a Syrian civil war that has killed 160,000 people and sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into Turkey. Shi’ite Iran has backed Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad since the start of the uprising while Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics, supporting his opponents and giving refuge to rebel fighters. Ankara has described Assad’s forces as using terrorist methods while Tehran has used similar language to criticize opposition groups.
“Instabilities exist in our region…Iran and Turkey are determined to increase their cooperation to establish stability in the region,” Rouhani said after talks with President Abdullah Gül in Ankara
“The fight against violence, extremism, sectarian conflicts and terrorism is Iran’s major objective,” he added.
Gül said that Syria was discussed during his meeting with Rouhani, without giving any details. It was unclear whether the two countries were approaching any concrete steps to help scale down a conflict that holds perils for both. Despite deep divisions between Ankara and Tehran over Syria, the potential of an Iranian market of 76 million people with some of the world’s biggest oil and gas reserves is a magnet for Turkish companies. Turkey depends on imports for almost all of its natural gas needs and is keen to increase oil and gas imports from Tehran in anticipation of sanctions against Iran’s huge energy sector being dismantled. A senior Turkish official told Reuters that Ankara will repeat its demand for a discount on the price of natural gas from Iran, which Ankara says is too expensive compared with other suppliers like Russia and Azerbaijan. Under a contract signed in 1996, Turkey imports 10 billion cubic meters per year of gas from Iran. The contract became active in 2001.
Turkey’s state-owned Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAS) applied to an international court of arbitration in 2012 for a ruling on Iran’s gas pricing. The case is still pending.
“The Iranian side demanded dropping of the legal case and it was discussed during the talks,” said a Turkish official on condition of anonymity.
Iran has so far dismissed Turkish demands it drop the price of gas under the current agreement.
Rouhani’s visit to Turkey takes place as Iranian, US and European Union officials hold talks about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program in Geneva in an effort to break a logjam in wider negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program. Nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers in Vienna last month to reach a final deal ran into difficulties, with each side accusing the other of having unrealistic demands in negotiations. A preliminary deal was penned in Geneva in November between Iran and six major powers, under which Iran accepted to halt some sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for partial easing of sanctions. It went into effect in January 20.

Set politics, rhetoric aside
June 09, 2014/The Daily Star
Whether it’s expired meat, the cultivation of cannabis crops or humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, any issue of public concern in Lebanon has the potential to become heavily politicized.
The process often sees politicians sweep the commotion under the rug, or drown it in a fog of vague rhetoric and contradictory stances until the public loses interest. The education sector is naturally no stranger to this state of affairs, so it’s not surprising to see hundreds of thousands of students and their families in a sort of limbo, as teachers threaten to disrupt end-of-year examinations unless they, civil servants and military personnel receive a long-deserved wage adjustment. The problem is that politicians are obscuring the actual figures related to the wage hike, after months of meetings, committee work and lobbying have failed to produce a viable way to tackle this issue in the past. Politicians would gain credibility if they could focus only on the figures and explain exactly how this increase could be funded, while leaving out the grandstanding rhetoric. The unions representing teachers and their allies, meanwhile, should realize that they won’t be able to get everything they want and consider that they are dealing with state institutions in flux, with a vacancy in the country’s top political post. They and politicians could band together for once to leave politics out of the debate while being ready to make the necessary political compromises, so that students and their parents don’t end up paying the biggest price.

An open letter to President Sisi
Monday, 9 June 2014/Faisal J. Abbas
His Excellency Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Dear Sir,
I write to you today not as a journalist, but as a truly concerned Arab citizen and an avid lover of Egypt, its people, history and culture.
First, allow me to congratulate you, the Egyptian people and all fellow concerned Arab citizens on your inauguration and official assumption of duties as president of one our region’s biggest, most-strategic yet extremely delicate countries.
I say this because it is no secret that the past few years have been far too harsh on what was once one of the greatest countries of the Arab world. Indeed, it was heartbreaking to see the dreams, aspirations and hopes of the Egyptian youth, which took to the streets in 2011 demanding a better future, being crushed by sheer anarchy, lack of organization, lack of vision and disarray. This atmosphere paved a clear way for greed, opportunists and a destructive religious ideology that threatened, as you put it, not only the long-standing harmony between Egyptian Muslims and Christians, but also sought to turn Muslims against each other.
For too long, we have been cursed by having to choose between either a secular authoritarianism (mostly led by military rulers) or a religious one disguised as a democracy-loving party or entity
Mr. President, it is also no secret that you have been granted a very rare opportunity to be a momentous man as you assume your duties at a crucial turning-point in Egyptian history.
Indeed, you sir have a chance to turn the tides and to put Egypt on the track it deserves to be on and not only safeguard the interests, future and dignity of your own people but also become an inspiration and a model for the entire region.
For too long, we in the Arab world have been cursed by having to choose between either secular authoritarianism (mostly led by military rulers) or a religious authoritarianism, disguised as a democracy-loving party or entity.
As such, you sir must excuse observers and analysts for wondering what sort of president you are going to be. What we, as concerned Arab citizens, hope is for you to be the leader that breaks this curse and demonstrates that in the Arab world, a democratic, secular and accountable government can exist, work for the benefit and prosperity of its people and then make way for a new democratically-elected government once its term is over.
Breaking this curse will be quite a remarkable achievement, not just for Egypt but for the entire Middle East at a time when we are seeing dictators who are ready to use chemical weapons or barrel-bomb their own people just to ensure they remain in power.
Tapping into the power of the people
Mr. President, we followed with great interest your inauguration speech at the Quba Palace and I can’t but wish you all the best in achieving all that you have vowed to do for your people on the economic, social and security levels.
I also thank you for your honesty in declaring that you don’t hold all the solutions to all the problems but will try your very best to solve them. However, I do know who does have the power to solve all of these issues and restore Egypt to its once leading status: the Egyptian people!
Long years of favoritism, corruption and chaos have left too many Egyptians too frustrated, too handicapped and too keen to emigrate in search of a better future
Mr. President, John F. Kennedy once told the American people “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” and I say this whilst wishing to clearly emphasize that there is an awful load of responsibilities and deliverables that are expected of your soon-to-be appointed government. However, there is nothing that can possibly accelerate the reform process and yield results much quicker than tapping into the power of your own people.
I say this, Mr. President, because Egypt – despite the current turmoil it is in – was and always will be an incubator for brains and talent. I say this not only as a distant observer, but as someone who has had the pleasure of personally meeting some of Egypt’s brightest minds in science, business and politics at a number of the world’s biggest international forums and conferences.
The distinctive advantage that these talented Egyptians have is that they combine heart and mind. In other words, Mr. President, they are ready to bleed for Egypt if they have to in order to see it become a better place.
However, long years of favoritism, corruption and chaos under previous governments have left too many Egyptians too frustrated, too handicapped and too keen to emigrate in search of a better future.
Once again, you have an opportunity to change all that and the beauty of it is that it is all possible. A very recent example of what can be done lies in the Indian state of Bihar, where one honest chief minister, Nitish Kumar, managed to increase the state’s growth rate from three percent to 16 percent in only six years.
The need for free media
In your speech and in the newly adopted constitution - which you are now the guardian of - a great emphasis has been put on the freedom of the media, freedom of assembly and the right to demonstrate. These are all great reassurances; however, unless these guarantees are effectively implemented, and questions over measures such the anti-demonstration laws and detention of journalists are answered, then these reassurances shall remain nothing more than what we call in Arabic “ink on paper.”
If we want to guarantee the success of Egypt’s experiment in democracy, then we must ensure that the public is well-informed
I say this knowing that sadly, many media outlets are used to spread hate, to incite crimes and disseminate lies. Despite this, you sir can’t allow a few bad apples to dictate how all journalists are treated or perceived during your reign.
Equally as bad, are those “journalists” who bestow nothing but praise and serve not as a fourth estate but as a blanket to cover mistakes or misjudgments that members of your administration are likely to carry out.
Mr. President, to err is human and what can be gained from a free, independent and professional media scene is a crucial tool in your own hands to hold your own officials accountable and guarantee they are performing at their best, all the time.
As am I no political or economic advisor, I feel that the only contribution I can make towards a new Egypt, a dream Egypt, is the following:
I propose to you – Mr. President – an overhaul of your own state-owned media outlets, whereby they are governed by an independent board of trustees and a set of guidelines and laws that guarantees limited government or private sector interference so that they don’t report in fear or favor at anytime.
Mr. President, Thomas Jefferson once said that an “informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy” and due to malpractices of previous governments, the illiteracy rate in Egypt is now nearing 40 percent.
As such, if we want to guarantee the success of Egypt’s experiment in democracy, then we must ensure that the public is well-informed and whilst reforming the educational system might take a significantly long time, empowering and liberating the media sector is literally low-hanging fruit that is just waiting to be reaped. You sir can lead by example by reaching out, encouraging investigative reporting and satire and honoring media professionals whose work helps create a better Egypt.
Good luck, Mr. President!

Can Egypt rise with Sisi in power?
Monday, 9 June 2014/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
The political move of enabling Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to become the president of Egypt via elections went well. The country did not turn upside down as some people predicted and the opposition’s threats to obstruct the elections yielded no results. Foreign political parties, particularly the United States surrendered to the new reality once the election results were announced and backed down from their stance in support of the legitimacy of ousted President Mohammad Mursi.
Almost all political and security fears were either overcome or neutralized. President Sisi is now in direct charge of the state after he indirectly managed it for almost a year. The question is: how will he confront the accumulated economic failures threatening the entire state and his presidency?
Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz was the first to congratulate Sisi for winning the elections. His move urged everyone to take a stance that strengthens the Egyptian state. During his speech congratulating Sisi, the king called for a summit to support Egypt’s economy. These magic words pushed experts and the general public to realize that Sisi will stay and that he’s not just a man for a phase. The second message which the king conveyed during his speech is that support is not merely a political stance that has its regional calculations against Iran, the Brotherhood and other bullying forces, and that it also carries a project for the 90 million Egyptians.
Meeting Saudi Arabia’s call
The UAE met Saudi Arabia’s call and immediately voiced its complete support of the donors’ conference and of the economic salvation project. Emirati officials were quoted as saying that a specialized international institution is working on studies and a work plan to submit to the Egyptian command.
The important case is the economy and not the political slogans which Mursi’s government tried to market and which ended up engaging the Brotherhood in domestic political disputes that have nothing to do with economy. This is what really triggered people’s anger and pushed them to take to the streets to call for ousting the Brotherhood’s cabinet in 2013 and for ousting Mubarak’s cabinet before that. Mursi chose to send his government’s bills to Gulf states and at the same time he chose to sleep with the Iranians and with all the rivals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
It’s not difficult to realize that the crisis of Mubarak’s governance lied in the deterioration of political management of the state. Although Mubarak at some point hired competent people, like former Prime Minister Ahmad Nathif, corruption and mismanagement by Mubarak’s team led to the failure of all developmental and economic projects. It’s in the interest of all supportive countries - like the moderate Gulf ones and the West - which realize the importance of Egypt for the regions’ stability - to support the Egyptian people not only via political speeches, funds and oil but also via adopting a real renaissance project that enables this exhausted country and its people to stand up. The task is difficult but the opportunity is ripe now that there’s a willing leader.
Is Egypt really capable?
Is Egypt really capable of rising and of becoming a country with a strong economy?
Turkey has been through an important transition phase. Turkey passed through important transitional periods, and it is Erdogan’s government only to be credited for the country’s development. The country began to change since civil changes and legislations took place in the 1980s. South Korea has been through the same experience. India, which lived through more difficult circumstances, managed to achieve transition. Egypt must not go through the experience of Pakistan or Nigeria or North Korea - that is the experience between administrative failure and economic failure. The economic rise of Egypt is an important project for the success of Sisi and all political powers that want a stable state. No political development will succeed without economic progress which does not only provide bread for millions but also leads towards a prosperous state.
Egypt’s prosperity will reflect on a region that is swamped with chaos. We don’t only blame the Brotherhood for the dire situation. Egypt was calm and stable during Mubarak’s very long time in power. It was a dormant state. Controlling the region and saving revolutions require integrated forces that have political and geographic expansion capable of providing stability.
Unlike those who finance chaos in Egypt because they think this will help them prove that Sisi’s governance is a failure, Saudi Arabia and the UAE need to help Egypt succeed, not out of spite for the Brotherhood but because this serves the interest of all Arabs.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 9, 2014.