June 16/14


Bible Quotation for today/Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit

John 15,1-8/‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 16/14

ISIS ‘achievements’ in Iraq and Syria a gift to the Iranian negotiator/By: Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya/June 16/14

Do the Iraq rebels belong to ISIS, the Baath party, or clans/ By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/June 16/14

The Syrian Brotherhood and Jarba’s Letter/By: Fayez Sara/Asharq AlAwsat/June 16/14

A Golden Opportunity for Turkey’s Kurds/By: Samir Salha/Asharq Alawsat/June 16/14


Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 16/14

Lebanese Related News

Arabi Cites 'Arab Consensus' over Assisting Lebanese Army

Al-Rahi Slams Negligence of Lawmakers, Failure to Carry Out Constitutional Tasks

No consensus if March 14 is indecisive: Hezbollah

Machnouk warns against targeting PM powers
Lebanon official upbeat on case of missing cameraman

Hezbollah aids Syrian govt recapture of Kasab

Report: Hizbullah Ups Number of Fighters in Syria after Iraq Turmoil

Palestinian factions holding on to camps’ stability

Lebanon World Cup deal in its 'final stages'
Rifi calls for unity to mitigate Iraq repercussions
Army arrests three in north Lebanon

Bassil: would never allow formal camps for Syrians
Mufti launches institution to help youth marriage

Harb Accuses Aoun, Hizbullah of Presidential Impasse
Aoun Denies Foreign Trips in Near Future
Abou Faour Describes Hariri, Jumblat Ties as 'Solid'

Franjieh Considers Aoun, Geagea Meeting Will Not Break the Ice

Beirut Security Plan to Include Bourj Hammoud Area

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Iraq insurgent advance spreads to northwest

Iran ‘sends 2,000 troops’ to help Maliki in Iraq

Syria pounds ISIS bases in coordination with Iraq

Saudi Press Blames Iraq PM's 'Sectarianism' for Unrest
Iraq air strike on Kurdish forces kills six

Iraq forces kill 279 militants in 24 hours
Hebron under curfew as IDF closes in on terrorists holding 3 Israeli boys

Netanyahu: Hamas people kidnapped missing teens

Netanyahu: Israel will take all action necessary against 'scourge of terrorism'

Israeli Army held drill in area hours before teens disappeared

Al-Rahi Slams Negligence of Lawmakers, Failure to Carry Out Constitutional Tasks
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi slammed on Sunday the negligence of lawmakers and their failure to carry out their constitutional tasks. “The people reject such carelessness,” al-Rahi said in a harshly worded sermon at Our Lady of Lebanon basilica in Harissa. “The people reject the MPs failure to elect a new president and the unstoppable violation of the constitution and their dignities.” He stressed that the Lebanese “got tired of the policies that breaches the democratic norms.” Al-Rahi called on the concerned parties to reach common ground to resolve the ongoing presidential crisis. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended 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 differences between the rival March 8 and 14 alliances over a compromise candidate led to a lack of quorum in several rounds of parliamentary sessions.


Arabi Cites 'Arab Consensus' over Assisting Lebanese Army
Naharnet/Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said Sunday that there is “Arab consensus” over the issue of providing military equipment to the Lebanese Army. The promised support is aimed at enabling the army to “preserve the country's security, protect the state's constitutional institutions and safeguard national unity and Lebanon's social fabric,” Arabi said in a speech at the opening of an extraordinary meeting for the League's permanent representatives in Cairo. He noted that the talks were held “at Lebanon's request, in the framework of following up on the implementation of the Kuwait (Arab) Summit in terms of offering military support to the Lebanese Army.”Arabi pointed out that the decision to assist the army was taken “unanimously” during the summit. He said Sunday's meeting was significant because “it comes two days before the Rome meeting which will discuss means to support Lebanon.” A Lebanese Army delegation took part in the meeting to explain the situations in Lebanon and clarify the real needs of the military institution, according to media reports. The delegation demonstrated a detailed report containing the army's technical and logistical needs.Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Lebanon's permanent envoy to the Arab League Khaled Ziadeh noted that “the Lebanese Army is currently protecting the southern border in the face of the (Israeli) enemy, in addition to its role in combating terrorism and preserving the state's constitutional institutions.” The representatives' meeting was initially aimed at discussing Lebanon's request regarding the resolutions of the Kuwait summit, but the Iraqi crisis was put on the agenda in light of the stunning offensive of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has seized vast swathes of territory. On June 7, visiting Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini stressed that the army should be offered all the necessary support to maintain stability in Lebanon. Mogherini's visit was aimed at discussing with senior Lebanese officials the ongoing preparations for the Rome conference. Italy had previously announced that the International Support Group for Lebanon would hold a meeting in Rome in June to boost the Lebanese Armed Forces' capabilities and ease the Syrian refugee crisis.

Beirut Security Plan to Include Bourj Hammoud Area
Naharnet/A security plan set to be enforced in the capital Beirut will include the area of Bourj Hammoud, media reports said on Sunday. An Interior Ministry source said in comments published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that “the official security plan set to be implemented in Beirut will include Bourj Hammoud, which is considered part of the capital.”The plan will be implemented in the area “regardless of the number of wanted suspects there.”The source stressed that the decision was taken ahead of the recent clashes that erupted in the area. “The security plan will include all areas in order to maintain security on all Lebanese territories.” On Friday night, a clash erupted between an armed group and a number of residents in the al-Nabaa neighborhood in Bourj Hammoud area, prompting the intervention of security forces. Clashes and security violations are common in al-Nabaa, which is confessionally and politically mixed. Recently, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said that a security plan for Beirut is expected to witness light in June. The army and security forces have already implemented a security plan in the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa Valley, arresting scores of gunmen and members of gangs involved in car thefts and kidnappings in return for ransom.

Report: Hizbullah Ups Number of Fighters in Syria after Iraq Turmoil
Naharnet/Hizbullah is mulling to increase the number of its fighters in the neighboring country Syria, the Saudi al-Watan daily reported on Sunday. According to the newspaper, Hizbullah is seeking to cover-up for the shortage that is expected to occur due to the withdrawal of Iraqi fighters from Syria in order to participate in the fight against Sunni Arab militants who have seized a swathe of northern Iraq. Iraqi commanders said on Saturday that soldiers had recaptured two towns north of Baghdad as thousands of volunteers answered a call to arms from top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has spearheaded a lightning offensive in Iraq this week that has seen militants sweep down from second city Mosul towards Baghdad.
A source told al-Watan daily that Hizbullah fighters were seen gearing up to enter Syria during the last two days. Hizbullah has deployed thousands of fighters into neighboring Syria to back President Bashar Assad's army as he battles insurgents who have been trying to overthrow him for the past three years. Hizbullah, a long-standing ally of both Iran, Syria, and Iraq says it is supporting Assad against Takfiris (Sunni extremists) who are targeting Syria's Alawite and Christian minorities.

Harb Accuses Aoun, Hizbullah of Presidential Impasse
Naharnet/Telecommunications Minister Burtos Harb lashed out on Sunday at Hizbullah and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, accusing them of the presidential crisis.  “Hizbullah is contributing to the presidential deadlock, while the real reason behind the crisis is Michel Aoun,” Harb said in an interview with the Kuwaiti daily al-Anbaa. He considered that the March 14 alliance is practicing its freedom and constitutional right by attending all parliamentary sessions set to elect a new head of state. “Obstructing the presidential poll violates democracy and unwillingness to participate in parliamentary sessions violates the constitutions,” Harb pointed out. He described Speaker Nabih Berri's stance as “proper,” saying: “He is calling for new sessions and attending them despite all the threats surrounding him and his -Development and Liberation- parliamentary bloc is also attending.” Harb didn't expect any new development in the upcoming session set for June 18. Asked if he is a candidate for presidency post, the March 14 official said that he didn't submit his nomination because his “name poses itself” as a candidate. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened several times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last five sessions due to a lack of quorum. Harb rejected to ask a foreign country to facilitate the presidential crisis, expressing fear of holding a constituent assembly during “inappropriate circumstances.” “It will be a disaster and a miscalculated adventure,” the minister said. On the possibility of staging parliamentary polls ahead of electing a new head of state, the official stressed on the importance of carrying out presidential elections first. “Some parties are trying to distract the people's attention from the presidential vacuum on purpose,” Harb warned. He told al-Anbaa newspaper that “the solution is in electing a new president.” Harb said that the government could assume the tasks of the president but not all of them. “If the cabinet assumes all of its responsibilities it's an indication that the presence of a president is worthless... Which is wrong,” he concluded. A row among the parties rose in the cabinet over a mechanism regulating the government’s work during the ongoing presidential vacuum thus ending the last three sessions without any consensus. The cabinet assumes the executive tasks of the president as stated by the constitution until a new head of state is elected.

Franjieh Considers Aoun, Geagea Meeting Will Not Break the Ice
Naharnet /Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh ruled out on Sunday that any meeting between head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Gaegea will lead to a breakthrough to the presidential deadlock. “Each politician has a different political stance and its normal for each, Geagea and Aoun, to seek to be elected as the new head of state,” Franjieh said in comments published in al-Mustaqbal newspaper. Baabda Palace has been without a head of state since the end of President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure on May 25. The differences between the rival March 8 and 14 alliances over a compromise candidate led to a lack of quorum in several rounds of parliamentary sessions. Asked about Maronite Partiarch Beshara al-Rahi's efforts to reconcile the rival Christian political leaders, Franjieh said: “The Maronite reconciliation was carried out two years ago under the auspices of al-Rahi... Today's crisis is political.” He voiced agreement to any initiative launched by the patriarch, however, the Christian leader considered that “Maronite parties have the right to have different political stances, which is a democratic right.”Bkirki's spokesman Walid Ghayyad revealed on Thursday that al-Rahi “has a certain vision to implement this reconciliation starting with efforts to break the ice” among Maronite leaders. The spokesman said that the cardinal might launch his initiative by holding bilateral talks with each of the country's top Christian political leaders. The patriarch is setting the stage for the appropriate atmosphere that would guarantee consensus on the next president over fears from the dangerous repercussions of vacuum,” Ghayyad said.

Aoun Denies Foreign Trips in Near Future
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement Chief MP Michel Aoun denied on Sunday media reports saying that he intends to carry out a foreign trip soon. “It's absolutely false,” Aoun said via twitter. On Saturday, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported that the Christian leader may travel to the French capital Paris on Tuesday to meet with head of al-Mustaqbal Movement Saad Hariri. Sources told the daily that the “dialogue between the Mustaqbal Movement and FPM will resume openly soon.” The resumption of the talks between the two sides will not necessarily mean that the Mustaqbal Movement will endorse Aoun's nomination for the presidency, added the sources. The FPM chief has announced that he would only run for president if he was presented as a consensual nominee, particularly eying the support of the Mustaqbal Movement. Mustaqbal bloc's MPs, however, are holding onto the March 14 alliance's candidate Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Hariri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat agreed on Friday during a telephone conversation to hold a meeting in the near future. The meeting's date will be announced later, a statement issued by Hariri's press office said. Al-Akhbar and al-Liwaa newspapers have said the talks will be held next Tuesday. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened several times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last five sessions due to a lack of quorum. The next elections session is scheduled for June 18.

No consensus as long as March 14 is indecisive: Hezbollah

June 15, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: A Hezbollah official said his party cannot go for consensus as long as the March 14 coalition’s position is maneuvering, in an apparent response to former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s appeal for a compromise on a presidential candidate. “Some of the Lebanese consider the presidential void as an opportunity to achieve more gains and get a tighter grip on power, this is so far from national responsibility,” Hezbollah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouk said during a commemoration ceremony in south Lebanon.
“The electoral maneuvers of the March 14 coalition have kept the body of consensus without a head, we cannot go for consensus while the March 14 is still undecided [on whether they really want consensus],” he said. Siniora, who heads the Future Movement parliamentary bloc, called earlier this week on the March 8 alliance to come forward with their candidate or work with the March 14 to find a compromise candidate that would be wise enough to lead the country and start dialogue among the country’s various components.
Meanwhile, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun dismissed Sunday reports that he would travel to Paris next week to meet with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri for talks over the presidential election.
“What some media has reported regarding trips I am intending on taking soon is completely inaccurate,” Aoun said in a tweet.
The reports came as political contacts are expected to intensify next week in a bid to break the impasse over the presidential election, with Speaker Nabih Berri denying he is obstructing the election of a new head of state.
Meanwhile, Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh said that the presidential stalemate is “political” and not related to differences among the Christian parties, adding that Maronite groups are entitled to their own political stances and opinions.
“The Christian reconciliation took place two years ago under the auspices of Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai and the problem today is political,” Frangieh told the Future television over the weekend.
“We support the patriarch in all his initiatives but we consider at the same time that the Maronite leaderships have the democratic right to have their own political stances,” he said.
“I still haven’t seen the content of the initiative put forward by the patriarch ... let us wait to see the results of his efforts,” Frangieh said.
The Marada leader also said he is pessimistic that a possible meeting between Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea would lead to a breakthrough on the presidential election.
“They both have a different political atmosphere from the other and it is only natural, as the democratic game suggests, that each of them tries to take the presidency for his side,” he said.
For his part, Rai reiterated his criticism to the “negligence of lawmakers and their failure to carry out their constitutional tasks.”
“The Lebanese people reject their lawmakers’ failure to elect a new president and the ongoing violation of the constitution and their dignities,” Rai said during his Sunday sermon.
“The Lebanese people are sick and tired of such political practices that go against all democratic norms,” he added.
Health Minister Wael Abu Faour reiterated the call for a consensus on a president while warning against keeping Lebanon on the brink in light of ongoing terrorism in the region.
“It is time for this dancing around the edges to stop, we should get on the right track [to confront] terrorism before we get new shocks like the shock of ISIS,” he said in reference to the recent takeover of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria of large territories in Iraq.
“It is also time to get over provocative choices and reach a consensus president, that is why our bloc [National Struggle Front] suggested a candidate that meets all [consensus] conditions and we hope for his endorsement," he said, referring to presidential candidate MP Henri Helou.
Abu Faour also described his recent meeting with Hariri as “excellent” and said his group appreciates the former prime minister’s efforts to find a breakthrough in the presidential stalemate.
Rai Saturday launched another call on rival political camps to take initiative and agree on a new president to protect Lebanon from the consequences of the Iraqi and Syrian crises.
Also Saturday, Berri slammed his critics highlighting that he was exerting every effort possible to reach a compromise over the necessity of holding the presidential election without further delay.
“A news agency that has launched 24/7 campaigns against Speaker Berri just claimed that the speaker was obstructing the presidential election in Lebanon,” Berri’s media office said in a statement. “It’s obvious that Speaker Nabih Berri has called for near weekly sessions to elect a new president and has exerted every effort possible to reach a compromise over the necessity of holding the presidential election without further delay." The statement added that the parties supported by the news agency that is launching attacks against Berri have missed all the election sessions without cause. The statement did not name the outlet. 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. Berri scheduled the next session to elect the new president for June 18.
For his part, Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun said that Hariri was convinced that Aoun was a consensus candidate, adding that the head of the Future Movement “needed more time to convince his allies.”Aoun admitted that dialogue over the presidential election between the FPM and the Future Movement has “yet to mature.”“But we are counting on a common vision for the future,” he said. Hariri, who spoke by telephone with MP Walid Jumblatt earlier this week, is set to meet the Progressive Socialist Party leader in Paris at a later date.

Hezbollah aids Syrian govt recapture of Kasab
June 15, 2014/Reuters /BEIRUT: Syrian government forces, assisted by Hezbollah, have retaken the village of Kasab on the border with Turkey and in the coastal heartland of President Bashar Assad's Alawite minority sect, an activist group and state media said. The withdrawal of most rebel forces from the village - including some linked to Al-Qaeda - is another blow to an opposition that has been undermined by recent gains by Assad's forces and by infighting. A number of fighters stayed behind in Kasab after the departure of most of the rebels, who included fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late Saturday. Sunday morning, Syrian state television said government forces had "restored stability and security" to Kasab and engineering teams were removing mines and explosives planted by "terrorist gangs", the government's customary term for rebels. The Observatory said clashes in the area continued from around midnight Saturday night, but did not give casualty figures. Syrian government forces were assisted by the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as well as fighters of Syrian and foreign nationality, the Observatory said.
Rebel forces had taken Kasab, a majority Armenian Christian village, in March, the first time they were able to capture a settlement on the Mediterranean coast. One of Assad's cousins, a militia commander, was killed in fighting in the area. Syria's coastal areas are the historic homeland of Assad's family and home to many members of his Alawite sect, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam. The rebels fighting to overthrow Assad are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.

Abou Faour Describes Hariri, Jumblat Ties as 'Solid'

Naharnet/Health Minister Wael Abou Faour described on Sunday relations between Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat and al-Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri as “good and solid.” “Even if they have different stances but respect, friendship and cooperation remain,” Abou Faour pointed out. He lauded the efforts exerted by Hariri to form a new government and his ongoing consultations with rival parties to end the presidential deadlock. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened several times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last five sessions due to a lack of quorum. The next elections session is scheduled for June 18. Abou Faour said that Jumblat, Hariri, Speaker Nabih Berri, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi and all “political parties are working on resolving the presidential crisis in a way that preserves the presidency and state institutions.” He considered his recent meeting with “excellent.” Hariri held a telephone conversation with Jumblat on Friday evening during a meeting with Abou Faour in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. The two officials agreed to hold a meeting in the near future. The meeting's date will be announced later, a statement issued by Hariri's press office said. Al-Akhbar and al-Liwaa newspapers have said the talks will be held next Tuesday. “It is time to reach a consensual head of state... Our parliamentary bloc (Democratic Gathering) nominated its candidate, who has all the necessary conditions” to be elected, Abou Faour said. Jumblat previously backed Aley lawmaker Henri Helou candidacy, describing him as a “voice of moderation.” Separately, Jumblat told al-Mukhtara's visitors on Sunday that “we must incessantly seek to preserve the Lebanese state despite all circumstances.” “We must preserve what's left of this state and this entity and its diversity, regardless of the enormous political differences,” Jumblat added.

Machnouk warns against targeting PM powers

June 15, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk warned against obstructing Cabinet’s work, and launched vehement criticism against attempts to target the prime minister’s powers.“No one should believe that obstructing Cabinet or Parliament will result in the election of a new president, the obstruction simply disrupts the presidency as well,” Machnouk said, during an honorary dinner over the weekend. “Prime Minister Tammam Salam did not fall short, not even once, in his duties, and we will not allow attempts to target the powers of the prime minister,” he said.
Cabinet failed for the third time earlier this week to agree on a mechanism to exercise its full executive powers, including the president’s prerogatives, amid the vacuum in the country’s top Christian post. Parliament sessions are already in a stalemate on the pretext of the presidential void. The ministers remain at odds over whether Cabinet decrees need the signatures of all 24 members, or only two-thirds or half of them. Ministers from Aoun’s bloc, backed by Hezbollah’s ministers, demand that the Cabinet decrees be signed by all the ministers, while ministers from the March 14 coalition and the Future Movement insist that the decisions should be passed by a two-thirds vote. Salam prefers consensus on Cabinet decisions. Machnouk said that his March 14 group has decided to deal calmly with the issue of Cabinet authorities, away from political bickering.  “We do not need to shout and scream as long as we have the pen [for signing government decisions], we decided to deal with the issue calmly, and those who need our signatures should reach a consensus with us,” he said.  “If they do not need our signatures, this means they don’t want to get the country’s affairs addressed, the issue is not our responsibility alone,” he said.  The minister also said that boycotting Parliament or Cabinet are futile actions because they “would not pressure foreign forces to break a deal on the presidency.”
“We are not basic [decision makers] in the presidential election, it is one big international and regional game,” Machnouk said. For his part, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi called for facilitating the work of both Parliament and Cabinet amid presidential void as he called for seeking the “serious” election of a new head of state. Rifi said that there is a positive will among ministers to reach a mechanism over the Cabinet authorities in light of void and hoped for endorsing such mechanism during Cabinet’s next session “to be able to achieve the urgent affairs of citizens.”

Lebanon official upbeat on case of missing cameraman
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Saturday, 14 June 2014
A Lebanese Sky News Arabia cameraman who went missing last October in Syria might be returning home soon, Lebanon’s General Security chief said earlier this week, according to local media. "There is a lot of hope in [the return of] Samir Kassab,” Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim told Al-Jadeed TV Friday while he was on an official visit to Doha earlier this week with Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported. “I am continuing my work on Kassab’s file and it will have a happy ending," he added. Kassab was in Syria to cover a story about the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian conflict he went missing. Ibrahim has successfully negotiated deals to secure the release of individuals held in Syria, including Lebanese pilgrims who were kidnapped in Syria in May 2012, as well as the Syrian and Lebanese nuns who were taken from the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula last year.

Israeli Army held drill in area hours before teens disappeared
Yoav Zitun/Published: 06.15.14, 00:25 /ynetnews
Hundreds of soldiers from Kfir and Nahal brigades took part in exercise overnight Wednesday, just kilometers from hitchhiking post three youths were last seen.
The IDF held a drill in the same area of the West Bank where three yeshiva students went missing on Thursday night, less than a day before their disappearance. The extensive exercise drilled the layout of a massive, developing terror attack

Hundreds of soldiers from the Kfir Brigade's Lavi Battalion and from the Nahal Brigade's 932nd Battalion took part in the exercise overnight Wednesday.
The exercise took place only a few kilometers from the hitchhiking post where Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer were last seen on Thursday night.The exercise's objective was to simulate, among other things, a terror attack that takes place in the area connecting the territorial brigade Etzion and its neighbor from the south - territorial brigade Judea, that includes Hebron.
It included a scenario of a shooting terror attack at a passing vehicle in Gush Etzion. This is a similar scenario to the shooting attack that occurred on Passover Seder night in the same area, in which Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi was murdered. The perpetrators of that attack have not been captured. "This special exercise prepared us for a situation in which an attack on the region between the two areas, which requires cooperation between the two brigades," the deputy assistant chief of staff for operations for the Etzion territorial brigade, Maj. Ayalon Peretz, told Ynet.  "A quick response by troops, which at times have to arrive at the scene immediately, could determine how a terror attack unfolds. These kinds of exercises demand the troops to function quickly and quality, in line with our duty to halt the growth of terror and put an end to it," Maj. Peretz continued. The exercise implemented lessons learned from the troops' conduct on the night of the Passover Seder attack, including the new policy of placing checkpoints quickly, and efficient deployment of forces. A senior officer at the Judea Brigade told Ynet that during the exercise, Lavi soldiers caught the terrorist quickly after a pursuit. "They joined forces with the Nahal battalion commander for a parallel pursuit and run in with the second terrorist, who was 150 meters away and running towards Halhul. We hit him from there," he said.

Netanyahu: Hamas people kidnapped missing teens

Gilad Morag, Elior Levy/06.15.14, 15:55 / Ynetnews
Hamas denies accusations made by PM, calls them 'foolish'; in afternoon briefing to foreign press, Netanyahu says Hamas denials won't change fact they were behind kidnapping.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas were engaged in a war of words on Sunday as the prime minister accused the Islamist organization of perpetrating the kidnapping of three Israeli teens, while the Palestinian movement denied and dismissed Netanyahu's claims as "foolish.""This morning I can say what I was unable to say yesterday, before the extensive wave of arrests of Hamas members in Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu said at a special cabinet meeting. "Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas – the same Hamas that Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) made a unity government with; this has severe repercussions." Hamas denied the accusations, terming Netanyahu's statements as "foolish". Sami Abu Zohari, the Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, noted that while the arrests carried out by IDF troops of Hamas people intend to break them, Israel will not succeed in doing so.
In a statement to foreign press on Sunday afternoon, the prime minister insisted that "these teenagers were kidnapped and the kidnapping was carried out by Hamas members. Hamas' denials do not change this fact.This attack should surprise no one, because Hamas makes no secret of its agenda," Netanyahu told members of the foreign press. "Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel and to carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, including children." He vowed Israel will act "in all ways under its province, in all ways under our control" to bring the three kidnapped teenagers back home
Israel will act against the kidnappers and their terrorist sponsors and comrades. We will do whatever needs to be done to protect our people, our citizens, our children and our teenagers, from the scourge of terrorism," he said. He also had harsh words of criticism for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "Instead of abiding by his international obligation to disarm Hamas, President Abbas has chosen to make Hamas his partner," he said.IDF soldiers arrested 80 Palestinians in the West Bank overnight Saturday, including senior Hamas members and Palestinian lawmakers, and placed a closure on Hebron and Bethlehem. Among those arrested was senior Hamas activist Hassan Yousef, a former spokesperson for Hamas who is considered one of the organization's spiritual leaders, and members of the Palestinian Parliament Fathi Muhammad Ali Qar'awi, Hassan al-Bourini, Abdel-Rahman Zidan and Khaled Abu Arafa.
According to a senior military official, the arrests took place throughout the West Bank, including in Hebron, Ramallah and Tubas.A closure was imposed on southern Judea and Bethlehem, following a closure made from midnight on Hebron.  Israel has reportedly enlisted the aid of Egypt in the search for the three missing Israeli teens – Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Frenkel – that have been missing since Thursday evening, Egyptian newspaper Ash-Shuruk reported Sunday morning. According to sources, which the paper described as "credible", Egypt approached senior members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to discuss the implications of the incident and to attempt to understand if the hostages are still alive or not. In addition, Egyptian authorities put military forces in Rafah, on the Sinai-Gaza border, in high alert. Egyptian media further reported that Israel is taking steps, including the use of helicopters and patrols, in the Sinai border in an attempt to prevent the possible transfer of the hostages to the Sinai Peninsula and from there to the Gaza Strip. On Saturday, it was revealed that police received a preliminary report about the disappearance of the three teens in the West Bank at around the time of the assumed kidnapping on Thursday night. However, the police did not begin searching for the teens or inform the IDF and Shin Bet until the father of one of the boys went to the police in the early hours of Friday morning.

Iran ‘sends 2,000 troops’ to help Maliki in Iraq

By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News./Sunday, 15 June 2014
Iran sent 2,000 advance troops to Iraq to help fight an extreme jihadist insurgency effectively seizing control of major cities in the country, a senior Iraqi official told The Guardian on Saturday. Around 1,500 basiji forces crossed the border into Khanaqin, a town in central Diyala province on Friday, while another 500 entered the Badra Jassan area in Wasat province overnight, according to the official, reported the British news website. It confirmed Friday that Major General Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, had arrived to Baghdad to oversee defense operations in the capital. Iranian President Hassan Rowhani announced Saturday that his country was ready to help Iraq fight the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an extremist-sunni jihadist group effectively controlling major cities in the country. Additionally, Rowhani declared that he would join forces with long-term enemy U.S. to defeat ISIS militants and local armed men fighting among their ranks."We can think about it if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere," Rowhani said when asked if Tehran would collaborate with Washington, Reuters reported Saturday.
Arming civilians
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on Iraqi citizens to take up arms and defend their country against the insurgency. Other shiite leaders also urged civilians to stand up and defend. Maliki said his cabinet “praises the willingness of the citizens and the sons of the tribes to volunteer and carry weapons ... to defend the homeland and defeat terrorism,” he said in a statement broadcast on state television last Tuesday. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest religious authority for Shiites, urged his followers on Friday to take up arms against Sunni militants advancing toward Baghdad.
Thousands of Shiites answered the call to fight on Saturday, and joined security forces to fight ISIS militants who are advancing in the country with an extreme religious rule. (With AP and Reuters)

A Golden Opportunity for Turkey’s Kurds
By: Samir Salha/Asharq Alawsat /Sunday, 15 Jun, 2014
Clashes and confrontations have returned once more to southeast Turkey, known for its large Kurdish population, after a two-year truce with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). This ceasefire had been preceded by a political truce with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan who currently remains in prison.
It seems that the approach taken by the Ankara government and the country’s Kurdish community and the calm situation that has prevailed over the past two years has not been enough to completely resolve matters in a region of Turkey where the people have grown accustomed to living in the shadow of a volcano that could erupt at any moment.
So, just how can we explain the recent Kurdish protests and demonstrations that have erupted in Turkey’s Diyarbakir province, ostensibly over the construction of a military base in the region?
Is this the direct result of the PKK’s declining influence, particularly its ability to affect the decisions of Turkey’s Kurdish community at a grass-roots level? Or is this the result of the failure of the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government to meet the demands and aspirations of Turkey’s Kurdish community?
What about the Turkish soldiers who were shot at and wounded by PKK fighters in the town of Lice in Diyarbakır earlier this month, despite the declared ceasefire? What can we say about the Kurdish mothers who held a vigil outside the Diyarbakir mayor’s calling for the PKK to return their sons to them?
The recent tensions in southeast Turkey can be viewed through more than one lens and is related both to the domestic situation in Turkey as well as what is happening in the wider region. However what is clear is that this is far more than a limited security setback for the Ankara government.
PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan continues to send positive messages to all sides, stressing his commitment to stay the course that he began with Ankara. This is something that confirms that the declared ceasefire between both parties remains in place, at least on an official level. It also demonstrates that the PKK is not in a position to ignore the decisions and advice of its leader and act in opposition to the dialogue that he is leading with Erdoğan’s Justice and Development (AKP) government—a dialogue that aims to open a new page in Turkish-Kurdish relations.
Rather, these protests could be part of political maneuvering to demonstrate the strength of Turkey’s Kurdish community at a grass-roots level in order to put pressure on the Ankara government to accelerate the implementation of the roadmap towards resolving the Kurdish question. We must also make note that this is also happening while Turkey stands on the verge of presidential elections that the Kurds will, no doubt, play a large role in, one way or another.
Both sides are exchanging accusations and blaming each other for this escalation, but both the government and the Kurds are well aware that there are limits to this period of escalation and provocation that must not be breached. Turkey Deputy Prime Minister Bashir Atlay, who is leading the talks with Öcalan and who also happens to be one of Erdoğan’s closest allies, recently stressed that Ankara will not retreat from continuing the talks. He said that both sides are moving closer to announcing the details of the roadmap and the timetable and practical steps that must be taken to resolve this issue. Atlay framed the most recent tensions in southeast Turkey as part of attempts to pressure the government in the run up to presidential elections later this year.
The Kurdish political leadership is trying to throw the ball into Erdoğan’s court and force him to react, particularly given that the promises that the prime minister made to Turkey’s Kurds two years ago have yet to come to pass. Therefore, one could say that Erdoğan is ultimately responsible for the current situation, by which we mean the declining chances of peace and Kurdish youth continuing to join PKK in the mountains and follow the way of the gun. The Kurds, as is increasingly clear, do not want to miss this golden opportunity to pressure Erdoğan and his government, particularly if he is preparing a presidential bid. The Kurds have announced that they are ready to nominate a Kurdish political leader to contest the presidential elections later this year. At the same time, they have also suggested that they could back either the government or opposition in return for support and assistance over the Kurdish question. There is another option that is being put forward by the hawks of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the event that the Kurds do not receive sufficient guarantees, namely they are threatening to boycott the ballot and refuse to participate in the forthcoming elections.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has little to no presence in southeast Turkey. Turkey’s Kurdish community are well aware that CHP will also move to provide them with pledges and promises, and this is another opportunity that the Kurdish leadership do not want to miss out on. This scenario could see all of Turkey’s opposition unite to take on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP government. The PKK do not want to completely burn Erdoğan’s cards, but they want to grab whatever they can, exploiting the domestic situation in Turkey and the regional situation at large.

The Syrian Brotherhood and Jarba’s Letter
By: Fayez Sara/Asharq AlAwsat /Sunday, 15 Jun, 2014
It is deeply regretful that the former general guide of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ali Sadreddine Al-Bayanuni, has resigned from the Syrian National Coalition. Bayanuni left in protest over the letter sent by the leader of the Coalition, Ahmed Al-Jarba, to newly elected Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, congratulating the former army chief on his appointment. But there is also an indirect reason for the resignation, relating to his opposition to some of the Coalition’s policies. “In my opinion, the Coalition no longer expresses our people’s hopes and aspirations in achieving the goals of their glorious revolution,” Bayanuni said in a statement earlier this week. This means that Jarba’s congratulatory letter was merely the catalyst that triggered his decision to resign.
Although Byanuni is often described as one of the Coalition’s “patriotic figures,” his position contradicts the statement which the Brotherhood issued in protest against the very same letter. Like Bayanuni, they also said they objected to the Coalition’s policies in several areas—but fortunately did not go as far as to announce their withdrawal. With the Syrian people facing a catastrophe that threatens their homeland and revolution, it would be absolutely wrong for the opposition to move toward any further fragmentation.
These events are a sign that we need to pay more attention to the reality of the Coalition, its policies, and its relations with other opposition blocs and figures. The Brotherhood has been an active participant in the Coalition’s activities since the latter’s establishment. The role of the Islamist group continued to grow until it became the most significant and prominent group in the Syrian opposition. Despite the problems it has encountered and the mistakes it has made, the Coalition still includes representatives of the majority of the intellectual and political currents in Syria, the popular uprising, local councils, and the Free Syrian Army. This is not to mention a number of other patriotic figures who are members in the Coalition. The Coalition also enjoys a degree of international recognition no other Syrian opposition group can wield. Jarba’s letter was both a matter of diplomatic protocol and a political gesture. In addition to congratulating the Egyptian president and Egyptian people on the elections—which Jarba said represented a step towards stability and prosperity for Egypt—the Coalition’s leader also alluded to the historical and current ties between the two peoples, ties which prompted many Syrians to flee to Egypt to escape the killing, displacement and destruction perpetrated by the Assad regime. Jarba concluded his letter by expressing hope that the new Egyptian government and the Syrian opposition could together “consolidate relations between the two countries and peoples,” adding that Egypt would play “an effective role in helping the Syrian people attain their goals of peace, freedom, justice and equality.”
The letter did not express Jarba’s personal position; rather, its content was in line with the Coalition’s policies regarding its political ties both inside and outside Syria. As the president of the Coalition, Jarba is tasked with implementing, expressing and augmenting these policies. It is only natural that some of these policies would not find favor with every single member of the Coalition. In fact, during a Coalition meeting, the letter was discussed and read out without any of the attendees, including the Brotherhood, raising any objections.
As for the content of the letter, there are two facts that must be considered: first, Egypt is the largest country in the Arab world and home to the headquarters of both the Arab League and the Syrian National Coalition itself; second, there are more than a quarter of a million Syrian refugees and residents currently living in Egypt who need the government’s care and attention, particularly after some of the negative incidents which took place last year. This, of course, means that the Coalition is required to maintain good relations with the Egyptian government and to coordinate with it at the highest levels. As a consequence, the Coalition cannot overlook key developments in Egypt that affect the Syrian cause, the Syrian people, and the presence of the Coalition there.
And, moreover, the letter—which the Syrian branch of the Brotherhood contends expresses negative sentiments about its Egyptian branch—should not be viewed in isolation from what the Coalition and its president have done to normalize the presence of the Islamist group within the Syrian opposition. Consolidating the role of the Brotherhood in the Coalition is an expression of the democratic and inclusive values which the Syrian opposition has been promoting for years. The Brotherhood has been at the forefront of this opposition and, naturally, the Coalition. Even when attacks against the Brotherhood in other Arab countries intensified, the Coalition’s official delegations always included members of the Islamist group—this was the case during the Arab League Summit in Kuwait. This position comes within the framework of the Coalition’s rejection of the marginalization of the Syrian Brotherhood, and its insistence on the group being present and playing an influential role alongside the other opposition blocs within the Coalition itself. This concept of sharing and partnership means that the Coalition is committed to the formulation of political practices that take the general interests of the Syrian people, their revolution, and the majority of the opposition into account. We should understand that groups and individuals have the right to express different opinions and object to certain positions and practices. But this should take place under the roof of the Coalition which, having emerged as the representative of the Syrian people, should remain the united force of the Syrian opposition.
It is, then, high time for the Syrian opposition to break the habit of focusing on negative details while neglecting the main strategies and issues key to the future of the Syrian cause. These issues are without doubt much more significant than the desires and interests of individuals and organizations.

Do the Iraq rebels belong to ISIS, the Baath party, or clans?
Sunday, 15 June 2014 /By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
In 2012, controversy regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front first erupted. Some denied their presence while most people thought the two groups had nothing to do with the terrorist organization that is al-Qaeda and that they are part of Syrian national parties but with an Islamist touch. Some were suspicious of these groups and believed they would work alongside the Syrian regime which previously funded such groups in Iraq and Lebanon. The controversy lasted for a year and a half before it turned out that these groups are actually al-Qaeda and that they've politically served the Syrian regime by intimidating Syrian minorities, antagonizing international powers and fighting the Free Syrian Army in every Syrian area it had liberated. Al-Qaeda has previously done this under Zarqawi's rule in Iraq and confused its cause with those of national powers. The Sunni Mufti in Iraq has made a progressive move when he frankly described ISIS as a terrorist group and when he exonerated Baathis and veteran military figures and clansmen. Truth is, there's neither a Baath party nor Baathists since the war against Kuwait. These are now old terms that only represent a gathering of angry Sunni Iraqis. General Petraeus was aware of this truth when he realized that categorizing the Sunnis is no longer a valid thing to do because political circumstances have changed. This is why Petraeus altered his policy and cooperated with the Anbar clans. The latter became his ally and fought al-Qaeda, and he also convinced a number of Sunni opposition figures to return to Baghdad.
Anbar clashes. The current crisis began with peaceful protests in Anbar on December 2013, ahead of the parliamentary elections. Protesters back then said they have 17 demands - most of which were just related to demands such as releasing detainees and suspending executions. Many, including Shiite leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakeem, understood these demands. But instead of negotiating with them or letting them be, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - who's well-known for his foolishness - upset the beehive. “What adds to the threat of ISIS and al-Qaeda is Nouri al-Maliki, who is willing to commit massacres to stay in power” He sent out a big force and arrested Ahmad al-Alwani, an elected member of parliament who hails from a prominent clan, and killed his brother. This was a clear violation of the constitution and regulations. Alwani is still detained while Anbar has taken a turn for the worst.
What about ISIS and al-Qaeda? Truth is, these two organizations are present in the province as they've been hiding there since the Sunni tribes overpowered them.
Their story constitutes an important chapter of the history of the previous war as Abdel-Sattar Abu Risha established the alliance of Sunni Arab tribes and the Anbar Salvation Council. In just one year, he won over the al-Qaeda organization which settled in the Sunni province for years. Abu Risha succeeded at what American troops failed at. However al-Qaeda killed him in 2007. The tribes' alliance lasted until the Americans handed governance to Maliki who for sectarian reasons ended government support to thousands of men who had engaged in the alliance and became part of the Iraqi army!
It's amid this vacuum that ISIS was reborn and allied with rebels and armed tribes and engaged in confrontations against Maliki's forces. Instead of negotiating with tribes, Maliki's forces destroyed Fallujah and displaced tens of thousands. Despite that, it failed at suppressing ISIS and the tribes. Maliki thus provoked them into pursuing his forces everywhere.
Fall of Mosul
Last Wednesday, the Iraqis woke up to the fall of the Mosul and the rest of Nineveh in the hands of ISIS. Tikrit and most of the Salaheddine province fell the day after. And now there are groups gathered at the outskirts of Baghdad itself. Rebelling groups of former military personnel and tribes are the majority. At the same time, ISIS is also present and it will later be a burden on Iraqi rebels and a certain ally of Maliki's forces. This reminds us of what's happening in Syria as there are three major players: Assad's forces and his Iranian allies, the Free Syrian Army and its allies and the terrorists consisting of ISIS and al-Nusra Front. Iraq will be as such too.The presence of ISIS will not alter the major facts of the struggle in Iraq. One third of the  population is being punished by the regime for sectarian and opportunistic political reasons. It's normal that they'd revolt against the regime and they will continue to be against it. The al-Qaeda organization has learnt to sneak in where there's an angry society and major political vacuum, just like it did in Afghanistan and Syria. But let's keep in mind that the aims of al-Qaeda and its groups don't meet the aspirations of angry Iraqis and that al-Qaeda views these Iraqis the same way it views the regime - as religiously lost. Nouri al-Maliki is worse, and more dangerous, than ISIS and al-Qaeda. He is a bad person that is ready to commit massacres in order to stay in power - just like Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. In order to achieve Iraq's stability, it's a must to get rid of Maliki and al-Qaeda. I will continue this discussion tomorrow; on Iran and intervention in Iraq.

ISIS ‘achievements’ in Iraq and Syria a gift to the Iranian negotiator?
Sunday, 15 June 2014 /Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
A few weeks ago, close associates of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent Washington an S.O.S. message, saying that the time had come to get Maliki out of power in a way that would allow him to save face, or prepare for the prospect of a bloody civil war in Iraq that will only end with the country partitioned, if not fragmented, in parallel with terrible growth in Islamic extremism and devastating sectarian conflict. Washington, as usual under President Barack Obama, took its time and slowly weighed the repercussions of any step it might make in Iraq or Syria for its nuclear talks with Iran.
But today, with the collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) seizure of the Nineveh province, it is time for Washington to start seriously thinking about its available options before it is too late. The first step should be a bilateral understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran to banish Nouri al-Maliki to a neighboring country that is friendly to Tehran, for example, Oman. This is if Washington really wants to save Iraq from fragmentation. But if the plan is to partition Iraq and hand over south Iraq to Iran as part of the map of regional understandings, then allowing ISIS to grow, as a small mobile army through the Iraqi-Syrian border, could be part of that plan. “How will the Obama administration engage Iran over Iraq, after ISIS routed the Iraqi army and forced it to withdraw from Mosul?” What happened in Iraq this week is shocking. The second collapse of the Iraqi army is reminiscent of its first collapse at the hands of former President Saddam Hussein in particular, when he left it in tatters on the roads without informing the army that he had lost the war. The collapse of the Iraqi army under Maliki did not come from a vacuum. The prime minister came to Baghdad from Tehran under U.S. protection, which claimed that spreading democracy was the purpose of its invasion and occupation of Iraq. The withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq would not have been possible without the success of David Petraeus's strategy known as Al-Sahawat, or the Awakening, where the Americans partnered up with Sunni tribes to combat extremist groups like al-Qaeda and its many offshoots.
Nouri al-Maliki assumed that U.S. protection for him and the Iranians clinging to him equate to support for his dictatorship against all those who oppose him believing he puts Shiites first and Iraq second. In truth, Maliki now offers Iraqi Shiites and Iraq itself as ammunition for out-of-bound wars and cynical U.S., Iranian, or even ISIS-led plans and the plans of all those who stand behind this terrorist organization.
Maliki must step down
It is time for Nouri al-Maliki to step down. He has lost the popular base that makes up the fabric of Iraqi unity, and today, he is begging ordinary people to volunteer to compensate for the withdrawal of the Iraqi army from the fight. Maliki is dismantling the Iraqi army in doing so, whether intentionally or inadvertently.
The problem is that Tehran controls the decision of whether Maliki stays in power or not, and so far, the Islamic Republic of Iran has strongly clung to him.
The Western powers claim that they have started discussions with Iran regarding its regional roles, from Iraq and Syria (and Lebanon), to Yemen. Iran will not abandon Iraq, which constitutes a victory for Tehran provided by the United States of America under George W. Bush through his war on terrorism in Iraq. That war completely eliminated Iraq from the strategic equation with Iran and Israel, and neutralized Iraq from the regional balance of power. Iraq was a precious American gift to both Iran and Israel, but also to Turkey, as Iraq was pacified and withdrawn from strategic equations.
Saddam was a strategic threat
Iran will not stop at having had the strategic threat from Iraq removed as represented by Saddam Hussein. Iran is adamant about domesticating Iraq and placing it in the Iranian barn, and sees that Nouri al-Maliki delivers to Tehran what it wants, which is why it does not want to relinquish him voluntarily. If the choice is between a unified Iraq with no influence for Iran though Maliki and a torn Iraq, Iran will prefer a partitioned Iraq where it would have permanent influence over the south and a way to bring into existence that Shiite belt or crescent - as neocons called it under George W. Bush - stretching from eastern Saudi to Iraq and Iran, and parts of Syria and Lebanon on the border with Israel. Their idea was to divide Arab countries in the context of removing them from the strategic equation with Israel. Their idea was also based on developing the historical principle of peace between Persians and Jews, to contain Sunni dominance and defeat Sunni extremism that was behind 9/11. What happened in the Syrian war during the past three years is part of those calculations, as it is clear today. It is also clear that Tehran is part of that thinking, and sees the regime in Damascus as a guarantee for it in Syria, and would not allow it to fall except if forced to.
Yemen might be the only arena for concessions and compromises between the Western powers - especially the United States - and Iran, which has a role there. Yemen is less important for Tehran than Iraq and Syria, and there is wiggle room there especially in the context of any Saudi-Iranian rapprochement. There are even some in the camp that comprises Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq who say - to justify Iran's hold over Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon - that the bargaining room involves giving Saudis concessions in Yemen and in Bahrain.
The Obama administration uses drones in Yemen to fight al-Qaeda and its offshoots. This war kills al-Qaeda leaders but not its armies. They do not impact al-Qaeda's base, and for this reason, the victories it brings are illusory.
Furthermore, the alleged victories in the wars in Iraq and Syria against al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, ISIS, or other groups are precarious and they often backfire. This applies also to some extent to recruits in mobile armies and their backers, be they Sunni or Shiite extremists, or individuals, governments, organizations, families, militias, or companies. The Arab actors taking part in fragmenting Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon - no matter their affiliation, claims, or justifications - are collaborators with terrorism and an instrument in the plot to split the Arab region.
Not innocent
In truth, the United States is not innocent of these plans. In the minds of many, it is the side that manufactures and encourages extremism, be it Sunni or Shiite, to divide the Arab region and allow Iran to dominate it, with Israeli collusion. The Kurds have realized that the new map of the Middle East may be the opportunity they have been waiting for the future of Kurdistan. For this reasons, the equations of traditional hostility with Turkey have been upended, and oil-related calculations have risen up the list of priorities to attract Western support for Kurdish ambitions.
While ISIS, with its haphazardness, destructive ideology, and appalling ignorance, spreads from Deir al-Zour to the borders of Kurdistan, achieving its wretched victories, regional and international powers are rushing to take advantage of the situation to further their interests. And while Hezbollah believes itself a strong regional force that even the United States takes into account, and not just Iran, Iraq, or Syria, Hezbollah remains a transient part of illusory victories, because in reality, the Shiite party furthers Iranian interests as conceived by the neocons, that is, as overlapping with Israel's at the expense of Arab interests definitely. All trans-border armies think themselves as makers of a new history by overturning Sykes-Picot. These are the armies of destroying and abolishing borders. As it seems, no one is standing in their way no matter how much NATO powers pretend to be panicked and no matter how many concerned statements the United Nations make. What is frightening is that there are international forces supporting mobile radical armies in their bid to cross borders, to use them in wars of attrition against traditional armies, with a view to partition existing countries in the Arab region.
ISIS not the response to the plans to fragment the Arab region and strengthen Iranian hegemony but is actually an instrument in those plans, whether ISIS is aware of this or naïvely oblivious to the fact. ISIS is destroying the Arabs and undermining Sunni moderates, because it is part of a sinister project to which it was driven voluntarily or by coincidence. All those extending help to ISIS and similar groups like al-Nusra Front, and other Salafist or Wahhabi militias, are directly contributing to the collapse of Syria and Iraq, no matter how much they think they are making history.
Iraq today is on the brink of collapsing into civil war and partition, if not fragmentation. No one will come out victorious in the coming Iraq war - with the exception of Kurdistan perhaps.
The U.S. rush to withdraw from Iraq in the wake of a war that cost trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives remains a mystery. The only convincing explanation is, perhaps, that the United States took stock of its own massive oil reserves, which would spare it from needing Iraqi oil if not all of Arab oil. Perhaps the other explanation is that the U.S. defense industries were done testing their new weapons in Iraq. The result is that the United States abandoned Iraq and left it easy prey to anyone willing to take it, after waging a war on terror in Iraqi cities to spare American cities from such a war.
The question now is this: How will the Obama administration engage Iran over Iraq, after ISIS routed the Iraqi army and forced it to withdraw from Mosul? How serious is the Western strategy in the negotiations with Iran regarding Syria? In other words, are ISIS's "achievements" in Iraq and Syria a previous gift to the Iranian negotiator, to propose Iran as a serious partner for the West with a view to eliminate Salafist extremism? The answer is most probably affirmative. Nouri al-Maliki hinted that he might be willing to allow the U.S. air force to conduct strikes against al-Qaeda positions inside Iraq. For its part, Washington decided to send new weapons to fight terrorism in Iraq. Turkey has called for an emergency meeting for NATO, after ISIS kidnapped 48 of its citizens in addition to 28 others. Turkey might see ISIS as an opportunity to deepen its military incursion into northern Iraq - even when Ankara is now more than ever open to the idea of establishing the state of Kurdistan. Iran might be conformable with the ISIS "gift" in the context of its negotiations with the West, but ISIS remains a thorn in Iran's side, both in Iraq and Syria. It will not be easy for Iran to defeat ISIS, regardless of whether it attempts this directly or through its ally Hezbollah. In effect, entrusting the task of fighting ISIS to Hezbollah could lead to mutual exhaustion and attrition - which is sweet music to American ears.
**This article was first published in al-Hayat on June 13, 2014.

Hebron under curfew as IDF closes in on terrorists holding 3 Israeli boys

DEBKAfile Special Report June 15, 2014/Five days after their disappearance, heavy IDF Special Forces units are tightening the siege on the Palestinian terrorist organization, which snatched Naftali Frenkel, 16, Gil-Ad Sha’ar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, Thursday night. Early Sunday, June 15, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered a curfew clamped down on the Hebron district and the shutdown of southern West Bank exits in the direction of the Gaza Strip. Detentions continue of dozens of Palestinians suspected of direct complicity in the abduction or possessing relevant information.
Special army units and the Shin Bet continue to scour Hebron and the towns and villages to the south for leads to the whereabouts of the boys and their captors: They are focusing on Dura, where the burnt car was found, Yata, Halhoul, the Al Fawar refugee camp and the caves riddling the surrounding hills. According to the local Palestinian radio station Hebron FM, the investigation has narrowed down to three local Palestinian clans, Al Jamal, Abu Zaina and Abu Aysha. Suspects’ homes are being ransacked one by one. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources say that there is little room to doubt that the abduction was the work of a secret Hamas operational cell on orders from its ringleaders, who are identified as Salah Arur, working ut of a secret base in Istanbul, Abdul Rahman Raymanat, Mazen Fuka’a and Ibrahim Hamad, who is serving time in a high-security Israeli jail. The man pulling the strings in Hebron and most likely of the operation itself is Yusari al-Jamal. The scraps of evidence pieced together show that the kidnappers and the three boys had reached the secret hideout where they are holed up at present less than an hour after switching cars at Dura. The abduction car was torched and left there, later to be taken to Israeli police forensic labs for examination. Israeli search units are still looking for that hideout.
To stay concealed, the kidnappers maintain total hush, which may explain why their controllers have not issued any statements or demands. Their motivation has been left up in the air. Were the three boys taken as hostages for the release of Palestinian prisoners? Or were they victims of a spectacular, savage terrorist operation per se?
The ringleaders and the boys’ captors may be able to stay in loose touch by two possible means capable of evading electronic detection:
1. Foot messengers assigned their tasks in advance of the attack;
2. The old pre-cellphone point-to-point telephone line. The two ends are easily concealed by earth or foliage, accessible only to the two users, and the line between them proof against electronic eavesdropping.
The Israeli search was hobbled from the start by the delay in discovering the abduction.
At 10:30 pm Thursday night, the police station at Kiryat Arba, Hebron, received a call from one of the three boys. All he had time to say was: We’ve been kidnapped.”
The officer at the desk thought it was a prank and did not pass the information on to the army. An hour and a half later, the station decided to send a cruiser to take a look at the Gush Etzion junction. The officers returned reporting they had seen nothing amiss.
By then, the boys had already been taken to the terrorists’ hideout. Eight precious hours were lost before the search got underway.
Saturday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a TV address that the boys were certainly kidnapped by a terrorist organization. He again held Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas responsible for their safety, because the abductors came from a Palestinian-ruled part of the West Bank.
The defense minister then stressed: “Our working premise is that the missing boys are alive and, until we know otherwise, we will bend every effort to rescue them and lay hands on their abductors.”

Saudi Press Blames Iraq PM's 'Sectarianism' for Unrest
Naharnet /Newspapers in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia on Sunday blamed Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for unrest sweeping his country, saying his "sectarian" policies are taking Iraq to a "devastating civil war." Militants spearheaded by powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, have since Monday overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq. "Policies of sectarianism and monopolization of power that have been followed by Maliki... have led Iraq to the brink of a devastating civil war," Alriyadh newspaper wrote. Relations between Riyadh and Iran-backed Maliki have been strained. In March, Maliki accused the kingdom and neighboring Qatar of supporting terrorism, a charge that drew harsh criticism from Riyadh. "It is inevitable that a new political leadership enjoying a broad national consensus should be sought if (Iraq) wants to avoid sliding into a war similar to the one raging in neighboring Syria," Alriyadh said. Iraqis should be wary of "the fire of sectarianism that would burn everyone," the daily said. Saudi columnist Abderrahman al-Rashed also lashed out at Maliki, accusing him of doing anything to stay in power. "Nouri al-Maliki is worse, and more dangerous, than ISIL and Qaida. He is a bad person that is ready to commit massacres in order to stay in power," he wrote in Asharq Al-Awsat. He argued that ISIL is only part of the uprising that includes a "majority" of Sunni Arab tribes and former military personnel disbanded after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam.
"The presence of ISIL could not hide the main factors in Iraq's conflict: a third of the population are punished by the regime for sectarian" reasons, he wrote, referring to the Sunni Arab minority, mostly disgruntled since the regime changed. Al-Jazirah daily also accused Maliki's of sectarianism. "Maliki says he failed because of a conspiracy... This is a bad excuse, because this person is sectarian up to his neck," it wrote. Agence France Presse