June 17/14


Bible Quotation for today/No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15,9-14/As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 17/14

Iraq Mess Due to Obama's Policies/By Walid Phares/ 17/14

Will Iran invade Iraq/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/June 17/14


Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 17/14

Lebanese Related News

Al-Rahi Mulls Several Options to Resolve Presidential Crisis
Interior Minister from Rabieh: Consultations Ongoing with Aoun

Harb: World Cup Games at Lebanese Fans Disposal Starting Monday

Kataeb Warns of Iraq Incidents, Urges End to Presidential Void

Kuwaiti Speaker Visits Syrian Refugee Encampments in Bekaa

Two Teens Die after Slipping into Bnashii Lake

Ireland Announces Additional Assistance over Refugee Burden

Mashnouq Lays Cornerstone for Roumieh Building, Vows to Combat Terror in Prisons

Plumbly Sounds Alarm Bell on International 'Trust' in Lebanon

Toddler Killed, Several Injured in Traffic Accident in Halba

Army Discovers Tunnel under Palestinian Refugee Camp

Berri Warns Presidential Vacuum Shouldn't Impact Other State Powers

Salam Set to Call for New Cabinet Session, Says Security Situation 'Under Control'

Hezbollah to fill gap left from ISIS in Syria

Hezbollah sets up operations room over Iraq

Abu Faour punishes hospital over denial of care
Fighting injustice with love, pride, dialogue
Hariri, Jumblatt to meet within 48 hours

Lebanon’s stability important to Kuwait: official

A president is a priority

Miscellaneous Reports And News

In Iraq, the U.S. is defending the indefensible

Saudi, Qatar Blame 'Sectarian' Policies for Iraq Unrest
U.S., Iran May Use Nuclear Talks to Discuss Iraq

U.S. Condemns 'Horrifying' Iraq Massacre by ISIL Militants

Schumacher Moved to Swiss Hospital after Emerging from Coma

Militants Battle Iraq Forces as U.S. Weighs Drone Strikes

Islamist Gunmen Massacre 49 on Kenya Coast

Will Netanyahu use boys’ rescue operation to finally thrash Hamas in Gaza too?

Missing Israeli Boy's Family Pleads for Safe Return

31 dead in Syria barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo

WFP aims for more assistance for refugees in June

A president In Lebanon is a priority
June 16, 2014/The Daily Star
Lebanon needs a president. Politicians are living in a world of self-delusion if they think they have the luxury of going around in circles as they try to agree on filling the vacancy in the country’s top political post. They’ve already lost the attention of ordinary Lebanese, who show little interest in following the stream of news items such as A won’t meet with B, C has made a statement complaining about D, while E and F are supposedly engaged in behind-the-scenes negotiations. Lebanon faces a whole host of pressing problems and challenges, and the election of a consensus president is the first step to generating a game plan for tackling all of these issues. Only when the presidential vacuum is over will there be a hope of dealing with momentous tasks such as forming a new, viable Cabinet, ensuring that parliamentary elections take place this year, bolstering national security, and preventing further damage to the economy – solutions for these matters will remain half-hearted steps if Baabda Palace remains vacant. The presidential vacuum is not just a Maronite or Christian issue but one that affects the entire country, which is even more threatened by regional turbulence than ever before, given recent events in Iraq. Politicians can no longer afford to engage in pettiness or Byzantine debates over how presidents have been and should be elected in Lebanon – the question is whether they have a plan to help the country exit its current state of drift and paralysis. If they can convince people that Lebanon can exist indefinitely without a president of the Republic, then let them explain how – otherwise, they must produce a solution, and not continue to talk about the dangers that lie ahead.

Al-Rahi Mulls Several Options to Resolve Presidential Crisis

Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi is expected to launch contacts this week to resolve the presidential deadlock despite his deep frustration over the failure to implement any of the initiatives he has suggested so far. According to An Nahar daily, Al-Rahi informed several of his visitors that he would contact officials on Monday and Tuesday to find ways to end the vacuum at Baabda Palace, which came as a result of the failure of lawmakers to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman. Informed sources expected al-Rahi to relaunch his initiative to bring Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea to the same table. Geagea's candidacy has been backed by the March 14 alliance while Aoun, a March 8 official, has not run for the presidency, saying consensus was needed to announce his candidacy. Al-Rahi has expressed severe concern over the failure to elect a new president after the expiry of Suleiman's six-year term on May 25. The patriarch realized that all his initiatives on the presidency have not led to results, sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper. “He hears nice words without any interpretation,” they said. Among the measures that al-Rahi is mulling to take, is calling the ambassadors of the five major powers to a meeting in Bkirki and making a similar invitation to the diplomats of regional countries, al-Joumhouria said. Other measures include holding consultations with the country's four main Maronite political leaders, who last met in Bkirki on March 28. Inviting the representatives of the four political parties – The FPM, LF, Kataeb and Marada - to a meeting is another option, it added. But al-Rahi wants to make sure that his moves would succeed before launching any of the initiatives. Last week, Bkirki spokesman Walid Ghayyad said the patriarch is expected to reconcile the rival Christian political leaders ahead of an initiative for a comprehensive reconciliation in the country. The initiative resembles a “snowball that starts with resolving the most difficult problems (among Maronites) and then grows” to include the entire country, he added.

Salam Set to Call for New Cabinet Session, Says Security Situation 'Under Control'

Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam said on Monday that he is determined to reactivate the work of the cabinet, expressing relief over the security situation in the country. “The interests of people should not remain obstructed,” Salam said in comments published in An Nahar newspaper. He revealed that he will call for a cabinet session this week. Last week, the government held its third meeting after the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's term in May 25. A sharp row among the political arch-foes rose in the cabinet over the mechanism regulating the government’s work during the ongoing presidential vacuum. The cabinet assumes the executive tasks of the president as stated by the constitution until a new head of state is elected. Asked about the impact that the security developments in Iraq will have on Lebanon, Salam said that the “local security situation is under control.” The Lebanese state is eying ways to support the capabilities of the army as a tool to maintain stability despite the regional turmoil, the premier stressed. A radical Sunni insurgency has seized last week a swathe of Iraq and began advancing toward Baghdad.

Berri Warns Presidential Vacuum Shouldn't Impact Other State Powers
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri considered on Monday that cooperation between the state institutions doesn't compel the obstruction of all powers if vacuum hits a certain post. Berri in comments published in As Safir newspaper wondered if “some parties are mulling to adopt a new definition of cooperation” among state powers. The speaker expressed concern over “the irresponsible approach” by the political arch-foes regarding the political crises. 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.
A sharp row among the political arch-foes rose in the cabinet over the mechanism regulating the government’s work during the ongoing presidential vacuum. The cabinet assumes the executive tasks of the president as stated by the constitution until a new head of state is elected. The presidential vacuum raised fears that it would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite. Another sharp debate over parliamentary sessions surfaced as Christian parties' decided to boycott legislative sessions until the election of a new head of state. Asked about the new wage scale draft-law, Berri said that the suggestion he proposed to head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc is “realistic and secures balance between the state's income and expenditures.” “There's no justification for any further delay.”The Mustaqbal Movement boycotted legislative sessions aimed at discussing a wage scale for the public sector, warning that endorsing the draft-law would have negative repercussions on the country's economy. 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. The Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has held several protests to pressure parliament to approve the wage scale draft-law without any amendments.

Two Teens Die after Slipping into Bnashii Lake
Naharnet/Two teens were killed on Monday after accidentally falling in Zgharta's Bnashii lake, the state-run National News Agency reported. The teens were taking pictures after sitting for the final days of official exams, but suddenly they slipped and fell in the lake, the NNA detailed According to the news agency, they were with dozens of their peers visiting the site after the exams, and they arrived in Bnashii on board four school buses coming from the northern city of Tripoli. "Civil Defense crews and Red Cross volunteers looked for the two boys for a while, but they fell in a dangerous place to which access is forbidden,” the same source noted. “The maritime rescue units of the Civil Defense crews then retrieved both of their bodies, and the Red Cross transferred them to a hospital in the region.”They were both fifteen years old, remarked the NNA.

Kataeb Warns of Iraq Incidents, Urges End to Presidential Void

Naharnet/The Kataeb Party on Monday warned of prolonging the current political impasse in the country in light of the “dangerous incidents in Iraq,” urging the immediate election of a new president. In a statement issued after the weekly meeting of its political bureau, the party said it discussed “the latest dangerous incidents in Iraq” and “the proliferation of fundamentalist movements in the region.” Kataeb warned that it would be “a crime against the country” to stand idly by “in the face of the vacuum that is shaking the pillars of the constitutional institutions, especially the presidency.”
“As the Kataeb Party cautions against the current threats, it urgently calls for taking immediate steps to elect a president in order to restore the proper functioning of all state institutions,” the party added. It said that putting an end to the political deadlock would allow the state to “embark on taking precautionary measures domestically and on the border, to prevent any repercussions or aftershocks resulting from the tense regional situation and to confront the the ferocious perils with a high level of cohesion, solidarity and unity.”Tensions soared in the region after militants led by the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized vast swathes of Iraqi territory in a lightning offensive last week and started marching toward the capital Baghdad. 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 due to lack of quorum. Separately, the Kataeb Party hoped the Rome international meeting for supporting the Lebanese Army would represent “a proper framework for assisting the military institution and enhancing its capabilities to enable it to preserve stability, protect the border and face any fallout from the region's events.” The party also called for finding “a satisfactory solution to the new wage scale row in a manner that would safeguard Lebanon's economic system and financial situation.”

Ireland Announces Additional Assistance over Refugee Burden
Naharnet/Visiting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced on Monday an additional 2-million-euro assistance to refugees in Lebanon, Premier Tammam Salam's press office said. It said Kenny told Salam during a meeting at the Grand Serail, which lasted around two hours, that Ireland would grant the UNHCR and UNRWA 2 million euros. Half of the assistance would go to UNHCR's efforts to provide assistance to poor Lebanese communities who are hosting Syrian refugees, said the statement. There are more than 1 million displaced Syrians in Lebanon. Most of them are residing with relatives and have sought shelter in encampments. The UNHCR said Monday that more than 9,900 registered as refugees in the past week, raising the total number of refugees escaping the fighting in Syria to 1,100,486. Ireland has already provided the Lebanese government with 1.74 million euros to help it cope with the burden of refugees who are in desperate need of housing, education and medical care. According to the statement, Kenny praised the Lebanese government and people for helping the displaced Syrians. The visiting official also inspected Ireland's UNIFIL contingent. He will later lay a wreath at the memorial for the 47 Irish soldiers who died serving in Lebanon since 1978. Kenny's visit is the first time an Irish prime minister has visited the troops in Lebanon since Bertie Ahern visited in 1999.

Kuwaiti Speaker Visits Syrian Refugee Encampments in Bekaa
Naharnet /Kuwaiti National Assembly Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim paid a visit on Monday to Syrian refugee encampments in the eastern Bekaa region, reported the National News Agency.
It said that he visited the encampments in the Bar Elias and al-Marj regions. He was accompanied by Speaker Nabih Berri's representative MP Michel Moussa and Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas. Ghanim had arrived in Lebanon on Sunday at the head of a parliamentary delegation. He is scheduled to hold talks during his two-day visit with his counterpart Berri and a number of officials. “Given Lebanon's sacrifices towards its Arab brothers, it is our duty as Arabs and Muslims to stand by the country and understand its suffering in harboring such a large number of Syrian refugees,” Ghanim had stated upon his arrival in Beirut on Sunday. Asked if his trip is a sign that Kuwaiti people should return to traveling to Lebanon, he answered: “The Kuwaiti people have never been away from Lebanon and our visit here is the greatest evidence of this.”“The travel advisory against Lebanon was a precaution, nothing more, nothing less,” he explained in reference to an advisory issued by Arab Gulf states in 2013 over instability in Lebanon. “We hope that Lebanon will restore its complete stability as soon as possible. A stable Lebanon means a stable Kuwait,” stressed Ghanim. More than 1 million of Syrians are in Lebanon, leaving the country, home to 4.5 million people, struggling to cope with the massive influx of refugees. The Syrian conflict started in March 2011 as largely peaceful protests against President Bashar Assad's rule that deteriorated into civil war. The fighting has uprooted 9 million people from their homes, with over 6 million Syrians seeking shelter in safer parts of the country and at least 2.7 million fleeing to neighboring countries.

Mashnouq Lays Cornerstone for Roumieh Building, Vows to Combat Terror in Prisons
Naharnet /Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq laid on Monday the cornerstone for a new building in Roumieh prison as part of his reform program to address many of the problems that Lebanon’s prisons face. “There are at least 7,800 inmates in Lebanon but prisons have the ability to house only 2,500,” he said in a speech ahead of the ceremony at the country's biggest prison. He lamented that 62 percent of prisoners are still awaiting trial. Praising the Lebanese army and Internal Security Forces on combating terrorism, al-Mashnouq hoped to confront terror inside prisons as well. The building that will be constructed is aimed at housing dangerous prisoners, who operate freely in the overcrowded facility. But the minister said that the new building “is just a modest trust to resolve the crisis of prisons” in Lebanon, which he described as a “ticking time bomb.”The building needs 18 months to be completed. It can house around 260 inmates. Other than being overcrowded, many prisons house inmates who suffer from dangerous illnesses with no major health care. Al-Mashnouq plans to address the issue, in addition to creating social and educational rehabilitation.

Plumbly Sounds Alarm Bell on International 'Trust' in Lebanon
Naharnet/U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly warned that the vacuum in the presidency would impact the international community's trust in Lebanon. In remarks to As Safir daily published on Monday, Plumbly said: “We've seen a tangible progress in the formation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government and the implementation of the security plan.”“We've also felt a considerable change in the security atmosphere due to the understanding between the political leaders,” he said. But the diplomat reiterated his call for the immediate election of a new head of state, saying “We are concerned that the vacuum in the presidency would impact trust in Lebanon.” Plumbly spoke to As Safir on the eve of a conference in Rome in support of the Lebanese army. Tuesday's conference will bring together the representatives of 40 states and international organizations. Despite his warning of trust, Plumbly said support to the army has so far not been affected by the failure to elect a president on time. The Rome conference will be an opportunity to study the additional needs of the army, he added.

Toddler Killed, Several Injured in Traffic Accident in Halba
Naharnet /A Syrian toddler was killed and five others injured on Monday in a traffic accident in the northern town of Hawshab in Halba, the Traffic Management Center reported. A one-year-old baby, identified as Sarab Ahmed Dreiyi, was killed when a minibus collided with a Renault 12 vehicle. According to NNA, the accident injured four people, including the mother of the toddler, Nasma al-Mawasi, who is in a critical condition.Ahmed Assi, Mazen Dandashli and his brother Nazer were among those who were injured. Two Ambulances rushed to the scene and transferred the wounded people to nearby hospitals.

Army Discovers Tunnel under Palestinian Refugee Camp

Naharnet/The Army uncovered a tunnel in one of the Palestinian refugee camps reaching out of it, As Safir newspaper reported on Monday. According to the daily, an army unit raided on Sunday the tunnel and placed it under strict surveillance. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq expressed fear in comments published in As Safir over the “worrying conditions in some Palestinian camps.” “Frankly, I am not at ease,” the minister said. He stressed that “tampering with security is prohibited and we will deal firmly with any offenders.” The minister called on Prime Minister Tammam Salam to call for a session for the Higher Defense Council “away from any political disputes over the presidential vacuum.” “We should take precautionary measures that suit the looming dangers” in the region. Mashnouq considered that if the Higher Defense Council can not meet, then an “emergency cell should be formed” to maintain stability in Lebanon. “This is more important than any debate over power-sharing,” he concluded. Palestinians living in Arab countries — including the 450,000 in Lebanon — are descendants of the hundreds of thousands who fled or were driven from their homes in the war that followed Israel's creation in 1948. They remain in Lebanon's 12 refugee camps because Israel and the Palestinians have never reached a deal that would enable them to return to their homes that are now in Israel.

ISF Analyzes Tapes Showing Alleged Berri Murder Plotters

Naharnet/The Intelligence Branch of the Internal Security Forces is in possession of tapes from security cameras showing two suspects allegedly involved in an assassination plot against Speaker Nabih Berri, As Safir daily reported on Monday. The newspaper said that the two men, one on foot and the other on a motorcycle, were able in February last year to approach Berri's residence in Beirut's Ain el-Tineh area after the speaker ordered to limit security measures in an attempt to appease residents in nearby buildings. News about the assassination attempt against Berri emerged in late February when several dailies reported a plot by the Qaida-linked Abdulllah Azzam Brigades. Lebanese national Mahmoud Abou Aalfa had allegedly confessed that the extremist group was planning to assassinate Berri, who is also the head of Amal movement that is allied with Hizbullah. Aalfa had reportedly admitted that several people were tasked with monitoring the entrances of Ain el-Tineh and the places that Berri frequently visits. As Safir revealed on Monday more details about the plot, saying one of the suspects was able to reach on foot an area very close to Berri's residence, taking advantage of orders made by the speaker to his security team to limit the inspection of vehicles passing in the vicinity of the compound. His orders came as a result of growing frustration by the residents of nearby buildings on the strong measures taken by the guards. The security cameras also showed the other suspect driving a motorcycle making his way through the guards, claiming he was a delivery man. The investigation has so far revealed that the plotters were planning to “break the defense wall” near Berri's residence by blowing up two car bombs to pave way for the driver of a third vehicle to detonate his explosives in the yard of the mansion. As Safir said that another scenario lied in using around seven suicide bombers on motorcycles to attack the security checks and opening the road to two booby-trapped cars to hit the wall of the compound and enter the yard.

Harb: World Cup Games at Lebanese Fans Disposal Starting Monday

Naharnet/After a long wait, the Lebanese will be able and starting Monday to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup, that kicked off last week, without paying any additional fees.
Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb stated in a joint press conference on Monday after talks with SAMA, the sole agent responsible for broadcasting the tournament, that the Lebanese people will be allowed to watch the World Cup matches on television for free starting Monday evening. Harb stated that the problem was solved with SAMA and that “the agreement was reached with the agent which ensured that the rights of all sides are preserved,” adding that SAMA agreed to allow the Lebanese people to watch the World Cup through television cable companies. “The government will compensate SAMA with USD3 million in funds for the company's losses. The telecom companies Alfa and MTC will take part in this compensation,” the Telecom Minister added. The state-run TV Tele Liban will not be granted the right to broadcast the games, said the Minister. Chairman and CEO of Tele Liban Talal Makdesi, lamented the decision and stressed that “Tele Liban will broadcast the games even if that cost me my resignation.” The National Media Council expressed reservation, later in the day, on the agreement between the Lebanese government and SAMA prohibiting Tele Liban from any right to broadcast the games. For his part, Information Minister Ramzi Jreij stressed that the Lebanese people's rights to watch the World Cup should take precedence over the interests of a commercial company. SAMA is the sole agent of beIN Sports in Lebanon. beIN Sports is a global network of sports channels jointly owned and operated by Qatari Sports Investments, an affiliate of Al-Jazeera Media Networks. It has purchased the rights to broadcast the World Cup in the Middle East. Many people have not been able to afford the fee imposed by SAMA to purchase receiver cards that allow them access to the World Cup matches, leaving several households unable to watch the games. Television cable providers in Lebanon criticized on Friday the state for failing to address the issue of broadcasting the 2014 FIFA World Cup. General coordinator of the network of cable providers in Lebanon Mahmoud Khaled said during a press conference: “The state shied away from its responsibilities regarding this issue.” In the absence of laws regulating the telecommunications sector, most Lebanese get their subscriptions from mostly illegal cable companies that operate through piracy and charge about LBP 20,000 ($13) a month.

Interior Minister from Rabieh: Consultations Ongoing with Aoun
Naharnet /Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq stressed on Monday that consultations are ongoing with the Free Patriotic Movement, pointing out that dialogue between the political arch-foes maintained stability in the country. “Dialogue is ongoing between us. It has so far achieved cabinet stability and facilitated the success of the security plan,” Mashnouq told reporters after talks with head of the FPM Michel Aoun in Rabieh. The minister didn't disclose the reason behind his visit to Aoun, denying that the meeting tackled the presidential vacuum. “I didn't convey any message to Aoun,” Mashnouq, who is loyal to al-Musatqbal chief Saad Hariri, remarked. “We will not abandon on our alliance with the March 14 coalition and (Lebanese Forces leader) Samir Geagea is still our (presidential) 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 five times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last five sessions due to a lack of quorum. Geagea's candidacy has been backed by the March 14 coalition while Aoun, a March 8 official, has not run for the presidency, saying consensus was needed to announce his candidacy. Mashnouq also ruled out reports saying that he urged Prime Minister Tammam Salam to form a small-member cabinet. “The reports are inaccurate, I only called for the formation of an emergency cell.”


U.S., Iran May Use Nuclear Talks to Discuss Iraq
Naharnet/Washington said Monday it might use a critical fifth round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers to discuss with Tehran possible cooperation tackling a Sunni insurgency in Iraq. The United States and Iran, who have been bitter foes for over 30 years, are both deeply concerned by a major insurgency by Sunni militants who have overrun swathes of Iraq over the past week. A senior U.S. administration official said that as a result "there may be some conversations" with Iranian negotiators on the sidelines of nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers in Vienna on Monday.
Present in Vienna were U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who last year held secret nuclear talks with Iran in 2013, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Zarif was a key interlocutor between Shiite Iran and the U.S. government after the September 11, 2001 attacks, when both sides were keen to oust the hardline Sunni Muslim Taliban in Afghanistan.
"The U.S. and Iran discussed Afghanistan .. so from time to time there have been times where it makes sense to be part of a conversation," the U.S. official said."But I think that the fundamentals remain as they are, which is that until we resolve the nuclear issue there cannot be any kind of fundamental change in this relationship," she said. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Yahoo News on Monday that he would be open to cooperating with Iran over Iraq, saying he "wouldn’t rule out anything that would be constructive". The main focus in the Austrian capital remains however efforts towards a nuclear deal with only five weeks before a July 20 deadline to sign on the dotted line. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany want Tehran to scale back its nuclear activities, while Iran wants all U.N. and Western sanctions to be lifted.
This long hoped-for accord would aim to once and for all silence fears that Tehran might develop nuclear weapons, and avert a slide into international conflict. Both sides caution that there is a long way to go as negotiators confront the same sticking points that have dogged diplomatic efforts for the past decade. The senior U.S. official said however that contrary to the general assessment by experts, both sides actually began to draft a deal at their last meeting in May. "A little bit of that was done the last time, and it was expected more will take place during this round," the official said.
She added that in U.S.-Iranian bilateral talks last week, both sides "not only understood each other better ... but I think we both can see places where we might be able to close the gaps".
The many thorny issues to be resolved in what would be a fiendishly complex deal include the duration of the mooted accord and the pace of sanctions relief.
But the gorilla in the room remains uranium enrichment, a process that can produce nuclear fuel but also, when highly purified, the core of an atomic bomb.
Iran wants to massively increase the number of centrifuges -- the machines that enrich -- saying it needs them to produce the fuel for a future fleet of civilian nuclear plants.
The West says these are years if not decades away from being built, fearing that Iran's real aim is to use its centrifuges to enrich uranium to weapons-grade -- -- something Tehran denies.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last week that the West wants Iran to slash the number of centrifuges to "several hundred" from 20,000 now, of which 10,000 are operating.
"We are not even in the same ballpark," said Fabius. Under an interim deal struck in November, Iran agreed to freeze certain nuclear activities for six months in return for minor sanctions relief. This comes to an end on July 20 but it can be renewed -- if both sides agree. Experts say such an extension is likely already under discussion. The senior U.S. official said however denied this, saying negotiators are "not having discussions now" about such a move. U.S. President Barack Obama would much prefer to get a deal by July 20 in order to fend off accusations that Iran is merely buying time ahead of midterm U.S. elections in November. "It will be in the interest of everyone if a deal is signed in the next five weeks," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday. Source/Agence France Presse

Schumacher Moved to Swiss Hospital after Emerging from Coma
Naharnet/Formula One champion Michael Schumacher was transferred from a French hospital to a facility in Switzerland on Monday after emerging from a coma following his devastating ski accident in December. In a surprise announcement, the retired German racing star's spokeswoman Sabine Kehm said he had left hospital in the French Alpine city of Grenoble, where he had been treated since December 29 when he slammed his head on a rock while skiing with his son and friends. The 45-year-old was transferred to a hospital in the Swiss city of Lausanne where he will be undergoing further treatment, hospital spokesman Darcy Christen told AFP. Stressing the hospital's commitment to privacy, Christen said Schumacher's family was with him "in a space created especially to ensure their intimacy and to ensure the best possible care." The Lausanne hospital has renowned neurology experts and Schumacher, his wife Corinna and two children live nearby in the small town of Gland. Dozens of journalists were parked in front of the facility, but in a country that fiercely respects privacy, the crowd was far smaller than it was in December when news of his accident in the French skiing resort of Meribel attracted throngs of media and fans to the Grenoble hospital. In a statement, the seven-time world champion's spokeswoman Kehm said his family wanted to "thank all his treating doctors, nurses and therapists in Grenoble as well as the first aiders at the place of the accident, who did an excellent job in those first months." "For the future we ask for understanding that his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye," she said. She gave no further details about Schumacher's condition, which has been kept under a tight lid since his accident. The racing star underwent two operations to remove life-threatening blood clots after the freak accident that shocked the world, before being plunged into a medically induced coma. His family announced at the end of January that drugs used to keep him in his deep sleep were being reduced with a view to bringing him back to consciousness.
Since then, Kehm had said he was showing short moments of consciousness, but few other details had filtered out and it is still unclear as to what the future holds for the man who cheated death countless times on the racing tracks. Doctors say some patients only show signs of improvement several years after their accident, and in an April interview with German broadcaster ARD, Kehm said that "a medical prognosis is not possible" due to the nature of his brain injury. News of his transfer to Lausanne was welcomed by Schumacher's close friend Lukas Podolski, the German footballer who is currently in Brazil for the World Cup. "What a great news!!! Get well soon Schumi!!! I'm so glad and happy when I just heard it!!" he tweeted. Known as the "Red Baron" in reference to an ace World War I German fighter pilot, Schumacher made his debut in 1991 and dominated Formula One not long after. A ruthless and at times controversial competitor, the German won an unprecedented 91 races, and seven world titles including five in a row with Ferrari from 2000 to 2004. He first retired aged 37 but was unable to resist the lure of the track. In 2010, he came out of retirement but failed to re-enact his previous performances, and he quit for good in 2012. Retirement did not dull his relish for adrenaline, however, and he kept pursuing thrill-seeking hobbies as the holder of a pilot's license, an accomplished motorbike rider, parachutist, skier and mountain climber. He survived a motorbike accident in Spain in 2009, during which he suffered head and neck injuries but was released from hospital after just five hours -- a far cry from his December skiing crash. In her statement Monday, Kehm said Schumacher's family wanted "to thank all the people who have sent Michael all the many good wishes". "We are sure it helped him," she added.Source/Agence France Presse

Militants Battle Iraq Forces as U.S. Weighs Drone Strikes

Naharnet /Militants battled security forces for control of a strategic Shiite town in north Iraq Monday, forcing half the area's population to flee as Washington weighed drone strikes against jihadist fighters leading the charge. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also said he was open to cooperating with arch-foe Iran to resolve the week-long crisis which has spurred the United States and Australian embassies to begin evacuating some staff. Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group are said to have killed scores of Iraqi soldiers as they pushed an advance on the capital, including in a "horrifying" massacre that has drawn international condemnation. In the latest fighting on Monday, militants entered and took control of several neighborhoods of Tal Afar, a Shiite Turkman-majority town in Nineveh province, according to officials and residents. Abdulal Abbas, the local official responsible for the town and surrounding area, said Tal Afar was dealing with "martyrs, wounded, chaos and refugees," and that around 200,000 people -- nearly half the area's population -- had fled to nearby areas. The town, which lies near the Syrian border in otherwise Sunni Arab and Kurdish-dominated Nineveh province, had briefly held off a militant offensive that saw fighters led by ISIL take control of vast swathes of territory north of Baghdad in a matter of days. Militants also took control of the Al-Adhim area, in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, on Sunday. Kerry said on Monday that drone strikes were an option in combating the offensive, after U.S. President Barack Obama said he was weighing "all options" on how to support the Iraqi government. Drones might not be the "whole answer," Washington's top diplomat told Yahoo News, "but they may well be one of the options that are important to be able to stem the tide and stop the movement of people who are moving around in open convoys and trucks and terrorising people."Washington has already deployed an aircraft carrier to the Gulf, but Obama has ruled out a return to Iraq for U.S. soldiers, who left the country at the end of 2011 after a bloody and costly intervention launched in 2003. The U.S. and Iran have also raised the possibility of working together over the crisis -- with Kerry saying he would be open to cooperating with Tehran, just days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country may "think about" cooperating with Washington.
The Wall Street Journal reported, citing U.S. officials, that the Obama administration may use nuclear talks starting in Vienna on Monday as a venue. The sweeping unrest has prompted a partial diplomatic evacuation from Baghdad, confirmed thus far by the United States and Australia. France, meanwhile, said some non-essential staff had been moved to Paris. Washington also announced that its sprawling embassy -- which sits in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone -- would receive even more security. The Iraqi government insists it is making progress in retaking territory from militants, who currently hold most or parts of four provinces north of Baghdad. It said on Sunday that security forces had killed 279 militants and that soldiers have recaptured towns north of Baghdad. The toll could not be independently confirmed, and Iraqi officials often tout high numbers of militant deaths while downplaying their own casualties. As troops began to push back against militants, evidence of brutal violence against members of the security forces emerged. The U.S. condemned a massacre in which ISIL militants appear to have killed scores of soldiers around the conflict-hit city of Tikrit, while the burned bodies of 12 policemen were also found in the town of Ishaqi. Photos posted online were said to show jihadists summarily executing dozens of captured members of the security forces in Salaheddin province, of which Tikrit is the capital, with tweets attributed to ISIL claiming they had killed 1,700 in all. The photos and the claims could not be independently verified. "The claim ... is horrifying and a true depiction of the bloodlust that these terrorists represent," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The international outcry came as the crisis entered its second week. After days of unrest elsewhere in the Sunni Arab-majority north and west of Iraq, militants launched an assault on the country's second-biggest city Mosul on June 9, and swiftly moved down to Tikrit, executed dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown.
Iraqi forces performed poorly early on, abandoning vehicles and positions and discarding their uniforms, with militants reaching within less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) of Baghdad.
Baghdad's embattled forces, which have done better in recent days, will be joined by a flood of volunteers after a call to arms from top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, but a recruitment center for volunteers came under attack on Sunday, leaving six people dead.
Source/Agence France Presse

Islamist Gunmen Massacre 49 on Kenya Coast
Naharnet/Suspected Shebab militants from Somalia stormed into a Kenyan coastal town, killing at least 49 people in a major assault on a police station, hotels and government offices, officials said Monday.
Around 50 heavily-armed gunmen drove into the town of Mpeketoni, near the coastal island and popular tourist resort of Lamu, late on Sunday, officials said. Witnesses said they first attacked a police station, before starting to randomly shoot at civilians, some of whom had been watching the World Cup in local bars and hotels. District deputy commissioner Benson Maisori said several buildings in the town -- which is around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the border with Somalia -- were burned down including hotels, restaurants, banks and government offices. "There were around 50 attackers, heavily armed in three vehicles, and they were flying the Shebab flag. They were shouting in Somali and shouting 'Allahu Akbar' ('God is Greatest')," he said, adding they attacked a police station but officers fought them off.
Bodies were scattered on roads across the town where people had been killed as they fled. Resident Anne Gathigi, 38, a mother of five, said the attackers killed her husband.
"They forced their way into our house, found us in the bedroom. They picked up my husband and took him to the sitting room where they demanded money from him, as soon as he gave them some cash, they shot him at close range," she told AFP. "Then they turned to me and asked me if I knew Al-Shebab. They told me since 'our government has refused to pull our soldiers from Somalia', they had come to leave us 'widows and orphans'." Local resident and witness John Waweru, 28, said he lost two of his brothers to the attackers. "I heard them shouting in Somali as they fired around... I ran and locked up myself in a house," he told AFP. The fierce gun battles continued until after midnight, but by dawn on Monday the town of Mpeketoni was reported calm with security forces saying they were in pursuit of the attackers. Police spokeswoman Zipporah Mboroki confirmed that 49 people had died, including at least one police officer. "Our officers are still combing the area," Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo told AFP, adding "we suspect the involvement of Al-Shebab in this attack." "Security has been beefed (up) across the country," Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku told reporters, calling the killings a "heinous act". Kenyan troops crossed into southern Somalia in 2011 to fight the Shebab, later joining the now 22,000-strong African Union force battling the Al-Qaida-linked militants. The Shebab vowed revenge, carrying out a string of attacks on Kenyan soil, including last September's assault on Nairobi's Westgate mall in which at least 67 people were killed. The town of Mpeketoni, a trading center on the main coastal road, lies on the mainland some 30 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of Lamu island, a popular tourist destination whose ancient architecture is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir described how the gunmen had stormed the town, overwhelming local police officers, and firing from vehicles "shooting people around town." Chirchir also said the attackers were "likely to be Al-Shebab," although there was no immediate claim of responsibility from the Islamists themselves. Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed condemned the "vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians". Residents in surrounding villages also reported that the gunmen attacked settlements as they pulled out after fighting in Mpeketoni. "There are six bodies here, a man and a child in their house, four lying on the road," said Mohammed Hassan, a local resident of Kibaoni, a small settlement some five kilometers (three miles) outside the town. Last month one of the Shebab's most senior commanders, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, released radio broadcasts urging fighters to strike Kenya. Hundreds of British tourists were also evacuated last month from beach resorts near Kenya's port city of Mombasa following warnings of terror attacks from Britain's Foreign Office. Britain this week released warnings to citizens in several East African nations -- including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, who all have troops in Somalia -- speaking of the threat of attacks at public screenings of the World Cup. SourceAgence France Presse

Missing Israeli Boy's Family Pleads for Safe Return
Naharnet/The uncle of a missing Israeli teenager made a heartfelt plea for "mercy" to his suspected kidnappers Monday, after the family spent a fourth sleepless night worrying for his safety.
Naftali Frenkel, 16, who holds joint Israeli and U.S. citizenship, is one of three teenagers Israel says were kidnapped last week from the southern West Bank by militants from the Islamist Hamas movement. On a leafy residential street in Nof Ayalon, a small town some 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of Jerusalem, police and television cameras vie for space outside the Frenkel family home. "I'd just like to send a message to anyone who listens... about human mercy, about a belief I think all of us share in God above... (and) mercy to young children," Yishai Frenkel told Agence France Presse.
"The abduction of 16-year-olds is a terrible crime," he said, standing outside the family home. "There are lines that should not be crossed."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he holds Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who recently signed a unity deal with Hamas, responsible for the safety of Frenkel and the two other missing youths: Gilad Shaer, also 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Ifrach. Outside the Frenkel house, local teenagers hung up a banner bearing a passage from the Bible in Hebrew: "Your children will return to their own territory." Taken from Jeremiah 31:17, the verse has been used by the press to coin a codename for the massive manhunt -- "Operation Return Our Children". Underneath was written: "Frenkel family, we support and embrace you, and await Naftali's return," painted in green letters. "We really want to see a quick and healthy, peaceful resolution of this situation," said the uncle, in his mid 40s. Frenkel said the family first realized Naftali had gone missing early on Friday and has slept very little since then. "We learned about it in the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning. It appears to be most likely an abduction," he said. Visitors and well-wishers were coming and going at the home under the watchful eye of police. Neighbors said they had been told not to talk to the press. A group of American diplomats also visited the Frenkel family, army radio reported. "The house is full of army and police and everybody's working together," said Yishai's wife Ittael. "We all love him, we miss him. This should be a time of mercy, and that's what we're hoping for." The three teenagers were first reported missing late on Thursday but so far there has been no formal claim of responsibility.
Israel has arrested more than 150 Palestinians in one of the biggest sweeps in recent years, with the searches focusing on the southern West Bank city of Hebron and the surrounding area.
The teens' disappearance has captured the hearts of the nation, with some 20,000 Israelis pouring into the Western Wall plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem -- the holiest site at which Jews can pray -- in a mass prayer late Sunday for their safe return. Source/Agence France Presse

Saudi, Qatar Blame 'Sectarian' Policies for Iraq Unrest
Naharnet/Saudi Arabia and Qatar have blamed "sectarian" policies by Iraq's Shiite-led government against the Sunni Arab minority for the unrest that has swept the country.
Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, whose relations with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have been strained, also warned against foreign intervention in Iraq.
Militants, spearheaded by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, have in the past week overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq, although their advance has since been slowed. Saudi Arabia, which shares long borders with Iraq, urged the swift formation of a national consensus government to work to "reinstate security and stability." The unrest "could not have taken place if it was not for the sectarian and exclusionary policies implemented in Iraq over the past years that threatened its stability and sovereignty," the government said in a statement. It underlined the need for the "participation of all components of the Iraqi people in determining the future" of the country. Riyadh said it rejected any foreign intervention in Iraq's internal affairs, an apparent reference to talk of intervention by its regional rival Tehran.
Saudi analyst Abdel Aziz al-Sagr said Riyadh was concerned its U.S. ally might give Tehran its tacit blessing for such an intervention.
"We need a regional coordination over Iraq, not a U.S.-Iranian dialogue," said Sagr.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah said the trigger for the unrest was the marginalization of Iraq's Sunni Arabs.
He cited as examples the dispersement by security forces of peaceful protest camps maintained by the minority community in April 2013 and January this year.
"This has deepened the divide between the components of the brotherly Iraqi people," Attiyah said in comments reported by the official QNA news agency late on Sunday.
He urged the Iraqi government to take into consideration the "demands of a large part of the population who are only asking for equality and participation, away from sectarian discrimination."In March, Maliki accused both Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting terrorism in Iraq. The Saudi media has been damning in its coverage of the Iraqi premier "Nouri al-Maliki is worse, and more dangerous, than ISIL and Qaida," columnist Abderrahman al-Rashed wrote in Sunday's edition of the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. "He is a bad person who is ready to commit massacres in order to stay in power."
Source/Agence France Presse


U.S. Condemns 'Horrifying' Iraq Massacre by ISIL Militants
Naharnet/The United States on Sunday condemned a "horrifying" massacre by Islamic militants said to have killed hundreds of Iraqi soldiers as they advanced on the capital after seizing vast swathes of northern Iraq. Iraq said it had "regained the initiative" against fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, amid grisly reports of atrocities committed during the militants' lightning offensive. Photos posted online were said to show Sunni militants summarily executing dozens of captured members of the security forces, while tweets attributed to ISIL claimed they had killed 1,700 Shia soldiers.
"The claim by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that it has massacred 1,700 Iraqi Shia air force recruits in Tikrit is horrifying and a true depiction of the bloodlust that these terrorists represent," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
"While we cannot confirm these reports, one of the primary goals of ISIL is to set fear into the hearts of all Iraqis and drive sectarian division among its people."Psaki said the U.S. would evacuate some of its staff and boost security at its embassy -- America's largest worldwide, and located in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone -- due to "ongoing instability."Australia followed suit, announcing it was withdrawing a number of officials from Baghdad, with only an "essential core" of embassy staff to remain. U.S.-trained Iraqi forces folded immediately as ISIL extremists captured key towns in swift succession last week, abandoning vehicles and positions and discarding their uniforms.
They seized Iraq's second biggest city Mosul and Tikrit, late dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown and capital of Salaheddin province. In four days, they came within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Baghdad's city limits. Iraqi officers said their forces were now starting to repel the militants, and that soldiers had recaptured two towns north of Baghdad. As troops began to drive back the militants, they found the burned bodies of 12 policemen in the town of Ishaqi in Salaheddin province, a police colonel and a doctor said.
Washington has also deployed an aircraft carrier group to the Gulf as U.S. President Barack Obama said he was weighing "all options" on how to support the Iraqi government. But he has ruled out a return to Iraq for U.S. soldiers, which left the country nearly three years ago after a bloody and costly occupation launched in 2003.
Iran, which supports Iraq's Shia-led government, has warned against foreign military intervention in the country, voicing confidence that Baghdad can repel the onslaught. But reports suggest it already has a small number of its Revolutionary Guards in Iraq as military advisers. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday that Iraq had not asked for his country's help. But in surprise comments, he added that Iran may "think about" cooperating with archfoe America to fight the militants in Iraq. U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal that the Obama administration may use nuclear talks starting in Vienna on Monday to discuss the Iraq crisis with Iran. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's security spokesman, Lieutenant General Qassem Atta, said Sunday that Baghdad's forces have "regained the initiative" and killed 279 "terrorists" in the past 24 hours. There was no way of independently verifying those assertions, however. Iraqi officials often announce large militant death tolls and downplay their own casualties. Officials added that security forces and tribal fighters repelled a militant assault in the strategic town of Tal Afar near the Syrian border. It provides a critical corridor for militants to access conflict-hit Syria. Ten people were killed in militant shelling of the town, and 18 anti-government fighters also died in ensuing clashes. And militants took control of the Al-Adhim area in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, officers said. Although violence has eased in Baghdad, apparently as militants concentrate their efforts elsewhere, the capital has not been spared, with a Sunday afternoon bombing killing nine people.
Baghdad's embattled forces will be joined by a flood of volunteers after a call to arms from top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, but a recruitment center for volunteers came under attack on Sunday, killing six people.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the former U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, told AFP the international community's neglect of the conflict in Syria had precipitated the Iraq crisis. "It is a well-known rule: a conflict of this kind (in Syria) cannot stay confined within the borders of one country," said Brahimi, who resigned as U.N.-Arab League representative to Syria last month.
Source/Agence France Presse



Iraq Mess Due to Obama's Policies
Monday, 16 Jun 2014
By Walid Phares /

In his remarks about the invasion of Mosul, Tikrit — and most of the Sunni triangle of Iraq — by the “Islamic State of Iraq and Shaam” (ISIS or Daesh), President Obama defined his administration’s policies toward the ongoing descent of Mesopotamia into full-fledged civil war. He underscored that Washington would not intervene on any side of an internal conflict because, he argued, the U.S. has already spent enough blood and treasure to give Iraq a chance. At the same time, he asserted that his administration wants to stand by Iraqis as they fight terrorism. Such an articulation of policy sounds more like a political speech of a presidential election campaign during which one can include a list of contradicting arguments displayed in bright language: a shining abstract with no clear strategy.
The Obama approach to Iraq is one directly linked to U.S. domestic politics: There should be no mistake in U.S. policy in the Middle East that could exact a political price in the midterm elections or even, perhaps, in the 2016 race. The priority in Washington seems to be less about the actual reality on the ground in Iraq, and more focused on the impact the next majority in Congress could have on the last two years of this current administration. It seems that the Obama administration is attempting to recover from too many traumas to dive into a conflict that could enflame the whole region for many years to come. After the Benghazi scandal, after the wrong partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, after the release of the “Taliban cabinet” from Guantanamo, after the shaky deal with the Iranian regime, and after the failure to save Syria, the administration is now trying to flee any commitment to or on Iraq.
No matter what the administration does, it fears it will again find itself in trouble in that part of the Middle East. ISIS, a more efficient and lethal mutation of al-Qaida, has seized most of the Sunni areas in Iraq in addition to the Sunni territory it has already captured in Syria. These two adjacent emirates will form the core of a “caliphate” with thousands of suicide bombers ready to blast their local enemies and those overseas. The confident statements by the Obama campaign that al-Qaida is now on the run after the elimination of Osama Bin Laden have been shattered with the rise of the most formidable Jihadi state to date under a younger and harsher version of Osama — al Baghdadi, the infamous commander of ISIS.
These new Jihadists are marching to Baghdad, referred to by the commander as the last capital of the Abbasids, and from there he promises to march in all directions in order to erect the greater Caliphate: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and beyond. These campaigns may not actually seize all these countries, but terror is certain to reign across the region.
This is one catastrophe the administration was unable to predict or avoid, but there is another catastrophe generated by the former now about to occur. The Ayatollahs are intervening in Iran, and military divisions are moving to confront the Sunni Jihadists on Mesopotamian territory. As I have been predicting (in print) since 2009, Iran’s geopolitical corridor from Tehran to Beirut will be defended by the Islamic Republic of Iran at all costs.  The Obama Administration has facilitated Iran’s expansion in the region by eliminating the Iraqi-based Iranian resistance, by abandoning the Green Revolution and allowing it to be crushed, and by cutting the illogical deal with Tehran’s regime last year that included transferring cash to the Mullahs. All these inexcusable strategic mistakes allowed Iran’s forces to thrust into Iraq and Syria, moving entire divisions into the Shia zones of Iraq and drawing closer to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Obama administration and its political allies in academia and the media often enjoy attributing the root of any Iraq catastrophe to the Bush administration. This perception cannot be farther from reality. The previous administration fought al-Qaida, partnered with Sunni and Shia moderates, and empowered the Kurds. It backed Iranian opposition based in Iraq and inside Iran.
The Bush administration confronted the Ayatollahs and forced Assad out of Lebanon. If anything, the previous administration was failed by parts of its own bureaucracy — which became part of the Obama administration — and (starting in 2006) by a majority in Congress who until 2010 disrupted the U.S. campaign against the Jihadists and the Iranian regime.
Geopolitically, the Obama administration unilaterally ended its war on the Jihadists while killing bin Laden as a consolation prize. In addition, it offered Iraq to the Ayatollahs when it abruptly withdrew from the country and left it in the hands of pro-Iranians, frustrating the Sunni moderates. The current administration left Syria to the radicals and Assad and abandoned Lebanon to Hezbollah. Hence, from a strategic analysis perspective, Obama can blame only itself for the Daesh blitzkrieg in Iraq’s Sunni triangle and for the forthcoming Iranian invasion. Is there any way to get the region out of this mess? Any such solution would require going back to the genesis and executing a massive change in U.S. foreign policy — a reality we may only see after the midterm elections or, more likely, after 2016.

Will Iran invade Iraq?
Monday, 16 June 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya

The recent developments in Iraq sent shockwaves throughout the world because it was unforeseen that anyone could rival Iraqi forces –trained with most modern weapons –when it comes to protecting the government. But when Nuri al-Maliki’s forces in Mosul dissolved like salt within hours, no one believed how weak the military command was until other cities, military bases and government installations were seized. Events once again proved that the problem lies with Nuri al-Maliki’s leadership. He is an ignorant and authoritarian prime minister who is in control of all jurisdictions. He is a man who knows nothing about management and at the same time he deprives his ministers of their jurisdictions. One of his current follies is that he’s attacking his rivals and provoking them to collectively act against him. This may lead to a bigger war and to the collapse of the entire regime. This is where Iran’s role as protector of the Iraqi regime becomes apparent. Is Iran really a protector or is it just a greedy country that has aims in the world’s second most oil-rich country? We must not believe sectarian suggestions that Iran will support Maliki’s government due to the Shiite ties. Iran’s disagreement with Shiite Azerbaijan has prevailed for years while its relations with Sunni Turkey are flourishing. Relations between Iraq and Iran have been competitive for centuries, regardless of who was in power
Relations between Iraq and Iran have been competitive for centuries, regardless of who was in power. They agreed for a while during the 1950s, within the context of the Baghdad Alliance which included Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Britain, to confront the rise of communism. Then they disagreed and the Shah subjugated Iraq during a dispute over the Shatt al-Arab river. Relations deteriorated more after Khomeini took power and they became even worse due to Saddam Hussein’s era, who attempted to alter the balance of power in the region. Even during Maliki’s term, and despite his special relationship with Tehran, Iran took over border posts and robbed plenty of Iraq’s oil in the south. One can still hear Iranian artillery shelling the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan under the excuse of targeting the Iranian-Kurdish opposition.
Iran will intervene
Considering recent developments, it’s certain that Iran will intervene to support the Iraqi regime. But how large will the intervention be and what are Iran’s real intentions? It’s unlikely that we will see Iranian tanks in Baghdad’s streets - unless in the case of the total collapse of the state. Also, Iraq - unlike Syria - is a vital country for the industrial world since it produces oil. Thus it will not be easy to alter realties on the ground or at the regional level without bringing bigger forces into the struggle. What’s certain is that Iran rushed to support Maliki since the first day of Mosul’s collapse. Its militias are participating in leading the fight. This raises more questions and speculations: Does Iran have the capacity required to go on? Will it bear the financial burden and the cost to human lives on two fronts – Iraq and Syria? This firstly depends on the intra-Iraq struggle. Secondly it depends on the intentions of the Iranian command and on whether it sees in chaos across the borders a chance to impose its control especially as the Republican Guards’ leadership has a great desire to expand. In my opinion, this will incite Iraqis of all sects and will set the struggle between the two countries on its old path.
We must remember that Iraq’s future has remained suspended since 22 years ago, after its defeat in Kuwait and after its power was shattered, and it was suspended again after U.S. troops withdrew. Handing governance to one group amidst a disturbed political situation would have inevitably brought chaos, the kind of chaos we see today. The situation remains unbalanced and we don’t know how events will develop. We are now witnessing another temporary chapter in the story of Iraq. If Iran becomes involved, either via supporting Iraq or occupying it, there will be a major security fallout in the region and the struggle will expand to include the Arab Gulf, Israel and Turkey.


Will Netanyahu use boys’ rescue operation to finally thrash Hamas in Gaza too?
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis June 16, 2014,’-rescue-operation-to-finally-thrash-Hamas-in-Gaza-too-
Signs of an approaching IDF military operation against Hamas abounded this week as a possible outcome of the massive military-cum-intelligence effort to rescue the three Israeli boys Hamas is accused of abducting near Hebron on June 10. Military strength constantly poured in to reinforce the siege around the Hebron, a West Bank city of 170,000 and is environs. Sunday night, June 15, Israeli forces surrounded and then stormed two houses for suspects, after detaining up to 100 Hamas operatives.
During the day, a limited call-up of reserves was announced.
All in all, it looked as though the fundamentalist Islamic organization was in for a major smack - and not only in Hebron. Opposite Hamas’ Gaza base, Israel deployed Iron Dome missile interceptors at important towns within range of Palestinian rockets – Ashdod, Beersheba and Rehovot as well as Ashkelon, where Sunday night, the battery caught two missiles incoming from the Gaza Strip.
Israel and Egypt had meanwhile shut down their border crossings to and from the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian army also beefed up its deployment along the Israeli border and posted an armored battalion at the Sinai terminal at Taba.
Hamas has avoided admitting to the abduction or making any demands. Pent-up Israeli fury against its constant menace and routine extortions is fueled by the anguish of the teenagers' families. The government would find it hard in the current environment to bow to yet another demand to hand over Palestinian prisoners. Dealing with Hamas in military terms is backed across the political spectrum under popular pressure.
This confrontation may blow quickly from the West Bank to the Gaza sector. There, Hamas holds its vast missile arsenal and terrorist infrastructure, which it has refused to relinquish even for the sake of Palestinian reconciliation and a unity government, and will use it to the full to terrorize southern and central Israeli cities and villages. There, too, Hamas could count on backup from the pro-Iranian Palestinian Jihad Islami, which has accumulated firepower that rivals that of Hamas as well as a strong foothold in West Bank refugee camps.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, in his brief comment Saturday night, June 14, made an important point when he said: “While bending all our efforts to rescuing the three boys, we are keeping a watchful eye on the north and the south.”He has clearly taken into account that in a conflagration with the Palestinians, Hizballah units in Lebanon and Syria, including the Golan border, may well open a second and third front against Israel to ease the pressure off its allies.
All these calculations weigh heavily on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Lt. Gen. Gantz and his deputy Maj. Gen. Gady Eisenkott in deciding on the scale and targets of military action against Hamas, which may have started rolling. It has been given a name: “Our Brothers Come Home.”
The Egyptian military concentrations on the Israeli and Gaza borders attest to a degree of coordination between Jerusalem and Cairo, under former army chief President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi.
On the one hand, El Sisi Israel’s leaders are of the same mind as Israel on the pressing need to keep Hamas and some of its Al Qaeda allies in Sinai from using the peninsula as their launching- pad for cross-border attacks on Israel.
On the other, the Egyptian president will not readily commit himself to supporting an Israeli military operation to destroy the military resources of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ally and offspring in Gaza, without first obtaining the nod of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates, which bankroll his regime and armed forces.
Netanyahu appears to be holding his fire in the hope of a positive reply from Cairo before approaching Washington for its blessing.
In the meantime, other punitive measures are to be broached, such as a proposal to declare null and void the much-criticized 2011 deal which traded a thousand convicted Palestinian terrorists, including mass murderers, for Gilead Shalit, the soldier held hostage by Hamas for five years..Another is to deport Hamas leaders from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.
The Netanyahu government and Obama administration have attained a limited area of assent in recent months over Israel’s role in the Syrian civil war. It is based on the understanding that Jerusalem will give Washington advance notice of its military steps without the obligation to comply with the administration’s position.
Would this informal US-Israeli arrangement work for an operation against Hamas? Would the Obama administration abstain from supporting this Israeli initiative in the war on terror?
Israel is mulling its strategic options not too far away from the sights and sounds of ISIS (Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant) feats in conquering one city after another in Iraq’s Sunni heartland - and its backlash: Although the Iraqi national army claims to be pushing back, it is in reality thousands of Iranian Al Qods Brigades troops who have take ISIS on.
If Tehran succeeds in stabilizing the Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government and saving his army from collapse, just as it did for Syria’s Bashar Assad, that success would consolidate Hizballah's strength in Lebanon and Syria and that of Hamas and Jihad Islami in Gaza City and Ramallah.
The two terrorist organizations would rule the roost in the Palestinian governing administration.
Although this process may take some months to unfold, Netanyahu would be advised to act soon to nip it in the bud before radical rule in Hebron and Gaza is transposed to Ramallah.
In 2012, Netanyahu stepped back from finishing the IDF operation against Hamas’ rocket blitz without putting paid to the threat. Two years later, he vowed there would be “grave consequences” for the abduction of three teenage Israeli civilians. Will he make good this time on his strong words against Hamas?