June 18/14


Bible Quotation for today/You did not choose me but I chose you

"John 15,15-17/I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 18/14

Applaud not, Obama’s Mideast policy has failed/By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya/June 18/14


Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 18/14

Lebanese Related News

Rome conference on Lebanon kicks off

Rome Meeting Voices 'Readiness' to Support LAF, Offers Logistical Aid
Kuwaiti Speaker Meets Berri, Stresses Gulf State's Continued Support for Lebanon

Nasrallah Says Hizbullah Prevented ISIL from Reaching Beirut
Report: Terrorist Group Seeking to Attack Dahiyeh Hospitals

Bassil Hails 'Partnership' with al-Mustaqbal, Says FPM Seeking Election of 'Strong' President

Change and Reform: Regional Developments Prove FPM Worked for Lebanon's Interest

Mashnouq Says Saudi Role Minimizes Aoun's Chances to Reach Baabda

Death Penalty Demanded for Palestinian over Terrorism Charges
Lebanon Mulling to Hold Arab Conference over Refugee Crisis

Luciano Portolano to Head UNIFIL

World Cup’ victim was murdered: security source

Jumblatt to Paris for talks with Hariri

Palestinian tunnel sets Hezbollah on edge

Soldier killed in Lebanon’s Tripol

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Huge U.S.-Iran gap on nukes as target date nears
US Special Forces capture Benghazi raid leader Abu Khattala
Iraq Shiite Volunteers in Syria Head Home to Fight Rebels
Militants Take Most of Key Iraq Town, Attack Baquba

Obama sends 275 U.S. military personnel to Iraq

Huge U.S.-Iran gap on nukes as target date nears
Iraq Cabinet: Saudi 'Responsible' for Militant Financing

Gunmen seize Iraq-Syria border crossing

U.S. Says Iraq Unrest Shows Need to Fight Terror Financing

Scores Killed in Two Days of Attacks on Kenyan Coast

IDF commander: 'Hamas is feeling the hits and getting the message'

No responsibility claimed at Hamas, Fatah press conference in Gaza

Egypt's Sisi swears in new government

Israel Air force hits back at Gaza rocket fire

United by tents

Eye on the Ball Amid Qatar-FIFA Corruption Charges

Rome Meeting Voices 'Readiness' to Support LAF, Offers Logistical Aid
Naharnet /A meeting held Tuesday in Rome to explore means to support the Lebanese Army did not offer more than logistical assistance, although some participant countries voiced readiness to “support the Lebanese Armed Forces during the capabilities building and reinforcement process.” The talks, dubbed the Ministerial Conference on International Support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, were held under the auspices of U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. The closing statement of the meeting said “participants confirmed their readiness to support the Lebanese Armed Forces during the capabilities building and reinforcement process through the established coordination tools of international assistance: the joint Coordination Mechanism, the Strategic Dialogue between the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL, the Executive Military Commission and existing bilateral mechanisms.” The conferees “warmly welcomed the additional international support already being given in line with the Capabilities Development Plan from the United States.” “The United States intends to provide increased assistance, including on counterterrorism, border security and on other relevant fields,” said the statement. Participants also expressed “particular appreciation for the generous offer of assistance by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, implementation of which is now in preparation by the governments of Saudi Arabia, France and Lebanon.”
During Tuesday's conference, Brazil, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Ghana, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Turkey also expressed willingness to offer “additional specialized training support in a number of domains, as well as reinforced cooperation with the LAF in other relevant security sector.” “The EU will step up its support to LAF civilian-military cooperation tasks and its engagement in the areas of institutional capacity building, integrated border management, CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) threat and demining,” the statement said.
The conferees also acknowledged “the important assistance already provided by the UK including in support of the border regiments” and welcomed “the offer of the Government of Italy to establish a training center in Lebanon south of the Litani (River) in collaboration with the LAF and UNIFIL and in line with the Strategic Dialogue Plan.”
But the participants stressed that military assistance to the army must be “paralleled by action by Lebanon’s political leaders to ensure continuity of Lebanese State institutions.”
They expressed “deep regret” that the election of a new president did not take place within the constitutional timeframe, voicing their “full support for the Government of Lebanon to discharge its duties during this interim period in accordance with the constitution.” The conferees noted that the speedy election of a new head of state is important for “confidence and stability.” “Participants reiterated their strong support to Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence, noting the critical role played by the Lebanese Armed Forces in this context,” said the statement. “They underlined the importance for security and stability in Lebanon of continued respect for the policy of disassociation, and recalled the (U.N.) Security Council’s appeals in its Presidential statements in respect of commitment to the Baabda Declaration.” Lebanon was represented at the conference by Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. “The Lebanese Army is confronting increasing local and external security challenges in order to protect Lebanon's stability and preserve it, and it is in a dire need for arming and training,” Moqbel told the conference. He emphasized that defending the land, naval and aerial borders and the protection of citizens “must be exclusively the responsibility of the Lebanese Army.” Moqbel spoke of “two types” of threats – “the conventional threat coming from Israel and the non-conventional threats resulting from the war in Syria, which in turn has generated the threat of terrorist groups and financial and material threats produced by the refugee influx.”

Kuwaiti Speaker Meets Berri, Stresses Gulf State's Continued Support for Lebanon
Naharnet /Visiting Kuwaiti Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim said on Tuesday that the Gulf State never wavered in backing Lebanon.He stressed: “Kuwait will never abandon Lebanon under any circumstances.”
He made his remarks during a luncheon banquet thrown in his honor by Speaker Nabih Berri. “Kuwait has never abandoned Lebanon and Lebanon has never abandoned Kuwait,” added Ghanim. Addressing the case of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, he commented: “We have witnessed firsthand the suffering of the displaced, who are posing a major economic burden on Lebanon.”
“Lebanon is being made to support a burden it cannot withstand,” noted the Kuwaiti official. For his part, Berri thanked Ghanim for his country's support to Lebanon and its sponsoring of a donor conference for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, while highlighting the role of the Kuwait Fund and Gulf Cooperation Council in this issue.
Ghanim had arrived in Lebanon on a two-day official visit on Sunday. He paid a visit on Monday to various refugee encampments in the eastern Bekaa region. 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.

Nasrallah Says Hizbullah Prevented ISIL from Reaching Beirut

Naharnet/Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said that jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) would have reached Beirut had his party not sent its fighters to Syria.
“Had we not interfered in Syria at the appropriate moment, ISIL would have been in Beirut now,” he told the leaders of al-Mahdi Scouts Association during a meeting on Sunday.
The Hizbullah secretary-general wondered why the party's critics have not condemned ISIL's advance on the Iraqi capital. In the latest fighting, the militants took control of several neighborhoods of Tal Afar, a mainly Shiite Turkmen town between the rebel-held second city of Mosul and the Syrian border, officials and residents said. The Iraqi government has insisted it is making progress in retaking territory from the militants, who currently hold most or parts of four provinces north of Baghdad. The security forces will be joined by a flood of volunteers after a call to arms from top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Nasrallah lauded al-Sistani's call, saying it “aims at protecting Iraq and not just a single sect.” The Hizbullah chief hinted that some regional and Gulf countries were involved in the fighting in Iraq. “Who is benefiting from what's going on there?” he asked. He also raised doubt about Washington's stance as it weighs possible drone strikes against the militants. Nasrallah expressed relief over the improvement of the security situation in Lebanon. But warned that “this does not mean things have gone back to normal.”“We should always take precautions,” he said. He reiterated the need to elect a president who “does not stab the resistance in the back.” Lebanon has been without a head of state since the expiry of Michel Suleiman's six-year term on May 25. Parliament failed to elect a successor over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances on a compromise candidate.

Report: Terrorist Group Seeking to Attack Dahiyeh Hospitals
Naharnet/The stable security situation in Lebanon was marred on Tuesday after Hizbullah obtained news that a terrorist group is seeking to attack two hospitals in Beirut's southern suburbs.
Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported that Hizbullah members and the Lebanese army deployed heavily on the entrances of Dahiyeh on Monday night and boosted security measures after the bombing reports circulated. The newspaper said that the party obtained information that a “terrorist group will attack al-Rasoul al-Aazam and Behman hospital with explosions.”“Hizbullah implemented a precautionary deployment plan,” the daily said. Al-Jadeed television reported on Monday night that the army detained three suspects, who are currently being interrogated. Security sources told al-Joumhouria that the bombing threats come in light of the violence in Iraq as Sunni Muslim insurgents captured large swaths of territory collaring Baghdad, the capital. In fighting on Monday, the insurgents seized the strategic city of Tal Afar near the Syrian border, and an Iraqi army helicopter was shot down during clashes near the city of Fallujah west of Baghdad, killing the two-man crew, security officials said. Hizbullah sources expressed fear in comments published in al-Liwaa newspaper from a rebellion in Lebanon similar to that in Iraq. “Despite the stable security situation after the formation of the cabinet, dormant terrorist cells still exist,” the sources said. Informed sources denied in remarks to As Safir newspaper that the army has detained suicide bombers, seized booby-trapped vehicles or has uncovered under ground tunnels. On Monday, media reports said the army discovered a tunnel in one of the Palestinian refugee camps reaching out of it.

Mashnouq Says Saudi Role Minimizes Aoun's Chances to Reach Baabda

Naharnet/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has said that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun's chances to become a compromise president are limited because Riyadh rejects a “confrontational” candidate. Saudi Arabia claims that “it is at an equal distance from everyone,” al-Mashnouq told al-Akhbar newspaper on Tuesday. “But in reality it does not back a confrontational candidate,” he said. The minister hinted that Aoun could not be a compromise candidate as long as he does not receive Riyadh's backing. In a series of other remarks to several local dailies, al-Mashnouq said some politicians believe that the election of a new president is a local issue while others claim it is a regional issue. “I back the second opinion,” he said. Al-Mashnouq discussed with the FPM chief on Monday ways to agree on a mechanism that allows the government to function in the absence of a president. He also said that their talks focused on the electoral draft-law. Aoun denied that the so-called Orthodox Gathering proposal is under discussion, al-Mashnouq added. “Dialogue is ongoing between us. It has so far achieved cabinet stability and facilitated the success of the security plan,” the minister, who is an al-Mustaqbal official, told reporters in Rabieh on Monday after meeting with Aoun. “I didn't convey any message to Aoun,” Mashnouq said.

Luciano Portolano to Head UNIFIL
Naharnet/U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday appointed Italian general Luciano Portolano to head the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. Portolano will succeed his countryman and fellow general Paolo Serra, who is leaving the post on July 24 after two-and-a-half years. Portolano, a 54-year-old major general, currently serves as deputy chief of staff for joint operations in Italy's armed forces, according to a statement from Ban's office. He previously commanded the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Regional Command West in Afghanistan. Italy is one of the main troop contributors to UNIFIL, a multinational force established in 1978 to monitor the border between Lebanon and Israel. It consists of 10,200 soldiers. Source/Agence France Presse

Lebanon Mulling to Hold Arab Conference over Refugee Crisis
Naharnet/Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas has said that he discussed with Kuwait's Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim the possibility of holding an Arab parliamentary conference in Beirut over the Syrian refugee crisis. Derbas told al-Liwaa newspaper in remarks published on Tuesday that such a conference could be followed by an Arab summit to help the host countries meet the burden of the refugees.
Al-Ghanim toured encampments of Syrian refugees in Central and West Bekaa on Monday. The idea to hold the Arab parliamentary conference came as Derbas accompanied him in his tour. 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.

Change and Reform: Regional Developments Prove FPM Worked for Lebanon's Interest
Naharnet/The Change and Reform bloc declared on Tuesday that the region's latest troubled developments prove that the Free Patriotic Movement's stances aimed at protecting Lebanon.
"We are all witnessing extremism in Iraq and the acts of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and when we look back at some of (FPM leader) General (Michel) Aoun's statements in 2006, we note that he warned of the region's dangerous situation and of the Sunni-Shiite strife,” MP Ibrahim Kanaan said after the bloc's weekly meeting. He continued: “It is necessary for us as a parliamentary bloc to point out the openness inside Lebanon, and to those who are asking what General Aoun is doing we tell them to go back to his statements years ago as the accord (with Hizbullah) back then and later the dialogue with al-Mustaqbal Movement all aimed at protecting Lebanon.” “Time after time the developments in the region prove that what we are doing is in Lebanon's interest and we have been crucified more than once,” he stated. Kanaan refused to share with reporters more of what was discussed during the lawmakers' talks, noting that Aoun will cover other issues during an interview on OTV on Tuesday night.
“It is in the interest of all Lebanese and of all concerned parties to listen to General Aoun tonight, and hopefully his interview will have a positive impact,” the MP considered. Regarding the highly contentious new wage scale, Kanaan expressed that the bloc is not particularly “optimistic” in this regard. "But we said there is an attempt to reduce misunderstandings between blocs and put all numbers in the hands of the Ministry of Finance,” he said. “We will hold talks for two days before the parliamentary session,” he revealed.

Death Penalty Demanded for Palestinian over Terrorism Charges

Naharnet/Military Tribunal Judge Imad al-Zein demanded on Tuesday the death penalty for a Palestinian national for belonging to a “terrorist group,” the state-run National News Agency reported.
According to NNA, al-Zein demanded the death penalty for the suspect, who was identified by his initials B. H., for belonging to Fatah al-Islam and monitoring the movement of Fatah Movement official Talal al-Balaghi to assassinate him. Balaghi is also known as Talal al-Ordoni. The judge also issued an arrest warrant against him and referred him to the permanent military court. Other investigation and research warrants were issued against seven suspects, who weren't identified. The Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon was almost totally destroyed in 2007 during a months-long conflict between the Lebanese army and the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah al-Islam. The fighting killed some 400 people, including 168 soldiers. Later, Government commissioner to the military court Judge Saq Saqr charged a detained Syrian and four other fugitives with belonging to Ziad al Jarrah Battalion. The five men were charged with attempts to carry out terrorist acts, establish a factory to develop arms and explosives.


Bassil Hails 'Partnership' with al-Mustaqbal, Says FPM Seeking Election of 'Strong' President
Naharnet/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil expressed relief on Tuesday over the ongoing dialogue with al-Mustaqbal Movement, reiterating complete rejection to electing a random president to fill vacancy at the helm of the Christian's most important post. “We are seeking a fruitful partnership with al-Mustaqbal movement, which must have principles that are ought to be respected,” Bassil said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. He considered that such a partnership should “lead those who are strong to power in order to build a strong country.” “We are not ashamed to announce that we are seeking to cooperate (with al-Mustaqbal), however, we refuse to be deceived,” Bassil, who is loyal to Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and his son-in-law, stressed. Sources told As Safir newspaper that the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, David Hale, lauded during a meeting with Bassil the dialogue between Aoun and al-Mustaqbal chief Saad Hariri. The newspaper said that the meeting was held at the residence of a “common friend.”  “Hariri is being honest in dealing with Aoun,” Hale was quoted as saying. Bassil told al-Joumhouria newspaper that the FPM rejects the election of “any president” only to fill the presidential vacuum. “We are done with presidents who don't represent us well, we should distinguish between vacuum and electing a head of state who doesn't meet our aspirations,” the minister pointed out. 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. Concerning the ongoing cabinet row over the mechanism regulating the government’s work during the ongoing presidential vacuum, Bassil rejected any attempts to monopolize the jurisdictions of the presidency by the cabinet. As if we're hinting that the role of the president is minor, the minister said. 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.

Militants Take Most of Key Iraq Town, Attack Baquba

Naharnet /Militants have seized most of a key Shiite majority town in northern Iraq, a government official said on Tuesday, as they attacked and took control of parts of the central city of Baquba. Security forces and civilian fighters still hold parts of Tal Afar, in Nineveh province, along a strategic corridor to Syria, according to deputy provincial council chief Nuriddin Qabalan, in fighting that has killed dozens of civilians and combatants. Qabalan said militants controlled most of Tal Afar and the surrounding area, adding there were pockets of resistance, and that soldiers, policemen and residents held on to parts of the airport. Fifty civilians were killed in the violence, along with dozens of militants and members of the security forces, he said. Mohammed al-Bayati, a Tal Afar native who heads the security committee on Nineveh provincial council, said between 500 and 700 militants were involved in the assault. Militants in the past week took control of the vast majority of Nineveh province as part of a swift offensive that saw them seize provincial capital Mosul as well as parts of three other provinces. Meanwhile, Militants attacked and took control of parts of Baquba but security forces eventually repelled the assault on Tuesday, army and police officers said. The overnight attack took place in the center of Baquba, capital of Diyala province, and according to the officers, saw militants temporarily occupying several neighborhoods. Source/Agence France Presse

Iraq Cabinet: Saudi 'Responsible' for Militant Financing

Naharnet/Saudi Arabia should be held responsible for militant financing and crimes committed by insurgent groups in Iraq, the Baghdad government charged on Tuesday. Comments from Riyadh indicates it is "siding with terrorism", the cabinet said in a statement issued by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office. "We strongly condemn this stance," the statement read. "We hold it (Saudi Arabia) responsible for what these groups are receiving in terms of financial and moral support." It continued: "The Saudi government should be held responsible for the dangerous crimes committed by these terrorist groups."The statement came just days after Saudi Arabia and Qatar blamed "sectarian" policies by Iraq's Shiite-led government against the Sunni Arab minority for the unrest that has swept the country. 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 Saudi government said in a statement. In March, Maliki accused both Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting terrorism in Iraq.
SourceظAgence France Presse

Scores Killed in Two Days of Attacks on Kenyan Coast

Naharnet /At least 64 people have been killed in two consecutive nights of carnage in Kenya's coastal region, officials said Tuesday, with the Kenyan president blaming "local political networks" and Somalia's Shebab insisting they were responsible. Over 50 people are missing following the massacres, the Red Cross said, with scores first fleeing an attack overnight Sunday in the town of Mpeketoni in which at least 49 people were killed, and then a second in the nearby village of Poromoko late Monday where gunmen slaughtered 15 people. The al-Qaida-linked Islamists said its fighters had carried out the attacks, close to the tourist island of Lamu, and that its commando unit had returned to base unhindered. "The commandos have been going to several places looking for military personnel," Shebab's military spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told Agence France Presse by telephone, without saying if the attackers remained in Kenya or had driven back across the Somali border, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the north. Kenya's interior ministry said it was trying to verify reports some women may have also been abducted. The attacks are the worst on Kenyan soil since last September's siege of the Westgate shopping mall in the capital Nairobi also claimed by Shebab fighters, in which 67 people were killed. But Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed "local political networks" for the killings, adding it "played into the opportunist network of other criminal gangs." "The attack in Lamu was well-planned, orchestrated and politically-motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons," he said in a televised address to the nation.
"This therefore was not an al-Shebab attack. Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of a heinous crime," he said. Kenyatta said he had suspended some police officers on the ground, claiming they had not acted on intelligence they had of the attack. Witnesses described how the militants drove into the predominantly Christian town on Sunday night, attacked a police station and then hotels and homes. The gunmen also singled out non-Muslims for execution, sparing Muslim men as well as women and children. "They arrived and asked people to get out. They asked them to lie down, and then they shot them one by one, right in the head, one after another," said David Waweru, who was watching a World Cup match in a cafe but managed to hide behind a house when the Mpeketoni attack started. "It was our commandos who were taking care of things over the last two days in the Lamu area, and they will continue to do so," a Shebab official told Agence France Presse by telephone after Kenyatta's speech. Witnesses said the gunmen had spoken in Somali -- a language many Kenyans also speak -- and flown Shebab flags as they carried out a shooting spree in the town. The Shebab said the attack was further retaliation for Kenya's military presence in Somalia as well as the "Kenyan government's brutal oppression of Muslims in Kenya through coercion, intimidation and extrajudicial killings of Muslim scholars".
Kenyan troops crossed into southern Somalia in 2011 to fight the Shebab, later joining the now 22,000-strong African Union force battling the militants and supporting the war-torn Horn of Africa nation's internationally-backed but fragile government. Several fundamentalist clerics have also been murdered in Kenya's port city of Mombasa in recent years, with rights groups accusing the Kenyan government of carrying out extra-judicial killings. The Shebab also declared Kenya a "war zone" and warned tourists and foreigners to stay out of the country, once a top beach and safari destination but now facing a sharp drop in tourism revenue due to political tensions, rising violent crime and the wave of shootings and bombings blamed on the Shebab. "Foreigners with any regard for their safety and security should stay away from Kenya or suffer the bitter consequences of their folly," a Shebab statement read Monday. "We hereby warn the Kenyan government and its public that as long as you continue to invade our lands and oppress innocent Muslims, such attacks will continue and the prospect of peace and stability in Kenya will be but a distant mirage," the group said. Mpeketoni was extremely tense on Tuesday, with residents fearing new attacks despite the presence of police and paramilitary reinforcements, AFP correspondents said. "People thought it was over yesterday but when we heard the news of this morning, the mood became very bad," said David Njoroge, a 54-year-old local pastor. "Here we are Christians and Muslims, and all the people killed were Christians. The tension is starting to grow."
Source/Agence France Presse

U.S. Says Iraq Unrest Shows Need to Fight Terror Financing

Naharnet/U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Tuesday that developments in Iraq, where jihadist-led militants have seized swathes of the country, emphasize the need to combat terror financing. Lew told a press conference in Jeddah after talks with Saudi counterpart Ibrahim al-Assaf that close cooperation between the two countries "is even more important given our shared concerns about developments in Iraq". "The events in Iraq also underscore the importance more broadly of redoubling our efforts to combat the financing of terrorist organizations," Lew added. Militants spearheaded by powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, launched their lightning assault on June 9. Since then they have captured Mosul, a city of two million people, and a big chunk of mainly Sunni Arab territory stretching south towards the capital. Lew said he discussed with Assaf "the need for Iraqi leaders to put aside differences and implement a coordinated and effective approach to confront terrorist groups such as ISIL." He described Riyadh as one of Washington's "most important partners in combating terrorist financing."His comments came soon after the Iraqi government issued a statement accusing Saudi Arabia of financing Sunni Islamist militants. "We hold (Saudi Arabia) responsible for what these groups are receiving in terms of financial and moral support," the Iraqi government said in a statement, accusing Riyadh of "siding with terrorism". It was not the first time that Baghdad has said Riyadh is backing Sunni Islamists. In March, Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting terrorism in Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week said Maliki's "sectarian" policies against the Sunni Arab minority had triggered the unrest sweeping his country. Source/Agence France Presse

Iraq Shiite Volunteers in Syria Head Home to Fight Rebels

Naharnet/Iraqi Shiite volunteers, who had been fighting in neighboring Syria, have been heading home to battle an offensive that has brought militants to near Baghdad, a monitoring group said Tuesday. Thousands of Iraqi Shiites had flocked to Syria to fight alongside President Bashar Assad's forces against mainly Sunni rebels. Many volunteered to defend the Sayyida Zeinab mosque, a revered Shiite shrine in southeast Damascus, from rebels based in the outskirts of the Syrian capital. But as Sunni Arab militants swept up a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq in a lightning offensive over the past week, the volunteers have begun heading home in response to a rallying cry by top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Iraqi volunteers headed home from the Mleiha area, southeast of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Their positions were taken over by fighters of Hizbullah, which has also intervened heavily alongside Assad's forces in Syria's civil war, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. "The Iraqi pro-Assad fighters' pullout from the Mleiha area was accompanied by a relative lull in the fighting around there," he said. "But that does not mean the regime has been left defenseless, as Hezbollah has deployed new troops to fill the gap."Source/Agence France Presse

US Special Forces capture Benghazi raid leader Abu Khattala
DEBKAfile Special Report June 17, 2014
Ahmed Abu Khattala, commander of the Libyan Ansar al-Sharia, who led the 2012 assault on the US consulate in Benghazi, has been captured in a secret US Special Operations forces raid in the same Libyan town. The Islamist terrorist, who was the prime mover in the attack which killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff, is now in US custody outside the country.
DEBKA Weekly 635 revealed exclusively on May 16 that US President Barack Obama had signed a secret Presidential Directive for the capture of Abu Khattala, dead or alive.
He was wanted on two counts, our sources reported: To eliminate the leading perpetrator of the Al Qaeda attack on the US consulate on Sept. 11, 2012 and murder of three Americans, a failure much highlighted by the administration's Republic rivals.
Obama’s second object was to thwart a new threat. US intelligence had turned up a dangerous link-up between the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia.
The CIA feared that the two groups were fabricating a sophisticated smart-bomb capable of evading conventional airport security screening measures for smuggling by plane or ship to the United States.
US officials reported Tuesday, June 17, that the capture of the radical Islamist Abu Khattala Sunday near Benghazi Sunday by US troops in conjunction with the FBI followed months of planning. The Obama administration has been under heavy fire for failing to bring those responsible for the Benghazi attacks to justice. The former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and potential Democratic candidate for president, has taken much flak for allowing the Benghazi outrage to take place on her watch and accused of later aiding in a cover-up of her department’s lapses.
After many hearings and an official State Department review, the House of Representatives has set up a select committee to investigate further and clear the air.
Last year, the US Attorney in the District of Washington filed charges against Khattala and at least a dozen others in connection with the Benghazi attacks. None besides Khattala has been apprehended.
Last October, commandos from the Army’s elite Delta Force, along with members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, carried out a similar raid in Tripoli and abducted Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, long sought for participating in the 1998 bombings of US Embassies in East Africa. Ruqai, also known as Anas al-Libi, is currently awaiting trial in New York.

United by tents
June 17, 2014/The Daily Star /For decades Arab countries have been on a difficult quest for unity, which has seen several different calls to arms. While Palestine remains a centrally important political issue for many Arabs and Muslims, the Arab political order has, if anything, demonstrated a considerable amount of disunity when it comes to agreeing on practical and effective ways to help the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, pan-Arab nationalism provided another possible way to unify Arab countries, but pan-Arabists have fought each other with gusto, and not even the Baath Party – dedicated to pan-Arabism – managed to help things, with its Syrian and Iraqi wings so dedicated to fighting each other. Finally, religion has failed to unify Arab peoples and states. Political regimes have been unable to agree on this “unifying” factor, and with sectarianism as a divisive factor, even religious leaders are not immune to serious disagreements and political tension. The only area in which Arab states have experienced true unity of late is that of refugees. There are millions of Palestinian refugees who continue to inhabit camps, inside and outside Palestine. They have been joined by Syrians, again in the millions, while new waves of Iraqi refugees appear to be created daily. To them we can add the many Somali refugees, eking out an existence in camps in neighboring Kenya and Uganda, and the many Sudanese refugees, from both the “original” Sudan and the newer South Sudan. In recent months, the Mediterranean Sea has become the graveyard of thousands of Arabs trying to reach Europe, in a bid to escape refugee-like conditions, or possibly become refugees abroad.
Arab countries are thus finally closing in on a possible unifying factor – refugee status – and if the percentage of Arab refugees continues to rise, it might be time for the Arab League to recognize the members of this new constituency, and offer them their own seat in time for next year’s Arab Summit.

Obama sends 275 U.S. military personnel to Iraq
AFP, Washington/Tuesday, 17 June 2014
About 275 U.S. military personnel are being deployed to Iraq to help American personnel and protect the embassy in Baghdad, President Barack Obama said Monday in a letter to Congressional leaders.
The force, which began deploying on Sunday, has been sent “for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat,” Obama wrote.
“This force will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.”The move comes as jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) battle Iraqi security forces for control of a strategic northern town and Washington weighs possible drone strikes against the militants.
Infographic: The ISIS onslaught route towards Baghdad
The ISIS fighters have taken control of a swath of territory north of Baghdad in a drive towards the Iraqi capital launched a week ago.
The White House said in a statement that the U.S. military personnel would help the State Department relocate some embassy staff from Baghdad to the consulates in Arbil and Basra, as well as Amman.
It added that the embassy remained open, and that most personnel were to remain in place in Baghdad. The troops were entering Iraq with the consent of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, the statement said. Meanwhile, the militant offensive that has overrun swathes of Iraq is “life-threatening” and is the biggest threat to its sovereignty in many years, the U.N. envoy to Baghdad told AFP.
“Right now, it’s life-threatening for Iraq but it poses a serious danger to the region,” Nickolay Mladenov said in an interview on Monday.
“Therefore, there needs to be a realization in the region. The Iraq crisis must be solved by the Iraqis but they cannot do that without the international community and the constructive cooperation of the region.”He added that “Iraq faces the biggest threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity” in years.
Also expressing alarm, BP chief executive Bob Dudley said Tuesday that risks of disruption to Iraq’s oil output will remain limited despite the worsening crisis in the country.

Applaud not, Obama’s Mideast policy has failed

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 /Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya
It’s painstakingly difficult to see things as they are sometimes. This one in particular is a hard pill to swallow. Let’s not dwell on what we thought could have been and what we hoped should have been and what we dreamed will have been. Reality is staring us in the face, as the Obama administration seems incapable of making a difference anywhere in the Middle East.
Looking back at the genesis of our now lost hope, President Obama’s first trip to the Middle East, when he chose Egypt and addressed Muslims around the world. Hosted by Al-Azhar and the Cairo University, he delivered an impassioned and powerful speech promoting a “new beginning.” The symbolism could not be more hopeful; the dream could not be larger: Sovereignty in Afghanistan, security and prosperity in Iraq, a fair inclusive resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, eradicating extremism, promoting dialogue, all themes that received applause in the auditorium and nods in unusual quarters around the globe despite the ever-present naysayers who can never be satisfied.
That was 2009.
Pulverized dreams
The dream of five years ago was pulverized over the years by many factors. One of them is the eruption of an Arab Spring no one was ready for, not even those who led the uprisings; it shook things to the core and flipped them upside down beyond recognition. Just think that Obama was then addressing a Muslim world where Mubarak was his host, Ben Ali was his ally and Qaddafi was preparing for his upcoming rambling speech at the U.N. Today, a defiant Assad hangs in the balance, Iraq is in worst turmoil than it ever has seen, the Taliban is operating freely in Afghanistan and while bin Laden seems to be history, his entire al-Qaeda terror network is now on the loose.
“You see, when you have hope in someone as we did in President Obama, where we stand now is disappointing”
Octavia NasrIn 2009, Obama suggested joining forces to confront “violent extremism” in all its forms. Five years later, extremism has grown to its worst dimension with the introduction of ISIS and its sisters in murder, intimidation and terrorism. You see when you have hope in someone as we did in President Obama, where we stand now is disappointing. No matter what the reason, and there are many, disappointment is unavoidable. Words like, “the people of the world can live together in peace,” which rang true in 2009, today seem to have been only ink on paper and hollow words in a speech only meant to impress.
So my friends, let’s applaud not, nothing here is worth the effort!

Eye on the Ball Amid Qatar-FIFA Corruption Charges

Lori Plotkin Boghardt/The Washington Institute./June 16, 2014
Washington should use the State Department's upcoming annual "Trafficking in Persons" report to amplify international calls for strategic Persian Gulf partners to reform their expatriate labor practices.
Last week's reports that the 2022 FIFA World Cup could be moved from Qatar to the United States in connection with corruption allegations came at an awkward moment, as the quadrennial games began in Brazil. In light of these reports, the other irrationalities surrounding the choice of Qatar as host -- including the fact that local temperatures in the small Gulf state average 106 degrees during the World Cup months of June and July, and that all of Qatar's 250,000 current citizens could not fill the eight stadiums being built for the games -- are taking a back seat to the corruption problem.
Yet one of the most important issues regarding Qatar's selection remains how the country intends to build the necessary infrastructure and otherwise prepare for the event: by relying on hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers living and working under often-abusive conditions. However the corruption charges play out, Washington should build on current momentum in the international community to encourage expatriate labor reform measures in Qatar and other Gulf states.
Qatar is home to the largest proportion of noncitizens relative to citizens in any country in the world: foreigners make up 88 percent of its 2.1 million population. To one degree or another, this phenomenon is prevalent across the six monarchies in the Arabian peninsula. In the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, foreigners also make up significant majorities of the populations, about 80 and 70 percent respectively. In Bahrain, they make up approximately 55 percent. In Saudi Arabia and Oman, the figure is around 30 percent. In no other region of the world do citizens constitute such a small proportion of the population as in these Gulf countries, according to World Bank estimates. And in many cases, the foreign workers in these states are asked to perform their duties under internationally illegal circumstances.
Recent revelations of poor foreign labor conditions in Qatar and the UAE -- home to the glossy cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi -- have underscored how foreign workers sometimes live and work in situations where sufficient food is not provided, housing is squalid, working hours are unusually long, wages are decreased or withheld altogether for months at a time, and, most chillingly, changing jobs or leaving the country is prohibited, in a situation akin to forced labor. To be sure, many expatriates in the Gulf do not experience these problems, such as the various foreigners who serve as skilled professionals in government ministries, the oil sector, and private businesses. The bulk of those subjected to such conditions are unskilled migrants primarily from poor countries in South and Southeast Asia, with construction and domestic workers particularly vulnerable to abuse.
A major driver of the Gulf foreign labor system are the wealthy and powerful members of the business elite and other local businessmen, including important government allies. Gulf nationals and international partners head the companies with which Gulf governments and other private firms contract, making tremendous financial gains by employing foreign labor inexpensively. Gulf and foreign recruitment agencies also profit by providing the required local "sponsorship" of foreign workers, including travel, visa, and other logistical arrangements. Against this backdrop, Qatari businessmen responded with deep concern to last month's announcement that the government intended to reform its expatriate labor law, in part by scrapping the requirement for a sponsor's approval to leave the country and increasing fines for sponsors who confiscate worker passports. The business community emphasized that this would allow workers to abscond from the country with debts owed to sponsors and employers.
Qatar and the UAE have made widespread efforts to reform their foreign labor practices in recent years, yet they and other Gulf governments have also enabled the current system. The Qataris and Emiratis in particular have sought to boost their political and economic might with attention-grabbing national projects, international commercial and other investments, and, in Qatar's case, unusual political liaisons and alliances. Qatar's lobbying campaign to host the World Cup is a case in point, and represents part of Doha's effort to build prestige and business through sponsorship of international sport.
Another driver of Gulf labor problems is the widespread local disdain toward expatriate workers. Beyond human-rights activists and other advocates for noncitizens, there is little popular interest in reforming the sponsorship system to advance foreign worker entitlements. Domestic concern about the social, cultural, and political implications of empowering extraordinary numbers of non-Arab migrants, or even expatriate Arabs who are not from the Gulf monarchies, helps fuel this attitude. In December 2012, a rare public opinion survey conducted in Qatar and financed by Qatar University found that nearly 90 percent of the citizens surveyed did not wish to see the sponsorship system weakened, with 30 percent supporting changes that would make foreign workers even more dependent on their sponsors.
Gulf governments are sensitive and reactive to international criticism of their foreign labor laws and practices. For example, when Qatar's Interior and Labor Ministries announced the previously mentioned labor reforms on May 14, they were apparently responding to pressure from international rights organizations, press reporting, and other sources. And on May 18, when the New York Times ran a story on expatriate labor conditions linked to the construction of New York University Abu Dhabi, the international version of that day's edition was not published in the UAE; ten days later, the country's Foreign Ministry issued an extensive report on expatriate labor law reforms in recent years.
To be sure, announcements about reforms do not necessarily indicate actual structural reforms -- for example, the Qatari proposals publicized last month must still be passed by the country's Shura Council (an advisory legislative body) and other government departments, and they do not include minimum wage requirements or address basic working and living conditions. Yet because Gulf governments' attention to poor foreign labor conditions appears driven by an interest in protecting their international reputation, Qatar, the UAE, and other regional states that are hosting major international events in the next decade are now captive audiences to international calls for reform on this issue.
Accordingly, Washington should use the State Department's annual "Trafficking in Persons" report, scheduled to be released this month, to bolster the push for such reform. This important report -- which details expatriate labor conditions, laws, and practices worldwide and is the department's self-described "principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments" in advancing reform on such issues -- carries special potential to advocate for change in the Gulf.
**Lori Plotkin Boghardt is a fellow in Gulf politics at The Washington Institute.