March 02/14


Bible Quotation for today/You are like salt for the whole human race
Matthew 05/13-16: "“You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it. “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.  In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven".

Question: "What did Jesus mean when He said 'I AM'?" Jesus, in response to the Pharisees’ question “Who do you think you are?” said “‘Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.’‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ the Jews said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” The violent response of the Jews to Jesus’ “I AM” statement indicates they clearly understood what He was declaring—that He was the eternal, incarnate God. Jesus was equating Himself with the "I AM" title God gave Himself in Exodus 3:14. If Jesus had merely wanted to say He existed before Abraham’s time, He would have said, “Before Abraham, I was.” The Greek words translated “was” in the case of Abraham, and “am” in the case of Jesus, are quite different. The words chosen by the Spirit make it clear that Abraham was “brought into being,” but Jesus existed eternally (see John 1:1). There is no doubt that the Jews understood what He was saying because they took up stones to kill Him for making Himself equal with God (John 5:18). Such a statement, if not true, was blasphemy and the punishment ascribed by the Mosaic Law was death (Leviticus 24:11-14). But Jesus committed no blasphemy; He was and is God, the second Person of the Godhead, equal to the Father in every way. Jesus used the same phrase “I AM” in seven declarations about Himself. In all seven, He combines I AM with tremendous metaphors which express His saving relationship toward the world. All appear in the book of John. They are: I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 1, 48, 51); I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12); I AM the Door of the Sheep (John 10:7,9); I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14); I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25); I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); and I AM the True Vine (John 15: 1,5).

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
Let us thank all those who teach in Catholic schools. Educating is an act of love; it is like giving life.
Pape François 
Remercions tous ceux qui enseignent dans les écoles catholiques. Éduquer est un acte d’amour, c’est comme donner la vie

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

Iran Tells the World Mere lies, Not what its actual vicious plans are/By: Elias Bejjani/March 01/14
The "Iran deal," Washington’s gravest mistake in Foreign Policy/By Dr. Walid Phares/March 02/14

The Crises in Ukraine and Syria: Putin Caught In the Jaws of a Vise/By: Raghida Dergham/March 02/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 02/14
Lebanese Related News

LF, Future emphasize unity despite difference over Cabinet

Beirut gas centers to shut down amidst fears of attack

Ban Urges Staging Presidential, Parliamentary Elections, Respecting Baabda Declaration

Report: Veiled Female Suicide Bombers Head to Lebanon

Remains of 2 rockets found on Mount Hermon; IAF strikes rocket launching site in Gaza
Two Katyusha rockets that exploded overnight were found Saturday morning near Israel’s border with Syria.

REPORT: Israel warns Lebanese gov't it will be responsible for any Hezbollah retaliation
Suleiman: Shelling of Lebanese Border Towns Attempt to Drag Country to Syrian Crisis
Report: Bassil, Qazzi Proposals to End Policy Statement Deadlock Met with Rejection
Eichhorst: Hizbullah Was Urged to Exercise Restraint in Light of Israeli Strike

Policy Statement Panel Fails Anew to Reach Consensus as March 14 Says Positive but 'Not at State Expense'

Over 4 Syrian Raids Hit Arsal Outskirts as al-Nusra Executes Assad Supporters

Israel warns Lebanon to curb Hezbollah reprisal

Lebanon police arrest kidnapper

Iran's support for resistance nonnegotiable: official
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Rouhani: 'Ethical principles' stop Iran from pursuing nukes

Russians strike Ukraine army post in Crimea. Kiev fears Ukraine army putsch. US warships on standby
Russia does not rule out troops going to Crimea: official

Crimean Leader Claims Control, Asks Putin for Help

'Mentally Ill' Gaza Woman Killed by Israeli Fire

Saudi Hits back at Russia Criticism on Syria Arms

Syria Opposition National Council to Rejoin Coalition

Ex-Gitmo inmate faces Syrian terror charges in U.K.

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford Retires

Israel Launches Air Raid on Gaza Rocket Launch Site


Iran Tells the World Mere lies, Not what its actual vicious plans are
By: Elias Bejjani/March 01/14
Another and more dangerous Hitlerism military phenomenon is emerging in Iran, while the USA Obama administration, Europe and many other countries are burying their head in the sand and directly or indirectly helping in the emergence of this scary and ruthless monster.
Sadly history is repeating itself with the same fatal European-Hitler Scenario, and if lessons from world War two are not grasped and learned, the whole world and not only the Middle East will be facing extremely serious and actual Iranian threats, and possible military invasions.
These Iranian potential dangers will include Israel, all the Arab countries, Turkey and all of Europe too. There is no doubt that once the Iranian Mullahs' dictatorship regime puts its criminal and bloody hands on an atomic bomb he will use it.
If the Western world countries specifically keeps on cajoling and appeasing the Iranian aggressive and hostile regime the dire consequences will hit the whole civilized world.
Below is a report that exhibits one of the most dangerous blinding camouflaging tactics that the Iranian regime is resorting to in a bid to keep those countries who are closing their eyes on its expansionism and hostile nature relaxed and comatosed.
Who can buy Iran's rhetoric of ethical principles when it is militarily, financially and by all other means strongly supporting the most brutal and criminal regime in the world, the Syrian Assad regime. The Syrian regime with the full help of Iran and its proxy Shiite Lebanese and Iraqi militant Militia proxies has massacred in the last three years almost 300 thousand innocent citizens of his own people, mostly women, children and elderly!!
Iran's president Rouhani as the below report tells is assuring the world that his country and for ethical principles ca not pursue nukes!!
What a lie? Does he really think with his sick mind that the world will buy his alleged fake claims!!
What are those ethical principles that the Iranian regime honors and practices when it has been killing its own people, and brutally oppressing them.
What are those ethical principles that the Iranian regime honors and practices when it fully runs and controls the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the whole world!!
What are those ethical principles that the Iranian regime honors and practices when it keeps on by force, religious denominational and military means destabilizing the peace stability in all the Middle East countries from Yemen to Lebanon.
Logic and reason necessitate that the Free world countries with all the Arab regimes are seriously required to deal with the Iranian cancerous regime in a completely different strategy from the current and ongoing one that has totally failed and made the Iranian rulers more bold and more aggressive.
Rouhani: 'Ethical principles' stop Iran from pursuing nukes
Reuters Published: 03.01.14, 10:04 / Ynetnews
Islamic republic's president says if his country wanted WMDs, it would make chemical, biological weapons. Iran's president says the Islamic republic rejects the manufacture of nuclear weapons out of principle, not because it is prevented so by treaties. Hassan Rouhani also said that, had Iran wanted weapons of mass destruction, it would be easier for it to make chemical or biological weapons. He made the comments Saturday while addressing Iran's Defense Ministry officials. Rouhani said that Iran's "beliefs" and commitment to "ethical principles" prevent it from making a bomb. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already issued a religious decree banning the production and use of nuclear weapons. He says having such arms is a sin. The US and its allies fear that Iran seeks to develop the ability to make a nuclear weapon, should it want one. Iran denies the charge. Earlier in the week, a Reuters report revealed that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had shelved a major report on Iran that might have revealed more of its alleged bomb-relevant research, but held off because of the warming relations between Iran and the West. On Friday, Israel urged the UN nuclear watchdog agency to go public with all information it has regarding suspicions that Iran researched how to build an atomic bomb. "The role of the IAEA is to expose to the international community all information regarding military aspects of the Iranian nuclear project, and not to withhold it for reasons of diplomatic sensitivity," Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.
Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
Web sites &
Face Book
Twitter Elias Bejjani@phoeniciaelias


Beirut gas centers to shut down amidst fears of attack
March 01, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Two centers for filling gas canisters in Beirut's southern suburbs have been ordered to shut down after security forces received information they could be targeted by terrorist attacks, a security source told The Daily Star. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouq said in a statement that he ordered the centers, one in Bir Hasan and the other in Ouzai, be shut down temporarily starting Monday, March 3. “As a result of investigations with some detainees with regards to suicide attacks to assassinate Lebanese figures, primarily Speaker Nabih Berri and former Minister Wiam Wahhab, information was uncovered that suicide attacks were being planned against gas centers in Ouzai and Bir Hasan,” Machnouq said. The centers would remain closed until their supply of gas runs out. “In order to prevent gas shortage in Beirut and the southern suburbs, Machnouq contacted centers in Shouifet and Dora to meet the demand, knowing that one of the gas centers there belongs to MP Walid Jumblatt, who had suspended its operations,” the minister added.
Security measures were beefed up near Berri's residence Friday in the Ain el-Tinhe neighborhood of Beirut following media reports that a suicide attack was being planned to assassinate the Amal Movement leader. Two local dailies reported that the Abullah Azzam Brigades planned to kill the speaker by sending suicide bombers to attack his residence. According to the reports, Mahmoud Abu Alfa, a member of the brigades who is currently in custody, told interrogators that he was tasked by Sheikh Sirajeddine Zreiqat, a senior figure in the Brigades, with devising a plan to attack Berri’s residence. Abu Alfa confessed that he monitored Ain al-Tineh more than once, estimated the intensity of the explosives needed to destroy the gates of Berri’s residence, and conveyed this information to Zreiqat. Abu Alfa and a relative, identified only as "Hasan," were apprehended in the Beirut area of Al-Tariq al-Jadideh last month. Both were reportedly tasked with monitoring the area around former Environment Minister Wiam Wahhab’s house in Bir Hasan. Wahhab is an ally of Syria. The Brigades have also claimed responsibility for the two double suicide attacks that struck near the Iranian embassy in Bir Hasan on November 19 and February 19. The Brigades have declared war on Hezbollah and Iran over their role in the Syrian war, and have carried out several attacks in predominantly-Shiite areas associated with Hezbollah.

LF, Future emphasize unity despite difference over Cabinet

March 01, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra Saturday criticized the Future Movement for taking part in a government with Hezbollah, but emphasized that the alliance between the two parties remained strong.
Meanwhile, Future Movement Secretary General Ahmad Hariri also reiterated the unity of the March 14 Coalition. "It is true that differences surfaced among the March 14 forces with regards to participating in the government ... but the coalition remained intact.” Speaking to a group of Lebanese in Victoria State during a short trip to Australia, Hariri said March 14 was made up of “independent figures who have their own opinions.”
“We are united in our principles, which we will never abandon,” he added. Prime Minister Tammam Salam formed an all-embracing government last month after former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the Hezbollah-lead March 8 coalition reached a deal mediated by MP Walid Jumblatt after10 months of political deadlock. Hariri has said rising Sunni-Shiite tensions and deteriorating security in Lebanon were behind his decision to take part in a new government with the aim of safeguarding the country. The LF refrained from taking part in the government, demanding Hezbollah commit to the Baabda Declaration, an agreement signed by rival groups in 2012 to distance Lebanon from regional turmoil, particularly the Syrian crisis. The March 14 coalition has been critical of Hezbollah's role in Syria, blaming the resistance group for the series of car bombings mostly targeting predominantly-Shiite areas associated with Hezbollah. Media reports have said the dispute over the government has tainted ties between the head of the LF, Samir Geagea, and Hariri. During a radio interview, Zahra was critical of his allies in the Future Movement and said most of the Hariri’s reasons for joining the government were not convincing. “The difference between us and our allies in March 14 is that we asked for a written commitment from Hezbollah to accept the Baabda Declaration as part of the policy statement,” he said, referring to ongoing discussion about the Cabinet’s ministerial statement. He said the LF was not pleased with the Future Movement’s decision but that the two parties remained in contact. Zahra said he understood reasons behind his allies’ participation in the government, saying: "Hariri has the right to think about the sectarian tensions but the other reasons for participating are not convincing.” “We don't think we made a mistake by abstaining from participating in the government because we have a certain strategy based on nation building,” he said. Zahra also spoke about a recent meeting between Hariri and March 14's rival, MP Michel Aoun, saying: “We would have preferred to have found out about the Harir-Aoun meeting from them [the Future Movement] rather than from the media.” “If the meeting was innocent, as Aoun claimed, why was it kept a secret?” he asked. Zahra defended the March 14 coalition and said differences between parties were only normal. “What unites the March 14 coalition is the belief in a state and its institutions, and this alliance was decided by the people rather than political elites ... the alliance is very difficult to break,” he said.

Suleiman: Shelling of Lebanese Border Towns Attempt to Drag Country to Syrian Crisis
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 March 2014/President Michel Suleiman condemned on Saturday the latest shelling of Lebanese towns bordering Syria in the Bekaa region. He said: “The shelling is an attempt to drag Lebanon towards the Syrian crisis.” “It is unacceptable for innocent Lebanese people to pay the price for these attempts,” he stressed. The president therefore called on all sides within Syria to refrain from targeting Lebanese territories “under any excuse.”In addition, Suleiman called on all Lebanese powers against getting involved in the Syrian crisis and to respect the Baabda Declaration. On Friday, several rockets fired from the Syrian side of the border landed on the town of Brital in the Bekaa Valley. One of them caused material damage after hitting the house of a soldier. Lebanese border towns in the Bekaa have frequently come under Syrian shelling since the eruption of the uprising in the neighboring country and since Hizbullah acknowledged that it had sent fighters to Syria to fight alongside the ruling regime.

Report: Veiled Female Suicide Bombers Head to Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 March 2014/The Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces are on a mission to hunt down a group of four veiled women wearing explosives belts and who are tasked by Lebanese Sheikh Sirajeddine Zouraykat of the Abdulllah Azzam Brigades to carry out suicide terrorist attacks, the As Safir daily reported on Saturday. The women who were able to leave the Syrian area of Yabrud and head to the northern Bekaa, are said to be of Iraqi and Lebanese nationalities. They are tasked to execute suicide attacks in religious places of a specific sectarian orientation, sources told the daily. A security source told As Safir on condition of anonymity that detained extremists, captured over the past few months, guided by Zouraykat, confessed that Speaker Nabih Berri and former Minsiter Wiam Wahab were allegedly the target of an assassination bid, and that Minister Ali al-Khalil and Amal official Ahmad Baalbaki were being closely watched. The extremist cell detained by the ISF Intelligence Branch includes Lebanese nationals Mahmoud and Hassan Abou Aalfa, Palestinian Hussein Awali and another Lebanese of al-Jomaa. The detained confessed of an ancillary cell that handles the transfer of suicide bombers and booby- trapped cars form Syria to the Bekaa which are later transferred to Beirut. The source added that the security apparatuses are prosecuting members of the cell mainly in the Bekaa valley. Early in February, the army intercepted a booby-trapped vehicle in the Bekaa region coming form Syria's Yabrud and driven by three women. The car was going to be transported to Beirut where it was to be handed over to would-be suicide-bombers.


Remains of 2 rockets found on Mount Hermon; IAF strikes rocket launching site in Gaza
By YAAKOV LAPPIN, REUTERS 03/01/2014/J.Post/IDF says rockets appear to be errant fire from fighting in Syria; Israeli Air Force strikes target in northern Gaza to prevent an imminent threat; IDF shoots and kills Palestinian woman near Gaza border fence. IDF soldiers recovered the remains of two Syrian rockets on Mount Hermon on Saturday morning. The rockets exploded in the north at approximately 12:45 a.m. on Saturday. According to initial army assessments, the projectiles were not deliberately aimed at Israel, but were fired in the course of battles raging between the Syrian army and rebel forces north of the border.
Israeli official confirms: IAF hit missile convoy entering LebanonOn Friday night, the Israel Air Force carried out an air strike in northern Gaza. An IDF spokeswoman said the strike targeted a rocket launcher that posed an immediate threat to Israeli security. There were no reports of injuries in the strike. Earlier this week, the IDF Northern Command remained on a heightened state of alert, a day after Hezbollah threatened retaliation for an alleged Israeli air strike on a site in eastern Lebanon in which illicit weapons were being moved by the terrorist organization. The state of alert can be seen as a natural response to Hezbollah's threats, but is not a necessary indication of an imminent flare up along the border. Also on Saturday morning, the IDF shot and killed a Palestinian woman in the Gaza Strip in an area near the border that Israel has declared a no-go zone for Palestinians, local hospital officials said. Gaza residents said it was not clear why 50-year-old Amna Qdaih, who they said suffered from a mental illness, was near the security fence that runs between Israel and Gaza.

Two Katyusha rockets that exploded overnight were found Saturday morning near Israel’s border with Syria.
BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF March 1, 2014/The projectiles were heard erupting loudly just after midnight Saturday in the Golan Heights. The IDF began their search Saturday morning, and the remains of the rockets were found several hours later in the Hermon Mountain area. The rockets were believed to have been lobbed into Israel as a result of fighting between Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebel forces, but there was a possibility that groups in Lebanon may have launched the them.There were no injuries or damages caused by the landing of the rockets in Israeli territory.

Report: Bassil, Qazzi Proposals to End Policy Statement Deadlock Met with Rejection
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 March 2014/Efforts to come up with a policy statement have so far failed as various proposals by the ministers at the panel tasked with the mission have been met with rejection by the rival March 8 and 14 camps, reported the daily An Nahar on Saturday. It said that Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi came up with two different proposals that do not include points of contention, but they were rejected. Bassil proposed that the government “forgo a ministerial statement altogether and that it suffice by saying that it is a cabinet of national interest that will not spare any effort to serve the nation.”
For his part, Qazzi hailed Bassil's suggestion, describing it as a “good idea,” but he then made a proposal of his own. The minister suggested that the ministerial statement be comprised of single page that includes general principles that are not related to the March 8 or 14 camps. The principles adhere to the state alone, he explained. The proposal was however rejected by the March 8 representatives of the ministerial panel, with State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammed Fneish demanding that the word “resistance” be included in the statement. The word resistance should be included without associating it with the state, he added.
Fneish's suggestion was advocated by Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb then interjected and said that issues of contention should be presented at cabinet, but this was rejected by Prime Minister Tammam Salam who explained that this proposal undermines the panel's competency. “I was patient for ten months until the government was formed and you should also be patient, but we cannot be made to wait for a long time,” he declared according to An Nahar. The gatherers agreed to hold their eighth meeting at 6:30 pm on Monday. The main issues of contention over the policy statement lie in the March 8 demand that it refer to the resistance and “army-people-resistance” formula, while the March 14 camp has been insisting that the Baabda Declaration be mentioned in the statement.
Both camps are rejecting the other side's proposals. Salam has announced that his government's mission is combating terrorism and preparing for the upcoming presidential elections.

Ban Urges Staging Presidential, Parliamentary Elections, Respecting Baabda Declaration
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 March 2014/United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the formation of a new Lebanese government, hoping that it will pave the way for Lebanon to meet its constitutional deadlines.
He hoped that Lebanon will hold the presidential and parliamentary elections on time, as well as respect the Baabda Declaration. He made his remarks during his latest report on the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701. He noted that Lebanon is still being “negatively affected bu the war in Syria,” condemning the shelling and gunfire targeting the Lebanese-Syrian border.
He also condemned the flow of gunmen and arms between the two countries. The lack of progress in demarcating the border between Lebanon and Syria does not justify the violation of Lebanon's sovereignty by any side, stressed Ban. The U.N. chief demanded the Syrian government and all sides fighting in Syria to stop the violations against Lebanon's border and respect its sovereignty in accordance with resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701.
He also slammed the Lebanese citizens' participation in the war in Syria, saying that it violates the policies of neutrality and disassociation adopted by the Lebanese government and stipulated in the Baabda Declaration.
He therefore urged the concerned sides to act in a manner that serves Lebanon's interests and adhere to the policy of disassociation. His report also addressed the various terrorist bombings that have taken place in Lebanon in recent months, explaining that supporting state institutions, including the army and security forces, is the “best way to confront these haphazard and unacceptable acts.”In addition, Ban remarked that Hizbullah and other parties' possession of weapons outside the authority of the state still represents a threat to Lebanon's sovereignty and security and a violation of the country's obligations towards resolutions 1559 and 1701. He noted that President Michel Suleiman had repeatedly demanded that a national defense strategy be devised in light of Hizbullah's employment of its weapons outside of Lebanon's borders. To that end, he urged all Lebanese powers to return to the national dialogue table in order to tackle the issue of the possession of weapons. In addition, the U.N. chief hailed Suleiman's role in asserting the importance of the Baabda Declaration and the Maronite Patriarchate for the Bkirki Charter that it issued on February 9. Ban also “warmly welcomed” the formation of a new government, calling on Lebanese leaders to “take advantage of their constructive partnership in order to preserve vital state institutions.” Holding the presidential elections within their constitutional and legal deadline in May is very important in preserving trust and stability in Lebanon, he stressed. This same importance applies to then holding the parliamentary elections “without delay and according to the constitution,” he continued.

Eichhorst: Hizbullah Was Urged to Exercise Restraint in Light of Israeli Strike

Naharnet Newsdesk 01 March 2014/European Union Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst hoped that all sides in Lebanon would avoid any escalation in retaliation to Israel's strike against a Hizbullah position earlier this week, reported As Safir newspaper on Saturday. She told the daily that diplomatic channels urged Hizbullah to exercise restraint. Moreover, meetings were held with United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon officials to that end. They know that it is in no one's interest for the situation to escalate, added the ambassador. Efforts are being exerted by all sides in order to ease the tensions, said Eichhorst. The 38 countries contributing to UNIFIL have a serious desire to respect United Nations Security Council resolution 1701, she stressed to As Safir. Israeli jets on Monday struck a Hizbullah position near the Lebanese-Syrian border. The party acknowledged the strike on Wednesday, saying that it targeted a Hizbullah position near the Jinta region in the Bekaa. It vowed that it will choose the appropriate time and place to retaliate to the attack. Addressing terrorist bombings that have taken place in Lebanon over the past months, Eichhorst said that security in the country should be a priority and the people should not be left in a constant state of concern over such attacks. There is an international and European will to bolster support for all of the security forces in Lebanon, starting with the army, she remarked. The EU ambassador revealed that the coordinator of the EU counter-terrorism Gilles de Kerchove is scheduled to visit Lebanon in the next two weeks in order to explain to Lebanese authorities Europe's policy to combat terrorism. Lebanon should have a national policy to combat terrorism, noted Eichhorst.

Policy Statement Panel Fails Anew to Reach Consensus as March 14 Says Positive but 'Not at State Expense'
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 February 2014/The committee drafting the ministerial policy statement on Friday failed again to reach an agreement on the clause related to resisting Israel as the March 14 forces insisted on “the state's authority over everything.”“We still have disagreements over some points, including the resistance topic and some other points related to sovereignty,” Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi, the Phalange Party's representative in the panel, announced after the meeting at the Grand Serail. “We're positive in dealing with all issues and we want the cabinet to start its work, especially that the president will head to Paris to take part in the meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon,” Qazzi added. “We are positive but not at the expense of the principles according to which we took part in cabinet, which involve the state's authority over all decisions taken on Lebanese territory, whether at the political, strategic or military level,” the minister went on to say. He noted that the panel has not reached a final agreement but was not also before a dead end.
Asked about a meeting held by March 14 ministers and Health Minister Wael Abou Faour at the telecom ministry building prior to the meeting, Qazzi said: “Ahead of every session, we meet together, not only as March 14 ministers, but also with all the ministers who are inside and outside the panel. These meetings are positive and are not aimed at obstructing the sessions." Earlier, MTV reported that Qazzi, Abou Faour, Telecom Minister Butros Harb and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq had held a meeting ahead of the session. "The main obstacle is revolving around defining the relation between the state and the resistance," said Qazzi. "I'm willing to offer concessions on issues that are maybe related to March 14, but we're not willing to offer concessions over matters related to the Lebanese state. This is about the state's role and it is not a textual dispute," he stressed. Also speaking after the session, the panel's spokesman Abou Faour said "there are issues that are still under discussion but things have not reached a dead end."  "Political talks will be held inside and outside the panel and I hope we will be able to reach an agreement that leads to endorsing the policy statement during the next session," he said, noting that the National Struggle Front led by MP Walid Jumblat is not the only party that is exerting efforts. "A large number of formulas were discussed but none enjoyed consensus," Abou Faour revealed. "The positive thing in discussions is Lebanon's right to resist Israel and preserve its fortunes but the debate is revolving around the state's role in resistance," he said. Abou Faour added: "A concise policy statement would have been better but no agreement was reached over this proposal and despite all this, all political forces are feeling the pressure of the public opinion regarding the need to endorse it." Meanwhile, Hizbullah's al-Manar television quoted Abou Faour as saying that he has “sensed a real step backwards in the stance of the March 14 forces on the policy statement.”
“Away from cameras, Abou Faour said he is pessimistic and he called (former premier) MP Saad Hariri after the meeting,” al-Manar said, noting that Abou Faour's meeting with ex-PM Fouad Saniora “failed to reach any solution.”The committee's meeting is the seventh since Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet was formed two weeks ago.
Salam has announced that his government's mission is combating terrorism and preparing for the upcoming presidential election.

Over 4 Syrian Raids Hit Arsal Outskirts as al-Nusra Executes Assad Supporters
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 February 2014/Syrian warplanes on Friday carried out several raids on several areas in the outskirts of the eastern border town of Arsal in the Bekaa, the state-run National News Agency reported, as al-Nusra Front executed two men who support the regime. "Syrian fighter jets launched strikes on the al-Zamarani valley in the Arsal region," NNA said in the afternoon. And as Al-Arabiya TV reported three afternoon airstrikes, it quoted the rebel Syrian Revolution General Commission as saying that "22 airstrikes have targeted Qalamoun's mountains in Syria and Lebanon's Arsal." Later, NNA said the bodies of a Syrian young man and a Syrian young woman who were killed in clashes in Qalamoun in addition to five wounded people were transported to a field hospital in Arsal. Earlier on Friday, media reports said Syrian military planes bombarded the Lebanese border areas of Khirbet Younin, Wadi Hmeid and Ajram. NNA said the Syrian airstrikes targeted the towns with four rockets. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported that the raids targeted a gathering for the Syrian opposition in the town of Khirbet Younin. Rockets from the Syrian side of the border have frequently landed in Arsal since the uprising in the neighboring country turned violent. The Arsal area is broadly supportive of the Sunni-dominated uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. The mountainous area has long been a smuggling haven, with multiple routes into Syria that have been used since the conflict began in March 2011 to transport weapons and fighters. Hermel and others areas in the Bekaa have also been targeted by rockets fired from Syria in recent months and most attacks were claimed by Syrian rebels. Meanwhile, the news agency reported that al-Nusra Front in Lebanon executed two Syrians, who are pro-Assad regime, on the outskirts of Arsal. The NNA said that Mohammed and Ali al-Kouz were charged with collaborating with the Assad regime. The Nusra Front had previously handed out leaflets accusing 12 Syrians of cooperating with the regime.

Lebanon police arrest kidnapper
March 01, 2014 02:39 PM The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Lebanon police has arrested a wanted man who confessed to abducting 10 people for a ransom and being part of a network of Lebanese and Syrian kidnappers.
Internal Security Forces Information Branch arrested a man identified by his initials, Z.K., 35, also known as Ziyad al-Nahr, who was wanted on suspicion of kidnapping people in a "sensitive border area," according to an ISF statement. The suspect was wanted for a number of other judicial warrants as well. During interrogation, he confessed to kidnapping around 10 Syrians after luring them from Syrian territory, Beirut and Mount Lebanon to the northern city of Tripoli using a man or woman as bait. Upon arriving to Tripoli, the victims would then be transferred to a northern border area where the kidnapper would hold them until their relatives paid a ransom.
He also told investigators that there were a number of Lebanese and Syrian groups that carry out similar abductions. The police are in pursuit of the group members.

Iran's support for resistance nonnegotiable: official
February 28, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Iranian official Alaeddine Boroujerdi said Friday his country's support for the resistance was nonnegotiable in the context of ongoing talks over Tehran’s nuclear activities with the West. “The nuclear negotiations are purely over the nuclear issue and do not include any other item,” Boroujerdi, the head of Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee told reporters after meeting Salam at the Grand Serail. “We cannot trade our defense and embrace of the resistance for anything else and this is a solid political policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added, referring to Hezbollah.
Boroujerdi, who arrived in Beirut Thursday following a trip to Damascus, also said that he briefed Salam on the latest developments in talks between Iran and the P5 1.
"Every success achieved by the Islamic Republic of Iran on the international level reflects positively on strengthening security and stability in the region in general,” he said.
He described his meeting with Salam as “very good,” and handed the prime minister a congratulatory letter from the first deputy of the Iranian president on the formation of a new government.
Boroujerdi also said he expressed Tehran’s condemnations of the Israeli raid in the Bekaa earlier this week, emphasizing Iran's “solid stance in supporting sisterly Lebanon, its unity, sovereignty, security and independence, as well as our support for the resistance whether in Syria or Lebanon.”
"We also exchanged views on several issues concerning security developments in Lebanon, and we think such discussion contributes positively to strengthening security here, which is of interest to the Lebanese and the Iranians as well.” Boroujerdi also said he asked Salam to have his government pay special attention to two cases: the 1982 abduction of Iranian diplomats on Lebanese soil and the disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr. Accompanied by Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Runknabadi, Boroujerdi visited Hezbollah's martyrs’ graveyard and placed a wreath on the grave of slain Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh.
He also visited the grave of Iranian diplomat Radwan Fares who was killed in last November's twin attack against the Iranian Embassy in the Beirut neighborhood in Bir Hasan.
Boroujerdi also visited Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain el-Tineh where he briefed the Lebanese politician on the outcome of his visit to Damascus where he held a series of meetings with Syrian officials. Speaking to reporters after talks with Berri, Boroujerdi said Lebanese officials were in agreement that the only solution to the crisis in Syria was a political one.
He also said that he spoke with Lebanese officials about the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism in the country, saying Iran would help Lebanon in this regard.


The "Iran deal," Washington’s gravest mistake in Foreign Policy
By Dr. Walid Phares /The Obama administration, in its first and second terms, has committed strategic mistakes in the Middle East which will undermine U.S. national and security interests for many years, even under subsequent administrations after 2016. The damage done is severe, and a remedy seems out of reach unless earth shattering changes are applied to Washington’s foreign policy—either under the incumbent’s administration or the next. The common core of U.S. strategic mistakes has been the perception of partners in the region since day one of the post-Bush presidency. While Bush’s narrative on backing pro-democracy forces was right on track, the bureaucracy’s actions betrayed the White House’s global aim. By the time the Obama administration installed itself on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2009, little had been accomplished by the Bush bureaucrats in regards to identifying these pro-democracy forces and supporting them. When the current administration replaced Bush, however, civil society groups in the Middle East were systematically abandoned—aid to their liberal forces was cut off and engagement with the radicals became priority. The mistakes of the Bush bureaucracy became the official policy of the Obama administration.
Washington’s “new beginnings” in the region moved American Mideast policy in a backward direction on two major tracks. The first derailment was to partner with the Muslim Brotherhood, not the secular NGOs, in an attempt to define the future of Arab Sunni countries. The second was to engage the Iranian regime, not its opposition, in attempt to define future relations with the Shia sphere of the region. These were strategic policy decisions planned years before the Arab Spring, not a pragmatic search for solutions as upheavals began. Choosing the Islamists over the Muslim moderates and reformers has been an academically suggested strategy adapted to potential interests—even though it represents an approach contrary to historically successful pathways. In June 2009, President Obama sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader asking for “engagement.” This move, coupled with Obama’s abandonment of the civil revolt in Iran that same month, sent a comforting message to the ruling Khomeinists: The United States is retreating from containment and will not support regime change in Iran. That undeniably emboldened Tehran to go on the offensive in the region after less than a decade of status quo.
The nuclear program was boldly defended despite American and UN economic sanctions; Iranian penetration of Iraq deepened; support to Hezbollah escalated with a presidential visit to Lebanon by Ahmedinijad; and aggressive backing of pro-Iranian elements in Arabia was sustained. The Arab Spring revealed more assertive Iranian behavior as Pasdaran and Hezbollah militias were dispatched to Syria in support of the struggling Assad regime. Across the region, the Ayatollahs increased their support to regimes and organizations bent on crushing civil society uprisings and also clamped down on their own oppositions—both inside the country and abroad. Tehran used Washington’s unending search for dialogue with the Ayatollahs as an opportunity to attack the exiled Iranian community inside Iraq, one of the best cards in the international community’s hands to pressure the Iranian regime. The tragedy of dismantling Camp Ashraf ran parallel to a systematic persecution of Iranian dissidents who rose in 2009 against the mullahs. U.S. retreat from Iran’s containment led to an unparalleled bleeding of the political opposition, the only long term hope for a real change in Iran.
The Obama administration’s abandonment of Iran’s people was made complete through Washington’s dangerous deal with Tehran. After months of secret negotiations and immediately after abandoning the Syrian opposition to vie for themselves against Iranian-backed Assad forces towards the end of the summer, the U.S. administration announced an interim nuclear agreement with Iran. To the astonishment of Iran’s opposition, not to mention Arab moderate governments, European countries including France, and a majority in Congress, the Obama administration began easing sanctions on Iran in return for a promise by the Khomeinist regime that it would lower its uranium production to an internationally acceptable level. Without any significant leverage on Tehran, having sidelined the Iranian opposition, the White House has no guarantees that Iran’s regime is backing off from nuclear strategic weaponry. Worse, Washington started almost immediately to transfer billions of dollars from “frozen accounts” back to the Iran regime’s coffers.
From an initial conceptual strategic mistake, the Obama administration moved to implement the most dangerous component of the new policy: Not only ending economic and political pressure, but sending financial support to a terror regime still on the offensive in the region. The hundreds of millions of dollars already received by the Ayatollahs can be, and actually most likely are being, recycled through the Pasdaran into subversive operations against the country’s liberal opposition, the Iranian exiles, Arab governments and U.S. interests worldwide. The “deal” will go down in history as one of the worst political acts in the West, second only to the signing of a piece of paper in Munich that claimed to be a deal to save the Peace. History has already taught the world, at a very high price, the consequences of dealing with devils.

The Crises in Ukraine and Syria: Putin Caught In the Jaws of a Vise
By: Raghida Dergham
(Translation - Karim Traboulsi)
Russia did not yet lose all its cards in Ukraine, and will not be on the retreat just yet in Syria, as a result of the setback it suffered in the aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revenge for what happened in Kiev’s answer to Tahrir Square – while he was preoccupied with the Winter Olympics in Sochi – may yet come.
The United States and the European Union are aware of the painful instruments of revenge that Putin has at his disposal, as they are aware of the limits of European economic power and U.S. political power under President Barack Obama. For this reason, Western powers are walking a tightrope in dealing with the developments in Ukraine, all while stressing that this is neither a strategic confrontation nor a return to the Cold War.
For its part, Moscow interprets the events in Ukraine differently, and is suspicious of Western intentions there. However, Moscow also recognizes that resorting to revenge would be a double-edged sword in its backyard in Ukraine as in Syria, which has become an arena for Moscow’s regional and international resurgence and also in the context of the relationship with the U.S.
For these reasons, the Western-Russian dialogue may produce accords that include Ukraine, Syria, and cooperation on issues like Iran and others. Yet the tone of revenge may prevail instead, with the differences leading to escalation and confrontations in Ukraine, Syria, and beyond. This will depend not only on what the Russian president has up its sleeves, but also on what President Obama has in mind vis-à-vis the Ukrainian and Syrian revolutions, and U.S. strategic foreign policy as a whole.
One of the remarkable scenes during the Ukrainian revolution was how members of the Berkut, Ukraine’s notorious riot police, kneeled down to apologize to the people for the deaths that occurred during the crackdown and assault on the protesters. This is something that would be a rare sight in the Arab region. Military defections during and after the revolutions in the Arab region were important no doubt, and are close to being apologies and rectifications. But kneeling down is probably the most eloquent form of rare apology. If only the Arab forces of repression would kneel down before their peoples. If only the army forces bombarding the people and the leaders that are starving them kneel down and apologize.
The other important event was that the Ukrainian parliament called for referring ousted President Viktor Yanukovych to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to hold him and anyone else participating in the murder of more than 100 protesters and wounding more than 2,000 in Kiev last week accountable. This is also an important chapter in accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes, which most Arab parliaments would not be able to demand because the majority of Arab countries did not rarify the Rome Statute establishing the ICC. The regimes themselves have rejected this court fearing for themselves. Instead, referring those who commit such crimes to the ICC in their case requires an UN Security Council resolution.
There is an important demand making its way to the United Nations – and facing fierce opposition – to prevent any of the five permanent members of the Security Council to veto resolutions pertaining to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Christian Wenaweser, the president of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court and Ambassador of Liechtenstein to the United Nations, and Prince Zeid bin Raad, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations, are leading the effort to remove war crimes and crimes against humanity from the grip of Security Council vetoes and place them solely in the hands of the ICC. This is a commendable effort because holding rulers and anyone who resorts to rape and starvation – in addition to the usual criminal methods – as a war tactic accountable, is now the sole purview of the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council. It is time to liberate these issues from their grip, especially concerning what is happening in Syria , and the Russian-Chinese stance on the Syrian question, at the Security Council.
On Saturday, February 22, the Council passed resolution 2139, which calls for securing humanitarian aid to the Syrians – including across the border – after a surprising unanimous vote. The timing of the vote was an important factor in securing a consensus, as the Western and Arab countries backing the draft resolution insisted on putting it to a vote before the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Russia. The goal was to use this time margin to embarrass Vladimir Putin, who was adamant about polishing Russia’s reputation during the games.
The protests in Kiev’s Independence Square and the Western-Arab efforts to vote on a draft resolution concerning the humanitarian tragedy in Syria in New York has put Putin effectively in the jaws of a vise. Ukrainian developments has focused the spotlight on Putin and intensified Western pressure on him. The Syrian developments would have exposed Putin internationally even more if he had prevented the UN Security Council from passing a humanitarian resolution. The timing of the push for resolution 2139 was therefore right, but other factors have also played a role.
True, the Western-Arab draft resolution was stripped of references to punitive measures in the event of Damascus’s non-compliance. True as well, it removed references to Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian Qods Force in the context of the broader terrorist intervention in Syria. And true, negotiations over the resolution were fierce, in order to open the door later to its interpretation in the battle of interpretations. But the fact of the matter is that the grip of the Russian-Chinese veto on UN Security Council draft resolutions on Syria has been relaxed for the first time in the wake of the dual vetoes that have been wielded three times so far – bar the resolution on dismantling the Syrian chemical weapons, as the U.S. backed down from carrying a strike against Syria, passed by the Council last fall.
China played an important role in gathering consensus on resolution 2139, making it clear to Russia and other members of the Security Council in New York that it found it difficult to veto a humanitarian resolution that does not contain references to subsequent measures or any action that would force the stakeholders to implement the resolution.
China has always let Russia lead on the Syrian question, even hiding behind Russia’s leadership. This time, China stuck out its neck outside the pit where it was burying its head. The reasons for this are not entirely clear – as usual when it comes to China – and China’s most recent position may not be a major factor that prompted Russia to adjust its position. Instead, it could be that Russia and China are playing different roles in coordination with one another.
Perhaps Vladimir Putin has taken stock of the shifts in the U.S.-Saudi relationship as regards the Syrian issue, after Riyadh criminalized for Saudi citizens to join the fighting in Syria, and transferred responsibility for the Syrian dossier from Prince Bandar bin Sultan to Prince Mohammad bin Nayef. These are reassuring indicators, because, for one thing, they illustrate the Saudi determination to stop any contribution coming from its side to the “Afghanization” of Syria.
However, President Obama's visit to Riyadh late next month has opened the door to making strategic U.S.-Saudi understandings. This concerns Moscow, which wants to monopolize the Syrian issue to the tune of American isolationism and its evasion of its responsibilities in Syria.
In other words, Moscow might be reassured by any Saudi contribution in repelling Islamist extremism, especially Salafist extremism, in Syria and beyond, because Moscow has decided that its interests are best served by fighting a war against growing Islamist extremism and the prospect of it spreading to its territory and vicinity, including in Chechnya.
But the Russian leadership fears that the U.S.-Saudi accord could lead to supporting the secular or moderate Syrian opposition, and supplying it with weapons like Man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) to shoot down Russian-made airplanes used by the Syrian regime to drop explosive barrels on civilians. Moscow wants to continue supplying the regime of Bashar al-Assad with weapons and wants the U.S. to remain hesitant about supplying the Syrian opposition with advanced weaponry.
The current U.S.-Saudi talks are a source of concern for Moscow and Vladimir Putin, who is now on alert amid signs of a change in the positions of Barack Obama on the Syrian issue. But Putin is fully aware that Obama’s attitudes and sentiments regarding the Ukrainian revolution in 2014 are completely different from those of his predecessor President George W. Bush regarding the Orange Revolution also in Ukraine in 2004.
Indeed, Bush had adopted the slogans of freedom, democracy, and the fight against tyranny as core American values. Obama is averting Bush’s policy and believes that those slogans are not the concern of the U.S. and that the American people do not want to get involved in them. Obama is weighed down by President Bush’s legacy, by the fear of instability, and by his concern of a clash with Russia over Syria or Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin may decide to build on Obama’s doctrine in foreign policy, especially as regards Syria and Ukraine. But this will require him to shed some of his arrogance, intransigence, and excessive nationalistic attitudes at the expense of others, because Barack Obama will not be able to extend his arms to embrace Putin’s doctrine in Syria and Ukraine. He is prepared to show so-called pragmatism in the two issues, opening the door to successive accords and also grand bargains. But no doubt, this requires Putin to pursue a different approach on the two crises without necessarily compromising Russian interests.
Putin may choose heavy-handedness and revenge for being placed in an “Olympic corner” to pass a resolution forcing the Syrian government to facilitate the passage of aid across he border, and for being put in a Ukrainian corner by overthrowing his suzerainty over a regime toppled by Kiev’s Independence Square.
Ukraine under Russia’s tutelage almost resembles Lebanon under Syrian tutelage before the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, which immediately followed the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Putin sees Ukraine as a natural extension of Russia, and he controls keys to either accelerate Ukraine’s economic collapse, rendering it a bankrupt nation in every sense of the word, or to save Ukraine from bankruptcy and partition.
Even Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union, who recognized the benefits of capitalism, launched a process of economic liberalization, and precipitated the collapse of the superpower, sees in Vladimir Putin a hope for reviving Russian nationalism. Gorbachev, who was the guest of honor at the third edition of the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates earlier this week, told Al-Hayat that “Putin has worked hard to restore Russia’s fundamental international role, and I believe that he achieved many things and must continue….”
What road will Vladimir Putin take on his way to restoring Russia’s international role? Certainly, Ukraine is essential in this road and so is Syria. In both cases, Putin’s options are not open-ended; but rather, U.S. and European attitudes have a great role to play – in addition to the fundamental role of the people in Ukraine and Syria.
The European Union acted arrogantly last year when it set the condition on Ukraine to prove itself before lifting a finger to save it from bankruptcy. Putin intervened and offered a huge aid package, causing the deposed President Viktor Yanukovich to choose Russia and move away from integration with the European Union. People revolted against him, and made it clear that they wanted to be affiliated to the West not the East, angering Moscow which believes that events in Ukraine are a Western plot to bring Ukraine into NATO.
The uprising in Kiev gave the European Union a second chance, but Europe is divided and it is dithering. It wants the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be a key partner in providing economic aid to Ukraine. Europe also fears Putin’s economic retribution against Ukraine, if he severs the close Russian-Ukrainian economic ties.
Putin is biding his time, waiting for European mistakes, divisions, hesitancy, and fears that prevail in NATO countries. It may be sufficient for him to exact revenge though economic – rather than military – means.
On the Syrian issue, Putin may find his cards are more limited, especially in light of indications that there is a new Western-Arab policy in Syria. It may also prove difficult for him to manage both crises, especially since actors in both cases are not limited to governments but also peoples and the popular will.
There are prospects for prudence to prevail, and to lead to changes in policies and adapting with new realities all the way to reaching new understandings. But there also are prospects for vindictive policies, leading to further confrontations and miscalculations.
The battles for Kiev and Damascus are caught between prudence and heavy-handedness, in a polarization that is fateful not only for Ukraine and Syria, but also for the relationship between Russia and the West. It is a phase of anxious repositioning.
Translated from Arabic by Karim Traboulsi

Russians strike Ukraine army post in Crimea. Kiev fears Ukraine army putsch. US warships on standby
DEBKAfile Special Report March 1, 2014/As Moscow’s master plan for Ukraine continued to unfold, Russian forces Saturday, March 1, staged their first attack on a Ukraine military installation in Crimea, while completing their takeover of the region and its severance from Ukraine. Interfax reported from a Ukrainian source that 20 soldiers had entered an anti-aircraft missile command post in western Crimea and that negotiations rather than a clash were under way. Earlier Saturday, Crimea's new pro-Moscow prime minister Serhiy Aksyonov asked President Vladimir Putin for help in “maintaining peace in the region,” saying he was in control of the region’s interior ministry, armed forces, fleet and border guards. The invitation set the scene for Russian military intervention in Crimea at the request of its government. Moscow said the appeal would not go “unnoticed," while the Russian foreign ministry declared itself “extremely concerned” by developments in Crimea – cynically echoing US President Barack Obama’s expression Friday of “deep concern” about Russian military movements inside Ukraine and his warning of “costs.” The Crimean premier, appointed Thursday by parliament in Simferopol, later announced that a referendum would be held on March 30 to determine the peninsula’s status. Meanwhile, he said, Russian Black Sea fleet servicemen were guarding important buildings. In Kiev, interim defense minister Igor Tenyukh, addressing the first new cabinet’s first meeting, accused Russia of an armed invasion of Ukraine and pouring an additional 6,000 troops into the peninsula. Western correspondents reported that Crimea is now cut off from the rest of Ukraine after “unidentified troops” in combat fatigues, armed with automatic rifles, machine guns or RPGs, seized control of Crimea’s sea and air ports and its main road network in the last 24 hours. Interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told the Kiev cabinet that Ukraine forces were on alert, but he would not be ”drawn into a military conflict by Russian provocations in the Crimea region.” debkafile’s military sources report that this announcement was hollow. The 160,000-strong Ukrainian army is no match for the Russian army’s operational capabilities and fire power, although it too is equipped with Russian weapons and trained in Russian military tactics. But above all, it is far from certain that the new authorities in Kiev control the Ukraine army. No one knows where the loyalties of its officers lie, whether with the new pro-European regime or the absconding pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. This confronts the troubled country with a fresh peril, a possible army putsch to oust the interim regime set up by the Ukraine opposition in Kiev, and its replacement with a military government for containing continuing Russian expansion beyond the borders of Crimea. The former Independence Square protesters would have no answer to this. Moscow, while insisting that its military actions were not an invasion but a legal bid to protect its interests, has also moved to offset any financial assistance the West may offer Kiev. Russia's energy giant Gazprom bluntly warned Kiev that it had accumulated a "huge" debt of $1.5 billion for natural gas that needed to be urgently paid if the supply is to continue.
This is the exact amount of the loan guarantees the US and EU propose to offer the stony-broke Kiev authorities.
Along with US warnings to Moscow, a high alert was secretly declared Saturday by the US Mediterranean Sixth Fleet. Two US warships which had been deployed in the Black Sea to back up Russian security for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi - the USS Taylor Frigate and the USS Mount Whitney Blue Ridge-class command ship - have moved over to the western side of the Black Sea opposite Crimea and facing the Russian navy base of Sevastopol. The Mount Whitney is outfitted with sophisticated intelligence-gathering systems. Its current location means that ongoing Russian military movements across central, southern and western Russia, around its borders with Ukraine and inside the Crimean peninsula, are being monitored and beamed to the White House and the Pentagon. Obama’s response is anyone’s guess. So far, the only hints thrown out are that Western leaders are planning a boycott of the G8 summit Putin plans to host in Sochi this summer, in protest against Russia’s takeover of Crimea.

Rouhani: 'Ethical principles' stop Iran from pursuing nukes
Reuters Published: 03.01.14, 10:04 / Ynetnews
Islamic republic's president says if his country wanted WMDs, it would make chemical, biological weapons.
Iran's president says the Islamic republic rejects the manufacture of nuclear weapons out of principle, not because it is prevented so by treaties.
Hassan Rouhani also said that, had Iran wanted weapons of mass destruction, it would be easier for it to make chemical or biological weapons. He made the comments Saturday while addressing Iran's Defense Ministry officials.
Rouhani said that Iran's "beliefs" and commitment to "ethical principles" prevent it from making a bomb.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already issued a religious decree banning the production and use of nuclear weapons. He says having such arms is a sin.
The US and its allies fear that Iran seeks to develop the ability to make a nuclear weapon, should it want one. Iran denies the charge. Earlier in the week, a Reuters report revealed that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had shelved a major report on Iran that might have revealed more of its alleged bomb-relevant research, but held off because of the warming relations between Iran and the West.
On Friday, Israel urged the UN nuclear watchdog agency to go public with all information it has regarding suspicions that Iran researched how to build an atomic bomb. "The role of the IAEA is to expose to the international community all information regarding military aspects of the Iranian nuclear project, and not to withhold it for reasons of diplomatic sensitivity," Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.