March 04/14


Bible Quotation for today/Final Instructions
Romans 16/17-23: " I urge you, my friends: watch out for those who cause divisions and upset people's faith and go against the teaching which you have received. Keep away from them! For those who do such things are not serving Christ our Lord, but their own appetites. By their fine words and flattering speech they deceive innocent people.  Everyone has heard of your loyalty to the gospel, and for this reason I am happy about you. I want you to be wise about what is good, but innocent in what is evil. And God, our source of peace, will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.  Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings; and so do Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, fellow Jews. I, Tertius, the writer of this letter, send you Christian greetings. My host Gaius, in whose house the church meets, sends you his greetings; Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

Pope Francis's Tweeter For Today
How to live a good marriage? United to the Lord, who always renews our love and strengthens it to overcome every difficulty.
Pape François
Comment bien vivre le mariage ? Unis au Seigneur, qui renouvelle toujours l’amour et le rend plus fort que chaque difficulté.

Wealth and the Real Nature Of People
Elias Bejjani/Wealth exposes the real nature of people. Those who are evil, wealth makes them worst than the devil himself, and those who are righteous, wealth increases their righteousness. Meanwhile the Bible teaches us that we can't worship both God and Money at the same time. Back home in Lebanon we have a proverb that says: Those evil ones who become rich spend their entire lives in misery and just guarding their wealth without enjoying it or helping others to make them happy .

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 04/14

How Ukraine Will Shape the Future of the Middle East/By: Dennis Ross/Washington InstituteMarch 04/14
Obama giving Netanyahu one last chance/By: Orly Azoulay/Ynetnews/March 04/14

The normalization of Syria’s tragedy/By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat/March 04/14

Why Crimea won’t soften Moscow’s stance on Syria/Dr. Theodore Karasik/AlArabiya/March 04/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 04/14
Lebanese Related News

Geagea Defends Suleiman against Hizbullah's Attempts to 'Undermine' the State

Suleiman, Hizbullah Hold Contacts to Defuse Tension

Berri Says Resistance 'Red Line,' Ready to Propose Policy Statement Solution
Lebanese Army Releases Photo of 'Dangerous' Suspect

Report: Surge in Recruitment as Hizbullah Fighters Help Assad

Arrest Warrants Issued against 4 Suspects Linked with Abbas

Paris Meeting on Lebanon Set to be Overshadowed by Ukraine Crisis

Abou Faour Pessimistic over Possible Consensus on Cabinet's Policy Statement

Controversial Meeting in Tehran to Stir Political Dispute between Rival Parties

Sami Gemayel backs Sleiman, slams Hezbollah

Waves of weapons smuggling in north Lebanon
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Obama to Netanyahu: Two-state solution still possible

McCain to US administration: Israel needs you
Hezbollah suspect in Golan Heights rocket attack

Obama to Seek Netanyahu Backing for Peace Framework

UN watchdog: Iran complying with nuclear deal, but much work remains
Attendees Horrified to See Hezbollah Flags Waved Outside AIPAC Policy Conference (VIDEO)

Moscow will halt military steps in Ukraine – only after a US guarantee not to post missile shield there
Russia-Ukraine conflict intensifies as pro-Russian soldiers take ferry terminal in east Crimea

Russia denies issuing ultimatum to Ukraine forces in Crimea
Obama: Russia broke international law in Ukraine

EU Ministers Seek Joint Response on Ukraine at Crisis Talks

Hague: Ukraine 'Biggest Crisis in Europe in 21st Century'

Russia PM: Yanukovych Still Legitimate Ukraine President

Russia Central Bank in Surprise Rate Hike Amid Ukraine Crisis

U.S. Says Russia Ready to Help Ukraine Economy, Yanukovych Lost All Legitimacy

U.S., OSCE Leader Want Observers in Ukraine 'Immediately'

Egypt Policemen Sentenced to 10 Years for Blogger Death

Syrian army captures village near Yabroud: state TV  


Paris Meeting on Lebanon Set to be Overshadowed by Ukraine Crisis
Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2014/The U.S. and Russian foreign ministers will attend French-sponsored talks in Paris Wednesday on helping Lebanon cope with the conflict in Syria, but the talks look set to be overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis, France said. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to come for the meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon meeting but French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday that Russia's Sergei Lavrov would also attend the conference. Lavrov "will come here day after tomorrow as France is hosting a meeting on Lebanon," Fabius told RTL radio. "I am meeting him on that day, the day after and possibly" for a bilateral meeting ahead of the Lebanon talks in Paris, he said. Fabius' entourage said he and Lavrov would discuss the escalating Ukraine conflict on the sidelines of the Lebanon Group meeting. Russia's G8 partners have denounced Russia's moves on Ex-Soviet Ukraine and have suspended preparations for the G8 summit in Sochi in June. The support group was set up in New York in September 2013 on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly to help Beirut deal with the implications of the brutal war in Syria that began in March 2011. It is intended to provide financial, political and security support to the country. It undertook to work together to mobilize support for the sovereignty and state institutions of Lebanon and to highlight and promote efforts to assist the country where it was most affected by the Syrian crisis, including in respect of strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces, assistance to refugees, and structural and financial support to the government. Source/Agence France PresseNaharnet.

Geagea Defends Suleiman against Hizbullah's Attempts to 'Undermine' the State
Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea defended President Michel Suleiman against Hizbullah's harsh rhetoric, saying the Lebanese are fed up with the party's practices, which contradict the authorities of the state institutions. Geagea told al-Mustaqbal newspaper published on Monday that Suleiman “said what he had to say last Friday on our behalf.” His remarks “reflect the viewpoint of the majority of the Lebanese who are fed up with Hizbullah's behavior and practices at the strategic, military, security, political and media levels,” the LF chief said. “I salute him,” he added. The tension between Suleiman and Hizbullah reached unprecedented levels over the weekend when the president said Lebanese parties should not hold onto inflexible equations that hinder the adoption of the new government's policy statement. His remark at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik drew a sharp retort from Hizbullah, which said the president needed “specialized care.” Their dispute lies on the deadlock reached by the members of the committee tasked with drafting the policy statement on whether to include a clause on the resistance in the blueprint. Geagea reiterated in his interview with al-Mustaqbal that Hizbullah considers the supreme leader of Iran as the head of the Lebanese state. It believes that “our situation in Lebanon should be a copycat of Iran,” he said about the Shiite party. “Hizbullah considered the president's move as a rebellion, that's why it had to make the crucial remarks against him,” he said. Hizbullah does not recognize the legitimate Lebanese institutions and seeks to "undermine them when they try to practice their authorities," he added. Asked whether a mysterious drone was still flying over his residence in Maarab, Geagea said: “The drone comes as part of practices that prevent free voices in this country.” He did not confirm whether it was shut down as promised by LF MP Antoine Zahra. Geagea said last month that he contacted Suleiman, Premier Tammam Salam, ex-Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji over the issue. “We received guarantees that the appropriate measures have been taken to prevent it from flying over Maarab,” he said. Zahra also said that the drone would not be allowed to fly over Maarab, because it would be shot down by Geagea's guards.

Berri Says Resistance 'Red Line,' Ready to Propose Policy Statement Solution
Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri has said that the resistance is a red line but was ready to make proposals to resolve the dispute on the government's policy statement on condition that the rival parties expressed readiness to agree on a solution on the resistance clause. Several local dailies quoted Berri as saying on Monday that he would never give up on mentioning the resistance in the policy statement. “The resistance is a red line entrenched in the land that was liberated through sacrifices,” the speaker, who is also the head of the Amal movement allied with Hizbullah, said about the liberation of the South. The members of a ministerial committee tasked with drafting the policy statement have been bickering on whether to include a clause on the resistance in the blueprint. President Michel Suleiman and the March 14 alliance want to drop it but the Hizbullah-led March 8 camp is holding onto it to legitimize Hizbullah’s armed resistance against Israel. The newspapers said, however, Berri told his visitors that the parties opposing the clause should live for a few days in the South, particularly in areas near the border with Israel, “and then give their opinion, which would be more pragmatic and objective.” “There are solutions that guarantee to satisfy all parties in the policy statement, but they can't be proposed amid the political tension that renewed lately over certain stances,” he reportedly said. Berri was referring to the tension between Suleiman and Hizbullah that reached unprecedented levels over the weekend when the president said Lebanese parties should not hold onto inflexible equations that hinder the adoption of the new government's policy statement. His remark drew a sharp retort from Hizbullah, which said the president needed “specialized care.” Berri said that he would make proposals to resolve the tension on the resistance clause if there were intentions in that regard. “But any solution would not come at the expense of the resistance.” An Nahar daily said Monday that Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat, a centrist, held telephone conversations with Berri and al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri to resolve the policy statement deadlock. But the newspaper said that there was still no positive atmosphere in that regard and expected the representatives of Hizbullah and Amal - Ministers Mohammed Fneish and Ali Hassan Khalil - in the ministerial committee to take escalatory measures during the meeting on Monday to ask for discussions on clauses that have been previously approved by its members. Al-Joumhouria also reported Monday that Prime Minister Tammam Salam met over the weekend with envoys sent by Berri, Jumblat and several other personalities. The daily quoted the officials who visited Salam as saying that the PM had stressed the importance of preserving the agreement that led to the formation of his 24-member cabinet. He reportedly said that the policy statement forms the basic part of the work of the government which ends with the presidential elections.

Army Releases Photo of 'Dangerous' Suspect

Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2014/The Lebanese army released on Monday the photo of a "dangerous" fugitive, calling on whoever acknowledges him to report to the military institution. “Whoever recognizes the suspect should contact the army operations room on 1701, report to the nearest military base or use the LAF shield mobile application,” the army said in its communique. It did not provide further details. Last Tuesday, the army released the photo of another “dangerous” man. The military has arrested several hard-line militants who have admitted to carrying out bombings or plotting terrorist attacks. However, several suspects having ties with the al-Qaida-linked groups are on the run. Some of them are believed to be potential suicide bombers.

Report: Surge in Recruitment as Hizbullah Fighters Help Assad

Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2014/Hizbullah is experiencing a surge in recruitment as it fights alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops in Syria, members of the group have told London's Daily Telegraph.
The newspaper said that two Hizbullah members separately said there had been an increase in the number of men willing to fight in Syria. "First they need to be given proper training. Only if they are good men do we let them join our ranks," one said, asking not to be named. "All the men from this area are getting guns and asking to fight in Syria, whether they are already members of Hizbullah or not," said one supporter of the group, who asked not to be named. "We are in a critical situation and we have to fight for the sake of the Shiites," he said. The Hizbullah supporter spoke sitting in a cafe in Hermel, the town in the eastern Bekaa valley, which has been hit with three suicide car bombings. The sectarian divide has grown increasingly explosive in Lebanon, with Sunnis largely backing the rebels in Syria, while Shiites and Hizbullah support Assad's regime. Sunni militants have carried out more than a dozen bombings against Shiite areas since July, killing dozens and terrifying the country. The hard-line Sunni groups are seeking revenge against Hizbullah for supporting Assad. "You step out of your home and you don't know if you are going to live or die. A bomb might kill you when you are on your way to the shop for groceries. Nowhere is safe," Ibrahim, a 67-year-old retired engineer, told the Daily Telegraph.

Suleiman, Hizbullah Hold Contacts to Defuse Tension

Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2014/President Michel Suleiman's advisers and Hizbullah officials held contacts to ease the tension between the Baabda Palace and the party after they launched a war of words over the weekend. According to An Nahar newspaper published on Monday, Suleiman's advisers and Hizbullah officials discussed the policy statement, without citing further details. On Saturday, Hizbullah and President Michel Suleiman were at loggerheads over the president's recent statement concerning the cabinet's policy statement. Suleiman said Friday that the land, people and common values formed the country's “permanent equation,” describing the people-army-resistance equation as “wooden” or outdated. Hizbullah was quick to hit back at Suleiman, accusing him on Saturday of not being able to differentiate between “what's golden and what's wooden.”The party said that Baabda Palace has come to require “special care." Suleiman replied via twitter saying that what Baabda Palace needs is acknowledging the unanimous consensus over the Baabda Declaration that was reached inside its premises.

Qaouq: We Reject Any Policy Statement that Satisfies Israel
Naharnet Newsdesk 02 March 2014/Deputy head of Hizbullah's Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qaouq on Sunday stressed that the party will “reject any ministerial policy statement that would satisfy Israel.” “We reject any ministerial policy statement that would satisfy Israel because we don't want to give up the reason behind Lebanon's strength, which is the resistance,” Qaouq said during a memorial service in the southern town of Houla. “We are ready to bear all forms of insults and incitement because the issue is not related to a certain party, movement, region or sect, but rather to the country's dignity,” he added. “We will not impose dignity on those who don't want it, but we won't allow that Lebanon's strength be given up in the face of Israeli threats,” the top Hizbullah official said. He noted that “the resistance's strength, its growing capabilities and its decision's courage are what deterring Israel from taking advantage of the Syrian crisis to carry out an aggression against Lebanon, not the statements of the March 14 camp.” “The only thing that has humiliated and insulted the Israeli army since 1948 until today is the resistance and not anything else, as who can guarantee Israel's intentions against Lebanon should we give up Lebanon's strength and the resistance?” Qaouq added. He pointed out that the resistance did not ask the government for “any political cover for its role in Syria, but rather for a strong national stance in the face of Israel.” “The policy statement must represent a message of strength, invincibility, potency and pride for the country against all takfiri and Israeli threats and must not represent a message of reassurance to Israel,” Qaouq underlined. “Our stance is clear following the provocations, statements and media and political tensions that happened. Those who support the resistance will gain more dignity, pride and honor and those who don't want to support it will only gain further repentance while those who want to target it will only gain further disappointment,” he emphasized. “We are not people who would give up a single iota of the resistance's dignity or who would allow an attack on any of its letters,” Qaouq pledged. On Saturday, Hizbullah and President Michel Suleiman were at loggerheads over the president's recent statement concerning the cabinet's policy statement. Suleiman said Friday that the land, people and common values formed the country's “permanent equation,” describing the people-army-resistance equation as “wooden” or outdated. Hizbullah was quick to hit back at Suleiman, accusing him on Saturday of not being able to differentiate between “what's golden and what's wooden.” On Friday, the committee drafting the ministerial policy statement failed anew to reach an agreement on the clause related to resisting Israel as the March 14 forces insisted on “the state's authority over everything.”The committee's meeting was the seventh since Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet was formed around two weeks ago. The panel will hold a new session at the Grand Serail on Monday. Salam has announced that his government's mission is combating terrorism and preparing for the upcoming presidential election.

Sami Gemayel Voices Solidarity with Suleiman, Says 'Campaign against him Not Fair'

Naharnet Newsdesk 02 March 2014/Phalange Party Central Committee Coordinator MP Sami Gemayel contacted on Sunday President Michel Suleiman, voicing solidarity with him over his national stances.
Gemayel expressed resentment over the “unfair campaign” against the President during the telephone conversation. “The party supports you and all our capabilities are at you disposal in order to fortify the state and return to it,” Gemayel told Suleiman. He expressed hope that the upcoming stage will include more cooperation. On Saturday, Hizbullah and the president were at loggerheads over Suleiman's recent statement concerning the cabinet's policy statement. Suleiman said Friday that the land, people and common values formed the country's “permanent equation,” describing that the people-army-resistance equation as “wood.” Hizbullah's slammed on Saturday Suleiman's comments, accusing him of not being able to differentiate between “what's golden and what's wooden.”The party said that Baabda Palace has come to require “special care." Suleiman replied via twitter saying that what Baabda Palace needs is acknowledging the unanimous consensus over the Baabda Declaration that was reached inside its premises.

Arrest Warrants Issued against 4 Suspects Linked with Abbas

Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2014/The military tribunal issued on Monday arrest warrants against four people suspected of collaborating with al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades official Naim Abbas. Judge Fadi Sawan issued the warrants against the suspects after questioning them, the state-run National News Agency reported. Abbas, a top Abdullah Azzam Brigades official, has been charged with belonging to an armed terrorist group. An arrest warrant was issued against him last week for also having ties with Jamal Daftardar, another terror suspect who is in custody. Abbas, a Palestinian described as Abdullah Azzam Brigades' number two man in Lebanon, was arrested by the Lebanese army in the Beirut area of Corniche al-Mazraa on Feb. 12. Also Monday, the lawyer of Abbas and a female terrorist suspect, Joumana Hmayyed, submitted motions to Judge Sawan, NNA said. Sawan will take a decision on the motions before questioning them, it said. Hmayyed was held the same day of Abbas' arrest on the Arsal-Labweh road in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
She was driving a booby-trapped car. Two other women, who were with her in the vehicle, have been released.

Abou Faour Pessimistic over Possible Consensus on Cabinet's Policy Statement
Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2014/Health Minister Wael Abou Faour expressed pessimism on Monday over reaching consensus among the rival parties on the cabinet's policy statement, in particular regarding the army-people-resistance equation and the ongoing war in Syria. “All sides should offer compromises in order to reach common grounds,” Abou Faour said in an interview with An Nahar newspaper. The minister, who is loyal to Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, expressed belief that Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet could be an appeasement and national unity government. “The cabinet could at least organize the political dispute, fortify security and revive the economy,” Abou Faour pointed out. On Friday, the committee drafting the ministerial policy statement failed anew to reach an agreement on the clause related to resisting Israel as the March 14 forces insisted on “the state's authority over everything.”The committee's meeting was the seventh since Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet was formed around two weeks ago. Salam has announced that his government's mission is combating terrorism and preparing for the upcoming presidential election. He considered that the main goal of Salam's cabinet is to carry out the upcoming presidential elections, reject any kind of vacuum at the state's higher post. Asked about the mediation role that Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun is carrying out to bridge the gap between al-Mustaqal movement and Hizbuallah, Abou Faour praised the move. “Aoun's endeavors will create further possibilities to reach consensus,” the minister pointed out. He noted that Aoun's exerted efforts facilitates the role that the PSP is playing between the political arch-foes. Aoun recently confirmed that he has recently met with former premier Saad Hariri and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. "If you want to make a mediation, you must talk to everyone. Hizbullah is not embarrassed of my rapprochement with Mustaqbal (Movement) and we will all be able to close ranks,” Aoun had said. Concerning the recommencement of all-party talks, Abou Faour said that the “positive dynamic endeavors that accompanied the formation of the cabinet should be strengthened by the resumption of a serious and productive national dialogue.” The last dialogue session was held on September 20, 2012.

Controversial Meeting in Tehran to Stir Political Dispute between Rival Parties
Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2014/Lebanon's participation in a meeting between Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian lawmakers, ahead of a meeting for the International Parliamentary Union, is expected to create a dispute among the political arch-foes, al-Liwaa newspaper reported on Monday. According to the daily, the preparatory meeting between the four countries on March 10 in the Iranian capital, Tehran, will become a point of contention locally as it would be representing a particular international axis that contradicts the dissociation policy that the Lebanese government had adopted. The Baabda Declaration was unanimously adopted during a national dialogue session in June 2012. It calls for Lebanon to disassociate itself from regional crises, most notably the one in Syria. A parliamentary source told the newspaper that Speaker Nabih Berri has “the complete freedom to form the Lebanese delegation according to his will.” “The parliament is not obliged to commit to anything,” the source said. Chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi had recently invited Lebanese officials to attend the preparatory meeting that will be preceding the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the world organization of Parliaments, which will be held in Geneva on March 16. An Iranian parliamentary delegation, headed by Boroujerdi, held talks with senior Lebanese officials last week. The delegation pledged on it's two-day official visit that “through its capabilities in this field, the Islamic Republic of Iran will spare no effort or support that might be asked for by the Lebanese side in the battle against terrorism and terrorists.”

Russia-Ukraine conflict intensifies as pro-Russian soldiers take ferry terminal in east Crimea
By David McHugh And Dalton Bennet, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – KIEV, Ukraine - Britain's foreign secretary said the U.K. is not discussing military options in its attempts to reverse the Russian incursion into Ukraine but insisted that Moscow must face "significant costs" over its moves in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula that its troops now control. Ukraine's prime minister called on the West for political and economic support and said Crimea remained part of his country — but conceded there were "for today, no military options on the table." Pro-Russian soldiers seemed to further cement their control over the strategic region — that also houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet — by seizing a ferry terminal in the Ukrainian city of Kerch about 20 kilometres (12 miles) by boat to Russia, intensifying fears that Moscow will send even more troops into the peninsula. It comes as the U.S. and European governments are trying to figure out ways to halt and reverse the Russian incursion. The soldiers at the terminal refused to identify themselves on Monday, but they spoke Russian and the vehicles transporting them had Russian license plates. Russia has taken effective control of the Crimean peninsula without firing a shot. Now, the fears in the Ukrainian capital and beyond are that that Russia might seek to expand its control by seizing other parts of eastern Ukraine. Senior Obama administration officials said the U.S. now believes that Russia has complete operational control of Crimea, a pro-Russian area of the country, and has more than 6,000 troops in the region. So far, Ukraine's new government and the West have appeared powerless to counter Russia's tactics. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk insisted that Crimea remains Ukrainian territory despite the presence of Russian military. "Any attempt of Russia to grab Crimea will have no success at all. Give us some time," he said at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Wiliam Hague, who is visiting Kyiv.
"For today, no military options (are) on the table," he said, adding that what they urgently need is an economic and political support. "Real support. Tangible support. And we do believe that our Western partners will provide this support," he said. Hague said "the world cannot just allow this to happen." But he ruled out any military action.
"The U.K is not discussing military options. Our concentration is on diplomatic and economic pressure." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday justified the use of Russian troops in Ukraine as a necessary protection for his country's citizens living there. "This is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots, ensuring human rights, especially the right to life," Lavrov said in Geneva. Tension between Ukraine and Moscow rose sharply after Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed out by a protest movement among people who wanted closer ties with the European Union. Yanukovych fled to Russia after more than 80 demonstrators were killed near Kyiv's central square. He says he is still president. Since then, troops that Ukraine says are Russian soldiers have moved into Crimea, patrolling airports, smashing equipment at an airbase and besieging Ukrainian military installations. Outrage over Russia's military moves has mounted in world capitals, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling on President Vladimir Putin to pull back from "an incredible act of aggression." Kerry is to travel to Ukraine on Tuesday. Hague said it was urgent to get Russia and Ukraine "in direct communication with each other." Hague said on the BBC that Moscow would face "significant costs" for taking control of Crimea. "If Russia continues on this course we have to be clear this is not an acceptable way to conduct international relations," Hague said. "There are things that we can do about it and must do about it." Putin has defied calls from the West to pull back his troops, insisting that Russia has a right to protect its interests and those of Russian-speakers in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine. His confidence is matched by the knowledge that Ukraine's 46 million people have divided loyalties. While much of western Ukraine wants closer ties with the 28-nation European Union, its eastern and southern regions like Crimea look to Russia for support.
Faced with the Russian threat, Ukraine's new government has moved to consolidate its authority, naming new regional governors in the pro-Russia east, enlisting the support of the country's wealthy businessmen and dismissing the head of the country's navy after he declared allegiance to the pro-Russian government in Crimea. NATO held an emergency meeting in Brussels and the U.S., France and Britain debated the possibility of boycotting the next Group of Eight economic summit, to be held in June in Sochi, the host of Russia's successful Winter Olympics. On Sunday evening, the White House issued a joint statement on behalf of the Group of Seven saying they are suspending participation in the planning for the upcoming summit because Russia's advances in the Ukraine violate the "principles and values" on which the G-7 and G-8 operate.
Russia has long wanted to reclaim the lush Crimean Peninsula, part of its territory until 1954. Russia's Black Sea Fleet pays Ukraine millions annually to be stationed at the Crimean port of Sevastopol and nearly 60 per cent of Crimea's residents identify themselves as Russian.
*Bennet reported from Kerch, Ukraine. Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

Attendees Horrified to See Hezbollah Flags Waved Outside AIPAC Policy Conference (VIDEO)
Joshua Levitt/algemeiner.
Internationally designated terrorist group Hezbollah was represented outside the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, by two Americans waving its flag.
While a small group of protesters were waving Palestinian Authority flags and holding placards condemning Israel, as at some other public Jewish and Israeli events, AIPAC delegates said they were horrified to see the Hezbollah flag, which is a rare sight. Pointing to the band of protesters at the convention center entrance, Ilan Weinglass, Executive Director of the American Center for Democracy & Economic Warfare Institute, said, “What they’re doing over there is legal, First Amendment, fine, but this is different.”“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, which is not legal, and while waving their flag might not be illegal, it is certainly something we should worry about,” Weinglass said. “Waving their flag can be like a gateway to taking part in real terror, and that we must object to.” The two young men carrying the flags were not Lebanese, but American, and while they declined to be interviewed, one made a comment when asked why he chose to recreate, apparently with magic marker on yellow cloth, the Hezbollah flag.“Well you know, it’s the only real answer that Israel understands,” the Hezbollah flag waiver said. When an AIPAC delegate, who declined to be named for publication, asked the flag waver his reasoning behind his statement, he was told: “Israel invaded Lebanon, so Hezbollah is the resistance.”
A county sheriff standing by said that the flag wasn’t illegal, but he recognized that it was rare to see the Hezbollah colors outside an Israel related event. Indeed, Jason Epstein, from Southfive Strategies, a public policy consultancy, said he’s been attending the AIPAC annual event since the early 1990s, and this was the very first time he saw a Hezbollah flag at the convention. “I expect to see the usual crazies… across the street, but this is taking it to a new low because of what Hezbollah represents,” Epstein said. Watch a video clip of the Hezbollah flag being waved outside the AIPAC Policy Conference.

Obama to Netanyahu: Two-state solution still possible

Yitzhak Benhorin/Ynetnews
Published: 03.03.14/As Israeli official claims 'there are tensions between the two leaders,' Israel's prime minister discusses peace negotiations, Iranian nuclear program with US president.
WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with US President Barack Obama Monday at the White House. Speaking to the press, Obama said that there is strong bipartisan support for Israel's security and that the two-state solution is still possible.
Obama praised Netanyahu's intensive efforts in the talks and reiterated his commitment to assuring Iran does not become a nuclear power. For his part, the Netanyahu said Israel is doing its part to pursue peace, but the Palestinians haven't. The Israeli leader said he regrets that. Netanyahu also said the greatest challenge is Iran's nuclear program. He said he'll do, in his words, "whatever I must do to defend the Jewish state."
An Israeli official said prior to the meeting of the two leaders that "there are tensions between the two. Obama's interview (with Bloomberg) heightened tensions."
Earlier Monday Netanyahu spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry, a meeting which fired the opening shot in a series of meetings planned for the Israeli prime minister in America.
Netanyahu and Obama are expected to discuss many issues, including the negotiations with the Palestinian and the Iranian nuclear program.
After the meeting with the American president, the Israeli leader is set to meet with the leadership of the House of Representatives and with Vice President Joe Biden.
Kerry will meet with Israeli negotiators Minister Tzipi Livni and Attorney Yitzhak Molcho later on Monday.
The Secretary of State who is set to leave for Kiev on Tuesday, will also take part in the Obama-Netanyahu meeting and will address the annual AIPAC conference before his trip.
Upon arriving in the US, Netanyahu said that "the tango in the Middle East needs at least three. For years there have been two – Israel and the US. It remains to be seen if the Palestinians are also present."
Obama passed a subtle threat to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an interview with Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg Sunday night, that if Israel rejects the Kerry agreement, it may face a bleak future and international isolation. The American president claimed that Abbas is a willing partner for peace, though the Palestinians have yet to accept the conditions of the Kerry agreement.
*Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report.

Obama giving Netanyahu one last chance
Orly Azoulay/Ynetnews,7340,L-4494454,00.html
Published: 03.03.14/
Analysis: White House has failed to find any signs indicating that Israel's prime minister really intends to make a move towards peace. A storm of snow mixed with rain awaited Netanyahu as he entered the White House. The prime minister will work hard to defrost the atmosphere, and not just because of the temperature outside, which is -12°C.
Washington was waiting for Netanyahu covered with some 20 centimeters of snow (that's what the weather forecasters promised), President Obama is preoccupied exclusively with the crisis with Russia, which is threatening to renew the Cold War, and Putin's military forces in the Crimea peninsula are keeping the American discourse busy more than any Kerry plan.
At this time, in the White House, the Middle East seems more loathsome and less promising than ever. Netanyahu was a guest arriving at the wrong time. Recently the president's advisors looked into the slightly optimistic news they received from Secretary of State Kerry's inner circle, that Netanyahu has changed and that his body of refusal has generated the spirit of a strong leader ready to go towards a peace agreement.
The president's people, whose job is to raise doubts, asked why Netanyahu wasn't preparing the public opinion in Israel for painful concessions and wasn't engaging in any internal political work if he really wanted to make history. They noted that there was no sign of any preparation work, as would be expected from someone about to make a far-reaching move. The majority in the White House is convinced that there is nothing new under the sun. White House officials estimate that this time too, Netanyahu arrived with a suitcase filled with empty promises. They are very familiar with this ritual. They haven’t found any signs indicating that Israel's prime minister has changed and that he really intends to make a move this time, and not just to mock and play for time. On Monday, Obama will give the last chance before pulling the curtains over the window of opportunities created: He will respect Netanyahu but suspect him, push him against the wall so that he accepts the framework agreement Kerry is expected to bring. It will be Obama's last attempt: If an agreement isn't reached this time, there will be no other opportunity, certainly not during his term. He will make it clear to Netanyahu that he is willing to get personally involved, but only if there is really someone to run with. If this is a futile move, he will help from behind and from afar. The prime minister was greeted at the White House with smiles and polite words. That's how the official Washington treats its guests. But unlike the previous times, this time Obama will try to examine whether there is a real intention hiding behind Netanyahu's fancy words. If Netanyahu is wearing a mask, this time Obama intends to tear it off his face.

Moscow will halt military steps in Ukraine – only after a US guarantee not to post missile shield there
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 3, 2014/As Washington and the Europeans – and especially the UK – continue to decry Russian military aggression, the US and Russians have quietly entered into intense negotiations on a compromise for resolving their dispute over Ukraine, DEBKAfile’s Washington and Moscow sources report.
Moscow insists on keeping in place the military forces which took control of Crimea over the weekend, but is ready to discuss terms for restraining the Russian army from advancing into the Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.
The exchanges between the two powers are going through Berlin. The German government is making every effort to dispel the winds of war coming in from the east. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Vladimir Putin conferred Sunday night by phone and decided to talk again about ways of promoting the negotiations.
Our sources were unable to confirm that Merkel ever said to President Barack Obama when she reported on the conversation in reference to Putin that “she was not sure he was in touch with reality. He lives in another world.”
Senior official sources reported instead that the chancellor had proposed to Putin that Russian troops be withdrawn in stages from Crimea and their place taken by European Union observers.
She also suggested that the interim government provide guarantees to refrain from occupying the regions vacated by the Russian army or harming the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine.
In effect, Chancellor Merkel added her voice to a formulation taking shape in consultations Sunday at EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels, which called for “an inclusive political process in Ukraine based on democratic values, respect for human rights, minorities and the rule of law, which fulfills the democratic aspirations of the entire Ukrainian people.”
Monday, EU foreign ministers began considering how these lofty principles could be applied in practice. One idea gaining ground was for European contact groups to circulate Ukraine and discuss arrangements based on these principles with local authorities.
However, according to our US and Russian sources, Putin is after hard, practical strategic gains, principally, a demilitarized Crimea that would not threaten Russia from its western doorstep.
In fact, the Russian president has couched his demands for further negotiations under four headings:
1. The Kiev government whichever form it takes must sign an obligation to abstain from any ties with NATO.
2. Neither the US, NATO or any other power will deploy X-Band or BX-1 radar stations on Ukraine territory whether on land, sea or air. This guarantee would additionally cover elements of an anti-missile missile shield and ballistic missiles placing Russia in their sights.
3. Restrictions will govern the types of weapons allowed the Ukrainian army.
4. Local military bodies will be established to protect the Russian-speaking and ethnic Russian regions of Ukraine.
Putin emphasized in his conversation with Merkel that, until those four conditions are met, Russian forces would remain where they are in Crimea and if this was deemed necesssary, advance into other parts of Ukraine.
This list of demands was at the back of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s assertion Monday that Russian troops were needed in Ukraine “to protect Russian interests and citizens - until the normalization of the political situation.” Russia, he said, was defending human rights against “ultranationalist threats.”
It was evident from these words and deeds that Moscow finds the interim government in Kiev unacceptable Moscow and will make every effort to remove it.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to pay a visit to Kiev Tuesday, March 4. He follows British Secretary of State William Hague who paid homage to the former protesters in the Ukraine Monday. “Russia has created a tens and dangerous situation, Hague said, calling it “the biggest European crisis in the 21st century.”
Such declarations are unlikely to put Putin off his course, but there is little more that the West can do to turn the clock back to a more advantageous moment in the Kiev fracas.


How Ukraine Will Shape the Future of the Middle East
By: Dennis Ross/New Republic/Washington Institute
March 2, 2014
By showing leadership in its response to the Russian intervention, Washington can open a new conversation with its regional allies regarding Syria, Iran, and Egypt.
Vladimir Putin has done it again. Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, and now Crimea; wherever there are potentially ethnic Russian areas in former Soviet republics that are not prepared to toe the Russian line, there will be separatist movements that will break away as in the case of Moldova, Georgia, and now Ukraine -- and Russia will support them. It matters not that there is an international agreement -- in this case the Budapest Memorandum -- in which Russia, along with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine are all signatories and that Russia has pledged its respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine; that was 1994 and Russia, in Putin's eyes, was weak, and now it is 2014, and it is not, and it can impose its will with little concern for the consequences.
It is ironic that Putin, who worries so much about the territorial integrity of Syria -- and who rails against external intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states -- appears so quick to disregard such concerns when he determines that Russia's interests are involved. It seems that his principles are situational, and where he has the power to impose his will, he does.
The implications for the United States and Europe should be clear. There needs to be a price. No one is going to war over the Crimea, including the Ukraine. But there should be a political and economic price. Not going to the G-8 Summit in Sochi will not impress Putin. He will say he is protecting ethnic Russians and if President Obama and European leaders choose not to go, he will be defiant -- and most likely garner substantial domestic support in the process. But why not say that if Russia remains in Crimea, or moves to incorporate it, the Russians will forfeit their membership in the G-8? How about boycotting all financial and trade meetings with the Russians? I would favor going further and imposing targeted sanctions on the Russians. To be sure, some may worry that if we and the Europeans impose economic sanctions on the Russians, they will withhold natural gas supplies to Europe and Ukraine and/or cease their cooperation as part of the P5+1 on Iran. Such responses are certainly possible. But Putin, too, needs to consider the consequences of such moves at a time when he is presiding over negligible growth, can ill afford to lose the revenues, and runs the risk of losing critical natural gas markets at a time when other suppliers, including the U.S., are becoming increasingly important. Similarly, does Putin really want Iran to become a nuclear weapons state?
The point is that we are not without leverage in imposing consequences, and President Obama, having stated there will be a cost, must be certain that there is one. That is especially important for those in the Middle East watching the events in Crimea unfold. Presently, they see another example of Russia's readiness to defy international norms and act in the service of its power -- a currency that is often the only one that matters to most Middle Eastern leaders. They are acute observers of the balance of power. Many of our Middle Eastern friends believe that the U.S. is increasingly reluctant to act in the face of regional challenges that are shifting the balance of power against its friends and its interests in the area. Listening to Saudis, Emiratis, and Israelis these days can be an excruciating exercise in hearing criticism of America in retreat. One can challenge their perceptions and their conclusions but one cannot deny that these fears exist. No doubt that is perhaps the major reason that the President is now going to go to Saudi Arabia and will see not only the Saudis but other Gulf leaders as well.
This week the President will see Prime Minister Netanyahu, and while Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will form the centerpiece of their discussions, Ukraine, Crimea, and Russian behavior will be a sub-text. Will Iran see in Russian behavior an example that international norms mean little? They certainly mean nothing in Syria. Will they welcome the potential for a crisis between the U.S. and Russia assuming that this will permit them to exploit division within the Perm 5+1 in the negotiations? No doubt our need for a firm response on the Crimea and the possibility of fall-out on the Iranian issue will come up for discussion between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Israel's prime minister and his Middle Eastern counterparts will favor a strong response on Crimea precisely because they are looking for signs that the U.S. will exercise power and leadership. Regardless of how Iran may seek to exploit any divisions at this juncture, most leaders in the Middle East will take comfort from signs of American decisiveness in responding to what is seen as a Russian provocation.
Many in the region now believe that the Russians (and the Iranians) act while we only warn. The answer is not for us to be mindless in responses and to make rash statements that we cannot fulfill. But it is to stake out meaningful positions and follow through on them. For now, the U.S. should be seen mobilizing a broad set of political and economic sanctions -- and material support for Ukraine. Helping Ukraine stabilize its economy will be a huge task but becomes all the more important now -- and sacrifices may be far easier to justify now in Ukraine than at any other time. Helping Ukraine will also be one answer to the Russians and a reminder of U.S. leadership, and that will be observed in the Middle East.
Knowing the Saudis have concerns about our decisiveness at this point does not mean we cannot challenge them as well. They want us to do more to change the balance of power in Syria, and to counter the Iranians there and in the region. And the Saudis -- who so oppose what the Russians are doing in Syria -- are doing very little practically to express that opposition. True, they will argue they cannot be a substitute for the United States, but this is hardly the time for the Saudis to be financing a $3 billion package of Russian arms for Egypt. Few things more clearly signal that the Russians pay no price with the Arabs for helping to sustain Assad's war crimes against Syrian civilians.
Ironically, showing leadership now in our response to the Russian intervention in the Crimea is likely to get the attention of our friends in the Middle East. It cannot be a substitute for what we do in the Middle East, but it can open a new conversation with the Saudis and others. One in which we focus on what we can both do in Syria; how we can both act to ensure that Egypt does not become a failed state; and what we do if there is a nuclear deal with Iran and what we do if there is not. But launching a new conversation will be far harder if the U.S. does not appear to come up with an effective strategy that imposes consequences for Putin's act of aggression against Ukraine.
**Ambassador Dennis Ross is the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow and counselor at The Washington Institute.


The normalization of Syria’s tragedy

By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat
If I were asked to highlight some of the many images that have come out of Syria in recent days, there are three that immediately come to mind: first is that of the thousands of people trapped in the rubble of Yarmuk, who came out begging for their lives and to be spared a slow death. Second is the video of a sobbing young girl, pleading with the person bandaging her still bleeding wounds not to take away her new uniform, stained with her own blood. And third is an image broadcast by the regime and pro-regime media of a bulldozer lifting dozens of corpses, said to be rebel fighters, killed in an ambush.
Choosing these images and publishing them, either in the media or on private websites, is a daily exercise that has become part of our routine as we monitor what is happening in Syria. We lift them from the videos and stills that reach us, whether taken by rebels, soldiers or civilians or even broadcast by the regime itself. We choose the ones we find shocking and expressive, but eschew the ones whose horror we are unable to bear.
And yet we find ourselves unable to resist this daily flogging of the soul. We have become like addicts who, while a small dose used to satisfy their craving, now cannot get their fix no matter how much they increase the dosage of their chosen poison. Our situation is just the same, as we find ourselves unmoved by everything going on around us.
We know that the picture from Yarmuk shows the consequences of the government siege and the slow death it is inflicting on Palestinian refugees as well as its own people. That video of the wailing girl is the pinnacle of the sadness thrust upon the children of Syria, their safety and their dreams. And then there is the third image with all its contempt for the enemy, even in death. Yet nothing has changed now that we have seen these scenes and know the background to them. Everything is exactly as it was three years ago.
The Syrians are approaching the third anniversary of their revolution, which has become a nightmare with levels of violence nobody predicted. Everyone has succeeded in making the death of Syrians easy, cheap and almost meaningless. On this third anniversary, there is a monotony about all the pain in Syria, perhaps due to people’s grim memories of the conflict so far—but there are no lessons to be learned from looking back.
Perhaps at such a time we ought to employ the cool logic shown by the documentation research centers that strive to keep people wondering how many of the images we see in social media from Syria are authentic and how many are misleading. It is not unreasonable to mention the harm inflicted on the Syrian opposition movement by images that have been fabricated or show atrocities that have been provided by people assumed to be members of the opposition. After three years and millions of images, we have to return to the core of the crisis—how could the world leave the Syrians to die this way?
In three years the government has turned the country into a wasteland. There is now a government that is little more than a group that exists only to kill with heavy weapons, planes and poisonous gas, an opposition with no clear structure and no future, and vicious gangs that grow more insane and bloodthirsty by the day.
The prolific photographic record of all the death and grief is all that thrives, but both sides have become unable to use these images effectively. We don’t know exactly how many lives the crisis has claimed or how high the death toll will rise in the future. Indeed we are still asking the same question as three years ago: who is responsible?


Why Crimea won’t soften Moscow’s stance on Syria
Monday, 3 March 2014
Dr. Theodore Karasik/AlArabiya
The recent focus on Ukraine’s meltdown brought out a lot of analysis on how events in the broken country may affect the Kremlin’s foreign policy on Syria. Many pundits argued that there would not be much of a change. That assertion may be a bit premature: the temperature throughout the region appears to be reaching the boiling point.
The events in Ukraine, especially the escalating situation in Crimea, are challenging the Kremlin at a critical juncture between Moscow and Damascus. As we know, Moscow argues that Syria is an integral part of the Kremlin's foreign policy in the Middle East.
Commentators are maintaining that events in Ukraine are likely to force changes in Russia's strategic outlook thus making the Kremlin either more assertive on the Syrian question or perhaps dropping Damascus in terms of importance because of the strategic distraction of Ukraine.
Some would argue that Crimea is a strategic distraction for Russia from the Kremlin’s Middle East policy; it’s not. Those thinking that Russia is diverted will likely find the Kremlin acting out, challenging conventional wisdom and policy-planning that we all thought were fairly solid up until a week ago.
One who believes that Russian cannot handle multiple regional crises at once is going to be sadly mistaken
Russian President Vladimir Putin is a man of his word when it comes to Syria. If pundits think Moscow will toss Syria aside that would be a mistake. In fact, Russian foreign policy is likely to go into overdrive. One who believes that Russian cannot handle multiple regional crises at once is going to be sadly mistaken.
For Russian security policy, make no mistake that the Kremlin has for decades had a “what if” plan for Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. And Moscow is moving quickly, inserting troops into Crimea, drawing the ire of the West. There is talk already of U.S. President Obama not attending the G8 in June 2014 in Moscow. But the Kremlin is not stupid; the Kremlin is prepared for multiple contingencies of various degrees. So make no mistake that Putin is ready to strike out in all directions, especially in the core of the Middle East through diplomatic jolts.
Some would argue that the events in Crimea and the rest of Ukraine must be making Syria a bit nervous about receiving the necessary attention from Moscow. With certainty, Assad’s patron to the North will continue to arm the regime, keep the Russian advisors on the ground, perhaps delay implementation of the chemical weapons extraction, and sustain its support of Assad in order to delay and degrade the Geneva process.
As the world watches events in Ukraine, extremists know to take advantage of the situation by launching more attacks against governments, infrastructure, and individuals.
When discussing strategic distraction, one should also keep in mind that while the Ukraine issue unfolds, Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt and Iraq will continue to fight extremists. And as the world watches events in Ukraine, extremists know to take advantage of the situation by launching more attacks against governments, infrastructure, and individuals. A key question is whether these extremists will see any opportunity to support their “Muslim brothers” on the Crimean peninsula, the Tatars. The Tatars faced the same type of history as other Muslim minorities in the Northern Caucasus including deportation. In the past decade, Russia, and various Ukrainian politicians have used the excuse that al-Qaeda was trying to break into the Tatar community to infiltrate the peninsula and bring jihad. These false rumors of the past may become true in the near future. Syrian extremists, who are against Assad, may see a new opportunity to spread their chaos. These jihadis are looking for a new fight anywhere and Crimea and Russia may be their next targets. We need to be watching their discourse carefully for “support for the Crimean Tatar brothers.”
The next few weeks are likely to be filled with tension and diplomatic confrontations. We will all be watching for signals from Putin, from the Russian Foreign Ministry, and from the Russian Defense Ministry, on both the Ukrainian front and the Syrian problem. The most important point is to look at the trans-regional linkages between Russia’s intervention in Crimea, and the impact on Syria’s immediate future because these two foreign policy crises are now intertwined. Suddenly, the spring of 2014 is turning out to be very nasty.
*Dr. Theodore Karasik is the Director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, UAE. He is also a Lecturer at University of Wollongong Dubai. Dr. Karasik received his Ph.D in History from the University of California Los Angles.