March 05/14


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 Tweet For Yesterday
In life we all make many mistakes. Let us learn to recognize our errors and ask forgiveness.
Pape François ‏
Dans la vie nous faisons tous beaucoup de fautes. Apprenons à reconnaître nos erreurs et à demander pardon.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 05/14

Was it best the U.S. didn’t militarily intervene in Syria/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 05/14
Israel's subsiding patience with Hezbollah/By: Brooklyn Middleton/Al Arabiya/ March 05/14

Hizballah Cavalcade: The Pearl & the Molotov: Bahrain’s Growing Militant Groups/By Phillip Smyth/March 05/14

Reading the Obama Interview/By: Alexander H. Joffe/The Times of Israel/March 05/14

New world order: May the maddest man prevail/By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya/March 05/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 05/14
Lebanese Related News

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Urges Hizbullah to Stop 'Contributing' to Syria War, Says Regime a 'Magnet' for Takfiri Groups

Dubai Deputy Police Chief Says Hizbullah Trained Bahraini Bomb Attacker, Party Denies

President Sleiman heads to Paris for donor meeting

Lebanon to Appeal for Further Aid during Paris Meeting

Parliamentary Session Postponed Anew amid Ongoing Legislative Row

France, Lebanon Reach Agreement over Arms Deal after Tough Negotiations

Bassil Agrees with Fabius on Need to 'Build Strong Army, Fight Terror'

Aoun, FPM Figures Meet with Roknabadi at Iranian Embassy Dinner

Aoun Keeps Media Guessing on Saudi Visit  

Aoun: Resistance Does Not Need Recognition of Any Side

ISIL Claims Rocket Attack on al-Labweh as Syrian Air Raid Targets Arsal

Rights Group Says Lebanon Must Overcome Civil War 'Amnesia'

Gas Workers Block Ouzai Highway to Protest Shut Down 04 March 2014

Phalange Party: We Won't Legitimize Resistance and We Won't Lose Anything if Govt.

Syria Troops Take a Short Breather ahead of Yabrud Siege, Security Source Says Arsal Route for Gunmen

Hezbollah slams Rifi for violating freedom of expression

Syrian forces press assault on strategic town near Lebanon
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Netanyahu warns on Iran, urges no Palestinian "excuses"

Netanyahu Urges Recognizing 'Jewish State': Peace Deal Would Provoke Hamas, Hizbullah

Analysis: Netanyahu's voice, Kerry’s words

PA says Netanyahu's AIPAC speech amounts to declaration of end of peace talks

Kerry: US will not allow the West Bank to become Gaza
Putin Calms War Fears but Defiant on Keeping Crimea

Putin: military force would be "last resort" in Ukraine

Lavrov: Sanction Threats Won't Change Russia Stance on Ukraine

Russian Leader Denies Forces Operating in Crimea and Obama Says Putin 'Not Fooling Anybody'
Russian Warships En Route to Ukraine, Forces Fire Warning Shots in Crimea Standoff
Egypt Court Bans Palestinian Hamas Group

Syria Surrenders a Third of Chemical Arsenal

Bahrain Vows to Wipe out 'Terrorism' after Bomb

Iran Says EU Chief Diplomat Ashton Will Visit Saturday

Egypt: El-Sissi gives new sign of presidential run

Pope Francis lets slip F-word during weekly address


STL to assess status of Merhi defense team work
March 04, 2014/BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon will hold a conference Tuesday that is likely to assess how long the defense team for a newly adjoined case needs to get up to speed. The Status Conference at the STL’s trial chamber, based in the The Hague, Netherlands, will begin at 10 a.m. local time and will be broadcast on the Tribunal’s website in Arabic, English and French. On Feb. 11, the STL joined the case of Hassan Merhi with that of four others suspected of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Merhi’s lawyers argue that they have not had as much time as the legal team of the other defendants to prepare and are therefore at a disadvantage, a claim the Trial Chamber is expected to examine Tuesday.

President Sleiman heads to Paris for donor meeting
March 04, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman will head to France Tuesday to attend a one-day conference that is expected to result in the establishment of a special fund to help Lebanon cope with the huge influx of Syrian refugees. Wednesday’s conference, which is being held by the International Support Group for Lebanon, will see French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabuis read out the “Paris Declaration” that will create a special fund to provide financial aid to Lebanon, according to a member of the official Lebanese delegation who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
The conference will also allocate military aid to the Lebanese Army, the source said. Finland, Norway and the World Bank have already pledged $50 million to the fund and more money is expected to be donated as a result of the talks, the delegation member said. Bringing together world powers, the ISGL was launched by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and Sleiman last September with the aim of supporting Lebanon’s national institutions and the Army as well as helping the country deal with over 1 million Syrian refugees living on its territory.
Also attending Wednesday’s talks will be U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Headed by Sleiman, Lebanon’s official delegation will comprise Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas and Sleiman’s advisers, Naji Abi Assi and Chadi Karam. The delegation is expected to leave Lebanon Tuesday evening and land in Paris early Wednesday.
Wednesday morning will see delegations meet at the Elysee Palace for an address by French President Francois Hollande and Sleiman. Participants will then head to the French Foreign Ministry for a closed-door meeting, after which the Paris Declaration will be announced. During the talks, France is expected to highlight the need for Lebanon to disassociate itself from the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Hollande is set to hold a private meeting with Sleiman during which the two will discuss the situation in Lebanon and the wider region. The French president is expected to stress the importance of holding presidential and parliamentary elections on time. A presidential elections is scheduled for spring while parliamentary polls are due in November. Uncertainty hangs over both events, as Lebanon failed to hold parliamentary elections on time last year and the country was plunged into a six-month presidential vacuum prior to Sleiman’s election in May 2008. The Paris gathering will be followed by the Rome conference to discuss means to support the poorly equipped Lebanese Army. The Italian meeting follows a $3 billion Saudi grant announced last year in which France is supposed to provide the Army with any weapons it asks for.
Lebanon has increasingly been feeling the socio-economic and security repercussions of the 3-year-old civil war in neighboring Syria, and lacks sufficient resources to cope with the refugee crisis.
Syria’s war has also fueled sporadic clashes in the northern city of Tripoli between supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and rivals in the mainly Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh. The country has also witnessed a wave of deadly explosions, mainly involving suicide bomb attacks targeting Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley town of Hermel, both of which are areas associated with Hezbollah. Syrian rebel groups have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, saying they were in retaliation to the party’s involvement in Syria’s war alongside Assad.


France, Lebanon Reach Agreement over Arms Deal after Tough Negotiations
Naharnet /Negotiations between Lebanon and France over an arms deal reached a settlement after difficult discussions concerning the prices, which exceeded what was expected, local newspapers reported on Tuesday. “French authorities placed tough financial conditions and prices for the arms beyond the expectation,” a source said in comments published in As Safir. The source pointed out that the conditions set by France don't comply with its pledges to facilitate the matter.“France didn't facilitate the negotiations,” a source told the newspaper. A French source said that authorities will hand over the arms to Lebanon in a period of three to six months.
The newspaper reported that Saudi Arabia are overseeing the negotiations between the two countries as they are insisting that Lebanon should attain developed monitoring and surveillance equipment to control its border with Syria. A diplomatic source told An Nahar newspaper that “some observers rejected the deal and are seeking to defame it by stating fabricated statements.” President Michel Suleiman revealed in late December that Saudi Arabia has decided to donate $3 billion with the aim of purchasing French weapons for the Lebanese army as soon as possible. France had reportedly proposed selling Lebanon used equipment despite a pledge by French army chief-of-staff Edouard Guillaud during talks with Army Chief General Jean Qahwaji in Saudi Arabia to provide the army with all its needs. Italy is set to host in March a conference that aims at fortifying the capabilities of Lebanese Armed Forces and easing the Syrian refugees crisis.The conference will be held on two levels – military commanders of several countries, and foreign and defense ministers of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council in addition to Italy, Germany and Spain.


Lebanon to Appeal for Further Aid during Paris Meeting
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman traveled on Tuesday to the French capital Paris at the head of a delegation to attend the meeting of the French-sponsored International Support Group for Lebanon Wednesday.
“Lebanon prepared a comprehensive file based on an assessment by the World Bank,” Minister of Social Affairs Rashid Derbas said in comments published on Tuesday in al-Joumhouria newspaper.
The support group for Lebanon was set up last year to help the country 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 small nation. In September, the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said that the organization carried out an assessment of the social and economic impacts of the war in neighboring Syria.
Derbas pointed out that the “Lebanese society needs all the international support to assist the Syrian refugees on its territories.” Lebanon, a country of about 4 million people, is grappling with an influx of more than a million refugees from Syria. “The speech of President Suleiman during the conference was coordinated with the Defense and Foreign Ministers,” the minister said. The delegation comprise of Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Minister Derbas and other officials. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had surged to more than 900,000 according to the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) as Lebanon has been facing difficulties in coping with their burden. The conference, which will be held at the French Foreign Ministry headquarters is expected to be followed by a meeting between Suleiman and his French counterpart Francois Hollande. Diplomatic sources told al-Liwaa newspaper that Paris is seeking to prevent the Syrian conflict from inflicting further deterioration in Lebanon.
The sources expressed fear over the situation in Lebanon. The support group was inaugurated in New York in September 2013,on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly. 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.

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Urges Hizbullah to Stop 'Contributing' to Syria War, Says Regime a 'Magnet' for Takfiri Groups
Naharnet/U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale on Tuesday called on Hizbullah to stop contributing to the Syrian conflict, describing the Assad regime as the "magnet" that has been attracting extremist groups into Syria and into Lebanon. “We oppose terrorism in all its forms and frankly the Assad regime has been the magnet that's been bringing the extremist, takfiri terrorist threat here, into Lebanon and into Syria,” Hale said during an interview on LBCI television. “The perpetuation of the conflict is what is giving those movements the opportunity to do what they're doing, which is very dangerous,” he warned. The U.S. ambassador pointed out that “anyone who is lending support to the Assad support is frankly lending support to the continuation of the conflict and therefore allowing these movements to grow.” “We should stop that; Hizbullah should understand that dynamic and should help to bring about a peaceful solution rather than contributing to the conflict,” Hale added. He stressed that Washington supports the “moderate opposition” in Syria and that it does not “in any way” support the “extremists.” “In fact we have policies and sanctions in order to contain them,” he went on to say. Commenting on the issue of the meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon that will be held in Paris on Wednesday, Hale said the international community will express "strong support for Lebanon, its stability and efforts to insulate it from the Syrian spillover.""The U.S. has contributed $340 million since the Syrian crisis began to help Lebanese communities deal with the Syrian refugee problem," the envoy said. But he noted that "financial answers are not the final answer." "We need a political solution for the conflict in Syria to bring that conflict to an end," said Hale. He stated that at the Paris conference, the participating countries will discuss "how we can fight terrorism and help support the refugee burden."  "The U.S. and our allies have a common set of goals for Lebanon: Lebanon’s stability, prosperity, its independence and freedom," said Hale. On the issue of the upcoming presidential elections, Hale said: "We want to make sure that a vacancy is avoided to the extent we can contribute to that process." "But ultimately the responsibility lies on the shoulders of Lebanon’s leaders to help avoid that," Hale added. Asked how the talks between Iran and the international community will affect Lebanon, the ambassador said: "The P5+1 talks with Iran are focused on the nuclear file. We’re not talking about the region or Lebanon." "We’re not going to get there through tradeoffs or deals or trading one set of interests against another set of interests," he added.

Dubai Deputy Police Chief Says Hizbullah Trained Bahraini Bomb Attacker, Party Denies
Naharnet/Dubai's police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan slammed on Tuesday the Islamic Republic of Iran and its ally Hizbullah a day after a bomb explosion in Bahrain killed three policemen, including an Emirati.
However, Hizbullah “categorically” denied Khalfan's allegation, saying in a statement issued in the evening that “this claim is totally unfounded.”
“The suspect, who planted the bomb, has visited Lebanon and was trained by Hizbullah on carrying out bombings,” Khalfan said via his Twitter account.
“The suspect who is involved in assassinating Emirati First Lieutenant Tariq al-Shehi doesn't reside in an area far from the site of the explosion.”
On Monday, "three police personnel died in a terror blast in (the Shiite-populated village) Daih while police were dispersing rioters," Bahrain's interior ministry said on Twitter.
And the interior ministry in the United Arab Emirates said an officer from its police force was among the dead.
Shehi, who was part of a force established as part of common Gulf security pact, died along with two members of the Bahraini police force "while performing his national duty of maintaining order," said the UAE interior ministry.
He is the first Gulf officer reported to have been killed since forces from the region rolled into Bahrain in March 2011 to boost the kingdom's security forces, which later quelled the month-long uprising.
Bahrain has always maintained the Gulf force did not take part in confrontations with protesters and have been deployed to protect vital installations. Khalfan also considered in a tweet that the Iranian-backed Bahraini opposition “became an enemy of the Gulf states and a close fried of Persians.” He pointed out that “an addition 1,000 Emirati policeman should be sent to Bahrain so that the enemies of the Arab Gulf understand that security in Bahrain involves us all.”The Shiite-dominated opposition swiftly condemned Monday's bombing, stressing any political demands had to be voiced in a "peaceful" manner. Clashes frequently erupt near Manama between security forces and Shiite protesters demanding the Sunni ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty surrender its grip on all key cabinet posts in favor of an elected government.
The explosion, on the outskirts of the Bahraini capital, is the most serious attack on the security forces in terms of casualties since the Shiite majority led an Arab Spring-inspired uprising in February 2011 against the Al-Khalifas.

Rights Group Says Lebanon Must Overcome Civil War 'Amnesia'
Naharnet /Lebanon's "state-sponsored amnesia" towards its 15-year civil war has left communities segregated and without justice or reconciliation, a non-governmental organization reported Tuesday. The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) said real peace and reconciliation in Lebanon requires "meaningful accountability" for violence during the war and "institutional reform.""Lebanon has made no serious attempts to comply with its international legal obligations to pursue perpetrators of serious human rights violations" in the nearly 24 years since the war ended, the group said in a report released Tuesday.
The state has also failed to address "the culture of impunity that has pervaded Lebanese society," according to the NGO.
The country's civil war killed some 150,000 people before it was ended by the power-sharing Taif Agreement, but many leaders and other protagonists of the 1975-1990 conflict are now active, influential politicians. In recent years the country has been deeply divided over the war in neighboring Syria, and has seen a wave of bombings and other attacks, including in Beirut.
The group said violations during the civil war included "systematic and mass displacement, wide-scale killing, rape, torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance."
Foreign powers that played a role in Lebanon's violence -- including Israel and Syria -- have also avoided accountability, while continuing to fuel unrest in the small Mediterranean country, it said. Under the Taif accord, the war's protagonists were given a general amnesty, and there was "no truth seeking, mismanaged reparations, and incomplete institutional reform, all of which undermined prospects for justice and national reconciliation."
Up to 17,000 people disappeared during the war, but despite efforts by their families, as well as civil society and some politicians, a truth commission has never been established.
"It is unlikely that current political leaders, some of whom are allegedly responsible for some atrocities, would establish a commission to look into their own acts," said the ICTJ.
The group nevertheless recommended a "holistic approach to crafting a comprehensive and victim-centered transitional justice process." It called for "comprehensive institutional reform," including a plan to phase out the official sharing of power along sectarian lines, which was seen as a central cause of the civil war.
Please refer to the link below for the complete report:

Agence France Presse

Parliamentary Session Postponed Anew amid Ongoing Legislative Row

Naharnet /A controversial parliamentary session that includes 45 items on its agenda was postponed on Tuesday for the 10th time over lack of quorum. Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the session without setting an upcoming date. The session that is dedicated to tackling several controversial draft-laws has been a point of contention between Berri, the Free Patriotic Movement, the March 14 alliance and former Prime Minister Najib Miqati. The Change and Reform bloc of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun had boycotted the sessions over the speaker's failure to include in the agenda draft-laws proposed by the bloc. However, the FPM Chief announced later on that his Change and Reform Bloc will attend session to ease tension. Berri is insisting on keeping the 45 draft-laws on the agenda intact and had previously vowed to continue to call on MPs to a General Assembly meeting until the agenda is discussed. Former Premier Miqati and March 14 alliance lawmakers have been boycotting the legislative sessions over claims that the parliament cannot convene under a resigned government. Prime Minister Tammam Salam announced in February the formation of a 24-minister cabinet, ten months and a week after his appointment.

Aoun Keeps Media Guessing on Saudi Visit

Naharnet/An alleged plan by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun to visit Saudi Arabia left the Lebanese media guessing whether such a trip will take place anytime soon.
Rabieh has not yet confirmed or denied that Aoun could make such a visit for talks with top Saudi officials. But Aoun said via twitter: "I personally announce any move I make as much as the security measures allow. Otherwise, I am not concerned with" reports. Change and Reform bloc MP Naji Gharios said the FPM chief will travel to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. But several informed sources told local newspapers published on Tuesday that Riyadh hasn't yet sent an official invitation to Aoun and hasn't set any date to meet with either Saudi officials or al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri. Hariri met with Aoun in Paris last month ahead of the formation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government. Al-Liwaa daily said that the kingdom has the intention to send invitations to several Lebanese political leaders and personalities to discuss with them the local developments on the eve of the presidential elections.Aoun is likely to be the first to arrive to the Saudi capital, it said. He could possibly be followed by his rival Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, it added.

Aoun: Resistance Does Not Need Recognition of Any Side
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun urged on Tuesday the panel tasked with drafting a government policy statement to complete its mission soon in order to allow the staging of the presidential elections. He rejected the ongoing debate among its members over references to the resistance, saying: “The resistance does not need the recognition of any side.” “The panel will not affect the resistance or the developments in the Middle East,” he stated after the Change and Reform bloc's weekly meeting. The panel must set aside disputes over the phrasing of the statement because actions, not words, will affect the situation in Lebanon, remarked the MP. Aoun warned that the failure to draft a new statement will threaten the staging of the presidential and parliamentary elections. “The postponement of the elections may lead to the fragmentation of Lebanon,” he continued.. “Are officials aware of what they are doing to the country?” he wondered. “We must seriously tackle the situation in Lebanon,” he demanded. “The government is not aimed at describing the reality in Lebanon, but it seeks to ensure the functioning of state institutions. It is tasked with holding the presidential elections,” stressed Aoun. Asked to verify media reports that he may travel to Saudi Arabia, he replied that there are no obstacles hindering such a visit, adding however that it has not been scheduled.“We must solve our problems by ourselves, but that does not mean we cannot visit countries that may assist us,” he said. The ministerial panel drafting a policy statement has so far failed in its mission due to the ongoing dispute over referring to the resistance against Israel.It has met several times over the past two weeks, but disputes over the resistance persist. It is set to convene on Friday.

Aoun, FPM Figures Meet with Roknabadi at Iranian Embassy Dinner

Naharnet/The Iranian embassy in Lebanon held a dinner at its premises with the participation of Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and several party figures, Tehran's diplomatic mission announced on Tuesday.
"Aoun was accompanied to ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi's dinner by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Education Minister Elias Bou Saab, Energy Ministry Arthur Nazarian as well as MPs Abbas Hashem, Nabil Nicolas, Hikmat Dib, Alain Aoun, Naji Gharios and Fadi al-Awar,” a statement by the embassy detailed. The talks tackled bilateral relations and the latest developments in Lebanon and the region, particularly in Syria, according to the statement. Aoun's dinner at the embassy comes amid reports saying the Christian leader might visit Saudi Arabia soon. "There is nothing that prevents such a visit,” Aoun stated on Tuesday after the Change and Reform bloc's weekly meeting, pointing out however that no dates have been set yet. The FPM leader has recently met with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, which allowed easing the formation of premier Tammam Salam's cabinet.

Bassil Agrees with Fabius on Need to 'Build Strong Army, Fight Terror'

Naharnet /Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Tuesday agreed with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius on the need to “build a strong army and fight terrorism” in Lebanon. “The meeting was constructive and there are common viewpoints between the two sides, including the agreement on the importance of stability in Lebanon and the need to build a strong army and fight terrorism,” said Bassil after talks with Fabius at the Quai d'Orsay palace in Paris. The meeting was held on the eve of a French-sponsored conference for the International Support Group for Lebanon in Paris. For his part, Fabius expressed his readiness and his country's willingness to cooperate with Bassil with the aim of “fortifying ties between the two countries and enhancing cooperation to support Lebanon and its institutions.” The French minister underlined “France's commitment to the freedom, sovereignty, stability and unity of Lebanon and its support for the Lebanese government in all the challenges it is facing.”Bassil is part of the delegation that accompanied President Michel Suleiman to Paris, which also includes Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas and other officials. The Support Group was set up last year to help the country 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 Lebanon. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has surged to more than 900,000 according to the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) and Lebanon is facing difficulties in coping with their burden. The conference, which will be held at the French Foreign Ministry headquarters is expected to be followed by a meeting between Suleiman and his French counterpart Francois Hollande.

ISIL Claims Rocket Attack on al-Labweh as Syrian Air Raid Targets Arsal

Naharnet /Three rockets fired from Syria struck residential neighborhoods in the Bekaa town of al-Labweh on Tuesday, in an attack that was swiftly claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which prompted some residents to block the road to nearby Arsal and assault passersby. The "Damascus Prefecture" of the Qaida-inspired ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack on its Twitter account and published pictures of rockets and masked fighters. “Five Katyusha rockets were fired at the strongholds of the 'party of Satan' (Hizbullah) in the Lebanese area of al-Labweh in retaliation to the party's attack on the Sunnis in (Syria's) Yabrud,” the group said. Earlier on Tuesday, state-run National News Agency quoted al-Labweh municipal chief Ramez Amhaz as saying that the rockets caused material damage but no casualties. “Youssef al-Itawi's house was among those damaged,” NNA said. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said "Youssef Itawi was hit by a vehicle as he was escaping the rockets." In the wake of the shelling, "the al-Labweh-Arsal road was blocked in protest and gunmen appeared in the area as a number of al-Labweh residents smashed two cars belonging to residents from Arsal," the radio station said. However, the road was quickly reopened, according to al-Labweh mayor Amhaz, who said his town was not targeted by rockets from Syria but rather by mortar shells that were fired from Arsal's outskirts. He warned Arsal's residents that the situation might go out of control should such attacks continue. Agence France Presse said gunmen quickly deployed in the area, only meters away from a Lebanese Army checkpoint. "Some of those who gathered in the location were carrying batons with which they started to smash the glass of every car traveling from and to Arsal,” AFP said. Angry protesters told reporters that the rockets were fired from “the Wadi al-Raayan area in Arsal's outskirts, not Syrian territory.”Later on Tuesday, a Syrian military helicopter fired three missiles on Arsal's Wadi al-Arnab area and two on Wadi al-Raayan, causing no casualties, according to NNA. The al-Labweh road is the only route that links the border town of Arsal to its Lebanese surroundings. Residents of the town often complain that they are suffering a “siege” by the neighboring towns, accusing the army of contributing to it through its checkpoints that are heavily deployed at Arsal's entrances.
On Monday, four people were wounded when eight rockets fired from Syria hit the Bekaa town of Brital and its surroundings, in an attack that was claimed by the Qaida-inspired al-Nusra Front in Lebanon. “With God's help, the heroes of al-Nusra Front in Lebanon fired several Grad rockets on the dens of the 'party of Satan' (Hizbullah), in retaliation to the continued massacres of the party of Iran,” the Front said, calling on what it called “our people in Lebanon” to be “patient.”

Hezbollah slams Rifi for violating freedom of expression
March 04, 2014/BEIRUT: Hezbollah criticized Tuesday Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi over his decision to refer a newspaper article about President Michel Sleiman to the prosecutor’s office, saying such a measure was malicious and violated the freedom of expression. “Referring an article by [Al-Akhbar editor] Ibrahim al-Amine to the prosecutor's office is a clear example of the poor performances of officials and their disrespect for public freedoms,” Hezbollah’s office said in a statement. “From time to time, authorities in Lebanon deal with things in malicious, arbitrary and unjust ways that contradict basic human rights, especially the [right to] criticize and freely express opinions, as well as the rights of journalists to write freely and criticize authority and officials to hold them accountable, which is the heart of the media’s work,” it added. Rifi, a retired police chief and an outspoken critic of Hezbollah, is seen as a controversial figure by the party which vetoed a Cabinet proposal last year to extend his term as head of the Internal Security Forces. Earlier his week, the newly appointed justice minister referred an article published by the pro- Hezbollah Al-Akhabr newspaper to the prosecutor’s office, arguing that Amine’s piece was defamatory and insulted Sleiman and the presidency. In a statement, Rifi said that the article promoted disobedience and insulted the military establishment and security institutions. In the article, published on March 3, titled “ Lebanon without a president,” Amine, known for his fiery remarks against Sleiman and Rifi, said the president committed an "ethical treasury" because he "rejected the resistance clause in the face of occupation as something that did not need to be mentioned in a Cabinet's [statement]." The writer raised doubt over Sleiman's intentions, urging for early presidential elections "because his [Sleiman's presence is a shame on all Lebanese." "Michel Sleiman, if there is any modesty left in you ... leave!" Hezbollah said it strongly condemned Rifi’s “swift response and called for a retraction,” expressing its solidarity with Amine. The editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar hit back at Rifi in an article published Tuesday, challenging the minister to raise the bar and accusing him of mismanaging public funds and stealing from ISF budgets.

Pope Francis lets slip F-word during weekly address
March 04, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Mispronouncing words has been the cause of many an awkward moment. Pope Francis had his last week when he accidentally uttered the F-word during an address to throngs of the faithful. Pope Francis’ vulgar slip – mispronouncing the Italian word “caso” (example) for “cazzo” (F**k) – came during his weekly address to thousands of people in St Peter's Square Sunday. The pope’s slip of the tongue, which he corrected immediately, came during a part of his message on earthly possessions. "A heart full of longing for possession is a heart empty of God. For this, Jesus many times chastised the rich because the risk for them to seek security in the wealth of this world is high," he said. "In this f**k ... in this case the providence of God is made visible as gesture of solidarity," the Argentinean added, speaking in Italian. Footage of the pope’s gaffe was quickly circulated on social media, including the popular video-sharing site YouTube.

Netanyahu warns on Iran, urges no Palestinian "excuses"
March 04, 2014 /By Jeffrey Heller, Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the United States and other world powers on Tuesday not to allow Iran to retain the ability to enrich uranium, and urged Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state if they wanted peace. Addressing the pro- Israel lobby AIPAC a day after White House talks, Netanyahu avoided any explicit criticism of President Barack Obama but underscored the main differences with him over U.S.-led nuclear diplomacy with Iran. Netanyahu reiterated his firm opposition to the possibility that a final deal to curb Iran's disputed nuclear program would allow it to keep some technologies with bomb-making potential. All of these must be dismantled, Netanyahu said, adding that diplomatic pressure on Tehran should be increased. That's the reverse of an easing of sanctions offered under an interim accord with the United States and five other world powers in November. "Unfortunately the leading powers of the world are talking about leaving Iran with the capability to enrich uranium. I hope they don't do that, because that would be a grave error. It would leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power," he said. In a pledge that signaled both willingness to strike Iran's nuclear sites as a last resort and refusal to yield on core peace terms with the Palestinians, Netanyahu told a cheering audience: "I will do whatever I must to defend the Jewish state of Israel." But the hawkish Israeli premier, who has been accused of trying to scuttle Iran negotiations, stopped short of issuing any direct threat against Iran, Israel's arch foe. Netanyahu's combative remarks followed talks in which he bluntly told Obama that he would never compromise on Israel's security even as the U.S. leader sought to reassure him on Iran nuclear diplomacy and pressure him on Middle East peace talks. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons. Israel, which unlike Iran has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is widely believed to have the region's sole atomic arsenal.
Turning to the Palestinians, with whom Israel renewed peace talks last July under U.S. auspices, Netanyahu said he wanted an accord. However, he placed the onus on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state - something they have long refused to do.
"It's time the Palestinians stop denying history. Just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state," Netanyahu said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's administration says Israel's building of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is the main obstacle to securing a deal to create an independent Palestinian state.
Warning that time was running out, Obama on Monday urged Netanyahu to make "tough decisions" to help salvage the faltering U.S.-brokered peace process aimed at reaching a framework agreement with the Palestinians and extending talks beyond an April target date for an elusive final accord. Netanyahu received a warmer reception at the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a venue for some of his most strident speeches. Though the group's influence on U.S. Middle East policy remains strong, it is trying to show it has not lost its touch after a rare setback when the White House blocked its push for Congress to approve new Iran sanctions. Obama says new measures would derail diplomacy. Taking the podium before Netanyahu, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez said he still sees his legislation to impose new sanctions as the best way to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to avoid the need to resort to military action. But he offered no timetable for reviving such a bill, which Obama - a fellow Democrat - has vowed to veto.
While Netanyahu's speech broke little new ground, he also used his appearance to condemn pro-Palestinian activists abroad that are campaigning to isolate Israel with a "boycott, divestment and sanctions" movement, or "BDS," in protest against Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. "Everyone should know what the letters BDS really stand for: bigotry, dishonesty and shame," he said. The movement has made some inroads in Europe but has barely gained traction in the United States. Netanyahu even singled out actress Scarlett Johansson as someone who "should be applauded" for opposing the movement, which he condemned as driven by anti-Semitism.
The issue grabbed headlines over a multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal between Johansson and SodaStream, an Israeli firm operating in the West Bank. She announced in late January she had quit as a global ambassador for Oxfam, which had said Johansson's association with SodaStream was incompatible with her role for the charity.

Netanyahu Urges Recognizing 'Jewish State': Peace Deal Would Provoke Hamas, Hizbullah
Naharnet Newsdesk 04 March 2014/Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday directly urged Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and to "abandon the fantasy" of flooding Israel with refugees. But his remarks sparked a furious reaction from the Palestinians who denounced his demand and said it had effectively put the final nail in the coffin of the U.S.-led peace talks. Addressing delegates at the annual policy conference of AIPAC, Netanyahu said he was prepared to make an "historic peace," but not without a Palestinian acceptance of the Jewish state. "It's time the Palestinians stopped denying history," he said, returning to a major point of disagreement in peace talks, which have struggled to make headway ahead of a looming April deadline. "President Abbas: recognize the Jewish state and in doing so, you would be telling your people.. to abandon the fantasy of flooding Israel with refugees," he said. "In recognizing the Jewish state you would make clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict.. No excuses, no delays, it's time." But top Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told Agence France Presse that Netanyahu's demand for such recognition, and his insistence on keeping Israeli troops along the Jordan Valley in a future Palestinian state, were "totally rejected."
Speaking to AFP, he said Netanyahu's speech was tantamount to an "an official announcement of a unilateral end to negotiations." Israel has repeatedly insisted there will be no peace deal without addressing the issue of recognition, but the Palestinians have rejected the demand, which they say will deny their historical narrative and compromise the right of return for their refugees. Netanyahu also alluded to Israel's demand to retain a military presence along the Jordan Valley, which runs down the eastern flank of the West Bank, in any future deal saying he would not cede security to foreign peacekeepers.
"If we reach an agreement with the Palestinians, I don't delude myself. That peace will most certainly come under constant attack by Hizbullah, Hamas, al-Qaida and others," he said Hizbullah, Hamas the Palestinian Islamist movement which rules Gaza and al-Qaida a loose global network of Islamist extremists. "Experience has shown that foreign peace-keeping forces, keep the peace only when there is peace, but when subjected to repeated attacks, those forces eventually go home," he said. "The only force that can be relied on to defend the peace.. is the force defending its own home: the Israeli army." Netanyahu also made a rare reference to the opportunities that a peace deal would open up for Israel, including "the possibility of establishing formal ties with between Israel and leading countries of the Arab world. "Many Arab leaders today already realize that Israel is not their enemy, but peace with the Palestinians would turn our relations with them and with many Arab countries into open and thriving relationships," he said in remarks with a positive tone more commonly heard from Israeli President Shimon Peres. "The combination of Israeli innovation and entrepreneurship could catapult the entire region forward. I believe together we could solve the region's water and energy problems."He also had strong words for the Palestinian-led movement to boycott Israel over its activities in the occupied territories. "The BDS movement is not about legitimate criticism, it's about making Israel illegitimate," he said, reeling off a list of south American countries flocking to do business with Israel alongside a large number of hi-tech giants. "That movement will fail," he said, describing the movement as a stumbling block for peace. In an interview published Sunday, Obama warned that if peace talks were to fail and Israel continued building settlements, it would face an international backlash, referring to growing moves, particularly in Europe, to boycott the Jewish state.
Source/Agence France

Israel's subsiding patience with Hezbollah

Tuesday, 4 March 2014
By: Brooklyn Middleton/Al Arabiya
The denial was swift and the subsequent confirmation came only after all major Lebanese and international media confirmed what many eyewitnesses had already reported: for the first time since the bloody Syrian conflict began nearly three years ago, the Israeli Air Force conducted limited air strikes that directly targeted a Hezbollah base on the eastern Lebanese-Syrian border area of Nabi Sheet during evening hours on 24 February.
While Lebanese sources – including Naharnet and The Daily Star – reported the news as it happened, Hezbollah’s mouthpiece Al Manar first denied the attack even occurred and only admitted Israeli aircraft was hovering over the Bekaa Valley. However, within 24 hours of the Israeli Air Force assault, reports surfaced that Hezbollah field commander Hajji Hassan Mansour, also known as Abu Haitham, was killed in the attack. Meanwhile, in a rare comment on matters of security by a senior Israeli official, the strike was also confirmed to TIME Magazine.
With far too much mounting evidence to continue its delusional denial campaign, Hezbollah’s Al Manar confirmed in a statement released by the militant group that Israel’s “blatant assault on Lebanon” indeed did actually occur and vowed it would "choose the time and place and the proper way to respond” to the attack.
Hezbollah's hands tied
Despite the post-air strikes blustering by Hezbollah and despite the fact that Israel has taken precautionary measures on its northern front raising the alert level on the Lebanese and Syrian border areas - seemingly bracing for potential retaliation - Hezbollah ultimately remains deterred from directly striking Israel in the near term. Nonetheless, the significance of the Israeli attack inside of Lebanese territory – unprecedented since the beginning of the Syrian conflict - is twofold. Firstly this is the latest reminder that the Syrian conflict continues to wreak havoc on the geopolitical and security dynamics of the entire Levant. The Hezbollah tactic of targeting Israeli tourists, Jewish centers, and diplomatic structures is the coward’s way of striking Israel’s heart-without triggering a swift military response as a direct strike on Israeli territory would. The second issue is that the attack underscores the notion that despite Israel’s commitment to prevent weapon transfers to Hezbollah – demonstrated by the multiple strikes inside of Syrian territory before or while they’re en route – at least some weapons are indeed arriving in Lebanon- threatening further Israeli strikes in the near term. This presents a grueling dilemma for Hezbollah. While deadly car bombings continue to target their strongholds on a regular basis and perennial rocket fire emanating from Syria continues to slam into Lebanese territory - the militant group cannot risk providing Israel with further justification for staging a comprehensive attack on its positions.
Priority to arm Syria
Hezbollah’s integral role in aiding Damascus remains the militant group’s paramount priority and any restructuring of those priorities would undoubtedly comprise the militant group’s ability to continue playing this leading role in the Syrian conflict on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s disgraced regime.
Despite the lack of confirmation from Israeli intelligence officials, it is generally accepted that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have targeted would-be Hezbollah weapon shipments en route to Lebanon on at least four different occasions inside of Syrian territory with no direct retaliation resulting from the strikes. That said, the current precedent of non-retaliation does not signify a concerted effort to not target Israel’s interest - it only demonstrates Hezbollah’s current inability and aversion to engaging in a direct conflict with Israel. Noting this, Hezbollah’s recent statement indicating that Israel will be punished for its attack on their group presents a previously known and still credible threat that is likely to manifest in the form of attacks on Jewish and/or Israeli targets internationally.
The possible covert attacks are likely to mirror the Burgas incident in 2012 in which a suspected Hezbollah militant detonated his explosives-laden body on a tourist bus, killing five Israelis as well as the the bus driver and injuring dozens of others.
Israel's waning patience
The Hezbollah tactic of targeting Israeli tourists, Jewish centers, and diplomatic structures is the coward’s way of striking Israel’s heart-without triggering a swift military response as a direct strike on Israeli territory would.
The Shiite militant group is likely to step up efforts in the near term to attempt to successfully carry out attacks against Jewish and/or Israeli targets as a means of retaliation for Israel’s continued strikes targeting Hezbollah.
However, there is a high probability that the restraint Israel has shown previously when Hezbollah attempted to attack it indirectly has diminished greatly.
While Hezbollah remains embroiled in the Syrian war and faces a significant uptick of attacks targeting it on its own territory, Israel remains increasingly less deterred from striking back-directly.
**Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst reporting from Israel. Her work has appeared in Turkish and Israeli publications including The Times of Israel and Hürriyet Daily News. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as the emerging geopolitical threats Israel faces as it pursues its energy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. She is currently researching Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups to complete her MA in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

Reading the Obama Interview
by Alexander H. Joffe/The Times of Israel
March 3, 2014
Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with President Obama on the eve of his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is highly significant, verging on a turning point in US-Israeli relations.
Several points emerge from the interview. First is the implied threat that if current peace negotiations with the Palestinians fail, the US will be unable – read unwilling – to defend Israel. Moreover, it is up to the Palestinians to judge: "If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited."
Declaring "our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited" is not accidental; indeed, Obama repeats it twice. Obama's statement that "What we also know is that Israel has become more isolated internationally" is not simply a prediction but a prescription. Similar statements by Secretary of State John Kerry in recent months have given European governments and industry the license to begin quietly exploring ways to boycott Israeli industries and corporations, arguably as part of an American strategy to pressure Israel during negotiations. A statement by the US president will be paradigmatic. This alone is a momentous policy shift.
Part of the rationale for pressuring Israel is spelled out, pursuit of a "potential realignment of interests in the region," the nature of which is unclear, perhaps given that half the Arab states are engaged in civil war. But the key obstacle is: "The only reason that that potential realignment is not, and potential cooperation is not, more explicit is because of the Palestinian issue." That is to say, Israel.
But the goals behind the interview, published during the annual AIPAC convention in Washington, are also significant and provide additional clarity regarding the administration's, and the president's, attitudes towards Israel and much more. Superficially the president's carefully chosen words appear intended to influence Netanyahu himself. But the mix of praise and condescension (Netanyahu is "smart," "tough", and a "great communicator" but "If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?") seems more likely to simply humiliate Netanyahu, to degrade him publicly. Either Obama is tone deaf or simply does not care. Both may be the case.
The interview may also appear aimed at the Israeli public, a last ditch call to leave the West Bank and make peace before it is impossible. There is of course a strong case to be made here. But Obama shows no awareness or even interest in Israeli politics, the need or the methods to build the consensus necessary for such a dramatic move. For Netanyahu it would mean alienating the entire Israel right and constructing a new coalition out of weak components, as well as convincing the Israeli public that this is necessary and wise and not caving to an American diktat. Obama's statement that if Netanyahu were "strong enough that if he decided this was the right thing to do for Israel, that he could do it" defies reality. It is not up to Netanyahu to "decide" then "do" but rather to lead and persuade.
This is characteristic of Obama's larger mindset – he sees himself and his policies as wise, necessary and above politics. He has, after all, a pen and a phone. In the domestic arena Republican opposition and the normal give and take of democratic politics are depicted as betrayal and heresy. His opponents are troglodytes and wreckers who find themselves, like Netanyahu, the victim of personal vilification as well as the occasional IRS audit.
Netanyahu is obviously not a Republican, but he has been characterized in the same terms and the same breath as the president's other political opponents. Of course, this petty mindset has now collided with that of a fully professional dictator, Vladimir Putin, a far more obstinate foe than Netanyahu, one whom Obama cannot afford to call names.
But if Obama's remarks are not aimed at Netanyahu himself or Israel, then who? The answer is specifically non-religious American Jews and the American Left. One clue is Obama's use of the phrase "how Israel survives as a democracy and a Jewish state" juxtaposed with "permanent occupation of the West Bank." This is the paramount concern to non-religious American Jews. For the American Left the concern is "U.S. involvement" which, regarding Syria, "would have had the third, or, if you count Libya, the fourth war in a Muslim country in the span of a decade."
Stoking resentments and calling out enemies are this administration's stock and trade. Netanyahu's humiliations at the hands of this administration are unique – left alone while the president goes to dinner with his family, denied photo opportunities, and subjected to a stream of hostile comments and leaks, including the compromise of a key cyberwarfare program aimed at Iran, Stuxnet. So too is his vilification by the captive American press and the network of party organizations (such as the New American Foundation, J Street and others), which have characterized him as a "settler," an opponent of a Palestinian state, and a warmonger on Iran. One need not be an ally of Netanyahu to recognize these as misrepresentations.
On the one hand these are designed to separate American Jews from their traditional organizations, above all AIPAC. By continually characterizing AIPAC as a right wing, Republican organization rather than a centrist, non-partisan one, and by loudly calling opposition to the administration's opening to Iran as right-wing war-mongering (above all Netanyahu's), the goal has been to isolate Jewish support from anything except the new party line and its approved organs. As Lee Smith points out in Tablet, AIPAC was played and then humiliated by the administration for the purpose of demonstrating the organization's weakness. Confused by this strategy of politicizing support for Israel and subjugating it to a domestic agenda, AIPAC fell into the trap.
More sinisterly, this holds out the threat of labeling Israel and any of its supporters as right-wing war-mongerers. This was the view of the Democratic Party's left wing before and during the Iraq War. Demonizing anything besides the Obama line on Israel may be an effective way of keeping Jewish opposition in line.
The corollary goal is to break American Jewish power, real and perceived, and to harness what remains to the Democratic Party and the administration. The operative theory appears to be the inverse of James Baker's legendary remark, "fuck the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway." American Jews will vote Democrat regardless, but Israel's position has always been exceptional in American politics. This is to be ended.
Syria, Libya, and now Ukraine have shown that the international scene erupts quickly to disrupt domestic agendas. But it is a reasonable prediction that these and other fiascos will prompt Obama to redouble pressure on Israel, particularly by unleashing Europeans, not for the sake of a rare policy success – which Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has repeatedly assured will not be forthcoming. It will be to punish a vassal state and a domestic minority that refuse to comply fully and cheerfully.
**Alex Joffe is a historian and archaeologist. He is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow of the Middle East Forum.

Kerry: US will not allow the West Bank to become Gaza
Secretary of state suggests that Arab neighbors have promised to invest millions in Israel if peace is achieved
day after his boss launched a verbal attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement policy, US Secretary of State John Kerry offered a more moderate tone on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during his address to the AIPAC Policy Conference Monday evening
n a speech that never once mentioned the settlements that US President Barack Obama criticized during an interview on the eve of his meeting with Netanyahu, Kerry instead assured attendees that “we will never let the West Bank turn into another Gaza.”
After Israel pulled all its troops and citizens out of Gaza in 2005, Hamas overran the coastal strip, turning it into a launching ground for rockets designed to harm Israeli civilians.
Kerry’s speech came hours after Netanyahu and Obama held a bilateral meeting in Washington in which the two discussed the peace process, as well as other regional concerns.
Kerry warned that a peace agreement “will take hard work and hard choices on both sides,” but promised that “America will be there every day of week, every step of the way.”
He did, however, mention that “ending the conflict means ending the incitement,” a key demand that Israel has repeatedly made of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas, said Kerry, “knows the great benefits of peace, and the great cost of failure.” He added that, in talks with the leader of a “very wealthy” regional neighbor of Israel’s, Kerry had been assured that regional investment in Israel, should peace be achieved with the Palestinians, would contribute significantly to Israel’s economy.
Kerry arrived at the conference almost a hour behind schedule, but was greeted enthusiastically with a standing ovation. Activists held cameras in the air, hoping to snap a picture of the secretary of state. “AIPAC’s work is in the best traditions of American democracy and I thank you for practicing it,” Kerry congratulated activists in the opening minutes of his speech. “These democratic values are stamped in the DNA of the United States and Israel.
“Today as Israel faces serious challenges to her future it is America that will stand by her side,” Kerry reassured the crowd, but was greeted only by polite applause. “It is a matter of fact,” he argued, that under Obama “there has been a complete unmatched commitment to Israel’s security.”
Obama, Kerry continued, “is committed to using the full force of our diplomacy on both the peace process and on preventing a nuclear Iran.”

Hizballah Cavalcade: The Pearl & the Molotov: Bahrain’s Growing Militant Groups

The Pearl & the Molotov: Bahrain’s Growing Militant Groups
By Phillip Smyth
Figure 1: In a nighttime demonstration, members of Sariyya al-Muqawama al-Sha’bia (The Brigades of Popular Resistance) march wearing balaclavas and white burial shrouds. The shrouds exhibit their willingness to be martyred.
While a Shia jihad is being fought in Syria, Bahrain stands as another central conflict which continues to influence discourse, regional policies, and exacerbate sectarian tensions. For many Shia Islamists, particularly militant groups backed by Iran, Bahrain is a major political sore spot and focal point. Over the course of three years, the development of new militant groups within Bahrain has demonstrated that there is an increasing utilization of violent tactics. Since these militant groups are in the more rudimentary stages of development, there is the further possibility that they are increasingly viewing the conflict in Bahrain along regional and sectarian lines.
Main Goals of Hizballah Cavalcade’s Bahrain Posts
Since violent Bahraini organizations have not received adequate profiling, it is the goal of Hizballah Cavalcade to clarify their positions using primary open source material. Thus main goals include, but are not limited to:
Describing the established organizations, their claims, goals, and ideological orientations.
Analyzing claims made by the groups.
Attempting to establish whether the organizations in question may have a connection to external actors.
A Little Background
Since 2011, Shia-majority Bahrain, which is led by the Sunni Khalifa royal family, has been gripped by protests calling for (among other demands) the Khalifas to abdicate, democratic reforms, and greater access for Shia to government positions.[1] For the most part, protests have been peaceful and have at times included both Sunni and Shia Muslims. These protesters have been faced with a number of often violent government crackdowns and accusations of the use torture by authorities.[2]
Yet, the protests, deaths, and growing polarization in Bahrain has regularly been considered a sort of sideshow when compared to other major protests and civil wars in the Middle East. The BBC even referred to the protests as the, “Forgotten Spring.”[3] Still, it would appear that some within the protest movement and possibly external organizations, are bent on forming groups to achieve their ends via violence.
On February 14, 2014—to commemorate the first “Day of Rage” held by Bahraini protesters on the same day in 2011—massive protests, which included main opposition parties and independent groups were held throughout the country. For the most part, these protests were peaceful. Around this time Bahraini authorities also reported a “terror blast.”[4] While this was hardly the first act of violence by a group within Bahrain, the blast underlined a number of more violent actions carried out by new organizations, since 2012.
In December of that year, Reese Erlich of the Global Post noted that younger elements of the protest movement were increasingly turning to violence and were making it difficult for local traditional leaders to control their activities.[5] By the end of 2013, new armed organizations calling for the overthrow of the Bahraini government were announced and continue to claim new attacks within Bahrain. In a period stretching from September 2013-January 2014, most of these new groups adopted higher profiles and attempted to brand their narratives, claimed attacks, and group identities within their online communities and pages.
Understanding Bahraini Militant Rhetoric
Bahraini militant organizations utilize rhetorical phrases and terms found with other Shia Islamist militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq. Often, their enemies are referred to as, “the Khalifa mafia”, “mercenaries” or “Saudi agents”. Nevertheless, this type of rhetoric also draws heavily upon local issues.
There were reports as early as 2011 that Bahrain was recruiting Sunni foreigners to man the internal security apparatus.[6] This issue of naturalizing foreign Sunnis, particularly from Pakistan, is viewed by protest leaders and militants alike as a major sectarian, economic, and social issue.[7] As future posts will show, the utilization of foreign-born police and security personnel is showcased in Bahraini militant propaganda.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab states sent forces as part of the Peninsula Shield which sent troops to Bahrain in March 2011. In April 2013, Peninsula Shield established a further headquarters in Bahrain in order to better coordinate their forces in the country.[8] Bahraini outlets have also reported that as of January 2014 these military forces were still defending “key instillations” and claimed they were not involved in Bahrain’s “internal issues.”[9] The presence of Saudi forces has added to the charge by protesters and militants that the Khalifas are simply propped-up by outside forces. An underlying message, which combines both national and religious identity, is that outside Sunnis (namely those who subscribe to Wahhabism; A religious movement which at times has demonstrated a violent hatred for Shi’ism) are continuing to control what should be Bahraini Shia affairs.
At the time of this writing, none of the groups have overtly stated that their goals are directly related to Shi’ism. However, many of the organizations use Shia-centric imagery, and have almost exclusively Shia members. Moreover, a number of the organizations in question have adopted the moniker, “Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya” (“The Islamic Resistance”), a term heavily utilized and favored by Iranian-backed organizations, particularly Lebanese Hizballah and Iraq’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq.
What About Iran?
Bahraini authorities have regularly accused Iran of being a main driver behind the protests and in violent acts executed against security forces in the country.[10] As documented in other Hizballah Cavalcade posts, Iran makes no secret about its support for Shia jihadis in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. In fact, Iran has been a vocal supporter of the Bahraini protesters. In commemoration of 120 protesters killed in Bahrain, Iran opened a memorial for the “martyrs of the Islamic Revolution” in Tehran.[11]
In May 2013 Bahraini authorities banned political organizations within the country from contacting Lebanese Hizballah.[12] Later in December, Lebanese Hizballah’s Al-Manar TV station apologized for their coverage of events in Bahrain.[13] Shia Islamists in Iraq have also launched protests and issued very public criticisms of the situation in Bahrain. Iraq’s Muqtada al-Sadr has also been active in voicing his concern and support for Bahraini Shia protesters.[14]
Of course, Bahrain is not Syria and any claimed “jihad” would be hamstrung by the fact that Bahrain has strict gun control laws.[15] Smuggling of arms is also complicated by the presence of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet (which is based in Bahrain) and by Bahraini units. As a result, many attacks have not used firearms, but instead utilize Molotov cocktails, hand grenades, homemade bombs, and other improvised weapons. In December 2013, Bahraini authorities claimed to intercept a shipment of “Iranian-made” explosives and other arms.[16]
Despite the many claims of Iranian involvement, there have been strong denials regarding the “Iranian hand” since the start of the protests.[17] Available information on armed organizations and their links to Iran is sparse and still developing. Additionally, some sympathetic to the protest movement have claimed these organizations are little more than fabrications by the Bahraini authorities. Regardless, this does not necessitate that Iran is not attempting to co-opt some of the more violent elements belonging to the anti-government ranks, create new militant organizations in Bahrain, or extend a more covert hand to those engaged in violence. Forthcoming posts will delve into these specifics in more detail.
[1] Some of their 2011 demands were listed in this Reuters piece:
[2] See:
[3] See:
[4] See:
[5] See:
[6] See:
[7] See:
[8] See:
[9] See:
[10] See: Most recently, Bahraini authorities have also accused Iran of being behind training and equipping those who carried out bombings in the kingdom. See:
[11] See:,,%D9%BE%D8%B1%D8%AF%D9%87-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%B2-%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%A8%D8%AD%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%86-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%88%DB%8C%D8%B1.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1,‎ and
[12] See: Bahraini authorities also went so far as to ban books they felt were connected to Lebanese Hizballah ( and restrict access to websites affiliated with the group (
[13] See:
[14] Sadr organized rallies in 2011 in Basra and Baghdad. See: In 2012 he also demanded the release of a German Shia prisoner jailed by Bahraini authorities
[15] In some cases, possession of illegal firearms could land one in prison for 15 years. See:
[16] See:
[17] On March 2, 2014 an Iranian parliamentarian denied any interference in Bahraini affairs. See:

Egypt: El-Sissi gives new sign of presidential run
March 04/By Maggie Michael/Associated Press
CAIRO: Egypt's military chief, Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, gave his strongest indication yet that he intends to enter presidential elections, saying in a speech Tuesday that he "can't turn his back" if Egyptians want him to run. El-Sissi is considered almost certain to win if he runs for president, riding on a wave of popular fervor since he ousted the country's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, who had faced massive protests demanding his removal after a year in office. Since the ouster last summer, a heated anti-Islamist and nationalist media campaign has fanned support for el-Sissi, touting him as the nation's savior.
For weeks, pro-military media have been saying the field marshal will announce his candidacy imminently. Last month, the top body of military generals, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, publicly gave its backing to an el-Sissi run. El-Sissi's comments Tuesday in a speech to military cadets stopped only a hair short of officially announcing he will run. He hinted he was waiting for the issuing of a law governing the presidential vote and setting a date for it. The vote is to be held by the end of April. When asked by the cadets about his possible candidacy, el-Sissi replied, "No one who loves his nation and loves Egyptians can ignore the desire of so many of them, or turn his back on their will," according to excerpts of the comments released on the Facebook page of the military spokesman. "The coming days will see the completion of the procedures that are officially necessary in this context," he added. "Don't imagine that Egypt can stand up unless we help each other and put our hands together to solve the problems that piled up over more than 30 years," he said. "No one can solve these problems alone, but only when Egyptians stand shoulder to shoulder." If he becomes president, el-Sissi faces a host of economic, security and social woes that would pose real test to his popularity. Also, the generals' backing of his candidacy has staked the military's reputation on his presidency, meaning the country's most powerful institution could be tarnished by any political turmoil.
El-Sissi was appointed defense minister and army chief by Morsi. Since Morsi's ouster, the military-backed interim government has been waging a fierce crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, while facing a growing insurgency by Islamic militants in retaliation for Morsi's removal. Over the past weeks, the 59-year-old U.S.-trained army chief he has been increasingly acting in a presidential fashion, most notably a visit last month to Russia, where he secured the Kremlin's blessing for his likely presidential bid. Last week, his wife made her first public appearance: Intisar el-Sissi was seated next to him during a ceremony honoring senior officers.
Posters of el-Sissi next to a lion are plastered on walls and hoisted on lampposts across much of the country. Songs praising him are played on radio and blare from coffee shops. Supporters often tout him as the new Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the legendary Arab nationalist who ruled in 1950s and 1960s. The law governing the upcoming presidential vote was given on Tuesday to the Cabinet for consultations, after which it will be given to interim President Adly Mansour to issue. Ali Awad, the president legal adviser, said that one article in the new law provides that if only candidate runs, the vote will be a referendum on the candidate. Another article would allow for the results of the voting to be appealed if a complaint is filed within a week of their announcement. But he said the articles will still be debated by the Cabinet. If confirmed, the one-candidate vote would be a throwback to the era of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, who for most of his rule was repeatedly re-elected in one-man yes-no referendums. He stood in a multicandidate vote once, in 2005, and was ousted in the 2011 popular uprising.
Meanwhile, a court on Tuesday banned of all activities in Egypt of the Palestinian militant group Hamas and ordered the closure of Hamas offices.
Hamas, which rules the neighboring Gaza Strip, is the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood. Authorities accuse Hamas, in cooperation with the Brotherhood, of training and arming the al-Qaida inspired group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has carried out a string of bombings and attacks on police and the military. The Brotherhood and Hamas both deny the accusation. Morsi and many Brotherhood leaders are facing multiple trials, including one on charges of working with Hamas to undermine national security. Several Hamas members are co-defendants in the case. In Gaza, senior Hamas official Izzat Rishq condemned Tuesday's ruling, saying the movement viewed it as a "political decision" directed against the Palestinian people and their resistance. His comments came in a statement sent by email. On his Facebook page, Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk wrote that the group has no affiliates in Egypt and all its past meetings or visits in Egypt were carried out with the knowledge of Egypt's general intelligence agency. Tuesday's ruling by the Court of Urgent Matters was the result of a case brought by an Egyptian lawyer seeking a verdict branding Hamas a terrorist organization and suspending any dealings with it. The ruling did not directly declare the group a terrorist organization.

Court bans activities of Islamist Hamas in Egypt
March 04, 2014/Reuters
CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Tuesday banned all activities of Hamas in Egypt in a further sign that Cairo's military-backed government aims to squeeze the Palestinian Islamist group that rules neighbouring Gaza, regarding it as a security threat. Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist group by the authorities and subjected to systematic repression since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohamed Morsi, from the presidency last July. "The court has ordered the banning of Hamas work and activities in Egypt," the judge, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters. When in power Morsi gave red-carpet treatment to Hamas, angering many secular and liberal Egyptians who saw this as part of a creeping Islamist takeover following the pro-democracy uprising of 2011. The military-buttressed authorities now classify Hamas as a significant security risk, accusing the group of supporting an Islamist insurgency that has spread quickly since Morsi's downfall, allegations it denies. Security officials had told Reuters in January that after crushing the Muslim Brotherhood at home, military rulers planned steps to undermine Hamas. The court also ordered the closure of Hamas offices in Egypt, one of the judges overseeing the case told Reuters. The judge stopped short of declaring Hamas a terrorist group, saying the court did not have the jurisdiction to do so.

Hamas condemned the ruling.
"The decision harms the image of Egypt and its role towards the Palestinian cause. It reflects a form of standing against Palestinian resistance (to Israel)," said Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Gaza-based militant organisation. During Morsi's year in power, Hamas held secretive internal elections in Egypt in 2012. A top Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk, lives in Cairo and may now be at risk of arrest in the wake of the court decision.
The case against Hamas was filed by a group of Egyptian lawyers after Morsi's removal last year asking for it to be outlawed in Egypt and designated a terrorist organisation.
Islamist militants based in Egypt's Sinai region, which has a border with Gaza, have stepped up attacks on police and soldiers since Morsi's political demise. Hundreds have been killed by an insurgency that has spread to other parts of Egypt, the largest and most populous Arab country.
Since seizing power in Egypt last summer, Egypt's military has crippled the Gaza economy by destroying most of the 1,200 tunnels used to smuggle food, cars and weapons to the coastal enclave, which is under an Israeli blockade. Egyptian officials say it could take years to undermine Hamas. But they believe working with Hamas's main Palestinian political rival, the Western-backed Fatah movement, and supporting popular anti- Hamas activities in Gaza will weaken the group, several security and diplomatic officials said. In early January, Cairo publicly hosted the first conference of a new anti- Hamas youth group called Tamarud "Rebel"), the same name used by the Egyptian youth movement that spearheaded last year's mass protests against Morsi. Members of the Palestinian Tamarud stood with the Palestinian flag wrapped around their necks to highlight what they called Hamas's crimes against activists in Gaza. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after a brief civil war against Fatah, which is led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Egyptian officials said Hamas would now face growing unrest in Gaza similar to that in Egypt which has overthrown two presidents since the Arab Spring in 2011. Cairo plans to support opposition activism in Gaza to try to cripple Hamas. Both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas deny accusations of terrorism, and the Brotherhood says it remains committed to peaceful activism despite Cairo's security clampdown.
Egypt has arrested almost the entire Brotherhood leadership and thousands of its faithful, and security forces have killed hundreds of pro-Morsi demonstrators in the streets.
Analysts say such harsh measures may encourage Brotherhood members who have gone underground to take up arms against the state. That would complicate efforts to end political turmoil and violence that have hit the economy hard. Morsi, who was freely elected, is now on trial in several cases on charges including inciting the murder of protesters during his presidency and collaborating with Hamas to stage terrorist attacks in Egypt. He denies the charges and accuses the army of staging a coup that undermined democracy.

Officials discussing possibility of a G7 meeting soon: Canada
March 04, 2014/Reuters/OTTAWA: The Group of Seven leading industrialized nations are discussing whether to hold a meeting in the near future, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday, a move that would pointedly exclude Russia.The G7 became the G8 in 1998 when Russia was formally included. Diplomats had previously said one way for the international community to punish Moscow for its incursion into Ukraine would be to hold a G7 meeting."I spoke to President Obama on that on the weekend, I've suggested that, and I know there are discussions among G7 sherpas (senior officials) about the possibility of a G7 meeting in the upcoming weeks," Harper told the Canadian Parliament.

Analysis: Netanyahu's voice, Kerry’s words

03/04/2014 22:34
In the very public debate between Israel and the Palestinians over the document US Secretary of State John Kerry is laboring to produce, one important question to ask is when will the sides stop bickering about it and start marketing it to their respective publics. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began doing just that in his speech Tuesday to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Had one listened to this speech with eyes closed and Netanyahu's voice altered to prevent identification, one could have heard the prime minister's comments about peace dividends and sworn that the speaker was Kerry himself.
“Peace would be good for us. Peace would be good for the Palestinians," he said. "But peace would also open up the possibility of establishing formal ties between Israel and leading countries in the Arab world." For months Kerry, as well as US President Barack Obama, have implored the sides not only to look at the risks of reaching an agreement, but also the benefits. Time after time Kerry has talked about the Arab Peace Initiative, and how once an agreement with the Palestinians was sealed, Israel would have normal relations with 57 Islamic and Arab countries. “Think of the possibilities,” he continuously urges.
Though Netanyahu surely has thought of these possibilities in the past, he has never come out and actually talked about them in public in the manner he did on Tuesday. In recent months when he spoke about Israel’s relations with the Arab world, it was always in the the context of various Arab leaders agreeing privately with Israel's position that Iran must not be allowed to gain nuclear capabilities. "When the Arabs and Israel agree on something," he has said often over the last few months, "the world should listen.”
But his comments about the Arab world on Tuesday were of a different nature altogether. The voice was the voice of Netanyahu, but the words were the words of President Shimon Peres … or at least so it seemed. .
"Many Arab leaders -- and believe me, this is a fact, not a hypothesis, it's a fact -- many Arab leaders today already realize that Israel is not their enemy, that peace with the Palestinians would turn our relations with them and with many Arab countries into open and thriving relationships," he said.
"The combination of Israeli innovation and Gulf entrepreneurship, to take one example -- I think this combination could catapult the entire region forward," he said, sounding like a salesman for the New Middle East. "We could solve the water problems. We could solve the energy problems. We could improve agriculture. We could improve education with e-learning, health with diagnostics on the Internet. All of that is possible. We could better the lives of hundreds of millions. So we all have so much to gain from peace." Netanyahu then served up his more standard fare: the need for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, that there will be no compromise on Israel's security, and that one can never be too careful in the dangerously changing Middle East.
But one should not ignore that part of the speech where he waxed on about visions of peace, something that up until now has been lacking in his public remarks about the negotiations. That it appeared precisely on Tuesday, in front of 14,000 AIPAC supporters and thousands of others watching him back home in Israel, might be an indication that a US framework document enabling the continuation of the talks is closer than some people think, and that now he is beginning to market it.
But if, as Netanyahu said upon arriving in Washington Sunday, it takes three – Israel, the US and the Palestinians -- to dance this particular diplomatic tango, selling a possible deal will take two (the Americans are already sold): Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu on Tuesday clearly went outside his comfort zone and began marketing the possibility of a deal to his people. An even stronger signal that something is moving will be if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does the same thing in remarks he may make next week after meeting Obama in the White House.


PA says Netanyahu's AIPAC speech amounts to declaration of end of peace talks

By JPOST.COM STAFF/03/04/2014 20:38
Fatah central committee member Nabil Shaath says diplomatic speech was "an official announcement of a unilateral end to negotiations." Netanyahu and Abbas Netanyahu and Abbas Photo: REUTERS Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's AIPAC speech on Tuesday in Washington was "an official announcement of a unilateral end to negotiations," AFP reported a top Palestinian official as saying. Fatah central committee member Nabil Shaath said Netanyahu's comments "contravene all the rules of the peace negotiations agreed with the Americans". Shaath said that Palestinians "totally reject" Israel's demand of Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, as well as Netanyahu's objection to refusing Palestinian refugees. Netanyahu, during his speech, stated that a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians would open up the possibility of establishing ties with leading countries in the Arab world. The prime minister said that many of these Arab countries already know that Israel is not the enemy. "Peace with the Palestinians would turn these into open and thriving relationships."

Was it best the U.S. didn’t militarily intervene in Syria?
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Robert Ford has been an ambassador without an embassy ever since the U.S. shut down its mission in Syria after the war erupted. He has left his post and there are no indications that President Barack Obama's administration will change its policy regarding the struggle in Syria. This unwise and inhumane stance is unfortunate.
Ambassador Ford is one of the most knowledgeable diplomats on the level of Syrian and Arab affairs in general. In his recent statements, he was clear in blaming the Bashar al-Assad regime for what's happening. Ford also blamed the regime for the failure of the second Geneva conference. But casting blame is a game of no value at a time when the blood of thousands of innocent civilians is being shed in one of the most hideous wars of our modern history. It's easy to review the mistakes of the past three years and say that the American policy in Syria was wrong because the policy of abandoning the crisis is the major reason it has reached this dangerous extent. Today's situation is due to yesterday's policy.
In his most recent statement, the outgoing ambassador defended Obama's policy, as expected according to protocol. I don't know his real opinion, but what attracted my attention was his statement that Obama's stance to stay away from the crisis was wise if we look back.
It's easy to review the mistakes of the past three years and say that the American policy in Syria was wrong because the policy of abandoning the crisis is the major reason it has reached this dangerous extent. Today's situation is due to yesterday's policy, which hasn't changed until now.
Extremists fill the vacuum
At the beginning, the only force against the regime was those who defected from the army - the Free Syrian Army and the youths who took up arms to respond to the regime's violence against them and against their homes.
The regime's violence, the long duration of the struggle and the entire west's abstention from supporting the Syrians caused a military and an ideological vacuum that attracted extremist groups. The regime's ugly practices made extremists ride this wave, alleging that they defend the unarmed people whom the world let down.
In two years, the extremists succeeded at mobilizing Muslims everywhere - including Europe, central Asia and the Arab world. Syria has currently become the biggest hub for terrorism in the world.
Arms for rebels not bombs against Assad
President Obama's decision to not send military was justified and an understandable decision. The mistake was in his rejection to support and arm the moderate opposition. Such a step would not have cost the American administration any of its citizens' lives. The region's countries, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, would have probably been willing to fund it, similar to what happened during the war to liberate Kuwait in 1991.
If the U.S. had supported the Syrian opposition two years ago, it would have blocked the path of al-Qaeda and other terrorists. The U.N. could have been able to push towards a reasonably peaceful solution. The Assad regime currently rejects compromises because it enjoys unlimited support from Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias who went to Syria because they think the West won't intervene, thus they can save their ally, the Assad regime.
The absence of the U.S. weakened the moderate opposition which includes Christians, Druze, Alawites and moderate Islamists. As a result of Assad's and Hezbollah's crimes, the Syrians are willing to embrace any group as long as it's willing to confront the aggression targeting them.
Syria will not be the only country to pay the price, as the spread of extremism has now been revived. The Americans have not gained anything from their neutrality. I think they've lost a lot, especially considering president Obama used to enjoy an exceptional popularity that no American president had enjoyed before.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 4, 2014.

New world order: May the maddest man prevail?
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya/
What we are witnessing from Syria to Russia is not survival of the fittest but rather prevalence of the maddest. How else would we describe nations bullying each other in plain sight to force them into submission?
One should remember the tactic and intensity of Syrian shelling on the residential Christian areas of Lebanon in the late eighties to understand this kind of bullying. It means no mercy and no logic. It also means killing people physically or killing their resolve and any hope they might have. It means the focused shelling will only intensify until all are dead if necessary or all survivors are on their knees begging for mercy.
Assad's tentacles
Those who refuse to beg are controlled through other methods. From sanctions to jailing and assassinations, the Bashar al-Assad Regime has a history of serving torture and intimidation in various potions. To each his gall and no one escapes the wrath of a regime that thrives on people’s misery and disrespect.
Syria will starve the people of Yarmouk to death and Russia will invade Ukraine, because they can. The players have crossed all lines. At this point the world cannot face this barbarism with civility.
Remember the trips to Syria by politicians to be accepted or to be left alone to do their jobs, or those apologizing profusely for earlier “transgressions” and declaring loyalty and obedience to the master al-Assad, who has the power to keep them alive or turn them into corpses.
It is the same regime that kept its hold on Lebanon for decades and when the people spoke out and kicked Syria out. They were promised a scathing pay back. The octopus was counting on its loyal tentacles to spread deeply and widely around Lebanon.
Parallels in Russia
Following the same logic, Ukraine sought closer ties with the European Union, and Russia said no. Russia then used its tentacles to create dissent and make the struggle as bloody and as deadly as possible. When the people prevailed and overthrew the government, Russia stepped forward ready to invade the country to save it from its own self. There is no logic in this equation, only aggression, bullying and a headless beast taking everything down with it as it falls.
Russia and Syria have no legitimacy left. What they do have is the bullying power that wreaks havoc as a world. Late to act, it finds itself unable to jump in this bloodbath and powerless in the face of suffering innocent victims.
Syria will starve the people of Yarmouk to death and Russia will invade Ukraine, because they can. The players have crossed all lines. At this point the world cannot face this barbarism with civility.
This article was first published in Lebanon-based Annahar on March 3, 2014.