March 07/14


Bible Quotation for today/LOVE
1 Corinthians 13/01-07: "If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing.  If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.  Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud,  doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil;  doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will be done away with. Where there are various languages, they will cease. Where there is knowledge, it will be done away with.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;  but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.  But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love."

Pope Francis's Tweet Today
Let us pray for Christians who are victims of persecution, so that they may know how to respond to evil with good.
Pape François 
Prions pour les chrétiens victimes de persécutions, pour que nous sachions réagir au mal par le bien.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 07/14

Hezbollah’s presidential headaches grow/By Michael Young/The Daily Star/March 07/14

The Lost Spring/By Dr. Walid Phares/March 07/14

Hezbollah leaves Lebanon in political limbo/By: Ben Knight/March 07/14

Frustration with Qatar adds to GCC security dispute/By David Andrew Weinberg/March 07/14

Qatar’s issues have been ongoing for 20 years/By Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/ March 07/14

How the Ukrainian crisis could impact the Middle East/Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya/March 07/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 07/14
Lebanese Related News

Suleiman: We Will Find Flexible Solution to Resistance Equation in Policy Statement

Report: Suleiman and Hariri Discuss Hizbullah Campaign, Policy Statement

Report: Hale to Travel to Riyadh to Resolve Policy Statement Deadlock

Mashnouq Holds Talks with Aoun in Rabieh

Israel Uses Reconnaissance Air Balloon to Monitor Lebanese Border Towns

Loyalty to Resistance Says Policy Statement Possible if Parties Pacify Rhetoric

Salam Blamed Policy Statement Impasse on Lack of Trust Among Political Parties

Syrian Warplanes Target Outskirts of Arsal Anew

Al-Mustaqbal Denies 'Assumptions' on Rejection of Anti-Israel Resistance Concept

Syrian Opposition Rejects Offer to Negotiate with Hizbullah

Bkirki Confirms Proposal on Deal over Names of 2 Presidential Candidates

Kidnapped Citizen Released in Unknown Circumstances

Hizbullah Establishes Airport in Baalbek, Operates Iranian-Made Drones

Hariri Seeks to Resolve Repercussions of Gas Centers Crisis

Lebanon Claims Firing 3 Rockets on al-Nabi Sheet

Kidnappers Move Syria Nuns, Contact Lost

Syrian Opposition Rejects Offer to Negotiate with Hizbullah

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Israel to bring seized ‘Iran weapons ship’

Gulf Anger at Qatar Fueled by its Regional Ambitions

Qatar 'will not bow to pressure to alter foreign policy'

U.S. Restricts Movements of Syria's U.N. Ambassador

Saudi Airs 'Confessions' of Jihadist on Return from Syria

Crimea Asks to Join Russia, Plans Referendum

Iran's Zarif Rejects Israel 'Lies' on Gaza Weapons Ship


Hezbollah’s presidential headaches grow
March 06, 2014 /By Michael Young/The Daily Star
The recent denigration of President Michel Sleiman by Ibrahim Amin, the editor of Al-Akhbar, is part of Hezbollah’s larger fight over the presidency. As a consequence, the justice minister, Ashraf Rifi, has taken legal action, accusing Amin of “defaming” the president and the prestige of the presidency.We eagerly await the day when that idiotic accusation will be deleted from the legal books. Amin’s newspaper has often adopted highly questionable journalistic tactics, but for Rifi to have begun his term in office with a decision that could very easily be spun into an attack against free expression was a mistake.
In an article last week, Amin was highly critical of Sleiman’s recent comments at Kaslik University, in which he called on the political parties to abandon “rigid equations” that were delaying agreement over the policy statement of the Salam government. In place of the people-Army-resistance triad, the president offered an alternative: “the land-the people-common values.” Hezbollah reacted violently to his speech, and Amin was enrolled to add bite to the counterattack.
Some viewed Sleiman’s remarks as an underhanded way of torpedoing an agreement over a Cabinet statement. Reportedly, Prime Minister Tammam Salam was unhappy. If the government cannot adopt a statement, the argument goes, Sleiman would be in a better position to extend his term come May, on the grounds that Lebanon cannot allow a void both in the government and the presidency.
The main purpose of the new government, namely to create a constructive atmosphere allowing for a consensus around a new president, may be quickly evaporating. Unless something gives in the coming days, we won’t have a Cabinet statement, and the government will then function in a caretaker capacity. And if ministers cannot reach a compromise over a Cabinet statement today, their parties are unlikely to agree over a president in May – let alone over the Cabinet statement of the next government if a presidential election takes place.
What has been flagrant in the past year is how destabilized Hezbollah has been by Sleiman’s criticisms. The president has only public statements in his scabbard, but Hezbollah has reacted with undue aggressiveness, suggesting that any break with the unanimity it once imposed over its weapons has become worrisome to the party.
Hezbollah is not pleased that two of the three top posts in the state are held by individuals who do not share the party’s vision or ideology. Even in the days after the so-called Cedar Revolution in 2005, Hezbollah still benefited from a sympathetic president and speaker of parliament, using this to block all efforts by the March 14 coalition to eat away at the props of the party’s political power.
While Hezbollah does not want a vacuum, its sense of vulnerability suggests that it would prefer one if it cannot guarantee control over a president, and if the Salam government seeks to challenge what the party views as non-negotiable, namely a justification for its weapons. Better no president or government unless both serve to reinforce what Hezbollah considers vital for its political and military survival.
What is risky in this proposition is that domestic stability is as important to the party as self-protection. If Lebanon were to descend into violence, particularly sectarian violence, Hezbollah could lose everything it has spent two decades building up. Any illusion that the party can dominate Lebanon militarily should have been dispelled by its performance in Syria. While Hezbollah has done well in some places, it has taken heavy casualties in others. It’s easier to fire at Israel from afar than to embark on a conflict in mixed areas, where the costs are bound to be high and there can be no clear victories.
In Hezbollah’s favor, Sleiman has not been able to draw enough Christians away from the party to pose a threat. For as long as Michel Aoun and his followers regard Sleiman as a rival, Hezbollah will retain the initiative. Christians often lament their divisions, but the reality is that their petty disputes have been among the most useful developments allowing Hezbollah to advance its agenda.
Watch as the year progresses and steps are taken to hold parliamentary elections next November. The underlying tensions between the Lebanese Forces and the Future Movement suggest that, unless the two agree to a compromise election law proposal, Hezbollah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri will use the debate over such a law to divide their opponents, as they did last year.
But Hezbollah is right not to be reassured about what lies ahead. The Syrian conflict will continue, and is likely to escalate further in spring, when the rebels are said to be preparing a southern offensive. The Shiite community, like all Lebanese, is suffering greatly from a combination of systematic bombings and economic duress. Amid all this, that the party and its mouthpieces should be focusing on statements by Sleiman suggests there is considerable uneasiness over Hezbollah’s ability to enforce compliance within Lebanon.
What Hezbollah has not considered is that whoever becomes president will have a natural tendency to challenge the party. The party’s very existence represents a daily contradiction of the state and its unity, whose prime representative is the president. Even if a successor to Sleiman is found, this reality will persist.
Any president, by definition, only gains by appealing to all sides of the political spectrum, and by not curtailing the authority of the state, hence his own. That applies as much to Sleiman as to Aoun, were he to enter the presidential palace. In the end the incompatibility between the state and Hezbollah will endure, whatever the party does.
Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

Kidnappers Move Syria Nuns, Contact Lost

Naharnet /Negotiators have lost contact with a group of nuns kidnapped from a Syrian town last year after their captors moved them, a source told AFP on Thursday.
The 13 nuns and three maids were kidnapped from the famed Christian hamlet of Maalula last year and transported to the nearby town of Yabrud, a rebel stronghold the army is fighting to recapture. "I was in regular contact with them, but since yesterday we've lost contact," a source involved in negotiations said. "It is very likely that they have been transferred to the region between Yabrud and the Lebanese border" nearby, the source said. "Contacts are underway to try to ensure their safety."The source said the kidnappers were from a group belonging to the Al-Qaida affiliate Al-Nusra Front led by a man called Abu Malek al-Kuwaiti. She said they had presented negotiators with a list of demands including the release of all women held in government prisons and the withdrawal of regime forces from Christian religious sites. The kidnappers also asked for the provision of food to residents of rebel-held areas in the region and "military demands to do with the battle of Yabrud," the source. "Things that are difficult to achieve," the source added. The nuns, from both Syria and Lebanon, were kidnapped from a convent in Maalula in December, as regime and rebel forces battled for control in the surrounding Qalamun region. They were moved to Yabrud, a rebel stronghold that has become the last opposition holdout in the Qalamun region and now at the center of fierce regime campaign. SourceAgence France Presse

Report: Hale to Travel to Riyadh to Resolve Policy Statement Deadlock
Naharnet /U.S. Ambassador David Hale is expected to visit Riyadh this weekend in an attempt to salvage the new government from the deadlock of the policy statement, al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported on Thursday.
The daily said Hale's expected talks with top Saudi officials are aimed at finding a solution to the impasse of the policy statement of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government on the eve of the presidential elections.
The diplomat wants to resolve the crisis to allow the government to receive parliament's vote of confidence so that it can prepare for the presidential elections on time, it added. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May. Meanwhile, al-Liwaa newspaper and pan-Arab daily al-Hayat quoted Salam as saying that he was not pessimistic on the disagreement between the rival parties on the resistance clause of the policy statement. He expected the blueprint to be approved as soon as possible, the reports said. Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Ammar Houri, who met with Salam on Wednesday, told al-Liwaa that the prime minister sees the policy statement as an “urgent necessity for all the political parties.”“In the current circumstances, the country needs a genuine government and not a caretaker cabinet,” Houri quoted Salam as saying. The committee tasked with drafting the policy statement will hold its ninth meeting on Friday but it has failed to narrow differences on the resistance clause after the March 14 alliance stressed that the resistance should be placed under the authority of the Lebanese state. The Hizbullah-led March 8 camp, on the other hand, rejected this demand, wanting to legitimize the party's armed resistance against Israel.

Report: Suleiman and Hariri Discuss Hizbullah Campaign, Policy Statement
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman and al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri held talks in Paris on Wednesday night, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported. The newspaper said Thursday that the meeting was held on the sidelines of a dinner banquet thrown by deputy Speaker Farid Makari in honor of Suleiman and the delegation that accompanied him to the International Support Group for Lebanon meet. Hariri was also invited to the dinner, al-Joumhouria said. The talks between him and Suleiman focused on the latest developments in Lebanon and the meetings that Hariri has lately held in Rome, Paris and Riyadh, the report said. A campaign launched by Hizbullah against the president and the deadlock on the policy statement of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government were also the focus of the discussions between Suleiman and Hariri, the daily added. Despite the report, LBCI said that Hariri did not attend the dinner banquet thrown by Makari at his residence in Suleiman's honor for being abroad. The international support group for Lebanon appealed Wednesday for nations to extend pledges of financial help for the country, which is coping with an influx of Syrian refugees, terror attacks and a struggling economy. Participants at the ministerial meeting in Paris stressed the need "to not only speed up the promised aid but provide additional help."France, has committed 10.4 million euros toward helping the refugees and will unblock another 1 million this year. The French Development Agency is supplying 3 million euros for NGOs. Suleiman said his country will require years of support, saying the burden it carries threatens its stability. Foreign Minister Jebran Basssil told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat published on Thursday that the major powers are in agreement to help Lebanon reach stability. He said he told his French counterpart Laurent Fabius that the aim of the Lebanese parties is to reach a clear plan inside the government to resolve the problems of the Lebanese.

Syrian Warplanes Target Outskirts of Arsal Anew
Naharnet/A Syrian raid targeted on Thursday the eastern town of Khirbet Younine on the outskirts of Arsalfor the second day in a row. According to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) the airstrike targeted opposition gunmen in the area. VDL (100.5) said that a rocket fired by Syrian warplanes landed in Arsal. On Wednesday, a Syrian airstrike targeted an area near a post for the Lebanese army in village of Aqba al-Mabeeda, prompting the army to reportedly open anti-aircraft fire. A December air raid prompted the Lebanese Army to fire back with anti-aircraft guns. Arsal has a long shared border with Syria, stretching along much of Damascus province and part of Homs province. That was believed to be the first time the Lebanese army had responded to a raid, though it had previously threatened to do so. Since the eruption of the neighboring country's war, Arsal has repeatedly been targeted with Syrian rockets. Smugglers have long taken their goods across the porous border, and since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, weapons and fighters have moved across the border too.

Salam Blamed Policy Statement Impasse on Lack of Trust Among Political Parties
Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Thursday the lack of trust among the rival parties were hindering an agreement on his government’s policy statement, adding President Michel Suleiman was not to blame.
Suleiman said last week that Lebanese parties should not hold onto inflexible equations that hinder the adoption of the policy statement. His remark enraged Hizbullah, which launched a campaign against him and said the president needed “specialized care.” The ministerial committee tasked with drafting the policy statement has so far failed to agree on the controversial resistance clause. It will hold its ninth meeting on Friday despite lack of optimism on its ability to reach consensus. The committee is made up of representatives from the rival March 8 and 14 camps and centrists. Salam told reporters at the Grand Serail that it was his responsibility to understand and contain the differences among the rival sides. But he stressed that he was not part of them. “Any opinion would not be beneficial until the political parties reach a joint agreement,” he said.
“The lack of confidence has built up among the Lebanese and this needs time” to be resolved. Salam told the reporters that the International Support Group for Lebanon meeting, which was held in Paris on Wednesday, stressed the commitment of the major powers to Lebanon's security and stability despite the changes in the world political scene. The group for Lebanon appealed for nations to extend pledges of financial help for the fragile country, which is coping with an influx of Syrian refugees, terror attacks and a struggling economy.

Loyalty to Resistance Says Policy Statement Possible if Parties Pacify Rhetoric
Naharnet/Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc on Thursday noted that there is still a chance to reach consensus over the policy statement of the new cabinet if the wrangling parties pacify their rhetoric.
“The interest of the Lebanese lies in clinging to the equation that is the guarantee for their state and one of its most important pillars,” the bloc said in a statement issued after its periodic meeting. “The agreement that is needed to kickstart the work of the government can boost the chances of holding the elections on time," it noted. "There is a chance to reach an acceptable and satisfactory ministerial policy statement should everyone pacify their rhetoric," the bloc added. Addressing Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi's decision to refer an editorial deemed insulting to President Michel Suleiman to the public prosecution, Loyalty to Resistance said it rejects any attack on the press with the aim of "settling personal scores." "We stand by freedoms and voice solidarity with the targeted journalists," it said, referring to al-Akhbar newspaper editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amine. The bloc called for cracking down on terrorist networks in the country, stressing the importance of "cooperation and coordination" among all the relevant authorities. Commenting on the issue of the closure of two gas distribution firms over fears they may be targeted by suicide bombers, the bloc called for urgent steps to address the impact of Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq's decision on the impoverished employees of the companies.
Earlier on Thursday, Suleiman reiterated that the Baabda Declaration holds greater political significance than the new government's policy statement. He told reporters in Paris: “A flexible phrasing of the statement will be drafted in order to resolve the dispute over the resistance.”The panel drafting the policy statement has so far failed in its mission after eight meetings due to an ongoing dispute over the role of the resistance in Lebanon and the equation of the “army-people-resistance.”Suleiman had stated over the weekend that the panel should steer away from “wooden equations” to which Hizbullah responded that the president “does not distinguish between gold and wood.”

Hizbullah Establishes Airport in Baalbek, Operates Iranian-Made Drones
Naharnet /Hizbullah had recently established a small military airport in the Bekaa city of Baalbek and is operating Iranian-made drones, the Saudi al-Watan daily reported on Thursday. According to the daily, Hizbullah also created high-security secret tunnels and depots, that were dug under Iranian supervision. The Iranian drones were identified as Mirsad-1 and Mirsad-2. A Lebanese observer Georges Shahin said in comments published in the Saudi newspaper that the Islamic Republic of Iran had provided its staunch ally Hizbullah with 14 Iranian-made drones. “It's not unlikely for Hizbullah to set a new airport,” Shahin said. In January, senior commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that Hizbullah has dramatically improved its missile capabilities and can now pinpoint targets anywhere in Israel. Hajizadeh didn't say how Hizbullah's missile capability had improved, but The Wall Street Journal has reported that the group has been moving parts of advanced guided-missile systems to Lebanon from bases where it had stored them inside Syria.

Kidnapped Citizen Released in Unknown Circumstances

Naharnet/A Lebanese citizen kidnapped on Thursday by masked gunmen on the Ablah road in the Bekaa was released in unknown circumstances, media reports said. Antoine Daher al-Kaadi was reportedly in the custody of the army intelligence that will hand him over to his family after he gives his testimony.The reasons behind the abduction remain unknown. Masked armed men abducted at dawn al-Kaadi on the Ablah road. According to the state-run National News Agency, unknown assailants in a brown Mercedes forced al-Kaadi out of his Mercedes vehicle, which carries a license plate with the number 5002. The abductors fled with al-Kaadi to unknown whereabouts. Lebanon had witnessed a wave of kidnap-for-ransom along with sectarian abductions caused by the war in Syria have also taken place.

Bkirki Confirms Proposal on Deal over Names of 2 Presidential Candidates
Naharnet/An agreement on the names of two candidates for the presidential elections is among many proposals set to be discussed during a planned meeting between the country's top four Maronite leaders, Bkirki spokesman Walid Ghayyad said Thursday. Ghayyad told Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) that no date has yet been set for the meeting between Phalange leader Amin Gemayel, Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea and the head of Marada movement, Suleiman Franjieh. But he said that Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi wishes to bring them together to agree on the presidential polls and among other proposals on the names of two candidates. “Everyone has the freedom to announce his candidacy,” he told VDL. Bishop Samir Mazloum also told VDL (93.3) that a date could be set for the meeting if the top four Maronite politicians reached consensus on certain issues. Their comments came a day after An Nahar daily reported that Bkirki is seeking to strike a deal between the politicians on the presidential elections but it is shying away from naming its candidate for the top post. Al-Rahi is keen on avoiding a vacuum at Baabda Palace after President Michel Suleiman rejected an extension and stressed that he would leave his post at the end of his term on May 4, the newspaper said.

Al-Mustaqbal Denies 'Assumptions' on Rejection of Anti-Israel Resistance Concept

Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc reiterated on Thursday that the Baabda Declaration should be part of the cabinet's policy statement and denied “assumptions” that the March 14 alliance was rejecting a clause on the resistance of Hizbullah against Israel. Following its meeting under MP Fouad Saniora, the bloc slammed “claims” and “untrue assumptions” made by some March 8 camp officials that March 14 was rejecting to put the “concept of resistance against the Israeli enemy in the policy statement.”The Mustaqbal MPs accused the March 8 officials of insisting to legitimize the use of weapons from outside the authority of the Lebanese state. “This is rejected and we cannot accept it,” they said in the statement they issued after the meeting at the Center House in downtown Beirut. The blueprint should be adopted in a way that meets the exceptions of the Lebanese people and allows the government of Prime Minister Tammam Salam to start working in the interest of the Lebanese, they said. The lawmakers rejected the “arrogant” language used by Hizbullah and its allies against President Michel Suleiman following his speech at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik last week. The president said that Lebanese parties should not hold onto inflexible equations that hinder the adoption of the government's policy statement. His remark drew a sharp retort from Hizbullah, which said the president needed “specialized care.”The committee tasked with drafting the policy statement has failed to narrow differences on the resistance clause after March 14 stressed that the resistance should be placed under “the authority of the Lebanese state.” But the Hizbullah-led March 8 camp rejected this demand, wanting to legitimize the party's armed resistance against Israel. The Mustaqbal bloc statement said the constitution guarantees the right of the president to make a patriotic stance. “Those who disagreed with him, should have responded by making a political statement and not attacking him and launching media campaigns against him,” it said. The MPs also lauded Suleiman's role in the International Support Group for Lebanon meeting that was held in Paris on Wednesday. The meeting of the major powers, who appealed for nations to extend pledges of financial help for Lebanon, expresses the keenness of those countries to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, they said. The lawmakers hoped that the support for Lebanon would take “practical and financial measures” mainly in helping resolve the crisis of Syrian refugees.

Hariri Seeks to Resolve Repercussions of Gas Centers Crisis

Naharnet/Senior officials discussed a controversial decision enforced by Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq to shut down two centers of filling gas canisters in Beirut's southern suburbs.
According to al-Liwaa newspaper published on Thursday, ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri contacted high-ranking officials to address the matter and resolve the repercussions caused by the shutting down of the two companies.
Mashnouq's decision to “temporary shut down” the two companies, one in Bir Hassan and the other in Ouzai, was compelled by information obtained by security forces that they could be the target of a terrorist attack.
The newspaper also reported that progress was made after talks with Speaker Nabih Berri and Mashnouq, along with other officials. Mashnouq visited on Monday the centers to oversee the temporary shut down.
The workers blocked the Ouzai highway with burning tires for the last two days to protest Mashnouq's endeavor, arguing that they have no other means of living. Lebanon witnessed a string of of bomb attacks in recent months targeting mainly strongholds of Hizbullah, which has drawn the ire of Sunni extremist groups in part because of its role fighting alongside the regime in Syria.

Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon Claims Firing 3 Rockets on al-Nabi Sheet
Naharnet/The Qaida-inspired al-Nusra Front in Lebanon on Wednesday claimed responsibility for firing three rockets on the Bekaa town of al-Nabi Sheet, in the latest such attack this week.
“The heroes of al-Nusra Front in Lebanon shelled the lairs of the party of Iran (Hizbullah) with three Grad rockets in retaliation to its massacres in Syria,” the group said on its Twitter page. It also vowed “major operations (against Hizbullah) that will deprive its 'rabbis' of sleep and inject terror into the hearts of its members,” noting that “such a party only understands the language of the sword.”
Earlier on Wednesday, state-run National News Agency said “a rocket landed in an agricultural area between the outskirts of the al-Nabi Sheet and al-Nasriyeh towns, causing no damage.”
It said the rocket was fired from the Eastern Mountain Range on the Lebanese-Syrian border. On Tuesday, three rockets fired from Syria struck residential neighborhoods in the Bekaa town of al-Labweh, in an attack that was swiftly claimed by the Qaida-inspired Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. And on Monday, four people were wounded when eight rockets fired from Syria hit the Bekaa town of Brital and its surroundings. Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed responsibility for that attack.

Israel Uses Reconnaissance Air Balloon to Monitor Lebanese Border Towns
Naharnet/An Israeli reconnaissance air balloon flew on Thursday over the orchards of the southern border towns of Kfarkila and Adaisseh, the state-run National news agency reported. According to NNA, the air balloon was equipped with developed surveillance cameras and could monitor the areas near the settlement of al-Mtolleh, which overlooks the Lebanese territories. On Wednesday, Israel said it fired at and hit two members of Hizbullah as they tried to plant a bomb near the Israeli-Syrian border, but Syrian state media accused the Jewish state of targeting its forces. The incident came just over a week after reports that Israeli warplanes bombarded a Hizbullah position in Jinta on the Lebanese-Syrian border.Hizbullah threatened to retaliate for what was the first reported Israeli air raid on a position of the Shiite party inside Lebanon since the 2006 war between them.

Suleiman: We Will Find Flexible Solution to Resistance Equation in Policy Statement
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman reiterated on Thursday that the Baabda Declaration holds greater political significance than the new government's policy statement. He told reporters in Paris: “A flexible phrasing of the statement will be drafted in order to resolve the dispute over the resistance.”“I predicted that Hizbullah would criticize me for my position on the resistance,” he remarked. They should not undermine words that write agreements because these words write history, stressed Suleiman. Commenting on the upcoming presidential elections, he said: “Thwarting the needed quorum to hold the elections is an obstruction of the constitution.”“Such an obstruction only takes place during exceptional circumstances,” noted Suleiman. “The elections will be held on time out of my desire to hold them and because of the international community's support” to Lebanon, he stated from Paris where he was taking part in the International Support Group meeting on Lebanon that was held on Wednesday. The panel drafting the policy statement has so far failed in its mission due to an ongoing dispute over the role of the resistance in Lebanon and the equation of the “army-people-resistance.”Suleiman had stated over the weekend that the panel should steer away from “wooden equations” to which Hizbullah responded that the president “does not distinguish between gold and wood.”

Mashnouq Holds Talks with Aoun in Rabieh
Naharnet /Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq held talks on Thursday with Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun. Mashnouq, who is loyal to al-Mustaqbal movement, refused to disclose to reporters at Rabieh the context of his talks with Aoun after a 45-minute meeting. Mashnouq only said that he cannot make any statement in the presence of Aoun. LBCI reported that the meeting tackled the latest developments. Earlier on Thursday, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported that discussions between the political arch-foes over the ministerial policy statement witnessed progress at night. The committee tasked with drafting the policy statement will hold its ninth meeting on Friday but it has so far failed to narrow differences on the resistance clause after the March 14 alliance stressed that the resistance should be placed under the authority of the Lebanese state. The Hizbullah-led March 8 camp, on the other hand, rejected this demand, wanting to legitimize the party's armed resistance against Israel. Al-Joumhouria described the meeting as “the first of its kind.” The report pointed out that Mashnouq is seeking to address several matters during his meeting with Aoun. The meeting comes after Aoun recently confirmed that he has recently met with former premier and head of al-Mustaqbal movement Saad Hariri ahead of the formation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet in February.
According to unconfirmed reports, ex-PM Hariri and Bassil had also held a meeting in Dubai.

Syrian Opposition Rejects Offer to Negotiate with Hizbullah

Naharnet Newsdesk 06 March 2014/The Syrian opposition rejected a proposal by former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford for the rebels to negotiate with Hizbullah and other factions fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's troops as part of a political solution to the civil war. In remarks published Thursday, the spokesman of the Syrian National Coalition, Louay Safi, said: “We only negotiate with the Syrians and we won't accept the participation of foreign militias that kill the Syrian people in the political solution.”The opposition won't surrender to the status-quo after three years of struggle, he said. Ford, who stepped down on Friday, has recently said that the negotiations to resolve the civil war should include armed groups, including Hizbullah, which has sent its fighters to Syria in support of Assad. Ford left the Syrian capital in 2011, when the popular uprising against Assad turned into a bloody civil war. The United States has closed its embassy in Damascus but has not cut off diplomatic ties with Syria, despite repeated condemnation of the Assad regime.

The Lost Spring
By Dr. Walid Phares
This month, my book The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid will be in libraries across America and online. This new book, published by Palgrave-McMillan in New York, is an analysis of the evolution of the Arab Spring and its future. It also addresses other democratic revolutions, upheavals and civil wars in the Middle East, including events in Iran, Turkey, Sudan, and beyond.
In Future Jihad (2005), a book that was selected for the U.S. House of Representatives Summer Readings 2006, I projected the rise of the global Jihadist movement, including its surge in the West. My previously most recent book published in English, The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East (2010), predicted the Arab Spring, its successive waves, and the civil wars it would cause. I projected three cycles before they even happened: the rise of civil societies, the takeover by Islamists, and the comeback of the seculars to push back against the Islamists. And this is the very pattern we witnessed in both Egypt and Tunisia. My book in French, Du Printemps Arabe a l’Automne Islamiste (From the Arab Spring to the Islamist Fall), which was published in November 2013 in Paris and launched at the European Parliament in Brussels, described the global race between Islamists and seculars in the region.
My new book of 2014 is taking analysis and projections even further. It explains why the West and the United States failed to predict the Arab Spring and why they failed to handle it effectively. The book also addresses the direction these upheavals are headed and how to correct U.S. policy before irreparable catastrophe strikes the region. From bloody and expanding civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Libya to the fight against terror in Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia; from genocide in Sudan, Darfur and beyond to the persecution of Christian and ethnic minorities and the rise of al Qaeda and Hezbollah; so much in the region appears hopeless, but one must also recognize the emergence of reformers, women, minorities and civil societies.
In The Lost Spring I tackle the deep impact the “Islamist lobby” in the West has developed regarding U.S. foreign policy and show the link between petrodollars influence, Middle East studies, and the political weapon of Islamophobia—designed by this influential network to weaken American support to Middle East, Arab and Muslim democrats actively opposing Salafists, Khomeinists, and Jihadists.
In essence, I argue that the Obama administration made strategic mistakes from the moment it took power in 2009—by striking the wrong alliances while simultaneously abandoning friends and ideological allies. I share with readers what could have been more effective policy had the election of 2012 had swung in the other direction. As a senior national security and foreign policy advisor of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, I had prepared alternative ideas for the Middle East — ideas a Romney administration could have adopted.
Introducing the book to the public, the publisher’s reviewer wrote:
“One of the greatest unanswered questions after the massive and violent changes that hit the Middle East in 2011, known to some as the “Arab Spring” and to others as the “Islamist Winter,” is how the West failed to predict both cataclysmic seasons in world affairs and to meet their challenges. The so-called spring didn’t last long, quickly unraveling into a collection of civil wars, civil unrest, and secessions. The author argues that Washington is too hesitant to take action when necessary, that U.S. policy is highly disoriented on counterterrorism efforts, and that the effects of these errors have already proven costly. In Benghazi, U.S. foreign policy failed to see the explosions coming, didn’t meet the challenges of political transformation where and with whom it should, and failed in isolating the Jihadi terrorists worldwide. Too many strategic errors were committed. In this fascinating new book, the author, the only expert who accurately predicted the Arab Spring, will foretell a major demise in U.S. and Western policies in the Middle East, unless a deep change in strategies and policies is made in Washington and around the world.
Nevertheless, the book argues that although there is still a chance to avoid catastrophe if the current administration and Congress implement dramatic change in foreign policy, there will be a high price for the next administration to pay if Washington maintains its current direction. I know readers will enjoy reading this historical-future analysis, and I am looking forward to their reactions and the debate it will generate.

Hezbollah leaves Lebanon in political limbo
Author Ben Knight, Beirut
Editor Rob Mudge/Date 05.03.2014/DW
There are few other countries like Lebanon where domestic affairs are so affected by regional calamities. With Hezbollah still fighting across the border in Syria, Lebanon is struggling with political deadlock. Lebanon's bewildering political landscape is everywhere on the streets of Beirut. The flags and graffiti of the country's 100-or-so political parties decorate virtually every scrap of spare space across the city. The green and yellow flags of the Shia-dominated Hezbollah and Amal parties are strapped to bridge railings with yards of sticky tape, and the slightly disturbing, swirled swastika-like insignia of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party hangs from several lampposts. There are currently 21 parties represented in the 128-seat Lebanese parliament, with a suitably diverse set of political agendas and sectarian interests, but most of these parties - even many not in parliament - are organized into two main factions. These are the March 8 and the March 14 alliances, and for almost a year the political fallout from the Syrian war (raging barely 50 miles from Beirut) has left the two in deadlock: the broadly pro-Assad March 8 (which includes Hezbollah) and the broadly anti-Assad March 14 have been unable to come to terms over Hezbollah's military activity in Syria - an open secret that became less and less secret early last year, until it was officially acknowledged in May, and then became a badge of honor in Beirut.
Deadlock and pressure
The deadlock was partially removed last week when a new cabinet was formed under independent Prime Minister Tammam Salam that included ministers from both sides. It was a stopgap solution formed out of necessity, for Lebanon has a number of practical problems to deal with, such as regular power cuts and potential water shortages. Despite these pressing domestic crises, some March 14 parties refused to take part in any cabinet until Hezbollah had withdrawn from Syria. Elie Khoury, international affairs advisor to the Lebanese Forces Party (the second largest Christian party in parliament) told DW: "We wanted to have a neutral government, excluding Hezbollah, and excluding us as a party - apolitical, with no politicians, only technocrats." Other parties consented to joining the cabinet but made the same demands. "We think that Hezbollah should pull out of Syria," Future Movement MP Jean Oghassapian said. "It's not something to discuss."
man sitting behind desk
Two obstacles
But even though this government is meant to be short-lived - set to end with the presidential election in May - the Syria deadlock has left the government wrangling its way through seven cabinet sessions in the past week as it tries to draft a new policy statement. There are two main sticking points: first is the status of the Baabda Declaration, signed by all sides in 2012, which is meant to guarantee Lebanese neutrality in regional conflicts - including therefore Hezbollah's non-intervention in Syria. President Michel Sleiman last Friday insisted that Baabda was "an invariable principle" of Lebanon's national charter, and Lebanese media reported that Hezbollah was prepared to accept it - though whether they will respect it is another matter. The second, and much more fundamental problem is the so-called Army, people, and resistance clause, which guarantees Hezbollah's right to carry weapons and fight independently of the Lebanese army. This has been part of Lebanon's constitutional structure since Hariri's tenure, and is seen as fundamental by Hezbollah not only for its own protection, but for the defense of Lebanon's borders.
Violence spreading
But Hezbollah's power is being undermined by increasing violence on three different fronts. Beirut has seen an average of one suicide car-bombing a week since the start of the year - sent by al-Qaeda-linked groups from inside Syria against Hezbollah-controlled areas on the border as well as Shia neighborhoods in southern Beirut - the very heart of Hezbollah's power.
Beirut Explosion
Domestic problems aside, Lebanon is caught up in a bloody al-Qaeda-led bombing campaign
The Syrian conflict has also spread into Tripoli, a city on the coast north of Beirut, where tit-for-tat shootings between Alawite and Sunni communities have occasionally escalated into all-out gun-fights, with the Lebanese army struggling to keep the two sides apart. That is becoming difficult, says Oghassapian, because "the two sides are armed, and the Alawites are supported by Syria and Hezbollah."
What is Hezbollah doing in Syria?
This violence is of course having an impact on Lebanon's already fragile economy, but perhaps more crucially, it is also threatening the loyalty of Hezbollah's core constituents in the Shia communities of Lebanon. One of the main reasons that many Lebanese people vote for Hezbollah is that the party makes them feel safe - safer than the Lebanese army can. If that sense of security is under threat, so are Hezbollah's votes.
Rami Ollaik, a former Hezbollah member who has written two critical books on his experiences in the party, believes there is a rising concern that Hezbollah can defend its core voters. "The Shia community is a dynamic community, and they have a lot of reservations and grievances right now," he told DW. "There are a lot of voices inside Hezbollah questioning the fighting in Syria and assessing the losses, saying 'it's causing us more losses than gains.' But in the end it's a strict organization."
On the other hand, what is preventing these concerns from surfacing at the moment, according to Ollaik, is the Shia's deep, historical fear of al Qaeda and Salafist extremists. While the March 14 alliance are convinced that the spillover violence inside Lebanon would end - or at least be reduced - if Hezbollah withdrew from Syria, Shia communities have a very different perspective, says Ollaik: "They say 'it's not about Lebanon or Syria - this a threat to our existence.' Especially because this has been going on throughout their history."
Regional players with intertwining interests
This is borne out by the statements from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who insists that Hezbollah's main concern in Syria is protecting the Shia communities and defending Lebanon's borders. March 14 MP Oghassapian sees this as a weak excuse: "Hezbollah said they are in Syria to fight extremists and protect Lebanon, which is not true, because when they started to fight in Syria, the bomb attacks began in Lebanon," he said.
An Iranian auxiliary force?
The elephant trapped in the confined space of Lebanese politics is Iran, whose sponsorship of Hezbollah influences all debates in Lebanese politics. Newspaper commentator Michael Young of the Lebanese Daily Star, wrote recently that Hezbollah's military wing "has been shown to be no better than an auxiliary force regionally for both the Iranian and Syrian regimes."
Khoury, of the Lebanese Forces Party, even questions Hezbollah's loyalty to Lebanon as a nation: "It's part of the military and political structure of Iran." Even though Hezbollah are Lebanese people, "their soul, their heart, and their mind is somewhere else.""Just look at the pay-checks," adds Ollaik. "Everybody, from the secretary general of Hezbollah to the smallest recruit, they are completely, 100 percent, on the payroll of the Iranians."
Oghassapian, meanwhile, thinks that even when the current deadlock in the Lebanese government is resolved Lebanese politics will remain tied to the fate of the whole region. "It won't change anything," he said. "We will always oppose Hezbollah's fighting inside Syria, and they will always continue to serve the Iranian strategy. We can never have an independent solution in Lebanon away from a solution over all the Middle East. It's tied to the Palestinian peace process, to the nuclear arms of Iran, to the conflict between Iran and Sunni countries. And all these are ultimately related to the strategic interests of the United States, Europe, Russia, and China."

U.S. Restricts Movements of Syria's U.N. Ambassador
Naharnet /The United States is restricting the movement of Syria's U.N. ambassador, limiting him to a 25-mile radius around New York City, the State Department said Wednesday.
Officials gave no explanation for the move against Bashar Jaafari but US relations have deteriorated sharply with Damascus since Syrian President Bashar Assad led a crackdown against a pro-democracy uprising in 2011.
"We have delivered a diplomatic note to the permanent representative of the Syrian mission to the United Nations in New York informing him that he is restricted to a 25-mile (40 kilometer) travel radius," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The note was delivered at the end of February, she told reporters. Some other countries' U.N. envoys face similar restrictions, she said. Envoys from Iran and North Korea are among them. "So this is not something that is out of the realm of what we've done before," Psaki said. The Coalition for a Democratic Syria, an association of Syrian-American groups, welcomed the announcement, accusing the diplomat of trying to fuel sectarian divisions among Syrians in his public appearances in the United States. "This development has been a long-standing objective that the Syrian-American community has been trying to achieve for the past five months," said Chad Brand, a spokesman for the coalition. For the past six months, Jaafari "has been conducting a series of propaganda tours across the United States to mislead Americans and sow sectarian discord among Syrian-Americans," he said. The United States has closed its embassy in Damascus but has not cut off diplomatic ties with Syria, despite repeated condemnation of the Assad regime. The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, who had cultivated contacts with Syria's opposition, stepped down last week. Ford left the Syrian capital in 2011, when the popular uprising against Assad turned into a bloody civil war.
SourceAgence France Presse

Israel to bring seized ‘Iran weapons ship’

By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Thursday, 6 March 2014
A ship Israel said was carrying advanced rockets bound for Gaza from Iran will be brought into port Saturday after being intercepted by Israeli naval forces, Agence France-Presse reported the military as saying.
“This ship, which was transporting dozens of M302-type rockets with a range of 150 to 200 kilometers (more than 100 miles) is currently north of Port Sudan and will arrive in Eilat Saturday evening,” General Motti Almoz told military radio Thursday. “Once it arrives we will check that other arms and munitions aren’t aboard,” he said. Israel intercepted the “Klos-C” in the Red Sea between Eritrea and Sudan on Wednesday, claiming that Syrian-made weapons aboard had been shipped overland to Iran and then onward by sea, intended for Palestinian militants in Gaza. Israel latched onto the alleged weapons shipment to chide Western powers for negotiating with Tehran over its nuclear program. However, on Thursday Iran rejected Israeli allegations that Tehran supplied rockets intended for Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza Strip. “This allegation is not true and in principle the message or movement of a ship carrying weapons from Iran to Gaza is not true,” Amir Abdollahian, Deputy Foreign Ministry for Arab and African Affairs said, according to official state news agency IRNA. “The allegation is merely based on repetitious and baseless fabrications of the Zionist media,” he added.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s military arm which answers directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei rather than to the president, has also rejected the reports, according to IRNA.
Israel has long accused Iran and Syria of providing military aid to Hezbollah and to Palestinian militant groups, and the military spokesman’s office tweeted that the ship was carrying weapons “capable of striking anywhere in Israel.”Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam television channel quoted a military official in the Islamic republic as denying the Israeli report, calling it “totally without foundation.”
(With Reuters and AFP)

Frustration with Qatar adds to GCC security dispute

By David Andrew Weinberg | Special to Al Arabiya News
Thursday, 6 March 2014
In a striking new development, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday said they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar. In a joint statement, the three nations said Doha’s policies threatened their stability by means of “security work”, “political influence” and “hostile media.”This is being widely interpreted as a response to Qatar’s continued sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood. Wednesday’s statement cited a 2012 security agreement signed by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s interior ministers, suggesting Doha’s actions were enabling Islamist attempts at subversion in the Gulf.
Qatar issued a statement that its ambassadors in the region would not be withdrawn in response. Doha insisted that the controversy was based on “a difference in positions on issues out of the Cooperation Council,” seeking to challenge the view that sponsoring the Brotherhood poses a threat to the other GCC members. The Saudi, Bahraini and Emirati joint statement cited three main turning points to explain how their relations with Qatar had reached breaking point.
Behind closed doors
On Nov. 23, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani visited Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh for a tense summit mediated by Amir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah of Kuwait. While there, Shaikh Tamim reportedly signed an agreement to terminate any policies or proxy relationships injurious to the other GCC states. According to Joseph Kechichian, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, this commitment was then “duly endorsed by all GCC leaders a month later at their annual summit in Kuwait.” Subsequently, the trilateral statement says Shaikh Tamim agreed while attending a summit in Kuwait last month to let GCC foreign ministers “develop a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the Riyadh agreement.” However, when the foreign ministers gathered in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for what news sources are calling a “stormy” nine-hour meeting, Doha rejected their vision for such a mechanism. It may be that the trigger for this rupture, however, was an inflammatory speech by Qatar’s firebrand cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spiritual leader for the Brotherhood.
Qaradawi set off an international incident after he questioned the UAE’s Islamic pedigree earlier this year. Then, after a three-week absence from delivering Friday sermons, Qaradawi returned in late February with a speech that attacked “the scandals and injustices” of those “rulers who have paid billions of dollars to get President Mohammad Mursi out of power.”According to the editor in chief of Rai al-Youm, Abdel Bari Atwan, the withdrawal of ambassadors from Doha was one of “several possible immediate and eventual measures” under consideration following Qaradawi’s speech.
Rogue foreign policy
Saudi frustration with Qatar’s foreign policy is a longstanding development, previously resulting in the withdrawal of the kingdom’s ambassador from Doha from 2002 until 2008. Bahrain’s support for Saudi foreign policy has been a matter of consistent principle of late. However, Doha may have overplayed its hand by upsetting the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, facilitating a broader anti-Qatar coalition.
The UAE and Qatar have long been rivals in key sectors, with ambitious national airline projects and competing desires to serve as a financial hub for the region.
However, they have increasingly found themselves at odds on security matters as well, backing rival clients in battleground countries such as Libya, according to the Washington Post. Dubai’s veteran police chief has increasingly lashed out at actions by Qaradawi and pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera that he believes incite violence inside the GCC.
Therefore, Qaradawi’s return to bashing neighboring countries on Qatari state TV may have simply been the last straw, especially after Abu Dhabi’s crown prince went out on a limb for Doha, stating: “There are no differences between the UAE and Qatar.”Perhaps also adding to the tension in advance of Tuesday’s meeting, the UAE handed down a seven-year jail sentence earlier this week to Qatari national Mahmoud al-Jaidah on charges of colluding with a cell of the Brotherhood. Meanwhile, Qatar nearly derailed January’s Syrian peace conference in Geneva, with members of the opposition considered close to Doha and the Brotherhood walking out of internal deliberations as an act of protest against their leadership. Furthermore, Doha has apparently played host to Egypt’s Islamist activists in exile, even using Al Jazeera’s resources to put them up in hotels and broadcast them on TV.
Seasoned Gulf analysts such as Drs Kechichian and Theodore Karasik have even noted the emergence of rumors this week that Qatar has been colluding with Turkey and Iran to facilitate espionage inside the GCC, a shocking accusation if there is truth to it. The withdrawal of Arab ambassadors from Doha could pose a grave challenge to the leadership of Shaikh Tamim, who is only just consolidating his authority as Qatar’s new emir. According to Atwan, those risks could quickly escalate given that regional leaders have threatened to expel Qatar from the GCC, and may be poised to block the country’s air traffic and only land border
**David Andrew Weinberg is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He previously served as a Democratic professional staff member at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in the U.S. Congress. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Qatar’s issues have been ongoing for 20 years
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
What’s new in the Gulf dispute with Qatar this time is the collective punishment applied by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain when they decided to withdraw their ambassadors from Doha.
The drama with Qatar is long-winded and has been ongoing for about 20 years now. Qatar is a source of disturbance and trouble. Before I draw an image of what’s happening, I want to summarize this in one sentence; the motives of Qatari quarrels are mostly Qatar’s only and not necessarily a scheme directed against anyone. This time the Qatari citizen finds himself in a very embarrassing situation. The same goes for the new government that wants to assert itself using the language of the new generation. I remember that the first dispute Qatar stirred up was during the GCC summit in Doha in 1990. I was with a large group of journalists standing at the door of the conference hall. When the door was opened, the Saudi delegation headed by King Fahd – may he rest in peace - walked out and the king appeared upset.
We immediately found out that Qatar’s former Emir, Sheikh Khalifa, insisted on discussing only the issue of disputed islands with Bahrain and rejected the king’s demand to dedicate the conference to discussing the four-month occupation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. The drama with Qatar is long-winded and has been ongoing for about 20 years now. Qatar is a source of disturbance and trouble.
The emir only agreed to this demand after the heads of Gulf delegations threatened to walk out of the conference. Six years later, Qatar dedicated its new channel to attack Saudi Arabia for years.
It supported the rhetoric of extremism and the marketing of al-Qaeda’s leaders and ideas including the call to expel the “polytheist American forces” from the land of the Arabian peninsula - that being Saudi Arabia. A day after the American forces Saudi Arabia, Qatar announced it welcomed them and built two military bases for the U.S. Army: Al Udeid Air Base
And Saliyah Army Base. Then it stopped talking about them.
Seeking status
Was this phase part of building the leadership character and seeking status? Perhaps it was.
During the second decade, Qatar allied with Saudi Arabia’s rivals: Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Even after their horrible crimes such as assassinating Rafiq al-Hariri in Lebanon and Hezbollah’s occupation of West Beirut, the Qatari leadership continued to finance the activity of this axis. Later there was the alliance with Libya’s madman leader Muammar Qaddafi. All of this lasted until the Arab Spring erupted. Now as Qatar’s leadership suddenly changed, escalation increased to support domestic groups that threaten countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and that threaten both Sunnis and Shiites and leftists and religious groups!
In its attempt to hijack revolutions, Qatar suffered massive political and financial losses in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen as parties it invested in did not seize authority in these countries. This is why Qatar altered its policy and began to finance the civil and armed opposition. The most dangerous Qatari adventure is its persistence in funding the Muslim Brotherhood and their group against the new regime in Egypt. Even with three television channels, Qatar could not shake the Egyptians’ support of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime!
Qatar, which previously lost and squandered billions by supporting the Assad regime and Hezbollah against Saudi Arabia, is repeating the same scenario in Egypt using money, ads, international relations’ companies and lawyers in order to support the Brotherhood which will never win in Egypt because the military institution there is stronger. Qatar is thus only capable of disturbing the Egyptians.
One of them told me that they consider what’s happening a chess game. I replied that it’s more of a video game where you gain nothing and learn nothing.
The question is, will the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini decisions distress Qatar? No, I don’t think so because just like other oil-rich Gulf countries, it doesn’t count on tourism or trade.
Withdrawing ambassadors remains a political move that expresses the rejection of sowing chaos and announces that the Qatari people are innocent of what their leadership is doing. The Gulf has been known as a beacon of stability and development, and it’s others who are well-known for stirring chaos.

How the Ukrainian crisis could impact the Middle East
Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya
The events in Ukraine following the ousting of pro-Kremlin President Victor Yanukovich and Russia’s securing of the Crimean Peninsula are reshaping the West’s policies towards Moscow. While a military face-off is not on the table, political and economic battles are being drafted by Washington and a more cautious Europe, and where the Middle East could play a key role in the readjustment.
While U.S. President Barack Obama never trusted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and viewed the icy relations as based on mutual interest, Russia’s reaction to the crisis in Ukraine surprised many in Washington.
The developments in Kiev and the Crimea are more of a wakeup call to Obama – signs that more should be done to curb a bellicose and unrestrained Putin.
It is prompting the administration’s negotiations with European allies on freezing assets of Putin’s oligarchs, suspension of international meetings in Russia, and finding alternatives to Moscow’s natural gas exports to Europe.
‘Gazprom’ and the Middle East
If no international agreement is reached and Russian troops do not withdraw from Crimea, U.S. and European officials are determined to slap the Russian government with costly economic measures to prevent Putin from setting a new military precedent on the gates of Europe. The standoff between the U.S. and Russia in Ukraine will also play out in Syria, hardening positions of both the Assad regime and the opposition and hitting another nail in the Geneva II coffin
After all, Ukraine is neither Syria, nor Georgia, its demographic, cultural and geopolitical weight inside Europe makes Putin’s aggression all the more reprehensible.
Inside the West’s deliberations are proposals to target Gazprom, Russia’s largest gas extractor of natural gas which provides 30 percent of Europe’s needs shipping 162.7 billion cubic meters according to Reuters in 2013. These numbers give Putin confidence of Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas, as well as growing trade numbers especially with Germany and France.
But not so fast. While Putin has many reasons and pipelines to feel reassured, the new map and technological advances could offer European countries some alternatives. Four of the top ten world producers of natural gas are in the Middle East and North Africa: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Algeria.
While they are no match to Russia’s giant, they could along with Norway and the Netherlands, start filling the gaps if Europe decides to gradually isolate Putin. In fact Poland is launching this year the first liquified natural gas terminal for imports from Qatar. Gazprom’s own stock fell 13 percent this week over the events in Ukraine, and it is hard to foresee it making a strong comeback if Putin doesn’t reconcile with the government in Kiev.
There are 12 gas pipelines from Russia to Europe, five of which go through Ukraine.
Syria in the balance
The standoff between the U.S. and Russia in Ukraine will also play out in Syria, hardening positions of both the Assad regime and the opposition and hitting another nail in the Geneva II coffin.
Putin’s behavior in Crimea enforces the narrative inside the Obama administration that only a change of balance on the ground will make Russia compromise.
While the Kremlin initially labeled the new government in Ukraine as “Nazis” and “terrorists,” the West’s support to the new leaders with 16 billion dollars in aid, and the government’s wise restraint in approaching the Crimea crisis, is forcing it as a de facto player for Putin to reckon with.
Undoubtedly, the Syrian conflict is nowhere near a political transition or a major compromise, and the divergence in the U.S.-Russian relations will make it even less likely.
As Washington reevaluates its policy for arming or funding few rebel brigades and doing more covert activity inside Syria, the events in Ukraine are likely to enforce this argument.
Today, there is a divide inside the administration about Syria, with Secretary of State John Kerry being more supportive of an escalation, while key advisors around U.S. President Barack Obama have been showing more reluctance and still prefer a hands off approach. However, the rising tension with Putin, the deteriorating situation on the ground inside, and the pressure from regional allies on Washington as Obama heads to Riyadh the end of the month could the balance in favor of the pro-escalation crowd. The Obama administration never had any illusions about Putin, neither “looked into his eye and saw his soul” as former President George W. Bush famously observed. In a post-Yanukovich Ukraine and an occupied Crimea, Washington’s differences with Moscow will be played more openly, drawing Middle Eastern countries into the economic battles in Europe and hardening the proxy war in Syria.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat, March 6, 2014.

Qatar 'will not bow to pressure to alter foreign policy'
March 06, 2014/By Amena Bakr/Reuters
DOHA: Qatar will not bow to demands from three Gulf states to alter its foreign policy, sources close to its government said, suggesting Doha is unlikely to abandon support for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Syrian Islamists.
In an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday, saying Doha had failed to abide by an accord not to interfere in each others' internal affairs. Hours later Qatar's cabinet voiced "regret and surprise" at the decision by the fellow-members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but said Doha would not pull out its own envoys and that it remained committed to GCC security. On Thursday, a source close to the Qatari government suggested Qatar would not comply.
" Qatar will not let go of its foreign policy, no matter what the pressures are. This is a matter of principles which we will stick to, no matter the price," the source said.
The source also suggested Qatar would not stop its practice of playing host to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Youssef al-Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric and a vocal critic of authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. "Since the day Qatar was founded we decided to take this approach of always welcoming anyone who seeks refuge in our country, and no amount of pressure will make us kick these people out," said the source close to the government. A source at the foreign ministry said: "It's the right of every sovereign state to have its own foreign policy." The source also suggested that Qatar had no differences with fellow Gulf Arab states on Gulf matters.
The dispute "is more about differences in foreign policy approaches", the source added, referring to issues in the Middle East such as the crises in Egypt and Syria.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE clearly do see Qatar as at odds with them on Gulf issues. They are fuming especially over Qatar's support for the Brotherhood, an Islamist movement whose political ideology challenges the principle of dynastic rule. They also resent the way Doha has sheltered Qaradawi and given him regular airtime on its pan-Arab satellite television channel Al Jazeera, and on Qatari state television.
The GCC, which normally keeps its disputes under wraps, is a pro-Western alliance of monarchies set up in the 1980s to counter Iranian influence in the Gulf, and includes several of the world's biggest producers and exporters of oil and gas. Qatar's new emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who took over from his father in June last year, said Qatar would not "take direction" in foreign affairs, suggesting he would continue his father's habit of pursuing policies at odds with those of most other GCC states. He has yet to comment publicly on the latest ruckus. Since the start of the Arab Spring, the tiny Gulf state has used its wealth to back Islamists throughout the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria. With ambitions to mediate in conflicts in the region, Qatar has been a welcoming host to members of the Brotherhood, other Islamist groups and the Afghan Taliban.
Al Jazeera says it is an independent news service giving a voice to everyone in the region.