March 08/14


Bible Quotation for today/Honor your father and your mother
Exodus 20:2/Fifth Biblical commandment: "Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you" Proverbs 23:22: "
Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old".

Question: "Christian fasting - what does the Bible say?"
/Answer: Scripture does not command Christians to fast. God does not require or demand it of Christians. At the same time, the Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions (Acts 13:2; 14:23). Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33). Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus all our attention on God can be considered a fast (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when fasting from food. Extended periods of time without eating can be harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish the flesh, but to redirect attention to God. Fasting should not be considered a “dieting method” either. The purpose of a biblical fast is not to lose weight, but rather to gain deeper fellowship with God. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example). Everyone can temporarily give up something in order to draw closer to God. By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is to be done in a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude. Matthew 6:16-18 declares, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Savage, Barbaric and murderers are those who do not honor childhood and kidnap children
Elias Bejjani/07.03.14/With the harshest terms we strongly condemn the barbaric kidnapping of Michael Ibrahim Saqr, the nine years old boy, son of businessman Ibrahim Al Saqr in the Eastern City of Zahle in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley. We call on the Lebanese officials to fully assume their obligations and utilize with no hesitation all available means and resources in a bid to safely free and return the kidnapped child to his family and arrest the kidnappers who ever they are and no matter who protects them . Meanwhile the occupational on going status that Hezbollah and the Iranian-Syrian Axis Of Evil are imposing by force and terrorism on Lebanon and the Lebanese people must be ended. The Lebanese official authorities are required to take full control all over the country in accordance with law and justice. Our genuine prayers goes for the safety of the kidnapped child, with our sincere sympathy and empathy for his family. May Almighty God give Al Saqr family all the faith, hope and patience needed to help them deal with their painful and unfortunate dilemma.

Pope Francis's Tweet Today
Our deepest joy comes from Christ: remaining with him, walking with him, being his disciples
Pape François
Notre joie la plus profonde vient du Christ : être avec lui, marcher avec lui, être ses disciples..


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 08/14
Meet the elite Iranian force behind arms transfers/By:
Yoav Zitun/Ynetnews/March 08/14
DEBKAfile/First US-Israeli intelligence collaboration in four years against an Iranian military target: Iranian missile ship

Obama bets on Putin’s unlikely reversal on Ukraine/By David Ignatius/Washington Post/March 08/14

Islamic Jihad and the Doctrine of Abrogation/By: Raymond Ibrahim/ 08/14
Iran’s stepped-up crackdown on the Arab minority/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/March 08/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 08/14
Lebanese Related News
Son of Businessman Ibrahim Al-Saqr, 10, Kidnapped in Zahle

Syria-Lebanon frontier blurs as battle for key city rages

Saudi Arabia declares Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group
Iraq Airport Official Arrested over MEA Row

Berri Says Nothing 'Tangible' on Resistance Dispute as Rivals Seek Compromise
Beirut-Based Danish Reporter Freed after Kidnapping

Rockets Land on Bekaa Towns

2 Mortars Found Southeast of Tyre, Syrian Arrested

Army Patrols Tripoli after Grenade Blasts, Gunfire

'Dispute' between Bekaa Army Intelligence Chief, Labweh Residents

Speculation on Lebanon Clause in Arab Summit Closing Statement

Gas Centers to Reopen after Stepping Up Security Measures

Mashnouq Statement from Rabieh Draws Ire of March 14 Allies

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Saudi Lists 'Terror' Groups, Orders Foreign Fighters Home

Comparing Iran to Nazis, Netanyahu vows to expose ‘lies’

'We stop Iranian arms smuggling often,' says Israeli security source

Iran FM Says Israel Fabricated Gaza Weapons Claim  

Iran Says Expert Nuclear Talks with World Powers 'Useful'

Lieberman: We will not accept weapon transfers to Hamas, Hezbollah

Kerry, Jordan King Focus on Floundering Mideast Talks

Kerry meets with Jordan’s king over peace plan
IAF jets scrambled towards Syrian aircrafts
Pope threatens to cancel visit to Holy Land

Russia Stands Firm on Crimea Standoff Despite Sanctions

Syrian Warplanes Pound Rebel-Held Town of Yabrud

Experts Warn Syria War May Last 10 More Years

Turkey Frees Key Suspect in Armenian Journalist Murder

ICC Says DR Congo Warlord Katanga Complicit in War Crimes


Son of Businessman Ibrahim Al-Saqr, 10, Kidnapped in Zahle
Naharnet Newsdesk 07 March 2014/The 10-year-old son of a businessman was abducted at gunpoint on Friday in the eastern city of Zahle, the state-run National News Agency reported. According to NNA, Michel al-Saqr was heading to school with the family's driver when four masked gunmen in a Grand Cherokee SUV kidnapped him. The Grand Cherokee intercepted al-Saqr's Kia vehicle, pointed a gun at the driver before driving off with Michel. Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) reported that the father was informed that he might be the victim of an abduction ordeal. The reasons behind the abduction remain unclear. Several residents blocked the Zahle highway to protest the abduction of Michel. Judge Farid Kallas issued a search warrant for the kidnappers of the boy after inspecting the site of the incident. The abduction is suspected to be kidnap-for-ransom.
Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq tasked security agencies to take all the necessary measures to release Michel. The minister called for a security meeting to address the kidnapping phenomenon in the country.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi later condemned Michel's kidnapping, demanding that he be released immediately “for the sake of his childhood and parents.” “Such crimes violate people's dignity that is granted to them by God,” he remarked in a statement. Moreover, he deemed the kidnapping phenomenon as “alien” to Lebanon and its traditions, because it tarnishes its image and threatens its security and stability. The patriarch urged President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, the Army Command, and all security agencies to take the necessary measures to prevent future abductions and lift political cover off the perpetrators. On Thursday, Antoine Daher al-Kaadi was kidnapped by masked gunmen on the Ablah road in the Bekaa and was released later during the day in unknown circumstances. The kidnap-for-ransom phenomenon increased last year and has been strongly criticized by officials from across the political spectrum. Lebanon had also witnessed a wave of sectarian abductions caused by the war in Syria have also taken place.


Saudi Lists 'Terror' Groups, Orders Foreign Fighters Home
Naharnet /Saudi Arabia on Friday listed the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian jihadist groups as terrorist organizations, and ordered citizens fighting abroad to return within 15 days or face imprisonment.
The move represents a major escalation against the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and indicates rising concern in Riyadh over the possible return of battle-hardened Saudi extremists from Syria. In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi listed Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaida's official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a rogue group fighting in both Syria and Iraq, as terrorist organizations. The interior ministry decree, which was released by state media, also listed as terrorist groups the Shiite Huthi rebels fighting in northern Yemen and "Hezbollah inside the kingdom", apparently referring to a little-known Saudi Shiite group. The order penalizes involvement in any of the groups' activities at home or abroad -- including demonstrations -- and outlaws the use of "slogans of these organizations", including in social media.
It also forbids "participation in, calling for, or incitement to fighting in conflict zones in other countries". Riyadh is a staunch supporter of the Sunni-led rebels battling to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad but has long feared blow-back from radical jihadist groups, particularly after a spate of attacks by a local Al-Qaida franchise from 2003 to 2006. King Abdullah last month decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for belonging to "terrorist groups" and fighting abroad. Similar sentences will be passed on those belonging to "extremist religious and ideological groups, or those classified as terrorist organizations, domestically, regionally and internationally," state news agency SPA said at the time. Supporting such groups, adopting their ideology or promoting them "through speech or writing" would also incur prison terms, the decree added.
Rights group Amnesty International sharply criticized last month's decree, saying it could be used to suppress peaceful political dissent because the law used an "overly vague definition of terrorism".
Saudi Arabia set up specialized terrorism courts in 2011 to try dozens of nationals and foreigners accused of belonging to Al-Qaida or being involved in a wave of bloody attacks that swept the country from 2003.
Saudi and other conservative Gulf monarchies have long been hostile towards the Muslim Brotherhood, fearing that its brand of grass-roots activism and political Islam could undermine their authority. The decision to brand the Brotherhood a terrorist group came a day after Saudi, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, which had been a staunch supporter of Morsi and backs Brotherhood-linked groups across the region. It was an unprecedented escalation of tensions within the Gulf Cooperation Council -- which also includes Kuwait and Oman -- and was widely seen as signaling Gulf fury at Qatari support for Islamist groups following the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. It was also seen as a revival of the on-again, off-again rivalry between Riyadh and Doha, oil- and gas-rich monarchies that have long vied for regional influence.
Saudi hailed the overthrow of Morsi and pledged billions of dollars to Egypt's military-installed government following his July 2013 ouster, and in recent months has eclipsed Qatar as the main backer of Syria's rebels.
Egypt, which has launched a sweeping crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and detained reporters from Qatar's Al-Jazeera news network, on Thursday welcomed the Gulf countries' decision to recall their envoys from Doha. It said its own envoy, who has been in Cairo since early February, "will not return to Qatar at the present time, and his remaining (in Egypt) is a sovereign political decision". "It is for Qatar to clearly determine its position, whether it will stand on the side of Arab solidarity, unified ranks and protection of national security... or on the other side, and bear the consequences and responsibility for that," a government statement said.
Source/Agence France Presse


Two Arrested over Suspicious Vehicle near ISF Barracks in Beirut
Naharnet /A suspicious vehicle was found parked near the entrance of an Internal Security Forces barracks in Beirut on Friday, reported LBCI television. It said that the army arrested two people over their links to the incident that took place near al-Helou barracks in the Corniche al-Mazraa neighborhood. The vehicle has since been inspected and it was found not to contain any explosives.The National News Agency noted that the Russian Embassy is located near where the vehicle was found. Lebanon has been plagued by a series of car bombings in recent months that have been linked to the conflict in Syria.Al-Qaida-affiliated groups have claimed responsibility for car bombings that have mainly taken place in Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and in the Bekaa region. Hizbullah has acknowledged that it has sent members to fight alongside the Syrian regime forces against an uprising that began in March 2011.


Berri Says Nothing 'Tangible' on Resistance Dispute as Rivals Seek Compromise
Naharnet Newsdesk 07 March 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri has reiterated that he would facilitate the adoption of the government's policy statement if the March 14 alliance showed some leniency amid a lack of optimism on the ability of a seven-member committee to reach a deal on the blueprint on Friday despite efforts to find a compromise on the controversial issue of the resistance. “There is so far nothing tangible,” several officials, who visited Berri on Thursday, quoted him as saying. The officials told local dailies published on Friday that the speaker expressed readiness “to be lenient if he felt there was leniency on behalf of others.”
President Michel Suleiman and the March 14 alliance on one side and the Hizbullah-led March 8 camp on the other are locked in a dispute on the resistance clause of the policy statement.
Suleiman and March 14 are upholding the Baabda Declaration. But March 8, which includes Berri's Amal movement, is insisting on including in the blueprint Lebanon’s right to armed resistance against Israeli occupation.
Berri warned his visitors that the ministerial committee tasked with drafting the policy statement has until March 17 to complete its work. “If the document was not adopted by that time, the president should immediately call for new binding parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minster-designate,” he said. The speaker met on Thursday with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat's envoy, Minister Wael Abou Faour, who reportedly briefed him that there were positive developments on the policy statement deadlock. But Berri was more pessimistic, saying there were no signs that the blueprint would be approved during Friday's meeting.
He reiterated that he held onto the word “resistance” in the statement, and said: “No one has an interest in not reaching an agreement on it.” Highly-informed sources told al-Joumhouria daily that the rival factions were negotiating a compromise on the issue of the resistance whereby the ministerial committee would adopt “Lebanon's right in resisting with all possible means” and “the respect of international resolutions and the decisions reached at the national dialogue table at Baabda Palace.”Such wordings would appease Suleiman and March 8 and 14, and would allow the committee members to complete their blueprint and send it to parliament for a vote of confidence.The sources expected the committee to hold another meeting early next week, saying its members needed time to read and make the last changes to the blueprint if the compromise statement was adopted on Friday.


Rockets Hit 3 Bekaa Towns, ISIL Claims Attack
Naharnet /A number of rockets fired from the Syrian side of the border landed in the Bekaa region on Friday, announced the army in a statement, in an attack that was later claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The army said three rockets landed in the outskirts of the towns of al-Labweh and al-Nabi Othman. No one was injured in the attack. The army has since deployed patrols in the areas. Later on Friday, the "Damascus Prefecture" of the Qaida-inspired ISIL claimed responsibility for the rocket attack on its Twitter account and published pictures showing the shelling. “The positions of the party of Satan (Hizbullah) in Lebanon's al-Labweh were shelled with three Grad rockets in revenge for our people, the Sunni people in (Syria's) Yabrud,” the group said. Earlier on Friday, the National News Agency reported that four rockets were fired against the eastern Bekaa.
It said that the rockets fired from the eastern mountain range hit the towns of al-Nabi Othman, al-Ain, and al-Labweh. The source of the attack was the heights of the border town of Arsal, the agency added. Bekaa towns, with a majority of Shiite population, have repeatedly come under rocket attacks by either rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime or armed men supporting them. Forces loyal to Assad have seized a string of towns and villages in the rugged Qalamoun region along the Lebanese border since launching an offensive there in November. Hizbullah fighters have played a significant role in the government push. The party is eager to clear the border area of the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels trying to topple Assad's government. The Syrian troops loyal to Assad also continue to carry out air raids on Arsal, a majority Sunni town, which is an escape route for rebels and smugglers.


'Dispute' between Bekaa Army Intelligence Chief, Labweh Residents
Naharnet /A dispute erupted on Friday between the head of the Army Intelligence in the Bekaa Valley and the residents of a town over the arrest of a suspect, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA denied there was a shooting between his convoy and the residents of the town of al-Labweh. It did not give further details on the arrested suspect. But media reports said there was a shooting between the convoy and Hizbullah members on al-Labweh road


Speculation on Lebanon Clause in Arab Summit Closing Statement
Naharnet /Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil has reportedly changed Lebanon's clause of the final statement of the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting that will be held on Sunday amid lack of consensus among the rival parties on the policy statement of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet. Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted a source in Cairo as saying that the version sent by Bassil was totally different from that of his predecessor ex-FM Adnan Mansour, who according to An Nahar has held onto the “army-people-resistance” equation. Bassil's statement refers to “the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese to confront occupation,” the source said, without giving further details.
But the daily quoted Bassil as saying that the statement gives “Lebanon and the Lebanese the right in resisting occupation.” The controversy on the word “resistance” is already delaying the approval of the policy statement. A seven-member committee tasked with drafting the blueprint is scheduled to hold its ninth meeting on Friday amid hopes that it would reach a compromise. President Michel Suleiman and the March 14 camp are upholding the Baabda Declaration. But the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance is insisting on including in the blueprint Lebanon’s right to armed resistance against Israeli occupation. The meeting of the Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo on Sunday is aimed at preparing for the Kuwait summit of March 25-26 and drafting its closing statement. Speaker Nabih Berri was quoted as saying on Friday that he was adopting a wait-and-see approach on the Lebanon clause of the statement. “Let's see what they will say about the resistance,” he said. “Will there be an amendment to the army-people-resistance equation that was mentioned in the two previous (Arab League) summit closing statements?” he asked.


2 Mortars Found Southeast of Tyre, Syrian Arrested
Naharnet/Two mortar shells were found Thursday in the southern town of al-Majadel and a Syrian man was arrested in connection with the incident. “An (Internal Security Forces) Intelligence Bureau patrol found two functional 60 mm mortar shells in an agricultural field in the town of al-Majadel, southeast of the city of Tyre,” state-run National News Agency reported. The patrol removed the mortars from the site and delivered them to the Jwayya police station, NNA said. “It also arrested Syrian national Mohammed Sawad, who lives in a house near the location where the two shells were discovered,” the agency added. In August 2013, several rockets and shells left over from the 2006 war with Israel were found in the al-Nsar-Deir Qanoun Ras al-Ain area east of Tyre.


Gas Centers to Reopen after Stepping Up Security Measures
Naharnet/The two centers of filling gas canisters in Beirut's southern suburbs will reopen after taking all the necessary security measures, al-Liwaa newspaper reported on Friday. According to the newspaper, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq will receive on Friday a security report concerning the precautionary measures that should be implemented at the two gas centers. The measures will include the construction of isolation walls to protect gas tankers from any sabotage operations by terrorists. Ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri held contacts recently with high-ranking officials to address the the controversial decision enforced by Mashnouq to shut down the two centers 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. Mashnouq visited on Monday the centers to oversee the temporary shut down. orkers 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.


Mashnouq Statement from Rabieh Draws Ire of March 14 Allies
Naharnet/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq's remarks from Rabieh caused a stir among the March 14 allies over the rapprochement between the al-Mustaqbal movement and the Free Patriotic Movement, local newspapers reported on Friday. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and leaders affiliated in the March 14 coalition expressed ire over Mashnouq's statement, prompting al-Mustaqbal movement leader Saad Hariri to contact Geagea to explain the matter. 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. Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc Fouad Saniora also contacted Geagea to stress that Mashnouq only discussed with FPM leader MP Michel Aoun the cabinet's ministerial policy statement. Later, Mashnouq contacted Geagea to brief him on his latest consultations with Speaker Nabih Berri, Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel, Aoun and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat concerning the policy statement. “It's in our best interest to grant the government confidence to allow it to focus on the national, economic and social priorities and carry out the presidential elections,” Mashnouq said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. The Interior Minister refused on Thursday to disclose to reporters at Rabieh the context of his 45-minute talks with Aoun. Mashnouq only said that he cannot make any statement in the presence of Aoun. “My meetings with Aoun and Gemayel are to follow up my protocol meetings with Berri, Geagea and Jumblat,” the minister told An Nahar newspaper. He noted that discussions focused on the cabinet's policy statement. “My meeting with Aoun tackled the dispute over the resistance article in the ministerial statement,” Mashnouq added. An Nahar newspaper reported that Aoun expressed optimistic and openness regarding the matter. 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.


Beirut-Based Danish Reporter Freed after Kidnapping
Naharnet/A Beirut-based Danish journalist has been freed after being abducted in Lebanon and held hostage for almost one month, his former employer, Danish broadcaster DR, said on Friday.
"Jeppe Nybroe was abducted just under a month ago, while he was in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, near the Syrian border," DR said on its website.
Nybroe was kidnapped by "criminal gangs" after renting a car in Beirut and driving towards the Bekaa valley, near the Syrian border, together with a Lebanese journalist, Danish media reported. "We still don't know exactly where they were taken from, the border area around Arsal is unclear," Ayman Mhanna of the Samir Kassir Eyes Center, a local press freedom group, told AFP. The group said it had been in touch with the men during the kidnapping. "In their contacts with us, they made clear that they believed they were being held in Syria," he added. The abduction was kept secret until Friday out of concern for the families of the two journalists, according to Danish daily Politiken, which added the kidnappers had demanded a ransom. They arrived in Beirut late Thursday, it said, citing the brother of the Lebanese journalist.
The two journalists were reportedly being questioned by police in Beirut after their release. "It is standard procedure for people involved in these kind of incidents to be brought back to Beirut for questioning by security officials after their release," Mhanna said. They were in the area to prepare a report on kidnappings, when they were themselves abducted, Politiken said.


Kerry meets with Jordan’s king over peace plan
By Associated Press | Jordan /Friday, 7 March 2014/U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is in Jordan to meet with its king about Mideast peace. Kerry is hoping to broker a peace plan between Israel and Palestine authorities, and wants to present a framework for an agreement by the end of April. A major part of his proposal centers on security in the Jordan Valley that runs through parts of Israel and the West Bank. Jordan has been a key part of those negotiations. Kerry was to meet privately Friday afternoon with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at his private residence in the famed seaside resort city Aqaba. Jordan Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh flew to Aqaba with Kerry from Rome. Kerry returns to Washington on Friday.

Lieberman: We will not accept weapon transfers to Hamas, Hezbollah
03.06.14/ Ynetnews/Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met in Rome with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Lieberman told his Russian counterpart that Israel is concerned about the numerous attempts by the Assad regime to transfer weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, and stressed that "we do not intend to accept this situation."


Syria-Lebanon frontier blurs as battle for key city rages
Hezbollah, Sunni fighters flow into Yabroud, Syria, while rebels make nearby Lebanese town a strategic base
BY BARBARA SURK March 7, 2014
ARSAL, Lebanon (AP) — Sunnis and Shiites from Lebanon are streaming into Syria to take up arms on opposite sides of a fierce battle over a rebel stronghold — a fight that has effectively erased the border between the two countries and underlined how Lebanon is being sucked into the civil war next door. The northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal, dominated by Sunnis, has become a key logistical base for the Syrian rebels who have been fighting for months to keep their hold on the strategic Syrian town of Yabroud, only 20 miles away (30 kilometers) across the border.On a recent day, armed fighters in pickup trucks and on motorbikes were seen scrambling down dusty roads out of Arsal into the mountains to cross into Syria and head to Yabroud. Syrian rebels move freely back and forth across the border, and rebels wounded in the battle are brought to Arsal for treatment in clandestine hospitals. At the same time, Lebanese Shiite fighters from the Hezbollah guerrilla group are crossing into Syria to fight alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad that have been besieging Yabroud since November.
For the past three years, Lebanon has been struggling with the spillover from Syria’s civil war. Sectarian tensions in Lebanon have escalated, as its Sunni community largely supports the mainly Sunni Syrian rebel movement, while its Shiites back Assad. Hezbollah, the most powerful armed force in Lebanon, has thrown its weight behind Assad, sending fighters who have tipped some battles in the government’s favor.
The violence has blown back into Lebanon itself, with suspected Sunni extremists carrying out a string of retaliatory bombings against Hezbollah-controlled Shiite areas.
Around Arsal, all sides are brought into dangerously close proximity, exacerbated by the battle raging just over the border.
The town’s Sunni population strongly sympathizes with Syria’s rebels. Lebanese security officials say a few hundred Lebanese Sunnis are believed to be offering logistical support or fighting alongside the rebels, particularly in Yabroud. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
But Arsal is surrounded by mainly Shiite towns in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley, raising the potential for friction between the various fighters on Lebanese soil. The town of Baalbek, 20 miles (30 kilometers) to the south, is a source of many of the Hezbollah fighters heading to join the Yabroud battle.
Syrian rebels being treated at Arsal hospitals said Hezbollah guerrillas make up the bulk of the forces besieging Yabroud.
“They have many weapons, and they are fighting hard because Yabroud is important for them,” one rebel, who spoke on condition he be identified only by his first name, Basel, told The Associated Press. “But it’s our country and we are strong men. We will defend our people, our land and our honor until we die.”
Basel was seriously injured in the groin and left thigh when he and four other rebels were preparing to ambush pro-government forces at Yabroud but were instead ambushed themselves by troops who descended on them from behind.The 27-year-old needs surgery that Arsal’s makeshift hospital, attached to a mosque, cannot provide. But his brother, standing at his bedside, said he will not send him anywhere in Lebanon outside Arsal because he fears he could be captured on route by Hezbollah fighters manning several checkpoints in a neighboring Shiite village.
“I am going to pay more money to bring doctors here to help him, but he’s only leaving this bed to go back to Syria,” the brother said. He declined to give his name for fear of reprisals.
Another wounded Syrian rebel, Mohammed Awad, was barely out of the operating room when he began pleading with doctors to let him go back to the front at Yabroud.
The 20-year-old was wounded when a rocket hit a vehicle carrying him and other fighters. His face bandaged after doctors removed shrapnel from his jaw and left hand, Awad said he was determined to rejoin the battle because he is originally from Syrian town of Qusair, another border town that was a rebel stronghold until Hezbollah fighters helped overrun it last year in their first major incursion in Syria’s war.
“This is enough reason to want to fight Hezbollah and Assad to death,” Awad said.
But there is the issue of personal revenge too, he said: He lost four uncles, two cousins and four female relatives amid the fighting in Qusair. The battle for Yabroud is particularly fierce because the town is key for rebels. It is their last stronghold in Syria’s Qalamoun region, between the Lebanese border and the Syrian capital Damascus, an important route for smuggling supplies to rebels from Lebanon.
Government forces have taken a string of other rebel-held towns in the area in the past month and are now making a final push on Yabroud. Earlier this week, Syrian helicopters attacked the town’s outskirts with barrel bombs — containers packed with explosives and fuel that the government has used to devastating effect in other rebel-held urban areas in Syria.The fighting has contributed to a wave of refugees fleeing across the border to Arsal. In the past two weeks alone, 13,000 arrived in Arsal, which has already been overwhelmed by Syrians settling in makeshift camps in the fields and hills on its outskirts.
Facilities for the rebels have geared up as well in Arsal. Two months ago, a new hospital opened in the town with two operating theaters, an emergency room and seven doctors on staff, including several surgeons, who perform an average six operations a day.So far, up to 200 people have been treated there, mostly Syrian fighters and civilians, said Bassem Faris, a Syrian doctor and the hospital’s manager. He was previously in Yabroud treating fighters at a makeshift hospital but had to flee the area after the fall of Qusair. “Every one of us has a role to play in this revolution, and I will be more useful if I treat people and save lives,” Faris said.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press


Meet the elite Iranian force behind arms transfers
Yoav Zitun/03.07.14, 01:14 / Ynetnews,7340,L-4496168,00.html
Quds Force and its leader Qasem Soleimani were dealt a blow when the Gaza-bound arms shipment was caught, and the incident is likely to further strain their relations with moderate President Rouhani who is trying to present a the world with a new Iran. The capture of the Gaza-bound Iranian arms shipment by the IDF will not go unnoticed in the Islamic Republic, and is likely to strain relations between the moderates and conservatives vying for power in Tehran. A senior IDF source explained that the IDF's Red Sea raid on the Klos C early Wednesday will further exacerbate the political conflict between moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and hardliner Qasem Soleimani, who is the commander of the elite Quds Force, a division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.It is safe to assume," the IDF source explained, "that an in-depth investigation into Operation Full Disclosure is well underway in the Revolutionary Guard."
"Rouhani does not like such things," the military source said in reference to the attempt to transfer arms to the Gaza Strip, and thus, he explained, Rouhani "is trying to distance the Revolutionary Guard from decision-making positions."Nonetheless, despite internal Iranian strife, the IDF does not believe that the Islamic republic will pull back attempts to arm terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
A senior official with the IDF Intelligence attempted to put the event into context, and explained that the Revolutionary Guard is walking a tightrope between preserving political stability within Iran and exporting its political agenda abroad. "The Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian army are working together towards two goals: Internally, they are working to maintain the Ayatollah's regime. Externally, they are working to spread the 'revolution' throughout the world – from the Mideast, through Africa, South America, Afghanistan and Iraq. The latter is undertaken by the Quds Force, led by Soleimani The elite Quds Force was founded in 1990, and spearheaded Iran's overseas activities. The force is actively involved in covert operations against the US, Israel and pro-Western Arab states with the help of Iran's proxies like Hezbollah, while working to cover their tracks.
The attempt to transfer the advanced M-302 missiles to Gaza exemplified this mode of operation: The rockets were brought in from Syria, transferred on a ship traveling under Panama's flag and then, before beginning the journey to Gaza, made a stop in Iraq where they were further concealed in boxes marked as cement. Needless to say, the ship's official final destination – Port Sudan – was also an attempt to hide the weapons' true target – Gaza – which the shipment was supposed to reach via trucks.
Soleimani, who rarely makes public appearances or statements, is considered part of Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's inner circle and has led the force since 1998. Since he took the reigns, the Quds Force has grown from an elite unit numbering a few thousand of troops to a massive operation branch. Its men are placed in Iranian diplomatic missions around the world. The forces are also placed among NGOs as well as religious and educational facilities run by Iran.
The unit charged with international operations is called Special Operations Unit 400, and it answers directly to Soleimani and Khamenei.
Climbing ladders, no resistance
The IDF stopping the smuggling attempt also affected the organization that rules the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas is still in a bind and is carefully checking the mood in Iran, but is also being careful because reconnecting with Tehran would worsen their ties with Cairo further," the Israeli security sources.
In the Intelligence Corps this operation is one of dozens of operations or "mini-campaigns," that are underway at almost any given moment, against the spreading of Iranian terrorism, and against attempts to smuggle weapons through air, sea or land. Some of these campaigns work to stop or stall the Iranian nuclear program.
IDF Intelligence chief Gen. Aviv Kochavi refused, as expected, to give away the intelligence tip that started Operation Full Disclosure, but hinted that "the rockets' transfer in planes from Damascus to Tehran sparked the process." He stressed that "we have strong evidence that strengthens Iran's ties to the case and incriminates it. Iran's Revolutionary Guard and its Quds Force ran the smuggling operation."
IDF Intelligence estimates that the Iranians will not try to avenge the thwarting of the smuggling attempt, but it is definitely safe to assume that they will have an in-depth investigation into the failed operation and learn the lessons ahead of future smuggling attempts. Additional details of the takeover were released by the IDF Thursday. A senior Navy official said the ship's Turkish captain was surprised to receive a call on the ship's radio from the Israeli Navy commandos, who asked him to stop the boat and told him they intended to board the ship.
"It took him a few minutes to response, but when he was standing on the bridge, looking left and right and seeing two missile boats standing by with more boats filled with commandos ready to go, he gave us permission to come aboard," the official said.
"We quickly made it clear to him that we were not pirates and that we belong to the Israeli Defense Force and want to search his ship," he said.
"We started searching through some of the containers that were crowded in the belly of the ship, which forced us to open the containers from the side by sawing through them. When we moved the bags of cement away and opened the boxes that contained the rockets, we brought the captain down there and only then did he realize he was fooled," the official continued. "At this point he described the ship's entire course so far in Turkish and in English and realized he had become a victim of an Iranian conspiracy."
The official noted the captain and his crew did not protest the Navy's search, "because they saw the kind of military might that was around them, among other reasons."
"At the same time, we held a maneuver in the area, where many trading boats pass, in order to make it clear that we do not intend to attack them as well," he added.



First US-Israeli intelligence collaboration in four years against an Iranian military target: Iranian missile ship

DEBKAfile Special Report March 5, 2014/In an unusually frank disclosure, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday night, March 5, that US intelligence services and military had worked with Israel to track the Iranian Panama-flagged ship KLOS C, which was apprehended by Israeli naval commandos on the Red Sea earlier that day carrying missiles for Gaza via Sudan. The ship was boarded by the Israeli elite Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13) and found to be carrying dozens of 302mm rockets made in Syria with a range of 150 km made in Syria. It is now on its way to Eilat.
The White House spokesman said that Washington worked with Israeli through intelligence and military channels, and at the national security adviser level, as soon as it knew the shipment was on the move. He said that President Barack Obama also directed the US military to work out contingencies in case it became necessary to intercept the vessel (thereby sanctioning military action).
“Our Israeli counterparts ultimately chose to take the lead in interdicting the shipment of illicit arms,” Jay Carney said.
DEBKAfile reports that this was the first time in four years that the US and Israel have collaborated in an operation against Iran - ever since the Stuxnet virus attack in 2010 on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Until now, the Obama administration steadfastly refused to act against Iran for fear of jeopardizing the international diplomatic track for curbing its nuclear program.
The unusual frankness with which the Obama administration announced its coordination with Israel is both dramatic in itself and a road sign pointing the way to a radical change in its Iran policy. The US and Israel appear to be lining up - in their military policies as well - against the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah bloc.
This radical turnabout was most probably the high point of the conversation between the US president and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House Monday, March 3, after which Netanyahu raised comment by showering Obama with praise during his speech to the AIPAC conference in Washington the next day.
DEBKAfile’s US and Israeli intelligence sources report that both countries are braced for a swift and stinging response from Tehran to the capture of the missile ship and its condemnation by the White House. As Carney put it: "We will continue to stand up to Iran's support for destabilizing activities in the region in coordination with our partners and allies.These illicit acts are unacceptable to the international community and in gross violation of Iran's Security Council obligations."
Read DEBKAfile's mearlier report on the interception and capture of the Iranian missile boat in Red Sea waters.
Israel’s elite Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13) early Wednesday, March 5, boarded an Iranian Panama-registered cargo vessel KLOS C. Concealed in its hold under sacks of cement were dozens of 302mm rockets with a range of 150 kms, manufactured in Syria and destined by Iran for the Gaza Strip after being offloaded in Sudan.
The Israeli commandos seized the vessel in open sea on the maritime border of Sudan and Eritrea, 1500 km south of Israel, and have set it on course for Eilat.
Sudan has been revealed by DEBKAfile’s military sources as having been transformed in the last two years into a major Iranian weapons manufacturing and logistic depot, which supplies Syria, HIzballah and Hamas. Port Sudan is also the hub for the smuggling of Iranian arms to various Middle East locations.
The IDF said the Iranian missile cargo was destined for the Palestinian Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip. If this is so, it would mean that Iran had gone back to arming Hamas with missiles and rockets after a two-year pause during which the Palestinian extremists were cold-shouldered by Tehran for their animosity to Syria’s Bashar Assad.
By the same token, it is hard to believe the Assad would consent to relay Syrian-made missiles to this antagonist. Some Middle East military sources believe the shipment as not destined for Palestinian terrorists for use against Israel, but rather for Muslim Brotherhood activists fighting the Egyptian army from their forward base in the Gaza Strip. They don’t rule out the possibility of Al Qaeda affiliates fighting in Sinai as being the address. Western intelligence has recorded instances of Iran entering into ad hoc operational collaboration with al Qaeda elements when it suits Tehran's book.
The operation was carried out under an air umbrella by hundreds of naval commandos without casualties. It was directly commanded by the IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz from high command headquarters and the Navy Chief Maj. Gen Ram Rottberg from a floating command post at sea.
The rockets were flown from Syria to Iran, then loaded on a ship where they were concealed under sacks of cement inside containers. From the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, the ship headed into the Red Sea bound for Sudan where it was intercepted by Israeli commandos.
The Iranian arms ship’s progress was tracked all the way.
In congratulating the forces which seized the shipment, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented that this episode showed Iran’s true colors - in contrast to its diplomatic posture in nuclear negotiations with the West. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Iran is again exposed as the biggest arms exporter in the world to terrorist organizations.


'We stop Iranian arms smuggling often,' says Israeli security source

By YAAKOV LAPPIN/03/06/2014/J.Post
Iran "will investigate how it was exposed, will stop smuggling to Gaza for months" after exposure, source adds. At any given time, Israel’s defense establishment is monitoring Iranian arms-smuggling and terror-financing networks, a security source revealed on Thursday. This comment came a day after the Israel Navy intercepted an Iranian attempt to smuggle powerful rockets to the Gaza Strip on a commercial ship off the coast of Sudan. Currently, IDF Military Intelligence is managing investigations “no less significant” than the Iranian attempt to bring Syrian-made M-302 rockets to Gaza, the source said, describing the covert investigations as part of a far wider “war between wars.” Not a week passes by without Israel blocking or thwarting an Iranian attempt to transmit arms to terrorist entities threatening Israeli national security. All of Israel’s intelligence agencies are involved in this effort, the source said, including Military Intelligence’s various units, the Mossad and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
“We’re working together, with a lot of transparency,” he said. There are a variety of ways to disrupt illicit Iranian arms shipments, the source said, adding that a drone could be used for the job.
At the center of the global Iranian arms network is the Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps tasked with exporting the Islamic Revolution and comprising thousands of operatives. Qassem Suleimani heads the organization, and the source described him as a “skilled mastermind,” working daily to arm Israel’s enemies.
“We are stopping them in many ways,” the source said. Counteractions against the Quds Force can be done by sharing the name of a bank used for the financing of the movement of arms with other countries or by exposing the name of a company that provides components for missiles.
In the case of the M-302 rockets intercepted on Wednesday, Military Intelligence noticed suspicious movements of rockets from Syria eastwards towards Iran, which set in motion an investigation many months ago. “It’s getting harder and harder for the Iranians to get weapons in through the southern route,” the source said, referring to paths used to bring rockets to the Gaza Strip. “In the Northern sector, there is some smuggling, but part of this has been stopped,” he said referring to Hezbollah’s armament program in Lebanon.
The source said he could not rule out that the Iranians would “hold in-depth investigations. It’s not the first time this has been done to them,” he said, adding that “this will stop their activities for several months. Until you find the source of the leak, you have no confidence that the next shipment won’t share the same fate.” But eventually, he said, Iran will try again.
The Israel Navy has spent months preparing for Wednesday’s interception. The crew of the Klos-C ship were shocked when the navy showed it the rockets in the ship’s hull, navy sources said.
“The captain felt cheated, he didn’t know he was part of a conspiracy, [of] an Iranian operation,” one source said. The captain, who is Turkish, provided a full statement to navy personnel on how his ship entered the Iranian port of Bander Abbas, loaded crates and moved on to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, where cement sacks were loaded onto the vessel.
The ship’s next destination was meant to be Port Sudan, where the Quds Force had planned to pick up the rockets and move them on land via Egypt into Gaza – through smuggling tunnels.
The Iranian arms network reaches far beyond Gaza and Lebanon, and includes Shi’ite militias and pro-Iranian terrorist groups across the Middle East. Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, the Far East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Latin America are all affected, according to Israeli intelligence assessments.
“Iran is maintaining major [arms transit] efforts in our area alone, for the purpose of creating Iranian hegemony in the region, and ensuring that Sunni dominance remains grounded,” the source said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said his organization had “no doubt” Iran was behind the rockets shipment.
“Iran’s Republican Guards Corps and Quds Force are working to destabilize the region,” Kochavi said. “Iran violates UN Security Council Resolution 1747, which bans it from trading in or moving weapons.”


Obama bets on Putin’s unlikely reversal on Ukraine
By David Ignatius, Thursday, March 6/14/Washington Post

Since the Ukraine crisis began, Obama administration officials have talked about pushing Russia toward the “offramp” and de-escalation. That’s the best diplomatic outcome, but it will require an unlikely public reversal by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The premise of the administration’s approach is that Putin will decide that he made a mistake by seizing the Crimean region of Ukraine and, as he faces ever-greater costs, will negotiate a face-saving compromise, concluding that Russia’s interests are better served by a return to the status quo.The exit path, as envisioned by the White House, seeks to address Russian concerns without undermining the new Ukrainian government. To answer Putin’s complaints about the supposed mistreatment of Russian speakers, international monitors have arrived in Crimea. But Russia must now work with the transitional government in Kiev and support elections to choose a successor to President Viktor Yanu­kovych, who fled last month. Finally, the Russians must return to their military bases in Crimea.
It’s a lot for Putin to swallow, and so far he has refused. Russian troops remain in control in Crimea, Moscow appears to back the upcoming Crimean referendum to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. But even Putin, with his ex-KGB man’s bravado, doesn’t appear eager for all-out war in Ukraine.
Obama on Thursday added pressure for Putin to stand down. The White House announced visa restrictions and a structure for targeted sanctions against Russians and their allies who are threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty. Since no individuals or companies are yet named, the sanctions gun is unloaded for now. The message to Putin was that the further he moves to annex Crimea, the more he risks economic damage to himself and friends, as well as to Russia. Obama’s bet on Putin’s rational willingness to compromise is a long shot, it must be said. Putin is an autocratic leader with a dangerous nostalgia for the Soviet empire. But Obama views him as a “transactional” leader who will make a deal at the right price. By imposing real costs, Obama is backing Putin toward a corner, but he is also backing himself in: He is publicly committed to forcing a Russian retreat.
Obama, perhaps stung by conservative criticism that his foreign policy has been weak and vacillating, has in this crisis adopted a strategy of measured escalation. The aim, an administration official explained Thursday morning, is to “calibrate sanctions based on what the Russians do.” The strategy has three legs:
First, the administration seeks to impose “costs” for the Russian intervention; this was essential after Putin’s humiliating rebuff of Obama’s warning last Friday against such action. The harshest sanctions have been levied by the financial markets, but Thursday’s announcement of Treasury and State Department measures adds some teeth. Just 24 hours earlier, the White House wasn’t sure if such additional measures would backfire.
tegy assumes that for Putin’s Russia, which was so obviously hungry for validation at the Sochi Olympics, the prospect of international diplomatic and financial ostracism is a real penalty.
Second, the United States mobilized its NATO allies to prevent further Russian expansion in the region. I’m told by some at the Pentagon that several dozen measures have already been adopted, including new NATO exercises and U.S. visits. The message is that Putin’s actions are bringing precisely the outcome he least wanted, in which Russia’s neighbors are moving closer to the United States and NATO.
Finally, Obama has kept the exit door open, even as he tries to push Putin through. This combination of sanctions and diplomacy helped yield the breakthrough interim nuclear agreement with Iran, and Obama is attempting a similar maneuver. U.S. officials who still think a deal with Putin is possible point to what a Post headline called his “strange, rambling press conference” on Tuesday. Putin denied Russian troops had invaded (“there is no need for it”), and it’s noteworthy that Russian troops in Crimea haven’t worn identification badges. The Russian president, who began his career as an intelligence officer, appears to be styling his Crimean campaign as a covert action, rather than an overt invasion. Perhaps if it never officially happened, it’s easier to back down. During his news conference, Putin returned again and again to the theme of legitimacy. He even said he sympathized with the protesters in Kiev who are “used to seeing one set of thieves being replaced by another.” Putin, in his weird way, wants to appear on the right side of history. But finding a way out of this crisis and maintaining the legitimacy he prizes will require Putin to change course. That’s the uncertain bet Obama is making.

Comparing Iran to Nazis, Netanyahu vows to expose ‘lies’
Prime minister tells LA crowd that Iranian denials surrounding arms shipment to Gaza will be debunked once boat reaches Eilat
BY AP, AFP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF March 7, 2014, 3:50 am 3
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued a lobbying offensive against Iran during his last day in the US Thursday, comparing Tehran’s leadership to Hitler in the wake of the Israeli capture of a ship Jerusalem says was carrying Iranian missiles to Gaza.
Netanyahu spoke at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where exhibits document how 6 million Jews and Europe’s lively Jewish culture was destroyed in the Holocaust. He drew a parallel between a 1919 letter on display at the museum in which Adolf Hitler laid out his plans for an “uncompromising removal of the Jews altogether.”
Netanyahu spoke at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where exhibits document how 6 million Jews and Europe’s lively Jewish culture was destroyed in the Holocaust. He drew a parallel between a 1919 letter on display at the museum in which Adolf Hitler laid out his plans for an “uncompromising removal of the Jews altogether.”
“He called then for the destruction of Israel and Iran today calls for the destruction of Israel,’ Netanyahu said after being shown a document signed by Hitler.
“Then too there were people who did not want to believe his words. We shall not allow Iran to arm itself with the capability to destroy us,” he said.
Israeli commandos captured the Panamanian-flagged ship on Wednesday, about 100 kilometers south of Port Sudan in the Red Sea, finding several medium-range missiles aboard that Jerusalem says were sent from Tehran and could have threatened millions.
Israeli officials said the discovery exposed the “true face of Iran” as an exporter of terror, a refrain Netanyahu repeated while speaking at the museum Thursday before wrapping up his five-day trip to the US.
“Building the weapons of mass death and dispatching the weapons of immediate death right now to the worst terrorist groups in the world, that’s the true face of Iran,” Netanyahu said.
Iran has flatly denied any involvement with the shipment, which the Israeli army said was carrying missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel.
“The claim of sending a ship carrying Iranian weapons to Gaza is not true,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying by official IRNA news agency.
“This claim is merely based on the repetitive and unfounded lies of the Zionist media” aimed at derailing negotiations between world powers and Iran over its contested nuclear programme, he said.
However, Netanyahu said their lies would be exposed once the ship docked at the Israeli port of Eilat for a full inspection,. Iit is slated to reach the Red Sea city on Saturday.
“The Iranian government says it’s all lies, it’s all lies. Well that ship will get to Eilat in a few days and we shall see who is lying,” he said.
Israeli officials are apparently using the shipment in a bid to try and put the brakes on detente efforts between the West and Iran, which Jerusalem maintains is developing a covert nuclear weapons program while hiding behind a “smile offensive.”
On Wednesday, the White House acknowledged that Iran is a major state sponsor of terrorism but said it would continue to participate in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Even as we continue efforts to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy, we will continue to stand up to Iran’s support for destabilizing activities in the region, in coordination with our partners and allies, and made clear that these illicit actions are unacceptable to the international community and in gross violation of Iran’s UN Security Council obligations,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Netanyahu previously called an interim agreement with Iran “a huge mistake.” That six-month deal, set to expire in July, requires Iran to freeze some nuclear activities, which it claims are for peaceful energy purposes, in exchange for relief from sanctions.
“We cannot be tolerant to the intolerant. We cannot be tolerant to the fanatics,” he said. “These people are out to destroy a section of people called the Jewish people. We will not let them, we shall expose them and we will fight them. And I’ll tell you another thing: We shall beat them.”
The Los Angeles museum is part of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish human rights organization whose founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the prime minister calls a close friend.
Netanyahu visited it on a previous trip to California and has praised the center’s plans to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu also traveled to Silicon Valley on Wednesday to sign an agreement with California Gov. Jerry Brown to develop joint technology projects and conduct research in California and Israel.
During a meeting at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, the two emphasized their joint interests in cybersecurity, energy sources and water conservation, and suggested Israel — an arid country with a growing population — might be able to help California cope with its ongoing drought.
The visit followed Netanyahu’s meetings with President Barack Obama in Washington, DC, on Monday and his appearance Tuesday at the Los Angeles premiere of a television documentary that features him giving a tour of his country that will air on public television stations. It was the first California visit from an Israeli prime minister since 2006


Islamic Jihad and the Doctrine of Abrogation
by Raymond Ibrahim/
March 6, 2014
While other scriptures contain contradictions, the Koran is the only holy book whose commentators have evolved a doctrine to account for the very visible shifts which occur from one injunction to another. No careful reader will remain unaware of the many contradictory verses in the Koran, most specifically the way in which peaceful and tolerant verses lie almost side by side with violent and intolerant ones. The ulema were initially baffled as to which verses to codify into the Shari'a worldview—the one that states there is no coercion in religion (2:256), or the ones that command believers to fight all non-Muslims till they either convert, or at least submit, to Islam (8:39, 9:5, 9:29). To get out of this quandary, the commentators developed the doctrine of abrogation, which essentially maintains that verses revealed later in Muhammad's career take precedence over earlier ones whenever there is a discrepancy. In order to document which verses abrogated which, a religious science devoted to the chronology of the Koran's verses evolved (known as an-Nasikh wa'l Mansukh, the abrogater and the abrogated).
But why the contradiction in the first place? The standard view is that in the early years of Islam, since Muhammad and his community were far outnumbered by their infidel competitors while living next to them in Mecca, a message of peace and coexistence was in order. However, after the Muslims migrated to Medina in 622 and grew in military strength, verses inciting them to go on the offensive were slowly "revealed"—in principle, sent down from Allah—always commensurate with Islam's growing capabilities. In juridical texts, these are categorized in stages: passivity vis-á-vis aggression; permission to fight back against aggressors; commands to fight aggressors; commands to fight all non-Muslims, whether the latter begin aggressions or not.[1] Growing Muslim might is the only variable that explains this progressive change in policy.
Other scholars put a gloss on this by arguing that over a twenty-two year period, the Koran was revealed piecemeal, from passive and spiritual verses to legal prescriptions and injunctions to spread the faith through jihad and conquest, simply to acclimate early Muslim converts to the duties of Islam, lest they be discouraged at the outset by the dramatic obligations that would appear in later verses.[2] Verses revealed towards the end of Muhammad's career—such as, "Warfare is prescribed for you though you hate it"[3]—would have been out of place when warfare was actually out of the question.
However interpreted, the standard view on Koranic abrogation concerning war and peace verses is that when Muslims are weak and in a minority position, they should preach and behave according to the ethos of the Meccan verses (peace and tolerance); when strong, however, they should go on the offensive on the basis of what is commanded in the Medinan verses (war and conquest). The vicissitudes of Islamic history are a testimony to this dichotomy, best captured by the popular Muslim notion, based on a hadith, that, if possible, jihad should be performed by the hand (force), if not, then by the tongue (through preaching); and, if that is not possible, then with the heart or one's intentions.[4]
That Islam legitimizes deceit during war is, of course, not all that astonishing; after all, as the Elizabethan writer John Lyly put it, "All's fair in love and war."[5] Other non-Muslim philosophers and strategists—such as Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Thomas Hobbes—justified deceit in warfare. Deception of the enemy during war is only common sense. The crucial difference in Islam, however, is that war against the infidel is a perpetual affair—until, in the words of the Koran, "all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to Allah."[6] In his entry on jihad from the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Emile Tyan states: "The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only; the chance of circumstances alone can justify it temporarily."[7]
Moreover, going back to the doctrine of abrogation, Muslim scholars such as Ibn Salama (d. 1020) agree that Koran 9:5, known as ayat as-sayf or the sword verse, has abrogated some 124 of the more peaceful Meccan verses, including "every other verse in the Koran, which commands or implies anything less than a total offensive against the nonbelievers."[8] In fact, all four schools of Sunni jurisprudence agree that "jihad is when Muslims wage war on infidels, after having called on them to embrace Islam or at least pay tribute [jizya] and live in submission, and the infidels refuse."[9]
Obligatory jihad is best expressed by Islam's dichotomized worldview that pits the realm of Islam against the realm of war. The first, dar al-Islam, is the "realm of submission," the world where Shari'a governs; the second, dar al-Harb (the realm of war), is the non-Islamic world. A struggle continues until the realm of Islam subsumes the non-Islamic world—a perpetual affair that continues to the present day. The renowned Muslim historian and philosopher Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) clearly articulates this division:
In the Muslim community, jihad is a religious duty because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the jihad was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense. But Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.[10]
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (Regnery, April, 2013) is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
[1] Ibn Qayyim, Tafsir, in Abd al-'Aziz bin Nasir al-Jalil, At-Tarbiya al-Jihadiya fi Daw' al-Kitab wa 's-Sunna (Riyahd: n.p., 2003), pp. 36-43.
[2] Mukaram, At-Taqiyya fi 'l-Islam, p. 20.
[3] Koran 2: 216.
[4] Yahya bin Sharaf ad-Din an-Nawawi, An-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths, p. 16, accessed Aug. 1, 2009.
[5] John Lyly, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (London, 1578), p. 236.
[6] Koran 8:39.
[7] Emile Tyan, The Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1960), vol. 2, s.v. "Djihad," pp. 538-40.
[8] David Bukay, "Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2007, pp. 3-11, f.n. 58; David S. Powers, "The Exegetical Genre nasikh al-Qur'an wa-mansukhuhu," in Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur'an, Andrew Rippin, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pp. 130-1.
[9] Jalil, At-Tarbiya al-Jihadiya fi Daw' al-Kitab wa ' s-Sunna, p. 7.
[10] Ibn Khaldun, The Muqadimmah. An Introduction to History, Franz Rosenthal, trans. (New York: Pantheon, 1958), vol. 1, p. 473.

Iran’s stepped-up crackdown on the Arab minority
Friday, 7 March 2014
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya

Although there have been a considerable amount of reports, media coverage and scholarly debates about the marginalization, discrimination, and persecution of minorities such as the Bahai community in the Islamic Republic of Iran, one of the less discussed minority groups that has received scant attention is the Arab ethnic group living in the country.
Arabs in Iran, which are among a number of ethnic minorities, roughly constitute three to seven percent of Iran’s population; translating to approximately two to five million people mainly living in the oil-producing Khuzestan province in southern Iran, which is also known as Ahwaz by the Arab community.
Arabs in Iran also live in other provinces, such as Bushehr and Hormuzgan. Most Iranian-Arabs are settled in the Khuzestan province, making up estimably 70 to 75 percent of the population in the province. Although there are common perceptions that Arab presence in Iran started during the Islamic conquest of Persia, Arabs have lived in Iran for much longer than that period.
In addition to the discriminatory laws practiced against the minorities— documented by Amnesty International and other human rights groups— the ethnic Arab community has also been subjected to disproportionate exclusion from economic, social, and political developments, along with systematically imposed Persianization, policies aimed at changing the ethnic makeup of Khuzestan province and Arab communities.
Oil-rich Ahwaz
Although Khuzestan reportedly represents about 85-90 percent of Iran’s oil production and is the main pillar of Iran’s economy and the government’s revenues, many Ahwazis live in poverty and don’t receive their equal share of pay.
According to Human Rights report, although most of Iran’s oil export comes from the Khuzestan province, a third of the urban population in Khuzestan lives in poverty, is poorly educated and suffers from malnutrition. Reportedly, the rate of unemployment among the Arabs in comparison to the national unemployment is rate, is much higher. In addition, despite the resources and wealth that Khuzestan has, the province still suffers from water shortages, electricity problems and sanitation issues.
Fundamentally, Ahwazi Arabs have been excluded from Iran’s economic development
More fundamentally, Ahwazi Arabs have been excluded from Iran’s economic development and the same prosperity derived from the region’s oil exports. The discrimination of Arabs is not limited to the province of Khuzestan, and has been documented in other major provinces such as Tehran and Esfahan.
Stepping up crackdown: systematic discrimination or isolated case?
Most recently, the news of an Iranian-Arab poet and human rights activist, Hashem Shabaani Nejad and others, who were hanged in an unidentified prison according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, took the spotlight in international news. Shabaani was from Iran’s Arabic-speaking ethnic minority, Ahvazis.
According to local human rights groups and the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the charges against the 32-year-old poet were listed as being an “enemy of God,” spreading “corruption on earth” and threatening “national security.”
According to several news outlets, Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani ordered the hangings of the poet and human rights activist and his friends. He was arrested in early 2011 and spent his time in prison until his order of execution came.
The 32-year-old was popular due to his poetry, promotion of literature, and was the founder of the Dialogue Institute. In 2012, Shabaani appeared on Iran’s state-owned Press TV, and was forced to confess to “separatist terrorism,” according to human rights groups.
The crucial issue to draw on is that the recent increasing of cases of the execution of Arabs, or other current cases of discrimination against the ethnic Arab in Iran, are not isolated incidents devoid of institutionalized marginalization. These cases of discrimination are systematic human rights violations practiced by the Islamic Republic against the Arab ethnic minority.
Although the Iranian constitution guarantees equal rights to all members of religious and ethnic minorities, the Arab ethnic community have been repeatedly subjected to discriminatory laws such as, but not limited to, undue limitations on access to socio- economic, cultural-linguistic, property and religious rights, to name a few.
Unfair treatment
Amnesty International has indicated in its 2014 report that the Arab ethnic minority in the Islamic Republic has been frequently subjected to property confiscation, limitations on movement, rejection for state employment, arbitrary arrest, torture, detention, other methods of ill-treatments and egregious and unfair trials of political prisoners. More fundamentally, the number of executions has disproportionally affected members of the Ahwazi Arab minority in the Islamic Republic.
Other practiced violations of international laws, which also appeared in the case of the Iranian-Arab poet Shabaani, has been seen in the Iranian authorities refusal to inform the families of prisoners on the location of the prisoner and the judicial process, along with their rejection in handing over the body of the executed person.
This practice is considered to be a violation of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Based on the U.N. Human Rights Committee “persisting uncertainty of the circumstances that led to execution, as well as the location of grave[...] the complete secrecy surrounding the date of the execution and the place of burial, as well as the refusal to hand over the body for burial[...] have the effect of intimidating or punishing the family by intentionally leaving it in a state of uncertainty and mental distress.”
These recent reports reveal the disproportionate number of executions of Arabs every year, particularly after the latest protests. In the last year, the mass arbitrary arrests of Arab human rights or political activists, and the number of death sentences ordered in closed-door Iranian courts strongly indicate that the Islamic Republic has stepped up its crack down on and repression of the Arab ethnic minority, even under the presidency of the moderate Rowhani.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar as Harvard University, is president of the International American Council and he serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC, Harvard scholar, and a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He is originally from the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria. He has been a recipient of several scholarships and fellowship including from Oxford University, Annenberg University, University of California Santa Barbara, and Fulbright Teaching program. He served as ambassador for the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC, conducted research at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and taught at University of California Santa Barbara through Fulbright Teaching Scholarship. He can be reached at