March 11/14


Bible Quotation for today/The Leper's Curing Miracle

Matthew 6,22-24/: "‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth".

First Letter to the Thessalonians 3,6-13.
But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 11/14

Obama and his views on Sunnis and Shiites/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 11/14

Debate: Lebanon’s new government is the result of domestic politics/By: Charles Jabbour/Asharq Alawsat/March 11/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 11/14
Lebanese Related News

Salam Cabinet’s fate uncertain if policy deadline missed

Drastic rise in Hezbollah death toll as party battles for Yabroud

Cabinet's Fate Unclear as Rival Sides Remain Deadlocked on Resistance Clause

Maalula Nuns Freed after Hours of Delay for Logistical Reasons

Arab FMs: Lebanon Has Right to Resist Israeli Aggression, Occupation

Qaouq: Policy Statement Not Mentioning Resistance Won't Win Parliament Confidence
Arrest Warrant Issued against Naim Abbas, Female Suspect on Terrorism Charges
Suleiman Thanks Qatar for its Role in Release of Syria Nuns
Police Arrest Tripoli Child Rapist

Jumblat Lauds Release of Maalula Nuns, Urges Security Agencies to Put an End to Abductions

Saniora Says Political Rift Overshadowed Country's Struggling-Economy

Rising crime in northern Bekaa Valley hurting Hezbollah
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Worldwide probe to identify two mystery passengers aboard missing Malaysian airliner

Canadian Journalist Killed in Syria
Taliban Pledge Violent Campaign to Disrupt Afghan Election

Bilateral Ties on Agenda as Iran's Rouhani to Visit Oman

Israel to Show Long-range Rockets from 'Iran Arms Ship'

Amnesty: Syria Army Using Starvation as 'Weapon of War'

Stones and glass houses

Cabinet's Fate Unclear as Rival Sides Remain Deadlocked on Resistance Clause
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 March 2014/The March 8 and 14 alliances were on Monday still split over the resistance clause of the policy statement of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government, putting its fate at risk as the constitution’s one-month deadline for a ministerial committee to agree on a blueprint expires on March 17. Al-Mustaqbal MP Jean Oghassabian told Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) that the March 14 alliance can't accept the adoption of the resistance clause without putting it under the authority of the state. “We stress onto the right of Lebanon as a state and not the right of the Lebanese to resist Israel,” he said.
But the Hizbullah-led March 8 camp is hoping that the seven-member committee tasked with drafting the policy statement, which is scheduled to hold its tenth meeting on Tuesday, would adopt wordings backed by the council of Arab foreign ministers. The closing statement of the foreign ministers' meeting held in Cairo on Sunday stated "the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese to liberate and recover the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and the Lebanese part of the Ghajar village, and to resist any Israeli aggression or occupation through the legitimate means." The clause by proposed by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. The disagreement between the rival parties on the resistance clause comes amid a warning by Speaker Nabih Berri that the cabinet would be considered resigned if it fails to agree on the blueprint by March 17. Berri said last week that President Michel Suleiman would be compelled to call for binding parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister after that date. Salam has an option to call for a cabinet session to vote on the policy statement to avoid turning his government into a caretaker status. But centrist ministers told al-Akhbar newspaper that the prime minister would not resort to such an option. “He won't take any non-consensual move,” the ministers, who were not named, said. Al-Joumhouria daily quoted officials close to Salam as saying that he was giving the committee until Tuesday to agree on the resistance clause. The officials, however, refused to give details on whether there were still obstacles in the negotiations on the policy statement.


Salam Cabinet’s fate uncertain if policy deadline missed
March 10, 2014/By Hasan Lakkis, Antoine Ghattas Saab/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lawmakers and legal experts are split over the fate of the Cabinet if no agreement is reached over its policy statement within the Constitution’s one-month deadline, which expires on March 17. Speaker Nabih Berri, former Speaker Hussein Husseini and a number of March 8 lawmakers contend that the 24-member Cabinet would be considered resigned if it fails to agree on a policy statement by March 17, after which President Michel Sleiman would be obliged under the Constitution to hold consultations with members of Parliament to name a new prime minister.
However, some March 14 lawmakers and legal experts disagree, arguing that the Cabinet would not be considered resigned if the constitutional deadline ends without an agreement on a policy statement. Rather, they say the Cabinet in this case would stay in office in a caretaker capacity until the row over the policy statement is resolved.
The development comes as a seven-member ministerial committee tasked with drafting the Cabinet’s policy statement is slated to meet Tuesday in yet another attempt to agree on a compromise formula to settle the dispute over the resistance issue, the last obstacle holding up the document.
Tuesday’s will be the 10th meeting of the committee, which includes ministers from the March 8 and March 14 parties and centrists, since the Cabinet was formed on Feb. 15.
The factions remain at odds over whether a clause legitimizing Hezbollah’s armed resistance against Israel should be mentioned in the policy statement.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri might launch an initiative this week aimed at breaking the deadlock over the policy statement before the expiration of the deadline for the ministerial committee, political sources said.
Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil from Berri’s parliamentary bloc tweeted Sunday: “We will deal positively with any idea or draft plan to finalize the policy statement that preserves the right of the Lebanese to resistance to liberate the land and repulse the Israeli aggression.”Visitors who met Prime Minister Tammam Salam at his Moseitbeh residence Sunday quoted him as voicing hope that some sticking points hindering an agreement over the policy statement could be resolved before Tuesday’s session. But if no agreement is reached, Salam might refer the issue to the Cabinet, a visitor said.
The failure to reach agreement on a policy statement by March 17 raises questions over the fate of the Cabinet, given the conflicting views of lawmakers and legal experts on both sides of the political spectrum. Berri, backed by Husseini, has ruled that the Cabinet would be considered resigned if the one-month constitutional deadline ended without an agreement reached on a policy statement. Salam, in Berri’s view, should announce the resignation of his Cabinet if the deadline expires without an agreement on a policy statement.
Husseini sees that the next step is for the president to begin binding parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister. Husseini’s opinion is backed by a March 14 minister who is a member of the ministerial committee.
“The Cabinet’s failure to draft a policy statement means that it cannot assume executive authority or agree on a plan of action,” Husseini said. Future MP Hadi Hobeish disagrees with Berri and Husseini, saying that the Cabinet can still discuss the policy statement even after the expiration of the deadline. Hobeish said a constitutional article does not consider missing the deadline as a reason for the Cabinet’s resignation, but rather as an occasion to urge it to intensify its efforts to agree on a policy statement.
“If the Cabinet presents its policy statement after one month and a half and after winning Parliament’s confidence, it can exercise its full powers,” Hobeish said.
Dr. Issam Ismail, a professor of constitutional and administrative law at the state-run Lebanese University, said that “if the current Cabinet exceeds the 30-day deadline without accomplishing the policy statement, we would be faced with a precedent which Lebanon has not seen before.”
The professor added, “The Constitution did not mention a penalty. Therefore, there can be no penalty without a [constitutional] text.”
In this case, Ismail said, the Cabinet can serve in a caretaker capacity until a solution is found to the policy statement.
“Therefore, the Cabinet cannot be considered resigned immediately because Article 64 in the Constitution has outlined the cases in which the Cabinet is considered resigned, but without mentioning this case,” he added.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, maintained its insistence that the resistance clause be mentioned in the Cabinet’s policy statement.
“The resistance is clearly a solid clause in the policy statement and there is no chance for anyone to sidestep it at all,” Industry Minister Hussein Haj Hasan, one of two ministers who represent Hezbollah in the Cabinet, told a Teachers’ Day ceremony in the Bekaa Valley town of Shmustar.
“We absolutely uphold the resistance clause and the others [March 14 parties] should realize that this matter is in the interests of Lebanon and all the Lebanese,” he said.

Drastic rise in Hezbollah death toll as party battles for Yabroud
March 10, 2014/By Wassim Mroueh/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Deaths among Hezbollah fighters battling rebels in Syria have increased significantly in March, as the party fights alongside the Syrian army in its struggle to capture the rebel-held town of Yabroud in the Qalamoun Mountains. Hezbollah announced that 15 of its fighters died in March, saying they fell while carrying out their “jihadist duty.” Funerals were held in various areas across Lebanon including the Bekaa Valley, the Beirut southern suburbs and south Lebanon. Facebook pages and websites affiliated with Hezbollah were flooded with photos of the dead fighters, who were mostly young, with relatives and supporters praising their “martyrdom.”
One Facebook page has posted sentences from a letter written by Hezbollah fighter Mohammad Baqer Jaber to his mother before his death.
“My wish is that you embrace me during the last moments of my life, but what relieves me is the fact that I know you will embrace me when I am in my shroud,” said the letter, posted above a photo of Jaber.
“May God help the hearts of mothers who are losing angels that were born to live in the eternal world only,” a woman commented below the post.
Numerous videos posted on YouTube depict Hezbollah gunmen engaged in fierce battles with Syrian rebels in Yabroud. In one of the videos, Hezbollah fighters ask a wounded gunman from the Syrian opposition where the dead bodies of their fellow fighters are located. Yabroud is the last town granting Syrian rebels access into east Lebanon. Many of the rigged cars that have exploded in Lebanese areas associated with Hezbollah were believed to have been loaded with explosives in Yabroud. A source close to Hezbollah, who requested to remain anonymous, told The Daily Star that around 500 Hezbollah fighters had been killed since the party joined the civil war in Lebanon’s neighbor. A website close to the party said that up until March 7, Hezbollah had lost 40 fighters in one month of fierce battles in Yabroud.
In the fall of 2012, Hezbollah, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, announced that its fighters were defending a string of Syrian villages inhabited by Lebanese of various sects, but mainly Shiites, in rural Qusair. The area is close to the Lebanese border. Hezbollah also acknowledged it was sending fighters to a Damascus suburb to protect the Shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad, from attacks by Syrian rebels. Sayyida Zeinab is revered by Muslims, particularly Shiites. But in May 2013, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah acknowledged that his party was heavily involved in Syria’s war in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of takfiri groups, in reference to radical Syrian rebel groups, adding that these groups posed a grave threat to Lebanon as well. Nasrallah said party fighters would be in any place they had to be inside Syria, expressing readiness himself to take part in the battles.

Maalula Nuns Freed after Hours of Delay for Logistical Reasons

Naharnet Newsdesk 09 March 2014/A group of nuns abducted from the Syrian town of Maalula in December were released on Sunday evening and handed over to a Lebanese General Security delegation in the outskirts of the Bekaa border town of Arsal. "The Maalula nuns have been freed and they are now in our custody," General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim told LBCI television.
Lebanon's National News Agency also confirmed that "the Maalula nuns have become in the custody of Lebanese General Security." "The General Security convoy that is carrying the freed Maalula nuns has left Arsal towards the international highway that leads to the al-Masnaa border crossing" between Lebanon and Syria, NNA said. Ibrahim later appeared at the Syrian border post of Jdeidet Yabous where the nuns were supposed to arrive. "The nuns will arrive here in an hour," he told reporters. Earlier on Sunday, Ibrahim confirmed that the nuns would be released within hours after the process was “delayed by logistical obstacles related to the region's geography.”
For his part, Qatar's charges d'affaires in Beirut Ali al-Maliki confirmed to Al-Jazeera TV that the nuns would be released but noted that the issue "will take some time and maybe hours."
"Negotiations have resumed between Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and the abductors of the Maalula nuns after having bogged down for unclear reasons," al-Jadeed television said earlier in the day.
LBCI said that after having left the outskirts of the Bekaa border town of Arsal, a Lebanese General Security delegation returned to the town to prepare for receiving the nuns.
"The General Security convoy has returned to the Aqabat al-Jurd area in Arsal," MTV said. Earlier, Lebanon's National News Agency said a large convoy consisting of around 30 vehicles had arrived in the al-Rahweh area in Arsal's outskirts to receive the nuns. It later reported that “a new convoy consisting of 3 cars has crossed the army checkpoint at Arsal's entrance and headed to the point where the first convoy is waiting to pick up the Maalula nuns." NNA had reported that Qatar's intelligence chief and a Lebanese General Security team crossed into Syria from Arsal to receive the nuns. “Qatari intelligence chief Ghanim al-Kubaisi and a General Security delegation have crossed Arsal towards the Syrian border ahead of the release of the Maalula nuns,” NNA said. Meanwhile, local and regional TV networks aired footage showing heavy presence by General Security agents and reporters at the al-Masnaa border crossing between Lebanon and Syria. A number of Christian and Muslim clergymen were also spotted in the border area of Jdeidet Yabous.
MTV had reported that it was not clear whether the nuns' convoy would take the Yabrud-Arsal-Masnaa route or the road from Yabrud towards Syria's al-Zabadani and Damascus ahead of traveling towards al-Masnaa.
The Qatar-based, pan-Arab Al-Jazeera TV had earlier reported that "the process of releasing the nuns has started." In remarks to LBCI television, Nouhad al-Jabr, sister of abducted nun Mariam al-Jabr, said: "The lawyer Robert al-Abyad called me an hour ago and asked me to head to al-Masnaa to receive my sister." Several reporters had said the process would take several hours due to "the rugged road between Yabrud and Arsal" or even the long road from Yabrud to Damascus.Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said "the Bekaa is witnessing intensive movements by security convoys in preparation for the release of the Maalula nuns."
Sky News Arabia said the deal involves the release of 153 detainees from the prisons of the Syrian regime. Other reports said a number of women prisoners will be freed. "A number of Syrian women prisoners have arrived at a location facing Jdeidet Yabous on the Lebanese border and they will enter Lebanon," Al-Jazeera reported. Earlier on Sunday, the head of the Greek Orthodox Council Robert Abyad announced that the nuns were expected to be released later during the day. “We thank all the forces that helped ensure their release,” he said. Qatar's intelligence chief al-Kubaisi had arrived in Lebanon from Istanbul in order to follow up on the case, said NNA. Moreover, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim also returned to Lebanon from Syria in order to follow up on the release. He held talks with President Michel Suleiman to that end, reported NNA. Head of the Mar Yaacoub monastery in Syria, Sister Agnes, told VDL that the Syrian Information Ministry had requested that journalists head to the Lebanese-Syrian border “because a surprise awaits them there.” 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 Qalamoun 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 a fierce regime campaign.

Bassil: We Fear Lebanon Will Become Passageway for Jihadists

Naharnet Newsdesk 09 March 2014/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil stressed on Sunday that terrorism cannot be justified by religion or any other excuse, warning against the spread of the phenomenon in Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world. He said: “We fear that Lebanon will become a passageway for jihadists.”He made his remarks during the opening of the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, Egypt. “The solution lies in properly equipping the army,” he added, while hoping that the upcoming Rome conference aimed at bolstering the army will fulfill this demand. “Can you believe that in the country of coexistence some individuals have taken the path of suicide bombing as a result of the political and religious environment that harbors such sentiments?” he asked the gatherers. “Terrorism does not have a creed and combating it requires a firm political and security position,” stated Bassil.
“Combating terrorism in Lebanon requires the proper equipping of the army,” he declared. Addressing the case of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, he warned that this issue has started to take on an “existential turn in the country.” On a daily basis, Lebanon takes in 45 percent of refugees fleeing Syria, he noted. This has taken place while Lebanon's state institutions have not received any foreign aid, lamented the foreign minister. “We can no longer adopt the 'open door' policy and we demand that the refugees be fairly distributed in safe areas in Syria and in near and far Arab countries,” stressed Bassil. In addition, he highlighted the importance of Lebanon's right to liberate occupied land and resist any Israeli assault. Lebanon has been hit by several car bombings in recent months carried out by al-Qaida-affiliated groups that are oppose Hizbullah's fighting in Syria. The bombings have mainly taken place in Hizbullah strongholds. The party has been taking part in the fighting alongside the Syrian regime forces against a rebel uprising.

Arab FMs: Lebanon Has Right to Resist Israeli Aggression, Occupation
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 March 2014/The council of Arab foreign ministers decided Sunday during a meeting in Cairo to support the Lebanese government materially and financially to help it cope with the Syrian refugee crisis. The council also agreed to ask the member states to share the burden, stressing that the refugees' presence in Lebanon is “temporary” and that efforts would be exerted to return them to their country as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, al-Jadeed TV revealed that the council accepted to add to its statement a suggestion by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil that mentions "the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese to liberate and recover the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and the Lebanese part of the Ghajar village, and to resist any Israeli aggression or occupation through the legitimate means." The council lauded “the national role that is being performed by the Lebanese Army in preserving stability and civil peace,” welcoming “the extraordinary assistance offered by Saudi Arabia” to the army. Bassil had reportedly changed Lebanon's clause of the final statement of the Arab ministers' meeting amid lack of consensus among the rival Lebanese 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. 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 tenth meeting on Tuesday 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 was aimed at preparing for the Kuwait summit of March 25-26 and drafting its closing statement.

Qaouq: Policy Statement Not Mentioning Resistance Won't Win Parliament Confidence
Naharnet Newsdesk 09 March 2014/Deputy head of Hizbullah's Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qaouq stressed Sunday that the policy statement of the new cabinet will be “born dead” if it fails to mention resistance against Israel. “The resistance is the soul of the policy statement and any statement without it will be dead and soulless and it won't win the confidence of the Lebanese or the parliament,” Qaouq warned during a memorial service held by Hizbullah in the southern town of Majdal Zoun. “From 2005 until today, the March 14 forces have had a sole mission on the domestic scene which is backed by foreign forces: targeting the resistance,” Qaouq charged, noting that “they have not been able to achieve anything from this campaign and they have not been able to change 'a single letter of its letters'.” And as the Hizbullah official voiced confidence that “the resistance today is going through the peak of its strength and golden days,” he pointed out that “the Israeli enemy is the first and last party that would benefit from the conspiracy of removing the resistance from the policy statement.” “We in Hizbullah did not fight and resist for the sake of taking part in the cabinet; we rather took part in the cabinet for the sake of the resistance and we're willing to bear all insults and provocations for the sake of protecting the resistance,” Qaouq underlined. He stated that “all those who are obstructing the policy statement know very well that they are asking for the impossible when they demand to remove the resistance equation from it.”But Qaouq stressed that Hizbullah is keen on “accomplishing the policy statement and protecting the presidential vote out of its keenness on the country.” “Let no one think that the resistance has facilitated the formation of the cabinet because the equation has changed or because it is weaker,” Qaouq emphasized. The ministerial panel drafting the policy statement has so far failed to agree on a text despite holding nine meetings. Hizbullah has been insisting to include the “army-people-resistance” equation in the draft while President Michel Suleiman wants it to include a reference to the Baabda Declaration. The March 14 camp has rejected Hizbullah's suggestion, advocating instead the president's position. The committee will hold its tenth meeting on Tuesday.

Report: Bulgaria Says 2012 Israeli Bus Bomber in Burgas was Lebanese

Naharnet Newsdesk 09 March 2014/Bulgaria has identified a Lebanese man as the bomber who blew up an airport bus in 2012, killing five Israeli tourists, their Bulgarian driver and himself, local media said Sunday. Israel and Bulgaria have already accused Hizbullah of being behind the attack at Burgas airport on the Black Sea, the deadliest on Israelis abroad since 2004. Bulgaria had previously identified as alleged accomplices two Lebanese men with links to Hizbullah -- and with Canadian and Australian passports -- and has made so-far unanswered extradition requests to Lebanon. Chief prosecutor spokeswoman Rumyana Arnaudova declined to comment on the latest report in the Pressa newspaper, which cited sources in the Bulgarian intelligence services. "The investigation is ongoing and is very intensive but I cannot confirm any details around the probe as this might jeopardize it," Arnaudova told AFP. The bomber died in the attack -- although it remains unclear if he intended to die -- and investigators had been unable to identify him despite having DNA from the severed head and limbs found at the site of the bombing. Chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov returned on Friday from a four-day visit to Israel where he met attorney general Yehuda Weinstein and chief prosecutor Shai Nitzan.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Police Arrest Tripoli Child Rapist
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 March 2014/Police have arrested a Lebanese man, who has admitted to raping children in the northern city of Tripoli, the Internal Security Forces general command said Monday. The 20-year-old suspect was arrested at a car wash in the Tripoli area of Abi Samra on Saturday, the ISF said in a communique. He has admitted to previously raping six children by luring them with small amounts of cash ranging between LL2,000 and LL5,000, it said. His arrest came after a man claimed to police on Friday that his 13-year-old son was raped by him, the communique added. The ISF said the suspect, who was only identified with his initials as M.M., was referred to the judicial police for further investigation.

Suleiman Thanks Qatar for its Role in Release of Syria Nuns

Naharnet Newsdesk 10 March 2014/President Michel Suleiman thanked on Monday Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, for Doha's role in the release in Syria of more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns.
A Baabda Palace statement said that during phone conversations, Suleiman also thanked the Syrian government and other parties involved in the release of the nuns in exchange for Syrian authorities setting free dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad.
Syrian rebels, including members of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, seized them from the Mar Takla convent when fighters overran the Christian village of Maalula, north of Damascus, in December. The presidential statement said Suleiman rejected kidnappings under any excuse and stressed during meetings with army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji, General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous the importance of following up the cases of two bishops and a journalist kidnapped in Syria. Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi were kidnapped in April 2013 in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo while they were on a humanitarian work. Sky News Arabia cameraman Samir Kassab went missing in Syria in October last year. On the recent abductions carried out in Lebanon, Suleiman said it was important for security and military agencies to coordinate the arrest of the gangs involved in kidnappings. Approximately 150 female prisoners are to be released in exchange for the nuns' freedom, Abbas Ibrahim, who oversaw the deal, said Monday. Suleiman lauded his role in reaching a happy ending in the case of the nuns. Their release also drew widespread attention by political and religious leaders in the country. Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi and Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani were among the officials who congratulate the nuns on their release.


Man confesses to raping seven minors: Lebanon police
March 10, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A 20-year old man has confessed to raping seven minors after luring them with money, Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said in a statement Monday. The arrest came after a Lebanese father approached police in the northern city of Tripoli Thursday, claiming that the 20-year-old man, who was identified by his initials M.M., raped his 13-year-old son. As a result of comprehensive investigation, police were able to arrest the man on March 8 in Tripoli where he worked at a car wash.During interrogation, the man confessed to raping the 13-year-old along with six other minors after he used to offer them money ranging from $2,000 to $5,000.

Jumblat Lauds Release of Maalula Nuns, Urges Security Agencies to Put an End to Abductions
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 March 2014/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat praised on Monday the release of the Maalula nuns, hoping that security agencies will put an end to abductions in Lebanon.
He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “All security agencies should be on alert to end the phenomenon of kidnappings in Lebanon.” “They should arrest the kidnapping gangs that are growing in numbers given the lax security measures in various regions,” he remarked, while hailing the release over the weekend of Michel al-Saqr, 10, who was kidnapped in the Bekaa. Moreover, the MP said that abductions hamper freedom in Lebanon and tarnish the state's credibility. “They widen the deep gap between the state and the people who are seeking stability,” continued Jumblat. “Numerous instances have proven that the state can achieve several political, economic, and security accomplishments if it takes a decisive stand to do so,” he noted. A group of nuns abducted from the Syrian town of Maalula in December were released on Sunday evening.
Jumblat wondered why “so few prisoners in Syrian jails were released in exchange for the nuns, knowing that thousands of political prisoners are being detained in Syria.” The nuns, from both Syria and Lebanon, were kidnapped from a convent in Maalula in Syria in December, as regime and rebel forces battled for control in the surrounding Qalamoun 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 a fierce regime campaign. They were released in exchange for 152 prisoners held in Syria.

Saniora Says Political Rift Overshadowed Country's Struggling-Economy
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 March 2014/Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora stressed on Monday that the political rift in Lebanon is the main cause of the poor economic growth and deflation.
“The decline in economic growth and deflation is considered a normal matter amid the current political and security situation,” Saniora said in comments published in al-Liwaa newspaper. He expressed hope that Lebanon would overcome its tough economic situation, saying “Lebanon is passing through a delicate and hard stage due to the surrounding political developments.” In December, Fitch, the rating agency, downgraded Lebanon's long-term foreign and local currency issuer default rating (IDRs) to negative, citing political uncertainties, spill-overs from the Syrian conflict on economic performance and slow growth prospects. S&P also lowered to 'B-' from 'B' its long-term counterparty credit ratings on three Lebanese banks, Bank Audi SAL–Audi Saradar Group, BankMed s.a.l., and Blom Bank sal. “As long as Hizbullah insists on engaging in battles in Syria... It is unlikely to achieve acceptable growth rate,” Saniora pointed out. He told the newspaper that “the role of the state institutions should be reactivated by allowing law to prevail in all livelihood matters... in order to reactivate the economy,” Saniora pointed out. The World Bank estimates Lebanon will need $2.6 billion over three years just to handle the refugee situation.  Last week, An international support group for Lebanon appealed 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. The Lebanese economy also needs injections of funds, and received contributions from France, Norway and Finland — placed in a World Bank trust fund. France contributed some 7 million euros ($10 million), Norway $4.8 million and Finland $3 million, according to an official at the French presidential Elysee Palace. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and could not be named. France, Lebanon's one-time colonial ruler, 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. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said his country will require years of support, saying the burden it carries threatens its stability.

Arrest Warrant Issued against Naim Abbas, Female Suspect on Terrorism Charges
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 March 2014/Arrest warrants were issued on Monday against Naim Abbas, a top official in the al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, and a female suspect on terrorism charges.
Military Examining Magistrate Judge Sawan issued arrest warrants against Abbas and Joumana Hmayyed for belonging to an armed terrorist group for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks. They were also charged with preparing and transporting booby-trapped vehicles from Syria to Lebanon to detonate them in residential areas. Hmayyed is the driver of the booby-trapped Kia vehicle that the army intercepted on February 12 on the Arsal-al-Labweh road. Abbas is a Palestinian described as Abdullah Azzam Brigades' number two man in Lebanon. He was previously charged with belonging to an armed terrorist network. He was also charged with involvement in two bombings that have rocked the Haret Hreik district of Beirut's southern suburbs. He was arrested by the Lebanese army in the Beirut neighborhood of Corniche al-Mazraa on February 12. Several of the latest bombings in Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa valley have been claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades whose leader, Majed al-Majed, was captured by Lebanese authorities in December and died in custody later.


Rising crime in northern Bekaa Valley hurting Hezbollah
March 10, 2014 /The Daily Star/Hezbollah is incurring significant losses in popularity among other sects due to rising crime rates in the northern Bekaa Valley – an area where the party enjoys wide influence and support – a senior political source close to the March 8 camp told The Daily Star Sunday. Since the the conflict in Syria erupted three years ago, organized crime rates, particularly kidnapping for ransom, have grown significantly. Kidnappers usually hail from the deprived, cannabis-growing province of Baalbek-Hermel, where Hezbollah dominates. Though Hezbollah is believed to have turned a blind eye for years to illegal practices in the area – including cannabis cultivation, drug dealing, kidnappings and car theft to list only a few – in a bid to win the confidence and votes of the area’s clans, last week’s kidnapping of the son of a Lebanese Forces-affiliated Zahle businessman will prove to be a game changer. When 9-year-old Michel Saqr, allegedly kidnapped by men hailing from the Baalbek village of Brital, was safely returned to his family in Zahle early Saturday, his father Ibrahim thanked LF leader Samir Geagea for making the necessary contacts to secure his release. “Whether we like it or not, Hezbollah’s leniency toward security breaches in the Baalbek-Hermel area could be interpreted as giving a cover for criminals to pursue their activity,” the source said. According to him, the abduction of a child was a “grave mistake committed by people who support Hezbollah, unfortunately.”
“ Hezbollah has offered the biggest gift to its political opponents,” the source continued. “Hezbollah’s rivals will use this incident as part of their relentless attempts to diabolize the party.”
After Lebanon’s Civil War, Hezbollah struggled to erase the radical image associated with it and embrace a more open, dialogue-based one. The party’s efforts culminated in signing a memorandum of understanding with the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun in 2006. The source, however, argued that Hezbollah currently finds itself stuck between a rock and hard place.
“We are all aware of the peculiar dynamics of the Baalbek- Hermel area, where not only Hezbollah but also authorities need to walk a fine line when dealing with the region.”
The families of Baalbek- Hermel are organized into clans, with the typical dynamics of tribal feuds, shifting alliances and vendettas.
Over the weekend, a local TV station was able to interview Michel Saqr’s suspected kidnapper Maher Tleis, but lacking adequate political cover, the authorities did not move to arrest him.
The source, who was once in charge of maintaining law and order in the Baalbek- Hermel region, said it was imperative for Hezbollah to join forces with authorities to come up with a long-term plan to curb crime in the northern Bekaa Valley. “Let’s be realistic, it’s definitely not the responsibility of parties – Hezbollah in this case – to maintain law and order within their communities, but it is that of the state rather,” he said.
“We must also emphasize here that not all the supporters of Hezbollah, or any other party for that matter, are good or honest people,” the source said. In order to avoid a bigger embarrassment for the party and taking into consideration the Lebanese authorities’ inability to devise long-term security plans to combat organized crime due the fact that it has exhausted resources in the war on terror, Hezbollah is urged to be proactive, the source said. “Hezbollah, with the help of security agencies, should weave a solid network of contacts with the leaders of those clans so as to curb as much as possible the criminal activity or unruly members.” But the source is realistic, saying that Hezbollah and the Lebanese security forces were preoccupied with other more pressing files. “We should also note that times are changing and notions such as respect for the elderly and the rules of the clan are no longer valid,” the source said. “Also, the people of Baalbek and Hermel used to grow and produce drugs but not consume them,” he explained. “This is not the case anymore, and this renders individuals even bolder and more uncontrollable.”

Army: Israel Troops Kill Palestinian after Jordan Border Attack

Naharnet Newsdesk 10 March 2014/Israeli troops on Monday shot dead a Palestinian who allegedly tried to snatch a soldier's weapon at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, the army said.
Israeli officials initially said the Palestinian was wounded but the army confirmed he had died of his injuries shortly afterwards. "I can confirm he's dead," a military spokeswoman told Agence France Presse. The army said the man was shot while trying to snatch a weapon from an Israeli soldier. "A short while ago a Palestinian attempted to seize the weapon of a soldier at the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan. In response the forces at the scene opened fire towards the suspect. A hit was identified," a military statement said. Palestinian security officials identified the victim as 38-year-old Raed Zeiter from the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
They said he had left the West Bank in 2011 and had not returned since, but did not know where he had been living. Ofer Lefler, spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority which is responsible for all border crossings, said the frontier had been closed in the wake of the attack. SourceAgence France Presse.

Taliban Pledge Violent Campaign to Disrupt Afghan Election

Naharnet Newsdesk 10 March 2014/The Taliban on Monday vowed to target Afghanistan's presidential election, urging their fighters to attack polling staff, voters and security forces before the April 5 vote to choose a successor to Hamid Karzai. Previous Afghan elections have been badly marred by violence, with at least 31 civilians and 26 soldiers and police killed on polling day alone in 2009 as the Islamist militants displayed their opposition to the U.S.-backed polls. Another blood-stained election would damage claims by international donors that the expensive military and civilian intervention in Afghanistan since 2001 has made progress in establishing a functioning state system. NATO combat troops will withdraw from the country by the end of 2014 after 13 years of fighting a fierce Islamist insurgency that erupted when the Taliban were ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. "We have given orders to all our mujahideen to use all force at their disposal to disrupt these upcoming sham elections -- to target all workers, activists, callers, security apparatus and offices," the Taliban said in an emailed statement. "It is the religious obligation of every Afghan to fulfill their duty by foiling the latest plot of the invaders that is guised in the garb of elections." Billions of dollars have been spent on military operations and development in Afghanistan, but the country remains wracked by poverty and violence with weak government structures and a fragile economy dependent on aid cash. "We once again call on all of our countrymen to keep away from electoral offices, voting booths, rallies and campaigns so that may Allah forbid, their lives are not put into danger," the Taliban said. "If anyone still persist in participating then they are solely responsible for any loss in the future."Source/Agence France Presse.

Canadian Journalist Killed in Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 10 March 2014/A Canadian photojournalist, Ali Mustafa, has been killed in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, activists said. An official in the Aleppo opposition provincial capital said Mustafa, a freelancer who sold pictures to the SIPA and EPA agencies, was killed in the city on Sunday. The opposition Aleppo Media Center also reported the death. "Four members of the (opposition) civil defense in Aleppo and 10 other civilians were killed, and dozens of others wounded, in a barrel bomb attack launched by helicopters against the Haydariyeh roundabout in the east of Aleppo city on Sunday morning," the center said. "A Canadian journalist, Ali Mustafa was also killed... as he tried to document the massacre." Canada's foreign ministry said it was aware of reports that a Canadian national had been killed in Syria. Mustafa's sister, Justina Rosa Botelho, confirmed his death on her Facebook page, mourning her younger sibling. "Hope the world will understand what an angel my brother was. He cared more for others than himself," she wrote. Mustafa had worked in Syria periodically since early 2013, as well as in Israel and Palestine, Egypt and Brazil. In an interview last year about his decision to cover Syria, the world's most dangerous conflict for journalists, he said he "could not ignore this ongoing human tragedy".
"Syrian people feel abandoned by the world. They are asking for our solidarity," he said. According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 27 professional journalists have been killed while covering the war in Syria. Dozens more have been kidnapped or jailed. The conflict has killed more than 140,000 people since March 2011.Source/Agence France Presse.

Worldwide probe to identify two mystery passengers aboard missing Malaysian airliner
DEBKAfile Special Report March 9, 2014/Two passengers who boarded the Malaysian airliner which dropped out of sight two hours after departing Kuala Lumpur Saturday, March 8, purchased flight tickets at the same time with serial numbers in sequence: 7842280116099 and 78422801160100. Both used stolen passports in the names of the Italian Luigi Maraldi and the Austrian Christian Kozel to travel to Beijing and on to Amsterdam by KLM
They never lived to reach the Chinese capital and went down in the South China Sea with 227 passengers and a dozen crew.
Malaysian Airline officials said the two unidentified passengers were not required to show Chinese visas because they were in transit to Amsterdam and would not have left Beijing airport. Not until Sunday, as 40 ships and 22 planes scoured the ocean, was the first object believed to have come from the missing plane discovered (and later dismissed).
A terrorist attack was not ruled out as the investigation widened out from Kuala Lumpur and Beijing to encompass dozens of international intelligence agencies. DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources report they are looking for answers to two key questions:

1. Why did the Malaysian airline’s staff and security officials omit the routine practice at most international airports to check the passports of check-in passengers with the Interpol list of stolen and lost passports which is circulated to all airports?
2. To pass through the airport, did the phony passport-holders replace the original photos with their own? If so, there would have been some evidence of a fault in the document, which should have been picked up by someone along the line from the travel agency which sold the tickets to the airline desk and security staff at Kuala Lumpur airport.
Sunday, Interpol issued a sharp reprimand: No country checked its database for information about the stolen passports that were used to board the Malaysian Airlines 777 flight that disappeared with 239 people aboard. Information about thefts of an Austrian passport in 2012 and an Italian passport last year was entered into its database after they were stolen in Thailand.
The Interpol statement added that it has begun an inquiry to discover the identities of the two passengers using the stolen documents.
According to Malaysian security officials, the FBI has also joined the investigation and is comparing all the passengers on the plane against its own terrorist watch lists.
Meanwhile, every scrap of information is being gathered from every conceivable source. Investigators are combing through airport and hotel CCTV tapes for comparisons of the passengers boarding the plane with international watch lists. Interviews are being carried out with the desk staff at Kuala Lumpur hotels and the taxi drivers who brought passengers to the airport.
The mystery of the missing Malaysian plane deepens as every theory raised to account for its loss is quickly knocked on the head.
American security sources, who declined to be identified, reported that US intelligence agencies have checked for an explosion anywhere on the map, but found no sign of a blast in the vicinity of the airliner’s disappearance.
The report by Malaysian Air Force Commander Gen. Tan Sri Datuk Sri that military radar showed the pilot of the stricken plane had tried to turn back is also negated by aviation experts, who maintain that even if the flight crew were immobilized, the aircraft would have automatically signaled that the plane was off course.
No such signal reached air control.
In the history of aviation terrorism, it is not often that nothing at all is known about what happened aboard the missing plane to account for its disappearance. There is so little to go on – not even a distress call or an emergency-beacon signal. Five years ago, Air France Airbus A330 with 228 passengers and crew aboard crashed in the Atlantic en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. There were no survivors. When fragments of wreckage were eventually retrieved from the ocean bed, investigators reported that a technical malfunction had caused the disaster. Some reputable terror experts remain unconvinced of this up to the present day.
Two years ago, in July 2012, a bus carrying Israeli tourists was attacked in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas. Five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver were killed. The most intense efforts by Israeli, Bulgarian and FBI investigators to identity the suicide killer responsible for the attack and his accomplices have never tracked them down.


Obama and his views on Sunnis and Shiites
Monday, 10 March 2014/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
In an interview with The Atlantic magazine, U.S. President Barack Obama held on to his position that negotiating with Iran is his best option and that the region’s countries must live with this and accept it. He added that if negotiations were fruitless after six months or a year, he could impose sanctions once again. It is the American president’s right to decide what he thinks is best for his people and his country, however, his answer to the question “what is more dangerous, Sunni or Shiite extremism?” was erroneous. He was also wrong when he commended Iran, saying Iran’s behavior was driven by strategic imperatives and was not impulsive. He was also wrong in saying they have a worldview, and take into account their interests while responding to a cost benefit analysis.
We can say the same thing about Hitler, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un! Iran has as much oil as Saudi Arabia but is a poor country whose people have lived in misery for more than 30 years, like communist China the Soviet Union, Vietnam and other countries ruled by cruel dictatorial regimes. They all crumbled although they espoused a global strategic perspective and not an impulsive one, as Obama put it while admiring Iran!
Dear Mr. president…
Mr. president, Shiite extremists are exactly like Sunni extremists. Let me explain the difference to you. Shiite extremists are in posts of authority - that is Khamenei’s regime in Tehran and Hezbollah in Beirut. Sunni extremists are in the opposition camp, like al-Qaeda. They are outcasts living in caves. Trust that most of Iran’s Shiites are against the extremist regime. Your decision to negotiate granted the extremist regime of Tehran additional time and frustrated many Iranians who were hoping to get rid of the regime or force it toward openness and moderation.
The president added that he does not think Iran has a suicide wish and that believes the country can respond to incentives
Ever since Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, Iran has lived in poverty and misery. The country has been ruled with an iron fist and most of its resources have been spent on foreign wars and on supporting terrorist groups. So how does this count as a strategic perspective and what sort of gains are there considering this loss has been going on for 30 years?
The president continued to speak in a manner that shows he really doesn’t know the region, commending Iran by saying it’s a large, powerful, country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage. He added that he does not think Iran has a suicide wish and that he believes the country can respond to incentives.
The other side of the coin
Who told you we have a suicide wish? We are the ones pursing al-Qaeda and Iran is the one hosting it! Arabs constitute three times the population of Iran and consider themselves an important player. We are not saying rights are granted based on population or power, the world must stand against hostile regimes whether they are Arabs, Farsi, Muslim, Jewish or Christian. We might seem naive for believing in these principles, but this is what we expect from the strongest country that considers itself the leader of the free world.
The Iranian regime thinks that the negotiations are a reward for its hostile behavior, which president Obama is commending and considering a calculation of costs and benefits. Extremists within Tehran’s regime were the ones behind killing 300 American and French soldiers in 1983 at the Marine headquarters in Beirut, and they planned blowing up the embassy where American diplomats were killed. In the next year, they killed the head of the American University of Beirut and two years later, they hijacked a TWA airplane, killing one of its passengers. In 1986, they kidnapped an American colonel and hanged him. In 1996, they blew up an American compound in the Saudi city of Khobar, killing 19 and injuring more than 200 Americans. Iran’s criminal activity reached Buenos Aires, where they blew up a temple in 1991. The list goes on and on, and as I said, the difference between Sunnis and Shiites is the rule of Tehran today is the Shiite revolutionary guards’ regime whose ideology is similar to the Sunni extremist al-Qaeda movement, which failed to assume authority.
What President Obama spoke of expresses the simplification of a dangerous cause and he has handed a lifeline to Iran’s regime which is struggling as a result of the international siege and as a result of the domestic pressure which was threatening the extremist command. For the record, ever since it launched negotiations over its nuclear program, Iran has been more brutal as it sent thousands of its soldiers to fight in Syria, strengthened its fist on Iraq, sent weapons to Yemen and Sudan and tried to send them to the Gaza Strip. Can the president tell us how the Iranian regime responded to his incentives?
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 10, 2014.

Stones and glass houses
March 10, 2014/The Daily Star
Iraq’s prime minister has lashed out at two Gulf countries for allegedly sponsoring terrorism, an accusation that raises more questions than it answers. Nouri al-Maliki could begin by asking himself why popular discontent has been building in his country over the past years, particularly among Sunnis, and go straight from there to his tense relations with Shiites as well as with Kurds. Maliki could also examine his government’s track record on managing Iraq’s hugely important oil industry, and ask whether any desperately needed funds have been diverted because of corruption. Iraq has obviously chosen sides in Syria’s war, by supporting the regime of President Bashar Assad. Baghdad’s official backing has been accompanied by the flow of militiamen to Syria, only exacerbating the tension next door. Meanwhile, recent jail breaks in Iraq – for which the Maliki government ultimately is responsible – have worked to boost the presence of Al-Qaeda-inspired militants, both in Iraq and in Syria. Finally, his government’s heavy reliance on Iran and the dubious way Maliki himself was named prime minister, can’t be ignored either. But instead of looking inward and assessing how things went wrong, Maliki has lashed out at two Gulf states for being responsible for security problems, rising sectarianism and the scourge of terror – although one of them, Saudi Arabia, has been making headlines recently as it tackles the Al-Qaeda problem head-on. Maliki might have surprised some people when he made his knee-jerk accusation of foreign-sponsored terror, but a bigger, and healthier surprise, would have been to see an Arab leader take responsibility for the mess that is Iraq today.

Debate: Lebanon’s new government is the result of domestic politics
By: Charles Jabbour/Asharq Alawsat
It is ingrained in the Lebanese psyche that everything that happens in the country must be the result of some foreign desire or will. The formation of the government is no exception to this rule.
Indeed, foreign factors affect the course of Lebanese life, especially the previous Syrian interventions and the current Iranian ones, so they should certainly not be overlooked or ignored. These interventions prevented the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty and independence, denied the people’s free choice, and reduced Lebanon to nothing more than a ‘mailbox,’ a feeble state free for the taking by Tehran. However, at the same time, it is impossible to connect all internal political movements with foreign factors since external elements often intersect with internal ones. This makes it easier to assign merit, especially if at any given moment Iran does not pay any attention to Lebanon, and its priorities are instead confined to a specific issue—such as the nuclear—which pushes Lebanon further down its agenda.
The foreign concern is focused today on one obvious objective: to maintain stability, or at the very least, to prevent any expansion of the Syrian crisis into Lebanon. Thus, there is no problem for the international community even if Lebanon is handed over to Hezbollah. The position of former President Najib Mikati’s government is the best example of that. It is ready to cover any domestic initiative that contributes to the cooling of the Lebanese crisis.
In this sense, four domestic factors, which intersect with foreign motives and influences, comprise the fuel for the recent developments.
First, Hezbollah needed domestic Sunni cover to counter the “Takfirist” threat it faced after its involvement in the fighting in Syria. The failure of all its security measures in response to the terrorist bombings puzzled the organization and caused tension. The rising sectarian mobilization pushed Hezbollah to look for an option that kept its fighters in Syria and provided it with protection in Lebanon through its cooperation with the moderate Sunni bloc in combating terrorism. It rushed to rescind the “red lines,” which it drew, such as rejection of any government involvement in the “8+8+8″ (eight ministers from the March 8 and March 14 alliances and affiliates of the President and Prime Minister Walid Jumblatt). Thus, Hezbollah’s retreat from the negotiating ceiling has opened the door for the start of negotiations and the birth of the government, which holds Hezbollah responsible for paralyzing the country for more than ten months.
It is worth noting that the bombings that targeted Hezbollah strongholds are directly linked to its fighting in Syria, and the vain search for security solutions or nationalist Sunni insurance umbrellas fail to address the actual reasons for these attacks. Despite the close attention that the Future Movement and the March 14 Alliance paid to every drop of blood that fell, the interests of the Lebanese people lie in getting Hezbollah out of Syria. It should be discouraged from getting involved when it doesn’t have a horse in the race and when its intervention can do nothing but damage its credibility and hurt its popularity.
The second factor was the Future Movement’s need to remove President Najib Mikati, who arrived in the Grand Palace courtesy of Hezbollah, especially because a vacuum in the presidency could allow Mikati to reappear, in a position linked to the transfer of presidential powers to the Council of Ministers, and claim the position of sole head of the executive branch. Along the same lines, the Future Movement’s fear of rising extremism on the Sunni street should not be underestimated; it is reinforced by scenes of Syrian blood and the targeting of Sunnis in Lebanon. Over time, the Future Movement lost sight of its audience, especially given Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri’s presence overseas, the absence of political money, and his staying out of power. It remains an important factor also in the failure to produce serious opposition and a real peaceful civil resistance in the face of Hezbollah, as well as the Future Movement itself, which in its very nature, does not see itself out of power.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the 3 billion US dollar ‘gift’ from Saudi Arabia for the Lebanese army to buy weapons from France has pushed the latter to take action. It is attempting to initialize the government contract in order to facilitate the monetization of the gift, which requires that the new government be active. In spite of its tough stance against Tehran and its position as regional bulwark against Iranian expansion in the Arab world, Riyadh deferred the issue of Hezbollah’s participation in the government to the Lebanese people who, in Riyadh’s opinion, can better understand and appreciate the interests of their country.
Fourth, in regards to Washington, it does not give any importance to the Lebanese issue. Its only concern at this stage is to prevent the spillover of chaos from Syria to Lebanon so as not to threaten the security of Israel and turn the Syrian crisis into a regional war. This is why they take solace in the settlement of the government.
In conclusion, all the domestic and foreign forces rely on the policy of buying time, waiting for the crystallization of Iranian and Syrian situations. But there is no doubt that, this time, the domestic factors overshadowed the foreign factors. Domestic factors contributed to reaching a compromise at the government level, while foreign factors were merely catalysts and incubators for the domestic desires or interests.
**Lebanese writer and political analyst