March 18/14


Bible Quotation for today/All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Matthew 23,1-12. /: "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
Thank you for all your warm wishes on my anniversary. Please continue praying for me.
Pape François 
Merci pour toutes les expressions d’affection pour l’anniversaire. S’il vous plaît, continuez à prier pour moi.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 18/14

Marking the third anniversary of the Syrian revolution/Ahmad Jarba/Al Arabiya/March 18/14

Remembering Kuwait after the fall of Yabrud/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 18/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 18/14
Lebanese Related News

Iranian official: Hezbollah's arsenal has deemed Israel's Iron Dome a joke

Fighting Resumes in Bab al-Tabbaneh, Jabal Mohsen as Army Clashes Anew with Gunmen

ِAmin Gemayel Meets Salam, Hopes for Clarifications on Policy Statement

Kataeb Party set to withdraw threat to quit Cabinet
Lebanese Army Blows up Booby-Trapped Vehicle on Fakha-Ras Baalbek Road
Army Arrests 19 Syrians, 2 Lebanese in Wadi Khaled for Illegally Entering Lebanon

Brazilians with Cocaine in Their Stomachs Held at Beirut Airport

Plumbly: Recurrence of Violence Should Encourage Lebanese to Rally around State Institutions

Rockets Hit Bekaa Towns as Tension Rises after Yabrud Fall

Jumblat: Life Has Burdened the People to Suffer Sophistic Policy Statement Debates

Suleiman Urges Security Forces to Remain on High Alert to Thwart Attempts to Create Strife

Salam Urges Military to Control Situation in Eastern Border Areas

Judge Bseibes in Bekaa Sentences Kidnap Gang for Life

Rising Fears of More Retaliation in Lebanon after Fall of Yabrud

Geagea Ready for 'Serious Dialogue' with Hizbullah, Says Polls 'Mother of All Battles'

Miscellaneous Reports And News'

Ukraine casts pall over Iran nuclear talks

Obama Tells Abbas Risks for Peace Are Needed

West pulls punches on sanctions for Russia over Crimea. EU whittles down list of targets

U.S., EU Sanction Russians, Ukrainians after Crimea Vote
Putin Signs Decree Recognizing Crimea as Independent State as Region Applies to Join Russia
Iran Says 'Ready to Help' End Syria War

Deadly Sectarian Violence Cripples Algeria Desert City

Syrian Army Readying Assault on Last Rebel-Held Areas in Qalamoun

Israel's Peres Apologizes over Shooting of Jordan Judge

Jordan Condemns Israel 'Escalation' in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa

Egypt Probe Blames Security, Armed Protesters for August Carnage

New U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Named

10 Egyptians Jailed over Anti-Constitution Vote Protest  


Ukraine casts pall over Iran nuclear talks
Associated Press/Ynetnews
Written by George Jahn.,7340,L-4500187,00.html
Published: 03.18.14/Analysis: Crimean crisis may interfere with US and Russian cooperation on preventing Iran's nuclear weapons program. Tehran may have a new ally when Iran nuclear talks reconvene Tuesday – the Ukraine crisis. US-Russian tensions over Ukraine could fray the search for consensus on what Iran needs to do to ease fears it could make atomic arm. Both Washington and Moscow are emphasizing that their commitment to eliminating any Iranian proliferation threat overrides their clash over Ukraine. But diplomats tell The Associated Press that Moscow and Washington are wide apart on how much Tehran needs to trim its nuclear program, a split that Iran could exploit. In a more immediate sign of possible trouble ahead, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif cancelled a planned dinner Monday with the European Union's foreign policy chief over her meetings with opposition activists in Iran earlier this month.
Ahead of the resumption of the Vienna talks, US State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said she expects Russia to "remain an active partner" in the attempt to persuade Tehran to agree to long-term nuclear curbs in exchange for full sanctions relief. A senior Russian diplomat said his country would work "actively" to reach a deal. He demanded anonymity because he did not have permission from Moscow to comment. But former US nuclear negotiator Gary Samore says any superpower tensions will make Tehran feel "under much less pressure to make concessions."That, in turn, could affect what the US sees as central goal – reducing the number of Iranian centrifuges set up at uranium enrichment sites. Iran says its enrichment program is meant only to make lower-enriched fuel for reactors, scientific research or for medical treatments. But because enrichment to very high levels creates weapons-grade uranium that can be used in nuclear warheads, Washington wants Tehran to scale back from nearly 20,000 centrifuges to no more than a few thousand.
Russia's demands are far less strict. Two diplomats told the AP that Moscow was open to Iran keeping many more of the machines – perhaps even the status quo of the nearly 20,000 – with further negotiations on how many would be allowed to operate. Moscow's condition would be that Iran ratify an agreement with the UN nuclear agency that would give agency experts wide-ranging inspection powers to make sure Tehran's nuclear program is peaceful, they said. The diplomats are familiar with the details of the closed-door talks but demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss them.
China usually supports Russia's position at the negotiations, but Moscow's stance is rejected by the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
Moscow and Washington have been able to bridge previous differences over Iran. And former State Department official Mark Fitzpatrick notes that even during the Cold War, the two nations cooperated "despite many periods of intense distrust." Fitzpatrick, who is now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, lists Russian-US teamwork on bringing about the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and extending its reach as well as concluding several arms control agreements as examples of how common interests can override even the worst tensions. Still, he says a Moscow at odds with Washington over larger geopolitical issues could put its own agenda – including building nuclear reactors for Iran – above cooperation. Russia, he says, always "marches to its own drum."
Samore, of Harvard's Belfer Center, says Iran is bound to feel "emboldened," and public statements and actions from Tehran seem to mesh with that view, including the reported dinner cancellation. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman, Michael Mann confirmed only that – contrary to established routine – the two would not meet for dinner.
At the same time Moscow is negotiating on reducing Iran's nuclear program, it is in talks on expanding it by building new reactors there. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said last week his country and Russia had common interests and that Tehran was banking on "Moscow's help to reach the final agreement." Iran's Fars news agency, meanwhile, appeared to take a dig at veiled US threats of military strikes if negotiations fail and Washington believes that Tehran is working on a bomb. It republished a cartoon showing President Barack Obama peering into an empty paint can marked "Red Line."
The cartoon shows a grinning Russian President Vladimir Putin walking away, with the caption: "I think you used it all on Syria."

Iranian official: Hezbollah's arsenal has deemed Israel's Iron Dome a joke
By JPOST.COM STAFF/02/13/2014 13:57
Hossein Sheikholeslam, a top Iranian adviser on foreign affairs, says Hezbollah has "tens of thousands" of missiles pointed at Israel. Iron Dome rocket defense battery [file]
of weapons in Lebanon has deemed Israel's Iron Dome rocket defense system "a theoretical joke."Iran's Fars News Agency quoted the Iranian Parliament Speaker’s top adviser for international affairs, Hossein Sheikholeslam as saying, “Now Hezbollah has tens of thousands of missiles ready to be fired at Israel.”
Iran's military chief says ready for war with US, Israel . Sheikholeslam said that Hezobollah has been able to build its "deterrence power" with the help of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and his late father Hafez Assad, Syria's former president. The comments were the latest in a string of increased Iranian rhetoric against Israel and the US over the past week which has broken with the pacifying message of President Hassan Rouhani. The increased rhetoric coincides with celebrations marking the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution which took place earlier this week.
A senior Iranian military official was quoted by Iran's Press TV as saying Thursday that the massive turnout at the rallies was a response to the "foolish rhettoric" by American officials against Iran.
Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior advisor to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that the US saying that the military option is on the table "is like a joke."
Safavi further critisized Washington's policies, saying, “The US practically showed in the Syria issue that it supports terrorists and supplies them with arms, and this is one of the reasons behind our mistrust.”

Fighting Resumes in Bab al-Tabbaneh, Jabal Mohsen as Army Clashes Anew with Gunmen
Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/Clashes renewed Monday afternoon in the northern city of Tripoli after a period of cautious calm that had started in the morning following a night of intermittent fighting. “Clashes renewed as four shells exploded and volleys of machinegun fire were heard in the vicinity of Tripoli's Souk al-Qameh,” al-Jadeed television reported. “Two grenades exploded in Bab al-Tabbaneh's Baal al-Darawish and were followed by heavy gunfire and the army is responding with anti-aircraft guns against the sources of fire,” it said. Meanwhile, LBCI television said clashes renewed between gunmen and the army in Tripoli's Syria Street which separates the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. “An army post was targeted with an RPG in Tripoli's al-Zahriyeh area near Barrad al-Bissar,” MTV said. State-run National News Agency said the army closed the international highway that links Tripoli to Akkar near the al-Qasr bakeries in al-Zahriyeh and prevented citizens from passing on it due to “the heavy sniper gunshots that were targeting the highway between the Abou Ali roundabout and the al-Mallouleh bridge.”"Raed Abou Halab was hit by a bullet to the head in Tripoli's vegetable market," Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) reported. The child Ammar Shrouq was also wounded in the vegetable market, according to the radio station.  In the morning, NNA said “cautious calm” prevailed in all hotspots as intermittent sniper fire was heard in mainly the rival districts of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.
The army consolidated its deployment in the two areas and carried out patrols in the city's streets. It also erected checkpoints and checked the identities of passers-by. Tripoli also witnessed limited traffic although most shops and businesses were open in areas far from the districts witnessing clashes, NNA said. But classes in schools and universities remained suspended to preserve the security of the students, the agency added.
Tripoli Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar rejected attacks on the army after a soldier was killed and several others were injured in different armed assaults on military patrols over the weekend. Al-Shaar told Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) that armed forces should strike with an iron fist and arrest the suspects that are tampering with the security of the city. The gunmen should be held accountable and the state should take the appropriate measures against them, he said. At least 12 people have been killed and 96 others wounded in four days of clashes in Tripoli, according to NNA.Overnight, the army announced the death of a soldier when a military patrol in the city was hit by an anti-tank grenade. The latest fighting, which has also injured at least 50 people, broke out on Thursday after a Jabal Mohsen man was killed by unknown gunmen on a motorbike in central Tripoli.


Army Blows up Booby-Trapped Vehicle on Fakha-Ras Baalbek Road
Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/The Lebanese army blew up on Monday a booby-trapped vehicle found on the Fakha-Ras Baalbek road in eastern Lebanon, after firing an RPG-7 rocket on it, the military and the state-run National News Agency reported. The army said in a communique that it blew up the car, which contained 170 kilograms of explosives, after the military expert inspected it and found difficulty in defusing it.
It launched an investigation to identify the suspects involved in the plot to blow up the vehicle, the communique added. The driver of the silver Grand Cherokee has escaped, NNA said. Reports said the vehicle had entered Lebanon with another Grand Cherokee that was used by a suicide bomber on Sunday in an attack in the town of al-Nabi Othman. Later on Monday, MTV said a security cordon was imposed after another booby-trapped car was discovered in al-Labweh. For its part OTV quoted al-Labweh municipal chief Ramez Amhaz as saying that a gray Grand Cherokee suspected of containing a bomb was being chased in al-Labweh's plain.
Sunday's car contained 100 kilograms of explosives, the army said. Several people were killed and injured in the bombing. A group calling itself the Baalbek Ahrar al-Sunna Brigade and al-Nusra Front in Lebanon made separate claims of responsibility for the bombing. Voice of Lebanon radio VDL (93.3) said Monday's incident came as security forces and the army had information that six explosives-laden vehicles ready to be used for bombings had entered Lebanon from Syria. Reports said the army carried out raids near Wadi al-Fakha to find four gunmen hiding there. Soldiers also raided al-Nabi Othman and al-Labweh to find the booby-trapped vehicles, they said. The bombing plots are seen in retaliation to the fall of Yabrud, a strategic Syrian town near the frontier. Hizbullah fighters have been instrumental to Syrian President Bashar Assad's success on the battlefield, and support from the Iranian-backed fighters appears to have tipped the balance into the government's favor in Yabrud.


Kataeb Party set to withdraw threat to quit Cabinet
March 18, 2014
By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Kataeb Party is expected Tuesday to withdraw its threat to quit the Cabinet following Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s clarifications over the policy statement ahead of a Parliament vote of confidence, political sources said Monday.
“The Kataeb Party’s Political Bureau will meet tomorrow [Tuesday] to decide on retracting its threat to withdraw its three ministers from the Cabinet in light of clarifications made by Prime Minister Salam over the policy statement,” a political source told The Daily Star.Salam offered clarifications Monday over the government policy statement aimed at appeasing the Kataeb Party, which had threatened to withdraw its ministers unless a clause on the state’s authority in defending Lebanon was modified.Salam’s move came shortly after he had talks separately with former President Amine Gemayel, head of the Kataeb Party, and his son, Metn MP Sami Gemayel, at the Grand Serail to discuss the party’s reservations over the policy statement that fails to put Hezbollah’s resistance against Israeli occupation under state authority as demanded by the March 14 coalition.
The draft policy statement, approved by the Cabinet last week, stressed “the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repulse its attacks and recover occupied territories.” It also emphasized the state’s responsibility in liberating lands still occupied by Israel in south Lebanon.
After hearing Amine Gemayel’s reservations, Salam said the Cabinet’s policy statement has “affirmed commitment to the state’s sovereignty, authority and the unilateralism of its decision-making.”
“The Cabinet has stressed in its [policy] statement the unity of the Lebanese state and its exclusive authority in issues related to the general policy,” Salam told Gemayel, who was accompanied by Kataeb MP Elie Marouni and former minister Salim Sayegh, according to a statement released by the premier’s office.
“The Cabinet has also stressed the state’s responsibility and role in safeguarding the country’s sovereignty, independence and the safety of its sons,” he added.
Salam pointed out that the consensus over the policy statement reached by the rival factions following two marathon Cabinet sessions last week was “an achievement for everyone and ended a phase of negative polarization which consumed a lot of time and effort in favor of an acceptable formula in which there was no winner or loser.”“The [compromise] formula has restored an atmosphere of consensus which reflects positively on the Cabinet’s work,” Salam said.
Gemayel described his meeting with Salam as “cordial,” saying he discussed with the premier the Kataeb reservations over the policy statement with regard to the state’s role in defending Lebanon. He said he would meet President Michel Sleiman soon for the same purpose.
“I hope through all these contacts to get some clarifications and positive responses in order to reassure us as well as the Lebanese public ... and achieve the national interest in line with the slogan of the current Cabinet,” Gemayel told reporters after meeting Salam. While showing understanding toward Gemayel’s concerns over the policy statement, Salam said it is essential to look forward for the Cabinet to win a vote of confidence in Parliament so that it can get to work and address the people’s “urgent priorities.”
“We look positively to the Kataeb Party’s continued shouldering of national responsibility within the Cabinet,” Salam said. “We are looking forward for the [Kataeb] ministers’ effective contribution toward the desired Cabinet work.”
Speaker Nabih Berri has called Parliament to meet Wednesday and Thursday at 10:30 a.m. to debate the government policy statement ahead of a vote of confidence, which is essential for the 24-member Cabinet to begin its work.
The three Kataeb ministers along with Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi from the Future Movement have voiced reservations over a clause in the policy statement because it fails to link the resistance against Israeli occupation to state authority. Rifi and other March 14 ministers have demanded that the use of Hezbollah’s arms against Israel be put under state control.

ِAmin Gemayel Meets Salam, Hopes for Clarifications on Policy Statement
by Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/Phalange Party chief Amin Gemayel hoped on Monday that the government will respect its slogan of achieving Lebanon's national interests. He said after holding talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam: “We hope to receive clarifications over the policy statement.” “We hope to reach positives in order to reassure the Lebanese people,” he added after the party had expressed reservations over the policy statement that was drafted on Friday. Gemayel revealed that he will soon hold talks on the statement with President Michel Suleiman. For his part, Salam praised Gemayel for his positions, saying that he understands his insecurities. “The policy statement of the government of national interest stresses Lebanon's sovereignty,” he added. “The statement highlighted the unity of the state in that it is the sole authority in Lebanon tasked with handling public affairs,” he explained. “The Lebanese people are looking forward to having their problems tackled and for normalcy to return to constitutional institutions,” remarked the premier. It is therefore necessary for cabinet to receive parliament's vote of confidence in order to allow the new government to begin addressing national affairs, said Salam. On Saturday, the Phalange Party warned that its ministers in the government will resign before a parliamentary vote of confidence if the policy statement wasn't amended. Parliament is scheduled to discuss the statement on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of subjecting the cabinet to a vote of confidence.

Suleiman Urges Security Forces to Remain on High Alert to Thwart Attempts to Create Strife
Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/President Michel Suleiman hailed on Monday the “great efforts” exerted by the army and security forces in obstructing the criminal plans of extremists against Lebanon. He urged “the military and security forces to remain on high alert to thwart attempts to create strife.”He made his remarks after holding talks with General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim at the Baabda Palace.
Moreover, Suleiman called on the security forces to maintain the coordination among each other in order to preserve security, stability, and civil peace. A suicide car bomb attack killed four people and wounded several others late Sunday in the Bekaa town of al-Nabi Othman. Those killed were two Hizbullah members, including a local official, and a woman and her husband who later died from their wounds.
A group calling itself the Baalbek Ahrar al-Sunna Brigade claimed responsibility for the bombing. The attack comes hours after the Syrian army backed by Hizbullah fighters captured Yabrud, a former rebel bastion in Syria near the Lebanese border.

Geagea Ready for 'Serious Dialogue' with Hizbullah, Says Polls 'Mother of All Battles'
Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has expressed readiness to engage in a “serious dialogue” with its arch foe Hizbullah and described the upcoming presidential elections as the “mother of all battles.”“There is no tension with Hizbullah. Our differences with it are not personal or sectarian,” Geagea told al-Akhbar newspaper in an interview published on Monday.
“Our differences lie on viewpoints because I consider that what it (the party) is doing would lead to destruction,” he said about Hizbullah's involvement in the Syrian war.
“Such differences are present among all parties,” he added. Geagea refused to “waste time,” telling his interviewer that he was “ready to talk to Hizbullah if the dialogue was serious.”
Geagea, whose party has not taken part in Prime Minister Tammam Salam's 24-member government for refusing to share power with Hizbullah, criticized the cabinet's policy statement.
He said the document's resistance clause, which was adopted on Friday after almost a month of political wrangling between the March 8 and 14 alliances, “paved way for every group to arm itself under the excuse of the resistance.” “What would the government do if a group of citizens in Jbeil, Tripoli or Hasbaya decided to get arms to resist the occupation?” Geagea asked.
He also criticized the policy statement for not clearly stating the Baabda Declaration that on June 2012 received the backing of the rival parties during a national dialogue session chaired by President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace. The March 8 and 14 alliances pledged to distance Lebanon from the region's turmoil although Hizbullah has openly fought alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops against the rebels seeking to topple him. The policy statement's resistance clause states: "By the virtue of the state's responsibility to preserve Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the government stresses the state's duty and efforts to liberate the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and the occupied part of Ghajar (village) through all legitimate means, while stressing the right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repel its aggression and regain the occupied land.”  Geagea said the LF lawmakers will not give their confidence to the government although they would participate in the session called for by Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday and Thursday.
Asked about the presidential elections as Suleiman's six-year term ends in May, the LF chief said the March 14 alliance should strongly get engaged in the electoral battle to achieve its objective. Describing the polls as the “mother of all battles,” Geagea told al-Akhbar that “unlike what some say, the president has authorities.” “He is the symbol of the state,” he said.

Brazilians with Cocaine in Their Stomachs Held at Beirut Airport
Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/Customs authorities at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport on Monday foiled an attempt to smuggle into the country a quantity of cocaine that came from Brazil via Ethiopia, state-run National News Agency reported. “Three Brazilians arrived from Brazil via Ethiopia. Two of them had quantities of cocaine in their stomachs while the third hid a cocaine stash in his double-bottomed suitcase,” NNA said. “The quantity of cocaine they tried to smuggle has been estimated to weigh around eight kilograms while one of the men who swallowed the cocaine was admitted into hospital after he suffered medical complications,” the agency added. The three men were referred to the Central Anti-Drug Bureau for further investigations. On Tuesday, a 25-year-old Brazilian man was also arrested for trying to smuggle 6.1 kilograms of cocaine into Lebanon

Rockets Hit Bekaa Towns as Tension Rises after Yabrud Fall

Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/Three rockets landed on Monday on residential areas of the eastern town of al-Labweh from the hills overlooking the village of Arsal, the state-run National News Agency reported. LBCI TV said one person was injured in the rocket attack, which was followed by an assault by another three rockets on the outskirts of the town of Arsal. Later on Monday, the army issued a statement saying “a rocket landed in the town of al-Labweh as three other rockets hit near the towns of al-Labweh and al-Nabi Othman.” The army said the rockets were fired from across the border with Syria, leaving a citizen wounded and causing material damage. “Army forces staged patrols in the targeted areas as a military expert inspected the places where the rockets exploded,” the statement added. Since Sunday's fall of Yabrud, a frontier town and a strategic smuggling hub for the rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon has been on edge. Syrian rebels have been fleeing into Arsal, a Sunni town, and have vowed to avenge the fall of Yabrud, which was a major gain for Syrian government troops and their Hizbullah allies. The retaliation came as early as Sunday night when a suicide bomber blew up his explosives in the town of al-Nabi Othman, a predominantly Shiite town whose residents support Hizbullah. On Monday, Lebanese troops came across a Grand Cherokee on the Fakha-Ras Baalbek road and blew it up, firing a rocket-propelled grenade. The army said in a communique that the car was to be used in a terrorist bombing. Al-Labweh, a Shiite town that supports Hizbullah, has been coming under almost daily attacks by Syrian rebels or fighters supporting them. Arsal and its outskirts have also continuously come under air raids by Syrian government warplanes, which over the weekend chased the fleeing rebels into Lebanon.

Plumbly: Recurrence of Violence Should Encourage Lebanese to Rally around State Institutions
Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly expressed on Monday concern at incidents of violence in the northern city of Tripoli, northern and eastern Lebanon during the past few days, so condemned in a statement Sunday's suicide car bombing in the area of Nabi Othman in east Lebanon that killed and wounded a number of people.
He said: “The recurrence of such indiscriminate acts of violence should serve as further encouragement for all Lebanese to rally around state institutions, particularly the army and the security forces, as they work to protect Lebanon from the impact of the crisis in neighboring Syria.”Plumbly extended his condolences to the families of the victims of all these incidents. Two Hizbullah officials and two other people were killed in Sunday's blast near the border with Syria. In addition, Plumbly welcomed again the recent formation of the government, as well as the agreement reached on a policy statement, “as important steps towards reinforcing Lebanon’s institutions in the face of the numerous challenges confronting the country including at the security level”. The Special Coordinator reiterated the U.N.’s readiness to stand by the Lebanese authorities and expressed the hope that those responsible for the recent acts of violence will be brought to justice as soon as possible. The latest round of clashes between Tripoli's rival Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods erupted on Thursday, leaving dozens of casualties.

Army Arrests 19 Syrians, 2 Lebanese in Wadi Khaled for Illegally Entering Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/The Lebanese army announced on Monday that it has arrested a number of Lebanese and Syrians for attempting to illegally enter Lebanon. It said in a statement that it detained the two Lebanese and 19 Syrians in the Wadi Khaled region near Syria in the North. It confiscated in their possession a Kalashnikov rifle, two guns, and ammunition. In addition, they were found in the possession of 30 mobile phones, a laptop, and different foreign currencies. Investigations are underway with the detainees. Since the eruption of the uprising in Syria in March 2011, security forces and the army have arrested a number of gunmen and individuals who sought to enter Lebanon illegally. The un-demarcated Lebanese-Syrian border has facilitated the flow of gunmen to and from Syria.

Jumblat: Life Has Burdened the People to Suffer Sophistic Policy Statement Debates

Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014 /Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat criticized on Monday the lengthy debates and discussions that preceded the drafting of the government policy statement and their impact on the daily lives of the people. He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “Life has burdened the Lebanese people to suffer the ministerial sophistic debates linked to the policy statement.”
“They were forced to be imprisoned in their cars” due to the strict security measures taken in Beirut at the time the panel drafting the statement was meeting on Friday, he lamented, while comparing their situation to that of doomsday. He also criticized the March 14 commemoration ceremony held on Friday, saying sarcastically: “The people were left stranded in their vehicles for hours and hours due to the security measures that accompanied the poetry festival.”“The greatest speeches and the most eloquent long poems were recited at the commemoration that the Lebanese people, stuck in their cars, have rarely cared for,” Jumblat said.
The March 14 forces marked on Friday the ninth anniversary of the movement's formation. “The people are destined to suffer such debates and the show will continue,” the MP stated. “Rest in peace Kamal Jumblat as fate took him at the appropriate time” before he could witness such days, remarked the lawmaker on the occasion of the anniversary of his father's assassination on March 16, 1977.
“Fate would have it that he was taken from us before he could witness the unprecedented debasement of Lebanese politics that has become devoid of the morals he was committed to,” he stressed. The policy statement was drafted late on Friday night after arduous discussions between the rival March 8 and 14 camps. Strict security measures were taken at the time of the ministerial discussions and the March 14 commemoration, resulting in congested traffic in several areas of Beirut, which left people stuck in their cars for several hours. The March 14 General Secretariat issued an apology on Saturday for the traffic, criticizing the concerned ministries for failing to give a warning to the people over the strict measures.

Judge Bseibes in Bekaa Sentences Kidnap Gang for Life

Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/The criminal court in northern Bekaa led by Judge Jean Bseibes, sentenced Maher Tleis and three other Syrians for life for their involvement in different kidnappings in the area, the State-run National News Agency said on Monday. Tleis and the three Syrians, al-Jasem, Ali al-Ali and Radwan al-Tayeh, were sentenced for life hard labor. Tleis has been been involved in several crimes including the preparation of booby-trapped cars in Syria which are later transported to Lebanon for terrorist acts, according to reports.

Rising Fears of More Retaliation in Lebanon after Fall of Yabrud

Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/Fears rose in Lebanon on Monday that gunmen, who have fled into Lebanon after Syrian government troops and Hizbullah fighters captured Yabrud, a strategic town near the frontier, would increase retaliatory attacks against the supporters of the Shiite party. The first alleged retaliation came on Sunday when a suicide bomber driving a Grand Cherokee left several casualties in the town of Nabi Othman, about 30 kilometers north of Baalbek. A group calling itself the Baalbek Ahrar al-Sunna Brigade claimed responsibility on Twitter for the bombing.
"Prepare for the transfer of the battle of Yabrud into Lebanese territory," it said. Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon also claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter, describing it as "a quick response to the Iranian party's (Hizbullah's) bluster following its extortion of the town of Yabrud." Yabrud was a major smuggling hub for the rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad. The town's fall is the latest in a string of strategic gains by Assad's forces that have consolidated authority in the past months in Syria's major cities, including the capital, Damascus. Hizbullah fighters have been instrumental to Assad's success on the battlefield, and support from the Iranian-backed fighters appears to have tipped the balance into the government's favor in Yabrud. However, the fact that opposition fighters fled into Lebanon through the northeastern town of Arsal suggests the conflict could bleed further into Syria's neighbor. The civil war already has ignited polarizing sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. As Safir daily quoted informed security sources as saying that “more than one suspicious vehicle could have entered Lebanon” to carry out a bombing. The sources warned that the armed groups, which fled Yabrud to Arsal, “could resort to more retaliation.”
But the Lebanese army has taken strong measures to prevent the infiltration of the gunmen from Arsal to other Lebanese areas, military sources said. The sources told As Safir that the army units deployed in the Bekaa Valley would take all necessary measures to prevent chaos.

Iran Says 'Ready to Help' End Syria War

Obama Tells Abbas Risks for Peace Are Needed
Naharnet Newsdesk 17 March 2014/U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that both he and Israeli leaders must make tough political decisions and take "risks" for peace.
Meeting Obama at the White House, Abbas said Israel's release of a fourth tranche of Palestinian prisoners by March 29 would show how serious Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was about extending peace talks.
"As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when he was here just a few weeks ago, I believe that now is the time ... to embrace this opportunity," Obama said as he sat side-by-side with Abbas in the Oval Office.
"It is very hard, very challenging. We are going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we able to move forward," Obama said. The U.S. leader wants Abbas to agree to a U.S. framework to extend peace talks past an end-of April deadline. Little tangible progress has been made in the past seven months. He said that everyone already understood the shape of an "elusive" peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, saying it would be based on 1967 lines with mutual land swaps. Abbas did not directly address the Israeli government's demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a "Jewish" state.
He noted through a translator that the Palestinians had recognized Israel's legitimacy in 1988 and in "1993 we recognized the state of Israel." Abbas also noted the agreement that the Palestinians have with Israel on the release of a fourth batch of prisoners by March 29. "This will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of these efforts to achieve peace," Abbas said.
"We don't have any time to waste. Time is not on our side, especially given the very difficult situation that the Middle East is experiencing and the entire region is facing," he said.
Israeli ministers said last week that they would have difficulty approving the prisoner release if agreement was not reached to extend the peace talks. Israel committed to the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in four tranches when talks were launched in July. It has so far released 78 of those in three batches. Ahead of the White House talks, thousands of Palestinians rallied in West Bank cities to show support for Abbas.
"We're here today to stand up to pressures upon us and make sure president Abbas adheres to his convictions," said Nasser Eddin al-Shaer, a former Palestinian education minister and member of Fatah's Islamist rivals Hamas, at a 5,000-strong rally in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Obama told Netanyahu when they met at the White House on March 3 that the peace framework cannot be simply a deal agreed by Israel and the United States and then presented to the Palestinians as a take-it-or-leave-it offer. But officials also privately say that the Palestinians will be required to make concessions on issues like the return of refugees and borders if they are to secure a state at long last. However, despite intensive diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry, the two sides appear to have made little progress since the talks resumed in July after a three year freeze.
Abbas met Kerry on Sunday for what a senior State Department official said were "frank and productive" discussions. "We are at a pivotal time in the negotiations and while these issues have decades of history behind them, neither party should let tough political decisions at this stage stand in the way of a lasting peace," the official said. The most nettlesome issues in the peace process include the contours of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and mutual recognition. The Palestinians want borders based on the lines that preceded the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, including now-annexed Arab east Jerusalem. They have also insisted there should be no Israeli troops in their future state. But Israel wants to retain existing settlements it has built inside occupied Palestinian territory over the past decades. It also wants to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan. Source/Agence France Presse.


West pulls punches on sanctions for Russia over Crimea. EU whittles down list of targets
DEBKAfile Special Report March 17, 2014/Both the US and European Union held back Monday, March 17, from harshly punishing Russia for going through with the Crimean referendum, which overwhelmingly approved union with Russia. The US imposed travel bans and froze the assets of seven top Russians and three Ukrainians, while the European foreign ministers in Brussels listed 21 mostly unnamed targets for those same sanctions for a period of six months.
President Barack Obama warned Moscow not to go any further but rather to engage in dialogue for resolving the Ukraine crisis diplomatically.
The Russian officials targeted for US sanctions were close to President Vladimir Putin:
Speaker of the upper house of parliament Valentina Matviyenko;
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin;
Putin’s personal advisers Vladislav Surkov and Sergey Glazyev;
Chairman of the upper house foreign affairs committee Leonid Slutzky;
Chairman of the Federation Council’s legislation committee Andrey Klishas;
Chair of the parliamentary committee for women and children Yelena Mizulina, as well as
Ex-Ukraine prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.
The Crimean leaders on the list are regional prime minister Sergei Aksenov and parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov.
The EU foreign ministers meeting in emergency session in Brussels pared their original list of 121 names for sanctions to 21, whose names they refused to divulge except for the commander of Russia’s Black Fleet, Alexander Vitko. Ten are members of the Russian parliament, three are military commanders and eight Crimean officials. They were barred entry to European countries and their assets frozen for six months. Some of the targets no doubt withdrew their assets from European financial centers in good time.
The foreign ministers were careful to exclude such powerful Russian economic figures as Gazprom head Alexei Miller and Rosneft head Igor Sechin from the list of sanctions. Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz indicated earlier that the Europeans would not make the mistake of picking on Russian “business bosses.”
The White House announced that the sanctions could be broadened if Russia moves to incorporate Crimea into its territory. Russian officials earlier promised a proportional response against EU and US officials if sanctions were forthcoming
Tuesday, after 96.7 percent of eligible voters in Crimea voted to split from Ukraine and unite with Russia, Putin is to deliver a speech to the Dumas on the Ukraine crisis ahead of the vote on March 21 to approve the annexation of Crimea to the Russian federation. A formal application was submitted by Crimea Monday. Meanwhile the Russian ruble was declared the region’s second official currency.

Marking the third anniversary of the Syrian revolution
Monday, 17 March 2014/Ahmad Jarba/Al Arabiya
After 50 years of tyranny and despotism, after five decades of having all aspects of freedom blotted out and the political, economic, social and cultural aspects of life in Syria eliminated, the revolution emerged.
The revolution emerged from a complex material, political and cultural reality in Syria. After the outbreak of the Arab Spring, Syria was expected to be among the first countries to witness a revolution. While Tunisia had a “dignity revolution,” Egypt’s sought economic prosperity and Libya’s broke out for political reasons, Syria’s revolution is the result of these three problems combined.
From the beginning, Syrian youth changing “Syria wants freedom!” took to the streets to demand freedom and the downfall of an authoritarian regime. Beyond any national, religious or sectarian agenda, the Syrian people chanted: “One, one, one, the Syrian people are one.”
Regime response
The regime responded with suppression and with arrests, viewing the young revolutionaries as modern-day Don Quixotes, tilting at windmills and living in a waking dream. What the regime forgot is that it is the dreamers who have the capacity to alter reality.
The regime failed to quell the youth, and the more it imprisoned and murdered Syria’s young people the more determined to follow the path of freedom the Syrian people became.
The regime tried to drive a wedge between the Syrian people; it strived to tarnish the image of the revolution and ultimately militarize it
The train of revolution was gathering steam, and the only option the regime had left was to try to derail it. That regime tried to entrench sectarianism by involving Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade. It committed one massacre after another in hope of provoking an overwhelming reaction.
The regime tried to drive a wedge between the Syrian people; it strived to tarnish the image of the revolution and ultimately militarize it. It sought to force the youth to take up arms, but to no avail. Its failure forced it to commit even greater violence, and eventually to adopt a scorched-earth policy. In retrospect, the regime’s excessive killing and destruction and barbarity were directly responsible for the revolutionaries’ decision to take up arms after six months of peaceful protest.
Militarized the revolution
After having militarized the revolution and created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and similar radical organizations, the regime continued killing on the pretext of combatting “terrorism,” committing the most barbaric crimes using all variety of weapons. In doing so, it displaced the Syrian people, destroyed their homes and ruined their businesses. Since the first day of the revolution, the regime’s only strategy has been to waste time and let the crisis drag on until the people are completely fed up and the rebels exhausted and spent.
Prisoners die every day, hour and minute across Syria as a result of the regime’s starvation policy.
This regime is barbaric. It did not, has not and will not understand reality, and nor does it want to. It keeps singing its resistance songs and playing fake triumphal marches. It keeps repeating its anti-terror discourse. But it has failed miserably in the face of the ongoing civil movement, the protests, and the rebel bullets that have all disturbed Bashar Al-Assad’s sleep over the past three years.
We tried to make real the Syrian refugees’ dream of returning to their homeland when we sat around the table at the Geneva II conference. The Syrian opposition tried to put an end to the murder and the violence by proposing a political solution centered on the establishment of a transitional executive body with full powers. It was the Assad regime that ensured the failure of Geneva II by holding firm to its tiresome and hackneyed discourse, failing to make any commitments or offer any compromises. It continues to speak the only language it knows: the language of killing. After having used chemical weapons on its own people, it invented barrel bombs, seeking only to terrify Syrians by any and all means.
Because the great Syrian people are so full of dignity and magnanimity, we depend on them as they continue their civil struggle. We support all their choices regarding any and all possible solutions. This revolution cannot suffer between the hammer of regional polarization and the anvil of international interests.
The revolution will continue. The Syrian people, after all the sacrifices they have given, will not give up their dreams of freedom and dignity. In the name of the greatest revolution in the history of the world, they are heroes demonstrating in the name of freedom. The “One, one, one, the Syrian people are one!” slogan that has echoed across Syrian from the first day of the revolution will live on, until victory has been achieved.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 15, 2014.
**Ahmad Jarba has been the president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the main coalition of opposition groups of the Syrian war, since July 6, 2013.

Remembering Kuwait after the fall of Yabrud
Monday, 17 March 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
A Syrian fighter sadly admitted that the opposition lost the battle for the town of Yabrud after weeks of fighting. He said: “We couldn’t last longer than we did with the simple weapons we had as there were thousands of [well-armed] Assad and Hezbollah forces.”Yabrud may not have been a decisive battle just like Qusayr was never a conclusive one. But Yabrud may be a dangerous indication of the direction in which the war is headed. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra have kept the Free Syrian Army busy by dragging it into marginal battles and diverting its attention away from fighting against the Syrian army. Meanwhile, Iran brought together its militias under one command retakng cities, one after the other. It’s important that we put things in perspective. The fall of Yabrud is a dangerous sign which Arab decision-making circles must address with concern. The fall of Yabrud exemplifies Iran’s success in leading the war in Syria. Iran is not only sending weapons to the Syrian regime, but is also sending fighters recruited from countries such as Pakistan and Iraq. These fighters stand alongside thousands of Hezbollah fighters.
Not just another confrontation
We must not consider Syria’s war to be simply another confrontation in the region. It is a decisive regional war, and this is why the Iranians are dying to win it. If the Iranians win Syria, they will control almost all the Arab north – including Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. If this were to occur, it would be easy for Iran to strengthen complementary fronts in Yemen and Somalia. Also, Omar al-Bashir’s government in Sudan is continuously serving Iran’s military needs. Despite the high price, no one doubts that helping the Syrian people out of this horrific massacre is a moral duty and necessary political work
The repercussions of this Iranian victory may decide the region’s fate; therefore, we must be aware of those repercussions. International superpowers, mainly the U.S., usually recognize the fait accompli and comply with the country. When Iran controls a vast area of the Arab region and threatens passages used for the transport of energy commodities, the only choice these countries will have is to recognize Iran and deal with it at the expense of weaker countries. This is what U.S. President Obama expressed in his recent speech about Iran. He said it is a large country with aspirations and a strategic vision and added that he is willing to accept the fait accompli, or the new reality.
A similar challenge
Saudi Arabia confronted a similar challenge when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Saddam Hussein’s aim was to impose Iraq as a dominating power in the Gulf. Do not think that convincing the Americans to participate in fighting against him was easy. Hussein resorted to Arab mediators in an attempt to convince the West that he was willing to protect its regional interests and that it must remember that he fought Iran on the West’s behalf. Saudi Arabia, however, was quicker and more adept at reaching London and Washington and dedicated all its abilities to confronting the Iraqi threat and liberating Kuwait. In the end, the initiative cost Saudi Arabia more than $120 billion. The battle was, however, necessary and worth the political and military price paid because if Saddam stayed in Kuwait indefinitely - and this was a possible scenario - the Gulf would have been at his mercy. If Saudi Arabia fought against Saddam Hussein on its own, the war may have lasted for ten years, like what happened between Iraq and Iran in their eight-year-war.
Yes, Syria is a little further afield than Kuwait but it remains part of the regional struggle and it represents part of the aggressive axis which Iran is trying to build.
Despite the high price, no one doubts that helping the Syrian people out of this horrific massacre is a moral duty and necessary political work. Unfortunately, recent losses forewarn of the situation falling in favor of the Iranian axis. I know that Saudi Arabia is currently alone in providing more than 70 percent of the aid sent out to millions of Syrians, and I know the kingdom is arming and funding opposition forces to a higher degree. Saudi Arabia is also suffering due to the prohibitions on arming the opposition with advanced weapons; countries which buy these arms cannot sell them or hand them over to a third party unless the original source of these weapons approves. Despite these difficulties, the price of not confronting Iran’s alliance will be greater than losing Yabrud. The fate of the entire region is in danger. With Syria’s fall, the battle will be direct and more costly.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 17, 2014.