LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 19/14
How the world has failed Syria/Octavia Nasr/Alarabiya/March 19/14
What motivates Iran to fight in Syria/By: Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya/March 19/14
Allah’s Sword of Terror/By: Raymond Ibrahim /FrontPage.com/March 19/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 19/14
Lebanese Related News
Arsal ‘siege’ sparks widespread protests
Syrian army and Hezbollah advance west after Yabroud
Vote of confidence on Cabinet imminent, but divisions remain
Blast Wounds 3 Israeli Troops in Golan, Netanyahu Vows 'Forceful' Response
Clashes Renew as Salam Expected to Meet Tripoli MPs
Suleiman Appeases Gemayel as Phalange Set to Keep Ministers in Cabinet
Suleiman Seeking to Revive National Dialogue Sessions
Change and Reform Calls for Devising Plan to Rescue Arsal, Bekaa Towns
5 Syrians Arrested in Akkar for Entering Lebanon Illegally
Lebanon Needs More Help with Massive Syrian Refugee Influx, Says U.N.
In Syrian Spillover, Hostilities Swell in Lebanon
Fletcher Kicks Off Tour in Akkar
'In Vengeance of Yabrud' Message Found Written in Blood of Slain Syrian
Western Countries Fear Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Would Join Jihad
Marshalls Government Wins Confidence Vote over al-Sayyed
Explosions in Shebaa Farms Caused by Israeli Military Drills
Detroit-area Man Jailed for Seeking to Fight with Hizbullah
Lebanon’s Eurobond spread above regional average
Miscellaneous Reports And News'
Report: Attack against IDF was attempt to kidnap soldiers
High alert on Syrian border: 'Next attack is only a matter of time'
Saudi FM: Gulf rift hinges on Qatari policies
U.S. orders closure of Syrian embassy, consulates
Report: Israel's Yaalon in U-Turn on Iran Strike
Putin Signs Treaty to Make Crimea Part of Russia
After Yabrud Capture, Syria Army Advances West
Report: Saudi Demands Qatar Modify its Policies
High alert on Syrian border: 'Next attack is only a matter of time'
Yoav Zitun/Ynetnews/Published: 03.19.14/Golan Heights attack that injured four Israeli soldiers did not surprise the IDF, who continue to stay on high alert in the area and intensify operational procedures.
The attack against IDF troops near the Syrian border on Tuesday is another stage in the general escalation in the tense relations between Israel and Hezbollah, the organization which may be responsible for planting an explosive that injured four Israeli soldiers, one of whom is in serious condition. Last December, an explosion occurred near the Syrian border, and since then, the assumption within the IDF became that another explosive aimed at troops is only a matter of time. From that time, according to foreign reports, the IDF managed to attack a weapons convoy in the vicinity of the Lebanese-Syrian border. During the past weekend, Hezbollah attempted to carry out an attack in Har Dov, but there were no reports of casualties among IDF soldiers. Even after the violent event on Tuesday, the assumption still remains that the last explosive device in the area has yet to be seen. Following the incident, the Northern Command is expected to intensify its operation procedures along the Syrian border. Army officials estimate that another attempt to harm IDF forces in the vicinity of the border will be carried out and the level of alert in the region will remain high due to fear of escalation. While the army still does not know who stands behind the Tuesday attack, it is speculated that the culprit is Hezbollah, the terror organization that has become Syrian President Bashar Assad's ally. The assumption remains held since the region in which the attack occurred is under Syrian army control, unlike most of the border fence with Israel, and since the organization is seen as responsible for the last two explosives that were placed in the area. It may also be that the explosive device was placed by jihad forces trying to pull the IDF into fighting against the Syrian army, which still controls the northern part of the Syria-Israel border. Immediately after the incident, the army conveyed "harsh statements" to the Syrian regime through the UN force operating in the area, UNDOF. "The IDF reserves the right to operate in whatever way and time it sees fit in order to protect the citizens of Israel," a statement on behalf of the army read.
Army officers estimate that those who placed the explosive device chose the area of operation very carefully, while taking advantage of the fact that it is difficult to observe the region due to its mountainous terrain.
The force that was attacked Tuesday did not cross the border fence while the explosive device detonated. The IDF will examine whether it would be appropriate in the future to allow soldiers to leave their armored vehicles, in similar cases in which a force identifies suspects on the other side of the border. In recent months, the establishment of a new combat-reconnaissance battalion was completed in the Golan Heights, which should provide a solution to the problematic area in which the explosive was placed, through advanced observation systems and radars that were deployed in the region. These systems have already proven successful in recent weeks with an early detection of the cell that placed an explosive in central Golan. On Tuesday, it seems, the army did not get an advanced warning.
Like Gaza like Golan
The new Golan Heights Division has recently formulated an operational outlook that is similar in the level of threats and coping with them as the Gaza Division.
Al-Arabiya reported that the aim of the attack was to kidnap an Israeli soldier. The device used Tuesday contained thousands of fragments and cells, and in order to rule out a kidnapping attempt, IDF cannons immediately fired heavily to mask the area. Within minutes, tanks shelled towards Syrian outposts, and Tamuz missiles hit more distant positions. The incident saw four soldiers injured, one of them is in serious condition. He was operated Tuesday evening in Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Another soldier is hospitalized in moderate condition and two other were injured lightly in the attack. All four soldiers sustained injuries as a result of shrapnel.
Report: Attack against IDF was attempt to kidnap soldiers
Al-Arabiya reports aim of attack injuring four Israeli soldiers near Syria border was an effort to abduct a soldier; IDF investigating whether device was detonoted by remote.
Roi Kais, Yoav Zitun/Published: 03.18.14, 21:36 / Israel News
While the IDF continues investigating the event in which an explosive device on the Israel-Syria border injured four soldiers, one of whom is in serious condition, Al-Arabiya reported that the goal of the operation was to kidnap an Israeli soldier. The IDF stated that "harsh comments" were made by the UN force on the field to the Syrian government. "The IDF reserves the right to operate in whatever way and time it sees fit in order to protect the citizens of Israel," a statement on behalf of the army read.
Around 2 pm on Tuesday, an army patrol of two armored jeeps drove along the border in a mountainous area that is difficult to control and observe. The area was highlighted by the IDF as troublesome due to its complex terrain which has already been abused in the past to place explosives aimed at IDF forces. The assumption of the troops in the area, according to a senior army officer, is that "it's a matter of time until the next attack."
The incident occurred after the force spotted a suspect figure in the Israeli area east of the border fence. The soldiers exited their vehicles – and then the explosion took place.
It is a similar attack to the one carried out by Hezbollah during the times the IDF was in Lebanon: Lure soldiers to approach the scene on foot and then detonate explosives while the targets have minimal shielding.
The device used Tuesday contained thousands of fragments and cells, and in order to rule out a kidnapping attempt, IDF cannons immediately fired heavily in order to mask the area. Within minutes, tanks shelled towards Syrian outposts, and Tamuz missiles hit more distant positions.
The army is investigating whether the explosive device was detonated by remote control and is expected to refine the operation procedures along the border fence, which has become a hot scene similar to Gaza. The IDF further noted the presence of many Syrian shepherds who approach the border fence and at times enter Israeli territory, and are escorted out by Israeli soldiers of fear they are collecting intelligence.
It is still unclear whether the attack was led by Hezbollah or carried out by jihad forces attempting to push the IDF to fight against the Syrian army, which is still controlling the northern Golan Heights border area.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the incident during a Likud meeting Tuesday and promised to respond.
"Recently, the border with Syria has become filled with jihadists and Hezbollah men which pose a new challenge for us to deal with. We managed to keep the peace along the Syrian border despite its ongoing civil war, but we will act firmly, if needed, to maintain Israel's security," Netanyahu said.
Vote of confidence on Cabinet
imminent, but divisions remain
March 19, 2014/By Wassim Mroueh, Hasan Lakkis/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Parliament is set to begin discussing the government’s policy statement Wednesday, with the Cabinet certain to win a vote of confidence despite expectations of a number of fiery speeches during the two-day session.
Parliamentary sources told The Daily Star that more than 100 lawmakers out of 128 were likely to give the government a vote of confidence. It is the first time Parliament is meeting since it extended its term for 17 months last May. Meanwhile, the Kataeb Party announced that its three ministers would not resign from the government after President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Tammam Salam clarified to them the policy statement’s clause on the state’s authority to defend Lebanon.“We call on Kataeb ministers to go ahead with the political confrontation from inside the government, reflecting the aspirations of the party and a large segment of the Lebanese,” said a statement issued after a special meeting for Kataeb’s political bureau. The statement said the party would adopt Sleiman and Salam’s explanation of the policy statement.
The U-turn comes after the Kataeb Party Saturday threatened to withdraw its ministers from Salam’s government unless the “dangerous ambiguity” over the state’s authority was resolved.
The current policy statement emphasizes the “right of Lebanese citizens to resist Israeli occupation, repulse its attacks and recover occupied territories.” It also stresses the state’s responsibility in liberating lands still occupied by Israel. The Kataeb Party has called for Hezbollah’s resistance actions to be placed under the state’s authority. Prior to the announcement that they would be staying in the government, party leader Amine Gemayel and a Kataeb delegation visited Sleiman at Baabda Palace. Addressing the delegation, Sleiman stressed that the policy statement “emphasizes state authority in all political affairs, particularly in the issue of defending Lebanon and liberating occupied Lebanese territories, and pinpoints this clearly in several clauses.” The president said the policy statement clauses on state authority converged with comments in his inaugural address in May 2008 that the state should embrace everybody. He said that it was also consistent with the Baabda Declaration and the national defense strategy he proposed, which emphasizes the state’s authority and its right to benefit from all legitimate national capabilities. The Kataeb statement said Sleiman made the same assurances to Gemayel Monday.
A source from Baabda Palace said Sleiman would invite the country’s rival leaders for a National Dialogue session after he returns from Kuwait, where he will attend the Arab summit scheduled for March 25 and 26.
“But the date for the session has yet to be set,” the source said, requesting to remain anonymous. The source added that none of the political parties had said they would boycott Dialogue in case an invitation was made, adding, “The atmosphere is positive so far.”The session would exclusively discuss the national defense strategy, the source said. The last Dialogue session was held in November 2012 when Sleiman proposed a national defense strategy that would place Hezbollah’s arms under the control of the Lebanese Army. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future parliamentary bloc highlighted the importance of the new government’s policy statement, particularly the absence of the “Army, people and resistance” clause that was seen to legitimize Hezbollah’s arsenal. A statement by the bloc after its regular meeting voiced hope that Hezbollah would commit to implementing the policy statement. Separately, Speaker Nabih Berri chaired a meeting for his parliamentary bloc at his Ain al-Tineh residence which discussed the policy statement ahead of Wednesday’s session. At the beginning of the Parliament session, Salam will read the government’s policy statement, which will then be debated over the coming two days. At the end of discussions, the Cabinet will be put to a vote of confidence. Thirty MPs have so far asked to speak during the session, including former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, although this does not include any heads of parliamentary blocs. The parliamentary sources did not rule out the possibility of heated discussions during the session, particularly over the policy statement’s controversial resistance issue and the fact that both the March 8 and March 14 coalitions have presented the clause as it best suits them. Lebanese Forces MPs told The Daily Star that their bloc would attend the session and that they would reiterate their opposition to the policy statement and reiterate their belief that Hezbollah’s ultimate goal was to take control of the state. LF MPs and Chouf MP Marwan Hamade are expected to give the government a vote of no confidence.
It is still unclear how Mikati and Future bloc MP Mohammad Kabbara will vote.
Syrian army and Hezbollah advance west after Yabroud
March 19, 2014/The Daily Star/DAMASCUS: The Syrian army has taken control of several hills southwest of the former rebel stronghold of Yabroud as it seeks to secure territory between the city and the Lebanese border, a security source said Tuesday. Two days after it seized Yabroud following a month of shelling and air strikes, backed by fighters from Hezbollah and local militias, it is now moving to secure the area along the nearby border with Lebanon, which has been a key supply route for the opposition, allowing them to transport fighters and weapons. The source in Damascus told AFP that the army was focusing on a string of villages in the mountainous Qalamoun region – Ras al-Ain, Rankous, Flita and Ras al-Maara – while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Hezbollah fighters and army troops had entered parts of Ras al-Ain after fierce clashes with rebel groups. North of Yabroud, rebels fought with army troops, paramilitaries and Hezbollah fighters on the outskirts of Nasirieh, disabling a tank and causing an unspecified number of casualties, the Observatory said. Elsewhere, airstrikes and barrel bombs rained down on the city of Aleppo, killing at least 16 people, including six children, the Observatory added.
The children and a woman were among 14 killed in airstrikes on the neighborhoods of Karam al-Beik and Sadd al-Loz, while two men perished when a barrel bomb was dropped by helicopter on the neighborhood of Sakhour, it said. Fierce clashes also raged between regime troops and rebels in several parts of Aleppo, as the Tawhid Brigade detonated an explosive device in a tunnel beneath the city’s Justice Palace, with casualties confirmed in the incident, the Observatory said. Four Islamist rebels and a member of the Nusra Front – an Al-Qaeda affiliate – were killed in clashes in the Lairamoun district, while three regime soldiers were killed in fighting near the city’s historic Citadel, the Observatory added. The violence in Aleppo came as Marcell Shehwaro, a prominent female activist who was detained a day earlier by rebels for refusing to wear the hijab, was released.
The rebels, who had detained Shehwaro and her friend Mohammad Khalili, issued a statement “apologizing in the strongest terms” for the arrests.In the Damascus area, five people were killed by opposition mortar fire in several districts, state news agency SANA and the Observatory reported. Four people were killed in the Jaramana suburb, southeast of the capital, and another died in the eastern neighborhood of Zablatani, SANA said. Fierce clashes also raged in the neighborhood of Jobar in the capital, activists said.
Rallies were held in the southern province of Deraa, where activists mark March 18 as the outbreak of the uprising, now in its fourth year, while rebels staged an attack on the Gharz prison in the city, according to activists.
Meanwhile, the United States closed down Syria’s embassy to Washington and ordered its remaining diplomatic staff to leave the country if they were not U.S. citizens. Washington also notified Damascus that it would no longer be able to operate its two consulates in Troy, Michigan, and Houston, Texas, after the embassy announced last week that it would no longer be providing any consular services. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the decision was taken because “the illegitimacy of the Assad regime is so overwhelming.”More than 140,000 people have been killed in the 3-year-old war, and the regime was “indiscriminately attacking civilians,” Kerry told students at a State Department event. “So we just felt the idea that this embassy is sitting here with representation that we could take seriously is an insult, and we closed it. It’s that simple,” he said.
The Syrian Embassy in the U.S. capital had been operating for some time without an ambassador, who left the U.S. in December 2011, leaving only a few low-level staff who had been providing limited consular services.
U.S. Special Envoy to Syria Daniel Rubinstein insisted, however, that “despite the differences between our governments, the United States continues to maintain diplomatic relations with the state of Syria as an expression of our longstanding ties with the Syrian people, an interest that will endure long after Bashar Assad leaves power.” A message on the embassy website Tuesday said: “Please Note that Embassy of Syria would not be able to proceed any consular services starting Tuesday March 18, 2014. Thank you for understanding.” Washington also said Syrian diplomats at the embassy who were not U.S. citizens or permanent residents, were no longer allowed to work in the United States and must leave the country by March 31. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said this would likely affect a handful of diplomatic staff and their families. She confirmed however that the Syrian mission to the United Nations in New York would continue to operate, as part of U.S. obligations for hosting the U.N.
Arsal ‘siege’ sparks widespread
March 19, 2014/By Dana Khraiche, Rakan al-Fakih/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Officials struggled Tuesday to contain fallout over a makeshift blockade of Arsal, as residents of a neighboring village closed the main thoroughfare into the northern town and urged it to clamp down on Syrian rebel activity. One person was killed as angry demonstrators blocked several roads throughout Lebanon Tuesday evening in protest of what they called the siege imposed on Arsal by residents of Labweh after the latter cut off its vital “artery.” Labweh residents used sand barriers to block the only highway connecting Arsal to the valley and Beirut following repeated rocket attacks on the Bekaa Valley town.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk pledged to reopen the road by Wednesday morning. The Army said that starting Tuesday evening Army units would boost their presence in border areas of the northern Bekaa Valley, particularly Arsal and Labweh. “We will reopen all roads between these two villages to secure the passage of people and preserve security and stability in the region,” an Army statement said.
Residents in the Bekaa Valley towns of Taanayel, Jdita and Saadnayel, as well as three Beirut areas and the coastal city of Sidon blocked roads in protest at what they described as attempts to besiege Arsal, which hosts over 100,000 Syrian refugees. In the capital, protesters blocked the road connecting the Cite Sportive stadium to the Cola area, the Qasqas neighborhood outside the Kashkhji Mosque, and Corniche al-Mazraa with burning tires.
In Qasqas, the Army deployed heavily, firing several shots into the air and using tear gas to disperse the protesters, wounding one person who was transferred to a nearby hospital and later died. The military was able to reopen several of the roads, including in Sidon and Qasqas.
Described as Arsal’s lifeline, the blocked highway connects residents to the rest of Lebanon and is an important trade road for the town, which is surrounded by rugged, mountainous terrain. A number of Arsal residents gathered near an Army checkpoint at the town’s entrance, demanding security forces reopen the highway. An unknown gunman fired on the checkpoint, but there were no casualties.
Most of the attacks on Labweh and other predominantly Shiite towns in the area were claimed by militant Islamist groups linked to the armed Syrian opposition, citing Hezbollah’s role in Syria. Residents of Labweh accuse the majority-Sunni Arsal of providing a safe haven for militants, claiming the rockets were fired from the town’s outskirts. Arsal is known for its strong support for the opposition, although town officials have insisted they only provide humanitarian assistance. Labweh’s mayor, Ramez Amhaz, has urged residents of Arsal to cooperate with the state to clear the town of Syrian rebels.
Prominent Arsal residents are working on a compromise that would see the Army deploy in the areas where Syrian rebels are allegedly firing rockets at Labweh. The aim of such a compromise would be to ensure Arsal’s neutrality with respect to the war in Syria. Tensions have soared between Arsal and neighboring towns after the Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah, regained control of the previously rebel-held Yabroud Sunday.
The takeover forced many gunmen from the Syrian opposition to flee Yabroud for the mountainous outskirts of Arsal. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned of incitements against Arsal as well as the northern city of Tripoli. Hariri voiced “the utmost level of solidarity with Arsal, its residents, and with Tripoli, which will never abandon its just cause.”“History will tell of their support to the oppressed Syrian people, of hosting and providing relief to the displaced ... just as history will tell that Hezbollah is responsible for involving Lebanon in the Syrian fire and participating in a war to support Bashar Assad’s regime at the expense of the Syrian people and Lebanon’s safety,” he said in a statement.Hariri said he contacted MP Fouad Siniora, head of the Future bloc, and the general secretariat of the Future Movement to form a working group and develop an immediate plan to address the social and urgent humanitarian cases in Tripoli and Arsal and to provide “needed elements of steadfastness” in these two areas. Meanwhile, the Syrian army claimed to discover two sites in Yabroud that were allegedly used by radical groups to rig car bombs bound for Lebanon as well as to manufacture rockets, local media reported. Speaking to Al-Manar television, a Syrian officer said the military uncovered “the central hub” where rebels rigged vehicles with explosives. In the past few months, Lebanon has witnessed over a dozen car bombs and rocket attacks, most of which were claimed by Islamist radical groups seeking to strike Hezbollah over the group’s involvement in Syria. The deadly attacks have targeted predominantly Shiite areas where Hezbollah enjoys wide support.
Al-Manar also reported that the Syrian army dismantled a vehicle rigged with 200 kilograms of RTX explosives in Yabroud. The vehicle had a Lebanese license plate. Television footage showed the vehicle packed with explosives with the detonator placed near the driver’s seat. Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas confirmed that Syrian fighters managed to enter Lebanon after the fall of Yabroud. “After every battle in Syria, the number of refugees to Lebanon rises, and after the battle of Yabroud, gunmen also entered,” Derbas said after meeting MP Bahia Hariri in Sidon. “We cannot leave things in a haphazard manner.”
Report: Israel's Yaalon in U-Turn on Iran Strike
Naharnet/Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has hardened his stance on Iran following
developments in nuclear talks with the West and would now back a unilateral
Israeli strike, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Yaalon also accused Washington of "demonstrating weakness" in the Ukraine crisis in comments published by Haaretz newspaper.
Known for his hawkish views on the Middle East peace talks, Yaalon has long been regarded as a moderate on Iran, urging restraint as talk raged over a possible strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities to prevent it from acquiring military knowhow. But the minister's attitude has changed as world powers have responded to Iran's "smile offensive" in the ongoing nuclear talks, the paper said as a fresh round of negotiations resumed in Vienna.
"We had thought the ones who should lead the (military) campaign against Iran is the United States... But at some stage, the United States entered into negotiations with them, and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better," he said. He charged that while the world powers know Iran "cheats," Westerners "prefer to put off confrontation, if possible to next year, or the next president".
"Therefore on this matter we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves," he said, in remarks aligning him with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has repeatedly refused to rule out a unilateral Israeli strike. Israel and much of the West believe Iran's nuclear program is a cover for developing a military capability, a charge denied by Tehran. But there has been a noticeable softening towards the Islamic Republic since the election of reputed moderate President Hassan Rouhani, a move that has angered Israel. Yaalon also accused Washington of "demonstrating weakness" in the confrontation with Moscow over Ukraine, the biggest stand off between the two powers since the Cold War. If the U.S. continued to demonstrate weakness overseas, its own security would be harmed, he said.
"If you sit and wait at home, terrorism will come again," Haaretz quoted him as saying. "If your image is feebleness, it doesn't pay in the world... I hope the United States comes to its senses. If it doesn't, it will challenge the world order and the United States is the one that will suffer."Source/Agence France Presse.
Report: Saudi Demands Qatar Modify its Policies
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 March 2014/Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal has warned there will only be rapprochement between Riyadh and Doha when Qatar "modifies" policies at the center of their spat, a newspaper reported Tuesday. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates earlier this month recalled their ambassadors from Qatar after accusing the fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) state of interfering in their internal affairs and of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar is widely seen as a supporter of the Brotherhood and its affiliates, which are banned in most Gulf states. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies have long been hostile toward the Brotherhood, fearing that its brand of grassroots activism and political Islam could undermine their authority. "There will be detente if Qatar modifies the policies that are at the origin of the crisis" with its neighbors, Prince Saud said in a short statement published by pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat on Tuesday. The minister added, in response to a question from the newspaper, that there will be "no American mediation to put an end to the crisis". President Barack Obama is expected to visit Riyadh at the end of March. Saudi Arabia at a March 5 meeting of the GCC demanded that Doha shut down the Qatari-owned television station al-Jazeera, an informed source said. Riyadh at the meeting also called for the closure of two think-tanks based in Qatar, the Brookings Doha Center and the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies.
Critics have accused influential network al-Jazeera of biased coverage in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, and several of its journalists are on trial in Egypt for allegedly supporting the group.
The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. Source/Agence France Presse.
Phalange Party Decides to Keep
Ministers in Cabinet, Vows 'Political Confrontation'
Naharnet Newsdesk 18 March 2014/The Phalange Party on Tuesday decided to keep its three ministers in Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet despite its reservations over the government's policy statement.
“We ask the Phalange Party's ministers to continue in their political confrontation inside the cabinet,” the party said in a statement issued after an emergency meeting for its political bureau. “The possession of arms poses a major threat to Lebanon and would lead to the proliferation of militias in all regions and this puts us before two choices: reviving autonomous security or reading the policy statement in an alternative manner that guarantees state's sovereignty,” the party added, in a statement recited by former social affairs minister Salim al-Sayegh. “We have made moves for the sake of the second option, which is the state,” the party said.
The Phalange's decision came after meetings with President Michel Suleiman and PM Salam.
The party urged the “highest authorities” to “correct the needed points and clarify the ambiguity as recently recommended by the (Maronite) patriarch” Beshara al-Rahi.
“The president, the head of the state, stressed that the policy statement is based on the state's authority and jurisdiction over all political affairs, emphasizing that the statement is in harmony with the Baabda Declaration,” the party noted. “Suleiman confirmed that he will call for national dialogue once the confidence session (in parliament) ends, which verifies that the issue of resistance is a controversial topic,” the Phalange Party added.
It said Salam had “appreciated” its stance over the policy statement. “The visits we made have clarified the official interpretation of the policy statement, and this is what concerns us,” the party went on to say.
“We have decided to reject the current ambiguous formula of the policy statement and we consider ourselves not concerned with the principle of ministerial solidarity, but we ask the Phalange Party's ministers to continue in their political confrontation inside the cabinet,” it added.
The party underline that it will continue its “struggle for the sake of the state and its institutions.”
“The cabinet is an essential arena for this struggle and for national dialogue and we must neutralize Lebanon from conflicts and reach the state's monopoly over arms,” it said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel visited President Suleiman at the Baabda Palace a day after holding talks with the prime minister on his party's reservations over the cabinet's policy statement.
Several ministers and lawmakers representing the Phalange accompanied Gemayel to seek clarifications from Suleiman, who told the delegation that “the policy statement focuses on the authority of the state in all political affairs and mainly the defense of Lebanon and the liberation of occupied Lebanese territories.”
The party warned late Saturday that the three ministers representing it in Salam's 24-member government will resign before a parliamentary vote of confidence if the policy statement wasn't amended.
The reservations expressed by the Phalange are on the following clause: "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 aggressions and regain the occupied land.”Gemayel's meeting with Salam was preceded by talks between the premier and Phalange MP Sami Gemayel.
Phalange ministers Sejaan Qazzi and Ramzi Greij also visited Salam at the Grand Serail.
An Nahar daily said that an amended copy of the policy statement was distributed to MPs ahead of the two-day vote of confidence session on Wednesday.
The Phalange MPs are likely to give their confidence to the cabinet.
Lebanon’s Eurobond spread above
March 19, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Despite a slight improvement recently, the spread on Lebanese Eurobonds remains the ninth highest in the Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa region, according to investment bank Merril Lynch. The spread has dropped slightly this year, as the market reacts to political developments, including the formation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s Cabinet on Feb. 15.
“Since the formation of the Cabinet, the spread on Lebanese bonds has improved around 25 basis points,” a banker told The Daily Star. “There are still challenges ahead, but the average is acceptable.”
Merrill Lynch said the spread on Lebanese Eurobonds reached 399 basis points at the end of February, the 20th-highest among emerging markets, Byblos Bank’s Lebanon This Week reported.
“It was wider than the EMEA spread of 293 basis points as well as the emerging markets’ overall spread of 326 basis points at end-February 2014,” the report said.
“ Lebanon has a weight of 3.81 percent on Merrill Lynch’s Sovereign Plus Debt Index, the third highest in the EMEA universe and the eighth highest among emerging economies. Lebanon accounted for 7.4 percent of allocations in the EMEA region.”Lebanon’s public debt now stands at $63.5 billion, or 141 percent of the country’s GDP. Rating agencies have warned in outlook reports that Lebanon’s credit rating could be lowered if the deficit-to-GDP ratio continues to raise above the forecast 11 percent in 2014. Standard & Poor’s has forecast Lebanon’s combined current account and fiscal balance at 12.7 percent of GDP in 2014.
Moody’s and S&P both have maintained negative outlooks for Lebanon’s sovereign debt. Merrill Lynch said Lebanon’s external debt performance was relatively good compared with some emerging markets.
Lebanon’s external debt posted returns of 2.21 percent in the first two months of 2014, Byblos Bank said, constituting the 19th highest return of the 35 markets in the EMEA region, as well as the 34th highest among the 63 emerging markets included in Merrill Lynch’s Sovereign Plus Debt Index. “ Lebanon underperformed the EMEA region’s returns of 2.54 percent and the overall emerging markets returns of 2.25 percent, but it outperformed the 0.61 percent returns posted by sovereigns rated ‘BB’ and lower during the covered period,” the report said. For February, Lebanon’s external debt post slightly lower returns, at 1.27 percent, the 13th-best return in the Middle East and Africa region. The country outperformed Jordan, while lagging behind Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt and Morocco. The head of research at Byblos Bank, Nassib Ghobril, said the price of Lebanese Eurobonds in the market remained attractive.“The return on these bonds shows the performance of the Eurobonds in the markets,” he said.
Saudi FM: Gulf rift hinges on Qatari
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News /Tuesday, 18 March 2014/Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the political crisis with Qatar is unlikely to be solved "as long as Doha does not revise its policy," the Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper cited him as saying on Tuesday. In an unprecedented move within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar on March 5, accusing Doha of failing to abide by an accord not to interfere in each others' internal affairs. The three GCC states are angry at Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement whose ideology challenges the principle of conservative dynastic rule long dominant in the Gulf. "If Qatar’s policy, which sparked the crisis, is amended, then there will be a breakthrough," he told the newspaper. The minister also said that it is unlikely that Western mediation will play a hand in settling the dispute with Doha. "There is no American mediation to resolve the Gulf crisis," he said. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE had recalled their envoys, saying the move was taken "to protect their security and stability." The trio also said that Qatar had not “committed to the principles” of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, and said "Qatar has to take the appropriate steps to ensure the security of the GCC states." Al-Hayat quoted sources as telling the newspaper last week that a number of Saudi officials did not attend bilateral meetings in Doha with their Qatari counterparts. By not attending the meetings, scheduled to be held in the past two weeks, indications of a deepening crisis between Qatar and the Gulf trio have emerged.
U.S. orders closure of Syrian embassy,
Lesley Wroughton, WASHINGTON /Tuesday, 18 March 2014
The United States on Tuesday ordered the Syrian embassy in Washington and its consulates in Texas and Michigan to suspend operations and told diplomats and staff who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents to leave the country. “We have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States,” U.S. special envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein said in a statement, according to Reuters. It comes three years since the start of the bloody civil war in Syria that has killed more than 140,000 people. U.S. special envoy to Syria Daniel Rubenstein said the order responds to a decision by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to suspend its own consular services, according to AP. However, Rubenstein said the U.S. wants to continue diplomatic relations with Syria and maintain a relationship if Assad steps down from power. Rubinstein said “despite the differences between our governments, the United States continues to maintain diplomatic relations with the state of Syria as an expression of our longstanding ties with the Syrian people, an interest that will endure long after Bashar al-Assad leaves power.” The Syrian embassy in the U.S. capital had been operating for some time without an ambassador and with only a few low level staff who had been providing limited consular services. A message on the embassy website Tuesday said: “Please Note that Embassy of Syria would not be able to proceed any consular services starting Tuesday March 18, 2014. Thank you for understanding.” Washington also said Syrian diplomats at the embassy who were not US citizens or permanent residents were no longer allowed to work in the United States and must leave the country.
The statement did not address the issue of the Syrian mission to the United Nations based in New York. [With AFP and Reuters]
How the world has failed Syria
Tuesday, 18 March 2014/Octavia Nasr/Alarabiya
Three years on, Syria has literally turned to ashes. Syrians have been scattered in heartbreaking ways incomprehensible by any logic or reasoning. The suffering and pain, totally unnecessary, unwarranted and certainly undeserved, is beyond imagination. How can we describe the situation in Syria and what logic can we employ to make any sense of the past three years? No words or deeds at this point can alleviate a fraction of what Syrians have gone through and will go through for a long time to come. Cowardice must be the headline. Everyone is coward except the victims. Start with the cowardice of a regime that prefers to see its nation destroyed and burned to the ground, useless, deserted except for ghosts. A regime that will stop at nothing to remain in power, even if all what is left is power over bodies and body parts. Bashar Assad had the power to reform but he refused to use it because inclusion was never in his plans. Change was never on his agenda. A thriving Syria was never what he aspired for.
Failing to lift a finger
The neighbors and the rest of the international community were also cowards. When the time was right to act in support of the suffering Syrians and the struggling opposition, no fingers were lifted. No real action was taken to prevent the bloodbath even when it was clearly occurring. The world numbingly watched Syria descend into its disastrous fate as various monsters fought over its many wounds and broken limbs.
The neighbors and the rest of the international community were also cowards. When the time was right to act in support of the suffering Syrians and the struggling opposition, no fingers were lifted
The opposition’s cowardice is in its division and its lack of vision, leadership and direction. The momentum was there, the energy as well; the people took a courageous leap of faith and stood in the face of the tyrant. They quickly discovered that there was no clear plan or serious effort to swiftly contain the situation and rally support in the face of a bloodthirsty regime with equally bloodthirsty friends and allies.
Syria is desperate, calling for nothing more than pity. No one with a heart or with their right mind would say anything that could only make things worse. Now is a time to be silent, what needed to be said was said. There were warnings, there were threats, there were diplomatic efforts, there were tears and there was so much blood and so many bodies than anyone bears to count.
The cowardice today is to exist without feeling remorse or responsibility! **This article was first published in al-Nahar on March 17, 2014.
What motivates Iran to fight in Syria?
Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya
What does Iran want by being so politically active and making its population pay such a dear price? The population, like others in the Muslim world, suffers from poverty and disease, despite the countries massive oil industry. Iran is planning to bolster its power and influence, seeking to confirm its readiness to fight in Syria , propagating conspiracy in Iraq and spoiling its relations with Saudi Arabia and other neighbors. It also applies pressure on the West at times and eases pressure at other times. What does Iran want out of all of this? It is easy to answer the question: what did Britain want from India? It took interest in India as an investment which gave English politicians and businessmen abundant income. This enabled them to enjoy an aristocratic lifestyle. By understanding their reasons for occupying India, we can understand the reasond behind their occupation of South Yemen, their interest in the Gulf sheikhdoms and Egypt. Based on the same logic we can explain the foolish reason behind Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. He saw Kuwait as a source of money as it has enormous oil reserves. He saw it as a means to solve all the economic problems caused by Iraq’s eight year war with Iran. Turning to Egypt, why did Gamal Abdel Nasser send his army to Yemen in an adventure that went awry? There was no clear benefit to the Yemen campaign, it seems it was simply about feeding Nasser’s ego. He wanted to lead the Arab nation into conflict for his own personal glory. There was no economic gain or strategic influence for Egypt in the mountains of Yemen.
The case of Syria
I use the example as a reference when answering the question: Why is Syria so important to Iran? The answer is not based on old imperialist economic calculations; there is no economic gain for Iran in Syria nor in Lebanon, nor in Yemen. Australian researcher Roger Shanahan focused on the Sayeda Zeinab Shrine as a reason for the attention of Iranian Shiites on Syria, in an article published by the Carnegie Center a few weeks ago. He asked: What does Syria mean to the Shiite of the region? He was unable to provide a better answer than saying Syria is a strategic extension of Iran’s influence in the region. He also added that “It is as well necessary to ensure the supply line to Hezbollah in Lebanon , being the most powerful manifestations of the Islamic revolution.”
However, those reasons are purely political , and they do not justify the high cost borne by the Iranian economy, and Iran’s extreme support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. It also does not justify the intervention of Iran in Yemen . Iraq alone provides an economic incentive to motivate Iran to be involved in the country. Involvement in Iraq provides huge gains for some of the men in power in Tehran.
Nevertheless it is certain that is not honest or sustainable money that is gained in Iraq. Iraq is rife with corruption and injustice, an obscene price paid by the Iraqi people, resulting in poverty, ignorance and a tremendous deterioration in the simplest of services.
Does Iran seek to open markets for its products and companies? Yes it does, like the Soviet Union and his neighboring Communist countries. But even if this is the case, to justify it economically they do not need to establish militia parties such as Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran does not have to finance and arm ideological movements such as the Houthis in Yemen. In addition to that, weapons smuggling into Nigeria does not serve the policy of opening markets. Saudi Arabia and Turkey, for instance, are opening markets in Middle East countries without the need to form militias.
Seeking to spread Shiism
What if Iran is seeking to spread Shiism in the region and the Islamic world? This is a fact , and Iran is ready to bear the consequences. Iran knows that this resulted in anger in many countries, with protests ranging from Malaysia to Morocco. It is possible to justify the reason as being the duty of any ideological state. They don’t need to establish militias and secret networks for that. Saudi Arabia spends money on a lot of schools and mosques around the world openly and clearly. Egypt and its Azhar Mosque do the same, but without the need to establish militias.
What motivates Iran and stimulates its appetite for domination? One opinion is that it was Iran’s consistent purpose since the Shah’s time, who once wanted to be the Gulf’s policeman. However, Iran in its current state is pragmatic; domination according to the colonial era idea of the concept has become an obsolete idea.
Syria was never Shiite, so why does Iran fight in Syria with such ferocity? It is fighting to defend the system of minority dictatorship that can only prevail by force
Times have changed and the Gulf is no longer in need of a policeman after the American cop entered the scene. It is better for the Iranians to practice the Turkish model, encouraging business and not domination. Iran has a skilled labor force looking for jobs and factories looking for markets.
I found some answers in what Dr. Juma Hamad al-Essa wrote in his book Time of Strife: Shiites against Sunnis, Sunnis against Shiites.” From what I understood, radicalism drives Iran’s ayatollahs. They have a dream of building an Islamic state in preparation to receive the Mahdi, the 12th Imam who they expect to return at the end of times, a concept in Iranian Shiite Islam. Iranian ayatollahs want to facilitate his mission of unifying the Muslim world and preventing injustice. When Sunni Fundamentalism became active, an example being the Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia, the dispute was centered on ideology and not sectarianism. However, when Shiite fundamentalism was activated, the dispute was defined within the parameters of sectarianism: it was about Sunni vs. Shiite and vice versa. The problem with Iranian, or Shiite, fundamentalism is that it occurred outside the borders of Iran, where the majority of the public is different. Other countries’ weaknesses tempted Iran into believing it was her time to lift the perceived oppression of the region’s Shiites.
Why is Iran involved?
There are points of contact for the Shiite fundamentalism in the entire Islamic world outside of Iran. Even in Iraq , which some people assume is a Shiite bloc, there is a Shiite majority but if the Kurds are ruled out, it is not enough to make it a Shiite country . Logic, reason and history dictate that secularism is best for Iraq. This will preserve the rights of Shiites and Sunnis. But if someone insisted on a different approach, it will cause the partition of Iraq and that is what is happening today.
Syria was never Shiite, so why does Iran fight in Syria with such ferocity? It is fighting to defend the system of minority dictatorship that can only prevail by force. It is a non - sustainable cause, unless radicalist Iranians believe that they can convince the majority of the Syrian Sunni population to become Shiite.
The dream of transforming Syria into a Shiite country is one of the most important sectarian causes for Iran’s involvement. Tehran is dealing with Syria as it is in Iran’s backyard in terms of distance. Iran is trying desperately to defend Bashar al-Assad and his regime and it is involved in the fighting, sending experts and volunteers to the country.
Even the argument of confronting extremist groups in Syria is compelling. Those become the problem of the Sunni majority in Syria before they can be considered as a problem for the Shiites.
We, as Muslims - Sunni and Shiite – have enough problems and challenges. We all suffer underdevelopment, ignorance, disease, intolerance and tyranny. We are all in underdeveloped third world countries.
**This article was first published in al-Hayat on March 15, 2014.
Allah’s Sword of Terror
March 18, 2014 by Raymond Ibrahim /FrontPage.com
Khalid-ib-WalidThe first time I heard about Khalid bin al-Walid—the 7th century Muslim jihadi affectionately known in Islamic history as “The Sword of Allah”—was when I was in college researching for my MA thesis on the Battle of Yarmuk, when the Muslims, under Khalid’s generalship, defeated the Byzantines in 636, opening the way for the historic Islamic conquests.
Nearly a decade and a half later, Khalid, that jihadi par excellence, has come to personify a dichotomy for me—how the jihad is understood in the West and how it really is: officially, Western academia, media, and politicians portray it as defensive war to protect Muslim honor and territory; in reality, however, jihad is all too often little more than a byword to justify the most primitive and barbaric passions of its potential recruits and practitioners.
Based on the English language sources I perused in college, Khalid was a heroic, no-nonsense kind of jihadi—fierce but fair, stern but just. He was the champion of the Apostasy Wars, when he slaughtered countless Arabs for trying to leave Islam after the death of Muhammad. Modern day Muslims writing about Khalid—see for example Pakistani army lieutenant-general A.I Akram’s The Sword of Allah—had naught but praise for him, the scourge of infidels and apostates.But as years went by, I came across more arcane and Arabic sources telling of the “darker side” of The Sword—a depraved and sadistic side.
For example, only recently I came across a video of a modern-day Egyptian Salafi explaining how Khalid raped Layla, the wife of Malik bin Nuwayra—but only after he severed her husband’s head, lit it on fire, and cooked his dinner on it. Khalid was recalled and questioned by the caliph—not because he killed and dined on an apostate’s head and “married” his wife, but because some believed that Malik was still Muslim, not an apostate to be treated so, and that Khalid killed him on the accusation of apostasy only as a pretext to take possession of his wife, whose beauty was renowned.
In the words of Ibn Kathir’s authoritative historical tome, The Beginning and the End (al-bidaya we al-nihaya), “And he [Khalid] ordered his [Malik’s] head and he combined it with two stones and cooked a pot over them. And Khalid ate from it that night to terrify the apostate Arab tribes and others. And it was said that Malik’s hair created such a blaze that the meat was so thoroughly cooked.”
More eye-opening is the way the videotaped Egyptian cleric recounts this whole narrative with awe and admiration—boasting, for example, how that when Khalid entered the caliph’s tent for questioning he was “wearing armor all soaked and rusted from blood [of his enemies], with arrows sticking out of his turban.”
As for the near-cannibalistic meal that the Sword of Allah ate, the cleric complained that “People wonder how our lord Khalid could have eaten from such meat? Oh yes—he ate from it! Our lord Khalid had a very strong character, a great appetite, and everything! All to terrorize the desert Arabs [apostates]. The matter requires determination; these matters require strength—terrorism.”
Of course, all this accords with the Koran’s many commands to “strike terror” into the hearts of disbelievers, be they born infidels or apostates (see Koran 3:151, 8:12, 8:60).
Now, let us fast-forward to the modern era’s “Arab Spring” and U.S. support for “freedom-fighters” trying to “liberate” Syria (the official, Western narrative of the jihad), and let us reflect on its true nature—from a jihadi (ironically named “Khalid”) biting into the heart of a soldier (and thus striking terror into the hearts of Assad’s “apostate” regime) to Islamic clerics justifying rape and prostitution to gratify the many swords of Allah.
And at last, let us understand that the heartbeat of the jihad—sex, violence, and rapine—has scarcely changed in nearly fourteen centuries.
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