March 26/14

Bible Quotation for today/‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’
John 1,47-51/: "When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ "

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
We cannot be tepid disciples. The Church needs our courage in order to give witness to truth
Pape François
Nous ne pouvons pas être des disciples tièdes. L’Église a besoin de notre courage pour rendre témoignage à la vérité.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 26/14

Possible candidates in lebanon's presidential race/Daily Star/26.3.14
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia: friends, not dependents/
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 26/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 26/14
Lebanese Related News

More Syrian rockets fall on Lebanon

Suleiman Rejects Extension of his Term, Doubts Hizbullah Would Allow it

Khalil Withdraws from Arab League Meet during Jarba's Speech

Geagea Says Lebanese Need President 'Who Doesn't Compromise', Urges Security Plan
Mashnouq: Cabinet Must Assume its Responsibilities in Tackling Security Situation

Police Seize Quantity of Hashish in Dahr al-Baydar

Al-Rahi Calls for Dissociating Lebanon from Surrounding Crises

Woman Sets Herself on Fire over Poor Refugee Aid, Man Self-Immolates over Closure of his Gas Station

Naameh Landfill to Close Permanently in 2015 as State Set to Tackle Crisis of Solid Waste

Berri: Internal Forces Hold Sway over Who Will Be Elected President

Abou Faour Refers 'Labneh File' to General Prosecution

Phalange Party Urges Timely Presidential Vote, Security Plan for Tense Areas

PM, Salam Says No Change in Status Quo if Polls Not Held 24 March 2014

Sleiman to continue in politics after term ends

Efforts underway to keep election on schedule

Two hospitalized in separate self-immolation attempts
Miscellaneous Reports And News'

Arab summit opens amidst deep divisions, regional turmoil

To get at Obama and Kerry, Arab League summit drafts hard-line ultimatums for Israeli-Palestinian peace track

Syrian patients in Israel call on Netanyahu to bomb Syria

Rape and ransoms: Hilal al-Assad’s ‘thug’ legacy

Syrian Conflict Takes Center Stage at Arab Summit

Saudi Says World has 'Betrayed' Syria Rebels

Syria Opposition Calls for 'Sophisticated' Arms

NGO: Syria Rebels Take Coastal Village in Assad Heartland

Syrian War: Running out of hope
Saudi intelligence chief back to the forefront

Arab summit opens amidst deep divisions, regional turmoil

March 25, 2014/By Sylvia Westall, Amena Bakr/Reuters
KUWAIT: Warning of "enormous" dangers, Kuwait urged Arab leaders on Tuesday to end multiple disputes complicating crises such as Syria's war and political turmoil in the most populous Arab state, Egypt.
Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, called on the annual meeting of the 22-member League of Arab States to solve rifts he said were obstructing joint Arab action.
"The dangers around us are enormous and we will not move towards joint Arab action without our unity and without casting aside our difference," Sheikh Sabah, the summit host, said.
He named no specific country, but was apparently referring to worsening disputes among Arab states over the political role of Islamists in the region, and over what many Gulf states see as interference in their affairs by non-Arab Iran. The meeting is expected to agree on more humanitarian action in response to Syria's war, which has entered its fourth year and put a severe strain on neighbouring states hosting refugees.
Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, whose country supports rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, called for "changing the balance of forces" on the ground there. He said the crisis in Syria had reached catastrophic proportions. The gathering follows an unusual row among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) alliance of Gulf Arab states over Qatari support for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, and a verbal spat between Iraq and Saudi Arabia over violence in Iraq's Anbar province. The row among Gulf Arab states is unlikely to get a detailed airing at Tuesday's plenary gathering.
Gulf states tend to keep their disagreements private, making a decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain earlier this month to recall their ambassadors from Qatar especially sensitive.
Kuwait, which kept its envoy in Doha, has offered to mediate in the dispute and is anxious to see the summit take place without further divisions. Shortly before the gathering began Kuwait's Sheikh Sabah, smiling broadly, stood between Saudi Crown Prince Salman and Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, holding hands with them in an apparent attempt to convey a mood of reconciliation. But a Kuwaiti official said the dispute between Qatar and its neighbours was not expected to be on the summit's agenda. Asked whether the issue would be raised at the meeting, Khaled al Jarallah, Kuwaiti undersecretary for foreign affairs, told reporters: "Gulf reconciliation, and Gulf issues are something for inside the Gulf house." On Monday Lebanon's foreign minister called on Arab states to support the Lebanese army to counter fallout from Syria's civil war, which he said threatened to tear the country apart. The meeting will also discuss other regional challenges such as Iran, which has improved its long-frosty ties with Western powers since the election of President Hassan Rouhani.
Arab summits have long been dominated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a topic on which most Arab states share a common view. The "Arab Spring" uprisings that began in 2011 have polarised the region, however.
Syria's war has stirred tensions between Sunni Muslims, notably in the Gulf, and Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran, whose faith is related to that of Assad's Alawite minority. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby has said the summit could be affected by "differences" and that there was an urgent need to clear the atmosphere. Egypt's foreign minister Nabil Fahmy said reconciliation would prove difficult at the summit.
"I don't expect we will leave from the Kuwait summit with all parties convinced that all things are resolved," he told reporters in Kuwait on Sunday. "The wound is deep."
n leaders have been lobbying the Arab League to give them Syria's seat on the pan-Arab body, and to push Arab states to approve the delivery of military hardware to them to boost their fight against Assad.
Syria's seat will remain vacant at the summit but the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed al-Jarba, is due to deliver a speech.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations peace mediator for Syria, said on Monday it was unlikely that talks in Switzerland between the Syrian government and opposition would resume soon.
Syria's Arab allies, including Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon, oppose support for the rebels. They point out that Islamists, including groups linked to al Qaeda, are the strongest force in the armed opposition.


Saudi intelligence chief back to the forefront
By Staff Writer | Al Arabiya News
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Prince Bandar bin Sultan is on his way back to Riyadh where he will resume his tasks as head of Saudi Intelligence, reported news portal NOW Lebanon.
An informed Saudi source confirmed the report to Al Arabiya News. “This is without doubt bad news for Tehran, Damascus and Hezbollah, particularly that anti-Saudi media has been propagating false information for the past two months that Prince Bandar’s absence has been due to his dismissal and due to a Saudi decision to back away from its policies regarding the regional conflict,” said the source in Riyadh. The source confirms that Prince Bandar has actually been away due to medical reasons, however, he has resumed his activities this week from the Moroccan city of Marrakesh; where he has been recovering and where he has met with former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed. “Prince Bandar will be in Riyadh in a week’s time, as soon as his sick leave is over. He has been recovering of a delicate surgery that he underwent to treat a shoulder injury at a hospital in the United States and has been recovering in Marrakesh,” said the source adding that “He (Prince Bandar) will return to work from his office to manage all the important tasks he was assigned by Saudi King Abdullah as of July 2012.”On top of the issues Prince Bandar spearheads is Saudi Arabia’s support of the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council in their fight against the regime massacres.
The return of the Saudi head of intelligence will certainly contradict what has been reported in the past few weeks in various media outlets, including some leading Western agencies and newspapers.
Various media reports had revealed his illness and some concluded on their own that he was dismissed from his role as head of intelligence. Some analysts mistakenly said that this was due to his opposition to regional U.S. policy and his public criticism for the current U.S. administration which has upset the White House.

Al-Rahi Calls for Dissociating Lebanon from Surrounding Crises
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 March 2014/
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi urged on Tuesday the rival parties to dissociate Lebanon from the regional and international turmoils, demanding officials to end the chaos in the country. “The political, economic, social and security chaos in the country should end,” al-Rahi said in a sermon during a mass he held in Bkirki on the occasion of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Lebanon officially adopted a position of neutrality towards Syria's conflict but its people are sharply divided with Shiites mostly backing Assad while most of the Sunnis support the rebellion. Fighters from both sects have joined the battle on opposite sides. The patriarch stressed the importance of swiftly staging the first round of the presidential elections in order to give time to choose a president capable of assuming his national responsibilities. President Michel Suleiman's tenure ends in May 2014, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of Suleiman’s mandate. Al-Rahi considered that Lebanon is passing through “difficult crises as it's on the doorstep of the presidential elections in May.”Lebanon has been the scene of security incidents since the war in Syria erupted three years ago, in particular, in the northern city of Tripoli and along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The country has witnessed several attacks claimed by radical Sunni groups.

More Syrian rockets fall on Lebanon
March 25, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Two rockets fired from Syria hit Tuesday the outskirts of Hor Taala, near the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek, security sources said. No casualties or damage were reported following the rocket attack, which took place at 12:50 p.m. Border areas in east and north Lebanon have been frequent targets of aerial and artillery shelling from Syria since the uprising began in the neighboring country three years ago.
Lebanon has also seen increasing clashes linked to the Syrian crisis, particularly in the northern city of Tripoli, where scores of people have been killed, and more recently in Beirut. The country has also been plagued by a wave of car bombings carried out by radical Islamist groups seeking to strike Hezbollah's support base.


Two hospitalized in separate self-immolation attempts
March 25, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A Lebanese gas station owner in the Bekaa Valley and a Syrian woman in Tripoli were rushed to hospitals after lighting themselves on fire in separate incidents Tuesday, security sources said. Fawzi Nakhle doused himself in gasoline before lighting himself after police approached him with a court order to close his gas station in the western Bekaa town of Aana, the sources said. Quick-thinking residents saved his life and Nakhle was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Meanwhile, in the northern city of Tripoli, a Syrian woman identified as Mariam al-Khawli tried to commit suicide by setting herself on fire while sceaming “Because of you! because of you!”Bystanders reacted almost instantly, smothering the fire and calling an ambulance.

Sleiman to continue in politics after term ends
March 25, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Michel Sleiman is adamant he should leave the presidency, but says he will continue to work in politics to pass on his expertise to the new head of state who is expected to be elected in two months. “I will continue to work in politics, but I won’t run in parliamentary elections,” Sleiman said in remarks published Tuesday. “I will play a role at the national level by using my expertise and relationships to help the new president,” Sleiman told the local daily Al-Mustaqbal. “I can help him on many issues.” The President remained unwavering in his stance on the extension of his mandate. “Extending my mandate [as president] is out of the question,” he said on the plane that took him Monday to Kuwait to attend a two-day Arab summit. Besides, Sleiman concedes, the extension is not possible under the current internal and external circumstances. He did not elaborate. Sleiman said he has not heard about an Iranian-supported proposal that calls for the extension of his term in return for the extension of that of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. “In any case, Hezbollah will not approve the extension. How can Hezbollah agree to the extension after the positions taken recently? This is impossible.”Lebanon entered Tuesday a two-month constitutional period to elect a new head of state.


Geagea Says Lebanese Need President 'Who Doesn't Compromise', Urges Security Plan
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 March 2014/ Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed Tuesday that “the Lebanese need a president who does not compromise,” calling for an urgent plan to address the dire security situations in Tripoli and the Bekaa. “The battle of the presidential vote is the battle of the March 14 forces and the presidency is not for paving the ground for a political leadership but rather for selecting a strong president who has a clear vision for Lebanon according to March 14's legitimate political objectives,” Geagea said. He stressed that “the Lebanese need a president who does not compromise but who rather takes clear and bold stances, as one cannot compromise in the issues of sovereignty, combating the kidnap gangs and removing arms from non-state actors.” “Reaching the presidential seat requires full coordination with our allies in March 14, because today's battle is March 14's battle, the battle of entire Lebanon,” Geagea added. Geagea voiced his remarks during a meeting with a popular delegation from the Bekaa area of Deir al-Ahmar, in the wake of an attempt to abduct Maronite Bishop Semaan Atallah, head of the Baalbek-Deir al-Ahmar dioceses. “I made several phone calls to address this issue, especially with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, who informed me that they have decided to put an end, once and for all, to all kidnap operations, after things reached an intolerable extent,” Geagea told the delegation.
He revealed that Salam and Mashnouq are seeking to devise “an urgent security plan for entire Bekaa as well as for the city of Tripoli, which has been suffering for more than two years, especially after the latest round of clashes that left dozens of people dead and hundreds wounded.”“Enough is enough in Tripoli. Seriously, I say in the name of us all that things have become totally unacceptable,” he added.
“There is only one possible solution, which is that the security forces and Lebanese Army become in charge of the city's security once and for all, because the army must be in control of the situation on the ground, not merely a disengagement force or a peacekeeping force between the warring groups,” Geagea said. He called for a security plan under which “arms would be collected from all people and the army and security forces would become in charge of security in the city.” Geagea noted that “it will be easier to address the security situation in the Bekaa, given the numerous complications in the capital of the North, because the process in the Bekaa only requires deterring some unrestrained gangs.”

Efforts underway to keep election on schedule
March 25, 2014/By Antoine Ghattas Saab/The Daily Star
Starting Tuesday, the spotlight will shift to the country’s newest concern, the presidential election, amid expectations that the two-month period for the process will expire without any agreement on a candidate to succeed President Michel Sleiman. According to diplomatic sources, the international community has been keeping their eyes on developments related to the presidential election since the government was formed, partly in order to achieve their quest for a consensus, in view of the serious consequences of the government’s failure to run the country and face political, economic and security challenges. There appears to be an understanding that this government is working to give the presidential file the same importance as its own formation by working on several points. First, it is striving to hold the presidential election by its constitutional deadline – May 25 – and according to the principles of democracy, with all members of Parliament attending the relevant sessions. Second, it is warning against a presidential vacuum in light of the importance of filling this traditionally Christian seat of power in order to stabilize the political and sectarian balance in Lebanon. This is particularly important in view of Sunni-Shiite discord in the country and across the region, as undermining the electoral process would risk the spread of further chaos. Western countries are completely against any foreign intervention in the file this time, something manifested on the ground by key powers informing a group of active ambassadors in Lebanon to remain on the sidelines and urge Lebanese people to choose their own fate in the election. The West does not intend to back anyone and, according to reports, simply wants a candidate who applies the Lebanese Constitution and maintains the country’s sovereignty. It is rejecting any kind of outside intervention that would support one candidate at the expense of another. According to diplomatic sources, Saudi Arabia will continue to grant Prince Bandar bin Sultan the responsibility for the Lebanese file, with reports of him stepping down to be replaced by Saudi Interior Minister Mohammad bin Nayef completely unfounded.
Powers in Lebanon agree with the West’s desire for a successful presidential election, as fears of a lack of quorum begin to emerge. However, political sources have said Hezbollah desires to maintain the status quo following the end of Sleiman’s presidential term, with the current government taking over presidential powers. This would comfort the party because it would then be able to continue fighting in Syria.
According to information made available to The Daily Star, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai is contacting Christian figures to try to reach a consensus and organize a meeting in Bkirki to discuss the presidential election. Despite previous failures on this front, Rai is set to continue trying on orders from the Vatican. Sources close to Bkirki said: “What Patriarch Rai is doing is expressing his fixed stance so it will lead to a unifying role, and it is not the first time that Rai has called on Christian leaders to meet at the patriarchal seat, or provided space for a common dialogue. “The meeting being discussed flies in the face of what is being said about it being aimed at supporting some candidates and excluding others, because the patriarch clings to the principle of being a father to all.”

Possible candidates in lebanon's presidential race
March 25, 2014/The Daily Star

Beirut: Following is a list in alphabetical order of possible contenders in the 2014 Lebanon Presidential Election.
Michel Aoun
Aoun has emerged as one of March 8’s strongest candidates. The leader of the Free Patriotic Movement also heads the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, the largest group of Christian MPs.
Aoun has always said that the president should be representative of the majority of Christians in the country.
Born in the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik on Feb. 18, 1935, Aoun was appointed an Army commander in 1984.
Aoun headed a military transitional government between 1988 and 1990, during which he launched two deadly wars against the Syrian army in Lebanon and the Lebanese Forces militia. He championed calls for Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon during his exile in France between 1991 and 2005.
However, his relations with Damascus improved upon his return to Lebanon in May 2005, just one month after Syria’s withdrawal. Aoun then forged a key alliance in 2006 with Hezbollah, Syria’s main ally in the country. When the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, Aoun announced his support for the war on
terror there. The FPM leader has said that if he is elected president, he would support Hezbollah keeping its arms until a permanent settlement for the Middle East conflict is reached.
Aoun’s ties with the Future Movement, his fierce rival, have improved recently, with the FPM leader even meeting former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Rome in January. Many explained the sudden thaw in relations as an attempt by Aoun to win Hariri’s support for his presidency bid. Aoun has also mended fences with Saudi Arabia recently.
Ziyad Baroud
Baroud is one of the possible consensus presidential candidates.
Young and dynamic, Baroud enjoys wide popularity. Many Lebanese have called on the former minister to run for parliamentary and presidential elections in the belief that he could be part of a new generation of politicians to enact reform in the country.
He was born in his Kesrouan village of Jeita on April 29, 1970, and holds a law degree from Universite Saint Joseph.
He is an active member of a number of civil society groups, was involved in several non-governmental organizations advocating electoral reform and is a legal adviser for a number of international organizations in Lebanon.
He served as an interior minister from July 2008 until January 2011 in the Cabinets of former prime ministers Fouad Siniora and Saad Hariri.
Between 1997 and 2005, Baroud was a member of a committee tasked with modernizing national laws chaired by former ministers Bahij Tabbara and Khaled Qabbani.
Although selected by President Michel Sleiman for the Interior Ministry post, Baroud is not affiliated with any of the political parties in Lebanon. During his term as an interior minister, the ministry held parliamentary elections in 2009 and municipal elections the following year.
Baroud was a member of the so-called Butros Commission, tasked by the Cabinet in 2005 with putting together a draft election law. The committee, bearing the name of its head, former Minister Fouad Butros, eventually proposed a draft law combining proportional representation with a winner-take-all system in 2006.
Suleiman Frangieh
A member of a prominent Maronite family from the north that has been working in politics ever since Lebanon’s independence, Frangieh is touted as a potential candidate every time there is an election.
His grandfather, late President Sleiman Frangieh, laid the foundations of the Frangieh family’s relationship with Syria’s Assad family in the 1950s, and Frangieh is a staunch ally of President Bashar Assad to this day.
Although Frangieh was never elected president while Lebanon was under Syria’s control between 1990 and 2005, the MP is seen as a possible presidential candidate from the March 8 coalition.
Hailing from the northern village of Zghorta, Frangieh was born in the city of Tripoli in Oct. 18, 1965.
He is the son of late Minister Tony Frangieh, who a Lebanese Forces squad murdered along with Sleiman’s mother and sister in June 1978. Since then, Frangieh has severed ties with the group, which is now a political party headed by Samir Geagea.
Frangieh, chief of the Marada Movement, also heads a parliamentary bloc with two other Zghorta lawmakers.
He held several ministerial posts between 1990 and 2005 and served as an MP between 1992 and 2005 and from 2009 until now.
In a recent interview, Frangieh said he would support Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun for the presidential election, saying he would not act regarding the poll without coordinating with Aoun.
In separate remarks, Frangieh also said that if circumstances favored the election of Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, then he would not oppose it.
Amine Gemayel
Lebanon’s president from 1982 to 1988, Gemayel remains a potential presidential candidate for the March 14 coalition.
Gemayel comes from a well-known Maronite family hailing from the Metn village of Bikfaya.
Gemayel heads a parliamentary bloc comprising five MPs and is a popular Christian leader in the country. He is also the leader of the Kataeb Party.
The former president was among the founders of the March 14 coalition in 2005 and is a fierce critic of Hezbollah’s arsenal. Gemayel calls for restricting the possession of arms to the authority of the state.
He is the son of late MP and Minister Pierre Gemayel, who founded the Kataeb in 1936.
The party emerged as the strongest Christian group in Lebanon in the following decades and led the Christian community, especially during the 1975-1990 Civil War.
The Kataeb argues that it was the main protector for Christians during the Civil War against threats posed by armed groups belonging to the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon along with Syrian troops.
Born Jan. 22, 1942 in Bikfaya, Gemayel holds a law degree from Universite Saint Joseph.
He ran in the parliamentary by-elections in 1970 and won. He became an MP again in 1972. Gemayel remained a lawmaker until 1982, the year he was elected president following the assassination of his brother, President-elect Bachir Gemayel.
Shortly after his term expired in 1988, Gemayel traveled to France, where he stayed until 2000, at which point he returned to Lebanon.
In 2007, Gemayel assumed the leadership of the Kataeb.
Robert Ghanem
Ghanem announced his candidacy for the election in 2004 and 2007.
In 2005 and 2009, the Western Bekaa MP ran for parliamentary elections alongside the March 14 coalition. However, Ghanem does not share March 14 officials’ fierce rhetoric against their March 8 rivals, particularly Hezbollah. This factor could possibly help him win a consensus as a presidential candidate.
During the series of political crises Lebanon witnessed since 2005, Ghanem maintained relations with a number of March 8 officials, including Speaker Nabih Berri – a key figure in the coalition and the head of Hezbollah-ally party the Amal Movement.
Born on June 18, 1942, in the Western Bekaa village of Saghbin, Ghanem holds a degree in law from Universite Saint Joseph. He is the son of late Army Commander Gen. Iskandar Ghanem.
In 1978, Ghanem left to France due to the deteriorating security situation as a result of the 1975-90 Civil War. He practiced law there and returned to Lebanon in 1992, two years after the war ended.
He has been an MP since 1992 and served as a minister of education and sports and youth in the government of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 1995.
Ghanem is currently serving as the head of Parliament’s Administration and Justice Committee.
He has worked to draft and put forth a number of laws and has attended several parliamentary conferences outside Lebanon in the past years. Ghanem also served as a member of various parliamentary committees.
Samir Geagea
Geagea is one of March’s 14 strongest potential candidates. A staunch critic of Hezbollah, its March 8 allies and the Syrian regime, Geagea has said that he would run in the presidential election if circumstances were suitable and a majority in Parliament supported him.
Geagea is the chief of the Lebanese Forces, one of the prominent Christian parties in Lebanon, which has a parliamentary bloc of eight MPs. He is Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun’s main rival.
Contrary to the decision of his main allies in the Future Movement, Geaega completely refused to work alongside Hezbollah in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s national unity government, which was formed last month, unless the party withdrew its fighters from the war in neighboring Syria.
Geagea was born on Oct. 26, 1952, in the Beirut eastern suburb of Ain al-Rummaneh. He hails from the northern village of Bsharri. He joined the Kataeb Party in his early years and later became the head of the Lebanese Forces militia in 1986. He fought deadly battles against the Lebanese Army in 1990, which was at the time headed by Aoun.
Geagea was arrested in 1994 over his suspected involvement in a bomb attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church the same year.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment over his alleged involvement in political assassinations during the Civil War and was not released until July 2005, when Parliament passed an amnesty law.
He accuses the Syrian regime of fabricating the accusations of political assassinations against him.
Boutros Harb
Harb, currently the telecommunications minister, is an established candidate for the presidency.
The Batroun MP and the late MP Nassib Lahoud were nominated by the March 14 coalition as their candidates for the presidency in 2008.
Harb formed a group of independent March 14 lawmakers following a dispute within the Christian community over the Orthodox Gathering’s electoral proposal last year.
He was first elected MP for Batroun in 1972 at the age of 28 and has been involved in Lebanese politics since. In addition to retaining his parliamentary seat, he had held several ministerial posts in previous governments and headed a number of parliamentary committees.
Despite his firm stance, Harb is also known for his political openness.
A harsh critic of Hezbollah’s weapons and the party’s military intervention in Syria, Harb does not have any chance of support from March 8 parties.
He opposed the armed Palestinian presence in Lebanon and called for the abrogation of the 1969 Cairo Agreement signed between the Lebanese government and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.
He joined Muslim and Christian lawmakers in signing the 1989 Taif Accord that ended the 1975-90 Civil War.
Following the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Harb was one of the founding members of the March 14 alliance along with other anti-Syrian figures, and became one of the its key figures.
Born in the northern village of Tannourine on Aug. 3, 1944, Harb holds a degree in law from Universite Saint Joseph.
Jean Kahwagi
Gen. Kahwagi could emerge as a consensus presidential candidate.
Despite sharp political divisions between March 8 and March 14 parties, all have voiced their support for the military establishment and Kahwagi. Last July, the rival alliances came together to back the extension of Kahwagi’s term for a further two years rather than see him retire as scheduled a few months later.
Kahwagi was born on Sept. 23, 1953, in the Bint Jbeil village of Ain Ibl. He was appointed an Army commander in August 2008. Since the start of the civil war in neighboring Syria, the Army has struggled to maintain stability in Lebanon and contain the sporadic clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad that have occurred across the country.
Earlier this year, the Army arrested several key figures in terrorist groups that were behind a wave of explosions in Lebanon.
With Lebanese politics characterized by deep polarization since Syria’s withdrawal in 2005, the Army commander has always emerged as one of the very few consensus candidates, reflecting the broad public support for the military.
For example, President Michel Sleiman was the Army commander prior to his 2008 election to presidency. He was the only candidate to win the support of March 8 and March 14 parties. President Emile Lahoud, Sleiman’s predecessor, also served as an Army commander.
Even in the early years of Lebanon’s independence the same trend could be seen: In the summer of 1958, Army commander Gen. Fouad Shehab was elected president following several months of strife.
Jean Obeid
A former MP and minister, Obeid is seen as a moderate figure and a possible consensus presidential candidate. He is close to Speaker Nabih Berri and also maintains good ties with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt as well as other political figures in the country.
The backing of both Jumblatt and Berri is essential for any presidential candidate aspiring to get into Baabda Palace.
Obeid maintained relations with Syrian officials when Syria maintained a military presence in the country. The veteran politician was also on good terms with late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. However, he does not enjoy the same relationship with Hariri’s son, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Obeid was born on May 8, 1939, in the Zghorta village of Alma but his family is originally from the northern city of Tripoli. Obeid holds a law degree from Beirut’s Universite Saint Joseph and has also worked as a journalist at Dar as-Sayyad.
The uncle of former Finance Minister Jihad Azour, he took part in a conference held in Geneva in 1983 to end Lebanon’s Civil War.
Obeid served as an MP from 1992 to 2005.
In 1993, he was appointed a minister of state in the Cabinet of the late RafikHariri. He became an education minister in 1996, also in Hariri’s government, and a foreign minister in the assassinated premier’s last Cabinet in 2003.During his tenure at the Education Ministry, he worked to introduce several reforms to the sector, which suffered badly due to Lebanon’s Civil War. He also inaugurated several schools across the country.
He served as an adviser to former presidents Elias Sarkis and Amine Gemayel.
Riad Salameh
The name of Salameh, the Central Bank governor, pops out as a potential consensus candidate for presidency.
Appointed to his current post in 1993, Salameh is globally recognized for his efforts to achieve monetary stability in Lebanon and played a key role in stabilizing the Lebanese pound after the Civil War.
Following several years of intense fighting, Lebanon’s currency began to depreciate rapidly in the 1980s and continued to plunge until the early 1990s. Salameh managed to stabilize it to an average of LL1,500 against the dollar.
Salameh spearheaded the campaign to remove Lebanon’s name from the list of countries not cooperating in the fight against money laundry, something that was finally achieved in October 2003. He went on to help create the Special Investigation Commission, which probes suspected money laundry operations in Lebanon.
Under Salameh, the country’s foreign currency reserve has reached nearly $35 billion, while the gold reserves are currently valued at more than $10 billion, the second highest in the region.
Salameh was selected twice as the world’s best Central Bank governor by Euromoney magazine. He is well respected in banking and financial circles and this has earned him the trust of the international community.
Salameh was born in his Kesrouan village of Kfar Zebian on July 17, 1950. He earned a B.A. in economics from the American University of Beirut.
Lebanese politicians from both March 8 and March 14 praise Salameh’s policies for having helped achieve monetary stability in the country.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 25, 2014, on page 2.

Syrian War: Running out of hope
March 25, 2014/The Daily Star
A meeting this weekend between U.S. President Barack Obama and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is expected to provide the latest signal for how the backers of the Syrian opposition intend to translate their verbal support into actions. For now, the indications are not encouraging for the many opposition figures, activists and rebels who have sacrificed over the last three years to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
For nearly every condemnation of the behavior of the Assad regime that they hear from Western leaders and officials, they pick up a seemingly equal number of signs that no outside power is interested in offering the kind of help that would end the war. It all translates into the inescapable conclusion that the Syrian people have been abandoned to their fate, which is to be on the receiving end of the regime’s massive firepower and its oppressive policies of imprisonment and torture, as well as the actions of Islamist extremists focused on imposing their ultraconservative version of Islam on the public. The Syrian opposition’s backers claim that they want to see a political solution, because the conflict can’t be solved militarily. But if these countries intend to arrive at a political solution, they are neglecting the fact that the Syrian regime responds only to one thing – the credible threat of military force. By abandoning any serious form of military pressure on Damascus, the “friends of Syria” are giving Assad no reason to change his thinking or behavior, which means even more horrific destruction. A policy of leading from behind, as some describe the Obama approach, means nothing more than abandoning the Syrian people to even worse horrors to come.


To get at Obama and Kerry, Arab League summit drafts hard-line ultimatums for Israeli-Palestinian peace track

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 25, 2014/Arab leaders whose summit begins in Kuwait Tuesday, March 25, are set to carry hard-line ultimatums for the US-sponsored Palestinian-Israeli negotiations as a means of derailing US Secretary of State John Kerry’s stubborn effort for a peace accord, and as a red flag for President Barack Obama three days before he lands in Riyadh..DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources report the Arab League summit’s two-day agenda includes a veto on recognizing Israel as the Jewish national state,a resolution that will be binding on all members including Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Another resolution would mandate the proclamation of all parts of East Jerusalem, including Al Quds al Sharif (Temple Mount) and the entire Old City of Jerusalem, the location of the shrines of three faiths, as the capital of a Palestinian state. This is diametrically opposed to US and Israeli positions.Another ultimatum the Arab leaders propose to issue would halt Jewish settlement on the West Bank and Jerusalem, freeze development and ultimately dismantle all traces of a Jewish presence in a future Palestinian state. Yet another demand will be for “the immediate release of all the Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails” – by which they mean all Palestinians serving time after being convicted of terrorist crimes, including Israeli Arabs. The special US envoy for the peace talks, Martin Indyk, spent the past week in a desperate bid to avert the passage of these extreme all-or-nothing demands by the Kuwait summit. He leaned hard on Jordan’s King Abdullah and the Palestinian leader to hold back from voting on these resolutions (which must be unanimous under the Arab League charter). He maintained that their impact would be inevitably to bury yet another Israel-Palestinian peace track. Indyk’s effort was in vain. He was also disappointed by the pointed lack of support he received from Anne Patterson, Assistant US Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and former ambassador to Cairo, where she became a fervent supporter of an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood – an organization which most Arab League leaders meeting in Kuwait view as a threat to their stability. For Patterson, Indyk is an outsider. The radical stance the Arab rulers have adopted on Mid East peacemaking is designed to warn the US president to expect a hard time in his talks with Saudi leaders in Riyadh. A large group of Arab nations – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait – is telling him through the vehicle of a hard line on Mid East peacemaking that they can be just as unyielding on other issues, starting with their vendetta against the Brotherhood.
That vendetta tops their agenda, although it is worded as a draft resolution calling for “a collective Arab position in the war on terror.” It was rated as important enough for the conference to choose Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour to address the opening session of the conference with a speech devoted to the subject of “terrorism.”
And indeed, Sunday, March 23, just ahead of the Arab League summit, an Egyptian court sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood adherents to death for attacking government centers and killing soldiers and police officers.
It is more than likely that the Egyptian strongman, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, will allow the sentences to be executed as a brutal message to the Brothers not to expect any let-up in the war he is pursuing to stamp out their influence. Another key item on the summit agenda revolves around the same issue. It is the campaign the same group of Arab leaders is waging against Qatar over its support for the Brotherhood. The Saudi, Egyptian, UAE, Bahraini and Kuwaiti governments have recalled their ambassadors from Doha; and Riyadh has threatened Qatar with a military, land and air blockade unless it withdraws this support and shuts down the Al Jazeera TV broadcasting station.

Syrian patients in Israel call on Netanyahu to bomb Syria,7340,L-4502882,00.html
Israeli hospital in northern Israel treats 16 Syrian patients, who call Hezbollah 'Satan's organization', express much gratitude for the treatment they are given.
Hassan Shaalan/Ynetnews
Published: 03.25.14, 00:02 / Israel News
"I've always thought of Israel as an enemy state that is not willing to help us. My case changed my thinking entirely. Israel is a good country that saves our lives, while the Syrian regime murders its citizens," said one of the Syrian patients currently treated at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed. Of the 16 Syrian patients in the Israeli hospital, three are in serious condition. Among them are children and rebels who fought against Syrian President Bashar Assad's army. Those who can speak have one message for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "Keep attacking in Syria in order to save the Syrian people from the Assad regime." A 25-year-old rebel from Homs, who is being treated at the hospital's surgery ward, told how he was brought from the battles to Safed: "I was wounded in the leg by a shell when I was by my home, and Israeli forces evacuated me from the border to the hospital. Syrian army soldiers are the ones who hit me." The young, wounded Syrian expressed support for Israeli strikes against his country. "I heard several days ago that Israel struck a military base in Syria. This move should have been executed a long time ago to help us bring down the terrorist regime in Syria. I wasn't sad because of the strike, but rather quite happy." The 25-year-old rebel chose to denounce the actions of Hezbollah and its backers in Iran: "I also heard of Israeli soldiers who were injured in the Golan Heights, apparently by Hezbollah militants. I oppose the organization, Iran and Russia. Most of the Syrian citizens do not want them around and demand for them to not intervene in the war." He also explained why he chose to fight against the Assad regime: "I joined the rebels after I saw the cruel treatment of the Syrian army. This treatment made me participate in the war against Assad and Hezbollah, who need to be called 'Satan's organization'. I would really like to return to Syria to keep fighting."
The Syrian rebel concluded his remarks by saying "I want to thank the prime minister of Israel for the amazing treatment we are receiving."
'Remove Hezbollah' Another Syrian patient, from Daraa, also fought alongside rebel forces in Syria: "I was injured by a shell fired from a military chopper. The situation we are in is very severe; I will keep being united with the rebels until the truth prevails." He expressed a hope for a better future for Syria: "We want to live in a safe environment, with no killing or destruction, but unfortunately the Syrian regime does not end the bloodshed. All this encourages us to sacrifice our lives for Syrian and its good people."According to him, the most important task is to get Hezbollah out of Syria: "We call to stop the war, but as long as Assad is president then the war will continue. We call on the Israeli government to repeatedly attack every army base in Syria in order to help us remove Hezbollah militants from the country, who love to murder Syrians and destroy the country."
A Syrian woman, whose 12-year-old son is admitted at the Israeli hospital in serious to critical condition, prays for his recovery: "I want to see my son alive and hug him. He was injured by an object he found that contained a grenade. A friend that was with him was killed instantly and my boy was seriously injured."
Doctor Shukri Kassis, director of the Ziv Medical Center plastic surgery unit, elaborated on the condition of the patients: "We have 16 Syrian patients, three of which are in serious condition. Five of the patients are supposed to be released from the hospital. The unit treats a 12-year-old in very serious condition, with amputations in both legs and both arms. We make all the possible efforts to save his life. All Syrian patients are pleased and surprised by the treatment they are provided with."


Rape and ransoms: Hilal al-Assad’s ‘thug’ legacy
By Mohanad Hage Ali | Special to Al Arabiya News
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
“The lout and lowlife‪,‬ Suleiman al-Assad‪,‬ the son of Hilal‪,‬ the head of Military Housing in Latakia‪,‬ was arrested on Monday from the Meridian of Latakia after receiving a beating from the good boys ‪….‬ they said he cried and screamed‪. Among his entourage, was an official’s son called Amjad Aslan, also a friend of the Latakia Military Security Chief…‬ they are all a group of louts and low lives who have wreaked havoc and infested corruption in the city‪ …”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬Such statements, critical of the practices of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s clan, appeared on regime loyalist Facebook pages to the surprise of many Syrians. With loyalist calls for their arrest, Suleiman and his father Hilal al-Assad were perceived as a liability in the coastal region.
SANA, Syria’s official news agency, announced the death of Hilal, the 47-year-old second cousin of Syria’s president on Monday, with some already accusing the regime of orchestrating his death to diffuse the Alawite sect’s growing resentment. Certain reports claimed his death in the newly launched Alanfal campaign, a joint Islamist military operation against Syria’s coastal region. An Islamist group declared that Hilal, among other Allawite figures, died in a rocket attack on the city of Latakia.Hilal is the grandchild of Ahmad al-Assad, the older half-brother of Hafez al-Assad, the late Syrian president. Following the revolution, he and his son were known for their thuggish practices, namely ransom kidnapping and rape, surpassing the reputation of his two notorious brothers, Haroun and Hail.
Suleiman with Shabiha at a Latakia, according to loyalist Facebook pages.
“Suleiman was dubbed ‘the President of the Syrian Coast’s republic; he acts in that capacity, a thug since his teenage years,’” according to an Alawite Latakia resident, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. “They are notorious for rape and ransom kidnappings, and their headquarters at sports city is a Bermuda Triangle for their detainees.”
The rise of Shabiha
The Shabiha is a term originally used to describe the Assad clan’s smugglers and racketeers and their Allawite henchmen in the late 1970s. They exploited the high demand for foreign goods, especially cars and cigarettes, following newly imposed government restrictions on imports. Malek al-Assad, the son of Ibrahim, Hafez’s half-brother, was a pioneer in smuggling; he became a liability for his involvement in weapons’ smuggling, according to this detailed account of the rise of Shabiha by Syria Comment. Hafez imprisoned his nephew for days. Years after losing his lucrative business, he ended up a taxi driver on the Latakia–Damascus route, dying in car accident.
Suleiman sometimes drove Syrian army tanks to 'show off'. (Photo courtesy: Facebook)
Fawwaz al-Assad, being Hafez’s full nephew, enjoyed better immunity than Malek. He led a successful career in smuggling cars and cigarettes, gaining increasing notoriety for rape, driving in a multi-car convoy, and ransom kidnappings. Hafez reportedly intervened occasionally to curtail his excesses. As the other nephews and cousins grew older, they competed for power and wealth, often parading their brand new cars, with tinted windows and bodyguards brandishing their Kalashnikovs. The Shabiha were notorious for their gangster looks, tattoos, funky haircuts, massive biceps and beards.
Orwa Nyrabia, a Syrian filmmaker and former Latakia resident, believes that Hafez, a cunning leader often praised for his Machiavellian tactics, intentionally left his extended family uneducated, paving the way for their thuggish behavior. “There was an interest in repressing the coastal region through the clan. Hafez’s eldest son, Bassel Assad, periodically curtailed and unleashed their activities in a semi-organized manner,” said Nyrabia.
The Assads, originally peasants from the Latakia Mountains, mostly took the easy illicit road to fortune and power, the Tashbeeh. They moved to the city of Latakia, a mostly Sunni coastal city with a few hundred thousand residents. Sectarian tensions hid some class hatred, according to residents from both communities, as Allawites often cited their history as discriminated against peasants and servants of urban Sunnis.
The Shabiha instilled fear among the population, while amassing fortunes from smuggling; the regime kept them at bay to fulfill the regime’s two pillars of control: demoralization and fear. After the revolution, and as the regime’s dependency on local militias grew, their power was unleashed. They repressed demonstrators in the coastal region, tortured and humiliated them, like in this infamous video from Bayada, a town in the Banyas province.
After Hilal’s death
Syrian activists recently reported that Suleiman, Hilal’s son, harassed a girl at a DVD store in Latakia; when the owner confronted him, he was forced to lick his shoes, then get naked, and dash around the many squared meters of his shop. Following news of his father’s death, Suleiman and his Shabiha indiscriminately shot at Sunni neighborhoods. “Young Sunni men were left with little choices in Latakia,” according to a half Alawite, half Sunni city resident. “Either they stay in the city and risk arrest, conscription and harassment, or join the rebels in the mountains”, he said. “Most chose the latter.”

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia: friends, not dependents
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Riyadh is considered the most important visit the U.S. president makes to Saudi Arabia since he took over as president.
There has been much speculation over the subjects to be raised during the visit, which may include Syria, negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program, and the funding of a Russian arms deal with Egypt.
Despite that, the White House has said little on the matter. U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice briefly spoke about some issues, including Gulf security. She said Obama will seek during his visit to voice commitment to the Gulf’s security.
Obama possibly wants to reassure the Saudis that the U.S. will not give up its long commitment to Saudi Arabia’s and the Gulf’s security. This commitment was established by former American president Dwight Eisenhower, and became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine. King Saud traveled to Washington to meet with Eisenhower following this famous declaration in 1957.
Both parties have got used to crises between them, testing the relationship between the two countries – and Obama’s era is no exception
The Saudi-American relationship, which goes back to 1933, is almost the only constant such relationship in the region. Both parties have got used to crises between them, testing the relationship between the two countries – and Obama’s era is no exception.
Differing policies
Obama’s policies have differed from Riyadh’s over several issues concerning Egypt, Bahrain, Syria and Iran. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is a brave man who has taken huge domestic and foreign decisions.
Who would have thought that Saudi tanks would cross the bridge to Bahrain to support the regime there after the kingdom felt the threat of Iran’s orchestrated change amidst the fires of the Arab Spring across the region? Who would have dared to declare his support for the corrective movement in Egypt, or ‘coup’ as the Egyptian opposition calls it, and decidedly support Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi? Who can tolerate the most dangerous confrontation the region has known and continuously support the Syrian revolution for three years and take a stance opposing Hezbollah’s and Iran’s forces? Who would have thought that Ali Abdullah Saleh would exit power in Sana’a within the context of an agreement engineered by Saudi Arabia for the sake of establishing a moderate popular regime?
The U.S. disagreed with Saudi Arabia’s stances mentioned above, except over Yemen. And reality says that the U.S. is aware that the friendship is not a dependency. Any lack of confidence may be due to the feeling that president Obama chose the policy of isolation and of exiting the region. Therefore, Obama does not have the right to decide on behalf of the Saudis how to run their affairs and defend their existence. Even with these several disagreements, Saudi Arabia is aware that the relationship with Washington is a strategic, and not a tactical issue and that it must not be given up.
Iran issue
What’s left is the issue of negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program. President Obama has been enthusiastic about it while Saudi Arabia doubts these negotiations will succeed. But in this case, everyone must give negotiations a chance. Saudi Arabia wins if Washington succeeds at correcting Iran’s policy and pushing it towards moderation, abandoning the possibility of militarization and confrontation. There’s not a lot of hope of that – but who knows, we might be mistaken.
Finally, American interest in Saudi Arabia’s internal stability is understandable considering the kingdom’s weight. Saudi Arabia has succeeded at overcoming the war of terrorism with al-Qaeda. It has also proven it’s stronger during the phase of Arab Spring disturbances, and capable of organizing its internal affairs. In that, Saudi Arabia has proven more capable than its American friends thought it would be.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 25, 2014.