May 05/14


Bible Quotation for today/‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day

Luke 24,44-49/: "Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For May 05/14

The Khomeinist Dome: Iran’s larger nuclear strategy/By: Walid Phares/Al Arabiya/May 05/14

It is political slander season in Egypt/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al ArabiyaMay 05/14

Strategic implications of Saudi Arabia’s military parade/By: Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya/May 05/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 05/14

Lebanese Related News

Suleiman Calls for Turning May 7 Session into Chance for Accord, Warns against Constituent Assembly

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi Celebrates Mass during Lourdes International Pilgrimage

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai: I know my limits
Iranian official says Lebanon “Iran’s first line of defense”
Syria Army, Hizbullah Advance in Key Damascus Town amid Deal for Retreat of Rebels from C. Homs
Syrian Gunmen Shoot and Wound 3 Arsal Men in Town Outskirts
Medicines Smuggled from Syria Seized at Arsal Apartment
General Security Deports Syrians, Palestinians Detained at Beirut Airport

Wage Hike Committee Backs Payment without Installments, Calls for Reforms

Gharib: Be prepared for more protests

Rifi: Work on rehabilitating Tripoli to begin

Former MP: Tripoli fighters victims, not criminals

Journalists to skip Martyrs commemoration in protest

Miscellaneous Reports And News

High-ranking Iranian cleric visits Shiraz synagogue, confirms Biblical version of Jewish homeland
Rafsanjani on Saudi Arabia

Iran: Nuke agency briefed on alleged detonators

Court accepts Assad’s presidential bid

Sisi: ‘Religious rhetoric’ stained Egypt tourism

Obama mocks chitchat on Putin’s ‘bare chest’

Malaysian police deny al-Qaeda links to MH370

Kurds Say Iraq Presidency Their 'Right'

Two More Kuwait MPs Quit over Refusal to Question PM

Netanyahu Defends Plans for Law on 'Jewish State'

Jewish Migration to Israel from Troubled Ukraine Spikes

Hamas Won't Recognize Israel, Accept Quartet Terms

Peres on Remembrance Day: We still live by our swords, but yearn for peace 


Iranian official says Lebanon “Iran’s first line of defense”
May 04, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: A senior Iranian military official described south Lebanon as Iran’s first line of defense, an Iranian News Agency reported over the weekend. "Our frontmost line of defense is no more in Shalamcheh [in Southern Iran], rather this line is now in Southern Lebanon['s border] with Israel as our strategic depth has now stretched to the Mediterranean coasts and just to the North of Israel," said Yahya Safavi, a senior military aide to the Iranian Supreme Leader, the Fars News Agency reported. Safavi was addressing a group of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps veterans in Isfahan.He also said that the strategy of the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Europe to overthrow embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad has failed, adding that Iran’s influence has grown in Iraq, Syria and the Mediterranean.


Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai: I know my limits

May 04, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai on Sunday once again confirmed his trip to occupied Jerusalem as part of the papal delegation later this month, saying he was aware of the limitations. "I know my limits and I know that Lebanon considers Israel an enemy," local station MTV quoted him as saying. "Some Lebanese voice meaningless criticism," Rai added, according to MTV. Rai confirmed earlier this week he would join the pope on his trip to occupied Jerusalem, becoming the first head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church to visit Israel since it was founded in 1948.
Urging the media to refrain from speculation, the head of Lebanon’s Catholic Media Center Father Abdo Abu Kasm said over the weekend that Rai will not meet Israeli officials when he travels to Jerusalem
“The patriarch will not meet any Israeli official and rumors about attempts to normalize relations [with Israel] are merely part of media analyses and are inaccurate,” he said.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi Celebrates Mass during Lourdes International Pilgrimage
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi celebrated mass at the Roman Catholic pilgrimage site of Lourdes in France on Sunday on the occasion of the international pilgrimage of the Order of Malta.
The Order of Malta’s members and volunteers from all over the world travel each year during the first weekend of May to Lourdes. They accompany the sick and disabled and pray and bathe in the holy waters. Around 200 Lebanese, among them 24 sick people, took part in the five-day pilgrimage and attended Sunday's mass. The 2014 international pilgrimage was attended by 25,000 faithful from all over the world. This year's event had a greater significance due to al-Rahi's attendance. The patriarch, who is also a cardinal, celebrated the mass in French but the bible was read in Arabic, the first time such a move has been made in the annual mass. Al-Rahi said he prayed that Virgin Mary would salvage the Orient, which is engulfed with hatred. Lourdes attracts millions of visitors each year. The Catholic church recognizes 68 miracles linked to it and many disabled or sick people go there to pray for a cure. It has a famous grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a peasant girl, in 1858 and whose water many believe has curative powers.

Suleiman Calls for Turning May 7 Session into Chance for Accord, Warns against Constituent Assembly
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman on Sunday called for turning the May 7 presidential vote into an “opportunity for accord and dialogue, unlike what happened on May 7, 2008,” warning against “dragging the country into a constituent assembly.”“As the end of my term approaches, the worrying possibilities are surfacing. Why should every power rotation opportunity be turned into an occasion for fear over vacuum and the unknown fate?” Suleiman said in a speech he delivered at the inauguration ceremony of the Michel Suleiman Sports Village in Jbeil. “Those concerned with the survival of the entity and the political system must realize that the election of a president cannot happen through obstructing quorum, but rather through implementing the constitution,” he stressed.
The president called on MPs and political leaders to turn the May 7 parliamentary session to vote on a new president into “an occasion for accord and dialogue, unlike what happened on May 7, 2008.”
He was referring to the clashes that erupted that year, when gunmen belonging to Hizbullah and its allies swept through Beirut’s neighborhoods after the government of Fouad Saniora decided to dismantle the group's telecom network and sack airport security chief Brig. Gen. Wafiq Shqeir. Suleiman warned that the current “consensus government” of Prime Minister Tammam Salam “cannot fill the vacuum in the absence of (a president, who is) the top regulator of the work of state institutions and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.”
“Do not suspend the vote and the constitution as you wait for an absent foreign agreement,” the president added, addressing lawmakers and leaders.
“We must interpret the constitution in a single manner ... Procrastination in the election of a new president poses a threat to the Lebanese entity and opens the door for dangerous scenarios,” he warned.
“Don't drag the country and its citizens into a constituent assembly that would topple the Taef Accord and equal power-sharing” between Muslims and Christians, Suleiman urged.
He said the country is in need for a president who would “represent accord, wisdom and the constitution, a president who would be able to manage Lebanese diversity, not one who manages foreign calculations and interests.”Turning to the issue of the defense strategy and Hizbullah's controversial arsenal of weapons, the president stated: “I declare with full confidence that the nature of the state obliges it to possess all the elements of strength, the thing that must happen through the defense strategy, so that the army and only the army can defend the land.”
Suleiman also called for steering the country clear from regional conflicts and crises. “I witnessed all forms of disputes, and today I'm deeply convinced of the need to keep Lebanon away from the conflicts of the region,” he said. “I witnessed the attempt to break up and fragment the army and I witnessed its cohesion in its battles against the army and terrorism,” the president added.
During the first round of the presidential polls, 52 MPs from the March 8 alliance cast blank ballots, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea received the votes of only 48 MPs while 16 lawmakers voted for Aley lawmaker Henri Helou and one for Kataeb party chief ex-President Amin Gemayel. The March 8 MPs later pulled out of the session, causing a lack of quorum. The same lawmakers, except for Speaker Nabih Berri's bloc, boycotted the second round of the elections. The same scenario is expected to take place next Wednesday during the third round.


Amin Gemayel Says he Aspires to Become Consensual Candidate
Naharnet /Kataeb party leader Amin Gemayel said his candidacy for the presidency would only become real if lawmakers failed to elect Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, revealing his ambition to become a consensual candidate. “If the March 14 alliance … was able to break the barricade that surrounds Geagea, then it would reach its objective,” Gemayel told the Saudi Okaz daily published on Sunday. “Or else, all options would be on the table and my candidacy would become real,” he said. The former president expected the third round of the polls next Wednesday to be decisive in the battle for the country's top Christian post. The polls have turned into a conflict between Geagea and Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun, he stated. But things would change “when Lebanon feels that the election of one of them is impossible.” In the first round of the polls, 52 MPs from the March 8 alliance cast blank ballots, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea received the votes of only 48 MPs while 16 lawmakers voted for Aley lawmaker Henri Helou and one for Gemayel. The blank votes were aimed at sending a message that Lebanon would not have a new president unless there is consensus on one person. Aoun has repeatedly announced that he would run for the elections only if there was consensus on him. The FPM's negotiations with al-Mustaqbal movement leader Saad Hariri in that regard have been so far futile. The March 8 lawmakers, except for Speaker Nabih Berri's bloc, boycotted the second round of the elections this week. A similar scenario is expected to take place next Wednesday, causing fears of a vacuum in the country's top Christian post. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends on May 25. “I aspire to be a consensual president but my aspiration is not enough for it to become reality,” Gemayel told Okaz. “All political parties have their calculations ... But I haven't been confronted by any party the same way Geagea was, because I have kept my ties with all of them,” he said. “This opens a window” of opportunity, he added. Addressing both Geagea and Aoun, Gemayel said: “We should cooperate to serve the nation and not a certain party.”The elections should not cause further divisions among the rival parties, he stated. Asked what stance he would have from Hizbullah's arsenal if he was elected, Geagea said: “Our understanding of the sovereignty of the state lies in keeping arms in the hands of the state.”The dialogue on Hizbullah's arsenal would continue pending a "consensual patriotic decision” that serves the nation, he added


Syrian Gunmen Shoot and Wound 3 Arsal Men in Town Outskirts
Naharnet /Three young men who hail from Arsal were shot and wounded Sunday at the hands of gunmen operating in the outskirts of the border town. LBCI television said the incident happened in the al-Rahweh area in the town's outskirts. State-run National News Agency said “Syrian gunmen opened fire at five young men who hail from the town of Arsal, wounding three of them.”
It identified the men as “Ahmed Abed al-Atrash, 18, a man from the al-Hujeiri family and another from the al-Jbawi family.” “The families of the wounded young men have appealed for their evacuation from the scene while search is underway for the other two men who were with them,” NNA added. Separately, An Nahar newspaper said Sunday that “clashes erupted between the army and gunmen in the outskirts of the border town of Ras Baalbek on the Lebanese side of the Eastern Mountain Belt." On Wednesday, eight Lebanese soldiers were wounded in clashes with gunmen in the al-Rahweh area. The army said the fighting erupted after troops fell into an ambush. The Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade later claimed responsibility for the attack. According to state-run National News Agency, the gunmen were of Syrian nationality and four of them were arrested. LBCI television said the ambush was set up when the army was raiding a warehouse in al-Rahweh.


Medicines Smuggled from Syria Seized at Arsal Apartment
Naharnet/The Internal Security Forces on Sunday seized 59 boxes of smuggled medications at an apartment in the Bekaa border town of Arsal. “After obtaining information about the presence of a quantity of medicines that was smuggled from Syria into the town of Arsal, and following investigations, the Arsal police department managed to locate these medications,” ISF's Public Relations Department said in a statement. An apartment inhabited by Syrian refugees was consequently raided and the smuggler of the medications was arrested, the ISF added. It identified the apprehended man as 40-year-old Syrian national O. R. “Fifty-nine boxes of various medicines” were confiscated while the detainee and the seized material were referred to the Bureau for Combating Financial Crimes and Money Laundering for further investigations, the ISF added. Earlier on Sunday, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) had reported that “the Arsal police station foiled an attempt to smuggle a quantity of medicines into Syria via an illegal border crossing and a truck driver was arrested.” It later identified the man as Syrian national Omar Ahmed al-Rifai, saying he hails from the Qalamoun region town of Ras al-Maara. On Friday, the army said it arrested seven Syrians in Arsal for trying to enter Lebanon illegally. The National News Agency said “suspicious” identification papers were found in their possession. Ever since the Syrian revolt erupted in March 2011, Arsal has served as a key conduit for refugees, rebels and wounded people fleeing strife-torn Syria. On March 29, Syrian troops managed to recapture Ras al-Maara and nearby Flita in the strategic Qalamoun region near the Lebanese border. Regime forces, backed by Hizbullah fighters, have been waging a ferocious assault against rebel positions in Qalamoun, north of Damascus, since November. They seized the rebels' last major stronghold in the region, the town of Yabrud, in mid-March and have since moved on rebel-held villages closer to the border in a bid to stop the flow of weapons and fighters from Lebanon..


General Security Deports Syrians, Palestinians Detained at Beirut Airport
Naharnet/The General Security Department handed over to Syria on Sunday around 50 refugees who were arrested a day earlier in Beirut for trying to flee with forged documents. A unit from the department accompanied the 49 Syrians and Palestinians to the Jdeidet Yabous crossing and handed them over to the Syrian authorities. The refugees were arrested at the Rafik Hariri International Airport on Saturday.
They were seeking to travel to an Arab country with false documents. General Security warned Arabs and foreigners, especially Syrian and Palestinian refugees, against violating residency laws and attempting to travel with forged documents.

PM, Salam Fears Government Would Suffer from Differences on Presidency
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam has expressed fears that a possible vacuum in the presidency caused by the differences between the rival political parties would have negative repercussions on his cabinet. Pan-Arab daily al-Hayat quoted officials as saying on Sunday that the failure of MPs to elect a new head of state by May 25 “would lead to a difficulty to manage the state's affairs.”
The officials, who were not identified, told the newspaper that Salam could “take a stance to reject his government's responsibility for any chaos or a decline in the achievements made since the formation of his cabinet, such as the implementation of security plans.”Lawmakers have so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. March 14 has officially backed the candidacy of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea. But March 8 has been boycotting the parliamentary sessions over the lack of a consensual candidate, a reference to Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun. The officials hoped the same atmosphere that reigned it during the formation of the cabinet would lead to an understanding to avoid a vacuum in the country's top Christian post.
They said the rival parties should start looking for alternatives if lawmakers failed again next Wednesday to elect Geagea.


Syria Army, Hizbullah Advance in Key Damascus Town amid Deal for Retreat of Rebels from C. Homs
Naharnet/Syrian rebels on Sunday reached a deal with the regime for the withdrawal of rebels, civilians and wounded people from the city of Homs, where they have been under siege for two years, as the army advanced in the strategic town of Mleiha near Damascus. "An agreement occurred between representatives of the rebels and the chiefs of security, in the presence of the Iranian ambassador, for the pullout of fighters from the Old City to the northern countryside of Homs," said Abul Hareth al-Khalidi, a rebel negotiator.
He added that talks are now focused on implementation. Homs was dubbed the "capital of the revolution" at the start of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad. Around 2,250 people, mostly fighters, will evacuate the Old City area, which lies in the heart of Syria's third city Homs, according to a version of the agreement obtained by Agence France Presse from an opposition source.
Abul Harith said civilians and wounded people will also be evacuated from the battered Old City, much of which has been destroyed by near-daily bombardment and constant fighting.
Fighters will withdraw to a rebel-controlled area in the north of Homs province, according to the text.
They will be allowed to withdraw with light weapons, and one rocket launcher will be permitted on every bus used for the evacuation. The Red Crescent, adds the text, will transport the wounded.
"The guarantors (of the deal) will be the presence of members of the United Nations and Iranian negotiators on the buses," according to the text.
The deal was reached as part of an exchange for an unknown number of Iranian and Lebanese prisoners currently held by the Islamic Front, Syria's largest rebel alliance. "Implementation will begin after those being held by the Islamic Front are released, and after permission is given to allow relief to enter the (Shiite, pro-regime) towns of Nubol and Zahraa in Aleppo province," according to the text.
But regime representatives said it was an "arrangement" rather than a deal. "There is no deal, there is an arrangement and reconciliations that should lead to the handing over of the city, stripped empty of weapons and of armed men," said Homs governor Talal al-Barazi.
"On the ground there is nothing yet," he said. The main opposition National Coalition, for its part, issued a statement in praise of "the heroic actions of the revolutionaries" in Homs. The group also called on the United Nations "to fulfill its duty and to ensure the regime honors the truce" which began on Friday.
An activist from Homs told AFP: "Today, the modus operandi of the withdrawal was put in place. But there will be fear from both sides until the exit takes place."Meanwhile, regime forces made major advances Sunday on Mleiha, a town strategically located southeast of Damascus near the airport road, a security official said. "More than half of the town is under army control," the official told Agence France Presse, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The army has reached the town hall building. All the orchards and roads leading to the town are now in the army's hands, as is the south, the west and the southeast."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the advance, but the head of the monitoring group said it was unclear how firmly in control the army was.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said: "Regime troops have reached the town center. Hizbullah is playing the lead role in the battle."
Hizbullah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to back President Bashar Assad's regime.
They have been especially active around Damascus, Homs in central Syria and Aleppo in the north.
Like the rest of the Eastern Ghouta area, Mleiha has been under siege for a year, and under a fierce bombardment campaign for weeks.
"Its capture would be very important for the army to secure Jaramana," said Abdel Rahman, referring to a regime-controlled, majority Druze and Christian suburb of Damascus near Mleiha.
Its fall from rebel hands would also be key for the regime's bid to take back the Eastern Ghouta area, a rebel bastion.
Source/Agence France Presse


Wage Hike Committee Backs Payment without Installments, Calls for Reforms
Naharnet/A committee that was tasked to amend the wage scale draft-law has lowered the raise but said in a report that the state was able to pay without installments starting July 1, pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported Sunday. The ministerial-parliamentary committee, which studied the public sector pay hike after lawmakers failed to approve the draft-law, completed its report on Saturday night and is expected to refer it to Speaker Nabih Berri in the coming hours. Berri has said that he would invite MPs for a session to discuss the amended draft-law as soon as the committee refers the report to him.
Al-Hayat said that the committee's members have suggested lowering the pay hike but called for its payment without installments starting July 1. It set a series of steps to fund the scale, including taxes, reforms and combating waste of public money, the newspaper said. But the committee agreed to leave discussions on a possible one percent raise of Value Added Tax to lawmakers. Another alternative lies in raising it from 10 to 15 percent on luxury items. Minister Nabil de Freij told Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) that the discussion on the VAT hike was left for MPs over differences among the committee's members. The issue still needs time to be resolved, he said. Public sector employees and teachers have called for the payment of the scale in the numbers initially approved by former Premier Najib Miqati's government in 2012 and has rejected installments. The Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has organized several strikes and protests to pressure MPs into approving their demands.

Court accepts Assad’s presidential bid

Reuters, Beirut /Sunday, 4 May 2014/A Syrian court said on Sunday it had accepted requests from President Bashar al-Assad and two other candidates to be nominated to run in a presidential election next month. Assad’s challengers are unlikely to pose a serious threat to the president in the June 3 vote, which his international opponents and the rebels fighting to overthrow him have dismissed as a farce. Syria’s opposition leaders in exile are barred from standing by a constitutional clause requiring candidates to have lived in the country continuously for 10 years. The constitution also says candidates must have the backing of 35 members of the pro-Assad parliament, effectively ruling out dissenting voices from the campaign. The Supreme Constitutional Court had accepted nomination requests from Assad as well as Hassan Abdallah al-Nouri and lawmaker Maher Abdel-Hafiz Hajjar, court spokesman Majid Khadra said in statements broadcast on state television. He said those whose requests had been rejected had a right to appeal to the court from May 5 until May 7. Authorities have not said how they will hold the vote in a country where six million people have been displaced and large swathes of territory remain outside government control. Another 2.5 million refugees have fled Syria, many smuggling themselves across the frontier to avoid Assad's security forces. Election commission head Hisham al-Shaar was quoted by Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper on Monday as saying Syrians who had left the country illegally would not be eligible to vote Syria’s conflict started over three years ago as a peaceful protest movement calling for reforms but descended into civil war after a government crackdown. The government has lost swathes of territory to rebels, especially in the country’s north and east, although it has maintained control over much of Syria’s center and Mediterranean coast.

Sisi: ‘Religious rhetoric’ stained Egypt tourism
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Sunday, 4 May 2014
Egypt’s presidential candidate Abdel Fatah al-Sisi blamed “hardline religious rhetoric” for negatively affecting one of the country’s major sectors, tourism, in a video published by his campaigners on YouTube Saturday. Sisi, who hasn’t yet officially presented his electoral program for the scheduled May 26-27 election, said plans for tourism has long been affected by such rhetoric during a meeting with people in charge of the tourism industry in the country. “I remember whenever the sector used to recover, and get some fresh air, it could not take the next step,” said the now-retired army chief.
He said: “If things were going smoothly, we could have talked about 30-40 million tourists in Egypt,” as oppose to the annual figure of 13-14 million tourists visiting the country before the revolution that toppled strongman President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. This “will allow people to earn,” he said, adding “we need to increase awareness about this in Egypt.”
He also explained that he has “an idea for tourism,” because he “lives in a (Cairo) district abundant with popular tourist areas such as Khan Khalili, al-Gamaliya, al-Azhar…all offering different types of religious tourism and more.” He also urged the tourism sector representatives to represent the notion that July 3 last year - the date when Islamist President Mohammed Mursi was ousted by the then army chief – was the “people’s will and not anything else.”The power to reign comes from God, he said, adding that “God can take that too.”He promised if he wins the election, he will choose an effective team, demanding “loyalty, honesty, creativity and unlimited energy” for the upcoming era.
Sisi and Sabahi
Egypt’s only two presidential candidates began their election campaigns on Saturday. Sisi appears poised to win on a wave of nationalistic fervor as opposed to leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 election. While Sabahi began his campaign Saturday after giving a press conference in the southern city of Asyut, Sisi’s campaign later on in the day posted its first video clip for the former military man that appeared to have been taken during an interview with local television networks that’s scheduled to be aired Monday. Sabahi kicked off his campaign in Asyut, promising to “achieve democracy, development and freedom for each Egyptian.” Sabahi told journalists that he chose southern Egypt because he hopes to eliminate poverty and unemployment, as well as end previous policies that concentrated development on the capital and marginalized the south, where Islamists hold sway. Later in the day, Sabahi vowed he would keep the military out of politics if he became president. He also vowed to abolish a divisive law that bans protests not approved by police, a measure that’s seen activists arrested and imprisoned. “It is not appropriate to overburden (the military) or to get in middle of political conflict,” Sabahi said. Meanwhile, Sisi launched his election campaign on Twitter after midnight with the hashtag “Long Live Egypt.”Sisi posters in Cairo present him as a strongman in “the fight against terror” - referring to the wave of Islamic militant attacks that followed Mursi’s ouster. (With The Associated Press)

Obama mocks chitchat on Putin’s ‘bare chest’

Obama made fun of conservative television hosts’ talk about Putin’s bare chest
By The Associated Press | Washington/Sunday, 4 May 2014
President Barack Obama joked about Russian President Vladimir Putin and issues closer to home as he headlined the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday night.
The annual tradition has the president mocking others and himself as celebrities mingle with journalists and politicians.
Obama made fun of conservative television hosts’ talk about Putin’s bare chest, and he joked about opposition claims that he had been born overseas instead of the United States.
“Rudy Giuliani said Putin is what you call a leader. Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity keep talking about his bare chest, which is kind of weird,” the president said, referring to the extensive coverage the Russian leader’s bare chest displays has received in the press.  Looking ahead to a possible successor in office, Obama said it will be a lot harder for Republicans to prove that Hillary Rodham Clinton was born in Kenya. The president also poked fun at CNN’s extensive coverage of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. He said he was still jet-lagged from his visit in recent days to Malaysia and added, “The lengths we have to go to get CNN coverage these days!” Obama also turned the humor on himself and his difficult 2013, including the deeply troubled rollout of the website for his health care overhaul. First Lady Michelle Obama accompanied him to the black tie event, and Joel McHale, star of the NBC series “Community,” was the dinner’s featured entertainer. Celebrities attending included Sofia Vergara and the stars of Washington-centric shows like “Veep” and “Scandal.”The dinner has often come at key moments of Obama’s presidency. In 2011, Obama showed up the day before special operations troops killed Osama bin Laden. Last year’s dinner came nearly two weeks after the deadly Boston Marathon. This time, the U.S. and Europe are anxiously watching Ukraine and Russia’s role in the turbulence in the eastern region of the former Soviet state. The correspondent’s association, which represents the White House press corps, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Several journalists were awarded prizes for their coverage of the presidency and national issues. Glenn Thrush of Politico and Brianna Keilar of CNN won the Aldo Beckman Award, which recognizes excellence in the coverage of the presidency. Peter Baker of The New York Times and Peter Maer of CBS News won the Merriman Smith Award for deadline coverage.
Megan Twohey of Reuters and a partnership between The Center for Public Integrity’s Chris Hamby and ABC News’ Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross won the Edgar A. Poe Award for coverage of issues of national significance.
Last Update: Sunday, 4 May 2014 KSA 10:35 - GMT 07:35

Malaysian police deny al-Qaeda links to MH370
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Sunday, 4 May 2014
Malaysian police on Sunday rejected a British report linking the missing Malaysian flight with al-Qaeda, described it as “rubbish.”Earlier, it was reported that a group of eleven suspected terrorists with links to al-Qaeda were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370 and were being interrogated yesterday. The suspects had reportedly formed a new terror group that is believed to be carrying out bomb attacks in Muslim countries. They were arrested last week in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and in the state of Kedah. “That’s rubbish! This has nothing to do with the plane,” Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told The Star on Sunday. Flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of March 8, about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 ft. No distress signal was sent from the lost plane, and about two-thirds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew aboard the plane were Chinese. The airline said other nationalities included 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans. It is thought to have crashed into the Indian Ocean
Despite an extensive multi-million-dollar air and sea search, no trace of the plane has been found. The Daily Mail had reported: “The interrogations come after international investigators, including the FBI and MI6, asked for the militants, whose ages range from 22 to 55 and include students, odd-job workers, a young widow and business professionals, to be questioned intensively about Flight MH370.”.
Malaysian Islamist ‘plot’
Last month, an alleged plot by Malaysian Islamists to hijack a passenger jet, in a similar style to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, was linked to the disappearance of Flight MH370, Britain’s Telegraph reported.
The connection to the Malaysia Airlines flight, which went missing on March 8, was being investigated following claims from an al-Qaeda “supergrass” who recently spoke of a Malaysian plot in a New York court. Saajid Badat, a British-born Muslim from Gloucester, had said that four to five Malaysian men had been planning to take control of a plane, using a bomb hidden in a shoe to blow open the cockpit door, according to the newspaper. But in one of the most shocking revelations, Badat said that he had met the Malaysian jihadists in Afghanistan, given them a shoe bomb to use to take control of an aircraft, and that one of them was a pilot. Badat had been giving evidence at the trial in New York of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law. He told the court via video- ink that he believed the Malaysians, including the pilot, were “ready to perform an act.”The pilot of the flight, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had also increasingly become spotlighted by the media, after it was reported by Britain’s Mail on Sunday that he was an ‘obsessive’ supporter of Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim.


It is political slander season in Egypt
Sunday, 4 May 2014/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Opponents of the Egyptian government did not spare the opportunity to mock foreign affairs minister Nabil Fahmy's recent statement wherehe described relations with the U.S. as a marriage and not a fling. Of course, the statement itself is certainly not worth mocking as it's a familiar literary metaphor, particularly in English.
However, it does reveal how discourse between the government and its rivals is reaching a new low every day and the Egyptian political scene has never witnessed such vulgarity on both sides.
The majority of the verbal onslaught is coming from the Muslim Brotherhood after it discovered that the reason it lost so much popularity wasn’t due to the “deep state” - as it continuously alleges - but due to its practices and the practices of those affiliated with it.
Costly electoral mistakes
One example is Salafist MP Anwar al-Balkimy, who belonged to the ultra-conservative Nour Party. His “nose job scandal” cost him his parliamentary membership in 2012. Balkimy had claimed that five masked men attacked him on the Cairo-Alexandria highway, broke his nose and stole 100,000 Egyptian Pounds from him. It turned out he was lying to hide the fact that he got a nose job! Balkimy's party apologized and he resigned from the People's Assembly.
The story is actually quite silly; however, it does – along with many other accounts - expose the image of alleged integrity for what it truly is.
It's normal for sarcasm and slander to surge as election day nears. Elections will carry no surprises as they will end in Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's victory
However, not all stories are as amusing and some are quite serious. The most famous is that of Hazem Abu Ismail, the former presidential candidate, whose mother turned out to be an American citizen. Abu Ismail tried to hide the truth so he doesn't disqualify from the elections as it's a condition that both parents be Egyptian nationals. As such, the Brotherhood and its allies were an easy target because their extremist fundamentalist preaching rhetoric did not match their practices.
This electoral season is certainly proving to be exciting and full of slander, leaked tapes and insults. It seems issues will take a turn for the worst and head towards complete rupture among rival political parties. And we are yet to see what the outcome is of the ongoing exchange of insults, Will it lead to further disputes and deterioration? And will it further widen the gap?
I think the Egyptian people, who are sarcastic in their nature, are able to forgive and forget. Once reconciliation is achieved, it can wash away insults or escalated rhetoric.
However, we cannot say the same about violent incidents. We need to understand that this battle has two levels, and one of them is violence level, and anyone resorting to it cannot be forgiven.
The increasing bombings from Sinai to Cairo confirm this as these attacks further distorted the Brotherhood's image among the public. Brotherhood extremists and their allies outside Egypt think explosions and assassinations are a successful attempt to keep their cause alive; yet they are a failed means to destabilize the current regime. Such acts were only supported or justified by the Brotherhood itself, and they will certainly serve as a case against it.
As for the second level of the battle, this is where political and media distortion happens. Both sides exercise such practices and there will come a day when either party retreats and when the language of slander, distortion and random accusations disappears.
It's normal for sarcasm and slander to surge as election day nears. Elections will carry no surprises as they will end in Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's victory. Therefore, attacks won't alter the results - just like a string of explosions won't change anything.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 4, 2014.


The Khomeinist Dome: Iran’s larger nuclear strategy
Sunday, 4 May 2014
By: Walid Phares/Al Arabiya
As a reader of Khomeinist global strategies since the early 1980s, and as I have argued over decades in books and articles, Tehran’s regime possesses a much larger nuclear strategy than the simple acquisition of mass destruction weapons. Over the last few years, the United States and its Western allies have been led to focus on the visible part of the Iranian buildup, missing the much greater construct undertaken over several generations of rulers of the same Iranian regime. Since the so-called “Iran nuclear deal” was inked last fall, Washington acts as if it has somewhat halted (or at least slowed) the strategic program of Tehran and thus has been rewarding the Ayatollahs, but the reality flies in the face of this assumption and agreement. Iran’s regime is employing a much larger strategy in order to reach the level of an armed nuclear power, and – perhaps ironically – one of the regime’s strategic policies is to mislead the international community, particularly the U.S., in its campaign to irreversibly transform itself into a nuclear power.
The “dome” is a complex integration of Iranian foreign policy: Terrorism backing, using financial luring, exploiting Western weaknesses while at the same time expanding influence.
The Iranian global construct can be perceived as a “Khomeinist Dome.” Iran’s strategy has been twofold—and sustained over decades, not simply implemented over the past few years and months. The regime has two simultaneous goals. One is to create a defensive sphere over the forthcoming strategic weapon before it is unveiled, and two is to suppress any internal opposition to the regime’s policies. The “dome” is a complex integration of Iranian foreign policy: Terrorism backing, using financial luring, exploiting Western weaknesses while at the same time expanding influence in the region so that by the time the greater shield is established, most U.S. and allied measures will be useless.
The regime knew all too well, years ago, that if they produced one atomic weapon (or even two) without being able to protect it, they would run into the almost certainty of military action by the West and/or by Israel to disable it. They were unable to circumvent this strategic theorem for decades, at least since the end of the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1987. The issue for them was not about obtaining the nuclear weapon, but how to deter their enemies from destroying it. Iran did not have the geopolitical or economic capacities, nor the international stature of either India or Pakistan, to produce large scale numbers of bombs and later announce them the way south Asia’s nuclear powers detonated their devices in 1999. Hence Iran’s grand strategy to equip itself with the ultimate weapon was different—and thus far successful.
After the Soviet collapse, Tehran knew Israel, or possibly a U.S. administration, would bomb the nuclear installations, not to mention the location of a potential weapon. The Israeli raid on Osirak in 1981 was clear evidence of Western determination to strike at a nuclear weapon in the hands of a dangerous regime. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the coalition’s massive response in 1990-1991 also told the Khomeinists that a post-Cold War West is more assertive than under the previously bipolar world. Finally, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003 brought two powerful and hostile armies to Iran’s two borders. Tehran’s reading of the landscape change was so nervous that it declared itself as abandoning its nuclear ambitions, almost simultaneously with Muammar Qaddafi. The fear of being toppled by outside military forces pushed Iran to hide its nuclear ambitions while awaiting the outcome of the regional evolution.
Full steam ahead
By 2005, as the U.S. offensive in the Middle East came to a halt, the Iranian regime displayed its hardliner face with the coming of Mahmoud Ahmedinijad to power. From then on, the grand strategy of the atomic conquest went full steam ahead. On one track, Iran activated the production of nuclear material, making Bushehr and its sister sites the center of international focus. Washington responded with targeted sanctions, well-crafted but aiming at pressuring Tehran to halt the project. The failure of the sanctions-only policies to exert a full strategic halt was caused by the inability of the West to support a strong and organized Iranian opposition inside the country with a significant presence in neighboring Iraq. Sanctions to pressure, without a real resistance movement to push the regime into a corner, were doomed to fail and they did.
But the Iranian regime’s wider strategy was to create a shield for the nuclear weapons as they were produced. In fact, the Ayatollahs calculated that they would only unveil the weapon if and when it is protected. Hence, while the U.S. focused primarily on the fissile material, the fast track production of missiles was never stopped. The greater dome strategy includes missiles, anti-aircraft systems, geopolitical space and terrorism.
A large missile force, which would target a wide spectrum of cities and sites, has been under construction for years. In addition, the regime has been attempting to obtain advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to protect the potential offensive missiles. And when the two structures are fully ready it will be a greater challenge to eliminate the entire network as it would be armed with nukes and other WMDs while also surrounded with a vast AA system; all the while, the uranium production is moving forward. In parallel, Tehran has been expanding its reach in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula and parts of East Africa with its influence and through terror networks. Once the combination of all the above systems is in place, the bomb will come, but not before.
Unstoppable power
The Khomeinist dome is about preparing for the nukes before they are displayed and claimed. It is about signaling to the West that once the greater Iranian power is asserted, there will not be a first indefensible bomb. Rather, Iran will jump to the level of unstoppable power with a vast network of retaliation as deterrence will have been achieved. Unfortunately, Western posture towards Tehran has only helped in the building of the dome: sanctions worked but were limited, all Iran’s other military systems were unchecked, and its interventions in the region unstopped. Worse, a nuclear deal with the U.S. injected time and energy into the regime’s veins.
At this point, the regime is out to complete the buildup of its strategic shield while offering to slow down its fissile material production. Once the dome is complete, the nuclear material production will speed up, and by the time the West realizes the maneuver, the Middle East will have changed forever.
Dr. Walid Phares serves as an advisor to members of Congress on the Middle East. He is the author of the newly-released The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and the Catastrophes to Avoid, as well as Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America and The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad. He has served on the Homeland Security Board of Advisors and the National Security Council Task Force on Nuclear Terrorism. Dr. Phares taught at the National Defense University since 2006.

Strategic implications of Saudi Arabia’s military parade
Sunday, 4 May 2014
Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya
The Saudi Arabian Armed Forces conducted Operation Saif Abdullah (Sword of Abdullah) and parade at King Khalid Military City near Hafr Al-Baten, in northeast Saudi Arabia, showcasing its military might last week in a very public display of combat aircraft, armor, ballistic missiles, and about 130,000 troops. The events came on the heels of military exercises between the UAE and Egypt as well as similar activities in Bahrain.
The highly choreographed events were supervised by Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Prince Salman. Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin, Prince Mutaib, King Abdullah's son and National Guard minister, and Interior Minister Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and scores of diplomats, officials, military officers and the media were in attendance. Operation Saif Abdullah was held to commemorate the ascension to the throne of the current monarch, King Abdullah. So the event was planned well in advanced and the timing could not have been better.
The Hafr Al-Baten Military Exercise, held near the Kuwaiti and Iraqi borders, included the cream of the crop of Saudi security officials and several royal observers from the Gulf states. Saudi Chief of Staff General Hussain Al-Qubail was quoted in Arab News as saying, “By conducting this exercise, we are preparing our forces to defend our holy places and our achievements ... and we don't intend to attack anyone because it's not the Kingdom's policy.” He added, “These maneuvers are aimed at raising the training level of our forces and testing their preparedness to deter enemy attacks...the Kingdom would defend itself against any aggressors. The exercise was carried out under the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, supreme commander of the armed forces.”
Saudi Arabia's ballistic missile, the CSS-2
Importantly, the parade featured, for the first time, Saudi Arabia's ballistic missile, the CSS-2. The significance of showing the missiles at this time sends multiple messages to state actors around the world and specifically Iran as pointed out by many observers. Some Arab officials are speculating on the CONOP (Concept of Operations) for the scenario that the Saudis were running during the exercise with a large conventional force: Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq seemed to lead the pact of potential candidates in times of crisis particularly with one state just completing its parliamentary vote, two states that have upcoming elections and another state in the midst of an outright war with al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula. According to one Arab official, “Qatar should be taking note of these exercises and parade.”
To date, there are key implications that many analysts are pointing to: A show of force as well as sending messages to Iran and the United States that the Kingdom and allies can stand on their own defense capabilities in times of regional crisis. In addition, observers noted that the Saudi-based events featured notable signals about the Kingdom’s relationship with China and Pakistan. However, there are wide-ranging other inferences to take under consideration regarding the future of Gulf security architecture.
First are the messages being sent to the UK. The UK is currently playing an interesting game with Qatar much to the chagrin of the Kingdom. Importantly, Qatar is now Britain's biggest source of liquefied natural gas. Emir Tamim is quietly reported to be in London launching a new television network, Al-Arabi or Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, seemingly an alternative to al-Jazeera, a network that is the darling of the Father Emir. At the same time, the Emir is potentially meeting with other British officials about what to do with the Muslim Brotherhood’s (Ikwan) activities given Saudi demands that the UK look into the Ikwan’s network emanating from UK soil. The UK’s “East of Suez” policy is coming into play now. We must recall that the East of Suez policy is for a return of the British to the Gulf in order to protect vital interests especially the protection of over 160,000 British expats in the GCC. Clearly, the Saudi are miffed at London and are expecting clear answers from 10 Downing Street about what comes next. Yet, London is also frustrated because of recent arms sales gone bad and an increase in French outreach to the Gulf states.
A signal to European states
Second, the events of last week are a signal to France. Paris is slated to become more dominant in the Gulf despite the British East of Suez policy coupled with U.S. recalculations. France’s strategic policy is evolving into becoming a guardian for Francophile Africa, MENA, and the Gulf. Specifically, Paris is rapidly escalating its bilateral relationships to many GCC states with monthly unannounced visits of senior defense officials up to French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian. The French are actively pursuing defense sales and future supplier contracts with many GCC states. Saudi Arabia, with its activities last week, is showing France that the door is open to Paris but at the same that door can shut depending on French behavior towards negotiations with Iran.
Third, we all know that the Saudi exercises and parade pointed towards the pending deal between the P5+1 and Iran which is likely to conclude sooner rather than later. The Kingdom is clearly upset and despite U.S. President Obama’s visit to Riyadh last month, the feeling of abandonment continues. American officials are visiting the region less and if they do, there is little time on the ground. It seems that the U.S. wants their European allies to take the lead. As such, once this agreement is signed with Iran, Gulf security architecture will change. Britain and France will become more dominant with the US giving equal or greater responsibility to the two states as Washington readjusts its presence in the Gulf as America’s attention is pulled to the north towards Ukraine and Russia. In the near future, it is likely that Britain and France will also be working more closely with Iran at the expense of Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia based on the current trajectory.
Overall, Saudi Arabia's showing of force came at an important time in terms of regional security developments. The Kingdom's choice to flash their missile, equipment, and manpower in front of world eyes signals a defining moment for Riyadh and the Kingdom’s relationships with key Western powers and the future Gulf security architecture.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is the Director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, UAE. He is also a Lecturer at University of Wollongong Dubai. Dr. Karasik received his Ph.D in History from the University of California Los Angles.

High-ranking Iranian cleric visits Shiraz synagogue, confirms Biblical version of Jewish homeland
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 4, 2014/Even if this was part of the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s campaign of smiles for the West, the visit to the Shiraz synagogue Friday night, May 1, by the head of his assistant for minority affairs, Hojat- Islam Ali Yunessi, was especially noteworthy. He was the first high-ranking Iranian cleric to visit a Jewish synagogue in a decade and, moreover, he delivered a speech in praise of Iran’s ancient Jewish community’s successful coexistence with other groups.
But most remarkably, he admitted that historical research and archeological excavations in the last 150 years had corroborated the Biblical account of the deeds of the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great (550-530 BCE). (The Bible recounts that Cyrus issued a fabled decree for the emancipation of slaves, including the Jewish people, from Babylonian captivity, and allowed them to return to their homeland in Judah and rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem.) That reference alone will undoubtedly be enough to bring Iran’s radical elements down on Yunessi’s head for his temerity in gainsaying precepts laid down by the founder of its Islamic Revolution. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared the Jewish Bible a forgery because of its many contradictions of the Koran text and denounced all Persian rulers prior to his revolution as symbols of despotism and repression. Yanessi did, however, take the precaution of pointing out that it would be a mistake to equate Judaism and Zionism because, he said, some Jews are anti-Zionist.
According to debkafile’s Iranian sources, Yanessi acted out a gesture on behalf of President Rouhani that was designed to allay Iranian Jews’ fear of fallout from the constant denunciations of the rulers of Tehran by Israel’s leaders. The Voice of America TV this week quoted the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as cursing the Iranians and hoping for their destruction. Although this quote was lifted from a speech the rabbi made many years ago, it got Iranian Jews worried. But Rouhani sent his ally to the synagogue most of all in the hope of winning points with American Jews and their support for the comprehensive nuclear accord soon to be signed between Iran and the Six Powers. The Iranian president has demonstrated notable diplomatic and tactical versatility for making sure that the accord goes through and results in the substantial easing of sanctions, urgently needed to boost the ailing Iranian economy. Tehran is pinning high hopes on the visit to Israel this week by US National Security Adviser Susan Rice and the senior US negotiator Wendy Sherman on a twofold mission:
1. To try and talk Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu out of his absolute conviction that the accord to be signed, which will acknowledge Iran as a nuclear threshold state, is bad and harmful to Israel’s and world security.
2. If that doesn’t work, Rice and Sherman will try and obtain an Israeli pledge not to resort to a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, an action that would scuttle the Obama administration’s entire Iran strategy.
The coming visit by these two senior American officials has caused few ripples in Israel. However, for the Iranians, so much is at stake, that Rouhani sent a prominent cleric to stand up in a Shiraz synagogue and underwrite Cyrus the Great’s acknowledgement of the Jewish homeland in Judah and their temple in Jerusalem. He considered it was worthwhile for the sake of an international accord that accepts Iran’s nuclear threshold status and averts an Israeli attack.