May 14/14


Bible Quotation for today/Where is your faith?’

Luke 8,22-25/: "One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’

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

The Muslim Brotherhood’s anger at Sisi’s piousness/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/May 14/14

Michel Aoun: the opportunist threatening Lebanon/By: Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/May 14/14

Anbar’s Agony/By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/May 14/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 14/14

Lebanese Related News

Ami Gemayel Meets Suleiman as Part of Kataeb

Sleiman looking forward to end of term

Sleiman urges optimum performance as of May 25
Salam warns presidential vacuum will stir trouble
Extending Sleiman’s term impossible: Hezbollah

Change and Reform Rejects 'Killing Democracy' by Extending Suleiman's Term

New Al Akhbar hearing at STL set for May 29

Al Jadeed, Khayyat plead "not guilty" in STL hearing

Amin decides not to appear for STL hearing
Mufti suggests Muslim-Christian pact to Rai

Lebanese tweet their way to the top

Future MP downplays significance of FPM dialogue

Sparks fly over Hezbollah arms at conference

Syrians in Lebanon eager to vote for president: envoy
Campaign raises funds for LRC volunteer’s transplant

Indictment Issued against Former HRC Chief, Wife on Corruption Charges

Judge Asks for Death Penalty against 2 Lebanese Terrorists

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Saudi ready to negotiate with Iran: FM

Riyadh ready to negotiate better ties with Iran: FM

UN-Iran meeting inconclusive before Tuesday negotiations

Hagel talks to Saudis about Syria, Iran

Khamenei: Iran won't bow to pressure in nuke talks
US national security adviser Susan Rice: US stays true to cause of peace
Israeli arrested on U.S. request over Iran trade
Israel’s Olmert sentenced to 6-year jail term for corruption

Kerry, Abbas to meet after peace talks collapse

U.S. flies ‘manned’ mission to find Boko Haram girls

Jordan’s kidnapped envoy to Libya freed

At least 200 trapped in Turkish coal mine

Sparks fly over Hezbollah arms at Bkirki Charter debate
May 13, 2014/By Rayane Abou Jaoude /The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Participants were divided over the legitimacy of Hezbollah’s arms during a conference discussing the Bkirki National Charter Monday, as others stressed the importance of the memorandum calling for the revival of National Dialogue between the various political parties. The Israeli threat to Lebanon, the inability of the Lebanese Army to defend the country and the recent emergence of extremist groups “has made the arms of the resistance today more than an obligation and a necessity,” said retired Brig. Gen. Amine Hoteit, a supporter of Hezbollah. According to Hoteit, it is “unacceptable” to propose that Hezbollah give up its weapons before the Lebanese government is able to replace it with another force that can defend the country. Former MP Salah Honein rejected Hoteit’s idea, and said it was objectionable to discuss “defending the country except in regard to legal Lebanese forces.” Honein called for “unified, exclusive weapons” that would only be in the hands of the state. The panel on Hezbollah’s arms was moderated by talk show host Walid Abboud and titled “The decision of war and peace in the Bkirki National Charter.”
The document, announced by Rai in February, calls for Lebanon’s neutrality and for keeping military power under the exclusive authority of the state as well as abolishing what it called “self-security,” a reference to Hezbollah’s arsenal. The charter also stresses the need for the timely election of a new president and for a Muslim-Christian partnership to run Lebanon.
The panel discussion was part of a conference held at the Hilton Hotel and titled “ Bkirki National Charter: a National Project.” The event was organized by the Civic Committee under the patronage of President Michel Sleiman, and aimed to celebrate three years since the election of Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai. The conference’s opening remarks saw a focus on the document’s call for National Dialogue, the last session of which occurred last week and was boycotted by most March 8 figures and some from March 14. “The charter demands a Dialogue and open debate,” said former MP Farid Khazen. “The charter is an attempt to avoid the abyss.” He said Lebanon was in “dire need” of a countrywide reconciliation in light of the precarious security situation. Maronite Bishop Samir Mazloum said a real dialogue needed to take place “far from foreign interference, which will lead to a reconciliation between the Lebanese and the rebuilding of society.”
Another panel at the conference examined the issue of neutrality, something that has been heavily debated since the beginning of the Syrian conflict and Hezbollah’s involvement in it.
Sami Nader, a professor of economics and international relations at Université St. Joseph, explained that it was the first time in Lebanese history such a matter had been being debated at length.
“The Bkirki National Charter opened the door for a new reality concerning neutrality,” Nader said, adding that “commitment to neutrality was the main step,” particularly militarily.
“Neutrality has become a national demand even if not everyone is abiding by this,” he said. The charter expresses support for the Baabda Declaration, which aims to keep Lebanon away from regional and international conflicts. Former Minister Issam Naaman said Lebanon needed to be strong to neutralize itself, adding that it currently was not. “Achieving independence is a first priority, so that it [Lebanon] can defend itself and its people,” Naaman said, but added that it would be nearly impossible to neutralize Lebanon from regional conflicts. The panel also included a discussion on the current situation of Christians in the Mideast. According to Minister of State for Administrative Development Nabil de Freige, Christians’ fears in the region were justified, as their numbers were significantly dwindling. He said that in that regard, he supported Rai’s upcoming controversialvisit to occupied Jerusalem.

Ami Gemayel Meets Suleiman as Part of Kataeb

Naharnet/Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel held talks on Tuesday with outgoing President Michel Suleiman at the Baabda Palace. He left the Baabda Palace without making any statement. Gemayel said later in comments to Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) that his visit to Suleiman comes before the president's tenure ends. “We are preparing to carry out the presidential elections on time... as we have no other option,” he added. The Kataeb leader warned that vacuum would create imbalance and demolish the national pact and stability between the factions of the nation. On Monday, the Christian official met with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi. Gemayel has met with several leaders in the country in the past week as part of his initiative to resolve the presidential deadlock. He has held talks so far with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, Marada movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat. “The presidential elections are a national responsibility,” Gemayel said from Bkirki. The ongoing disagreement between the March 8 and 14 camps is raising fears that they will fail to elect a president before May 25, resulting in vacuum in the country's top post. The first presidential elections session was held on April 23, but neither Geagea nor Democratic Gathering MP Henri Helou garnered the necessary 86 votes to emerge victorious. Two other sessions were supposed to be held, but they failed over lack of quorum after a March 8 camp boycott over the ongoing disagreement over a candidate. The fourth session is scheduled for May 15.

Change and Reform Rejects 'Killing Democracy' by Extending Suleiman's Term

Naharnet/The Change and Reform bloc of MP Michel Aoun announced on Tuesday its rejection of any extension of President Michel Suleiman's term, saying that it would be fatal to democracy in Lebanon.
MP Ibrahim Kanaan said after the bloc's weekly meeting: “We will appeal such a decision and follow through with it to the end.” He stressed the need to elect a new president before Suleiman's term ends on May 25, highlighting the importance of quorum at parliament to ensure that the polls are held. The fourth round of the presidential elections is scheduled for Thursday. The previous two rounds failed to be held due to a lack of quorum that was caused by a boycott by the March 8 camp, including the Change and Reform bloc, over the ongoing disputes with the March 14 alliance on the elections. Addressing the March 14 camp, Kanaan asked: “Do you choose the republic and constitutional means to rule the country or do you choose to run the country as previous administrations have?” “Our rejection of the extension of Suleiman's term is not personal, but what applies to past presidents should apply to this one,” he remarked. “We must respect the Taef Accord,” he declared. Media reports have been focusing in recent days on the possibility of extending the president's term given the ongoing dispute over the elections and fears of the vacuum in the country's top post. The March 14 alliance, European counties, the United States, Gulf monarchies and Russia voiced agreement over extending Suleiman's term if a consensual candidate was out of reach, diplomats told An Nahar newspaper on Tuesday. Hizbullah deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said in remarks to al-Akhbar newspaper on Tuesday that “extending the term of Suleiman is unlikely to happen.”

New Al Akhbar hearing at STL set for May 29
May 13, 2014/The Daily Star
- Amin: Preliminary assessment is that two weeks of preparation is not enough time to appoint defense lawyers. - Ibrahim al Amin tells Al Jadeed after the hearing that he will only attend May 29 hearing if concerns and procedures to guarantee justice are implemented by the court. He expressed his respect for the "mechanism" of the hearing and thanked the defense office for its understanding of the sensitivity of the issue and the right of free speech. - Judge Lettieri orders new hearing for Al Akhbar and Ibrahim al Amin on May 29. - Roux: Al Akhbar's request for a delay in the hearing is "reasonable."
- Roux: Since Amin is searching for defense lawyers I do not have the authority to assign a lawyer for him. - Defense office head Francois Roux says the case is extremely sensitive because of the press's important role in a democracy. He expressed the  need to provide the necessary time for the accused to prepare for the case and to discuss it with his lawyers.
- Judge Lettieri says the goal of the initial hearing is not to begin trial but to formally pose the charges to the accused. While he said he understood Amin's need for a "reasonable defense situation" he is concerned about the inability of Al-Akhbar to appoint a lawyer, explaining that the STL can assist with the appointments. - STL deputy registrar Amelie Zinzius provides a timeline of the exchange of letters and emails with Amin on the case. - Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri reads out a letter from Al Akhbar editor in chief Ibrahim al-Amin in which he requests a realistic delay in the initial hearing after the "haphazard" assistance by the defence office on appointing a lawyer. Amin said the case poses a danger to his safety and the inability to pick a lawyer is not related to financial issues but to the sensitivity of the case. - STL begins Al-Akhbar hearing

Sleiman looking forward to end of term

May 13, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Tuesday that he was happily waiting for his term to end, adding that he was not actively looking to extend his mandate. “For me, May 25 is a different day, one I haven’t seen for 47 years. I am waiting for this day to come with joy and I have nothing to do with plans to extend [my] term,” Sleiman posted on his Twitter account. Earlier Sleiman ordered staff at security and inspection agencies to ensure optimal performance particularly toward the end of his term of office. Sleiman’s instructions came during a meeting with senior officers, including General Security Director General Brig. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of the Central Inspection Bureau judge George Awwad and Supreme Disciplinary Commission judge Marwan Abboud. The president urged the officials to “ensure optimal performance in the next phase, particularly as of May 25,” a statement from his office said. Sleiman also stressed the need to fight corruption and bring corrupt workers at ministries and public offices to justice. While the president’s term expires on May 25, there are mounting fears that the country will plunge into a presidential vacuum after the deadline passes, as Parliament has failed to elect a president during three sessions held so far. Worried about the looming vacuum, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai is seeking a constitutional amendment to keep Sleiman in office until a successor is elected. But the proposal, which requires a constitutional amendment approved by two-thirds of MPs, is opposed by Hezbollah.

Extending Sleiman’s term impossible: Hezbollah
May 13, 2014 /The Daily Star /BEIRUT: With less than two weeks left before President Michel Sleiman leaves office, Hezbollah dismissed attempts to extend the term of Lebanon’s top post.
“Proposals to extend President Michel Sleiman’s term are behind us,” Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said in remarks published Tuesday in Al-Akhbar. “Renewed talk about [Sleiman’s] extension is nothing more than unworkable hopes." On Monday, a senior source in Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite church, told The Daily Star that Patriarch Beshara Rai was seeking a constitutional amendment to allow Sleiman to remain in office if Parliament failed to elect a successor by the May 25 expiration of his term. In three sessions so far, MPs have failed to elect a new president, with the last two failing to even achieve a quorum, due to an ongoing boycott by several March 8 parties. Speaker Nabih Berri has called for a fourth electoral session Thursday. Qassem said Hezbollah “strongly” supported the election of a new president in a timely manner but ruled out any chance that this would take place “because things are not yet mature.” “It is natural that [the election] be delayed a bit, although we hope it will not be delayed much,” he added. Qassem stressed that consensus was needed on a new president. “It is not possible for either March 14 or March 8 to bring a president alone,” he said. “March 8 has been aware of this. That’s why it did not offer a challenging candidate to keep the door open to chances.”The Hezbollah official denied any external intervention in the election process. “We are still discussing the issue in a Lebanese-Lebanese framework. It is too early to talk about foreign intervention,” Qassem said. He also denied any communication or exchange of messages between Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia.

Lebanese tweet their way to the top

May 13, 2014/By Justin Salhani /The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Two Lebanese tweeters have received an impressive boost to their reputation, after making the cut on TIME Magazine’s annual list of the 140 Best Twitter feeds.
Agence France Presse’s Middle East and North Africa Photo Manager Patrick Baz (@Patrick_Baz) and prominent architect and satirist Karl Sharro (@KarlRemarks) joined such prestigious accounts as Pope Francis, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and political powerhouse duo Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Baz, a French Lebanese man born in Beirut, was included in the Art and Photography section for his comprehensive coverage of news and photojournalism in the Middle East.
“I read it twice, three times, to make sure,” Baz said his first reaction on seeing his name listed. The photojournalist, a veteran of many Middle Eastern conflicts, said he originally started tweeting to follow regional reporting before he realized he could fill a gap by being a proponent for photojournalism in the region. Sharro was listed in the Global Affairs category for his “bold musings” on Middle Eastern affairs.
While Baz uses his account for professional purposes, Sharro maintains a successful day job as the director of an international architecture firm in London, making his Twitter account more focused on his other passions. “When I first started using Twitter, it was mostly to talk about architecture and politics,” Sharro said. “However, with the start of the Arab uprisings there was such a wave of excitement about them that I started to focus more on politics and the nature of the medium with the short format pushed me toward more humorous observations.”
Baz’s and Sharro’s accounts have gathered a strong following, with Baz now boasting just over 9,500 followers while Sharro’s has more than 24,000. While both men have taken note that an increase in publicity will expose them to a wider audience, their reactions to that increased notoriety varied. Baz said that his behavior on Twitter changed about six months ago, when AFP sent his name, among others, to be verified. Verified accounts have a large white check mark in a blue circle next to the tweeters name and handle. “I turned more professional,” he said, adding that people come to his feed for news reporting or photojournalism from the region and not “Miley Cyrus, what’s happening in China, or football.” Ultimately, Baz said that, as a representative of his employer, he had to maintain a standard of professionalism in his social media presence. Sharro, on the other hand, has pushed on with the satirical side of his online persona.
“I think about that from time to time, particularly as more influential people follow me, and I wonder if I have to become more serious, but ultimately my inclination for humorous tweets wins,” Sharro said.
“It's really the way I feel I can best express my thoughts on Twitter. ... This is not to say I never tweet about serious things, which I do, but again it's the nature of the medium that lends itself to more humorous or satirical comments. Having said that, I like to think that my observation, whether serious or humorous, express my general politics and way of thinking, so it's not just joke-writing in the abstract.”
With Twitter, users can often share their voice with thousands upon thousands of Internet users. Features like “retweeting,” where a user shares what someone else wrote with their own followers, means that a simple line of 140 characters can leave an impression on millions should it resonate enough. For Baz, his recognition as an important figure on the media platform shows photojournalism in Lebanon and the Middle East “has a voice out there” in its defense. Sharro said his following was more “a niche audience.”“Obviously, having a relatively large following gives anybody a sense of satisfaction, but I never took Twitter seriously in the sense that I never thought of it as a tool to change the world. I consider it a tool to interact with a large number of people, which it's particularly suited to because of its open nature. This is why I think I might across as flippant on Twitter to some, but luckily others appreciate some of my musings.”

Saudi ready to negotiate with Iran: FM
Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Saudi Arabia is ready to negotiate improved relations with its regional rival Iran, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters in Riyadh on Tuesday. Prince al-Faisal added that the kingdom has invited Iran’s foreign minister to visit Riyadh, hinting at a possible thaw between the Gulf’s two biggest powers. “Iran is a neighbor, we have relations with them and we will negotiate with them,” the Saudi minister told reporters in Riyadh. “We will talk with them in the hope that if there are any differences, they will be settled to the satisfaction of both countries,” he said. “Our hope is that Iran becomes part of the effort to make the region as safe and as prosperous as possible, and not part of the problem of the insecurity of the region.” Faisal said that his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif had been invited to visit the kingdom. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has visited most of Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Arab allies including Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates since the nuclear pact, which eased some Gulf Arab worries, but has not been to Riyadh. “This intention to visit has not become a fact..., but any time he sees fit to come, we are willing to receive (Zarif),” Prince Saud said in the Saudi capital Riyadh Zarif said in December that he would like to visit Saudi Arabia and appealed to the kingdom to work with Tehran in the search for regional “stability.”Iran and Saudi Arabia have been deeply divided over a number of regional issues, particularly the three-year-old conflict in Syria.The kingdom supports the Syrian opposition has thrown its weight behind efforts to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. On the opposite, Iran supports the Assad’s regime, backing him with armament, troops and funding.Faisal’s remarks came as U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel was in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of a regional tour focusing on Iran’s nuclear program and the war in Syria. U.S. officials have struggled to reassure Gulf allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, over the interim nuclear deal that the major powers struck with Tehran late last year and which Riyadh fears will embolden its rival in its regional ambitions. Washington’s caution about arming the Syrian rebels has also soured its relations with its longtime Saudi ally. After his election last July on a platform of ending Iran’s international isolation, President Hassan Rowhani said he was particularly keen to reach out to Gulf Arab governments.
[With AFP and Reuters]


UN-Iran meeting inconclusive before Tuesday negotiations
Reuters/Published: 05.13.14, 08:19 / Israel News
VIENNA - The UN nuclear watchdog and Iran ended a three-hour meeting on Monday without announcing any new action to allay concerns about Tehran's atomic activities, leaving it unclear whether headway was achieved. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicated after the talks that some more work was still needed for the full implementation of a series of nuclear transparency steps that Iran had agreed to take by May 15. It did not give details. Reuters last week cited diplomatic sources as saying the IAEA is seeking further clarification from Iran about one of those measures - information about fast-acting detonators that have civilian and military uses, including setting off an atomic explosive device. The meeting took place a day before the Iran and six world powers start a new round of negotiations in Vienna on a broad diplomatic settlement of the decade-old nuclear dispute. Under a transparency and cooperation agreement reached with the IAEA in November, Iran was to take seven measures by May 15 in a phased process to shed more light on a nuclear programme the West fears may be aimed at developing atomic bomb capability. The IAEA statement said the two sides had reviewed progress on implementation of the steps. "The agency noted that Iran has taken several actions and that some related work continues," it said, without elaborating. A recent UN report claimed that Iran's nuclear activities seem to be "slowing down". The experts expressed hope that this conclusion may reflect a real effort by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to encourage a deal with the West, but admitted that the regime may have simply found better ways to hide its activies. The lack of a clear outcome in Monday's meeting may disappoint Western diplomats, who want Iran to move much faster in addressing suspicions about past atomic bomb research. Tehran denies any such work. Iran says it has already implemented the seven steps - including access to two uranium sites - but the sources suggested the IAEA still wanted more clarification about the so-called Explosive Bridge Wire detonators.
How Iran responds to questions about its development of this type of equipment is seen as an important test of its willingness to cooperate fully with a long-stalled IAEA investigation into suspected past activities relevant to the development of nuclear weapons. Iran says allegations of such work are baseless and has offered to help clear up the suspicions.
Seeking Reassurance
Meanwhile President Barack Obama's top national security aid said on Monday that Iran must agree to "verifiable action" to satisfy US concerns about its nuclear program or else there will be no final deal.
Addressing an Israeli Independence Day celebration in Washington, US national security adviser Susan Rice sought to reassure a pro-Israel audience that Washington would take a tough line with Tehran, despite Israeli worries that the Obama administration is giving up too much in the negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a visit to Tokyo on Monday, said Iran's nuclear program was a "clear and present danger" and Tehran cannot be allowed to get the capability to make nuclear arms. A November interim accord easing sanctions on Iran made clear that Washington and five other world powers would let it enrich uranium on a limited scale under a final agreement. But Israel wants the Iranians to be stripped of all disputed nuclear projects, a demand that put it at odds with its chief ally, the United States. "We all have a responsibility to give diplomacy a chance to succeed. But America won't be satisfied by mere words. We will only be satisfied by verifiable action from Iran," Rice said to light applause from an audience that included Israeli diplomats and American supporters of the Jewish state. "Put simply, if we are not satisfied, there will be no deal," Rice, who visited Israel last week, said, promising continued consultations with Israeli officials. Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia will meet in Vienna on Tuesday for a new round of negotiations aimed at reaching a broad diplomatic settlement of the decade-old nuclear dispute. Iran, Israel's arch-foe in the region, denies it is seeking nuclear weapons capability. Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal.
Long-Stalled Investigation 
The diplomatic sources also said the IAEA wants to agree with Iran on new measures to be taken after May 15, to tackle other sensitive issues linked to what the agency calls the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme. "Discussions on additional practical measures to be implemented in the next steps are ongoing," the IAEA said in the statement, suggesting no agreement had yet been reached.
Western diplomats say Iran must start engaging with the IAEA's investigation and that this is central to the success of the separate talks between the six powers and Tehran aimed at an accord by late July.
But diplomats say Iran and the powers - the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain - remain far apart on what a long-term deal to resolve the dispute, and dispel fears of a new Middle East war, would look like.

US national security adviser Susan Rice: US stays true to cause of peace

Published: 05.13.14, 12:58 /Ynetnews
US national security adviser Susan Rice reaffirmed that the Obama administration would "stay true to the cause of peace" between Israel and the Palestinians, despite the recent breakdown of a nine-month diplomatic effort pushed by US Secretary of State John Kerry."Even though we have reached a pause in the negotiations, we continue to encourage the parties to work and act toward a future of peace," Rice said. Israel suspended the talks on April 24 after Abbas's unexpected unity pact with Hamas, a step that appeared to be the final nail in the coffin of the US-sponsored negotiations. Monday, it was reported that Kerry was set to meet Palestinian President Abbas in London Thursday. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who spoke after Rice and echoed her praise for the longstanding US-Israeli alliance, hinted at lingering tensions between Washington and Israel over the failed talks. Some Israeli officials took umbrage last week when US envoy Martin Indyk singled out Jewish settlement construction on occupied land as one of the main reasons for the diplomatic collapse, even though he also faulted the Palestinians for signing 15 international treaties and conventions. "We are eager to have peace not because somebody is telling us that we need peace," said Steinitz, a Netanyahu confidant. But "because it's important for the state of Israel and Israelis." He said most Israelis would support "difficult concessions" but on two conditions - "that it will be a real genuine peace and real security." But neither Rice nor Steinitz offered any new path forward on a diplomatic track that appears to offer little hope for now.
Verifiable action
Iran must agree to "verifiable action" to satisfy U.S. concerns about its nuclear program or else there will be no final deal, President Barack Obama's top national security aide said on Monday on the eve of a new round of talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna. Addressing an Israeli Independence Day celebration in Washington, U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice sought to reassure a pro-Israel audience that Washington would take a tough line with Tehran, despite Israeli worries that the Obama administration is giving up too much in the negotiations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a visit to Tokyo on Monday, said Iran's nuclear program was a "clear and present danger" and Tehran cannot be allowed to get the capability to make nuclear arms. A November interim accord easing sanctions on Iran made clear that Washington and five other world powers would let it enrich uranium on a limited scale under a final agreement. But Israel wants the Iranians to be stripped of all disputed nuclear projects, a demand that put it at odds with its chief ally, the United States. "We all have a responsibility to give diplomacy a chance to succeed. But America won't be satisfied by mere words. We will only be satisfied by verifiable action from Iran," Rice said to light applause from an audience that included Israeli diplomats and American supporters of the Jewish state.
"Put simply, if we are not satisfied, there will be no deal," Rice, who visited Israel last week, said, promising continued consultations with Israeli officials.
Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia will meet in Vienna on Tuesday for a new round of negotiations aimed at reaching a broad diplomatic settlement of the decade-old nuclear dispute. Iran, Israel's arch-foe in the region, denies it is seeking nuclear weapons capability. Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal.

Israeli arrested on U.S. request over Iran trade
By The Associated Press | Jerusalem /Monday, 12 May 2014/An Israeli man was arrested while trying to depart the country on Monday following a request by the U.S. that he be held for alleged illegal weapons trading with Iran, Israel's justice ministry said. The Justice Ministry said the 64-year-old was arrested at Ben Gurion airport while attempting to leave Israel. The ministry said the U.S. asked he be held and eventually extradited to the U.S. He is wanted there on suspicion of illegally selling military spare parts to Iran, as well as other offenses including exporting equipment from the U.S. without a permit. It said an indictment had been filed against him at a federal court in Connecticut. Israel and Iran are bitter enemies. Israelis were shocked when reports of the Israeli involved in transferring military equipment to Iran surfaced earlier this year. According to Israeli media reports he tried to sell Iran spare parts for jets.

Israel’s Olmert sentenced to 6-year jail term for corruption
By Reuters | Tel Aviv/Tuesday, 13 May 2014/Ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years' imprisonment on Tuesday for taking bribes, in a corruption case that resulted in the first criminal conviction of a former head of government in Israel. Olmert, a centrist credited internationally with working towards a peace settlement with the Palestinians, had denied wrongdoing in a real estate deal that took place while he was in his previous post of Jerusalem mayor. His attorneys were expected to ask the Tel Aviv court that passed sentence to allow Olmert, 68, to remain free until the Supreme Court rules on an appeal against his March 31 conviction, a process that could take months. Two years ago, the veteran politician was acquitted of most of the major charges brought against him in separate cases involving his links to a U.S. businessman. Those corruption allegations forced Olmert's resignation as prime minister in 2008, and his acquittal had appeared to position him for a possible political comeback.
But in the new corruption trial, Judge David Rozen found Olmert guilty of two bribery charges and said he accepted 500,000 shekels ($144,000) from developers of the Holyland apartment building complex in Jerusalem and 60,000 shekels ($17,000) in a separate real estate project.

Kerry, Abbas to meet after peace talks collapse

AFP, Washington/Tuesday, 13 May 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in London this week for the first time since peace talks collapsed last month, officials said Monday.
“Secretary Kerry will meet with president Abbas in London on Thursday,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “While the door remains open to a peace process, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss our ongoing relationship with the Palestinians,” she said. Earlier, a Palestinian official told AFP the “meeting will discuss a possible resumption of negotiations with Israel.”Kerry will be in London for a meeting on Thursday about the three-year conflict in Syria. The top U.S. diplomat dragged the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table in July, ending a three-year freeze in negotiations. But his peace efforts derailed even before an April 29 deadline, with Palestinian and Israeli leaders exchanging recriminations and reneging on commitments made during nine months of fruitless talks.“The meeting could be the last attempt by Kerry to revive negotiations,” the Palestinian official said, asking to remain anonymous.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is on a visit to Washington and will meet with Kerry on Tuesday, said the breakdown of the peace process was “for all of us a source of great concern.”
“The security of Israel is by no means negotiable, but we know that it will be reinforced by a negotiated settlement,” he told a leading Jewish lobby group, AJC Global Jewish Advocacy.
“Both parties must be aware of the benefit of reaching an agreement as well the price of failure. The costs are obvious and heavy, the advantages must be emphazised too.”
Kerry last met Abbas in Amman in late March, and had planned to return to Ramallah for further talks a few days later when Israel made a surprise announcement of plans for 700 new settlements and refused to release a last group of Palestinian prisoners. Angered by the move, Abbas hastily decided to seek membership of 15 U.N. conventions.
Both moves broke the terms of the July deal, and a frustrated Kerry flew back home from Europe without returning to Israel. Only days later, Israel suspended its participation in the peace negotiations, infuriated as Abbas unveiled plans to set up a Palestinian unity government with Islamic Hamas militants who run the Gaza Strip. The April 23 deal between the Palestine Liberation Organization, dominated by Abbas’s Fatah party, was also denounced by Washington, which has insisted that Hamas must renounce violence and recognize the existence of Israel. “As he has throughout the process, Secretary Kerry will reiterate a call he has made to both sides to maintain restraint and refrain from steps that would be unhelpful,” Psaki said.

Jordan’s kidnapped envoy to Libya freed
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Jordan's kidnapped ambassador to Libya has been freed by his captors, Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Tuesday, in what was later confirmed by the Jordanian foreign ministry.
Ambassador Fawaz al-Itan was kidnapped last month. Ambassador Fawaz al-Itan was kidnapped last month by gunmen who demanded an Islamist militant be released from a Jordanian jail in exchange for the diplomat's freedom. There was no immediate indication whether that demand had been met. Jordan's foreign minister, Nasser Judeh said Itan was already on his way back to his homeland following his release. "The ambassador is doing well and he is now making his way back to his country," Judeh was quoted as saying by state TV, without explaining circumstances of his release.
The envoy was kidnapped by masked gunmen in mid-April as he was going to work in Tripoli, who shot at his car in an attack that wounded his driver.
The incident was one of the latest targeting Libyan leaders and foreign diplomats in the increasingly lawless country, three years after NATO-backed rebels ended autocratic leader Muammar Qaddafi's four-decade rule. There has been no claim of responsibility for Itan’s abduction. According to sources in Tripoli said the kidnappers had demanded the release of a Mohammed al-Dursi, alias Mohammad al-Noss, a Libyan jihadist who has been detained in Jordan for more than seven years over his alleged involvement in planning an attack on Amman's airport.
The Libyan government has only said it established indirect contact with the abductors, without giving any more details. An employee and a diplomat of the Tunisian embassy in Libya were also abducted in Tripoli, on March 21 and April 17 respectively. According to Tunis, their captors demanded the release of two Libyans held for "terrorism" in Tunisia. (With AFP)

U.S. flies ‘manned’ mission to find Boko Haram girls
By AFP | Washington/Tuesday, 13 May 2014
The United States was Monday flying “manned” missions over Nigeria to track down more than 200 abducted schoolgirls as experts pored over a new video seeking clues to where they are being held.
“We have shared commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerians and are flying manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets over Nigeria with the government’s permission,” a senior administration official said, asking not to be named. It was not immediately clear what kinds of aircraft were being deployed, nor where they had come from.
But a new video released by the Boko Haram group purportedly showing about 130 of the girls was being carefully studied by American experts in the hope it might yield vital clues as to where they are being held. “Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier Monday. “We have no reason to question its authenticity,” she added of the video. In the video, the Islamic militant group’s leader Abubakar Shekau said the girls may be released once Nigeria frees all the Boko Haram prisoners it has in custody. But that proposal has been rejected by the Nigerian government, and Psaki recalled that the U.S. policy is also “to deny kidnappers the benefits of their criminal acts, including ransoms or concessions.” A 30-strong U.S. team arrived on the ground last week in Nigeria to help growing efforts to find the girls aged between 16 to 18, snatched from their boarding school in the northeast of the country on April 14. The White House said the team included five State Department officials, two strategic communications experts, a civilian security expert and a regional medical support officer. Also on the manifest are 10 Defense Department planners already in Nigeria, seven extra military advisors from U.S. Africa Command and four FBI officials expert in hostage negotiations.
“We are talking about helping the Nigerian government search an area that is roughly the size of New England,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, referring to the region in the U.S. northeast.
“So this is no small task. But we are certainly bringing resources to bear in our effort to assist the government.” Psaki stressed the Nigerian authorities were “in the lead” during the investigation. The girls’ plight has triggered a storm of outrage across the United States, and First Lady Michelle Obama on Saturday for the first time delivered her husband’s weekly address to the nation to say they were both “outraged and heartbroken” by the kidnapping. “This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education -- grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls,” she said.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s anger at Sisi’s piousness

Tuesday, 13 May 2014/Abdulrahman al-Rashed
“He’s using religion to win over public opinion” and “he’s exploiting Islam to serve his political aims” are only some of the accusations the Muslim Brotherhood made against their number one rival, Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. Who would have thought the tables would turn and religion would become card in Sisi’s hand and the basis of an accusation levied by the Brotherhood.
Sisi certainly struck a chord and made the Brotherhood lose their temper and he competed with them by talking about his vision of religion. Until recently, the Brotherhood were accusing him of being against Islam and Muslims. Sisi succeeded at the test of faith, and the Brotherhood’s confusion stood out from their contradiction. Are they accusing him of fighting Islam or of using it? Religion is, after all, the only political card that was actually winning.
Although Sisi is new to politics, it seems he succeeded in gaining the public’s sympathy
Although Sisi is new to politics, it seems he succeeded in gaining the public’s sympathy as he talked about his personal religious faith and the role of religion in people’s lives. His statements didn’t seem fabricated, political or aimed at serving electoral aims. This angered the Brotherhood so they accused him of exploiting religion for political ends. The truth is, Sisi didn’t use Islam but he defended himself against the Brotherhood’s accusations that he destroyed mosques, jailed scholars and preferred Christian Copts over others. To respond to these accusations, Sisi presented himself as a patriotic Egyptian and a pious Muslim who deserves the citizens’ trust. He succeeded in competing with the Brotherhood in their specialty: religion. A number of religious figures also supported Sisi and commended his piousness.
Who is Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi?
We don’t know who Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi really is. He says he’s a Nasserite, an Anwar al-Sadat supporter, a patriot, a modernist, a man of the military and a Muslim. He’s clearly all of the above but he’s not a politician in the vocational sense. This is why he appears natural and accepted by the general public. The Brotherhood’s war will not target his reputation, righteousness and patriotism. They will probably doubt his ability to manage the state and criticize his statements, including his previous statements such as: “dividing a loaf of bread may contribute to ending the bread crisis, graduates buying vegetables from wholesale markets and selling them in the streets would end the unemployment crisis and Egyptians’ use of energy-saving bulbs will decrease the crisis of power cuts.” This campaign won’t benefit them because the elections are near, and most Egyptians probably want a president they can trust and want the army institution to be capable of saving the country from the chaos that has spread since the beginning of the revolution.
The Brotherhood has been blinded by rivalry and not by competition. Instead of dealing with reality and admitting the truth that they failed to properly govern the country, they are betting on spreading violence and sullying their rival’s image. The result seems to be clear. Elections will grant Sisi the legitimacy necessary to take over governance, gain the world’s recognition and launch a new era.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 13, 2014.

Michel Aoun: the opportunist threatening Lebanon
Tuesday, 13 May 2014/By: Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya
Is Lebanese Christian Member of Parliament Michel Aoun fit for the presidency? Or is he playing the role required of him to gear the presidential vacuum towards demolishing the regime?
What does demolishing the regime mean? It primarily means getting rid of the Taif Accord which stipulates equality between Muslims and Christians and means replacing it with a measure that stipulates a three-way-power-sharing system between Christians, Sunnis and Shiites and granting the Shiites the right to veto any national decision. Is this the aim of having Aoun become president? And do the Christians accept a president whose task is to approve a three-way-power-sharing system? Michel Aoun’s game conceals a lot. It would have been possible to support him in the presidential election had he a specific stance regarding any current issue in Lebanon. For example, a stance on what he thinks of what Yahya Safavi, military advisor to Iran’s supreme leader, recently said. Safavi said: “Iran’s power and influence extended to the Mediterranean coast. ” He added: “Iran’s first line of defense is now in South Lebanon.”
A child would know that Aoun is in the camp which wants Lebanon to be an “arena” linked to the Iranian-Syrian axis
The 2014 version of Michel Aoun did not find anything to say to Safavi who mainly meant that Lebanon has become an Iranian colony. How can a serious presidential candidate abstain from taking a stance regarding such a provocative statement?
How can the leader of what is considered the biggest Christian parliamentary bloc ignore statements that Lebanon has become a follower of Iran and that Lebanese borders are controlled by Iran to serve purposes irrelevant to Lebanon’s, and the Lebanese people’s, interests?
It’s clear that Michel Aoun thinks he can unite the Lebanese people. This, however, is not possible. The country is divided into two camps confronting one another. One camp wants to restore the Lebanese state and the other sees Lebanon as a mere “arena” used by Iran in the negotiations it’s currently holding with the international community.
The Iranian-Syrian axis
A child would know that Aoun is in the camp which wants Lebanon to be an “arena” linked to the Iranian-Syrian axis. Can someone who is up to his ears in a sectarian alliance, the slogan of which is “alliance of minorities,” shift to being equally distant from everyone and to becoming capable of harmonizing among the Lebanese or among those who on one hand want to restore the state and those who desire to exploit the country on another? On this basis, it seems the game which Aoun is playing or the game which someone is making him play, actually hides another game - a game that only alters the nature of the Lebanese system. It’s based on exploiting the basic weakness of he who he calls himself “the general.” This weakness is that Aoun is prepared for anything for the sake of becoming president.
Let’s recall Michel Aoun when he was an officer in the Lebanese army which was under the command of Sheikh Bashir Gemayel when the latter was leader of the Lebanese Forces. This was few years before Gamyel become president. Gemayel was assassinated on Sept. 14, 1982 in well-known circumstances. He was killed upon commands issued by the Syrian regime and the assassination was carried out via a Lebanese party that was nothing more than a Syrian tool. There are no secrets in Lebanon. Everyone knows that Aoun went to military school thanks to his connections and it was late MP Edward Hanin, who hails from the same hometown as Aoun, who helped him. Hanin belonged to the National Bloc Party - party of brigadier-general Raymond Edde, God bless his soul. Raymond Edde never believed in violence, taking up arms or opportunism.
Ever since he went to military school in the 1950s and up until today, there’s one characteristic that explains Aoun’s actions: opportunism. Opportunism in Aoun has gone as far as going to Syria to place himself in the service of Bashar al-Assad and not even asking a single question about the fate of the Lebanese people in Syrian prisons or the fate of a fine number of soldiers and officers who were by his side when Syrian troops invaded Christian areas, including the Baabda presidential palace, in October 1990.
Aoun’s contradictory actions
There’s no need to narrate all of Aoun’s contradictory actions and statements. In the end, the problem is not in the character of Michel Aoun, who has the ability to practice opportunism to the maximum without blinking an eye. The problem is that he can only see himself as president and that a number of Lebanese Christians still follow him. These people follow a man who is willing to sacrifice them to become president, and they refuse to admit that Aoun was once a mere Syrian tool even when he said he wants “to break Hafez al-Assad’s head.”
In 2014, we witness the end of the ridiculous game of a man who’s always been a ridiculous joke. Aoun never understood he can fool some people some of the time but cannot fool all people all of the time. He forgot that most people have a memory of their own. The Lebanese people know what Aoun’s current ministers and MPs are worth and they also know that the best of them wasn’t even worthy of being a doorman for Nassib Lahoud - God bless his soul - whom Aoun didn’t spare during his campaigns against Lebanese Maronite men with the minimum of ethics.
How can a former army commander who once claimed to have protected the country and the Christians defend the Lebanese state and what’s left of its institutions and sovereignty by legitimizing illegitimate weapons that were Palestinian in 1969 and became Iranian after 1982 when Palestinian fighters exited Lebanon? Is the presidency worth publicly giving up sovereignty and all principles?
May God bless Raymond Edde’s soul - Edde who totally refused to give up his beliefs and principles even when the presidency was offered to him on a silver platter.
**This article was first published in al-Rai on May 10, 2014.

Anbar’s Agony
By: Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
Although the Iraqi elections have ended, the situation in Anbar—Iraq’s largest province—is getting worse, according to reports. Fighting has escalated in the city of Fallujah and elsewhere, in places which have not seen peace since 2003. Following the US invasion, Anbar only experienced a short period of calm after Al-Qaeda was expelled from the area. However, it wasn’t long before the group returned to the province. According to reports, fighting in Anbar has halted Iraq oil exports to Turkey, which amounted to 400,000 barrels per day. The petroleum which the government of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki exports to Jordan—10,000 barrels per day at decreased prices—has also halted. The same goes for Baghdad’s imports, such as vegetables from Jordan, as well as its imports of cement and gypsum. Bandits now control highways in the north and west of the country. Anbar’s cities are suffering more than Baghdad as the roads to them have been blocked to all except army troops—or Al-Qaeda groups. Anbar’s residents have also been living under a cruel siege for several months. As to why all of this is happening, it is because the fighting in Anbar is complicated due to the many parties involved in it. Although some claim patriotic motives, most of it is a “dirty” war where there’s neither patriotism nor patriots. Al-Qaeda and its affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have succeeded in dominating vast areas, and they are fighting tribes and government troops, which in turn are fighting other tribes allied with Al-Qaeda. All these have succeeded in achieving only one outcome—the destruction of the area and the displacement of tens of thousands of its people.
Some leaders of fighters in Fallujah and the rest of Anbar who ally with Al-Qaeda and ISIS are wrong to do so because these groups are hostile and are rejected in the entire region, not just in Iraq. The people of Anbar must also recall that the activities of Al-Qaeda—whether the one affiliated with Ayman Al-Zawahiri or with the late Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi—served the agenda of the Iranian and Syrian regimes. Al-Qaeda enabled Iran to dominate Iraq and forced the US to negotiate with Tehran. Then Al-Qaeda disappeared, reappearing later when the Maliki government cut financial support to the Sunni tribes’ Awakening Councils fighting Al-Qaeda in Anbar, leaving the province without protection.
Anbar is now suffering due to the Al-Qaeda criminals and the rebels and tribes allied with them. Add to that the fact that the province is also confronting Iraqi troops and some tribes. No one will win in this war, which may go on as long as the government in Baghdad believes it can solve the crisis through force of arms.
It’s certainly possible to defeat ISIS and the rest of Al-Qaeda’s affiliates, given that the province’s authorities have previously deterred them. This will require the army’s cooperation with the tribes, as well as a political solution that can end the rupture. A political and military solution will make it possible to reopen roads, spur activity in factories, export petroleum to Turkey and Jordan and restore security in Baghdad, which is only a stone’s throw from Anbar.