May 17/14


Bible Quotation for today/‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

 Matthew 14,22-33/Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today ‏
Our mission as Christians is to conform ourselves evermore to Jesus as the model of our lives.
Pape François ‏
Notre objectif en tant que chrétiens : nous conformer toujours plus à Jésus, comme modèle de notre comportement.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For May 17/14

Iran is working its way into a nuclear tangle/By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Alawsat/May 17/14

Drone wars: Iran takes on the U.S., sparking concern/By: Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/May 17/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 17/14

Lebanese Related News

Hizbullah Delegation in Bkirki to Tackle al-Rahi's Jerusalem Visit, Presidential Election

Qassem Says al-Rahi Jerusalem Trip 'Problematic', Rules Out President Election within Deadline
Suleiman Urges MPs to Avert Dangers Posed by Presidential Vacuum
Asiri: Presidential Vote Responsibility of Christians before Anyone Else's
Presidential election is the responsibility of Christians: Saudi envoy
Lebanon drafts plan to regulate presence of refugees

Geagea Travels on Work Trip Including Saudi Arabia, France
Cabinet Slashes Phone Call Fees, Approves New Administrative Appointments
Bou Saab Meets SCC Delegation, Says No More Strikes before End of School Year

Lebanese angry over sudden replacement of TMC head

Batroun plants avocados to save water

Report: Aoun Remains Hizbullah's Sole Presidential Candidate
The Ontario Court of Appeal Upholds Extradition of the Lebanese Hassan Diab
Jumblat Says Presidential Vote Needs Cooperation with Hizbullah, Iran

Vatican Considers Presidential Elections 'Battle of Existence' for Christians

Miscellaneous Reports And News

No Tangible Progress' as Latest Round of Iran Nuclear Talks Ends

Livni and Abbas discuss Fatah-Hamas unity gov't in unauthorized meeting in London

UN study finds peacekeepers avoid using force to protect civilians

Canada Appalled by Death Sentence Handed to Sudanese Woman

Even in Muslim heartlands, India's Modi racks up gains

Report: Iran recruits Afghans for Syria war 


Canada Appalled by Death Sentence Handed to Sudanese Woman
May 15, 2014 - Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:
“Canada is shocked and appalled by the decision to impose a sentence of death for apostasy and of 100 lashes for ‘adultery’ in the trial of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a Christian mother expecting her second child. “Canada calls upon the Government of Sudan to protect freedom of religion, including the right to change one’s faith or beliefs and to practise one’s faith in peace, a freedom that is enshrined in Sudan’s interim constitution of 2005. “We urge the Sudanese legal authorities to demonstrate justice and compassion in the expected appeal of Ms. Meriam’s case, in keeping with their international human rights obligations.”

Presidential election is the responsibility of Christians: Saudi envoy
May 16, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri Friday said the presidential election in Lebanon was the responsibility of the country’s Christians and reiterated that Riyadh backed Lebanese accord. “This election is the responsibility of the Christians in the first degree, and their large responsibility towards their country,” Asiri said, speaking to reporters following talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai in Bkirki. The Saudi diplomat said his country supported an intra-Lebanese accord to elect a new head of state, explaining that “an intra-Christian and intra-Lebanese consensus with the partnership of all political powers needed to produce something.”Asiri said Saudi Arabia supported any consensus among Lebanese factions to elect a president, especially since Riyadh believed in the safety, stability and prosperity of Lebanon. “But it is not useful and it is not reasonable and it is not acceptable that Riyadh interferes, or any other state [does], in Lebanese affairs,” he warned.
Asiri also said that the different political powers in Lebanon needed to exert efforts to hold the election on time. “We are going through good times and we have a promising summer ahead if the presidential elections are held and a consensus individual was chosen, and I believe Lebanon will have a respectable, fruitful, and useful summer,” he stressed.
Asiri also praised Rai’s efforts to ensure that the presidential election is held within constitutional deadlines. “We are counting on, without a doubt and in light of the circumstances facing Lebanon, the efforts exerted by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, and the faithful sons of Lebanon to find solutions to all that afflicts the issue of the presidential election,” he said. For his part, Rai praised the ambassador’s role in Lebanon and “the tireless efforts towards Arab and Saudi tourists to return again to summer in Lebanon.” The Saudi Ambassador returned to Lebanon earlier this month after a months-long absence for security reasons. Earlier this month, Riyadh lifted its nearly two-year travel advisory for Lebanon. The revocation will go into effect at the end of the month, with other Gulf states expected to follow suit.

Lebanon drafts plan to regulate presence of refugees
May 16, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon's Cabinet is drafting a plan to address the presence of Syrians refugees in Lebanon during a government session Friday which will most likely limit the overwhelming influx. The plan is also expected to establish refugee camps on the border with Syria in order to regulate some 1,100 illegal tents scattered across the country.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, there are over 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon either registered or awaiting registration. Officials say the number is much higher with the presence of Palestinian refugees who have also escaped the crisis in Syria. Earlier in the day, The Cabinet convened with 61 items on the agenda, including proposals to address the rising number of Syrian refugees.
Ministers arrived at the Grand Serail around 4:30 p.m. to attend the session, which was chaired by Prime Minister Tammam Salam. Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said the Cabinet would discuss appointing new members to the Beirut Public Hospital's board of directors. Other ministers said the Cabinet would also discuss waste management and the registration of mobile devices' IMEI codes.
Every mobile device has a unique International Mobile Station Equipment Identity code, which is commonly used by cell networks to identify valid devices and can be used to block stolen phones.
Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb canceled the registration but the move was opposed by the importers, who argue that the action would increase smuggling of mobile phones and facilitate terrorism.
At the beginning of the session, Salam expressed hope that Parliament would elect a new president before President Michel Sleiman’s term ends on May 25. Parliament has been unable to choose a new head of state due to lack of agreement among rival groups on a single candidate.

Vatican Considers Presidential Elections 'Battle of Existence' for Christians
Naharnet /The Vatican considers the presidential elections in Lebanon as a battle of existence that surpasses the Maronites and focuses on the active Christians role in state posts in the country and the Middle East. Sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Friday that the Vatican is persuading the United States Administration and world powers to safeguard the presidential polls and avert any vacuum at the helm of Lebanon's most important Christian post. “The Vatican's endeavors reached advanced levels,” sources told the daily. The report said that the Vatican's Foreign Minister Archbishop Dominique Mamberti and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin are personally supervising the endeavors. The sources revealed that the Vatican obtained pledges by the U.S. and other countries that a “settlement would be reached ahead of the constitutional deadline.” “The presidency post would be vacant for a period of a month,” the sources added. President Michel Suleiman's term ends on May 25 amid fears that the rival political parties' disputes will thwart holding the elections for his successor, which will force the extension of his term or plunge the country in presidential vacuum. On Thursday, Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned a session set to elect a new president until May 22 due to lack of quorum. Two other sessions were supposed to be held, but they failed over lack of quorum after a March 8 camp boycott on the ongoing disagreement over a candidate.

Lebanese angry over sudden replacement of TMC head
May 16, 2014/By Dana Khraiche/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanese citizens took to social media Friday to voice their anger over the sudden replacement of Capt. Michel Moutran, the operational manager of the Traffic Management Center, although the ISF later confirmed that he was being promoted to a more senior position. On its Twitter feed, which has more than 40,000 followers, TMC said Moutran “will temporarily remain at the center in preparation to hand over the management to another officer so that the same transparency and interactivity remain.” It added that Moutran would be tasked with founding a new institution that would have a major impact on road safety, but did not elaborate further. Within minutes, Twitter users were bombarding the social media account with messages demanding Moutran be returned to his post.
“Too bad having a productive manager removed from his position for an unknown reason!" said one Twitter user using the hashtag "#wewantCaptainMoutrantoreturnbecause," which later became the No. 1 trending topic in Lebanon. “Unfollowed @tmclebanon until @MichelMoutran comes back," another wrote. Some praised the work of Moutran, who was accredited with the success of the center and its Twitter account, which gained thousands of followers earlier this year during a severe winter storm that swept the country. But according to the Internal Security Forces Moutran has simply been posted in a more senior role. "Moutran has been promoted to a better position," said spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Moussallem. "He will be in charge of establishing and running an institution to train traffic control officers."
"The institution is a new, modern addition [to the TMC]."Speaking to The Daily Star, Moutran refrained from giving details about the transfer, saying he was merely an officer carrying out a military order.
“I think what suits me is to work hard wherever I am. ... I did what I was assigned to do [at TMC] and I wish them all the luck,” he said. Last night, Moutran wrote on his Twitter feed that he was no longer managing TMC, thanking his 41,000 followers for making his dream come true. Moutran will be replaced by Capt. Khalil Moukarzel.

Batroun plants avocados to save water
May 16, 2014/By Antoine Amrieh/The Daily Star
BATROUN, Lebanon: A group of women gathered in the northern town of Batroun Friday to learn about the benefits of avocados for cooking, health and preserving Lebanon's sparse reserves of water.
The event, held to mark the newly created "Avocado Day," was organized by the Lebanon Industry Value Chain Development Project in collaboration with Batroun’s Cultural Development Association, and was funded by USAID. Those present at the event at Batroniyat Center learned that avocado is a multipurpose fruit that is beneficial for diabetes patients and delicious when used in various sorts of meals.
The event was part of an initiative by LIVCD to enhance Lebanon’s economic situation by improving competition in domestic markets and the country's competitiveness abroad. Avocado, a fruit mostly grown in tropical countries, was introduced to Lebanon a few years ago. Due to the specific weather and climate conditions here, Lebanese avocados are small in size but just as tasty. They are grown in Batroun and all across Lebanon in places such as Akkar and Bsharri. An avocado tree only needs to be watered every few days, which is another reason that Batroun decided to hold an Avocado Day, to encourage participants to grow the fruit as part of alternative agriculture in Lebanon that will preserve water. This year, Lebanon’s winter hasn't been as wet as farmers hoped it would be, and with lack of rainfall the country has been in fear of facing drought. This has been exacerbated by a series of forest fires in Baabda that broke out a few weeks ago.


Hezbollah threatens Maronite patriarch with 'negative repercussions' ahead of Israel visit

By REUTERS /BEIRUT - Hezbollah told the head of the Maronite church on Friday that his planned trip to Jerusalem to accompany Pope Francis would have "negative repercussions".
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai has said he will join the pope on his May 24-26 tour of the Holy Land, drawing criticism in Lebanon which remains in a formal state of war with its southern neighbor Israel.
"We presented our point of view ... about the negative repercussions of this visit," Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed, head of Hezbollah's political council, told reporters after meeting Rai at the patriarch's offices in the hills overlooking Beirut. "We hope that these considerations are taken into account." Al-Rai’s visit is the subject of great controversy in his native Lebanon, and parts of the media have spoken out vehemently against his visit to Israel, which is still technically in a state of war with Lebanon. Rai has defended his planned visit, saying it is his duty to receive the pope if he comes to the region. "I'm going to Jerusalem to say this is our city, and Jerusalem is Arab," he told reporters last week. Rai, a Catholic Cardinal, is the leading official in the Maronite church, which follows an Eastern rite of the Roman Catholic Church. Maronites number about 900,000 in Lebanon, around a quarter of the population, and also have a presence in Syria and Cyprus.


Hizbullah Delegation in Bkirki to Tackle al-Rahi's Jerusalem Visit, Presidential Election
Naharnet/A Hizbullah delegation tackled on Friday with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi pressing issues in the country foremost the importance of electing a president who represents all the Lebanese, holding onto the party's point of view regarding the patriarch's Jerusalem visit. “We hope al-Rahi would take into consideration our stance on his visit to Jerusalem,” Hizbullah's politburo chief Sayyed Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed, who headed the delegation, told reporters at Bkirki. He explained that al-Rahi stressed that he will visit Jerusalem for “religious purposes.” “Al-Rahi's visit would have negative repercussions on Lebanon and the region,” the official said in an attempt to deter the patriarch. The delegation, which was greeted by Bishop Samir Mazloum, was comprised of Hizbullah politburo members Ghaleb Abu Zainab and Mustafa al-Hajj Ali and member of the Muslim-Christian Council Hareth Shehab. The meeting comes in light of al-Rahi's controversial visit to the Holy Land and arising fears of vacuum at the helm of the country's top Christian post after political arch-foes failed to reach consensus on a candidate. “There shouldn't be vacuum in the presidency and lawmakers have a responsibility to attend the parliamentary sessions,” al-Sayyed said despite Hizbullah Loyalty to the Resistance Parliamentary bloc MPs' boycott of the last three sessions set to elect a new head of state over sharp differences on the candidate. He continued that Hizbullah “wants a president for all the Lebanese.”“If there is an agreement among the different factions on a candidate, then we would head to parliament to elect a president,” al-Sayyed added. Al-Rahi is expected to travel to Jerusalem to welcome Pope Francis during his brief visit to the occupied Palestinian territories on May 24-26. The Patriarch's visit is diplomatically noteworthy because Lebanon remains technically at war with Israel and bans its citizens from entering the Hebrew state. The expected visit was met with huge controversy in the country, with some considering it a “historical mistake that opens the door for normalization with Israel” and Church authorities repeatedly assuring that it has a strictly religious character. Maronite clergy may to travel to the Holy Land to minister to the estimated 10,000 faithful there. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said last week that al-Rahi was not part of the official delegation heading to the Holy Land and was going on his own initiative. Al-Rahi would be the first patriarch to travel to Israel since the Jewish state was created in 1948.

Qassem Says al-Rahi Jerusalem Trip 'Problematic', Rules Out President Election within Deadline
Naharnet /Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem on Friday described Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's scheduled visit to Jerusalem as “problematic,” expressing his belief that no new president will be elected within the constitutional timeframe, which ends on May 25. “We believe that al-Rahi's visit to occupied Palestine is problematic. It has to do with the patriarchate and Christians and we don't know what negative repercussions might arise from it, but we will evaluate it and comment on it if necessary,” Qassem said in an interview on al-Mayadeen TV. Earlier on Friday, a Hizbullah delegation visited al-Rahi in Bkirki to discuss the issue of the controversial trip. Turning to the issue of the stalled presidential election, Qassem said his party has been put in the picture of the ongoing talks between its ally the Free Patriotic Movement and al-Mustaqbal movement of the March 14 forces. “We encourage such consultations and we welcome any agreements over the issue of the presidency and other issues,” he said. Hizbullah number two stressed that the proposed extension of President Michel Suleiman's term is “something that has become behind us and it has no place, not publicly nor under the table, because it would not benefit the country.” “I rule out the election of a president within the constitutional timeframe and I cannot determine how much it will take after that,” Qassem added. In response to a question, the top Hizbullah official pointed out that “there is no political dialogue or official talks with al-Mustaqbal movement” but rather “ministerial and parliamentary meetings.” On the Syrian conflict, Qassem noted that Hizbullah will withdraw its fighters from the neighboring country when the party accomplishes its “mission” and when stability returns to Syria. He also linked the possibility to “the end of the problem of global takfiri groups in Syria and the international plots against Syria.”“There is no set time for our return from Syria … What we're doing in Syria has to do with Lebanon and the future of our young generation and it is not aimed at protecting a regime or a person,” Qassem added.


Report: Aoun Remains Hizbullah's Sole Presidential Candidate
Naharnet/Hizbullah will not support the candidacy of any nominee but its ally Michel Aoun, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, for the presidency. Hizbullah officials stressed in comments to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Friday that the “party supports Aoun for presidency unless he has changed his mind.” Sources told the daily that “Aoun is the party's only candidate and the cabinet is the main preserver of stability amid the ongoing situation in the country.” “If any vacuum shall occur then the government could lead the country until an agreement is reached,” the sources. President Michel Suleiman's tenure ends on May 25. By law, if no president has been chosen by the last 10 days of the incumbent's mandate, parliament cannot meet for legislative sessions except to elect a new president.
Thursday's parliamentary session faced the similar fate of its predecessor. The first presidential elections session was held on April 23, but neither Lebanese Forces leader Samir 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 on the ongoing disagreement over a candidate. Visitors quoted Hizbullah officials as saying that the party's leadership refuses to negotiate any candidate but Aoun.”“Aoun or nobody” is the slogan that Hizbullah adopted, the visitors told al-Akhbar. The newspaper said that prominent Maronite officials in the March 8 alliance, who are presidential hopefuls, asked for a meeting with Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah but he refused to meet with them.

Cabinet Slashes Phone Call Fees, Approves New Administrative Appointments
Naharnet/The cabinet on Friday agreed to lower phone call tariffs and approved a number of administrative appointments after postponing controversial debate over military ones.
According to several media outlets, the cabinet “slashed the fees of cellphone and landline calls.” During the cabinet session, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil also proposed an article demanding the annulment of Telecom Minister Butros Harb's decision on IMEI numbers, because it "violates norms and laws." On April 28, Harb had reversed a decision obliging anyone bringing cellphones into the country to register their IMEI codes with the relevant authorities, a measure that was put in place to curb smuggling and tax evasion. Harb is accused of revoking a decree issued by the previous government and carrying the signature of the finance minister. Khalil has said that Harb had not consulted with him before making the move. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tammam Salam hoped at the beginning of the session that a new president will be elected by parliament before the end of President Michel Suleiman's term. Salam also tackled the issues of Syrian refugees, solid waste and oil exploration. Before entering the session, Economy Minister Alain Hakim described the Syrian refugee influx into Lebanon as an "incursion", noting that it would be the first item on the cabinet's agenda.
Al-Jadeed television said the cabinet discussed efforts to "devise an emergency plan for Syrian refugees in Lebanon" as MTV said "the cabinet intends to draft a text containing key decisions about Syrian refugees." But according to Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5), the cabinet failed to approve the plan and postponed it to the next session. MTV said the cabinet “did not approve appointments related to the state-run hospitals in Baabda and Akkar.” However, it appointed Abdullah Khamis as director general of the Cooperative of Government Employees and Yasser Zebian as chairman of the board of directors of the Public Institution for Consumer Markets. It also appointed a chairman for the board of directors of the Beirut state-run hospital and a chairman for the administrative board of the National Council for Scientific Research.

Suleiman Urges MPs to Avert Dangers Posed by Presidential Vacuum

Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman urged the parliament on Friday to act in accordance with the Constitution to avert the dangers that could arise from the failure to elect a new head of state by May 25. Suleiman made his plea in a message he sent to parliament via Speaker Nabih Berri and in accordance with the authorities given to him by clause 10 of article 53 of the Constitution.
He said the lawmakers should act in conformity with the laws to meet Constitutional deadlines “to avoid the dangers that could result from the failure to elect a president for the Lebanese Republic by May 25.” Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. Most of the March 8 camp's MPs have boycotted four rounds of elections over their call for an agreement on a consensual president and their rejection of the candidacy of their foe Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea. A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held next Thursday, two days before the expiry of Suleiman's six-year tenure. There are fears that the vacuum in the country's top Christian post would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite.

Asiri: Presidential Vote Responsibility of Christians before Anyone Else's

Naharnet/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri announced Friday that the responsibility of electing a new Lebanese president falls on the shoulders of Christians before anyone else, stressing that any foreign interference in the vote is “unacceptable.”“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports any inter-Lebanese agreement on the election of a president, especially that that would achieve security, stability and prosperity for Lebanon,” Asiri said after meeting Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki. But the ambassador underlined that “it is not beneficial, reasonable or acceptable for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or any other country to interfere in Lebanese affairs.”“This juncture is the responsibility of Christians before anyone else's and they have a major responsibility towards their country,” Asiri added. “They have partners in this country but I believe that this presidential post belongs to the Christian community first and foremost, and thus inter-Christian and inter-Lebanese consensus, in partnership with all political forces, might lead to something,” the envoy added. He hoped the Lebanese will be able to “agree on someone who can confront the challenges,” noting that “Saudi Arabia welcomes any political consensus.”Asiri also called on all political forces to join efforts with Bkirki in order to hold the presidential elections as soon as possible. “We're going through a good period and we have a promising summer ahead should the presidential vote be held … and I believe that Lebanon will witness a good, fruitful and beneficial summer season,” the ambassador added. A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held next Thursday, two days before the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure, amid fears that an absence of agreement between the March 8 and March 14 camps will plunge the country into a presidential vacuum. Meanwhile, al-Rahi hailed Asiri's “role in Lebanon” and his “strenuous efforts to encourage Arab and Saudi tourists to return to Lebanon for summer tourism.”The patriarch also asked the diplomat to convey his gratitude to Saudi King Abdullah over “the brotherly grant he has offered to the Lebanese Army.”On Wednesday, Asiri and Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon announced that the kingdom lifted a travel ban to Lebanon after the security situation improved in the country. Asiri had left Lebanon in September 2014 because “of the deteriorating security conditions,” as he stated at the time. The Saudi diplomat stated upon his arrival in Beirut that there is no ban on visits by Saudi nationals to Lebanon. Several Gulf states, including Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain had issued travel advisories, warning their citizens against visiting Lebanon after the country witnessed several security incidents linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria.

Geagea Travels on Work Trip Including Saudi Arabia, France

Naharnet /Lebanese Forces leader and presidential hopeful Samir Geagea traveled on Friday on a work trip, the party said in a press release. Geagea's destination wasn't formally revealed but sources close to LF told LBCI that the Christian leader traveled on an Arab and European tour. The sources said that the visit was planned around a week ago and includes France and Saudi Arabia. Deputy LF leader MP George Adwan told MTV that Geagea will not discuss during his tour the identity of the upcoming head of state. He pointed out that Geagea's visit could include contacts with allies and Lebanese officials to facilitate the presidential polls. “The president should be made in Lebanon,” Adwan added. On Thursday, Geagea held the March 8 Christians responsible for the delay in electing a new president after Thursday's parliamentary session faced the similar fate of its predecessor. 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 on the ongoing disagreement over a candidate.By law, if no president has been chosen by the last 10 days of the incumbent's mandate, parliament cannot meet for legislative sessions except to elect a new president.

Jumblat Says Presidential Vote Needs Cooperation with Hizbullah, Iran
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat has said that the agreement on a consensual presidential candidate required an understanding between Iran and Saudi Arabia coupled with the cooperation of the rival parties with Hizbullah and its baker Tehran. An official close to Jumblat told Addiyar daily that the PSP chief denied rumors that Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun would be elected president if ex-PM Saad Hariri, who leads al-Mustaqbal movement, gave his consent. “The presidential elections require a direct Iranian-Saudi understanding. Consequently it's not up to Saad Hariri to decide whether Aoun or anyone else would be elected,” the official quoted Jumblat as saying.“We can't hold the polls without full coordination with Hizbullah and Iran,” he stated.
“It's not enough to bet on the Saudi-Iranian dialogue” because it's not clear “whether it could lead to results or not,” he added. Addiyar also said that Jumblat, who is the head of the centrist National Struggle Front bloc, was pessimistic on the possibility to resolve the presidential deadlock soon. “Who can guarantee that the vacuum won't be for long?” he asked. Jumblat called for the election of a president through a similar settlement that led to the formation of the government of Prime Minister Tammam Salam in February. Jumblat has backed the candidacy of Aley MP Henri Helou, who in the first round of the elections, garnered the votes of the 16 centrist MPs. Fifty-two lawmakers from the March 8 camp cast blank votes in the first round of the polls, while Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea received the votes of only 48 MPs. But in the rounds that followed, the parliament again failed to elect a new president over the boycott of the March 8 coalition's MPs, who are insisting on a prior agreement on a consensual head of state.

Bou Saab Meets SCC Delegation, Says No More Strikes before End of School Year

Naharnet/Education Minister Elias Bou Saab warned on Friday that a “major crisis” is looming over holding official exams for high school and secondary school students given the ongoing dispute over the approval of the new wage scale. He said after meeting with a delegation from the Syndicate Coordination Committee: “No more strikes will take place before the end of the school year.”He added however that the possibility of extending the year at some schools is being studied. The SCC, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has been demanding that parliament approve the new wage scale. It has staged a number of protests and school strikes to press its demands and also threatened to suspend the correction of official exams. Bou Saab added: “We thank the SCC representatives for their responsible positions and we stress that school exams will take place on time.”He revealed however that the fate of official exams lies in the hands of parliament and its stand on the wage scale. The approval of the scale draft-law has been delayed given fears of the impact it may have on Lebanon's economy. A ministerial-parliamentary committee, which studied the draft-law, has proposed to reduce the total funding of the pay hike from LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion). It has also suggested to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 10 percent to 11 percent and increasing customs by 1 percent, in addition to raising other taxes.But SCC officials stressed that the public sector employees will only accept a 121 percent wage hike as initially approved by the government of ex-PM Premier Najib Miqati in 2012.Parliament is set to convene on May 27 to continue discussions on the matter.

Even in Muslim heartlands, India's Modi racks up gains
May 16, 2014/By John Chalmers, Aditya Kalra/Reuters
NEW DELHI: He has been pilloried for horrific riots in which hundreds of Muslims were killed on his watch in western India 12 years ago. He is vilified by many as a fearsome Hindu supremacist.
And yet, a Reuters analysis of Friday's sweeping election victory for Narendra Modi shows that many of India's Muslim voters appear to have put aside their fears and backed his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has promised to bring jobs and a revival of the economy. Alongside the sheer scale of Modi's triumph, the change in attitude among a sizeable proportion of the Muslim community is one of the most surprising outcomes of a vote where social and economic aspirations appear to have overridden other concerns. With counting of votes cast for parliamentary seats still underway, data provided by the Election Commission showed that in constituencies where the population of Muslims is more than 20 percent, a BJP candidate looked set to win in nearly half.
Muslims account for about 15 percent of India's 1.2 billion people, which means that - although a minority - they number some 175 million, making them the world's third-largest Muslim population.
The vote count showed that the BJP and its allies were likely to win around 339 of the 543 parliamentary seats at stake in the election, far more than the halfway mark required to rule and sealing Modi's bid to become prime minister. Of the 102 constituencies where, according to polling group CSDS at least one in five voters are Muslims, Election Commission data showed that a BJP candidate had won or was leading the count in 47. In the 2009 election, the BJP won only 24 of these seats.
Modi's party was even heading for victory on Friday in two seats where more than half of the population is Muslim, and in 18 where more than a third of the voters are Muslims.
Many Muslims loathe the man now set to be the country's next leader, blaming him for encouraging or at best turning a blind eye to a 2002 frenzy of bloodshed in the western state of Gujarat, where he was chief minister at the time. More than 1,000 people were slain in the rioting, most of them Muslims. Modi maintains that he did all he could to quell the violence, and the Supreme Court found he has no case to answer. His party denies that it has a bias against non-Hindus, but says it is opposed to giving unfair advantage to any community, a practice it describes as "appeasement" that the outgoing Congress party has long followed to win votes. This month, as the election drew to a close, Modi ratcheted up rhetoric against illegal immigrants entering northeastern India from neighbouring Bangladesh, saying they should have their "bags packed" ready to be sent home should he win.
His comments raised alarm among the sizeable Muslim minority in Assam and West Bengal, some of whom felt he was targeting them on religious, not legal grounds, and the government in Bangladesh said it would resist any attempt at deportation. Modi kept up his verbal offensive even after 41 Muslims were killed by suspected tribal militants in Assam in violence related to the election.
Yet during most of his campaign, Modi has sought to moderate his image, harping on his record of governance in industrial powerhouse Gujarat to promise economic growth and jobs after years of policy paralysis and corruption under Congress rule. Syed Md. Khalid, a Muslim leader in the eastern state of West Bengal, said Modi had changed over the years and become more responsible.
"This is not a vote on communal lines. This is a vote for development and for jobs. We respect the people's verdict and we think Modi will have to be a responsible leader," Khalid said.
On the other side of the country in Ahmedabad, the largest city of Gujarat, Muslim businessman Salim Quadri agreed.
"We have seen Narendra Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat since 2001. I don't think there is any need for any fear or apprehensions with Modi as prime minister," he said.
"The only thing that worries Muslims is that they are already marginalised and Modi now should take steps to bring the community into the national mainstream."
Yet in Juhapura, a Muslim township of some 400,000 in Ahmedabad, there was no sign of the celebrations over Modi's victory that exploded elsewhere in the state.
TV channels showing live coverage of the results flickered in homes across the community, but most people went about their business in the sprawling district that many Hindus derisively call "Little Pakistan".
Asif Pathan, a social activist in Ahmedabad, said the people of India had warmed to Modi's promises of growth and development. Muslims hope he will stick to that, and not stray into divisive policies.
"He has said he wants to take everyone along. We would like to see that, but frankly we are not very confident," he said.


Report: Iran recruits Afghans for Syria war
By staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Friday, 16 May 2014
Iran is recruiting Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday. In exchange, Iran is offering them stipends of $500 a month and residency permits, the paper said, quoting Afghans and Western officials. Details of their recruitment efforts were confirmed by the office of Grand Ayatollah Mohaghegh Kabuli, an Afghan religious leader in the Iranian holy city of Qom. A member of the IRGC also confirmed the details, reported the newspaper. “They [IRGC] find a connection to the refugee community and work on convincing our youth to go and fight in Syria,” said the office administrator of Ayatollah Kabuli. “They give them everything from salary to residency.” The paper reported that Iran is also offering the refugees school registration for their children.
The paper quoted a Western official in Iran as saying recruiting Afghans was part of a strategy to send poor foot soldiers to the battle front, Agence France-Presse reported.
The aim was to reduce casualties among Iranian Guards personnel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, a close Tehran ally, the official said. On Thursday, a funeral attended by local officials was held in the Iranian city of Mashhad, near the Afghan border, for four Afghan refugees killed in Syria, according to the newspaper. However, Hamid Babaei, a spokesman for the U.N. mission to Iran, said the allegations were unfounded. “Iranian presence in the country is solely advisory in nature in order to help counter the extremist... al-Qaeda groups from committing more massacre and bloodshed,” he told the Wall Street Journal. Like Hezbollah and most Iranians, the Afghan recruits are Shiites and support Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, the Journal said.

Drone wars: Iran takes on the U.S., sparking concern

Friday, 16 May 2014
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
In a short video of a ceremony that occurred during an unexpected visit, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sits in front of an Iranian-made drone copy of the advanced CIA spy drone, the RQ-170 spy plane. Khamenei is filmed listening to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps general explain the functions of the new technology.
The pictures of this unveiling ceremony have been posted on the supreme leader’s website as well. The whole process of developing an Iranian spy drone has been eye opening and intriguing. Iranian leaders claim that the U.S. drone was not shot down but was rather commandeered in 2011. As the Iranian Tasnim News Agency reported: “The drone was brought down by the Iranian Armed Forces’ electronic warfare unit which commandeered the aircraft and safely landed it.”
The drone could have been flying over Iran territories for two reasons. The drone was either related to a CIA reconnaissance mission that dealt with the intelligence and military community in Afghanistan, or it was truly spying on Iran as Iranian authorities claim.
“If Khamenei is so proud to have this spying technology, then do Iranian leaders really expect regional countries to believe that Tehran does not want to have access to weapons with nuclear capabilities?”
The drone was found in city of Kashmar, located in the eastern part of Iran near the border of Afghanistan and the river Sish Taraz. There are no significant nuclear or military sites to spy on in this part of the Islamic Republic.
The Obama administration asked the Islamic Republic to return the drone, but Iranian authorities declined. After commandeering and landing the drone, Iranian engineers and experts reverse-engineered the U.S. drone in order to copy its technology. They also released a YouTube video showing footage of the decoding of the American drone and the countries in which this drone had been operating, including Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Iran’s claim to have replicated the U.S. drone comes at a time when drone policy and the usage of drones by the Obama administration have become a crucially debated topic in Washington.
The unintended consequences: analysis of this euphoria
First of all, the questions of whether the Iranian authorities’ claim that they have created an exact copy of the downed U.S. drone is open to debate. It is almost impossible to verify their claim unless full access to Iran’s drone and its capabilities is allowed to experts.
On the other hand, the reaction of the Iranian authorities, particularly Khamenei and IRGC, reveals several issues left unresolved amidst the rush to celebrate this development.
Iran’s supreme leader is a highly secretive political figure who avoids giving interviews to journalists or appearing on media and TV. The fact that he made a public and televised visit to observe the drone and the notion that even his website put up images of the drone and his visit is surprising and compelling.
The Iranian leader’s hasty action to celebrate this development and their boasting about having a spying drone reveals several underlying political intentions that they failed to foresee while rushing into this ceremony.
This issue reveals that Iran’s supreme leader and the IRGC truly believe that this development is a sign of crucial progress in Iran’s military and defense capabilities.
But the more fundamental issue that emerges is if Khamenei is so proud to have this spying technology, then do Iranian leaders really expect regional countries and the international community to believe that Tehran (and particularly the IRGC), do not want to have access to weapons with nuclear capabilities?
Why would Iranian authorities reveal such excitement through their own state media for having developed a machine that can spy on other countries in the region? After all, what is the purpose of a drone other than secretly targeting and killing people, along with spying on the nations?
If we look at the region, the countries that Iran could spy on with this drone are primarily Gulf Arab countries to the south of Iran, including Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and even Iraq.
This excitement at having the capability to spy on other sovereign nation-states comes in contradiction to the publicized ideology of the government. The supreme leader has repeatedly pointed out that the Islamic Republic is against nuclear capabilities, weapons, or such military equipments and that these issues run against the ideology of Shiism.
The Islamic Republic and the U.S.: not natural allies
In addition, Iran’s supreme leader and IRGC generals are attempting to send a signal to the United States that Iran has reached a self-sufficient and independent level when it comes to military and technological capabilities; that it can deter the United States, Western and regional powers’ objectives in the region.
This indicates that the deep mistrust between Washington and Tehran will continue, even as the recent nuclear talks in Vienna are showing encouraging signs for striking a final nuclear deal.
In other words, even if a final nuclear deal is reached within the next few months before the July 20 deadline, the Islamic Republic and the United States will not turn into geopolitical allies. As long as Iran supports regional non-state actors such as Hezbollah, pursues its regional hegemonic ambitions, thwarts other countries’ foreign policy objectives in the region, and is governed by the ideology of the supreme leader and IRGC generals, Washington and Tehran cannot be natural allies.
The development of the drone will not affect the progress of the final nuclear deal. The final nuclear deal appears to have no venue other than to succeed. This is due to the fact that Western powers do not have plan B.
Iranian leaders deeply believe that the United States is attempting to overthrow the government of the Islamic Republic. In addition, Iran’s supreme leader gains his legitimacy and power from those constituents and institutions that view Washington as a great evil.
Finally, although Iranian leaders point out that they do not have any regional hegemonic ambitions, this exhilaration among Iranian authorities about developing a spy drone sends a strong signal about Iran’s objectives for tipping the balance of power in the region in its favor, challenging other regional powers thus ratcheting up the security dilemma in the region, boasting about Tehran’s spying capabilities and seeking regional hegemonic superiority.

No Tangible Progress' as Latest Round of Iran Nuclear Talks Ends
Naharnet Newsdesk 8 hours ago
A fourth round of nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers ended Friday with both sides complaining that major gaps remained ahead of a July 20 deadline for a vaunted accord.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi quoted on state television, reported "no tangible progress" at the talks in Vienna as he described the gaps as "too huge."However, he said Tehran remained "determined" to continue the talks in coming months. Separately, a Western diplomat said "huge gaps" remain in the negotiations aimed at finding a lasting deal on limiting Tehran's nuclear program, and called on Iran to show more flexibility.
"Huge gaps remain, there is really more realism needed on the other side," the diplomat said. "We had expected a little more flexibility on their side."
Unusually, no press conference was held and no statement issued after the three-day meetings between Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany -- bolstering the impression that little had been achieved.
A U.S. official had earlier said Washington was worried by a lack of progress in the talks, calling the discussions "slow and difficult.""Significant gaps remain between the two sides' positions," the senior U.S. official in Vienna said on condition of anonymity. "Iran still has to make some hard choices. We are concerned that progress is not being made, and that time is short," the official said.
Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief and the six powers' lead negotiator Catherine Ashton, however warned against reading too much into the lack of a joint statement or press conferences after the meetings.
"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That's why we don't want to break things down and give a snapshot of where we are after every session," he told Agence France Presse. "We have had three days of hard work. As we have said, the negotiations are complex and detailed," he said. "We are trying to formulate an agreement."
Both the Iranian and U.S. side said the parties were having problems seeing eye to eye.
A source close to the Iranian delegation in Vienna was quoted by the IRNA news agency as saying that "the West has to abandon its excessive demands.""We had expected the Western side to become more realistic but this doesn't appear to be the case yet," the source added.
On Friday evening, a U.S. official said "there needs to be some additional realism," admitting "moments of great difficulty" in the talks.
A next round of Iran talks was set for June with the EU still to fix the date, the official said.
Negotiators are trying to nail down an exceedingly complex and lasting deal that would curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions before a November interim agreement expires on July 20. Failure could have calamitous consequences, potentially sparking conflict -- neither Israel nor Washington rules out military action -- and creating a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Negotiators could in theory extend the July 20 deadline to win more time, but U.S. President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani could struggle to keep skeptical and impatient hardliners from their respective countries at bay. After three rounds that Washington said helped both sides to "understand each other's positions", Washington and Tehran had said they wanted to start drafting the actual agreement this time. That however proved elusive.
Even with indications of some narrowing of positions, for example on the Arak reactor, both sides are sticking to the mantra that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
The biggest issue and main sticking point is uranium enrichment, which can make the element suitable for power generation but also, when highly enriched, for a bomb. Multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions have called on Iran to suspend this process, as has the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors. The powers want to extend the time Iran would need to enrich its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to weapons-grade by slashing the number of centrifuges from the current 20,000, of which half are operating. The Islamic republic denies wanting nuclear weapons and says enrichment is only for peaceful uses. Another issue is Iran's development of ballistic missiles, a point which Tehran has said should not be part of the nuclear talks. Washington disagrees, saying that the November deal committed Iran to address all U.N. Security Council resolutions, one of which -- in 2010 -- called on Iran to stop missile development. Also to be resolved is the IAEA's long-stalled probe into alleged past "military dimensions" to its program before 2003 and possibly since. A Thursday deadline for Iran to clear up one small part of this -- its stated need for certain detonators -- passed without comment from either the IAEA or Iran. After a meeting on Monday, a terse IAEA statement said only that it had "noted that Iran has taken several actions and that some related work continues."
Source/Agence France Presse

The Ontario Court of Appeal Upholds Extradition of the Lebanese Hassan Diab
The Canadian appeals court Thursday upheld a judge's decision that a Canadian-Lebanese man should be extradited to France in connection with a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing that killed four people.
The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the lower-court judge and the federal justice minister made no legal errors in concluding Hassan Diab should be handed to French authorities.
Canadian police arrested Diab, a 60-year-old Canadian of Lebanese descent, in 2008 in response to a request from France, where he is wanted on charges of murder and attempted murder in the Oct. 3, 1980 bombing. The bomb, hidden in the saddlebags of a parked motorcycle, exploded outside a Parisian synagogue during a Sabbath service, killing three French men and one Israeli woman.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Special Operations was blamed for the bombing at the time. The investigation was reopened after Diab's name turned up on a list of former members of a Palestinian extremist group obtained by German intelligence officials. Diab, who had been a part-time sociology professor at both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa before his arrest, has denied any role in the attack. Stamps in Diab's 1980 passport indicated he was not in France at the time of the bombing. In June 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger committed Diab for extradition to face French authorities despite acknowledging the case against him was weak. The following April, then-justice minister Rob Nicholson signed an extradition order surrendering Diab to France.
During the Ontario Superior Court case, Maranger examined elements of France's request including eyewitness descriptions, composite sketches and handwriting on a hotel registration card allegedly penned by Diab — evidence his lawyers fiercely disputed. In his ruling Maranger concluded that France had presented "a weak case" that makes the prospect of conviction, "in the context of a fair trial, seem unlikely." But he said Diab must be sent to France under the terms of Canada's extradition law. In his appeal, Diab argued that a flawed handwriting analysis and other evidence that at best creates a degree of suspicion amounts to a case that does not allow committal for extradition. However, the Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that Maranger "did not err in his approach." Diab also contended that Nicholson made several mistakes, including opting to surrender him even though France has not yet decided whether to put him on trial for the bombing.      The appeal court ruled that the minister's surrender decision was reasonable, "even though a trial in France is not a certainty." The court said a process or prosecution must simply be underway "that will, if not discontinued, lead to a trial. A trial of that person, however, need not be inevitable."Source/Associated Press

Netanyahu to Hagel: Israel not surprised by new report on Iranian missile work
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel was not surprised by a new UN report that said Iran has been pursuing ballistic missiles capabilities. Netanyahu said that the report shows that Iran was trying to deceive the international community. "I wasn't surprised and I'm sure you weren't surprised by the UN report," Netanyahu said during a joint press briefing in Jerusalem with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The new report by the UN Panel of Experts said Iran's overall attempts to illicitly procure materials for its banned nuclear and missile program appear to have slowed down as it pursues negotiations with world powers that it hopes will bring an end to sanctions. But the same report makes clear that, apart from holding off on test-firing one type of rocket, Iran shows no sign of putting the brakes on the expansion of its missile program. Netanyahu called on the six world powers engaged in negotiations with Iran to present a firm and clear policy on Tehran's disputed nuclear program guided by the principle of preventing a "win" for the Islamic Republic's ruling ayatollahs. During the press conference with Netanyahu, Hagel reiterated the Obama administration's commitment to deterring Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capabilities. The US defense chief stressed that American support for Israel is currently at "an all-time high." "America's commitment to Israel's security is resolute," Hagel stated.
"The United States' support for Israel is anchored in our nations' commitment to democracy and freedom", Hagel said. Turning to the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu expressed his concern over the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement.  Netanyahu said that the Fatah leadership in Ramallah has continued to take measures toward forming a unity government with Hamas, which the US has designated as a terrorist organization. "I think the Palestinians have to make a simple choice, a pact with Hamas or peace with Israel, but they can't have both," Netanyahu asserted. The premier also said that anti-Semitic incitement in the Palestinian territories was another factor that hindered peace. "We're concerned too that in both Gaza and in the PA-controlled areas, there is continual incitement and propaganda against the very existence of the Jewish state," he said, noting a recent Anti-Defamation League report that found high levels of of anti-Semitism in Palestinian society. Reuters contributed to this report.

Iran is working its way into a nuclear tangle

By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Alawsat
If all goes according to plan, the Islamic Republic of Iran is expected to announce another interim accord regarding its nuclear program. Though marketed with much noise, the first “agreement” unveiled in Geneva was not signed and thus could not be regarded as binding. It was downgraded to “a joint action plan,” rather than an international treaty; in other words, it was no more than a list of promises.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has pinned the hopes of his term on the success of negotiations with the so-called P5+1 group led by the United States. He seems to believe that an accord on the nuclear issue would cut the Gordian knot of Iran’s relations with the outside world. And that, in a sense, is the first error in his strategy.
Iran’s sour relations with the major powers, including Russia—which has recently acted as a tactical ally of the Khomeinist regime—is not caused by concern about Iran’s real or imagined intention to build a bomb. The major powers regarded the Khomeinist regime with suspicion from the start. Before the mullahs seized power, leaders of all the major powers made a point of visiting Iran. Among the visitors in the 1970s were two US presidents, two presidents of the Soviet Union, three German chancellors, a French president, two British prime ministers and a Chinese president. With the mullahs in charge, those visits dried up long before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed that Tehran had a clandestine nuclear program with possible military dimensions.
Thus, even if the nuclear issue is fudged up, which it cannot be, there is no guarantee that the big powers will alter their hostile stance. In fact, a case could be made for an alternative strategy under which Iran addresses other concerns of the major powers before bringing the nuclear issue to the table.
If those powers regard Iran as trustworthy on other issues, there is no reason why they should suspect its intentions regarding the nuclear dossier. After all, Iran had an ambitious nuclear program before the mullahs, and nobody protested. In fact, the P5+1 countries competed to get a share in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Rouhani’s second error is to consider the nuclear negotiations as a means of silencing opposition: “We consider these [talks] as a step towards disarming our opponents,” he said last Sunday. Students of politics would know that it is a mistake to do something in the hope of serving an unrelated purpose.
The third error in Rouhani’s strategy is that he is in a hurry to achieve something. He may end up making an already tangled web even more complicated. He keeps repeating that Iran will not “retreat one step in the field of nuclear research.” However, the dispute is not about research. Anybody could do research, even on the Internet. What is important is what one does with research: development. You have to test the hypotheses formed by research. And that means doing different things than what you were doing before. In other words, you need a broad-based nuclear industry to do meaningful research.
The agreement that Rouhani’s team has been instructed to negotiate would mean the decline and eventual end of the industrial base of the Iranian nuclear program. The average life of technologies in the modern world is between four and five years—thus it would be enough for Iran to have four or five years of research without industrial development for it to be scripted out of meaningful nuclear capacity, peaceful or not.
Rouhani’s next error is that he rejects the position of “the other side” and then immediately adopts it as the central core of the negotiations. He accuses the P5+1 of “falsehood” in asserting that Iran is pursuing a military project. And then he asserts that his aim is to “address those concerns.”
But how does one prove a negative? Here, Rouhani has fallen into a trap of his own making. Instead of asking “the other side” to back its concerns with evidence, he has agreed to remove those “unjustified” concerns by offering concessions in other fields. In such a scheme the P5+1 are granted the last word.
Initially, the P5+1 claimed they wanted to prevent Iran from reaching the “threshold” level of nuclear development after which making a bomb becomes possible. However, there is nothing to prevent the P5+1 claiming that Iran is moving towards “the threshold” at any given time. Whenever they like, the P5+1 could claim that Iran has not fulfilled its side of the bargain.
In the meantime, the P5+1 group gets the right to tell Iran how to spend a part of its own oil income in a scheme that resembles the “oil-for-food” project imposed on Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Under the scheme, even the companies allowed to trade with Iran as part of a program for easing sanctions is determined by the P5+1, rather than the Islamic Republic.
Initially, Iran had a technical–legal dispute with the IAEA. The ineptitude of leaders in Tehran transformed that dispute into a diplomatic one involving the UN. The Security Council has passed six resolutions demanding that Iran take a number of precisely define actions. It would have been more in Iran’s interest to meet the IAEA’s demand or, having not done so, to comply with the resolutions. Instead, Iran is now caught in a procedure unprecedented in international diplomacy. The European Union, at the request of the UN Secretary-General, is to negotiate the implementation of Security Council resolutions with Iran. To complicate matters further, Russia and China, two veto-holding members of the Security Council, have been added to the dramatis personae. However, the negotiations are not about the resolutions. They have been put on a different trajectory, aimed at putting a chunk of Iran’s industrial and security strategies under foreign tutelage.
At present, any of the 192 member states of the United Nations have the right to build a nuclear industry with a “threshold” capacity. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, it should not cross that threshold. However, the current negotiations are not about “crossing the threshold but approaching it. Thus Iran would be the first country in the world, and the first signatory of the NPT, to have less freedom in the field of research, development and industry than all others.