May 21/14


Bible Quotation for today/‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Matthew 16,21-28/: "From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’"

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today

Come, Holy Spirit! Help us to overcome our selfishness.
Pape François ‏@Pontifex_fr · 1h
Viens, Esprit Saint ! Aide-nous à dépasser notre égoïsme.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For May 21/14

Lebanon’s very own Nakba catastrophe/By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya/May 21/14

The battle for power in Iraq/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 21/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 21/14

Lebanese Related News

Lebanese journalist takes on Hezbollah

U.N.: Lebanon Will Have 1.5M Refugees by Year's End
Geagea Says Not Holding Onto Presidency, to Open Door to Other Candidates to End Deadlock

Saudi FM Rejects Candidacy of Aoun, Fears 'Hidden Intentions'
Suleiman Warns of 'Vengeance' Scenario, Does not Regret Stance from Hizbullah
Salam Meets Saudi King at Jeddah Airport

Salam says government capable of managing the country

Salam Looking Forward for 'Made in Lebanon' President

Lebanese Army Patrol Comes under Attack in Tripoli, 8 Soldiers Wounded

Customs Seize Thousands of Captagon Pills, Raid Spoiled Food Warehouse

8 NGOs Demand Lebanon to 'Stop Deporting' Syria's Palestinian Refugees

Iranian Ambassador Meets Berri, Bassil: Iran Hopes Lebanon Will Elect President as soon as Possible

Lebanese Military Expert Defuses Grenade in Rmeileh Residential Area

Nasrallah to Make Televised Speech Sunday by End of Suleiman's Term

Official: Israel Unsuccessful in Preventing Hizbullah Rockets Buildup

Suleiman Franjieh 'Not Optimistic' Hariri May Give Aoun His Votes

Aoun's bloc will not attend this week's election session

Future bloc: Geagea our candidate

Israel mobilizes along Lebanese border

Hajj Hasan warns against unsafe food containers

Jumblatt bloc to attend Thursday's election session

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Under Pressure, Israel's Arab Christians Reach Out to Pope

Al-Sisi: Israel needs Egypt's army in Sinai
Intelligence official: Israel's enemies no longer have clear centers of operation
Israeli video warns of danger behind Iran nuclear deal

Kuwait Emir to Visit Iran amid Thaw in Relations
Gunmen Shoot Dead Three Policemen, Wound Nine in Cairo
Ukraine Says Russia Pulls back Forces ahead of Vote
Bahrain Parliament Sacks Sunni MP who Slammed Prison Conditions

Imam Abu Hamza convicted in terror trial

Syrian army missile kills family: activists

Rival MPs fear ‘traps’ ahead of election session  

Lebanese journalist takes on Hezbollah
Ynetnews/05.20.14, 18:43 /
Analysis: Hanin Ghaddar's attack on Nasrallah reflects battle between Lebanon's secular establishment and camp of Syria-Iran axis.
The Lebanese law bans any relations with Israel: No handshakes, no exchange of words, definitely no photographs and not even happening to be in the same room with "the Israeli enemy." Those who were caught, including Miss Lebanon, were put on trial and sentenced to three years in prison.
The two camps, the camp of the secular establishment and public opinion leaders and the camp of the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis, are now caught in a battle over the participation of fascinating journalist Hanin Ghaddar, the managing editor of Lebanon's popular English-language news website NOW, in a Washington conference. She was invited to lecture about the United States' policy in the Middle East and surprised everyone. Analysis: Most of Lebanese terror organization's attempts to avenge its commander's assassination have failed thanks to improvement in Israel's intelligence collection abilities.
Full analysis
Instead of talking about failures and mistakes, as she was expected to do in Beirut, Ghaddar chose to lash out at Hezbollah and used harsh words to blame the organization for the wretched condition of the two million Syrian refugees who fled to camps in Lebanon. They are miserable, she complained, and we are collapsing under the human burden. We pity them, and we are entangled within ourselves.
The criticism hit Ghaddar from an unexpected place: The watchdogs of the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria axis found former Defense Minister Ehud Barak's name on the Washington conference's list of participants. They went and posted a huge (fabricated) picture of Barak and Ghaddar, and Hassan Nasrallah's mouthpieces declared that she had been "thrown to the dogs." Such a headline in Beirut is not a child's play. It's a call to watch her, to plant an explosive device in her car or in her home and to settle a long score with her. Ghaddar is an unusual journalist in the Lebanese media landscape. Two years ago, she published a provocative article in New York-based Jewish magazine Tablet about her Shiite grandmother, who "loves Hassan Nasrallah, believes every word he says and he is her only hope."
For my grandmother, Ghaddar wrote without revealing what she herself thinks about Nasrallah, "it is very simple: Jews are evil; Hezbollah is good." Those targeting Ghaddar have now published a "statement of disassociation" on behalf of her family and an "apology" to Nasrallah. I'm not sure there were such statements. The Arabic-language press is waging a smear campaign against Ghaddar. Lebanon's English-language newspapers, on the other hand, have launched a campaign of solidarity with her. In Arabic they are demanding to throw her in jail and destroy her, in English they are slamming Hezbollah and defending Ghaddar. The battle between the camps has turned into a reflection of the high politics in Beirut: President Michel Suleiman has completed two terms, the law requires elections and a new president in the palace, but Hezbollah is torpedoing, threatening and disqualifying the candidates. Every moment, someone makes certain to fuel the battles between the two camps. This diverts the attention from the charged issue of electing a new president. But Ghaddar isn't giving up: Upon her return to Beirut, she issued a new attack on Hezbollah in which she announced that she – as opposed to them – speaks with one voice: What she said in Washington she will say without hesitations at home too, despite what her grandmother says. "They say I should have asked for permission before opening my 'big mouth' in Washington," she attacked. "Why didn't Nasrallah ask me for permission before he sent hundreds of fighters to help Bashar Assad in Syria and drove the refugees over to us?"
As for her "mingling" with Ehud Barak, Ghaddar stated that she did not break the law: She made it clear in advance that she would not attend his lecture and would not pick up the microphone before she was promised that Barak was not in the room. She is not alone. In another conference, in the emirate of Qatar, the Lebanese participant asked the organizers to remove the name of the Israeli panelist from the itinerary. The Israeli was offended, and the Lebanese begged for his life. The Israeli gave up.

U.N.: Lebanon Will Have 1.5M Refugees by Year's End
Naharnet/Lebanon is under massive pressure as tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in neighboring Syria continue to stream in, likely reaching a total of 1.5 million people by the end of the year and heightening tensions in the tiny, overburdened country, U.N. officials said Monday. The number represents one third of Lebanon's estimated population of 4.5 million, and unlike Turkey and Jordan, Lebanon has no refugee camps for Syrians, who are scattered all over in informal settlements, living with relatives or renting homes. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that over a million Syrian refugees are registered with U.N. agencies in Lebanon, and 50,000 new arrivals continue to sign up each month. Those figures don't include up to one million Syrians who are believed to be living in Lebanon and who have not sought help from the United Nations. In Geneva earlier, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief in Lebanon, Ross Mountain, told reporters that at this rate, Lebanon will be home to 1.5 million registered refugees by year's end. The high numbers mean huge pressure on public services and the communities that are welcoming the Syrians. In turn, this translates into heightened tensions among both communities, Mountain said. "Already we are seeing signs of tension, not surprisingly, between the Syrians that are arriving and the Lebanese host communities," Mountain told reporters. "But the fear that many of us have is that, that mixed with other factors could mean rising tension between communities within Lebanon." Most of the fleeing Syrians are moving into Lebanon's poorest regions, such as the Bekaa Valley and Akkar, he said. "There are 225 localities that contain 86 per cent of the refugees and 68 per cent of the poorest Lebanese. The problems that they have had before are of course exacerbated by this influx," Mountain said. The U.N. warnings came as the activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the death toll in Syria's three-year conflict has climbed past 160,000. The United Nations no longer updates its own tally of the Syrian dead, saying it can't verify the numbers.Source/Associated Press

Geagea Says Not Holding Onto Presidency, to Open Door to Other Candidates to End Deadlock
Naharnet /Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea reiterated readiness to withdraw his candidacy from the presidency in favor of another March 14 candidate, expressing belief that Thursday's parliamentary session will be similar to its predecessors. “I am not holding onto anything personal at all,” Geagea said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Tuesday. He pointed out that Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel and Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb could run for the presidency on behalf of the March 14 alliance instead of him. However, he noted that the March 8 coalition is engaged in a “mysterious and unclear game,” voicing hope that the alliance's lawmakers would attend Thursday's parliamentary session, which is the fifth round of presidential elections.Geagea expressed pessimism over Hizbullah's rejection to conduct dialogue and seek any possible solution to the presidential deadlock. “I am certain that Thursday's session will not lead to any new developments,” the LF leader said.
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 Geagea, whose nomination was officially endorsed by the March 14 camp. A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held Thursday before the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure. Geagea rejected to succumb to a formula that says either we support (Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel) Aoun or deal with vacuum. “Vacuum could last a month or more,” the Christian leader warmed, regretting that the Lebanese failed to seize the opportunity to elect a “made in Lebanon” president. 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. Asked about the rapprochement between al-Mustaqbal leader Saad Hariri and Aoun, the March 14 official wondered “if an agreement existed then what is holding back the election of a president.” Aoun had been repeatedly claiming that he would not announce his candidacy against his rival Geagea if there was no consensus on him. Geagea landed in France last week to meet with Hariri in his first stop on a tour to Arab and European countries, that is expected to include Saudi Arabia. He said in a press conference on Monday that his Paris talks with Hariri tackled Aoun's presidential nomination and the fact that the FPM leader has proposed himself as a “consensual” candidate. “Kick starting contacts with the FPM is a good thing, but until the moment General Aoun is not a consensual candidate.”

Saudi FM Rejects Candidacy of Aoun, Fears 'Hidden Intentions'
Naharnet/Saudi Arabia has reportedly rejected the nomination of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun for the presidency, expressing fear over his “hidden intentions.”Informed Lebanese sources told As Safir newspaper published on Tuesday that Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal informed local and foreign officials that he refuses to adopt the candidacy of Aoun. “We cannot forget his history... A consensual character cannot be made in one day,” sources quoted al-Faisal as saying. He voiced concern over Aoun's “hidden intentions regarding the Lebanese national pact if he was elected as a head of state,” stressing that a consensual president shouldn't be affiliated in either the March 8 or 14 alliances. Aoun continuously said that he will not announce his candidacy for the presidency if there was no political consensus on him. Sources, however, told the daily that al-Faisal's stance doesn't necessarily reflect the kingdom's stand as Saudi Arabia welcomes the rapprochement between al-Mustaqbal leader Saad Hariri and Aoun. For his part, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri said in comments published in al-Liwaa that the “kingdom doesn't interfere in a Lebanese local affair.”
“The Lebanese should act and we hope that a consensual president, who adopts the Baabda declaration and dissociation policy, would be elected.” The diplomat continuously denied that his country is intervening in local Lebanese affairs, ruling out any contacts between Riyadh and Hariri regarding the presidential poll.

Suleiman Warns of 'Vengeance' Scenario, Does not Regret Stance from Hizbullah
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman has expressed fears that a top member of either the March 8 or 14 alliance would use his power in the country's top Christian post to take vengeance from his foes if he was elected president. In an interview with As Safir newspaper published on Tuesday, Suleiman said: “I am afraid that one of them could come into office so that he takes vengeance from the others.”
“I don't care about the consensual candidate … He could be committed at first but could exercise” something else, the president, who leaves Baabda Palace after the expiry of his term on Sunday, said.
“Most candidates are competent and (Free Patriotic Movement leader) Michel Aoun is one of them,” Suleiman told As Safir. But he expressed fear of “collision” between the rival parties when he was asked if he backed any of the top Maronite political leaders. Under the National Pact of 1943, the president should be a Maronite. Parliament has failed to elect a new president in the past four rounds of polls over the boycott of the March 8 alliance, which claims there should be a prior agreement on a consensual president. Aoun, who is a member of the alliance and has not officially announced his candidacy, has considered himself a consensual candidate. But his rival Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea - the March 14 camp's sole candidate - mocked Aoun's claims on Monday, saying his alliance with Hizbullah does not make him a consensual president. A new round of elections is set to take place on Thursday, a few days before the expiry of Suleiman's six-year tenure. The president told As Safir in the interview that he did not regret his repeated calls on Hizbullah to pull its fighters from Syria. “They should be the ones regretting, not me,” he said about Hizbullah's lack of commitment to the Baabda Declaration under which the rival sides, including the party, pledged in 2012 to distance Lebanon from the region's crises. Ties between Suleiman and Hizbullah deteriorated in the past months over the party's involvement in Syria's civil war. Suleiman also stressed that he has never verbally attacked Syria. “I was once asked about (former Minister) Michel Samaha's case and I said I am waiting for a phone call from President (Bashar) Assad to explain the situation to me,” Suleiman told his interviewer. Samaha, who is considered close to the Syrian regime, is on trial for planning attacks in Lebanon along with two Syrian officials.

Salam Meets Saudi King at Jeddah Airport
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam met with Saudi King Abdullah on Tuesday at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, before the latter's takeoff to Morocco. LBCI television remarked that the encounter between Salam and the Saudi king was not scheduled on the premier's meetings agenda during his official trip to the Kingdom. Earlier in the day, Salam held talks with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who threw a lunch banquet in the PM and the accompanying delegation’s honor. Also in attendance at the lunch reception were deputy Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, Prince Bandar bin Khaled, Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja, in addition to several prominent Saudi figures, according to LBCI. Salam had met with former PM Saad Hariri for over one hour on Monday evening upon his arrival in Jeddah. Hariri held a dinner banquet in honor of the premier and the accompanying delegation. LBCI noted that the premier's meetings in Saudi Arabia mainly discussed the anticipated presidential elections. He is expected to hold a press conference on Tuesday evening before leaving to Kuwait, as some media reports revealed. Salam traveled to the monarchy on Monday at the head of a delegation on his first official foreign trip since the formation of his cabinet in February.

Salam Looking Forward for 'Made in Lebanon' President
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam expressed hope that political arch-foes would elect a “made in Lebanon” president, hailing the stances of Saudi Arabia to support Lebanon in all its critical phases.
“The presidential election is a local affair,” Salam, who is currently on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, told An Nahar newspaper published on Tuesday. He hoped that the rival parties would elect a “made in Lebanon” president similar to his cabinet. Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. Asked about his visit to the kingdom, Salam said that “it's normal to kick start his foreign trips by traveling” there. “At this stage we find out that Saudi Arabia is standing by our side,” the premier said. Salam traveled to the monarchy on Monday at the head of a delegation on his first official foreign trip since the formation of his cabinet in February. He is expected to meet with Saudi King Abdullah and prominent Saudi officials. The PM will tackle the ongoing Syrian refugees crisis and several other issues linked to the general developments locally and in the region. Al-Mustaqbal movement leader MP Saad Hariri met Salam after he arrived in Jeddah and held a dinner banquet in honor of the premier and the accompanying delegation.


Aoun's bloc will not attend this week's presidential election session
The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Lawmakers from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc will not attend Thursday’s Parliament session to elect a president in the absence of an agreement over a conscenus candidate. “If circumstances remain the same by Thursday, then MPs from our bloc will not show up [at the election session],” said former Minister Salim Jreissati after attending the weekly meeting of Aoun’s bloc at the latters Rabieh residence, north of Beirut. Jressati added that Aoun’s lawmakers would back any consensus reached by rival political parties on a presidential candidate capable of uniting various factions and has the required qualifications. Aoun’s MPs along with those of Hezbollah have boycotted four parliamentary sessions to elect a president over the past month, saying they would only show up when a consensus is reached on one presidential candidate who really represents Lebanon’s Christians. Aoun considers himself to be the representative of the majority of Lebanon's Christians and his group has been holding several meetings with the Future Movement in a bid to win its support for his possible presidential bid. Jreissati said that the boycotting of the sessions did not aim at disrupting presidential elections, but reflected adherence to the National Pact which highlights equal power sharing between Muslims and Christians. Jreissati said that the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc had given the option for its MPs to attend a Parliament session to be chaired by Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday to discuss an appeal to the legislature by President Michel Sleiman to elect a new head of state.

Lebanese Army Patrol Comes under Attack in Tripoli, 8 Soldiers Wounded

Naharnet/Eight soldiers were injured at dawn Tuesday when their patrol came under an armed attack in the northern city of Tripoli, the military announced. It said in a communique that soldiers were carrying out raids to arrest the assailants. The gunmen opened heavy gunfire and attacked the military patrol with rockets in the area of al-Tabbaneh at 1:30 am, prompting the army to retaliate, said the communique.
Eight soldiers, including an officer, were wounded in the assault, it added. Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) identified the head of the network that attacked the army as Khaled al-Naaman. He was injured when the soldiers responded to the sources of fire and was taken to the area of the Bazaar, it said. The army and security forces implemented a security plan in Tripoli last month after several rounds of fighting left scores of people, including soldiers, dead and injured. The gunbattles in the two impoverished neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen are linked to the civil war in Syria.
Bab al-Tabbaneh's residents are Sunni and back the rebels in the neighboring country but Jabal Mohsen is mostly inhabited by Alawites, the sect of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The army and security forces have arrested dozens of gunmen and referred them to the military court.

Customs Seize Thousands of Captagon Pills, Raid Spoiled Food Warehouse
Naharnet/Customs announced on Tuesday that it confiscated thousands of captagon pills and raided a warehouse containing expired food during two separate operations in April, reported the National News Agency. On April 14, 400,000 captagon pills were found hidden in agricultural equipment that were prepared to be shipped to Saudi Arabia. The pills weighed about 74 kilograms and were valued at around 4 million dollars. The suspects, including a Syrian, linked to the case have since been arrested. On April 13, a customs patrol in the northern city of Tripoli seized a pick-up truck that was carrying a quantity of spoiled food, including tomatoes, molasses, ground bell peppers, sesame, and apricot jam. Stickers used in the forgery of food expiry dates were placed on the sealed products. The consequent investigations led to the discovery of a warehouse that contained these products. A number of spoiled food was seized during a customs raid. Equipment and seals used in the packaging of the products and the forgery of expiry dates were also seized. All those involved in the case, including Syrians, have since been arrested.

8 NGOs Demand Lebanon to 'Stop Deporting' Syria's Palestinian Refugees
Naharnet/Civil society on Tuesday called on Lebanese authorities to “immediately stop the deportation” of Palestinian refugees fleeing war-stricken Syria. Eight non-governmental organizations concerned with human rights signed a petition urging Lebanese authorities to “immediately stop deporting (Palestinian refugees) to Syria,” reported the state-run National News Agency. The petition referred to Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stresses everyone's right to “seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” "While it is easy for Syrians to reach Lebanese territories and escape the bloody conflict in their country, several reports point out to procedures adopted to prevent Palestinians in Syria from arriving and staying in Lebanon,” the petition stated.
It continued: “What is even worse is that many Palestinians were expelled from Lebanon and sent to Syria on May 4, 2014, and this is a violation of Article 3 of the United Nations Convention against Torture, which Lebanon has signed.” The NGOs then demanded Lebanese authorities to “grant Palestinians coming from Syria the same rights that Syrians enjoy.”They also called on them to respect their international commitments related to human rights. The petition was signed by the Euro Mediterranean Federation Against Enforced Disappearances, the Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network, the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, Lebanon's Anti-Racism Movement, Al Karama Foundation, the Palestinian Human Rights Foundation, France's Action by Christians Against Torture and Working Together for Human Rights. Earlier in May, Human Rights Watch and a U.N. refugee agency expressed concern that Lebanon was blocking Palestinians fleeing Syria from entering the country.
UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, said it was "concerned about the increased restrictions on Palestine refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria from entering Lebanon."
HRW, meanwhile, criticized Lebanon for refusing entry to Palestinians from Syria and returning them to the war-torn country. It accused Lebanese authorities of "arbitrarily" denying entry and documented the deportation of around 40 Palestinians accused of having forged documents. Lebanon has not announced a blanket ban on the entry of Palestinians from Syria, but government sources have confirmed a general policy to keep out Palestinians fleeing the conflict. Among the more than one million refugees from Syria registered in Lebanon are around 52,000 Palestinian Syrians.

Lebanese Military Expert Defuses Grenade in Rmeileh Residential Area
Naharnet/A military expert defused on Tuesday a grenade found in a residential neighborhood in the Shouf town of Rmeileh, the army and the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said the grenade was attached to a detonator and placed near a gasoline gallon. But the army said in a communique that the device was found inside a small container that was filled with a flammable material. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said the explosive device was discovered under a vehicle parked near a residential building that is located next to the road that leads to the center of Rmeileh. The town's municipal chief told VDL that the car's owner is a resident. He did not reveal his identity. Security forces blocked the old seaside road between Jiyyeh and Rmeileh when the expert defused the grenade.

Nasrallah to Make Televised Speech Sunday by End of Suleiman's Term
Naharnet/Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is expected to deliver a speech on Sunday that coincides with the end of President Michel Suleiman's tenure. According to al-Liwaa newspaper published on Tuesday, Nasrallah will make a televised speech at 5:30 pm on the occasion of the Resistance and Liberation day that commemorates the Israeli army’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000. The ceremony will be held in the southern town of Bint Jbeil at Moussa Abbas compound. Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. 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.

Official: Israel Unsuccessful in Preventing Hizbullah Rockets Buildup

Naharnet/An Israeli defense official said the Jewish state has not been able to stop the build up of Hizbullah's rocket arsenal. Head of political-military affairs at Defense Ministry, Maj.-Gen Amos Gilad, told a security conference in Tel Aviv that Iran has overseen the construction of Hizbullah's arsenal of 100,000 rockets. He also accused Tehran of spending billions of dollars to build up Hizbullah's firepower, which threatens all of Israel's territory. "This is a military threat, not a terrorist one," Gilad said. Israel has "not been successful in preventing a buildup (of rockets) in Lebanon," The Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying. Alleged Israeli action to prevent Hizbullah's armament program, as mentioned by foreign press reports, is the exception, Gilad told the conference. Turning to Iran, he said the Islamic Republic can break out to nuclear weapons "very quickly" and Israel must maintain operational readiness for any threat that may arise. Israel today "can defeat any combination of enemies," Gilad told the conference, but the moment Iran goes nuclear and triggers an Arab nuclear arms race, the region will turn into "hell," he warned.

Iranian Ambassador Meets Berri, Bassil: Iran Hopes Lebanon Will Elect President as soon as Possible
Naharnet /Outgoing Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi noted on Tuesday positive signs that the presidential elections will be held, reported the National News Agency.
He said: “We hope the Lebanese parties will reach an agreement over a presidential candidate and elect him as soon as possible.”He made his remarks after holding separate meetings with Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. “Iran supports Lebanon's stability and that it stage the elections in the best possible way,” added Roknabadi. “It supports whichever candidate they agree on,” he stressed. Lawmakers have failed to elect a president after four rounds of elections. During the first round, neither of the two candidates, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Democratic Gathering MP Henri Helou, received the necessary votes of 86 lawmakers to emerge victorious. The next three sessions failed to be held due to a lack of quorum caused by a boycott by the majority of the March 8 camp over its ongoing disagreement with the March 14 alliance on a presidential candidate.The next presidential election session is scheduled for Thursday.

Ukraine Says Russia Pulls back Forces ahead of Vote

Naharnet/Ukraine confirmed Tuesday that Russia had pulled its troops back from the border for the first time in a move that could ease spiraling tensions five days ahead of a make-or-break presidential poll.
The state border service's surprise announcement that none of the estimated 40,000 soldiers were now stationed within 10 kilometers (six miles) of Ukraine has the potential to deflate the bloody Kremlin-backed insurgency that threatens to tear the ex-Soviet nation apart. The provisional Western-backed leaders in Kiev won another boost on Tuesday when Ukraine's richest tycoon Rinat Akhmetov denounced the armed rebels who have overrun a dozen cities in his eastern industrial power base as bandits who might create "genocide".
The turmoil that began with the popular overthrow in February of a pro-Russian leader and then saw Kremlin forces retaliate by annexing the Crimean peninsula has plunged East-West relations to post-Cold War lows and stoked fears of all-out civil conflict. The United Nations estimates that around 130 people have died since violence in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions near the Russian border first broke out in early April. The U.N. refugee agency also said Tuesday that another 10,000 people -- many of them ethnic Tatars in Crimea -- have been internally displaced.
Ukraine's border guard said that Russian troops had been stationed within a few hundreds meters (yards) of the border until President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered their withdrawal.
"As far as the presence of (Russian) forces within 10 kilometers of our border, they are not there anymore," Ukrainian news agencies quoted border guard official Sergiy Astakhov as saying.
"What is happening further away from the border -- that is not for us to say." The United States and NATO have sent troops to Poland and the three tiny Baltic nations to calm jitters about Russian troops possibly not only overrunning Ukraine but also pushing further into Europe in a bid to reclaim ex-Soviet satellite states. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen had said on Monday that a real Russian withdrawal -- following several earlier promises by Putin -- would be an "important contribution to de-escalating the crisis". But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that Moscow and the West were still "slowly but surely" approaching a second Cold War.Both Kiev and its Western allies see Sunday's presidential vote -- backed only grudgingly by Moscow -- as a chance to unite the culturally splintered nation and win more legitimacy in the Kremlin's eyes. However, the Kiev authorities have admitted that they will have a hard time ensuring that polling proceeds smoothly in the two eastern districts where the rebels still control dozens of cities and towns. But they received a long-sought boost on Tuesday when Akhmetov -- a Donetsk native who once funded the deposed pro-Kremlin regime but is now seeking to build closer relations with the new Kiev team -- condemned the insurgency and called for a major march for peace.
"People are tired of living in fear and terror," Akhmetov said in his strongest statement yet against the pro-Kremlin separatist uprising. The Ukrainian government hailed Akhmetov's intervention as a potential turning point. "Finally -- some energy from Rinat Akhmetov!" Interior Minister Avakov said on Facebook.
Akhmetov's intervention "will help (Ukrainians) settle our differences and let our rifles gather dust," he said. Putin -- currently on a visit to China -- has denied any direct role in the eastern uprising and has so far refused to recognize the independence proclaimed by Donetsk and Lugansk in May 11 referendums that both the West and Kiev have denounced as a sham. Russia has recently rolled back its vehement opposition to Sunday's election but also called on Kiev to immediately withdraw all its troops from the east. And U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights Ivan Simonovic cautioned Monday against expecting that the election would produce a "miracle" for Ukraine. Simonovic also warned in an interview with AFP in Kiev of a risk of a major exodus from rebel-held areas because of the near collapse of basic services there.But it remains unclear how much credibility the poll will enjoy. Ukraine's military has so far failed to dislodge the rebels from their strongholds and suffered a number of humiliating setbacks since it launched its "anti-terrorist" offensive in the east in mid-April. The international community is pushing for a negotiated settlement under a peace roadmap sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Two rounds of so-called national unity dialogue have been held under OSCE auspices but Kiev's leaders have refused to invite the separatists, saying they will not negotiate with "terrorists" -- to the deep annoyance of Moscow.Source/Agence France Presse

Gunmen Shoot Dead Three Policemen, Wound Nine in Cairo
Naharnet/Gunmen travelling in a car opened fire on Tuesday on a group of Egyptian policemen outside Cairo's Al-Azhar university, killing three and wounding nine others, the interior ministry said.
The attack comes just days ahead of a presidential election on May 26-27, which former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win. The number of attacks targeting policemen has risen since Sisi ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July last year. The latest came as some students of Cairo's Al-Azhar university, a prestigious seat of Sunni Islamic teaching, were protesting in favour of Morsi, the ministry said in a statement. The wounded included an officer, the ministry added. The attack also came a day after two policemen, riding on a motorbike, were shot dead by gunmen in the central city of Minya. In April, a court in Minya triggered an international outcry after sentencing to death around 700 Morsi supporters after a speedy mass trial, accusing them of murder and attempted murder of policemen in August last year in Minya. In a separate attack, militants blew up a gas pipeline late Monday near Al-Arish airport in northern Sinai, security officials said.
The targeted pipeline transports gas to an industrial area in central Sinai, they added. Militants have regularly targeted pipelines in Sinai since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, repeatedly forcing a halt in gas supplies to Israel and Jordan. The army has poured troops into the mountainous and underdeveloped region of Sinai Peninsula to combat a growing militancy. Officials say about 500 people, mostly members of security forces, have been killed in militant attacks across the country since the ouster of Morsi. Militant groups Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) and a little-known Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt) have claimed several deadly attacks against security forces. They say the attacks were in retaliation to a brutal police crackdown on supporters of Morsi.
Amnesty International says more than 1,400 people have been killed in the police crackdown since July when Morsi was ousted.
More than 15,000 have also been jailed, while hundreds have been sentenced to death after often speedy trial. Morsi himself is facing three trials. Sisi, meanwhile, is expected to trounce his only rival, leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, in the presidential election next week.The retired field marshal is lauded by millions for overthrowing the divisive Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader. Morsi was ousted after just one year in office after millions of Egyptians protested against his rule.Source/Agence France Presse

Under Pressure, Israel's Arab Christians Reach Out to Pope
Naharnet/On a lonely hill in northern Israel, a stone's throw from the Lebanese border, stands Iqrit church, one of the last vestiges of a village razed by Israeli troops in 1951.
This small, white church is a symbol of the enduring memory and resistance shown by the Christians of historic Palestine who are reaching out for help to Pope Francis, who begins a three-day visit to the Holy Land on Saturday. In a letter to the pontiff, the people of Iqrit and those of the neighbouring village of Kufr Bir'im, all of them Catholics, beg him to "intensify" efforts to pressure Israel to end the injustice inflicted upon their community. "We hope that your upcoming visit to Palestine and Israel will serve towards that purpose," it said, describing themselves as internally displaced Palestinians within the State of Israel. In 1948, six months after Israel was established, the army asked Iqrit's 450 inhabitants to leave their homes for two weeks as a temporary measure due to military operations in the area.
But they were never allowed to go back. In July 1951, the Supreme Court ruled the villagers should be allowed to return, but the government ignored the ruling. Five months later, on Christmas Eve, the army demolished the entire village, except for the church and its cemetery.

- 'Second-class citizens' -
The Arab Christians of Galilee, who hold Israeli nationality, admit some disappointment that unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis will not be visiting Christian landmarks in the north during his visit.
"There is big disappointment in Galilee, where Jesus and his disciples preached," admitted a Catholic official.
Iqrit's former residents, who number 1,200 and are scattered across northern Israel, are nonetheless hoping they will be able to personally deliver their letter to Francis when he arrives in Bethlehem on Sunday. "The State of Israel treats us as second-class citizens because we are not Jews. That is the main reason why our right to return has been denied," the letter says.
"But with the strength that we take from our faith, we refuse to become a forgotten community." Barred by the Israeli authorities from returning to their village for more than six decades, the villagers made their case to Pope John Paul II in 2000, and to Benedict XVI in 2009.
But nothing has changed.
In August 2012, dozens of young people whose families originated from the village set up a makeshift camp outside the church, as they had done every summer. But this time, instead of camping out for just a week, they stayed and are still living there in prefabricated huts."They prevent us from rebuilding and planting trees. But we will stay here. In the years since 1948, we have not forgotten our land, our homes nor our church," said 54-year-old George Sbeit whose parents were expelled from the village. "The young people are not going to leave. The third generation is stronger, better educated. Before, people were afraid. Today, the young people are not afraid," said Sbeit, a former karate instructor. His nephew, Walaa, said: "I won't let anybody drive me out". "I am here and I have the right to be here. We are the third generation, we are the ones who bring back life to this land," said the musician.
- Message of hope -
The letter also raises concerns about the dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land, blaming Israel's policies for driving "thousands of our sisters and brothers into exile".
According to a survey carried out in April by Dr Bernard Sabella, an expert on Palestinian Christians, 62 percent of those living in Jerusalem want to emigrate due to economic difficulties and the political stalemate. But whether they are living in Israel, in annexed east Jerusalem or in the occupied West Bank, the Christian community is looking to Pope Francis for encouragement. "Christian Palestinians are expecting a message of hope (from the pope)," said Father Jamal Khader, who heads the Latin Patriarchate seminary in Beit Jala. "There is no perspective of peace. So we need the pope to encourage us and to strengthen us," he said. "He is a man of God, a good defender of all who are suffering, including the Christian Palestinians. We are hopeful he will see first hand what's going on here."Source/Agence France Presse

Kuwait Emir to Visit Iran amid Thaw in Relations
Naharnet/Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah will travel to Iran on May 31 amid a recent thaw in Tehran's relations with Gulf states, the Iranian foreign ministry said Tuesday.
Relations between Iran and the Gulf states have been frosty for years, with disagreements over the unrest in Bahrain and the conflict in Syria, before Hassan Rouhani was elected president of the Islamic republic last June. "The visit (of the Emir), which is upon the invitation of President Hassan Rouhani, will open a new chapter in relations of both countries," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told reporters at a news briefing. Afkham said "several agreements were expected to be signed", without giving details. In December last year, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif started a tour of Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. But it ended without Zarif traveling to Iran's main rival, Saudi Arabia. Afkham said a visit to Saudi Arabia was on Zarif's agenda. "We have received the verbal invitation and measures are being taken to organize this trip," she said. "Iran and Saudi Arabia are two important countries in the region and their interaction is influential in the regional scope," she added. Last week, Riyadh's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said he had invited his Iranian counterpart to visit the kingdom. Tehran welcomed the plan and stressed the need to boost relations after years of strained ties. The two countries have been at odds over Syria's civil war and the fallout from unrest in Bahrain. In the Syrian conflict, majority Shiite Muslim Iran has backed the government of President Bashar Assad while Sunni Saudi Arabia has been a leading supporter of rebel forces. Rouhani said after his election win last June he wanted to reach out to Gulf Arab governments as part of efforts to end his country's international isolation. Source/Agence France Presse

Israeli video warns of danger behind Iran nuclear deal

Ynetnews/Published: 05.20.14/
Two minute film distributed by Diaspora Affairs Ministry outlines why world must insist that Tehran dismantle enrichment program before deal signed. With the next round of nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers set for June 16-20, a short animated film released by the Diaspora Affairs Ministry explains the risks the proposed agreement with Tehran poses to the world, saying that if it is ratified in its present formulation, Iran's ability to manufacture a nuclear bomb would remain intact. "The world agrees: Iran plus an atomic bomb equals bad news," the video explains. The deal must be stopped, the narrator continues, as "Iran is the biggest exporter of terror in the world, spreading instability and death."  Watch the film featured on the Ministry’s YouTube Channel:
A press release issued by the ministry stated that the movie was sent to "hundreds of Jewish leaders and organizations in an effort to raise awareness of the danger Iran will continue to pose, even with an agreement in place." "Iranian missiles threaten the western world including Madrid, Rome and Paris, and they're developing new ones which can reach the United States," the video warns.
Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful aims such as power generation and medicine. Western powers and Israel suspect it is a cover for acquiring the capability to make nuclear weapons.
The latest round of negotiations in Vienna last week resulted in little progress. The six powers want Iran to agree to scale back uranium enrichment and other sensitive nuclear activity and accept more rigorous UN inspections to deny it any capability of quickly producing atomic bombs, in exchange for an end to sanctions.
"Under the deal proposed Iran will halt its race towards an atomic bomb in return for the lifting of the sanctions which has been slowing it down." Pinpointing what they see as the "big problem" the agreement poses, the video goes on to explain that "Iran's abilities to make a bomb will remain intact." "Iran's plan is to reach a deal which relieves the sanctions, without giving up the machines (centrifuges). Then, at the right opportunity, it will dash towards the bomb before the world has a chance to say 'boo,'"
the video stated.
This isn't the first time Israel has used visual aids to illustrate Israel's resolve to stopping Iran from obtaining the nuclear bomb. On September 27, 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly with a speech in which he flashed a diagram showing the progress Iran has made, saying it was getting "late, very late" to stop Tehran.
While holding up a cartoon-like drawing of a bomb, Netanyahu drew a red line below the fuse, to indicate the point at which Iran will have enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb.
According to the press release issued by the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, Economy Minister and Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Naftali, Bennett had wrote in a letter accompanying the film: "Now is the time to speak up and take action to stop a bad deal from being signed that will allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon." "Iran with a bomb is a global threat, and will turn the Middle East into a nuclear nightmare. We need to do everything we can to stop it," the video concluded, with the written message "Don't let the Ayatollahs Win", in its final frame. Reuters contributed to this report.

Bahrain Parliament Sacks Sunni MP who Slammed Prison Conditions
Naharnet/Bahrain's parliament on Tuesday sacked a Sunni MP who had criticized conditions at a detention center where inmates are mostly Shiites held over roles in anti-regime protests.
Parliament speaker Khalifa al-Dhahrani said 31 MPs out of the 40-member chamber voted to eject Osama Mehanna, in a statement published by BNA state news agency.
Dhahrani did not disclose the reason behind his removal. But political sources pointed out that Mehanna had a fierce argument with fellow MPs on April 29 after he criticized the situation at Jaw Prison, in southeastern Bahrain. Mehanna was elected in October 2011 in partial polls held to replace 18 MPs of the Shiite al-Wefaq opposition group who resigned in protest at violence used to quell a month of pro-reform protests. Scores of Shiites were rounded up following the mid-March 2011 crackdown on protesters, and many have been put on trial and jailed. The Sunni-ruled kingdom has been widely criticized by rights groups over its crackdown on the protests led by the Shiite majority, and for the alleged mistreatment of detainees.
Amnesty International on Monday voiced concerns over the "continuing detention of prisoners of conscience and the harsh sentences handed by Bahraini courts in connection with rioting, including against children." The watchdog said, however, that it "found encouraging government openness during discussions on human rights," as an Amnesty delegation was allowed to visit the country for the first time since January 2013. The delegates met "prisoners of conscience" at Jaw Prison and women held in the Issa Town Detention Center for Women, it said in a statement.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, remains deeply divided three years after the quashed uprising, with persistent protests sparking clashes with police, scores of Shiites jailed on "terror" charges and reconciliation talks deadlocked.
Source/Agence France Presse


Lebanon’s very own ‘Nakba’ catastrophe
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 /By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya
The Lebanese don’t like to be outdone, not in good times nor in catastrophes. No matter how hard they try, they always fall back on the same trouble, same strife, same calamity, same divisions, same politics and same leaders.
We’ve observed this Phoenix rise from the ashes so many times, only for them to fall right back and get in deeper trouble.
The problem with all religious sects that make up this tiny nation is that each one of them has its trauma and its challenges. No two are the same and no solution can be good for the whole. Alliances shift based on individual interests not the country.
“Lebanon became an ugly mosaic of irreconcilable differences ”
The Lebanese tried to work out their differences through tribal means to no avail. The Christian favoritism left behind by the French mandate did not last either. Factions went to war and killed each other. Fifteen years and more than a hundred thousand deaths, and flight of a million from a country in ruins later, they found out civil war was not leading anywhere. They tried the Syrian occupation. It was not pleasant for all. Those who dared oppose the Syrian tyranny were shut down through assassinations, imprisonment and threats. In the meantime, some rose to power and hijacked the role of “resistance” and pretended its exclusive to them. This worked only by force and intimidation. Others took the financial route; they rebuilt downtown Beirut and made it a premier tourist destination but the original property owners cried foul, saying they were robbed. Ordinary citizens felt that public spaces were stolen from them. Historic invaluable ruins were destroyed to erect high-rises. Public beaches were turned into fancy hotels and commercial facilities. Greed settled in many corners of the country.
Successive governments were negotiated and installed to serve political masters; same with parliament and the presidency. Everything had to be agreed on to the satisfaction of the loudest or most powerful. A few times in modern history people had the power, most of the time it was the one with the weapons. Namely, Syria and Hezbollah. The military remained the observer to avoid a repeat of the civil war.
Lebanon became an ugly mosaic of irreconcilable differences with each side trying to impose its rule on the others.
Ahead of a possible presidential vacuum or a temporary numbing of the crisis, I wish for a moment of truth to help Lebanon heal of the hatred its people cannot seem to shed and instill the love of country in their hearts. A heap of wisdom to see how Palestinians are fighting for a home almost seventy years after their their “Nakba,” while the Maronites lead the pack of shame assisted by other sects to inflict a calamity on the Lebanese people knowingly and willingly.
**This article was first published in al-Nahar on May 20, 2014.

The battle for power in Iraq
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 /Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Iraq dominated the Arab political and security affairs for years until the Americans withdrew troops from the country and the Arab Spring erupted three years ago. This however does not mean that Iraq’s political powers stopped struggling for power. On the contrary, the struggle continues at all levels. Results of the parliamentary elections came in yesterday and revealed the political scene’s fragmentation into even smaller parties. This comes at a time when there were hopes that the Iraqis - voters and candidates alike – would advance towards establishing bigger entities which would develop political parties with clear agendas to achieve stability for the new Iraqi political regime.
The plurality of parties, regardless of how small they are, reflects the nature of the morose political situation. This must be blamed on Nouri al-Maliki’s administration as despite eight years of governance, it failed to achieve Iraqi reconciliation particularly after American troops withdrew. Instead of embracing bigger and multiple parties, Maliki’s administration adopted an elimination and marginalization policy.
“Without achieving security, development and a reconciliation, Iraq will remain a battlefield”
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
There have been accusations that the parliamentary elections’ results were forged. Those who are less suspicious say the results have been engineered to maintain the status quo. Regardless of whether the results are forged, engineered or unfair, they remain a reality that must be dealt with.
Who leads Iraq?
The upcoming six weeks of consultations will answer this question. Maliki, whose bloc won most of the votes, needs the support of more than 60 other members of parliament to become premier again. If Maliki makes it to the premiership, his term would be the second longest after Saddam Hussein. Maliki is expected to resume running the country on his own and adopting the policy of dominance. This will thus eliminate the state institutional system the Americans pledged to establish. If Maliki fails to attain the required parliamentary support, then it’s probable that one of the candidates from the two major religious parties - the Islamic Supreme Council and the Sadrist Movement - will become premier. Neither party has previously held leading roles. However, they both confirm that they will not nominate clerics for the post and that they will nominate civilians.
Whether Maliki remains prime minister or not, Iraqi issues following the 2003 U.S. invasion remain unchanged. The first of these issues is the need for stability; the state has proven its inability to control terrorism. The second one is the need for development; Iraq has a rich government and poor people. The third one is the need for political reconciliation; positive political governance can prolong the regime for many decades and this can be achieved by sponsoring reconciliation among all Iraqi components and by starting a new page that has nothing to do with what happened during the past two eras.
Without achieving security, development and a reconciliation, Iraq will remain a battlefield between the chaotic opposition and the ruler’s dictatorship regardless of who becomes premier.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 20, 2014.