May 25/14


Bible Quotation for today/‘Peace be with you
Luke 24,36-48/: "While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today

Dear friends, please pray for me during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Pape François
Chers amis, je vous demande de m’accompagner de vos prières durant mon pèlerinage en Terre Sainte.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For May 25/14

Hezbollah's bogus Liberation & Resistance Day/By: Elias Bejjani/May 25/14

Debate: Lebanon’s president will be chosen from abroad/By: Mohamed Ali Muqalled/Asharq Alawsat/May 25/14

Debate: Lebanon’s president will be chosen from within/By: Ibrahim Bayram/Asharq Alawsat/May 25/14

Hezbollah working with the Lebanese army leads to calm in Beirut/By: Roi Kais/Ynetnews/May 25/14

Saving Libya would save the world/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya/ May 25/14

A Middle Eastern Perfect Storm/By: Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/May 25/14

The Daily Star Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 25/14

Lebanese Related News

Lebanon enters vacuum as Sleiman bids farewell

Lebanon's president urges leaders to name successor

The end of an era: Michel Sleiman departs
Hariri rings alarm bell over presidential void

Lebanon enters vacuum as Sleiman bids farewell

What happens in a presidential vacuum?

March 14 MPs rally against presidential vacuum

Rai in Jordan, says Holy Land is our land

Geagea calls for last-minute push for president

Lebanon on the way to functional judiciary: Rifi
LU to strike over Cabinet’s failure to endorse demands
Saudi envoy hails Sleiman as ‘wise leader’

Man commits suicide in n. Lebanon

Lebanon's Arabic press digest – May 24, 2014
Harb lines up unlimited broadband in Lebanon

Ministries seek cleaner business in Lebanon

Will the vacuum again lead to an abyss?

Iran's Zarif Congratulates Nasrallah, Bassil on Liberation: A Historical Victory that Promises More Achievements

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Question: "What is the Cosmological argument for the existence of God?"

Pope launches Holy Land visit with Syria appeal

Sleiman’s departure stirs online reactions

In Jordan, Pope Francis appeals for urgent steps to end Syria violence

Pope begins Middle East 'pilgrimage' in Jordan

Three killed in shooting outside Jewish Museum in Brussels

Syria video shows chlorine gas floating in

Airstrikes hit near Damascus during aid distribution

Palestinian journalists criticize Abbas for condemning assault on Israeli reporter

The big charade: Nuclear diplomacy is a flop, the finale is secretly postponed to 2015

Libya ex-general says people mandated him to crush jihadists 

Hezbollah's bogus Liberation & Resistance Day
By: Elias Bejjani
Believe it or not, on May 25 each year since 2000 Lebanon has been celebrating a so-called "Liberation & Resistance Day." Sadly, this celebration commemorates a bogus event, and a phony heroism that did not actually take place.
On May 22, 2000 the Israeli Army unilaterally and for solely Israeli domestic reasons withdrew from the security zone of South Lebanon in accordance with UN Resolution 425. The withdrawal was a fatal Israeli decision that has inspired the Hamas terrorism acts and the on-going havoc in the Palestinian Gaza strip. During the last 13 years many Israeli officials and politicians form all parties openly and harshly criticized Barak's Government (Barak was PM at that time) hasty and unwise decision through which Israel' abandoned its ally the South Lebanon Army (SLA) and gave Hezbollah all south Lebanon on a plate of sliver.
The unilateral Israeli withdrawal created a security vacuum in south Lebanon. The Syrians who were occupying Lebanon at that time and fully controlling its government, did not allow the Lebanese Army to deploy in the south and fill this vacuum after the Israeli withdrawal. Instead Syria helped the Hezbollah militia to militarily control the whole southern region, and even patrol the Israeli-Lebanese border.
It is worth mentioning that the Israeli army's withdrawal was executed without any military battles, or even minor skirmishes with Hezbollah, or the Lebanese and Syrian armies. The Syrian regime, in a bid to justify both its on going occupation of Lebanon and the avoidance of disarming Hezbollah, came up with the "Shabaa Farms occupation big lie" and declared Hezbollah a Liberator, alleging it had forced Israel to withdrawal from South Lebanon.
Syria, in the same camouflaging and devious context, dictated to both the Lebanese parliament and government to declare May 25th a National Day under the tag of  "Liberation & Resistance Day".
In reality Hezbollah did not force the Israeli withdrawal, and did not play any role in the Liberation of the southern Lebanese region. In fact both Hezbollah and Syria deliberately hindered and delayed the Israeli withdrawal for more than 14 years.
Every time the Israelis called on the Lebanese government to engage in a joint, serious effort under the United Nations umbrella to ensure a safe and mutually organized withdrawal of its army from South Lebanon, the Lebanese government refused to cooperate, did not agree to deploy its army in the south, and accused the Israelis of plotting to divide and split the Syrian-Lebanese joint track. This approach to the Israeli calls was an official Syrian decision dictated to all the Lebanese puppet governments during the Syrian occupation era.
Since then, Hezbollah has been hijacking Lebanon and its people, refusing to disarm and advocating for the annihilation of Israel. This Iranian mullahs' terrorist army stationed in Lebanon, is viciously hiding behind labels of resistance, liberation and religion. Hezbollah has recklessly jeopardized the Lebanese peoples' lives, safety, security and livelihood. It has been growing bolder and bolder in the last four years and mercilessly taking the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people hostage through terrorism, force and organized crime.
Sadly, Hezbollah is systematically devouring Lebanon day after day, and piece by piece, while at the same time marginalizing all its governmental institutions in a bid to topple the Lebanese state and erect in its place a Shiite Muslim regime, a replica of the Iranian Shiite mullahs' fundamentalist republic. Meanwhile the free world and Arabic countries are totally silent, indifferent, and idly watching from far away the horrible crime unfolding without taking any practical or tangible measures to put an end to this anti-Lebanese Syria-Iranian scheme that is executed through their spearhead, the Hezbollah armed militia.
Who is to be blamed for Hezbollah's current odd and bizarre status? Definitely the Syrians who have occupied Lebanon for more than 28 years (1976-2005). During their bloody and criminal occupation, Syria helped the Iranian Hezbollah militia build a state within Lebanon and fully control the Lebanese Shiite community.
But also the majority of the Lebanese politicians, leaders, officials and clergymen share the responsibility because they were subservient and acted in a dire Dhimmitude, selfish and cowardly manner. If these so-called Lebanese leaders had been courageous and patriotic and had not appeased Hezbollah and turned a blind eye to all its vicious and human rights atrocities, intimidation tactics, crimes and expansionism schemes, this Iranian Shiite fundamentalist militia would not have been able to erect its own mini-state in the southern suburb of Beirut, and its numerous mini-cantons in the Bekaa Valley and the South; nor would Hezbollah have been able to build its mighty military power, with 70 thousand militiamen, or stockpile more than 50 thousand missiles and force the Iranian "Wilayat Al-Faqih" religious doctrine on the Lebanese Shiite community and confiscate its decision making process and freedoms.
Since Hezbollah's emergence in 1982, these politicians have been serving their own selfish interests and not the interests of the Lebanese people and the nation. They went along with Hezbollah's schemes, deluding themselves that its militia and weaponry would remain in South Lebanon and would not turn against them. This failure to serve the people of Lebanon allowed Hezbollah to make many Lebanese and most of the Arab-Muslim countries through its terrorism propaganda to blindly swallow its big lie of theatrical, faked resistance and Liberation. Hezbollah would not have been able refuse to disarm in 1991, like all the other Lebanese militias in accordance to the "Taef Accord," which called for the disarmament of all militias. Hezbollah would not have become a state inside the Lebanese state, and a world-wide terrorism Iranian-Syrian tool which turned against them all after its war with Israel in year 2006 and after the UN troops were deployed on the Lebanese - Israeli borders in accordance with the UN Resolution 1701.
On May 7, 2008 Hezbollah invaded Sunni Western Beirut killing and injuring in cold blood hundreds of its civilian citizens, and attempted to take over by force Mount Lebanon.
Hezbollah's General Secretary Sheik Hassan Nasrallah called that day (May 7, 2008) a great and glorious victory for his resistance, and keeps on threatening the Lebanese that a replicate of that day will take place if they do not succumb and obey his Iranian orders.
Hezbollah is a deadly dragon that the Lebanese politicians have been allowing him to feed on sacrifices from the southern Lebanese citizens, especially on those who were living in the "Security Zone" and who fled to Israel in May 2000 after the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon. This dragon who enjoyed devouring his southern sacrifices has now turned on all the Lebanese and if they do not stand for their rights and dignity, he will keep on devouring them all one after the other.
We call on the Lebanese government, the Lebanese Parliament and on all the free and patriotic Lebanese politicians and leaders to cancel the May 25 National Day, because it is not national at all, and also to stop calling Hezbollah a resistance, put an end for its mini-state, cantons and weaponry, and secure a dignified, honorable and safe return for all the Lebanese citizens who have been taking refuge in Israel since May 2000.Click Here to read the updated Arabic version of the above editorial

Click Here to listen to the updated version of the above editorial (Media player)

Lebanon enters presidential void as Sleiman bids farewell
May 24, 2014 /The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Outgoing President Michel Sleiman called Saturday for constitutional reforms that would expand the authority of the president as he bid farewell to the Lebanese after six years in office. Sleiman and his wife Wafaa left the presidential palace at around 3 p.m. Beirut time, the couple were saluted by the presidential guards before he left. Sleiman is expected to receive supporters in his hometown of Amchit, north of Beirut on Sunday. “The constitutional practices in the past six years revealed constitutional gaps that obstruct political work in the country,” Sleiman said in his farewell address. “The constitutional committee prepared a suggestion to amend the constitution that would be handed in to the next president.”The constitutional amendments Sleiman suggested included “restoring the right for the executive power to dismantle the Parliament under the initiative of the president [and] giving the president the right to call for an exceptional Cabinet session when needed.”
Sleiman also called for reconsidering the authority of the Constitutional Council and the appointment of its members and its quorum so that it does not get obstructed again, in reference to last year’s stalemate in the council over a challenge to the extension of Parliament’s mandate. Other reforms included giving a specific constitutional deadline to Cabinet to sign decrees and laws as is the case for the president. Sleiman also said that Parliament should place urgent draft laws rejected by the president and sent back to Parliament on the latter’s first session to be held thereafter. The president also said that he would sign a decree that calls on Parliament to hold an extraordinary session to address a new draft law for the parliamentary elections set for November and the controversial salary scale draft law.
“I will sign today a decree to call on Parliament to hold an exceptional session as the country is facing parliamentary elections, which requires setting a new electoral law,” Sleiman said. “The general situation might also witness urgent issues, and our political system requires Parliament to hold a session to question the Cabinet,” he added. The president also highlighted the need to set a national defense strategy for the country, an issue that he pushed for throughout his tenure. “I suggested to the National Dialogue Committee a proposal for the defense strategy, and on the eve of May 25, the memory we are proud of, I say it is time to build a national defense strategy because this would be an essential gateway to the emergence of the state,” he said.
May 25 marks Liberation Day, when Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in the year 2000, ending its occupation to the country.
Sleiman also hailed the efforts of the International Support Group for Lebanon, established in New York last year, to help the country cope with the Syrian refugee crisis and enhance Lebanon’s military capacities. He said that the Lebanese state should follow up on the resolutions of the support group and expressed hope that the conference scheduled on June 17 in Italy would "promote the capacities of the Army.” Lebanon recently received a $3 billion Saudi grant to buy equipment and arms for the military, a donation that Sleiman hailed during his speech as a “historic one.”The farewell ceremony for Sleiman was attended by senior political officials and foreign diplomats, including Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, former prime ministers Fouad Siniora and Najib Mikati, ministers and lawmakers from various political groups.There was no sign of any Hezbollah representatives at the ceremony.
Sleiman took office on May 25, 2008, and presided over the country through one of its darkest and most trying periods since the Civil War. The outgoing president was more or less in a centrist position during his six-year tenure but has recently engaged in a faceoff with Hezbollah over his criticism of the party’s involvement in the Syrian war. Sleiman has insisted on many occasions that he refused to extend his term, saying he wanted freedom for him and his family. His departure leaves a vacuum in Lebanon's top Christian post, as lawmakers have failed to elect a new president.

Jumblatt to miss Sleiman in politics
May 24, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said Saturday that he would miss the political approach of outgoing President Michel Sleiman. “We will miss President Sleiman and the political line he established,” Jumblatt said during the farewell ceremony for the president. Prior to the ceremony, Sleiman presented Jumblatt with the National Order of the Cedar Medal “in appreciation for his national role and political moderation and his call for dialogue among political rivals.”Sleiman expressed hope that the PSP leader would continue to play such role “to preserve the political stability in the country.” Both Sleiman and Jumblatt classify themselves as centrists amid the sharp political divisions in the country, mainly between the March 8 and March 14 camps.

Will the vacuum again lead to an abyss?

May 24, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanon plunges into a presidential vacuum Sunday, in the fourth crisis of its kind since the country won independence in 1943, with some only ending after the outbreak of violence.
Parliament has failed to elect a president during the past month’s five sessions, with March 8 MPs boycotting all but one vote because no consensus had been reached beforehand on a candidate.
“Now we are heading into a presidential vacuum again because we did not fully implement the Taif Agreement regarding the election law and other issues,” former Speaker Hussein Husseini told The Daily Star. For Husseini, endorsing a Parliamentary election law based on proportional representation – as stipulated by the Taif Agreement that ended the Civil War – would stop Parliament from being dominated by sectarian blocs and would therefore free the country from the influence of foreign parties, a key cause of the current stalemate.
Lebanon’s first (mini) presidential void occurred on Sept. 18, 1952, when President Bechara al-Khoury resigned from office over a wave of strikes and protests. He tasked Army Commander Gen. Fouad Chehab with forming a transitional military government, which went on to oversee the election of President Camille Chamoun five days later.
But the country descended into a much longer and more violent presidential vacuum starting Sept. 22, 1988, when President Amine Gemayel’s term expired without the election of a successor.
Most Christian parties in Lebanon opposed the subsequent proposed election of MP Mikhael al-Daher, a compromise candidate agreed upon by Syria and the U.S.
In a bid to encourage Lebanese groups to support their choice, U.S. envoy Richard Murphy reportedly told Christian politicians: “Mikhael al-Daher or chaos.”
Shortly before he left Baabda Palace, Gemayel made the highly controversial decision to appoint then-Army Commander Michel Aoun as prime minister – a post traditionally held by a Sunni.
Aoun was made head of a transitional military government comprising his five fellow Army officers from the Military Council.
However, the three Muslim members of the Military Council resigned from the Cabinet immediately, leaving only three people in government. Salim Hoss, premier during the last year of Gemayel’s term, promptly withdrew his resignation and declared himself the country’s legitimate prime minister.
Suddenly, Lebanon had no president, two prime ministers and two Cabinets – Hoss’ in the predominantly Muslim west Beirut and Aoun’s in the largely Christian eastern part of the capital.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Gemayel explained that his decision to form the military government was based on former President Khoury’s move to put together Chehab’s Cabinet after he resigned.
“I had to form a government back then, it was not possible that I allow a vacuum,” Gemayel said. “Since the government was meant to replace the Christian president, its head [Aoun] had to be a Christian.”
In the event, Gemayel said, country ambassadors and the Central Bank dealt with both governments: “There was kind of a modus vivendi between the two governments to manage the affairs of the country.”
Gemayel blamed Syrian Intelligence for not allowing MPs in west Beirut – which was then under Syria’s control – to attend presidential election sessions called for by Speaker Husseini, thus resulting in a presidential vacuum. But Husseini argued that it was down to a lack of consensus on a number of issues, particularly over the nature of the political system.
“The country was deeply divided ... we determined that the only way out was by boosting national consensus ... and this is what actually happened,” Husseini said, referring to the eventual election of President Rene Mouawad in November 1989 after the signing of the Taif Accord.
Gen. Issam Abou Jamra, who served as deputy prime minister under Aoun’s premiership, said the government’s job was not easy.
“A three-member government is not like a 28-member Cabinet. The problems it faces are multiplied by eight or nine,” he said.
“I held six ministerial portfolios besides being a deputy prime minister. I used to work for 18 hours a day and I ensured that everything remained functioning normally.”
The political instability soon transformed into violence. Aoun launched the so-called “Liberation War” against Syria’s occupation on March 14, 1989. That battle, which lasted for six months, failed to achieve any of its goals and caused massive destruction and casualties.
On Oct. 22, 1989, Lebanese MPs signed the Taif Agreement, a peace accord brokered by Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Syria. Two weeks later, Mouawad was elected to the presidency, ending over 13 months of presidential vacuum, only to be assassinated on Nov. 22. He was succeeded by Elias Hrawi on Nov. 24, much to the displeasure of Aoun, who launched another war against Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces militia. Lebanon spent six months in the abyss of a presidential vacuum again in November 2007, when President Emile Lahoud left Baabda Palace and the March 14 government of Fouad Siniora assumed his powers. Much like today, March 8 MPs at the time boycotted election sessions and said they would only show up when a candidate had been chosen by consensus. March 14 backed the candidacy of Nassib Lahoud, a member of their alliance. Once again, the country descended into violence.
On May 8, 2008, after Siniora’s government moved to dismantle Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network, the party’s gunmen took over large swathes of west Beirut and clashed with Progressive Socialist Party gunmen in the Chouf. The crisis only ended on May 25, 2008, when Sleiman was elected president after the March 8 and March 14 camps signed the Doha accord.
Antoine Nasrallah, from Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, argued that the same factors that led to presidential vacuum in 2007 were now preventing the timely election of a president.
Nasrallah said the problem could be rectified by an electoral law based on proportional representation, so an alliance that won two-thirds of seats in Parliament could elect a president and form a government without the need for constant compromise with the opposition and thus foreign influence. For Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat, it all comes down to March 8: “Unfortunately, the same political groups which prevented Parliament from convening in 2007 are now not showing up for sessions.” Fatfat, who served in Siniora’s Cabinet during the 2007-08 vacuum, said governing under such conditions was a “very difficult and sensitive experience.” “Every decision was mulled over several times before being made and many decisions were not made so that they wouldn’t be misinterpreted as an infringement on certain powers [of the president].” Many fear that history is about to repeat itself and that Lebanon is in for more violence, but according to retired Gen. Elias Hanna, that won’t happen. “Circumstances are totally different. Regional factors are stabilizing Lebanon this time,” Hanna said, pointing to increased contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the major backers of March 8 and March 14 respectively.
In 1988 and 2007, Hanna said, Lebanon was the arena of regional confrontations: “Now Syria is this arena.”


Lebanon president urges leaders to name successor
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Saturday, 24 May 2014
Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman urged squabbling politicians on Saturday to choose a successor to his post before the end of his term as politicians from the Western-backed March 14 alliance flocked to parliament in a show of force against presidential void. During a farewell speech marking the end of his six year term, Sleiman also said that dialogue was the only way to overcome deep divisions in the country, which is struggling to cope with political and security spillover from Syria's civil war. Sleiman and his wife left the presidential palace at around 3 p.m., bringing the country further toward a presidential vacuum. Sleiman’s term ends May 25. Politicians form the Hezbollah-dominated March 8 political camp have repeatedly boycotted parliament sessions aimed at naming a new successor to Sleiman, a former Lebanese army commander who was nominated as a consensus candidate to lead the country in 2008. For a parliament to elect the president, a two-thirds quorum - or 85 of the legislature's 128 members - is needed, but none of the sessions to choose Suleiman's successor met that requirement. According to Lebanon’s National Pact, the country’s president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim. In a show of force against a presidential void, March 14 MPs flocked to Parliament Saturday.
"We came here today to say that until the last minute we maintain our right to elect a president within the constitutional deadline," MP Mohammad Qabbani, a member in former Prime Minster Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, told a local television station. Also joining the sit-in were Speaker Nabih Berri, a member in the March 8 bloc who has not boycotted sessions to elect a new head of state, and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the head of the Future parliamentary bloc. Lebanon is deeply divided over the war raging in neighboring Syria and rival political camps have lined up behind opposing sides in that conflict. The rift over Syria is widely believed to be a reason behind the lack of agreement on a candidate to replace Sleiman. Sleiman’s final months in power were marked by growing criticism of Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian conflict. Hezbollah recently shunned his call for National Dialogue to end lingering disputes between political rivals, particularly the militia’s arsenal. There was no sign of any Hezbollah representatives at the farewell ceremony at Baabda Palace. The party has demanded a future president be sympathetic to the militia's military intervention. (With AP)


Hariri rings alarm bell over presidential void
May 24, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned Saturday that a void risked turning the presidency into a target for political blackmail as he bid farewell to outgoing President Michel Sleiman. “The last day of President Michel Sleiman’s term is an occasion to declare two realities; the first is that the majority of the Lebanese recognize Sleiman’s wise wisdom in managing the country’s affairs and insistence on National Dialogue as an irreplaceable means to confront political and sectarian tension,” Hariri said in a statement on the day when President Michel Sleiman bids farewell to the Lebanese from Baabda Palace. “The second reality is an honest call to deal with the presidential void ... as a serious risk that threatens the safety of the democratic system and turns the presidency into a target for permanent [political] blackmail,” the statement said. “There is no flaw in our Constitution preventing the rotation of power or causing such vacuum, the flaw is in not implementing the Constitution, but the inability to reach the required political courage to make mutual concessions and place the national interest before personal whims and interests,” Hariri said.
“There are only a few hours separating us from the constitutional deadline to elect a new president, and it would take a political miracle to secure the birth of a new president,” he said.
“However, we must be deeply aware of the dangers of keeping the top Christian post in our political system in void and the dangers of not having anyone among the Lebanese, particularly Christians, to declare the triumph of Lebanon’s right to have a president for the country.”Hariri also said that the next president should commit to the Baabda Declaration issued by Sleiman, which is essential "to protect the nation against interference in foreign and random wars." Lebanon is set to face a period of presidential void in the absence of a consensus among political rivals on who should be the next head of the state.


March 14 MPs rally against presidential vacuum
May 24, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: March 14 lawmakers started flocking to Parliament Saturday evening in a show of force against presidential void after the assembly failed to elect a successor to Michel Sleiman, whose term ends on May 25. "We came here today to say that until the last minute we maintain our right to elect a president within the constitutional deadline," Future MP Mohammad Qabbani told Al-Jadeed TV. Speaker Nabih Berri and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the head of the Future parliamentary bloc also joined the sit-in. According to An-Nahar newspaper, the March 14 MPs decided to come to Parliament Saturday to express their determination to carry out the presidential election within the constitutional deadline, meaning before May 25.
Also speaking to Al-Jadeed, Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb said his alliance opposed regional deals to elect a new president. "The March 14 also refuses to relinquish its right to elect a new president," the lawmaker added. The An-Nahar report said Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel suggested that the coalition's lawmakers stay in Parliament from 6 p.m. until midnight. His proposal was approved by the Lebanese Forces and Future lawmakers. Siniora also contacted Berri asking that the latter’s bloc joins the gathering. The March 14 coalition is also trying to convince Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt to participate in the afternoon’s parliamentarian gathering. A March 14 parliamentary source told An-Nahar that “this symbolic move aims to express our sadness over the failure to elect a new president.” Outgoing Sleiman left the Baabda presidential palace Saturday afternoon, hours before his term expires.


Geagea calls for last-minute push to elect president
May 24, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea launched Saturday a last-minute appeal for electing a new president as the country risks entering an alarming stage of void.
“The March 14 lawmakers are going to Parliament this evening, we still have the chance to elect a new president before midnight,” Geagea said during a press conference at his Maarab residence.
“I hope other lawmakers join them too,” the LF leader, the first to have announced his presidential candidacy last month, added. Geagea said the country had a serious chance “to elect a Lebanese-made president.” He also regretted criticism against outgoing President Michel Sleiman and hailed the latter’s performance throughout his six-year mandate.“I salute President Michel Sleiman, but I regret that a president who struggled for the country like him gets attacked by some,” he said, in reference to Hezbollah, which has recently found itself at odds with the outgoing president. Sleiman left Baabda Palace earlier during the day, hours before his term expired, leaving the presidential post in void after lawmakers have failed to elect his successor.


Iran's Zarif Congratulates Nasrallah, Bassil on Liberation: A Historical Victory that Promises More Achievements
Naharnet /Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a cable to his Lebanese counterpart Jebran Bassil and another to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to congratulate them on the occasion of Liberation Day. "This is a historical victory that was achieved as a result of cohesion between the Lebanese of all sects and political parties, and thanks to the efforts of the resistance's heroes,” Zarif said in the letter to Bassil. He continued: “It is a turning point in Lebanon's modern history which promises more victories and achievements against the occupying Zionist entity.” And in his letter to Nasrallah, the Iranian FM considered that this “historic saga will keep reminding people of the Lebanese and the fighters' sacrifices, especially of those who are keen on preserving the resistance."
Liberation Day, which is celebrated on May 25 of each year, commemorates the Israeli army’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000. Nasrallah is scheduled to make a televised speech on Sunday 25 at 5:00 p.m. for the occasion.

Debate: Lebanon’s president will be chosen from abroad
By: Mohamed Ali Muqalled/Asharq Alawsat
Saturday, 24 May, 2014
There is a critical difference between a president representing his constituency and a president ruling in the name of his constituency. The former is a healthy system. The only place the president is elected with 100 percent of the vote is a totalitarian regime. In a democratic system, the president is elected either by a plurality or by an absolute majority in a parliamentary or general election. The last Lebanese president elected in this fashion was Suleiman Frangieh, whose time in office ended with the Lebanese civil war in 1975.
This situation is an indication of a democratic crisis, which is manifested in Lebanon as a constitutional crisis. The prime culprits are those who gave up on national sovereignty and linked the fate of Lebanon to the outcomes of regional and international conflicts in the days of the Baghdad Pact. The violations of national sovereignty continued with the civil war, peaked during the Israeli occupation, and created a system in which presidents could not hope to hold office without the blessing of the Syrian regime.
In modern democracies, the president usually wins barely more than 50 percent of the vote, and still he must rule in everyone’s name, and the people rule through him in his capacity as president.
The vote might be divided, but dividing the republic destroys the nation and creates a slew of new competing nations upon its ruins. Naturally, in modern democracies election results are an expression of the balance of power, which is understandably skewed by the interests of the winning candidate. However, the situation in Lebanon is different, in that the regime is democratic in appearance, with elections and voting booths, and the government is split between the president and parliament. Parliament also theoretically functions as the decision-maker during the presidential election, but in reality parliament is the source of the corruption. The regime is democratic, it’s true, but the families who governed in the first years after independence continue to govern generation after generation. Governance has become hereditary, or close to it.
Democracy rests on mutual recognition, but in the Lebanese system everyone is interested only in their part of Lebanon, their nation, their religion, their sect. The causes of conflict are legion, and have persisted since time immemorial. Sunni and Shi’ite, Muslim and Christian, Arab and Phoenician, Qaisi and Yemeni&—it seems natural that the causes of the civil war are hardwired into the land, even in those who have never witnessed the bloodshed that results. We’ve all lost ancestors, whether to the Crusaders, the Franks, or the Ottomans. Is it really so surprising that the political map is still informed by the genetic roots laid down by the Umayyads and Persians?
Parliaments in modern democracies must regulate the religious, political, linguistic and ethnic divisions in society through three main tasks: monitoring the government, holding it accountable, and passing legislation. There is a fourth task in Lebanon: the election of the president. However, the Lebanese parliament has not executed any of these duties, especially since the tripartite “trusteeship” government was created. Its bizarre system of executive overlap has increasingly blurred the lines between the executive, the legislative and the judicial. Parliament confused the issue further when they decided to abandon their responsibility to monitor the government and pass legislation, and began to violate the constitution themselves.
It’s a farce, and all the actors know that the members of parliament have nothing to do with presidential elections, but it plays out the same way every time. The Lebanese parliament operates with the mindset of a militia, and not as an instrument of the constitution. They do not represent a balance of political, economic and social forces so much as they represent the forces of reality. They have distances themselves from this role, clearing the way for military powers to operate to the benefit of the March 8 Alliance.
Thus the interpretation of the constitution has become a means of stalling the election process pending a regional and international agreement on the next president. But despite all these flaws and inabilities and constitutional violations, parliament has retained a sole virtue: even through their erroneous interpretation of the constitution and their obstructionism during the presidential election, they have at least ensured that the next president will love one half of Lebanon and hate the other half.

Debate: Lebanon’s president will be chosen from within
By: Ibrahim Bayram/Asharq Alawsat
Saturday, 24 May, 2014
In the Lebanese political scene, a president who belongs to a particular political party is not, of course, a “consensus” president. This term, which a well-known part of the Lebanese political vernacular, indicates a president without affiliations to any of the three conflicting political forces in Lebanon: the March 8 Alliance, the March 14 Alliance, or those parties unable to choose between them.
Electing a president who “belongs” to a party would only result in an intensification of opposition and conflict in Lebanon. One example of a partisan president from recent history is President Amine Gemayel, who served from 1982 to 1988. In the beginning, his presidency was at least in part reasonable and acceptable, after he disrupted the balance of power in Lebanon following the Israeli invasion in the summer of 1982. But his time in office later turned tragic, ending with a power vacuum, two fractured governments, a broken economy and general lawlessness. Lebanon became a weak state, and different parties had official powers of confiscation. President Gemayel was forced into exile, after the Lebanese Forces occupied the offices of his Kataeb Party.
Of course, there are those who believe the current situation is different and that the facts and circumstances have changed. The era of President Gemayel has passed. It was more or less an integral part of the Lebanese civil war, with all its tragedies and consequences. But the implications of this hypothesis are still relevant. The fragile balances in Lebanon remain the same, and an additional, undeniable factor has entered the scene Hezbollah and the political circles that either orbit or align with it.
Thus, in the present balance of power between the March 8 Alliance and the March 14 Alliance, a presidential candidate belonging to one of the two moves in to the Baabda palace by breaking down the other party, thus opening the door to further conflict. It is no longer a secret that the period following the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri was more or less a power struggle between the two parties. Each went out into the streets again and again, with access to political and media weapons that were previously considered “taboo.” It reached a point that many Lebanese, during moments of intensification, would put their hands to their hearts in fear of the return of civil war. The distinguishing mark of this period was the May 2008 war.
In the years after that conflict, the parties flexed their muscles, tested each other’s forces and engaged in dangerous political brinkmanship. They would bet on changes at the domestic, regional and international levels in the hope that one party would outweigh the other, or at least reinforce their presence in the face of the opposition.
It is no longer surprising, then, how the March 14 Alliance (and any party hostile to the regimes in Tehran and Damascus) behaved in the period following the 2005 parliamentary elections. The Alliance had gained power. It had received a majority in parliament in those elections, and Syria abandoned its guardianship of the country, despised and ridiculed for its failures in the previous stage.
But things did not run smoothly for the March 14 Alliance for long. Its opponent—the March 8 Alliance—managed to create an understanding with the Free Patriotic Movement led by Gen. Michel Aoun and forge a common front.
The March 14 Alliance returned with another victory in the 2009 elections and was able to restore morale, which had waned following the power struggle earlier that year. Events later turned against it, however, with the cabinet collapse of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri after less than a year in office. At that point, the March 8 Alliance completely secured its own government under Prime Minister Najib Mikati. The March 14 Alliance was forced to retreat to the trenches to restore what it believed it had lost, the result being the present government led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam. This implicitly formed a type of balance of power characterized by “compulsory partnership.” Thus, the experiences of the last ten years prove without a doubt that any attempt to break the balance and cancel out the opposition leads in one way or another to pulling the country out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Accordingly, any serious thought about a president who belongs to a certain party or movement—in other words, someone who is not a “consensus” president—is tantamount to planning a way to destroy what remains of the pillars of the state and its institutions.
We must beware of repeating the experience of Amine Gemayel in the 21st century.

In Jordan, Pope Francis appeals for urgent steps to end Syria violence
05/24/2014 11:58
Pope Francis called for urgent steps to end Syria's three-year-old civil war as he arrived in neighboring Jordan on Saturday, starting a Middle East trip aimed at bringing hope to the region's dwindling Christian population. Addressing Jordan's King Abdullah at the start of his first visit as pope to the Holy Land, Francis praised the Western-backed kingdom for its efforts to "to seek lasting peace for the entire region.""This great goal urgently requires that a peaceful solution be found to the crisis in Syria, as well as a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said.
More than 160,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict and millions have fled to neighboring countries, including Jordan.
After meeting King Abdullah and saying a Mass in an Amman stadium, the pontiff will meet some of those Syrian refugees in Bethany on the Jordan, the place where according to tradition Jesus was baptized, as well as others who fled violence in Iraq. Conflict across the region, including the Arab revolts of recent years and the civil war in Syria, has accelerated a historic decline in its Christian community.
In Israel and the occupied West Bank, where the pope will travel on Sunday and Monday, more Palestinian Christians are looking to leave, accusing Israel of eroding their economic prospects and hobbling their freedom of movement. Francis, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, will also use the trip to appeal to members of all religions to work together for peace.
"Religious freedom is in fact a fundamental human right and I cannot fail to express my hope that it will be upheld throughout the Middle East and the entire world," he said.
At the Jordanian stadium where Francis was to say Mass later on Saturday, thousands of people cheered the news of his arrival in Amman. But alongside their celebrations, some expressed fears for their future in a region where Christianity is rooted. Thamer Boulus, a 45-year-old Iraqi teacher, said he fled the city of Mosul with his family because he was receiving death threats as a Christian." I want to immigrate anywhere there is safety for me and my family. Religious extremism is threatening Christians," he said. On Sunday morning Francis flies by helicopter to Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, making a six-hour visit to what the Vatican's official program calls "the State of Palestine," a terminology Israel rejects. In 2012, the Vatican angered Israel by supporting a vote in the United Nations General Assembly to grant Palestinians de facto statehood recognition. Israel argues such a move should only come through negotiations. Palestinians see the pope's visit, and the fact that he is flying in directly from Jordan instead of going through Israel's security barrier from Jerusalem, as a major morale boost. Jordan, a majority of whose population is of Palestinian origin, signed a peace accord with Israel 20 years ago. To underscore his conviction that all three great monotheistic faiths can live together in the region and help to tackle the political stalemate, Francis has enlisted a rabbi and an Islamic leader to be part of a traveling papal delegation for the first time.
The two - Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, director of the Institute for Religious Dialogue in Buenos Aires - are friends from when Francis was cardinal in his native Argentina. Their presence is "an extremely strong and explicit signal" about the importance of inter-religious dialogue in the region, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, will head on to Israel on Sunday night for a 32-hour visit packed with 16 events. Threats to Christians have been scrawled by suspected Jewish radicals on Church property in the Holy Land. One read: "Death to Arabs and Christians and all those who hate Israel." "Their writings desecrate our religious symbols. They are written on walls of churches, monasteries," Archbishop Fouad Twal, Jerusalem's top Catholic official, said in Amman. "We want these perpetrators to be put to justice and we want to know who is behind these extremist groups. They sour the peaceful atmosphere we want to create for the Holy Father." Israeli security forces, fearing that Jewish militants might carry out a major action against the Christian population or institutions, issued restraining orders against several Jewish right-wing activists for the duration of the pope's trip. The last papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land was in 2009 by Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict.

Hezbollah working with the Lebanese army leads to calm in Beirut
Roi Kais/Ynetnews/Published: 05.24.14,7340,L-4523086,00.html

The flames are no longer creeping up on Nasrallah: A year after the chief of staff's prophecy that Hezbollah would come to ruin and drag Lebanon down with it, calm has been restored to Beirut. While the terror organization's budget has been significantly cut, Hezbollah continues reaping successes both in Lebanon and outside of it. One terrorist bombing followed the next last summer in Lebanon. Car bombs exploded in Dahiya, Hezbollah took revenge with attacks of its own and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz warned that "the flames have started to creep up on (Hezbollah chief) Nasrallah." But things started to look completely different over the course of the last two months. While the Syria civil war rages on, not one terrorist attack struck inside Lebanon and rocket fire from Syrian rebels-controlled areas towards Hezbollah-controlled areas has decreased significantly. According to Foreign Policy, the improvement in Lebanon's security situation was thanks to the formation of a new government in Beirut that was populated with members opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the strengthening of security cooperation between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army.
The terrorist bombings also stopped after the Syrian regime, aided by Hezbollah, regained control of the Qalamun Mountains area on the Syrian-Lebanese border, from which many attacks were launched.
"We were willing to work with anyone, with any political faction, with any person, if it meant protecting the country from terrorist attacks," a Lebanese intelligence source said. "Of course we'll do everything to stop the car bombings." Lebanese Foreign Minister Nohad Machnouk, one of the most senior members of the Lebanese government who opposes Assad, admitted that allowing Hezbollah and the Syrian army capture the border area has contributed to the decline in terror attacks."What they did in Qalamun decreased the number of car bombings to a minimum, that's the truth," Machnouk said, but clarified this was not the only reason. "There was a regional decision that calm is needed in Lebanon. The message was conveyed to everyone and they acted accordingly, especially Hezbollah."
A Lebanese security source was more specific: "Hezbollah and Assad's army tried stopping the spill from Syria with force, but they failed."
According to the source, it was only when Hassan Nasrallah's organization started cooperating with Lebanese intelligence agencies, some of which are hostile to Hezbollah, that the calm returned to the country: "In a country like Lebanon, you can't ensure security using only force. You have to have political backing as well." Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar reported Friday that security measures in Dahiya, Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut, have been eased following the decline in terror attacks in the country in general and in Dahiya specifically. This report also attributed the drop in suicide attacks to the success of the Syrian army and Hezbollah in taking over a large area of the Syria-Lebanon border.
According to the report, the roadblocks that were put in front of the Iranian culture center in Bir Hassan - where five people were killed in a suicide attack in February - were removed. In conjunction with that, the Lebanese army has also removed some of the roadblocks at the entrance to Dahiya. Saudi paper al-Watan quoted Western sources in Beirut as saying that Hezbollah has decreased his military activity inside Lebanon and outside of it following a budgetary dispute with its funders. According to these sources, Hezbollah is currently operating with only a quarter of the budget it received in the past. The reasons for that, the sources said, are Hezbollah's involvement in the Syria civil war, the fact that aid from the Assad regime ceased when the war in the country broke out, and the decline in Iranian involvement following the beginning of nuclear talks with the West. Meanwhile, over a year of fighting in Syria has allowed the new generation of Hezbollah fighters to gain a lot of combat experience. The terror organization recruited a large number of fighters for the Syria war and started an accelerated training program.
A 21-year-old from Lebanon told the New York Times that he completed basic training in the Beqaa Valley in only 45 days, alongside 70 other Hezbollah recruits, many of them at the end of their 20s. Prior to joining the fighting in Syria, Hezbollah recruited mostly older men, and took years to train them. "The younger you are, the more excited you are to join the fighting," he said.
According to him, Lebanese fighters who trained in Iran led the young recruits through the demanding physical training and shooting practice. Only half of the group went on to the next stage - an eight-month training that included anti-tank missile firing and training with other advanced weaponry. Near this training base, he said, there was a pro-Assad base - which shows how the war fortified Hezbollah's military ties with its allies in the region. According to a former Lebanese army senior official, hundreds of Hezbollah soldiers were killed in the fighting in Syria. The retired Lebanese general, Hisham Jaber, said that while the large number of casualties did not significantly hurt Hezbollah's fighting abilities, it did little to justify Hezbollah’s involvement in the war to the public in Beirut. "They can't convince me and they can't convince the Lebanese people or families of young men to go out and be killed in Aleppo or in the Qamishli area," he said, referring to areas of Syria where battles rage far away from the Lebanese border.


Libya ex-general says people mandated him to crush jihadists
AFP, Benghazi /Saturday, 24 May 2014
Renegade ex-general Khalifa Haftar said Saturday the Libyan people have given him a “mandate” to crush jihadist militants in the country, a day after thousands rallied in his support in Benghazi and Tripoli. Haftar's campaign has won growing support amid frustration at the lawlessness in Libya three years after the overthrow of dictator Moamer Qaddafi. “We have accepted the mandate of the people,” Haftar said in a statement. “The (people) have given their instructions ... We pledge not to abandon this mission until Libya is purged of terrorists and extremists and all those who back them,” he added.
The statement was released by Haftar's self-declared “supreme military council” in the Benina region near the eastern city of Benghazi, where the rogue general launched his campaign this month.
Thousands of demonstrators rallied in support of Haftar on Friday in the capital Tripoli and in Benghazi, the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Qaddafi and hotbed of an Islamist militancy since.
The demonstrations were some of the largest seen in Libya since Qaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011. On Wednesday, Haftar warned that Libya has become a “terrorist hub” and called for the formation of an emergency cabinet and legislative elections to be held. His forces launched an assault against jihadists on May 16 in the Mediterranean city of Benghazi, in which at least 79 people were reported killed. That prompted the government to brand him an outlaw and claim he was attempting a coup. But Haftar insists he has no interest in power, just an end to the Islamist-dominated General National Congress, or interim parliament. Also on Saturday the spokesman of Haftar's paramilitary “National Army”, Mohammed al-Hijazi, called on troops to “rejoin” their units without elaborating.

The big charade: Nuclear diplomacy is a flop, the finale is secretly postponed to 2015
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis May 24, 2014/All hands on board the project for proving that Iran is amenable to dialogue and concessions on its nuclear program worked overtime this week to mask the truth, which is that negotiations were going nowhere.
On May 21, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, for instance, said “The nuclear negotiation is progressing and is on the threshold of reaching a conclusion."
On May 23, the Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported that the nuclear stockpile left to Iran after most of its enriched material, 80 percent, had been either converted or diluted “was far below the 250 kg which experts say is needed for one nuclear bomb.”
In other words, the IAEA was affirming that Tehran had lived up to the commitments it undertook in last November’s interim nuclear accord.
But the agency report was careful to edit out the negative side of the picture, which is: Iran is left with a stockpile of 3.5 tons of lower-grade 5.3 percent enriched uranium, which can quickly be enriched further to 20 percent grade. It would then be sufficient to produce 5-7 nuclear bombs. Dilution of the higher grade material is moreover reversible and could provide fuel for another bomb.
But the 80 percent figure captured the headlines of the world media and usefully fueled the show of optimism surrounding the stalled nuclear talks with Iran.
For more than a year, debkafile has been following the back-channel talks the Obama administration has kept going with Tehran through a hub in the Omani capital of Muscat. They have been handled by Undersecretary of State William Burns and Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sulllivan. Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the two diplomats were told to give this track “a last push” this summer, in order to bring it to a successful conclusion in time for the July deadline.
But nothing has gone according to plan.
The mid-May round of six-power talks with Iran in Vienna broke up without assent on essential points. The gaps between Washington and Tehran on the two tracks, the official one in Vienna and the private one through Muscat, are widening instead of closing.
In Tehran itself, the omnipotent Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has clipped the wings of the pro-diplomacy President Rouhani and curtailed his leeway for concessions on Iran’s nuclear program.
A severe crisis in relations is also developing between Washington and Jerusalem over dissonant approaches to Iran’s nuclear advances, its ballistic missile arsenal and the Islamic Republic’s Middle East designs.
Because of all these constraints, the Obama administration in the last week of April reached two important decisions:
1. To postpone the deadline for a final nuclear accord with Iran from July 2014 to January 15, 2015 – possibly not for the last time - a delay which is viewed by Israel as extremely problematic.
The commitment undertaken by Tehran under the November interim accord - not to use its advanced IR2 centrifuges for rapid uranium enrichment - was valid for only six months, during which a final agreement was supposed to have been negotiated to take its place.
Therefore, the discussions conducted in the current rounds of talks on the number of centrifuges and the amount of enriched uranium Iran is allowed to stockpile are meaningless. Once the extra-fast centrifuges are spinning, neither Washington nor Jerusalem can tell any longer how much enriched material the Iranians are producing.
debkafile’s military sources quote the Israeli experts involved in national policy-making on Iran as determining that, with the diplomatic track dragging into limbo and Iran off the hook of its interim commitments, Tehran will be able to reach the nuclear threshold in two to three months’ time, i.e. by July-August.
2. In a move to dissuade Israel from resorting to military action to curb this process, the White House is drafting legislature that would empower the president to use force against Iran without referring back to Congress, if Tehran was found cheating on its nuclear commitments.
No one in Washington or Tehran believes President Barack will actually use military force against Iran. However, prior congressional endorsement of his military option might, Obama hopes, hold Israel back and provide extra leverage in the negotiations with Iran, which he is determined to continue notwithstanding their futility.

Question: "What is the Cosmological argument for the existence of God?"

Answer: The cosmological argument attempts to prove God’s existence by observing the world around us (the cosmos). It begins with what is most obvious in reality: things exist. It is then argued that the cause of those things’ existence had to be a "God-type" thing. These types of arguments go all the way back to Plato and have been used by notable philosophers and theologians ever since. Science finally caught up with theologians in the 20th century, when it was confirmed that the universe must have had a beginning. So, today, the cosmological arguments are even powerful for non-philosophers. There are two basic forms of these arguments, and the easiest way to think of them might be the "vertical" and the "horizontal." These names indicate the direction from which the causes come. In the vertical form, it is argued that every created thing is being caused right now (imagine a timeline with an arrow pointing up from the universe to God). The horizontal version shows that creation had to have a cause in the beginning (imagine that same timeline only with an arrow pointing backward to a beginning point in time).
The horizontal is a little easier to understand because it does not require much philosophizing. The basic argument is that all things that have beginnings had to have causes. The universe had a beginning; therefore, the universe had a cause. That cause, being outside the whole universe, is God. Someone might say that some things are caused by other things, but this does not solve the problem. This is because those other things had to have causes, too, and this cannot go on forever. Let's take a simple example: trees. All trees began to exist at some point (for they have not always existed). Each tree had its beginning in a seed (the "cause" of the tree). But every seed had its beginning ("cause") in another tree. There cannot be an infinite series of tree-seed-tree-seed, because no series is infinite—it cannot go on forever. All series are finite (limited) by definition. There is no such thing as an infinite number, because even the number series is limited (although you can always add one more, you are always at a finite number). If there is an end, it is not infinite. All series have two endings, actually—at the end and at the beginning (try to imagine a one-ended stick!). But if there were no first cause, the chain of causes never would have started. Therefore, there is, at the beginning at least, a first cause—one that had no beginning. This first cause is God.
The vertical form is a bit more difficult to understand, but it is more powerful because not only does it show that God had to cause the "chain of causes" in the beginning, He must still be causing things to exist right now. Again, we begin by noting that things exist. Next, while we often tend to think of existence as a property that things sort of "own"—that once something is created, existence is just part of what it is—this is not the case. Consider the triangle. We can define the nature of a triangle as "the plane figure formed by connecting three points not in a straight line by straight line segments." Notice what is not part of this definition: existence.
This definition of a triangle would hold true even if no triangles existed at all. Therefore, a triangle's nature—what it is—does not guarantee that one exists (like unicorns—we know what they are, but that does not make them exist). Because it is not part of a triangle's nature to exist, triangles must be made to exist by something else that already exists (someone must draw one on a piece of paper). The triangle is caused by something else—which also must have a cause. This cannot go on forever (no infinite series). Therefore, something that does not need to be given existence must exist to give everything else existence.
Now, apply this example to everything in the universe. Does any of it exist on its own? No. So, not only did the universe have to have a first cause to get started; it needs something to give it existence right now. The only thing that would not have to be given existence is a thing that exists as its very nature. It is existence. This something would always exist, have no cause, have no beginning, have no limit, be outside of time, and be infinite. That something is God! "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge" (Psalm 19:1-2).
**Recommended Resources: I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek and Logos Bible Software.

Saving Libya would save the world

Saturday, 24 May 2014
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya
Until a week ago, there were only three possibilities in Libya: the first one is the total collapse of the state and its institutions - a situation that would end up with dividing of the country. The second one is the seizure of armed militant groups, like al-Qaeda, of major cities and centers - a situation that would end up with a civil war.
The third one is prolonged foreign military intervention – similar to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.
If the Libyan army under the command of major general Khalifa Haftar - the military commander who in exile fought Muammar Qaddafi for 20 years and who three years ago led the fighting against Qaddafi’s troops - succeeds, then Libya would avoid the nightmare of all three possibilities.
If it fails, then the entire world will be involved in a new failed state – the latest to be added to a list comprised of Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. On the international level, Libya poses the biggest threat because it’s on Europe’s maritime borders. The North African state contains around 200,000 armed men who have taken over most cities, bringing the country to the brink of collapse.
In the past two years, out of four prime ministers assigned, one of them fled the country out of fear - a ministry undersecretary was killed, the parliament was occupied and threatened, legislations were imposed as armed men’s convoys besieged the parliament, the American envoy was killed, Jordan’s ambassador was kidnapped, most foreign diplomats have fled and competent people as well as those who could afford to leave also left the country.
Major General Haftar took action and gained the support of most disciplined military, security and civil sectors. In turn, he called on the Supreme Judicial Council to establish a crisis government to run the country until a new parliament is elected.
State of civil war
If the Libyan army hadn’t imposed its control and pursued militias, foreign intervention would have inevitably resulted in crises and international disputes. Europe won’t sit idle when a country on its southern border is in a state of a civil war. Europe would also not allow Libya, which is a major oil-producing country, to fall in the hands of armed extremist groups, some of which are linked to al-Qaeda.
“If the Libyan army hadn’t imposed its control and pursued militias, foreign intervention would have inevitably resulted in crises and international disputes”
Many countries voiced their worry of the situation in Libya but only one country condemned the army’s intervention. This means that this intervention - or salvation or coup or revolution - enjoys unprecedented support resulting from fear of the situation.
The army’s mission of pursuing these armed groups in Libya’s cities and vast deserts will be a long-term one. I believe that many regional and international powers, mainly Egypt and Algeria - who have previously voiced their fears of security chaos - will offer to help the Libyan army in implementing its task of purging the country of terrorism.
The international community will be expected to later help Libya build civil states, strengthen security and direct different parties towards new civil governance. The Libyan army with its brave intervention is saving the country from chaos, division and foreign intervention, and hopefully troops will return to their barracks and the military command will respect its promises of civil governance.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 24, 2014.

A Middle Eastern ‘Perfect Storm’
Saturday, 24 May 2014
By: Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
In July, the world will commemorate the centennial of World War I, also known as,” The war to end all wars.” In addition to its horrendous human cost of 37 million casualties, the war led to the demise of the old European political order with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German and Ottoman empires, and the birth of new states and a precarious new political order. Before the war’s end, the British and the French decided to divide their Middle Eastern inheritance from the retreating and dying Ottoman Empire.
The resulting secret scheme known as the Sykes–Picot Agreement of 1916, named after the two diplomats who negotiated its terms, along with the Balfour Declaration of 1917 named after the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour of British support for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews, led to the creation of the modern states of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Israel, with border modifications after the two victorious countries established, with the blessing of the League of Nations their ‘ Mandate System’ on these societies ostensibly to prepare them for self-government.
A Perfect Storm
Almost a century after the establishment of this artificial colonial construct, which endured conventional and civil wars, rebellions, military coups, political repression and fleeting experimentations with political reform and democratic governance ,it is currently facing its most serious existential threat. The Sykes–Picot inheritance is unraveling along sectarian, religious and ethnic fault lines.
“For the first time since their formal independence, a number of countries undergoing social and political upheavals, in a state of civil war, or confronting more assertive terrorist groups, find their national authority being challenged by forces operating freely in relatively large autonomous spaces”
Most nations from North Africa to the Eastern Mediterranean, all the way to the Gulf (and South Asia) are plagued by political turmoil or civil strife, beset by sectarian and ethnic tensions, the growing threats of transnational terrorism, bereft of good accountable leadership and responsible governance, stressed by economic stagnation and dislocation, strained by a youthful population demanding political empowerment and meaningful job opportunities. A combination of some of these underlying currents, or in some cases such as in Syria and Iraq (you can add also Yemen and Somalia) all of them, are contributing to the unprecedented levels of bloodletting, chaos, terror and upheaval that are tearing these societies asunder.
For the first time since their formal independence, a number of countries undergoing social and political upheavals, in a state of civil war, or confronting more assertive terrorist groups, find their national authority being challenged by forces operating freely in relatively large autonomous spaces.
This is true of Syria, Iraq, Yemen and even in Egypt’s Sinai. All of these elements combined to create the Perfect Storm that is devastating the region; a storm that is likely to last for years to come. It took decades to bring the region to its nadir, and it will take years and probably decades to chart a way out of this tragic predicament.
Uploading hope and downloading tragedy
The incredible expansion of media technology (Satellite channels, the internet and social media) has had a paradoxical effect on the region. While empowering those who sought political, social and economic reforms within their national borders, who communicated through twitter and uploaded the first videos of the uprisings, it has also emboldened and helped the entrenched regimes as well as extremist religious groups and terrorists organizations such as Al-Qaeda and its affiliates that are operating throughout the region, and other new, even more lethal groups if that is imaginable, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which is tormenting today the peoples of Syria and Iraq and which is trying to establish bases in Yemen.
In this new not-so-brave world, every massacre, chemical weapon attack, beheading, car bombing, and assassination is being documented, filmed and downloaded for millions of mostly passive viewers in the region and all over the world, to impress them, frighten them or recruit them.
Not only regional institutions are rendered useless like the League of Arab States, or are fracturing like the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but also national institutions, like the armed forces, the police are fracturing along sectarian, religious, regional and ethnic lines as we see in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The grim statistics in some countries are difficult to absorb. More than 9 million Syrians out of a population of 22 million are displaced, including 3 millions who sought refuge in neighboring countries. According to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, Yemen is among the world's most water-scarce nations; Yemen could conceivably and shortly become the first country in the world to run out of water.
Many ‘firsts’
Entrenched Arab despots, like Assad in Syria, Qaddafi in Libya and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen fought their peoples ferociously, even when they were demonstrating peacefully and asking for simple reforms. Assad’s war on his people included many ‘firsts’ in the annals of political rebellions and civil wars. First use of Scud tactical ballistic missiles against civilian neighborhoods, barrel bombs against schools and hospitals, medieval-style siege and starvation, the most use of foreign armies, militias and ‘volunteers’ since the Spanish Civil War.
For the first time in modern history, three majority Arab countries, Egypt, Iraq and Syria are simultaneously facing historic challenges that are threatening their viability and integrity as nation states and their very identity. It is a question of time before the Kurds in Iraq will go their separate way.
I don’t know of any good argument against Kurdish self-determination. Even if the war in Syria ends soon, it will be very difficult, given the sectarian killings and cleansings of large neighborhoods and villages to restore a semblance of unitary state. At minimum, ethnic and religious communities would insist on governing themselves and maintaining their own armed groups in the name of self-preservation.
It is clear from the pattern of the fighting, that the Assad regime is trying to maintain control over the major cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs and a corridor linking the capital to the coastal Alawite region. The regime believes that it could remain in power for a long time if it maintains its grip over this part of Syria.
Looking at Syria and Iraq unraveling under the weight of their sectarian-ethno enmities, one cannot but wonder, that despite the ugly legacy of European colonialism, and the arbitrary way in which the borders of the region were determined, it was assumed by the colonialists that Arabs and Kurds, Christians and Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites could live together in their new states.
Generation of patriots
A century later, the grand children of that generation of patriots, Arabs, Kurds and other groups, Muslims and Christian who fought and sacrificed for self-determination after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and grudgingly accepted the Sykes–Picot order, have succeeded in squandering their imperfect inheritance. The colonialists probably could not have imagined the parochialism and petty sectarian-ethno allegiances of today’s rulers.
While the integrity of the Egyptian state is not in jeopardy, nonetheless, the political polarization between the secularists and nationalists on one hand, and the banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB) on the other, and the deepening enmity between the MB and other violent Islamist groups and the large Coptic community, will make governing Egypt, a country that cannot survive without foreign aid, almost a mission impossible.
The continuing violence against the Egyptian state, which is no longer confined to Sinai and the resistance to serious structural and painful economic reform, from powerful special interest groups, including the armed forces will keep Egypt mired in its problems and unable to restore its economic health or exercise any meaningful regional role.
As a result of this situation, the countries of the Arab East, more than any time since independence find themselves living in the shadows of their non-Arab neighbors, Iran, Turkey and Israel.
The sectarian-ethno divide
The divide between the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam, is almost as old as Islam itself, and yet today, this ancient schism seems to be increasingly shaping the fate of a number of countries in the region, while dragging Sunni and Shiite volunteers from the Muslim world and beyond to fight and die against fellow Muslims in the lands that witnessed the first Muslim Civil War, that led to the schism. While both sides use sectarian narratives and religious arguments to demonize each other, their conflict is essentially political and revolves around power and authority.
Modern Muslim history never witnessed such Sunni-Shiite conflagration like the one we see today being fought on one continuum front stretching from Iraq to Syria to Lebanon, with other fronts raging occasionally in Bahrain, Yemen and all the way to Pakistan.
Just as terrorists are demolishing national borders, the sectarian epidemic is oblivious to the whole concept of nation-state, or the idea of national identity. Sunnis and Shiites are coalescing around their sectarian identity, and showing solidarity with each other regardless of national origin, linguistic differences and ethnic background.
The War in Syria has become the new rallying cry for Sunni and Shiite hardliners, who are recruiting volunteers from all over the world to shape the future of a country many of them never been to before the war. Iran has sent special units of Revolutionary Guards and military advisors to shore up the Assad regime, the Lebanese Hezbollah, on behest of its sponsor Iran sent units that fought well in some crucial battles, and thousands of Iraqi Shiites volunteered to fight against the Sunni dominated rebellion against the Assad regime. Shiite volunteers came from parts of Central Asia, and recently the Wall Street Journal reported that “Iran has been recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, offering $500 a month and Iranian residency to help the Assad regime..”
Sunni volunteers from the Arab world and beyond, including from Western countries have descended on Syria to join the new “Jihad”. A significant number of the ranks of some of the most violent “opposition” groups, such as ISIS and Al-Nusra Front, are foreign volunteers.
Other fault lines
There are other fault lines beside the sectarian one, like the Arab-Kurdish fault lines in Iraq and Syria, where the Kurds of Syria are demanding for the first time their full political and cultural rights, ( many of them don’t even have Syrian citizenship, even though they were born and raised in Syria) and are willing to fight for them. The Kurds of Syria will not accept willingly to live under any conditions similar to those they endured under the old order. In Egypt, the religious fault lines between the Copts and radical Islamists and the MB have been deepened, following the worst acts of violence against Egyptian Copts, their churches and institutions since medieval times.
The Christian communities in the Arab states, the descendants of the First Christians, have been subjected recently to unprecedented physical violence in modern times. According to press reports and leaders of their Churches, half a million Iraqi Christians have been forced to leave the country since the American invasion in 2003. Radical Islamists burned their churches and killed their bishops.
This tragedy was compounded by the fact that the campaign of intimidating the Christians was taking place when the U.S. had a large military presence in Iraq. If these tensions, particularly the Sunni-Shiite one, are not checked any time soon, they will intensify further, and no country in the region or close to it, and that would include Europe, will be able to develop an immune system against such epidemic.
A dearth of Western Leadership
The outside world is tired and bewildered by the senseless violence, but apparently not horrified enough, by the unspeakable agony of Syria for instance to intervene in a meaningful way. In fact some powerful states like Russia and China are accomplices in Assad’s crimes and continue to provide him with diplomatic shelter and material support. Western powers that used to play major roles in the region, not always positive admittedly are unwilling or unable to do more than provide humanitarian aid, logistical support or limited military aid. Recently the U.S. began, after long hesitation, deliveries of limited quantities of TOW anti-tank missiles.
However, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was emphatic that the U.S. will not alter the balance of power to allow for a rebel victory. “We are not on a path currently to provide that”. Remarkably, the General said in the same breath that he realizes that the conflict is no longer about Syria only, but a regional one when he added “it’s Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad”.
‘If you are going to cock the pistol, be ready to fire it’
The leaders of most Arab states ,with the social, political and intellectual classes that support them are in the main responsible for the sorry state of affairs in their countries. However the failure of the Obama administration in exercising effective and strong leadership, has contributed to this destructive Middle Eastern Perfect Storm.
The man with the soaring rhetoric, who went to Cairo in 2009 to begin a new era that would transform fundamentally the relationship between the United States and the countries of the Muslim World, who promised to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict in his first term, who asked Assad to step down, and threatened him with iron and fire if he used chemical weapons against his own people, this man has shrunk so much in stature that he is almost invisible to the people of the region. President Obama may be haunted by the ghosts of Syria, but he is not moved sufficiently by the horrors of that country to do something to check it.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said last week that with President Obama repeatedly talking about “coming home, of nation building at home” he has created the perception around the world that in fact the U.S. is pulling back from its international responsibilities. According to Gates that is why Russia and China among others see that void and are moving to exploit it, “they see our unwillingness to make tough decisions as in Syria, our failure to carry out our threat with the red line in Syria… They see opportunities to pursue their own nationalist ambitions…”
Gates believes that the failure of President Obama to deliver on his threat to use military force against Assad last year was “a real low point in foreign policy for the administration.
One piece of advice I always tried to give the President is: if you are going to cock the pistol, be ready to fire it.” Compelling words of wisdom, for a president who cocked a pistol with an empty magazine.