May 26/14


Bible Quotation for today/ Lazarus Has Fallen Asleep

John 11,1-16./Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’
Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For May 26/14

Resistance…What Resistance/By: Ana Maria Luca/Now Lebanon/May 26/14

Hezbollah’s foreign origins/By: Tony Badran/Now Lebanon/May 26/14

Sisi and Assad, who will congratulate the other first/By: Raed Omari/Al Arabiya/May 26/14
Egypt's Also-Ran/By: Eric Trager/Foreign Policy/Washington Institute/May 26/14

Wrap up the nuclear deal before Ashton leaves/By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Asharq Al Awsat/May 26/14

Syrian Air-Defense Capabilities and the Threat to Potential U.S. Air Operations/By: Chandler P. Atwood and Jeffrey White/Washington Insitute/May 26/14

The Daily Star Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 26/14

Pope Francis's Middle East Visit

Pope Francis: Israel-Palestinian stalemate 'unacceptable'

Five issues facing Pope Francis in the Holy Land

Francis nods to Palestinian case with unscheduled visit to West Bank barrier

Peres, Abbas accept papal invitation to pray for peace at Vatican

Lebanese Related News

Earthquake Felt in Several Lebanese Regions

Abbas Meets al-Rahi, Awards Him High-Ranking Decoration

Report: Possibility of Aoun-Hariri Agreement over Presidency Ended with Suleiman's Term

Report: FPM Ministers Considered Resigning from Cabinet Following Presidential Vacuum

Sleiman’s departure stirs reactions on social media
Former President Michel Sleiman returns home, Paris concerned by vacuum
Jumblatt, Miqati bid Suleiman farewell

March 14 MPs hold rivals responsible for presidential void

EU urges the LebaneseParliament to elect president without delay
Tannourine truth

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai “reassured” by his Jerusalem visit
Salam laments political impasse on Liberation Day

Kataeb to boycott legislative sessions

Lebanese Authorities detain militant Sheikh Omar Bakri

A Replica of the Israeli-made Merkava Was destroyed in Sidon

Lebanon's Arabic Press Digest - May 25, 2014

Keep calm in Lebanon

Contrary to reports, Beirut synagogue not planned to reopen

Nasrallah: We Want President Who Won't 'Stab Resistance' and We Hold Onto 'Golden Equation'
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Strongman Sisi Poised to Stroll to Egypt Presidency

Iran Court Convicts Editor, Author of Banned Daily

Strongman Sisi Poised to Stroll to Egypt Presidency
Two Jews attacked outside Paris synagogue

Tel Aviv couple killed in Brussels shooting named as Emanuel and Miriam Riva

Netanyahu: Deadly Belgium attack result of anti-Israel incitement


Earthquake Felt in Several Lebanese Regions
Naharnet /Residents of several Lebanese regions felt an earthquake on Sunday afternoon. The tremor was felt in the capital Beirut, the Mount Lebanon areas of Keserwan and Jbeil, and the northern regions of Tripoli and Batroun, according to state-run National News Agency. "At 3:23 PM, residents of coastal areas felt a 4.2-magnitude earthquake whose epicenter lies five kilometers north of Jbeil on the Lebanese coast," state-run Bhannes National Center for Geophysical Research said. Media outlets quoted center officials as saying that the tremor occurred at a depth of 24 kilometers. In December, 2013, an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.1 was felt in Beirut and Mount Lebanon. The NCGR said at the time that the quake struck between Beirut and the Keserwan town of Ajaltoun. According to the center, over 600 earthquakes with magnitudes below 3 degrees hit Lebanon each year. More than 20 earthquakes were reported between the regions of Bikfaya and Aley on March 15, 2012. In 1956, a 6 degrees on the Richter scale earthquake struck Lebanon, killing 136 people and destroying 6,000 houses.

Pope: Israel-Palestinian stalemate 'unacceptable'
May 25, 2014/By Philip Pullella, Noah Browning/Reuters
BETHLEHEM, Palestine: Pope Francis made a surprise stop at the hulking wall Palestinians see as a symbol of Israeli oppression on Sunday, minutes after begging both sides to end a conflict that he said was no longer acceptable. In an image set to become one of the most emblematic of his trip to the holy land, a sombre-looking Francis rested his forehead against the concrete structure that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and prayed silently as a child holding a Palestinian flag looked on. He stood at a spot where someone had sprayed in red paint "Free Palestine". Above his head was graffiti in broken English reading: " Bethlehem look like Warsaw Ghetto", comparing the Palestinian plight with that of the Jews under the Nazis.
Israel says the barrier, erected 10 years ago during a spate of Palestinian suicide bombings, is needed to secure its security. Palestinians see it as a bid by Israel to partition off territory and grab land they want for their future state. On the second leg of a three-day trip to the Middle East, Francis delighted his Palestinian hosts by referring to the "state of Palestine", giving support for their bid for full statehood recognition in the face of a paralysed peace process. But, speaking at the birthplace of Jesus in the Palestinian-run city of Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, he made clear that a negotiated accord was needed, calling on leaders from both sides to overcome their myriad divisions.
Francis invited the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to come to the Vatican to pray for an end to the enduring conflict, just a month after the collapse of U.S.-backed peace talks.
"In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace," the Pope said at an open-air Mass in Bethlehem. A spokeswoman for Peres said in Jerusalem that the president "always accepts any kind of initiative to promote peace". While Abbas heads the Palestinian government, Peres's post is largely ceremonial and he is due to leave office in July. Francis had flown by helicopter to Bethlehem from Jordan, where he started his tour on Saturday, becoming the first pontiff to travel directly to the West Bank rather than enter via Israel - another nod to Palestinian statehood aspirations.
He was due to travel to Israel later in the day for a swirl of meetings, with some 8,000 police deployed in Jerusalem to guarantee his security.
Israeli police said they arrested 26 people who took part in a protest early on Sunday by Jewish nationalists at the Cenacle in Jerusalem, the traditional site of Jesus's Last Supper, where Francis is due to hold a Mass on Monday. The protesters say the authorities are preparing to hand the Church the site, where some Jews believe King David is buried. The Israeli government has denied any such deal.
Israel has blamed the Palestinian president for the failure of the latest peace talks, but standing alongside Abbas, Francis pointedly referred to him as "a man of peace and a peacemaker".
Although the Vatican said the primary purpose of this visit was religious, political overtones were ever present.
A mural behind the altar at the Bethlehem Mass showed Jesus, who was a Jew, swaddled in a Palestinian keffiyeh, with his father, Joseph, also wearing the black and white headdress, made famous by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Pictures equating Palestinian suffering with that of Christ dotted the city. The pope was later due to meet refugees at a camp set up after the 1948 creation of Israel, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled, or were forced to abandon their homes. To avoid a diplomatic tangle, Francis will then get back in his helicopter and fly to Tel Aviv airport for a welcoming reception from Israeli leaders, rather than drive the short distance to Jerusalem. Israel calls Jerusalem its eternal and undivided capital, having annexed Arab neighbourhoods seized in the 1967 war, including the Old City, the site of the main religious shrines. The rest of the world has not recognised the annexation. From Tel Aviv, he will fly to Jerusalem for what he has said is the main purpose of the trip - to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic meeting of Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders, who moved to end centuries of bitter divisions between the two churches.

Report: Possibility of Aoun-Hariri Agreement over Presidency Ended with Suleiman's Term
Naharnet /Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun is keen to maintain contacts between him and Mustaqbal Movement chief Saad Hariri in order to reach an agreement over the presidential elections, reported the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa daily on Sunday. March 14 alliance sources told the daily however that the possibility of an understanding between the two officials ended with the end of President Michel Suleiman's term. The FPM sources hoped that the contacts between Hariri and Aoun would yield a positive outcome. Suleiman's six-year term ended on Saturday with parliament failing to elect his successor due to the ongoing differences between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over the elections. The dispute prompted the March 8 forces to boycott the majority of the presidential elections sessions.

Report: FPM Ministers Considered Resigning from Cabinet Following Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet /The Free Patriotic Movement ministers had allegedly considered resigning from cabinet in light of the vacuum in the presidency given the end of President Michel Suleiman's term without the election of his successor, reported the Kuwaiti daily al-Anbaa on Sunday. The FPM's proposal was however met with the opposition of its allies Hizbullah and the Marada Movement. This has prompted the FPM ministers to only attend cabinet sessions that are aimed at discussing issues that concern them and the movement, it added. FPM MP Alain Aoun said that the ministers will act “according to the crisis caused by the presidential vacuum.”This could mean only attending cabinet sessions that tackle issues and files that concern these ministers, he explained. The move incurred the criticism of a Mustaqbal bloc MP, who was not named by the daily, saying that the FPM ministers will only cater to affairs that matter to them and disregard ones that don't. Culture Minister Roni Araiji of the Marada Movement meanwhile told al-Anbaa that the members of the movement will not resign from the government. Suleiman's six-year term ended on Saturday with parliament failing to elect his successor due to the ongoing differences between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over the elections. The dispute prompted the March 8 forces to boycott the majority of the presidential elections sessions.

Former President Michel Sleiman returns home, Paris concerned by vacuum
May 25, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former President Michel Sleiman returned to his north Lebanon hometown Sunday morning, where he was greeted by thousands of people welcoming him back after serving six years in the presidential palace. Meanwhile, French President François Hollande contacted Sleiman and thanked him for his efforts during his term particularly his role in preserving the peace and stability in Lebanon, the former president’s office said. Hollande also expressed concern over the current situation in Lebanon, hoping that a new president is elected as soon as possible so that the country does not remain in a vacuum for long. For his part, Sleiman thanked Hollande for his phone call, stressing on the importance of bilateral cooperation between the sisterly states during the six years he was in Baabda. Upon his arrival in Amsheet with his wife, Wafaa, a man lifted Sleiman on his shoulders as church bells tolled and residents threw rice and flowers in celebration of his return.
The streets were flooded with people, with supporters of the former Army general hanging banners in support of Sleiman and his photo covering several buildings and balconies. Several politicians also flocked to Sleiman's residence, where he received well-wishers during a reception commemorating the end of his term. Sleiman, Lebanon's 12th president, left Baabda Palace on Saturday afternoon, plunging the country into a presidential vacuum as political parties remain in deadlock over a successor. With no candidate capable of garnering the needed majority to win the presidential seat, and attempts to extent Sleiman's term ending in failure, Lebanon has now entered a presidential void for an undetermined period of time. Sleiman’s election in 2008 filled a lengthy presidential void during which rival political groups had engaged in heated disputes that lead to armed clashes in the capital. Sleiman helped form four governments during his six-year term: the Cabinet of former PMs Fouad Siniora, Saad Hariri and Najib Mikati, and Prime Minister Tammam Salam in 2014. Sitting in his house in Amsheet, journalists began asking Sleiman questions about his farewell speech, which touched on various controversial issues; including expanding both the prerogatives of the president and the national defense strategy. "Enough. I will not talk about politics today," Sleiman said before he shared a laugh with former Prime Minister Najib Mikati. During his farewell speech Saturday, Sleiman called for constitutional reforms that would expand the authority of the president. “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 will be handed 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.” He 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, a memory we are proud of, I say it is time to build a national defense strategy because this is 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 28-years long occupation of the country.

Resistance…What Resistance?
By: Ana Maria Luca(Source:
Tomorrow, Hezbollah will celebrate Lebanon’s Liberation Day to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from South Lebanon. Hezbollah’s so-called victory was more a question of money, really. The Israeli government realized it was too costly to keep its armed forces in Lebanon. Typically Jewish, I’d say.
Indeed, those who lost their lives defending Lebanon’s South during the 18 years of Israeli occupation deserve to be honored. But Hezbollah’s festive gatherings to celebrate victory over Israel gives me goose bumps. They remind me of the forced celebrations of prosperity in North Korea, and of the former Soviet Union communist parades that celebrated world peace and accused the West of imperialism; where chosen people recited ‘patriotic poems’ and sang programmatic songs. And if they didn’t, there was always an “or else.”
In North Korea, having a different opinion means getting sent to prison or even death. In the USSR or its communist satellite countries, it means “re-education” in a dungeon, getting sent to a labor camp or Siberia. But Hezbollah can’t afford to do that. The party can’t afford to allow free speech, either. In Lebanon, if you don’t sing the party’s tune, you’re automatically accused of being an Israeli agent. In Hezbollah-land, it means that your family will be harassed until they’re too afraid to admit that they know you; it means that you would be accused of any illegality just to send you to prison and silence you.
It’s the Resistance propaganda that Hezbollah is spreading that is very bothersome lately. The idea of ‘Lebanese Resistance’ has become a generic term associated with Hezbollah. But is it? Where is the Lebanese Resistance? Fighting in Syria, killing fellow Arabs and practically inviting al-Qaeda to target the Shiite community in Lebanon? Resisting what? The Sunni community it helped radicalize?
An old Western diplomat once told me that whenever you find yourself in a place where everybody tells you the same thing, there is definitely something wrong going on. After a series of bombings that killed scores of civilians in a Hezbollah controlled neighborhood, the residents recited the same statement “we’re not afraid, we’re going to resist till the end.” That’s when I realized that something was definitely wrong. No human being in their right mind would willingly exposes himself and his family to a mortal danger for the sake of a political party. But what if it was done unwillingly: for fear of being called a traitor; or fearing that social aid might not come anymore, that your family might be harassed and be obliged to harass you into behaving.
Hezbollah stopped being the Lebanese Resistance when the spirit of resistance itself was buried under the expensive SUVs with black windows, under the villas that sprang like mushrooms after rain in South Lebanon after the July 2006 war – as hundreds of bombed houses waited for international aid to be reconstructed.
It doesn’t really sound like a Resistance, does it? Resistances are short lived, because their purpose ends at the end of the actual occupation. If they survive beyond that, they often turn into monsters. Resistances don’t invade other countries and don’t terrorize and censor their own supporters. The Lebanese Resistance belongs to the Lebanese people in South Lebanon who began fighting the occupation with no sectarian affiliation and no purpose of taking over the country. Back in the day there was the Lebanese National Resistance Front, which had Syrian backing (because of its Marxist-Leninist inclinations). Many of them did not survive the operations against the Israeli army, others did not survive Hezbollah. Those who managed to survive are now silent, self-censored, and pressured.
When Hezbollah opened its Resistance Park in Melita, one of the communist fighters who survived the war looked at me and only asked me this: “where is OUR museum?” He couldn’t say more. He was afraid some Hezbollah agent might hear him and his family might have problems in the village. His wife was not veiled anyway, and that didn’t please Hezbollah officials.
The truth is Hezbollah is not the Resistance anymore. Hezbollah was part of the Lebanese Resistance for a long time, but now it’s just part of something monstrous: an apparatus of opperssion.

Tannourine truth
Now Lebanon/BEIRUT - Controversy erupted between members of Lebanon’s cabinet Thursday after Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tweeted during a session that funding had been secured for a road connecting the north Lebanon towns of Tannourine Tahta and Tannourine Fawqa. Cabinet sources told NOW that a number of road projects in various areas of Lebanon were passed on Thursday after approval had been postponed the previous week. During the session Bassil posted a message on his twitter feed congratulating residents of the two towns. “Congratulations to Batroun. The cabinet has approved the sum of 18 million dollars to [complete] the Tannourine Tahta - Tannourine Fawqa road,” the tweet read. The source added that “When State Minister for Administrative Reform Nabil De Freige heard about [the] tweet - while he was still at the cabinet table - he requested to speak, shocked by [Bassil’s] conduct.” “[De Freige complained] that ‘one of the ministers’ had taken credit for something he had nothing to do with.” “After the tweet was sent, Aounists and suppoters of Bassil in Batroun put up banners thanking the foreign minister.”Telecoms Minister Boutros Harb confirmed the story in a telephone interview with NOW, adding that “that money is the people’s money. It is not from the pocket of any minister.” “It is not the first time that the minister in question has attributed achievements to himself that he did not bring about or call for.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai “reassured” by his Jerusalem visit
Now Lebanon/BEIRUT – Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said that he was “reassured” by his visit to the Holy Land, which has been the subject of severe criticism from anti-Israel parties. “Let them say whatever they want. My visit is of religious and pastoral [nature],” Rai said in comments published in Al-Hayat newspaper on Sunday. “Jerusalem is for us all,” he added.  Rai's visit coincides with Pope Francis's three-day pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, which began Saturday. The Maronite Patriarch’s trip is the first by a Lebanese religious official to the Holy Land since the state of Israel was established in 1948.  Rai has come under intense fire from media outlets that support Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanese politics and advocates armed struggle against Israel.

Salam laments political impasse on Liberation Day
BEIRUT – In a statement marking the 14th anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon, Prime Minister Tammam Salam lamented the current political situation and the looming vacancy of the presidency. “We celebrate the anniversary of the Liberation in the midst of critical circumstances,” Salam said Sunday “The joy of liberation is not complete until democracy returns to all constitutional institutions. This will not happen without the election of a president and a parliament, and a national renaissance [long] awaited by the Lebanese.” The premier went on to laud the occasion as one which “represents the unity of Lebanon in the face of the enemy, and the honest support of political forces for the army and the Resistance.” May 25 marks “Resistance and Liberation Day,” when Israeli troops withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, after 22 years of occupation.

Jumblatt, Miqati bid Suleiman farewell
Now Lebanon/BEIRUT – Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt and former Prime Minister Najib Miqati bid farewell to outgoing President Michel Suleiman at the latter’s residence in Mount Lebanon’s Amchit. “Suleiman is loved [by all], and he has been an exceptional president,” Jumblatt said on Sunday. “Our visit expresses our loyalty to President Michel Suleiman for all the [efforts] he has exerted during his mandate,” Miqati noted. On Saturday, Suleiman gave his final speech as president, proposing a number of amendments to the constitution to increase the powers of the president and place additional conditions on the premier and the cabinet. Suleiman’s term ended Sunday amid fierce political deadlock, as the country’s political rivals have failed to elect a successor. With Lebanon’s top political post vacant, there is concern that a power vacuum will emerge.

Kataeb to boycott legislative sessions
Now Lebanon/BEIRUT – Kataeb party MP Sejaan Azzi said that his party’s parliamentarians will no longer attend legislative sessions. “From now on, the Kataeb party will deal with the parliament as an electoral college, not a legislative [body],” Azzi told Al-Mustaqbal newspaper in comments published on Sunday. “We will carry out our role in the parliamentary committees while waiting for the right time to pass laws, but we will not participate in legislation except in extreme cases,” the labor minister added. He also said that the Kataeb party will “avoid taking big decisions” in the cabinet.

Hezbollah’s foreign origins
By: Tony Badran/Now Lebanon
The party’s origins predate Israel’s invasion of South Lebanon in 1982
This Sunday, Hezbollah will celebrate “Liberation Day,” commemorating Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah has created many myths that it tailored around its war with Israel, but particularly curious is the manner in which it has used Israel in weaving the narrative about its own birth. Thus, according to the conventional account, carefully fostered by Hezbollah, the organization was founded as a response to the Israeli invasion of 1982. In fact, were it not for the invasion, the claim goes, it’s unclear if Hezbollah would have emerged at all in the way it has.
But in a special interview with Al-Mayadeen TV last Friday on the occasion of the upcoming “Liberation Day,” Hezbollah’s second in command, Naim Qassem, while generally sticking to the script, offered details that undermine the conventional narrative about the group’s genesis and Iran’s role in it. “The founding of Hezbollah was tied to the Israeli invasion,” Qassem told Al-Mayadeen. “But the invasion was not the reason it was formed.” With this statement, Qassem not only undercut a narrative dutifully promulgated by journalists and academics for years, but also he contradicted his own boss, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.
In statements a couple of years after the Israeli withdrawal, Nasrallah had emphasized that “the basis for the foundation of Hezbollah goes back to the circumstances of the Israeli enemy’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. … If we go to the direct reason, [it’s] the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.”
In fact, Qassem explained, 1982 may have seen the “practical founding” of Hezbollah, but this was preceded by a “theoretical” one. As I’ve chronicled in an essay on this period in Hezbollah’s history, the pre-1982 genesis is related to the network of Iranian revolutionary cadres, especially those loyal to Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, who were operating in Lebanon in the 1970s. These activists were working to recruit young Shiites who submit to Khomeini’s leadership and religious authority (marja’iya). Many of these Iranian operatives were also involved in teaching, indoctrination, and spreading Khomeini’s message.
One Iranian Khomeinist preacher, Sayyed Issa Tabatabai, who was active in Lebanon in the mid-1970s was acknowledged by Nasrallah in an address last October. Tabatabai, who headed various Iranian institutions in Lebanon, played an important role in the recruitment and preparation of young Shiites who became Hezbollah members. The familiarity of the Khomeinist cadres with Lebanon and the acquaintance of the Lebanese Khomeinist activists with them belie Qassem’s contention in the interview that “our arena did not have knowledge of Imam Khomeini and his movement in Iran and Iraq.”
However, in response to a question about how Hezbollah got its name, Qassem inadvertently underscored these interactions, and the inseparability of Hezbollah and the Iranian revolution. Qassem had addressed the subject of Hezbollah’s name before in his book, but had omitted a detail he revealed in the interview. “Six months after the party’s formation, the idea of ‘Hezbollah’ began to emerge from the base. The name was in emulation of Hezbollah which existed in Iran.”
Qassem is quite right: Hezbollah in Lebanon was a clone of Hezbollah in Iran. But the Iranian Hezbollah had a very specific meaning in the Iranian political context in the critical period between 1979 and 1981. Soon after Khomeini returned to Iran in 1979, his devotees – many of which were operating in Lebanon in the 1970s – and other radical clergy formed the Islamic Republic party. They began calling themselves Hezbollah, and by the summer of 1981, the Islamic Republic party had finally defeated its domestic rivals – who had been allied with Musa Sadr and the Amal movement – and now controlled the government, which it called “the Hezbollahi government.”
Qassem explained that Khomeini “considered all the people as Hezbollah. They would be guided through the mosques. That is, the scholars (‘ulama) would take the Imam’s ideas, his political position, and mobilize the people.” In fact, the mobilization through the mosques that Qassem described was done through other structures and bodies aligned with or run by the Islamic Republic party, like the Revolutionary Committees. Not coincidentally, in 1978-79 the cadres that went on to become Hezbollah formed in Lebanon the parallel “committees in support of the Islamic Revolution.” The Iranian Committees were organized by the Association of Militant Clergy, among whose founding members were Ali Khamenei and Mohammad Beheshti, the secretary general of the Islamic Republic party, who was killed in 1981. The Association was likewise cloned in Lebanon as the “Militant Clergy in Lebanon,” which organized pro-Khomeini rallies.
“Hezbollah,” Qassem went on to say, “was this popular condition.” In reality, the Islamic Republic party – Hezbollah – wielded power in the streets through gangs of thugs who were called Hezbollahis. They were run by a radical young protégé of Khomeini, who also had been in Lebanon in 1978, called Hadi Ghaffari. His Hezbollahi gangs would attack demonstrators, newspapers critical of the revolutionary government, and political opponents. In an image that rings a bell in Lebanon, the Hezbollahis would also ride through the streets on their motorbikes with their flags and banners. It is also easy to see how the practices of the Hezbollahis mirror those of its Lebanese clone, as evident in the murder of activist Hashem Salman, all the way to the campaign against NOW managing editor, Hanin Ghaddar – for plainly describing Hezbollah as the thugs they are.  Qassem’s disclosure that Hezbollah was an emulation of its Iranian predecessor was accurate, only not in the way he spun it. With his comments in the interview commemorating “Liberation Day,” Qassem actually illuminated, more than he realized, the Iranian context and structures Hezbollah emerged from, as well as the group’s true nature.
**Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets @AcrossTheBay.

Lebanese Authorities detain militant Sheikh Omar Bakri
May 25, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Militant Sheikh Omar Bakri Fustoq, wanted by authorities for his alleged role in north Lebanon clashes, was arrested Sunday in Aley, the National News Agency said. Fustoq was apprehended at dawn from a house owned by a man identified as Hamad Abu Lteif, the state-run agency reported. The sheikh had fled his home in the northern city of Tripoli before the Lebanese Army and security forces launched a security plan to restore law and order to the city, which was plagued by several rounds of clashes linked to the crisis in Syria. Fustoq’s residence was one of the first houses the military raided in search of wanted suspects. Fustoq is thought to be close to Al-Qaeda, and recently called for the group’s black flag to be flown over the Baabda presidential palace.
Born in Syria, Fustoq lived in Britain for many years, where he helped found the Hizb ut-Tahrir party. Upon arrival in Lebanon in 2005 he was informed by the British government that he could not return.
The Tripoli-based preacher has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, urging the radical Syrian rebel group to “reactivate its cells” in Lebanon.

March 14 MPs hold rivals responsible for presidential void
May 24, 2014 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: March 14 lawmakers Saturday held their rivals responsible for the presidential void and urged them to exercise their role to elect a new head of state. “Presidential vacuum is a dangerous issue that should not be treated lightly,” said Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan who read out the March 14 statement during a news conference in Parliament. “From now on, the sole responsibility of Parliament is to elect a new president.” Adwan said the Change and Reform bloc and March 8 groups’ boycott of previous election sessions dealt a major blow to democracy.
“The insistence on drawing a parallel between consensual democracy and [the idea] of pre-choosing a consensus president before going to the vote deals a blow to the parliamentary and political lives in Lebanon and freedom of choice,” he added. March 14 MPs started flocking to Parliament Saturday evening – a few hours after Michel Sleiman left the Baabda Palace - in a show of force against presidential void after the assembly failed to elect a successor to Sleiman, whose term ends on May 25. “We will not bow to pressure or blackmail,” Adwan read, “We are determined to preserve general stability and the interests of the people.” The March 14 MPs renewed commitment to the Taif Accord, parity between Christians and Muslims, the Lebanese Constitution and the Baabda Declaration, which stipulates insulating Lebanon from the war in Syria. "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. 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. Initially, 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.

Sleiman’s departure stirs reactions on social media
May 24, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The departure of President Michel Sleiman from Baabda Palace after six years provoked mixed reactions Saturday on social media. Hash tags with expressions thanking the president or mocking him were trending on Twitter, with some voicing relief over his farewell and others hailing his performance or simply voicing concern over the likely presidential void. “Arab President leaves office at the end of his term. Arab press not sure how to explain this to the people,” Karl Sharro tweeted. “I too would like to thank an incumbent politician for doing his job - or, punching out of work on time,” a tweet by Anthony Elghossain said. “Treachery, excuse me, I mean leave,” tweeted senior Marada official Vera Yammine, whose political group, headed by pro-Assad MP Sleiman Frangieh, has frequently criticized Sleiman. For her side, May Khraiche, a pro-March 8 lawyer, tweeted “joy is prevailing over the Lebanese people, the Liberation this year is doubled,” in a sign of relief over the end of Sleiman’s term, which coincides with the May 25 memorial of Lebanon’s liberation from Israeli occupation. Journalist Fares Khashan, a pro-March 14 figure, voiced concern over the presidential void that would take over after Sleiman’s term expires. “He did not wait until midnight to leave the presidential palace, and he has left it as a prey for vacuum,” he tweeted.
British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher also commented on Sleiman’s departure. “Mixed atmosphere at Baabda this morning. Affection and respect for outgoing President, mixed with concern that chair now falls empty,” he tweeted. “Sirens as President Sleiman Michel leaves Baabda for last time. Then silence. We are in uncertain new phase. Keep calm and carry on,” the envoy said in another tweet.

A Replica of the Israeli-made Merkava Was destroyed in Sidon
May 24, 2014/By Mohammed Zaatari/The Daily Star/SIDON, Lebanon: Political activists in Sidon Saturday blew up a replica of the Israeli-made Merkava tank as part of celebrations marking Resistance and Liberation Day. Plumes of smoke ascended from the southern coastal city of Sidon’s Martyrs Square after activists blew to pieces a replica of the infamous war vehicle they spent 261 hours assembling. “When we were building the replica we were full of enthusiasm and we were eager to finish building the Merkava do that we can destroy it ,” Ibrahim Jomaa one of the event’s organizers told The Daily Star. “We want to destroy as a form of revenge from Israel that killed our people in Lebanon and Palestine.”
While the Merkava tank is widely considered a symbol of Israeli military might, its reputation suffered badly during the summer 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon when Hezbollah guerillas, using innovative anti-tank missiles, destroyed several vehicles. The destruction of Merkava tanks during the 2006 combat has had an important symbolic value for Hezbollah and its supporters and has prompted serious introspection on the part of the Israeli Army. “We were brainstorming an unconventional means to mark the anniversary of the withdrawal of Israel from south Lebanon and we agreed that we’ll reproduce a generation 4 Merkava tank and destroy it as the occasion draws nearer,” Jomaa added. Celebrated on May 25, Resistance and Liberation Day marks the withdrawal of Israeli troops from south Lebanon, 14 years ago in 2000. Jomaa explained that 25 of his comrades at the left-wing Popular Democratic Party spent almost three months building an exact replica of the infamous Merkava Mk 4. “Only the weight differs,” Jomaa said. “The original Mk 4 weighs around 65 tons our replica only weighs 1.5 tons.”Jomaa confided that Hezbollah members who fought during the 2006 war helped the activists build the model. “But the event is meant to honor all the factions who fought Israel; the secular factions and the communist, the Arab nationalist and the Islamist.” Jomaa said. The first generation of Merkavas was built in the 1970s and was soon deployed in Lebanon in 1982. The improved Merkava Mk 4 has been Israel's main battle-tank since its introduction in 2004, but according to numerous intelligence and military reports Hezbollah fighters succeeded in targeting the tank’s most vulnerable points. Dubbed the “Defeat Tour” the Mk4 replica toured the southern coastal city of Sidon with stops at locations where anti-Israeli operations were carried out. Dragged by a donkey the replica Merkava toured the streets of Sidon dragged by a donkey, at its rear end activists attached the flags of Israel and the United States before being blown up in the city Martyrs’ Square. On the occasion of May 25, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah will deliver a speech in the southern city of Bint Jbeil on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

EU urges the Lebanese Parliament to elect president without delay
May 25, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon Sunday regretted the failure of Parliament to elect a new President and urged the legislative power to elect a new one “without further delay.”“The Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon regrets that the parliamentary consultations failed to elect a President as the term of Michel Sleiman expired on 25 May 2014,” a statement by the delegation distributed to the media said. “The Delegation calls on all political representatives to ensure that a new President is elected without further delay.” The statement reminded that the EU has repeatedly stressed the need for Lebanon to meet its constitutional deadlines in electing its highest representatives and ensure that the national institutions can continue to fulfill their mandate effectively.
“This is particularly important given the multiple challenges which the country is facing today, not least in terms of maintaining security, enhancing economic and social development, as well as providing adequate protection and assistance to the many refugees,” the statement continued. The EU Delegation statement also reiterated the European Union's “commitment to a deep and strong partnership with Lebanon, to help the country move forward in these challenging times."

Lebanon's Arabic Press Digest - May 25, 2014
May 25, 2014The Daily Star
Lebanon's Arabic press digest.
The departing president sets a standard by staying in line with the Constitution
Lebanon plunged into a presidential vacuum at midnight with the end of [former] President Michel Sleiman's term and his departure from Baabda Palace. Although the coming phase will be dominated by the unknown, it will not overshadow the political, constitutional and national meanings of such a departure.
The 12th president exited Baabda Palace in a way that impressed the majority of Lebanese, as well as foreign and Arab diplomats, with Sleiman insisting on respecting the Constitution by rejecting any extension to his term vis–à–vis disruptions of parliamentary sessions to elect a new president.
An-Nahar has obtained information saying that foreign ambassadors of major countries tried to convince Sleiman to agree to an extension in the last few days before the end of his term, to no avail.
Sleiman says liberation is missing in the absence of sovereignty
[Former] President Michel Sleiman gave his farewell speech and departed, leaving behind a vacuum in the presidency. His supporters shed tears, upset both over the end of his term, in which he restored the prestige to the presidential seat, and the vacuum which the Lebanese have experienced twice before, in 1988 and 2008.
The Lebanese people bid farewell yesterday to their president, amid fears of what is to come given that there is still no hope of a successor soon.
Meanwhile, March 14 coalition MPs headed to Parliament to elect a new president before the end of the Constitutional deadline. Speaker Nabih Berri attended the failed session and met with a number of lawmakers, telling them that legislation was the duty of MPs and promising them that the general secretariat of Parliament would only place "primary" items on the legislative agenda.
U.N. Security Council expected to call for the election of a new president
While diplomats are working relentlessly to bring political parties to an agreement and secure quorum for a parliament session to elect a new president, they and others are waiting for MP Michel Aoun's news conference Monday, when he is expected to explain his position on whether he will boycott future legislative sessions in the absence of a president. He will also say whether he believes the Cabinet will have any prerogative in the absence of a president, according to the Constitution. There are also efforts to convince Aoun to abandon his undeclared candidacy to pave the way for discussion on a new candidate between the March 8 and the March 14 coalitions. During his farewell speech, Sleiman spoke about Liberation Day and said that the memory is a moment for pride in Lebanon, praising those who risked their lives for the liberation of the land. He also said that liberation was not fulfilled while there is no sovereignty, adding that a national defense strategy was one of the main pillars for building a state.

Keep calm in Lebanon
May 24, 2014/The Daily Star/Michel Sleiman’s mandate ends this weekend, and Lebanon will enter a period of presidential vacuum – one might be tempted to talk about “uncharted waters,” but the unfortunate fact is it will be the third such time in many people’s memory. If the aftermaths of the failed presidential elections of 1988 and 2007 are any guide, a flare-up of civil strife should be expected. Unlike these previous instances, the fact that Syria is in the throes of war only complicates the situation. Politicians are entitled to engage in all of the politicking they want as they try to influence the election, provided that their struggle is not translated into violence in the streets. They, and especially the Cabinet of Prime Minister Tammam Salam, should make the security situation their prime concern to help Lebanon weather the storm of a presidential vacancy. Despite the gridlock, recent statements by Saudi officials have raised expectations, generating hope some desperately needed economic activity would emerge this summer in the form of tourism. Whether it is summer or winter, if officials can prevent the economic situation from deteriorating, there is a chance that the Lebanese can make it through the upcoming period of political stalemate. The security situation is the underpinning of the economy, and a single incident might be enough to ruin the improvements of recent months. If politicians are unable to come to grips with the “formulas” of how to elect a president, they should at least realize that the most important formula for many Lebanese is the following: A stable security situation equals the possibility of a satisfactory or better economic situation.

Sisi and Assad, who will congratulate the other first?

Sunday, 25 May 2014/By: Raed Omari/Al Arabiya
Unless someone says otherwise, the argument here assumes that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are to win Syria’s and Egypt’s presidential elections. The other thing that needs to be made clear from the very beginning is that no comparison is meant here between Assad and Sisi as they can’t be compared.
Assad is an embattled president, facing an armed struggle against his totalitarian rule with no allure or support except that coming from Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah, needless of course to say why.
The latter (Sisi) is a “charming” presidential candidate, undoubtedly enjoying a massive wave of popularity among the majority of his people who see in the retired field marshal as their “savior” from the Muslim Brotherhood’s totalitarian rule and poor administration of the Arab World’s most populous country. In the case of Syria’s June presidential elections, Assad will be facing no strong rivals in his quest for a third seven-year term. It is even hard to say that the two Syrian presidential candidates Hassan bin Abdullah al-Nouri, a 54-year-old lawmaker from Damascus, and 43-year-old Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, a lawmaker from the northern city of Aleppo, have deliberately chosen to run for their country’s first ever multi-candidate presidential election aside from the consent of Syria’s ruling Baath party. Their candidacy has been unquestionably okayed by Assad.
Probably unlike Egyptian presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, who must be anxious now with regard to Sisi’s colossal popularity, Assad’s rivals al-Nouri and Hajjar will be fully at ease as they fully certain of their loss in the June elections. What matters most is Sisi’s attitude towards Assad and the nature of the Egyptian-Syrian relationship
Evidence for the presidential elections being genuine in the case of Egypt and not more than a one-man show in the case of Syria can be seen with regard to the biographies of the candidates in both countries. Sabbahi is a renowned opposition figure, Nasserite socialist with a long history of political activism. He was a strong rival in his country’s 2012 elections following the January 25 Revolution, ranking third place after Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafik. Al-Nouri and Hajjar are not well-known politicians both inside and outside Syria. So, Sisi can’t be compared with Assad nor there exists any similarity between Egypt’s presidential elections this month and those of Syria slated for June 3. Maybe this prologue can serve as a response to those who see presidential elections in both countries as similar in many ways. However, what matters most is Sisi’s attitude towards Assad and the nature of the Egyptian-Syrian relationship when the two leading candidates are at Cairo’s al- Ittihadiya and Damascus’ Qasr ash-Shaab presidential palaces.
Maybe as caught in unrest and instability since the January 25 Revolution of 2011,
Egypt has not taken that decisive stance on Syria with Cairo placing itself “coyly” within the U.S.-led anti-Assad camp and the Friends of Syria Group. Such posture on Syria has turned tougher during Egyptian ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s rule, who once took a decision to cut all ties with Assad’s regime and shutter the Syrian embassy in Cairo. Several Egyptian ex-politicians and critics of Mursi opposed the Islamist leader’s decision, citing his complete lack of awareness of the “unbreakable” Egyptian-Syrian bonds.
When Egypt’s new rulers came to power following the June 30 revolution, which brought about the ouster of Mursi and proclaimed Sisi as Egypt’s strongman, Cairo’s posture on the Syrian crisis has softened considerably or restored its balance with little talk or criticism of Assad’s regime despite the fact that Egypt’s position within the anti-Assad Arab moderation camp was reinstated following the Egyptian 2013 public uprising against the Brotherhood’s rule.
Independent figures
Not only that, Egyptian foreign ministry’s invitation to a number of independent Syrian opposition figures in the beginning of this year to Cairo for “talks on unifying their desperate positions” was seen by many observers as an attempt by Egypt’s new rulers to restore their country’s leading role within the Arab region. Many others have gone further as signaling a new Egyptian a rapprochement with the Assad regime under the banner of fighting the terrorist groups. All in all, the new move has been received with a bit of estrangement by Egypt’s Arab anti-Assad friends who support the Syrian National Coalition.
Egypt’s new softened stance on Syria is in fact a continuation of the decades-long troubling relationship between Cairo and Damascus which always present themselves as “guardians” of the pan-Arab nationalism. The uneasiness between Egypt and Syria began to emerge following the collapse of the short-lived United Arab Republic that was established by late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The Egyptians have long accused the Syrian Baath Party of destroying the 1958-61 political union between the two countries. Such restlessness in the relationship between the two countries had increased even more following the October 1973 war Egypt and Syria fought against Israel. Back then, the Syrians accused late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat of acting unilaterally on the war’s aftermath. The Egyptian-Syrian uneasiness reached climax following the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty. The question now is would we see a continuation of such a troubling Egyptian-Syrian relationship when Sisi and Assad are in office? The answer is seemingly yes.
Arab moderation camp
On one hand, Egypt will maintain its position with the Arab moderation camp during Sisi’s rule but at the same time will maintain a neutral stance on the Syrian war considerably alien to that one held by its anti-Assad Arab allies much similar to that of Jordan. But Amman has its reasons for being neutral on the Syrian war. So much inseparable from the scene is Sisi’s visit to Moscow and his meeting with the Syrian regime ally President Vladimir Putin. What is also worth-noting is the little mentioning of Syria in Sisi’s addresses to his supporters and even in the interviews which has been made with him except maybe for his support of the Syrian people and his assertion of the need for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. All in all, Assad is strongly expected to send a cable to Sisi, congratulating him on his election with a call to the newly-elected president to enhance joint cooperation in eradicating the two countries’ common threat extremism and terrorism. Sisi is not expected to do the same but is expected to maintain a neutral and pragmatic position on Syria with his acts while as defense minister and words now as a leading presidential candidate unveiling a different policy in the making or already made on the war-torn country.

Five issues facing Pope Francis in the Holy Land
AFP, Jerusalem /Sunday, 25 May 2014
Pope Francis's first visit to the Holy Land as head of the Roman Catholic Church is fraught with potential pitfalls but will see him in his element as the "people's pope" and guardian of the downtrodden.
Here are five issues the Argentinian pontiff will encounter during his visit to the Palestinian Territories and Israel:
Israeli-Palestinian relations:
The Vatican has dubbed this trip a "pilgrimage of prayer", but Francis's every word and gesture will be scrutinised, particularly following the collapse last month of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and his call Friday for a "just and lasting solution to the conflict."
His decision to fly by helicopter to Bethlehem from Jordan without passing through Israel has ruffled diplomatic feathers, as has the Vatican's description of the Palestinian Territories as "the State of Palestine."
He may hope to appease Israeli critics by being the first pope to place flowers on Mount Herzl, named after the founder of Zionism.
Rivalries between Christian groups:
Bridge-building Francis has appointed himself mediator between bickering Christians on this trip, which marks the 50th anniversary of a historic embrace in Jerusalem between Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras -- the first meeting of Catholic and Orthodox leaders since the 11th century Great Schism.
It's a tough act to follow. Francis will pray with Patriarch Bartholomew I and representatives of other branches of Christianity in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, venerated as the site where Jesus was crucified, which may result in a declaration of good faith.
Control of holy sites:
The Vatican and Israel have been at odds over taxes and management of key holy sites in Jerusalem for decades, and the highly-charged issue over rights has led to protests by ultra-orthadox Jews in the run-up to the visit.
Francis's plan to hold a mass at the Cenacle -- the reputed scene of Jesus's last supper -- has infuriated Jews who revere the site as the tomb of King David and fear Israel is planning to give the Vatican sovereignty.
Christian relations with Jews and Muslims:
As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the Argentine pontiff boasted ties to the Jewish and Muslim communities which he is keen to export to the wider world, and he has invited two old friends with him on the trip to help -- Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim professor Omar Abboud.  He may be hoping to repair damage done by his predecessor Benedict XVI who caused uproar when he quoted a mediaeval description of Islam as "evil" in a speech, and reinstated an archaic prayer for the conversion of Jews.
Security concerns in Israel:
After a spate of hate crimes against Christians and Muslims by extremist Jews in Jerusalem, Francis may have to tone down the crowd pleasing moves.
Thousands of policemen and undercover cops will be deployed around the city, while in Bethlehem he will be protected by the Palestinian presidential guard, including female agents trained by French special forces. Nonetheless, the "people's pope" -- who has shunned bullet-proof vehicles in favor of open-topped cars -- risks proving a headache for security forces if he employs his knack for ditching his agents for some spontaneous mingling with excitable pilgrims.

Francis nods to Palestinian case with unscheduled visit to West Bank barrier

DEBKAfile Special Report May 25, 2014/Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas poured a litany of mostly unfounded anti-Israel grievances and propaganda in the ear of Pope Francis Sunday, May 25, taking advantage of his decision to visit Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem before spending a day in Israel. Abbas accused Israel of expelling Christians, complained about settlement construction and the plight of Palestinian prisoners and most of all, the “ugly wall” Israel had built. Abbas “forgot” to mention that the barrier finally put an end to years of Palestinian suicidal terrorist outrages in Israeli towns, schools, markets and restaurants. These atrocities also targeted West Bank Christians, especially in Bethlehem, and accounted for their dwindling numbers. Ignoring this piece of history, the pope was persuaded to visit the West Bank barrier. He was also presented with a crucifix filled with stones from the “Wall.” Standing alongside Abbas, the pope delivered an even-handed statement, which called on “both sides to make sacrifices to create two states” and end the “unacceptable” Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. He then conducted a Mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity, built over Jesus’ traditional birthplace, and was greeted by jubilant Palestinian Christians waving giant Palestinian and Vatican flags. The Mass was superimposed by the muezzin’s call to prayer over a loudspeaker from a Bethlehem mosque. The Christian congregation reacted with whistles and stamped feet and the choir accompanying the Pope raised their voices higher. In the official program, the Vatican referred to Abbas as the president of the State of Palestine. Sunday afternoon, the head of the Catholic Church lands at Ben Gurion airport. Israeli President Shimon Peres will be on hand to welcome him before he is flown by helicopter to Mt Scopus for another welcoming ceremony. His visit to Jerusalem, another religious and national minefield after the West Bank, will start Sunday evening with an ecumenical prayer service he is to conduct with the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians at the Church of the Sepulcher, and heads of the various Christian churches and communities.
Francis has said that this encounter, marking the climax of his pilgrimage, falls on the 50th anniversary of a landmark meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, which ended nine centuries of Catholic-Orthodox estrangement.
He spends Monday in Israel, amid tight security for which thousands of police have been recruited. The pope’s schedule includes a visit to Temple Mount and the Western Wall, Herzl’s Tomb and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center. It also includes a meeting on Temple Mount with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, who is notorious for endorsing Jewish genocide. In a Palestinian TV broadcast in 2012, Hussein declared: “The hour of [resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. The stones or trees will call: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”Not surprisingly, Muslim prayers on the mount are frequently the occasion for worshippers to hurl rocks at the Jews praying at the Western Wall below, an experience from which heavy Israeli police guards will be there to protect Pope Francis. Israel has issued special visas for 23,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and 600 from the Gaza Strip to enter the country for the visit of Pope Francis Sunday and Monday. The emotions inflamed by the visit were expressed early Sunday when a group of young Israelis barricaded themselves in the traditional Tomb of David on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. They were protesting reports that the building, whose upper floor is reputed to hold the Room of the Last Supper, would be presented to the Christian Church. Twenty-eight protesters were detained after attacking the police.

Wrap up the nuclear deal before Ashton leaves!
By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Asharq Al Awsat
After the P5+1 world powers met with Iran last week, the whole world was engulfed by speculation that a final deal over Iran’s controversial nuclear program wouldn’t be reached by the July 20 deadline. The disappointing rise of new issues during the Vienna meeting, over things such as Iran’s general missile program and the percentage to which Iran would be able to enrich uranium or the number of centrifuges it could have, were what prompted Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, to say that the “gaps were too large to begin drafting the text” of a final agreement.
Neither Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, nor the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, gave a press briefing once the meeting ended last Friday. There were no smiling faces—even Iran’s currency reacted negatively, falling against the dollar once the news broke that there wouldn’t be a deal any time soon.
The meeting in Vienna wrapped out without even an announcement of a date for further meetings. It underscored what Araghchi said about there having been “no tangible progress.” Back in Tehran, Zarif tweeted that he was “back from Vienna after tough discussions. Agreement is possible. But illusions need to go. Opportunity shouldn’t be missed again like in 2005.”
But a few days later, Aragchi said the next meeting with the P5+1 would be on June 16, which prompted yet more speculation. Many said the deal would be put off for at least another six months, because if the two sides only meet again on June 16 there wouldn’t be enough time for them to agree a deal before July 20.
Then there was another rapid turn on this long and winding road: it was suggested, on the BackChannel website, that the two sides would meet this week in Turkey. What Zarif said on Twitter about ‘illusions needing to go’ now appears like a furtive message to the Western powers, not just a warning to his own people.
Yet another rumor took off like wildfire at this point. All over social media in Iran, people were saying that the talks had stalled because the negotiating team hadn’t had the same power and authority as before. If true, both sides sat down at the negotiating table beholden to illusions and wrapped up in unrealistic expectations. Then why have they agreed to meet again only a week later? Do they still believe they can meet the July 20 deadline? What convinced Iran—or, to put it more clearly, what convinced the Supreme Leader to convince the negotiating team—of the necessity of reaching an agreement by July? Almost as the P5+1 meeting was breaking, Iran reached an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency on five new practical measures to increase cooperation. In a technical meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, held within the framework for cooperation agreed last November, the two sides released a joint statement detailing those new measures.
As Zarif said, this is an opportunity not to be missed. Iran is run by unpredictable politicians, and within a few months it could be that the Supreme Leader would have withdrawn his support for the nuclear talks. Perhaps the negotiating team have realized the benefit of reaching a deal before Catherine Ashton finishes her term at the end of this year. If Iran extends the interim deal in July, they would eventually have to sit down and talk with a new European foreign policy chief. We should not discount the way a change in leadership can affect negotiations. Iran did much better on the nuclear front when Mohamed El-Baradei was the director of the IAEA that it has done during the tenure of Yukiya Amano. Catherine Ashton was clearly comfortable with Iran’s current negotiating team—she even visited the Islamic Republic in March for a series of high-level meetings. Closing the Iranian nuclear file once and for all would be a legacy for both Ashton and Rouhani—especially for the latter, as he has promised the Iranian people that he would resolve the issue by the end of his first year in office. Iranians understand that the cannot miss this opportunity.

Egypt's Also-Ran
By: Eric Trager
Foreign Policy/Washington Institute
Meet the man crazy enough to run for president against the new strongman in Cairo. When millions of Egyptians cast their ballots for president next week, they will be participating in a virtual coronation. The outcome is a foregone conclusion: Former Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will win, probably by an astronomically high margin. Yet the fact that the affair will be considered an election at all is largely thanks to one man -- former parliamentarian and longtime Nasserist gadfly Hamdeen Sabahi, who will soon have the distinction of being the only man in Egypt's 7,000-year history to lose multiple presidential elections. Sabahi, who finished a strong third in the 13-candidate 2012 presidential election, knows that the odds are severely stacked against him. "I think the political atmosphere says that there is a state candidate," he said, referring to Sisi, during an interview at his Giza-based office in early April. "I think this atmosphere does not give an equal competitive opportunity in this election."
Sabahi also hinted at the various constraints that have been placed on his campaign, including the arrest and assault of his supporters. And given his prominent role in campaigning for former President Mohamed Morsi's ouster last summer, Sabahi faces constant threats from the Muslim Brotherhood, and his movements are thus more restricted than during his previous presidential and parliamentary campaigns. Yet despite the hopelessness of his relatively small campaign, Sabahi is making one important contribution to Egypt's political landscape. In an otherwise repressive political environment, he is working to preserve Egyptians' ability to challenge Sisi's emerging regime. "I am not an idealist who stays at home waiting for this state to be neutral," he told me. "For this reason, I believe in running for this presidential election so that democracy becomes a right." In many respects, this is an unnatural role for Sabahi, who has embraced totalitarian ideas and rulers throughout his four decades as a prominent leftist activist. His political hero is Gamal Abdel Nasser, the former Egyptian president who outlawed opposition parties and instituted one-party rule. But Sabahi hasn't limited his enthusiasm to Egyptian autocrats: He has been accused of receiving funds for his Nasserist movement from former Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi, and his name appeared following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq among those who had allegedly received funds from former dictator Saddam Hussein. Sabahi considered Saddam an "Arab national hero," publicly praising the Iraqi tyrant during a 1994 appearance at one of Saddam's palaces. "Egypt loves you, Egypt stands by you, Egypt's heart is with you," a glowing Sabahi tells Saddam in a widely circulated YouTube video. "One of the mothers in the streets of my small hometown, Baltim, when she knew I was going to Iraq, she told me, 'My son, I entrust you to kiss Saddam Hussein.'"
In recent years, Sabahi has downplayed these associations by saying that he appreciated these leaders only for their anti-Western bent, not for their authoritarianism. When I asked Sabahi during a March 2013 interview how he could support a murderous figure like Saddam, Sabahi acknowledged that Saddam was "a dictator," but told me that he supported the Iraqi despot during the 1991 Gulf War because "for sure I will be with the Arab dictator against the dictator George Bush."
It was an odd comment, and I quickly pointed out that George H. W. Bush wasn't a dictator. "George Bush was elected in the United States," replied Sabahi. "But he was not elected to bomb the children in Iraq and kill them." This exchange was classic Sabahi: strident Arab nationalism with a dollop of clownishness. Yet Sabahi's current campaign has been far from clownish. The candidate is taking this election extremely seriously and recalibrating his talking points to broaden his appeal beyond his Nasserist base, which largely prefers a strongman like Sisi anyway. So rather than highlighting Nasser's pan-Arabism, Sabahi now speaks of Nasserism as if it's a synonym for social democracy. "I am keeping the same values of Nasser like social justice," he told me in April, promising to reform Egypt's economy by means-testing energy subsidies and reducing the subsidies given to factories. Sabahi is also targeting his message to Egypt's economic underclass, identifying poverty as the biggest "strategic threat" facing Egypt. Nearly half of Egypt's 86 million citizens live on less than $2 per day, and plummeting foreign investment and tourism since the 2011 uprising has meant low growth rates and fewer jobs. "This is the soil where extremists come from, and those who are frustrated and despaired are ready to become suicide bombers," Sabahi told me.
He thus preaches the importance of economic development to repair Egypt's fraying social fabric. His approach to fighting terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula emphasizes a "comprehensive development plan" to attract foreign investment and a political program for combating anti-Bedouin discrimination in order to promote greater trust between Bedouin tribes and the state, in addition to the current "security confrontation" with jihadists.
On foreign policy, Sabahi is similarly abandoning Nasserist orthodoxies and embracing mainstream views within Egyptian politics. In this vein, he says he accepts Israel's existence and the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty as political realities, but won't meet with Israeli leaders. He also includes the United States and the European Union on the list of powers with which he anticipates having "balanced relations." And he favors a stronger role for Egypt in Africa, promising that, if elected, his first trip abroad will include stops in Sudan and Ethiopia, where he will try to resolve the Nile water crisis.
But despite Sabahi's sudden seriousness, the candidate faces an insurmountable shortcoming in the current political climate: Unlike Sisi, he isn't a "man of the state" -- and can therefore expect to find the country's institutions arrayed against him. In fact, a President Sabahi would be vulnerable to the same kind of insurrection from within Egypt's vast security apparatus that toppled Morsi last July.
In addressing these concerns, Sabahi slyly attacks Sisi. "Egyptians really need a man of the state, but not a state of one man," he told me in April, effectively accusing Sisi of dictatorial ambitions.
Sabahi's criticism of Sisi has been more explicit in recent weeks. He blamed the former defense minister for violating human rights, accused him of being supported by figures from Hosni Mubarak's regime, and publicly cast doubt on his commitment to democracy. When I asked Sabahi whether he viewed Sisi as an emerging dictator, he said it was a possibility. "It depends on many factors. We are part of it. We are not going to allow him to be a dictator, and not anybody else."Indeed, this is what Sabahi's candidacy is ultimately about -- building an alternative to Sisi and the strongman politics that he represents. But despite the earnestness with which Sabahi is pursuing this goal, there are two reasons his efforts will likely fall short. First, while Sabahi is an alternative to Sisi, he can't be the alternative. The primary division within Egyptian politics remains that between Islamists and non-Islamists, and Sabahi's self-described "democratic Nasserism" maintains a very narrow following within the latter of those two camps. In this respect, Sabahi's candidacy is quite similar to liberal candidate Ayman Nour's 2005 campaign against Mubarak: Nour was simply another non-Islamist candidate, not a serious alternative to Mubarak's entrenched regime, and he ultimately garnered only 7.3 percent to Mubarak's 88.6 percent -- before the regime jailed him. Second, the emerging regime won't allow Sabahi to establish himself as an alternative. The arrests of his campaign workers, as well as the violent assaults against his staff, represent warning shots should Sabahi press his case against Sisi too hard. And the regime knows that he might: Sabahi has four decades of experience in rallying protesters to the streets, and he personally mobilized his supporters during the 2011 and 2013 uprisings that catalyzed Mubarak's and Morsi's respective ousters. Given the current political climate -- in which not only Islamists but activists who campaigned for Morsi's toppling now sit in prison for resisting the current government's edicts -- Sabahi will likely be forced to choose between abiding by the regime's "red lines" as part of a "loyal opposition," or not politicking at all. Still, there is always the remote possibility that Sabahi will surprise everyone -- say, by winning 25 percent of the vote. If that happens, it will indicate that significant opposition to Sisi exists even among those Egyptians who otherwise support the post-Morsi transition process. For this reason, Sabahi is an important test case for the extent to which competitive politics can and will exist under Sisi. More likely, however, he's a doomed canary in a toxic coal mine.

**Eric Trager is the Wagner Fellow at The Washington Institute.

Syrian Air-Defense Capabilities and the Threat to Potential U.S. Air Operations
Chandler P. Atwood and Jeffrey White/Washington Insitute/May 23, 2014
The regime's air defenses have been weakened by the war, leaving room for low-risk air operations that could achieve important military and humanitarian objectives with reasonable investment of resources.
On May 17, the Syrian regime lost Lt. Gen. Hussein Ayoub Ishaq, its top air-defense commander and one of the highest-ranking military officials killed since the conflict began in 2011. Although it is unclear exactly what impact the general's death will have on the war, the loss will likely come as a psychological blow that further degrades the morale of the air-defense forces. Given this development and the effects of three years of fighting, what kind of threat does the regime's air-defense system represent now?
One oft-cited risk of any U.S. or allied air operation in Syria is the regime's potential ability to defend its airspace. Built and maintained with Russian assistance to confront Israel's air force, Bashar al-Assad's air-defense system appeared to be formidable -- at least on paper -- before the onset of the armed rebellion. Since then, the system's ground-based capabilities, including surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and antiaircraft guns, have been reduced by a combination of factors: attrition of equipment, forces, and critical leadership; disruption of routine training and maintenance; probable neglect; diversion of personnel and equipment to support operations against the rebels; and rebel seizure of key deployment areas in northern and southern Syria. As for air-based capabilities, the Syrian air force -- once one of the largest in the Middle East -- is not believed to pose a serious risk to air operations. Over the past three years, it has suffered from pilot desertions/casualties, poor aircraft maintenance, and lack of the kind of pilot proficiency training needed to effectively impede a sophisticated strike package. Syria's aging Soviet fighter aircraft require extensive maintenance and spare parts to remain mission capable, a process that has been neglected during the war. The regime has devoted much of its remaining air capabilities to rudimentary -- yet lethal -- bombardment and basic resupply operations in support of its counterinsurgency campaign. Nevertheless, the regime's air defenses retain some capability, especially in the Damascus area, where ground-based defenses tasked with protecting key leadership positions and military facilities are dense and overlapping and have more modern or upgraded SAM systems. A U.S./allied air operation over that area would require extensive planning, support, and air assets (strike, surveillance, reconnaissance, support). In contrast, air operations over the highly contested southern and northern parts of Syria would not require a large campaign to destroy the regime's remaining local air-defense assets. That goal could also be achieved with relatively limited risk, setting conditions for an international humanitarian assistance campaign or efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Prior to the war, the regime's air defenses included 22 early-warning sites, 130 active SAM sites, around four thousand air-defense guns, and a few thousand man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). This allowed for dense coverage of major cities and economic centers closest to Israel, especially the coastal region, central-western Syria (Homs, Hama), the Damascus area, and the south. Northern and especially eastern Syria, which are much less heavily populated, were less heavily defended. Syrian air defenses are still well equipped today but have sustained considerable setbacks. Many systems have likely been maintained poorly, and their operators are probably distracted by the war and inadequately trained and exercised. Although the August-September 2013 chemical weapons crisis and the threat of U.S. strikes may have given the regime incentive to improve readiness, no significant air-defense exercises appear to have been conducted in some time. Equipment, personnel, and facilities have been lost in the course of the war or diverted to fighting the rebels, and a number of early-warning radar and air-defense sites in the north, in the Damascus area, and adjacent to the Golan Heights have been overrun by opposition forces, creating gaps or weakening coverage. Furthermore, the regime's air defenses are not properly integrated to ensure seamless and timely command, control, and communications (C3) against all types of threats. The system is capable of successfully engaging predictable and benign targets but is probably not agile enough to counter a well-orchestrated surprise attack.
For example, the June 2012 shoot-down of a Turkish RF-4E reconnaissance jet showed that Syrian air defenses can still engage certain targets. Yet this was an isolated incident that occurred under ideal conditions against a single close-range, benign target. When confronted by a coordinated airstrike operation, regime forces would likely exhibit pervasive air battle mismanagement, including delays in detection and timely coordination of engagements to the unit level. Their ability to conduct sustained air-defense operations under attack is also questionable. Many missile support facilities have been lost or damaged in the course of the war, and the lines of communication over which redeployment and resupply operations would have to take place are under constant rebel threat.
Even so, the regime does retain small numbers of advanced systems that are technically capable of taking out multiple simultaneous targets, including cruise missiles and highly maneuverable fighter aircraft. After Israel's unimpeded 2007 airstrike on the nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, Syria invested heavily in modern Russian systems to bolster its air-defense network. The focus was on upgrading the network's backbone, composed of Soviet-era SAMs from the 1950s and 1960s, including SA-2s, SA-5s, and SA-6s. Serious steps were also taken to upgrade the regime's SA-3s into a more mobile and digital system. In addition, Damascus acquired more sophisticated tactical SAMs, such as three batteries of the very capable SA-17 and three dozen of the close-range SA-22 systems that reportedly downed the Turkish jet in 2012.
Syrian air defenses are probably not prepared to counter a limited strike that exploits their lack of systems integration. This Achilles heel derives from the regime's antiquated, semiautomated "man in the loop" C3 system, its overreliance on vulnerable communications networks, and its centralized air battle management construct. Given these issues, there would be significant lag time between initial detection of intruders by early-warning radars and the issuing of engagement orders to various air-defense sectors and air bases. Moreover, outdated early-warning radars and the C3 network's susceptibility to electronic attack would likely prolong this delay even further, forcing individual units or elements into isolated and autonomous operations and making them more susceptible to attack and jamming.
These vulnerabilities have already facilitated multiple strikes by Israeli aircraft since 2007 and increasingly since 2013. The al-Kibar strike was conducted deep inside Syrian airspace, albeit in the northeast sector where air defenses are minimal. As part of that mission, Israeli fighter jets are said to have evaded air-defense sites near the Syria-Turkey border and along the coast with sophisticated electronic deception capabilities, opening a route from the Mediterranean Sea to the nuclear facility far inland.
Israel has also reportedly conducted around a half-dozen airstrikes on military targets during the current conflict, including within the vicinity of the heavily defended capital. These limited strikes surprised the Syrians and were effectively unimpeded. According to U.S. media reports, last year's attacks on Damascus-area weapons caches were conducted by fighter aircraft employing standoff weapons, which can be launched without penetrating Syrian airspace or the densely overlapping air defenses protecting the capital. Such weapons were likely used to avoid the risk of operating in range of those defenses.
If the United States and its allies decided to launch air operations against Syria, they would face varying conditions depending on the campaign's scope and intent. Notably, the regime's air defenses could not effectively impede limited surprise attacks relying on standoff munitions. Such attacks would be analogous to the reported Israeli strikes against specific, well-defined targets.
Air operations over the highly contested southern and northern parts of the country, such as Aleppo, Idlib, and the so-called Southern Front, would not require a large campaign to achieve localized air superiority. Allied operations to destroy the remaining air defenses in these areas could be conducted with limited risk while reaping several potential benefits, such as weakening regime military capabilities, supporting the provision of humanitarian assistance, altering the balance between moderate and extreme rebel groups, and enabling drone operations to gain intelligence and strike high-value targets.
The capital air-defense sector still poses a credible threat to allied air operations. Where air defenses densely overlap and incorporate more sophisticated mobile SAMs (e.g., upgraded SA-6s and SA-3s or more modern SA-17s and SA-22s), the threat level increases and would pose a formidable challenge in the early stages of a campaign. To further complicate matters, these forces would likely disperse in the event of attack, remain dormant during initial operations, and then reappear in new locations to engage unaware aircraft.
To dismantle the Damascus-area integrated air-defense system (IADS) and enable follow-on operations, allied forces would need to conduct an air campaign involving electronic, cyberwarfare, and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capabilities; standoff weapons for use against C3, fixed SAM, and early-warning radar sites; and, most likely, stealth aircraft to carry out strikes on the more advanced SAMs around Damascus. Given that U.S. forces have successfully conducted campaigns against very similar (and equally disjointed and degraded) air-defense systems, they could likely achieve air superiority in one to two weeks with zero to minimal casualties. Going forward, U.S./allied air operations in Syria must be weighed against a number of operational scenarios, using a clinical, up-to-date assessment of the regime's capabilities in those scenarios. It is far too simple to say that the Syrian air-defense network is either a major threat or no threat. Some operations with potentially important objectives, such as degrading regime military capabilities and supporting humanitarian missions, could be conducted at relatively low risk and with reasonable investment of resources. In short, U.S. air action in Syria does not have to be all or nothing. Maj. Chandler Atwood, USAF, is a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute. Jeffrey White is a defense fellow with the Institute and a former senior defense intelligence officer. The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors; they do not reflect the official position of the U.S. government, Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force, or Air University.

Iran Court Convicts Editor, Author of Banned Daily
Naharnet/An Iranian court convicted on Sunday the editor and a contributor of a banned newspaper over a series of charges, including lying about Islam and spreading anti-regime propaganda, reports said.
The media watchdog banned the reformist Bahar daily in October 2013 after it published an article the authorities deemed as an insult to Shiite Islam for questioning one of its core beliefs.
Its editor-in-chief, Saeed Pourazizi, who was detained and released on bail following the closure, was on Sunday convicted of "propaganda against the establishment and spreading lies and rumors," ISNA news agency reported. The Tehran criminal court found Ali Asghar Gharavi, the article's author, guilty of writing "against the standards of Islam" and "spreading lies and rumors," the agency added.
The court also ruled the newspaper was guilty of spreading "propaganda against the establishment and insulting Islam and its sanctities."The decision could see Bahar permanently banned, while Pourazizi and Gharavi now have to wait for the court's ruling on their sentences. President Hassan Rouhani, a self-declared moderate who has pledged to implement more freedom, has said the closure of newspapers must be taken as "a last resort". But three reformist dailies have so far been banned by the press watchdog since he took office in August. SourceAgence France Presse

Nasrallah: We Want President Who Won't 'Stab Resistance' and We Hold Onto 'Golden Equation'
Naharnet /Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday his party does not want a president who would “stab the resistance in the back,” accusing the March 14 camp of seeking an extension of President Michel Suleiman's term through fielding a “confrontational candidate” to block the election of a “serious nominee.”
“We are before a very important and critical period that has started today,” said Nasrallah, a day after Suleiman left the Baabda Palace upon the end of his six-year tenure, which witnessed a war of words with Hizbullah in recent months over the so-called army-people-resistance equation.
“Some parties are used to launching accusations of obstruction but the issue cannot be tackled through rumors and accusations,” Nasrallah added in a televised speech marking the Resistance and Liberation Day, referring to allegations that the Hizbullah-led March 8 camp was behind impeding the election of a new president.
The Hizbullah leader called for dealing with the vacancy period “calmly and without any tension” even if it is a "grave situation, as some parties have said.”
“This must only prompt further calm and negotiations,” he said.
“We must all exert efforts to shorten this stage by electing a president as soon as possible instead of waiting for international and regional changes,” Nasrallah noted.
He pointed out that there is still “a real domestic, Lebanese chance to elect a strong president who can preserve stability and civil peace in the country and who enjoys real popularity. A president who can reassure all the parties so that Lebanon can overcome this difficult period.”
Nasrallah accused the rival camp of fielding a “confrontational candidate” – Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea -- to block the election of a "serious nominee” and seek the extension of Suleiman's term.
Geagea's nomination was officially endorsed by March 14 while Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, an ally of Hizbullah, had stressed that he would only run in the race as a “consensual candidate.”
“According to my information, the other camp's real plan was not at all the election of a president before May 25, but rather the extension of the president's term. Let no one say that we had obstructed the election,” said Nasrallah.
“For the sake of this proposed extension, we were offered several concessions but I don't want to reveal the secrets at the moment,” he added, stressing that the other camp's alleged project “has failed.”
Nasrallah underlined that his party wants the election of a new president “as soon as possible.”
“But of course we don't want a term extension and we cannot tolerate it,” he added.
“We're not seeking a president who would protect the resistance in Lebanon, as the resistance in Lebanon is protecting the state, the country, the people, the sovereignty and the nation. We want a president who would not conspire against the resistance and who would not stab the resistance in the back. We want him to maintain his stance on the resistance,” said Nasrallah.
On the conflict in neighboring Syria, Hizbullah's leader said the regime and the "resistance axis" which includes his group will emerge victorious.
"Syria will triumph and the resistance axis will triumph," Nasrallah said.
Hizbullah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to support President Bashar Assad's forces against rebels, saying they are defending an "axis of resistance" against extremist Islamist groups, Israel and the West.
Nasrallah's speech came two weeks ahead of a presidential vote in Syria that is widely expected to return Assad to power.
"Syria is advancing towards a presidential election that no amount of foreign intimidation or mockery by those who call themselves the 'Friends of Syria' can block or stop," he said.
The exiled opposition and its Western backers, who have held several international meetings under a “Friends of Syria” umbrella, have ridiculed the June 3 vote as a "farce."
On the conflict with Israel, Nasrallah stressed “the importance of the policy of deterrence against the enemy, which means Lebanon's possession of a strength that can deter the enemy.”
“Only strength can protect Lebanon's land, people, institutions, state, resources, water, oil, gas, entity, existence, future, dignity and sovereignty,” he stressed.
“We stress our commitment to the golden army-people-resistance equation, whether or not it was written in the cabinet's policy statement,” said Nasrallah.
Commenting on recent border incidents, Hizbullah's number one warned that “Israeli violations have recently increased on the international border with occupied Palestine, such as threats against citizens, abductions and attacks and shootings against Lebanese shepherds and farmers.”
“These things must be addressed. The normal approach is that the (Lebanese) army and the UNIFIL must intervene and address these issues and as long as the situation has not reached a dangerous level, the state can tackle things. But should things continue in this manner, we must address it,” Nasrallah said.
He warned Israel that “the resistance won't stand idly by if violations on the border reach an extent that requires our intervention.”
“We won't remain silent over any attack against our people along the international border,” vowed Nasrallah.

Abbas Meets al-Rahi, Awards Him High-Ranking Decoration
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi held talks Sunday in the West Bank city of Bethlehem with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who awarded him the Star of Jerusalem, a high-ranking Palestinian medal. According to Lebanon's state-run National News Agency, the meeting was also attended by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, top peace negotiator Saeb Erakat and former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah. A number of ministers, lawmakers, ambassadors and clergymen were also present at the talks. Al-Rahi is accompanying Pope Francis on his first visit to the Holy Land, where the pontiff was welcomed Sunday by thousands of cheering Catholic pilgrims as he celebrated mass in Bethlehem. The patriarch had arrived Friday in Jordan, accompanied by Bishop Boulos Sayyah and Bkirki spokesman Walid Ghayyad, embarking on a trip that has stirred a wave of controversy and dismayed Hizbullah. “I took the permission of the president and the premier to visit the Holy Land. I am committed to Lebanese laws,” he told France 24 TV network after landing in Amman. “This is our land,” he stressed. Prior to the visit, the Palestinian president had rejected arguments that the patriarch's trip to occupied Jerusalem is tantamount to “political normalization” with Israel, noting that it would serve the Palestinian cause.