LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/ I am
the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they
die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die
John 11,17-27/When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’
editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For
The plight of Christians in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity/Written by : HRH the Prince of Wales/ May 27/14
The future presidents of Iran and Syria/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 27/14
In Egypt, El-Sisi’s victory may be short-lived/By: Sarah Hynek and Andrea/May 27/14
Sisi will win Egypt’s vote, but what then/bY: H.A. Hellyer/Al Arabiya/May 27/14
The Daily Star Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 27/14
Pope Francis's Middle East Visit
Netanyahu: Security barrier saves lives, anti-Israel incitement makes it necessary
Pope: Christians, Jews, Muslims will work together to end conflict
Pope at Kotel: I pray God will make peace
Pope at Yad vashem: 'Never again, Lord!'
Pope: Reject violence in the name of God
Pope makes detour visit to terror victims
Pope's Mideast visit filled with precedents
Pope's trip a delicate dance around politics
I want to teach Jews I'm not their enemy
Lebanese Related News
Plumbly: There is No International Impediment to Electing President
Fletcher Meets Salam, Calls on Officials to Find Compromise to Elect President
France Seeks to Press Election of President via Security Council
ISGL calls for presidential election without delay
Lebanon is fine, summer will be good: Machnouk
Continuity of state institutions vital: British Ambassador
Nasrallah slammed for ‘arrogance,' 'intimidation'
Nasrallah’s latest war speech is taken literally by Israeli military chiefs
Nasrallah says the resistance protects the president not vice versa
Sound monetary policies protected currency: Salameh
Legislative work in vacuum unnecessary: Aoun's bloc
"Cana" ship collects scientific data off Lebanon's coast
Syria Opposition Urges Lebanon Not to Return 'Refugees Fleeing Assad Tyranny'
Aoun won’t run unless race is 'serious'
Legislative work in vacuum unnecessary: Aoun's bloc
Rockets hit Bekaa in retaliation for Syrian strike
Lebanon to extradite Saudi Islamist
Kataeb Urges MPs to Secure Quorum for President Election, Hails Suleiman
Cabinet unconstitutional without president: Gemayel
Chief of Protocol at Baabda Palace passes away
LU contract professors to strike May 27-28
Berri Calls on Parliament to Convene on June 9 to Elect President
Syrian Warplanes Raid Outskirts of Arsal as Two Rockets Hit Bekaa Plain
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Turkish court asks Interpol to arrest former IDF chief Ashkenazi, 3 others for flotilla raid
Jordan expels Syrian ambassador
Sisi poised to win presidency as Egyptians vote
Despite nuclear probe progress, IAEA access to key Iran site elusive
Syria expels Jordan envoy in tit-for-tat move: ministry
Pope: Christians, Jews, Muslims will work together to end
Sara Miller/Published: 05.26.14/ netnews
Francis expresses 'hope pain of those afflicted by conflict in mideast will soon be eased,' tells Peres 'you are a man of peace, I admire the path you have taken.' The overarching message of Pope Francis's speech in his meeting with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Monday was the urgent need for peace. Francis praised Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, for his efforts to solve the conflict. "You are known as a man of peace and a maker of peace, and I express my admiration and thankfulness for your attitude," the pope told Peres. Urging both sides to work together to find a resolution, the pope expressed "hope pain of those afflicted by conflict in Mideast will soon be eased." "I'm happy to meet you in Jerusalem, the guardian city of the holy places," the pope said, calling for "open access" to worshipers of all faiths - Jews, Muslims and Christians - to the holy places in Jerusalem. "The holy places are not museums or monuments for tourists, but places where communities of believers live their faith, their culture, their charitable efforts. Thus, one must constantly protect their sacredness, thus protecting not only the legacy of the past but also the people who worship there today and those who will worship there in the future," Francis said. Reiterating his condemnation of "anti-Semitism in all its possible forms," the pope also criticized the vandalism and "manifestations of intolerance against persons or places of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims," after a recent spate of vandalism committed by Jewish nationalists against Muslim and Christian sites.
Peres returned in kind, saying he believed Francis' visit would contribute to revitalizing the peace process with the Palestinians, "based on two states living in peace, a Jewish state, Israel, and an Arab state, Palestine." The president praised the humility in the pope's nature, noting that "the power in your spirit raised a spiritual elation and a thirst for peace. The values which you stand for enrich us and bring righteousness between people.""Sadly, rotten apples are also exposed," Peres continued, touching upon those who rage war and prevent peace. "Those who plant the seeds of evil today are the terror organizations. They have no pity and spread destruction. They kill without judgment, without distinction, without pity without logic," he said. "We must stand together to prevent the menace on the lives of people and on world peace.""The world is shocked by the blood that is shed in city squares, and in the thick of villages. The blood of the clean-handed is crying from the land. The blood of the innocents, the blood of children which had yet to taste the flavor of life," Peres continued. Turning to religious leaders of all faiths, Peres asked to "show moral responsibility in the face of moral corruption."
"It is our duty that our children, the children of the world, regardless of religion or nationality, may live without fear and grow up in a world free of slaughter, a world which allows each person to live as a human being," he added. The president also stressed the importance of meetings between religious and political leaders. These encounters, he said, have the "ability to enhance political aspirations with the religious authority necessary to enable the compromises needed to achieve peace.""I believe that your visit and call for peace will echo through the region and contribute to revitalizing the efforts to complete the peace process between us and the Palestinians, based on two states living in peace. A Jewish state – Israel. And an Arab state - Palestine," Peres told the pope. "The threats of war will not bring peace. The dead will offer no praise. Only constructive perseverance can achieve peace. Only peace has the power to uproot poverty, overcome despair. Only peace can free people from tyranny," the president stressed. "To the skeptics we shall say that we achieved peace with Egypt and Jordan, despite the fact that many saw this as a distant dream," he added. Concluding his speech, Peres insisted the dream of peace is not yet dead, and can still be reached. "I was young and now I am old. I learnt that dreams do not age and I recommend to all act accordingly."Following their public comments, Francis and Peres planted an olive tree - a sign of peace - in the garden of the President's Residence, and then held a private meeting. **AFP and Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report.
The plight of Christians in the Middle
East, the cradle of Christianity
Written by : HRH the Prince of Wales
Monday, 26 May, 2014
For more than 20 years, I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding between them. Islam is the second-largest faith community in the world and the second-largest in Britain, and so bridges between Islam and Christianity are something that must concern every responsible person. That is one of the reasons I have been happy to be involved in many faith bridge-building projects, including helping establish the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and setting up the Prince’s School for Traditional Arts in 2004. In 2008, I was honored to be the first Westerner and Christian to receive an honorary doctorate from the 1,000 year-old Al-Azhar University in Cairo, and will continue, God willing, to build bridges whenever possible.
I have for some time felt great concern about those of all faith communities in the Middle East who are suffering so grievously at the present time. The rights of all people of faith in the Middle East should be respected. But it saddens me deeply that the ancient Christian communities are among those facing growing difficulties, despite the fact that part of their long and deeply rooted history in the region is testimony to the tolerance and understanding Muslim leaders have shown in the past. It seems to me that the bridges of understanding which matter to us all are being deliberately destroyed by militant fundamentalists with a vested interest in doing so—and this is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organized persecution. It is my fervent hope and prayer that this should cease.
It is essential to remember that Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East. The church communities there link us straight back to the early Church, as I was reminded by hearing Aramaic, Jesus Christ’s own language, spoken and sung in the Syrian Orthodox Church in London I visited a few months ago. The region has for 2,000 years enjoyed such a rich panoply of church life in the Middle East, including the Antiochian, Greek, Coptic, Syrian and Armenian Orthodox Churches; the Melkite, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Chaldean and Roman Catholic Churches, as well as the Church of the East and churches established somewhat more recently, including the Anglican Church. Yet, today, the Middle East and North Africa have the lowest concentration of Christians in the world—just four per cent of the population—and it is clear that the Christian population of the Middle East has dropped dramatically over the last century and is falling still further.
This has an effect on all of us, although, of course, primarily on those Christians who can no longer continue to live in the Middle East; we all lose something immensely and irreplaceably precious when such a rich tradition begins to disappear. It is important to note that Arab Christians—Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, Egyptian, as well as those from other Arab countries and from Iran—are not Western Christians living in the Middle East, but native Arabs and Middle Easterners and, as such, are an integral part of the very fabric of society in many Middle-Eastern countries. During my visits to the region I have been fascinated and encouraged to learn about the many links and friendships which cross the boundaries between ethnic and faith groups.
I am fully aware that the Middle East is not the only part of the world in which Christians are suffering and that it is not only Christians suffering there. But, given the particularly acute circumstances faced by the church communities in the Middle East today, I felt it is essential to draw attention to their current plight. In this regard, I welcome the efforts being made to preserve the traditions of hospitality and moderation in the Middle East, in spite of the current severe strains. As my wife and I saw for ourselves during our visit last year, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has once again fulfilled its enormously hospitable obligations and taken in a huge number of refugees, this time from Syria during the present troubles. Both under the late King Hussein, and under His Majesty King Abdullah II’s leadership, Jordan has proved a most heartening and courageous witness to the fruitful tolerance and respect between faith communities. Others in the region are displaying amazing humanity in receiving huge numbers of refugees, despite putting immense strain on their resources.
However mixed the picture elsewhere, I salute the efforts made by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and others, to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding. I was also pleased to meet Christians from many backgrounds and congregations during a visit to Qatar in February.
Now is the time to redouble our joint efforts to stress what binds the three Abrahamic faiths together and, as Christians, Jews and Muslims, to express outrage at what tears us asunder. In doing this, it is important to remind ourselves that an emphasis on love of neighbor and doing to others as we would have them do to us are the ultimate foundations of truth, justice, compassion and human rights—the same way that the Common Word initiative of 2007, now endorsed by so many leading Muslim scholars, sought to point out. Such profound wisdom is at the very heart of all three religions, however obscured the message may have become.
My special thoughts and prayers, therefore, are for all beleaguered communities, of whatever faith and denomination. Beyond prayer, we must also speak up for such communities, and work to help them, along with all our Muslim friends. Does the Qur’an not say:
For each among you, We have appointed a law and a way. And had God willed, He would have made you one community, but [He willed otherwise], that He might try you in that which He has given you. So vie with one another in good deeds. Unto God shall be your return, all together, and He will inform you of that wherein you differed. (The Table, 5: 48)
HRH the Prince of Wales
Berri Calls on Parliament to Convene
on June 9 to Elect President
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri set June 9 as a new session to elect a president, reported the National News Agency on Monday.
This will mark the sixth presidential elections session. Four of the past five sessions failed to be held due to a lack of quorum at parliament given the March 8 alliance's boycott of the meeting due to the ongoing dispute with the March 14 camp over the elections. “I will call for a parliamentary session on the first day of vacuum if there is a vacancy in the president's post,” Berri told lawmakers at the start of the last session that was held on Thursday. “There is no need to specify certain dates for sessions because I am ready to invite MPs whenever I see that there would be quorum,” he said. President Michel Suleiman's term ended over the weekend after six years in office.
Syrian Warplanes Raid Outskirts of
Arsal as Two Rockets Hit Bekaa Plain
Naharnet/Syrian warplanes raided on Monday the outskirts of the border town of Arsal in northern Bekaa with several missiles. The National News Agency reported that the area of Wadi Hmeid on the outskirts of Arsal was targeted with four missiles. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said that the Syrian regime hit the areas of al-Ajram and Wadi al-Zaarour with six missiles. The radio station said that the warplanes targeted Syrian opposition groups. Later, the NNA reported that a rocket fired from the Eastern Mountain Range (on the Lebanese-Syrian border) landed in the Bekaa town of Nabi Othman. Another rocket targeted the international highway that links northern Bekaa with the Syrian town of Homs. The Army Command said in a statement that two rockets hit the public road between the towns of al-Labweh and al-Nabi Othman, lightly wounding a citizen and damaging a number of shops. The mountainous area has long been a smuggling haven, with multiple routes into Syria that have been used since the conflict began in March 2011 to transport weapons and fighters.
Syria Opposition Urges Lebanon Not to Return 'Refugees Fleeing Assad Tyranny'
Naharnet/The opposition Syrian National Coalition on Monday urged Lebanese authorities not to turn back refugees fleeing the brutal war in the neighboring country and expressed its “intention to revise treaties” signed between Lebanon and Syria. “We fully understand the unbearable burdens that this refugee influx inflicts on Lebanon at the demographic, economic, security and social levels,” the Coalition said in a “letter to the Lebanese people,” the third since the Syrian revolt started in March 2011. “As the Lebanese state practices its rights and performs its duties, it must not allow that refugees fleeing the Assad regime's tyranny be handed over to it under one excuse or another,” the SNC added. It said it extends its hand to the Lebanese government and concerned NGOs to “help alleviate Lebanon's burdens and the refugees' suffering.”Separately, the Coalition said it intends to coordinate with the Lebanese government in order to “revise the treaties and agreements that were signed during the era of detestable hegemony over Lebanon.”The SNC stressed that it will seek to establish “sound diplomatic relations between the two countries, to demarcate the border and to seriously look into the issue of Lebanese detainees and missing persons in order to resolve it in a clear, fair and satisfactory manner.” “Our revolution does not need to use your Lebanese land in its battle (against the regime) and it is not using it,” the Coalition said in its letter, accusing “the criminal regime” of seeking to “reshuffle cards and gain time.”And as the SNC condemned Hizbullah's military role in the Syrian conflict, it rejected “any retaliatory acts against our innocent brothers in Lebanon, whatever sect they may belong to.” Eight non-governmental organizations have recently urged Lebanese authorities to “immediately stop the deportation” of Palestinian refugees fleeing war-stricken Syria. Earlier in May, Human Rights Watch and a U.N. refugee agency expressed concern that Lebanon was blocking Palestinians fleeing Syria from entering the country. UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, said it was "concerned about the increased restrictions on Palestine refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria from entering Lebanon."HRW, meanwhile, criticized Lebanon for refusing entry to Palestinians from Syria and returning them to the war-torn country. It accused Lebanese authorities of "arbitrarily" denying entry and documented the deportation of around 40 Palestinians accused of having forged documents. Lebanese authorities have not announced a blanket ban on the entry of Palestinians from Syria, but government sources have confirmed a general policy to keep out Palestinians fleeing the conflict. Lebanon is home to more than a million refugees from Syria giving it the highest refugee population per capita in the world. On Friday, the government formed an emergency committee to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis. The UNHCR's periodic report revealed last week that the number of Syrians who fled the war-torn country had reached 1,058,088. The United Nations has called for gathering USD 1.89 billion to support Lebanon in dealing with the refugee crisis in 2014, but has only received USD 242 million of the total amount.
Change and Reform Bloc Says No Legislation Except for Reforming Political System
Naharnet /The Change and Reform bloc announced after its weekly meeting on Monday afternoon that all legislation amid the presidential vacuum is “illegitimate.”“Except when it's concerned with reforming the political system, such as voting on an electoral law,” a released statement read by former Labor Minister Salim Jreissati said after the meeting. "And our priority remains electing a new president and reaching consensus over an electoral law,” he stressed. "We underscore the importance of consensus and abiding by the National Pact in the coming stage.” Earlier in the day, Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun slammed the presidential vacuum, saying it damages the legitimacy of other state authorities. “We tried to avert vacuum... Our principles, which were based on a series of national postulates, were clear,” Aoun said in a press conference in Rabieh. He pointed out that the introduction of the constitution states that “any authority that violates coexistence has no legitimacy.”The FPM leader told reporters that “vacancy at the helm of the presidency causes malfunctions at all other state powers unless the matter is linked to the country's higher interest or the re-establishment of an authority.”“We will only deal with the parliament and cabinet based on these to principles.”The Christian parties from the March 8 and 14 coalitions plan to boycott legislative sessions comes after parliament failed to elect a new president. Aoun said that “no one has yet nominated him for the presidency,” adding that “when the real battle kick starts” he might run for the post. On his rapprochement with al-Mustaqbal Movement, Aoun said that “when I become a president, I will head to Paris and bring (head of al-Mustaqbal movement Saad) Hariri back to Lebanon. Aoun continuously said that he will not announce his candidacy for the presidency if there was no political consensus on him. He said last week that he wanted to be part of an "integrated triangle" along with Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal Movement, angering several parties for leaving out key political components out of his proposal. “We reject to interfere in the local affairs of any state and refuse any intervention in ours,” Aoun stressed. He also criticized the United Nations “that has no right to meddle in the local affairs of any country.”The Christian leader described the election of a new head of state as a “necessity.”“The country cannot go on without a president.”
He pointed out that his party is “seeking to end vacancy,” considering that “a president who is accepted by all sects and rejected by the Maronites cannot be elected.”“We want a strong and active president to take power even if he had limited jurisdiction.”Aoun denied that his ties with Speaker Nabih Berri are “tense,” criticizing the reports. “They are mere rumors,” the FPM chief said. Asked about attempts to extend ex-President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure, Aoun said that the matter was suggested to the political arch-foes. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Suleiman's mandate ended on Sunday with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last four sessions due to a lack of quorum. The political paralysis is mainly due to a deep rift between two rival camps over the conflict in Syria, the powerful neighbor that dominated Beirut for almost 30 years until 2005.
Kataeb Urges MPs to Secure Quorum for President Election, Hails Suleiman
Naharnet/The Kataeb Party on Monday called on parliamentary blocs to “end obstruction” and secure the needed quorum for the election of a new president, stressing that the parliament cannot act in legislative capacity amid a presidential vacuum. In a statement issued after the weekly meeting of its political bureau, the party urged lawmakers to “abide by their constitutional and national duty and elect a president in order to put an end to the current state of vacuum and contribute to restoring balance and orderly work at state institutions.”Kataeb called for tackling the current political situation according to the constitution and the National Pact of coexistence, underlining that it considers the parliament “an electoral and not a legislative committee” during the period of presidential vacancy.
The party said the parliament “must immediately embark on electing a president without any delay and without discussing any other issue, in line with Article 75 of the Constitution.”
It reiterated that the government must not practice full presidential powers during the vacancy period and that it must act in caretaker capacity. The Kataeb Party also called on "the partners in the country" to "acknowledge the authority of the state and its embracing and protective role," emphasizing that the state should protect everyone through its legitimate forces.Turning to the issue of former president Michel Suleiman's term of office, the party lauded the ex-president's “approach,” especially “the neutrality stipulated by the Baabda Declaration, the administrative decentralization proposal and the inevitable national dialogue.”Suleiman's six-year term ended on Saturday with parliament failing to elect a successor due to the ongoing differences between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over the elections. The dispute prompted the March 8 forces, namely Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement, to boycott the majority of presidential elections sessions.
Plumbly: There is No International Impediment to Electing President
Naharnet /United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly lamented on Monday the parliament's failure to elect a new president, expressing the U.N.'s regret over the emergence of vacuum in the presidency. He said: “We underline again that there is no international impediment to the election.” “On the contrary, while the process must remain a purely Lebanese one, Lebanon’s friends within the international community stand ready to offer Lebanon every possible encouragement and support at this time,” he added after meeting with members of the International Support Group for Lebanon.
He therefore called on Lebanon’s leaders “to engage intensively to ensure the election of a new president without delay.”In addition, Plumbly said: “We call on the leaders to ensure that the government is able in this new circumstance to act effectively, as it has to date, to address the economic, security and humanitarian challenges facing the country and to meet Lebanon’s international obligations.”
The International Support Group is committed to continued support for, and partnership with, the government as it seeks to achieve these objectives, he stated. “We underline again the importance for confidence and stability of avoiding a prolonged vacancy in the presidency,” remarked the U.N. official. He also stressed the importance of parliamentary elections being held on time in accordance with democratic practice. Furthermore, Plumbly paid tribute to former President Michel Suleiman’s leadership “during six critical years and to his commitment to Lebanon’s unity and stability, to keeping it safe against the backdrop of the conflict in Syria and to international cooperation not least in respect of the International Support Group and the implementation of United Nations resolutions in particular resolution 1701.”Suleiman's 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, namely Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement, to boycott the majority of the presidential elections sessions.
Fletcher Meets Salam, Calls on
Officials to Find Compromise to Elect President
Naharnet/British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher stressed on Monday the need for the election of a president in Lebanon, saying that the opportunity to choose a President “Made in Lebanon” remains despite the vacuum in the presidency. He said: “We are in a new phase. But Lebanon has come through tough times before. With the right spirit of responsibility and compromise Lebanon can come through this.”“President Michel Suleiman led Lebanon through six turbulent years with great wisdom and dedication, never ceasing to promote dialogue and compromise,” he stated after holding talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam. “We hope now that Lebanese leaders will show that same spirit, putting aside factional interests to respond to the challenges facing the country, as they did in the formation of Salam’s government,” he added. “Continuity of state institutions is vital,” remarked Fletcher. “There is no magic international fix” to the deadlock over the presidency, he added, while noting: “It is a dangerous illusion to pretend that there is.”“Lebanon needs a president to take this country forward. To provide the balance its institutions require. To confront massive humanitarian, economic and political challenges. To lead much needed dialogue,” added the ambassador. Moreover, he said: “Lebanon needs a president chosen because of what he or she can offer the country, not what they offer regional or local allies.”“The international community needs a president too, as a partner for the support we want to give for stability,” Fletcher continued. “As we enter this new phase, the UK will continue to help to build the Lebanon that its talented and resilient people deserve,” he concluded. 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, namely Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement, to boycott the majority of the presidential elections sessions.
France Seeks to Press Election of
President via Security Council
Naharnet /The United Nations Security Council is mulling a French draft resolution regarding the importance of electing a new head of state in Lebanon and end the presidential deadlock.
According to a report published on Monday in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, the Security Council is discussing ways to convince the political arch-foes to elect a new president to fortify state institutions and safeguard the country. The draft also aims at dissociating Lebanon from the conflict in the neighboring country Syria and calls on political foes to abide by the Baabda Declaration. However, the daily said that Russia hasn't yet agreed on the draft. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Suleiman's mandate ended on Sunday with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Over the past two months the parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last four sessions due to a lack of quorum. The political paralysis is mainly due to a deep rift between two rival camps over the conflict in Syria, the powerful neighbor that dominated Beirut for almost 30 years until 2005.
Nasrallah’s latest war speech is taken literally by Israeli military chiefs
DEBKAfile Special Report May 26, 2014/The Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s belligerent speech Sunday night, May 25, on the 14th anniversary of the IDF’s withdrawal from south Lebanon, was taken by Israel’s top military chiefs as the precursor for operational plans to bring his forces up to the Israel border in South Syria and the Golan – not just to fight Syrian rebels, but to challenge the IDF.
This conclusion is shared by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and his deputy Maj. Gen. Gady Eizenkott. debkafile’s military sources say they have been watching the spate of reports Damascus and Beirut have been planting in the last fortnight, which describe Hizballah as poised for a major offensive to prevent Syrian rebels taking Quneitra opposite Israel’s Golan border.
The Israeli army is accused of backing them with firepower.
The official Saudi publication Okaz reported Saturday, May 17, that Hizballah had sent surveillance teams to the battle ground to lay the ground for an operation to keep the vitally important Golan town from falling to rebel forces. The next day, Sunday, Damascus issued an official notice of the death of Lt. Gen. Hussein Ishaq, Syrian Air Defense Chief, of wounds he sustained Saturday in an Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra attack on the Mleia base outside Damascus. The Syrian government is known never to report the deaths of high-ranking officers. This unusual release raised suspicions in Western intelligence sources. They wondered what an officer so senior was doing in this small base, and how he came to be caught up in a local firefight. The answer they came up with was that the late general was sent to Mleia to prepare Syria’s air defenses as cover for a Hizballah operation. The rebels discovered this and ambushed his convoy before it reached the base.
Other Saudi sources disclosed Saturday, May 24 that the Iranian Al Qods Brigades chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who is in charge of his country’s military operations in the Syria conflict, had arrived in Damascus to study the state of battle on the Golan, although no other source has confirmed this. From the Israeli side, our sources report that no major Hizballah troop advances have been sighted heading in the direction of southern Syria and the Golan - only the advance surveillance teams which turned up briefly last week on the Syrian side of the Hermon range overlooking the Golan.
Nevertheless, Nasrallah’s speech set off alarm signals. In all the many pugnacious speeches the Hizballah chief has delivered against Israel in his 22 years as secretary general of the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah, he has never before gone into detail on the intelligence he claims to have obtained on IDF operations. But in his latest peroration, he did just that - in reference to alleged IDF actions in southern Syria.
“When the senior strategist of Hizballah – or any military group – shows off his intelligence on enemy moves in detail, that is a declaration of war,” said one Western military source.
Nasrallah made it clear he was not talking about Israel’s medical aid to rebels wounded in battle, but the IDF fire he said was aimed at Syrian units and positions on the Golan. Its purpose, he said, was to carve out a security zone in southern Syria. “This would not be a ‘good fence,’” he said (in reference to the friendly border between South Lebanon and Israel in the years 1978 and 2000, that was manned by the IDF-founded South Lebanese Army). It will be much more than that.” Nasrallah accused Israel of incursions across the “land border between Hizballah and Israel,” including the shooting of farmers. “Until now we haven’t reacted, but left it to the Lebanese army and UNIFIL,” he said. “But no more: For the next violations, we will hit back at once,” he said.
This was taken by Israel’s military chiefs as a threat by Hizballah to make war on Israel from two fronts: Lebanon and Syria.
The future presidents of Iran and
Monday, 26 May 2014
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
In an unprecedented move, the head of the Syrian coalition Ahmad al-Jarba dared to meet with head of the Iranian opposition Mariam Rajavi. The Iranian regime considers Rajavi to be a red line and considers dealing with her as unacceptable behavior. Jarba and Rajavi both agree on opposing the Iranian regime and both aspire to lead their countries towards a better future. Jarba may be luckier in making it to his country’s capital, Damascus. However Rajavi, who’s been tirelessly fighting for 35 years, has a rather more difficult task and she will probably spend the rest of her life in Paris.
Meeting with Rajavi is a smart move because it’s the first practical response against the Iranian regime which is actually leading the war in Syria and supporting it with funds and manpower. There’s no longer a justification for the Syrian opposition to respect anything when dealing with the Iranian opposition. Engineer Mariam Rajavi is one of the figures who harms the Iranian regime the most, and the latter has failed to eliminate her. She gains her power from leading the People's Mojahedin Organization Of Iran, which combines leftism with Islam. Over a time period of three decades, no Arab regime - except for Saddam Hussein - dared support the movement. “The gravest crime Tehran committed is in Syria as the Iranian regime is responsible for the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of Syrians”
When it comes to relations with Iran, what is left to respect when it is responsible for most of the region’s problems? The gravest crime Tehran committed is in Syria as the Iranian regime is responsible for the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. If it hadn’t been for Iranian support, Bashar al-Assad’s regime would have collapsed during the initial stages of the conflict. Iran’s support of the Syrian regime is costing the Iranian people billions of dollars and thousands of their sons. The result will be a huge disappointment. Assad’s regime resembles Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq as despite all the weapons and suppressive apparatus the latter had, Saddam ended up losing power.
What can Jarba do for the Iranian resistance?
I asked an expert what the significance of this group that lives in Europe is. He said that in addition to shedding light on the People’s Mojahedin of Iran movement and to bringing it back to the region after the Americans silenced it and abandoned it following their occupation of Iraq, the Syrian opposition can establish special relations with it since it is a trained group capable of threatening the Iranian regime. As long as the Iraqi regime wants to get rid of Camp Ashraf and its residents – made up of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran members - it’s expected to later move the camp to Syria. In addition to the People’s Mojahedin of Iran members who are present in Camp Ashraf, there are thousands of others who belong to the movement in Europe and the United States. All those are capable of allying with the Syrian opposition to fight the Syrian and Iranian regimes. He added that cooperating with them may not alter the balance of power but it does send an important message. The first of these messages is that Tehran’s government must realize that supporting Assad has a political price that includes allying with the People’s Mojahedin of Iran. The second one is that the Syrian opposition is not sectarian and is aware of the Iranian regime’s habit of exploiting religion. When Jarba puts his hand in the Iranian opposition’s hands, he’ll prove he’s neither against the Iranian people nor against the Shiites and that he’s against the evil regimes of Tehran and Damascus. The third message is to respond to the Iranian intelligence community’s move of supporting the fake Syrian opposition that in fact supports the Syrian regime and aims to replace the real Syrian opposition which the coalition and the Free Syrian Army represent. All of the region’s regimes somehow suffer from opposition mounted against them. However, Iran -which uses the “oppositions” of the region’s countries against them - is in fact a country made of glass. Iran is the country with the most domestic threats as there are many parties inside Iran that disagree with the regime and that are acting against it - even though only a fraction of this activity is reported by the media. These parties’ members have infiltrated the regime itself and possess huge manpower in terms of Iranian expats living in the West. There are also opposition groups consisting of minorities such as the Arabs, Azeris and Baloch peoples. There are also the Kurds who are the strongest and most militarily active group in the north west of the country. By meeting with Rajavi, Jarba has ended the Arab rupture with the Iranian opposition and has opened the door for the rest of Iran’s opposition parties to communicate with him.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 26, 2014.
Ashton, Zarif to meet in Iran to
discuss nuclear talks
AFP, Reuters /Published: 05.26.14
Iran's foreign minister says West should 'stop demanding too much,' be remains optimistic compromise was still possible despite the difficulties.
TEHRAN - EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are to meet Monday in Istanbul to
review progress on negotiations toward a nuclear deal, Iranian news agency ISNA
reported, citing a source close to the Islamic republic's nuclear negotiating
team. The previously unannounced two-day meeting comes after fruitless talks
between Iran and world powers in Vienna earlier this month when no "tangible
progress" was made ahead of a July 20 deadline. Zarif, speaking in Tehran before
leaving for Turkey, said a compromise was still possible despite the
difficulties. "They should stop demanding too much. We have our red line, and
they too want assurances that our nuclear program will always remain peaceful.
We believe these two add up," the state news agency IRNA quoted Zarif as saying
on Monday. "I feel the realism awakened from the last round of talks will bring
us closer to conclusion. We may be able to remove one of two of the previous
hurdles, or rather face new ones. In any case, we should make an effort to pass
through this phase." Iran considers the right to enrich uranium for nuclear
energy a red line but that levels of enrichment are negotiable. Enriched uranium
provides power for nuclear generating stations but also, if refined to a high
level, for atomic bombs. The powers want Iran to agree to scale back enrichment
and other proliferation-prone nuclear activity and accept tougher UN inspections
to deny it any capability of quickly producing atomic bombs, in exchange for an
end to economic sanctions. Zarif said world powers should refrain from
additional pressure on the Islamic Republic to force it into concessions.
"Sanctions haven't served them any purpose, only led to our making 19,000
centrifuges," he said, according to IRNA, referring to the machines that enrich
uranium. Zarif left Tehran at around 10 am (5:30 am GMT) and will head to
Algeria Tuesday when his meetings with Ashton end.
No representatives from the P5+1 group - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany - that is negotiating with Iran over its nuclear activities will be at the meeting, the report added. No further details of the discussions between Zarif and Ashton were disclosed but several issues reportedly remain. These include the scope of Iran's enrichment of uranium, which if further purified could be used to trigger a nuclear explosion, and its unfinished Arak research reactor, whose by-product waste could provide an alternative route to an atomic bomb.
Iranian and Western negotiators said major gaps remained after the talks in Vienna, which failed to spark the start of producing an early draft of a comprehensive agreement. Iran's refusal to include its development of ballistic missiles at the nuclear talks also reportedly caused a rift in Vienna.
But all sides have since expressed willingness to continue the talks in the coming months, with the P5+1 seeking to curb Iran's nuclear activities which international monitors suspect could be masking military objectives. An interim deal reached in November between Iran and the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany could be extended for another six months should the sides fail to reach a long-term settlement by July 20. But Iran is eager for a speedier resolution to the conflict. "If we do not reach agreement by (the self-imposed July deadline), we still have another six months, but our goal is to reach a conclusion in these two months," said Zarif. Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weaponry and insists its atomic work is for purely civilian purposes, needs relief from damaging economic sanctions imposed over its disputed nuclear activity in order for President Hassan Rouhani to fulfil his election campaign promise last year of bringing Iran out of international isolation.
In Egypt, El-Sisi’s victory may be
Sarah Hynek and Andrea/26 May 2014/
Democracy and government
Presidential frontrunner and former military chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi can rely at present on considerable public support. But this support appears to be less substantial than the Egyptian media machine projects, and will not last unless he is able to address Egypt’s deep economic, political and social problems.
Anniversary commemoration of the April 6 movement. Demotix / Mohamed Kamal
Since July 3, 2013 and the military takeover that removed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi from power, Egypt’s former military commander and current presidential frontrunner Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has been glorified as the nation’s saviour.
He has used that public and media support to imprison Muslim Brotherhood supporters and other voices of political dissent under Egypt’s newest fight against terrorism. Stigmatising and persecuting dissenting voices focuses public attention away from essential economic and political reform. Instead, it helps legitimise the regime’s battle against ‘Egypt’s enemies.’ While this strategy may strengthen the new regime’s rule in the short term, it will also lead to increased political polarisation, dehumanisation of political dissent, and further strain the fabric of Egyptian society.
When Egyptians took to the streets on January 25, 2011 they rallied for economic reforms, freedom and social justice. Under Morsi’s Islamist-led government these demands were neither tackled nor adequately addressed. Instead Morsi’s non-Islamist opposition found they were increasingly alienated from the political process as the Brotherhood sought to consolidate its hold on power. This eventually led to mass consensus and mobilisation seeking Morsi’s removal, of which the military and its allies in the old order were quick to take advantage.
The period since Morsi’s removal has been characterised by the silencing of political and ideological rivals. The Brotherhood’s support base has been imprisoned by the thousands by security forces and very likely tortured. And with the top tiers of Brotherhood leadership behind bars, the youth are now running the organisation on the ground. With their allies in the anti-coup movement, they continue to rally behind Morsi’s reinstatement as Egypt’s democratically elected and legitimate president.
Additionally, groups like the April Sixth Youth Movement have also been targeted. Its leader, Ahmad Maher, imprisoned, as other key activists have been, including women’s rights advocate Mahienour El-Massry, targeted for protesting illegally under Egypt’s draconian new protest law. Ironically, she was demonstrating in solidarity with Khaled Saeed, a young man whose death at the hands of security services was one of the events that sparked the 2011 revolution.
El-Sisi will seek to strengthen his own legitimacy and the Army’s through the electoral process and he will almost certainly win. However, his victory will not reflect his support on the ground. Many opposition movements have boycotted the elections, including Islamist groups (with the exception of the Salafist Nour Party), liberal groups like April Sixth, and a great number of individuals, especially youth, who are disillusioned with the broader political context.
A study published by the Pew Research Centre conducted in April of this year revealed that 54% of those surveyed think of El-Sisi favourably and over the last year support for the institution of the military has decreased from 73% to 56%. Thus, while the media scramble to contribute to El-Sisi’s cult of personality by portraying him as Egypt’s saviour, fighter of terror, and most-recently, defender of Islam, public opinion seems less inclined to accept this image than the Army elites might have wanted.
While Egyptians may currently support the regime-endorsed focus on ‘stability’ at the expense of individual rights and freedoms, this outlook will very likely change unless the Army leadership is capable of addressing Egypt’s deep socio-economic problems. Ironically, in the long term, this might end up renewing the strength and legitimacy of opposition groups, from the Islamist Brotherhood to the liberals and the left. Although elements of the old regime remain deeply rooted in the Egyptian institutional framework, individual political awareness has been changed over the past three years.
The January 25 Uprising opened up new spaces to question and actively engage with the regime, and while some paths have been closed, it seems only a matter of time before things change again.
Sisi will win Egypt’s vote, but what
Monday, 26 May 2014
H.A. Hellyer/Al Arabiya
“Numerous reporters are cancelling trips to Egypt to cover Sisi ‘coronation elections’ because their editors, or producers don’t care.”
- Borzou Daraghi, Middle East and North Africa correspondent for the Financial Times.
It is not that the election of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is insignificant in Egypt. Of course, it is noteworthy – the former defence minister is about to formally take the reins of government in a highly significant country for the international community. The relevance of the election, however, is highly diminished by the fact that no-one really doubts the outcome. Much of the Egyptian media continues to purport there is a race of sorts – but in reality, neither of the two candidates (and there are only two, compared to many more in 2012’s presidential election) doubts that by this time next month, President Sisi will be presiding over his government. The question is not if Sisi becomes president – it’s what he is going to do when he formally is.
The word “formally” is also important to put into the discussion. There has been an interim president since the former president, the Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Mursi was removed by the military last year. He has presided officially over the office of president since July 3rd – but few observers have been left in any doubt that if Sisi was not the power behind the throne, he certainly had the power of veto over other cabinet ministers. Whether he chose to use it or not on a daily basis is another question – but he certainly had it.
“Do Egypt’s youth, who account for the overwhelming majority of Egypt’s population, want a country more like what they remembered during the 2011 uprising?”
This will be different going forward – and it will, actually be different. There will be those that claim that a President Sisi will be little different from a Defence Minister Sisi, based on the inordinate authority he had as defence minister. It’s an understandable assessment, but ultimately a deeply flawed one. Not so much due to incorrect appraisal of Sisi’s power as defence minister – that much is clear – but the nature of his position going forward, and the nature of the state itself.
We are all curious
Observers and analysts, Egyptians and the international community, are all curious – what will a presidency occupied by Sisi look like in its policies? It’s a difficult question to answer, given the lack of information his campaign has provided on all manner of issues related to specific policies. However there is another critical question to ask, that is less about his micro-policies, or even his macro ones, which few seem to be asking – and that relates to Sisi’s vision of the nature of the Egyptian state itself.
Under Hosni Mubarak, who was removed by the military after the beginning of the January 25 revolution in 2011, the state’s elements and makeup were more or less clear. Even if unruly, it existed according to a certain kind of logic, regardless of its many unsavoury aspects. The last four years has seen that logic unravel – and no one knows what will take its place. The assumption unfolding in many quarters is that it will be simply a return of the “Mubarakian” state – but that set of agreements is over.
It is not to say that will come will be better than the Mubarakian system. The point is that it will be different – and it is still in the process of being formed. There will be different interests groups struggling for power dominance in the new arrangement. There may be many of the same actors and players – or if not them in particular, then those related to them in some way or another. It would be foolish to assume otherwise – but while that may tell us something about some of the elements that eventually get absorbed into the new accommodations, it does not tell us which elements will have what power positions. That, in and of itself, could make a great difference.
What differences will arise?
As of yet, we do not know what differences will arise. It could mean, however, that those who were a part of Mubarak’s wider network may turn out to be some of the new regime’s most critical foes. Their reasons will hardly be similar to why, for example, more progressive elements backed the revolution against Mubarak. But that does not obviate the possibility of their, nonetheless, playing a significant role in problematizing certain parts of Sisi’s forthcoming period in office. It’s entirely likely that the military apparatus will play an even more direct role in not only being an immensely strong pivot in Egypt’s power structure – but also at the heart of Egypt’s economic plans. That too will be different from Mubarak – and it will bring a different set of problems and challenges.
It ought to go without saying that none of this is what the revolutionaries who fought for the January 25 revolution had in mind when they went to the streets time and again over the past four years. Their struggle has morphed into something very different, with challenges they could not have begun to imagine. Mubarak’s system was an animal they understood and knew how to navigate. They ultimately set its destruction into motion. The forthcoming period will bring different kinds of opportunities, alternate trials they will have to endure, and distinctive tests they’ll be forced to pass. The more sage among them know that their struggle is not over, nor have they been defeated – but certainly, they’ve learned a revolution is not a moment, but a process.
The real question for them, as well as for Egypt’s new rulers – do Egypt’s youth, who account for the overwhelming majority of Egypt’s population, want a country more like what they remembered during the 2011 uprising? Or do they want a world inspired by a Sisi presidency? That is the real question – and sooner or later, Egypt will be forced to answer it. One way or another.