May 30/14


Bible Quotation for today/If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things

John 3,12-15/If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
May we enter into true friendship with Jesus, so that following him closely, we may live with and for him.
Pape François
Entrons dans une amitié profonde avec Jésus, ainsi nous pourrons le suivre de près et vivre avec lui et pour lui.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For May 30/14

Iran benefits from creative Arab chaos/By Michael Young /The Daily Star/May 30/14

Two ex-spies debate Saudi Arabia’s peace plan/By David Ignatius/The Daily Star/May 30/14

Has President Obama changed/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya/May 30/14


The Daily Star Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 30/14

Lebanese Related News

Kerry urges speedy presidential election in Lebanon

Lebanese patriarch backs followers in Israel

Police deny assassination attempt against Rai

Hezbollah commander killed in Syria

Hezbollah calls for deal to elect president

Syrian in Lebanon can vote at borders June 3
LU Professors striking again June 5 and 6
Christian ministers to attend Cabinet session

Lebanon first stop on German FM’s regional tour
Three tons of expired meat confiscated

Bassil seeks Turkey's help to free bishops
Two-pronged messages
Lebanon, a land of fat boys: study

Politics, economy harm Lebanon's olive oil

Al-Akhbar editor walks out of STL hearing

Syrian vote strands thousands of Lebanese

Lebanon's envoy to South Korea dies

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Vatican: Israel, Palestine prayer meeting June 8

Former Iranian commander beheaded in Syria

Iranian commander says collapse of US empire is near

Israeli military strike on Iran would be a 'grave mistake' while talks continue

The Tel Aviv couple’s Brussels killer got away clean after Belgians missed out on intelligence routine

'Islamic Movement in Israel serving as front for Hamas activities at Temple Mount'

Canada Concerned by Death Sentence for Sudanese Mother

Canada Appalled by ‘Honour’ Killing in Pakistan

Al-Sisi heading for a landslide win

Sabahi concedes defeat in Egypt election

Kerry troubled by reports of Chechen fighters in Ukraine
4,500 Syrians flee to Turkey in three days

Former Iranian commander beheaded in Syria
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News/Thursday, 29 May 2014
A former officer in Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards has been killed in fighting in Syria, Iranian media reported. Abdollah Eskandari had travelled to Syria, allegedly to defend the Sayyida Zeinab shrine in Damascus, a Shiite center of pilgrimage, Iranian news website Payvand reported on Thursday. Hardline Iranian news website Rajanews reported that Eskandari had been “martyred” on May 26, while other sources state that he was killed on May 22. His body has not been returned to Iran, reports said. Syrian news websites circulated a photo of a young man holding what was purportedly Eskandari’s decapitated head in his hand.
Ongoing deaths
Eskandari is one of more than a dozen individuals from Iran who have been killed participating in the three-year-long conflict, according to Iranian media, some with the sole purpose defending the shrine, which sits outside the war-wracked nation’s capital. Radio Zamaneh, a Netherlands based radio station, reported that over 60 Revolutionary Guards officers have been killed in Syria since 2011. Iranian officials continually reject accusations that their government is sending military forces to Syria to prop up embattled President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. As a key ally of Syria, Iran says it provides Damascus with military and financial support. However, Iranian media from time to time report the deaths of Iranian volunteer fighters there. Earlier this month, U.S. newspaper the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was offering Iranian residency and $500 monthly stipends to thousands of Afghans to fight Syrian rebels – claims dismissed “completely unfounded” by Iran’s foreign ministry, according to Agence France-Presse. “The claim of the U.S. paper is completely unfounded and is aimed at damaging Iran's reputation in Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said in a statement carried by Iranian media.

Al-Akhbar editor walks out of STL hearing
May 29, 2014/By Kareem Shaheen/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Ibrahim al-Amin, editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar, walked out of a contempt hearing at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon after accusing the court of “oppression” Thursday. The journalist left the controversial hearing after reading a statement denouncing the STL as a political tool whose backers fuel war and strife in Lebanon. “There appears to be no reason for my attendance,” Amin told Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri, accusing the Italian judge of imposing “oppressive measures” for interrupting his statement.  “I would like to go back to my home and my children,” he said. “You are a free man and nobody is oppressing you,” Lettieri replied. “You decided to come out of your own free will. You are a free man and can do what you want.”Amin walked out of a room where he appeared via video-link after the judge interrupted him to respond to the editor’s allegations that he was forced to show up.  In protest of the judge’s move, the journalist then said he would maintain “complete silence” throughout the proceedings and rejected any court-appointed defense lawyers. Seconds later, Amin removed his headphones and walked out of the tribunal’s offices in Monte Verde. In his statement, Amin rejected the STL’s authority and said it had failed to take the most basic steps to ensure a fair trial. “I do not accept the legitimacy of this court which was invented by the Security Council, which has never guaranteed global security,” he said. Amin said the Security Council failed to secure the rights of the Palestinian people and created the STL to investigate a single political assassination while ignoring Israel’s crimes during the 2006 War on Lebanon and the car bombings that swept Lebanon in recent months. He also added that the series of car bombings in Lebanon targeted people of particular sect, referring to Shiite dominated neighborhoods where Hezbollah enjoys wide support.  “No Security Council or international tribunal sprung into action,” Amin said.
Amin also said the tribunal was created in contravention of Lebanese political norms. “Your court, your honor, is part of a political course,” he said. The editor then said that the Lebanese and regional powers that backed the court were responsible for plunging Lebanon into continuous turmoil. “We all know that local, regional and international powers which stand behind the creation of the tribunal are the same that instigate enduring wars in my country, against my people, and against its heroic resistance that is standing up to American, European and Israeli terrorism,” Amin said.
Judge Lettieri then interrupted Amin, saying that he had chosen to appear with his own free will and that no arrest warrant had been issued against the editor, in response to the editor’s statement that he was almost forced to attend the hearing. “You chose to come and appear before the court,” Lettieri said. “We never used force against you. You could have declined the right to attend and the proceedings would have continued in absentia.” Lettieri also said the STL had no jurisdiction over the crimes Amin spoke about and that he could contest the tribunal’s right to prosecute him.
Earlier in the hearing, Amin, wearing headphones and speaking to Judge Lettieri, said he was appearing without a defense lawyer. He was representing himself and Al-Akhbar’s parent company.
The journalist is charged with contempt and obstruction of justice over news reports that included the names of alleged court witnesses. The court argues that such actions undermine confidence in its work.
Judge Lettieri read out the charges directed against Amin, but said the accusations were not motivated by the newspaper’s criticism of the tribunal. The editor of the pro- Hezbollah daily was initially supposed to appear before the court in mid-May, but asked for a postponement to appoint a defense lawyer. In a letter earlier this week, Amin outlined to the court a raft of concerns over his prosecution, including fears for his personal safety and questions over the STL’s right to prosecute journalists. The case has sparked a protest campaign in Lebanon, with opponents arguing that the STL is stifling freedom of the press. The court argues that it must act to protect witnesses. The STL is tasked with prosecuting those responsible for the Feb 14 2005 bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others, and plunged Lebanon into political turmoil. The U.N.-backed court has indicted five members of Hezbollah in connection with the attack. It will resume their trial in absentia in The Hague next month.


Hezbollah calls for deal to elect president
May 29, 2014/By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s deputy head Sheikh Naim Qassem Wednesday indirectly urged the March 14 coalition to reach an accord with March 8 on a consensus candidate to help break the presidential stalemate. He ruled out the election of a successor to former President Michel Sleiman unless there was an agreement beforehand between the March 8 and March 14 camps on a consensus candidate for the presidency. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale expressed regret that a new president was not elected on time, urging Parliament to pick a successor to Sleiman as soon as possible.
“As the Lebanese Parliament continues its effort to elect a president, the United States will continue its strong partnership with the Lebanese people, their leaders, and their state institutions to advance the goals of peace and stability, and help Lebanon fulfill its international obligations and insulate itself from the spillover of the conflict in Syria,” Hale said in a statement. Addressing an Islamic event ceremony south of Beirut, Qassem said: “We are clear: The presidential election in Lebanon cannot take place without an agreement.”
Referring to March 14 lawmakers who had attended five aborted Parliament sessions to pick a successor to Sleiman and the March 14 nomination of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea for the country’s top Christian post, he said: “These tricks will not lead to any real result with regard to the election of a president.”“Those who want the election of a president today and not tomorrow must follow the agreement path. Those who do not take this path, no matter what they do, will only reap a lot of political media rhetoric,” Qassem added.
His remarks came as the country found itself in a presidential vacuum after Parliament failed in its five attempts to choose a successor to Sleiman, whose six-year term ended Saturday.
Hezbollah and several other March 8 parties have rejected Geagea’s candidacy for the presidency as “provocative.”Parliament was unable to elect a president due to a lack of the two-thirds (86) quorum of the legislature’s 128 members required to begin the session. Lawmakers from MP Michel Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc, Hezbollah and its March 8 allies foiled a quorum by boycotting the sessions, apparently to pressure their March 14 rivals into a deal over a consensus candidate for the presidency. The presidential void has increased Christian concerns about the delicate power-sharing formula between Muslims and Christians.
For his part, Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel called for stepped up efforts to elect a president, warning that the presidential void would paralyze state institutions. “A vacancy in the presidency will lead to a vacuum in institutions. We should respect the National Pact [on power sharing],” Gemayel said following a meeting with a delegation from the Maronite League and the Maronite Council.
Gemayel warned against adapting to a situation without a president and called for the formation of a lobbying force to push for the election of a head of state as soon as possible.
He reiterated his party’s position that Parliament could not legislate while the presidency seat was vacant. “The party sees Parliament as an electoral rather than legislative body throughout the period of the presidential vacancy.”Meanwhile, Geagea challenged Aoun to run against him during next month’s Parliament session to elect a president. He also criticized Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s comments on the presidential crisis. The LF chief lashed out at March 8 politicians who labeled him a “provocative” candidate. “I am a Maronite Lebanese citizen and I enjoy all rights of a citizen. I am the head of the largest Christian party at present, and I have the right to run for president,” Geagea told a news conference at his residence in Maarab, north of Beirut.
“My program is clear and it is true that my opinions do not match the views of Hezbollah, but this does not mean I am running for the election to provoke or challenge anyone.”
Geagea rejected Aoun’s accusation that the LF chief’s bid contradicted the National Pact.
“Aoun does not have 65 votes among lawmakers. If he really has [the support] of this number, let them [March 8 lawmakers] go to the June 9 session to elect him president,” he said.
“If I am really a candidate who contradicts the National Pact as Aoun claims, he should be happy because he would definitely be elected president. If I am rejected by half of the Christians as he [Aoun] claims, he is also rejected by the other half.” Speaker Nabih Berri, who left Wednesday on a private visit to Italy, has called a new Parliament session for June 9 to elect a president.
Geagea also criticized Nasrallah’s recent comments that the March 14 coalition did not want the election of a new president because they sought the extension of Sleiman’s mandate.
“On what basis is Nasrallah claiming we did not want the election and that we wanted to extend Sleiman’s term? Our group proposed a presidential candidate and attended all Parliament sessions to vote for a new head of state. How can we be seeking the extension in this way?” he asked. Geagea accused Hezbollah and Aoun’s bloc of obstructing the presidential election by boycotting the parliamentary sessions held to vote for a president.

Two-pronged messages
May 29, 2014/The Daily Star/A good part of the Greater Beirut area was paralyzed Wednesday when Syrian nationals streamed to their embassy to vote in their country’s presidential election.
While the day’s events were of special importance to many Syrians residing in Lebanon, they also represented a wake-up call to Lebanese politicians, whose country hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees relative to its own population. Lebanon’s leaders should take careful note of the fact that tens of thousands of Syrians showed up, in an endorsement of their war-torn country’s controversial poll. They might have had a variety of reasons for doing so, and not all of them involve categorical support for the Assad regime, due to factors such as fear and intimidation. Anyone watching the scenes would realize that a great deal of organization – in the form of transport and other means – brought people from around the country to the embassy.
Politicians and officials should realize they are hosting many people who are prepared to show their support for the embattled Assad regime. These leaders should ask themselves, with their own country divided between supporters and opponents of Assad, and about the short- and long-term future of these guests: Who holds sway over them and their impact on the sensitive political situation in Lebanon, which is already reeling under the weight of economic and other burdens? Do they have a plan for dealing with these combustible elements? And if they do, does it enjoy true national consensus, or is it an off-the-cuff reaction that could cause more problems than it solves? While Syria’s election day in Lebanon sent a message of support to Assad, it may have sent a more important message to officials in its host country.


Kerry urges speedy presidential election in Lebanon
May 29, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday stressed the importance of rapidly electing a new Lebanese president, while praising former President Michel Sleiman for his work throughout his six-year term. According to Sleiman’s office, Kerry phoned the former president and congratulated him on his efforts to protect Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability and preserve national unity despite neighboring turmoil ad violence. Kerry reiterated his country's support for Lebanon and the Baabda Declaration, which the U.S. official said represented a cornerstone for future stability.
The declaration, Sleiman’s most renowned accomplishment, was signed by political leaders in 2012 to distance Lebanon from regional conflicts particularly the war in Syria. Kerry also emphasized the importance of a speedy election and said his country would continue cooperation with Lebanese officials and constitutional institutions. Sleiman thanked the secretary of state for the phone call, and took the opportunity to draw his attention to the burden of the Syrian refugees on Lebanon and the difficulty of tackling the crisis with minimal aid. Sleiman left Baabda Palace last week without a successor as Lebanese politicians remain at deadlocked over who to elect as a new head of state. With no candidate currently capable of winning the needed majority and a continuing lack of a consensus on a nominee, Lebanon’s presidential vacuum is expected to linger for a while


Hezbollah commander wanted by FBI killed in Syria
Published: 05.29.14/ Ynetnews/AP,7340,L-4525068,00.html
Fawzi Ayoub, also known as Abu Abbas, was wanted on charges of attempting to use a forged US passport to enter Israel.

BEIRUT - A Hezbollah military commander wanted by the FBI was killed in Syria while fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces against rebels trying to overthrow him, Lebanese security officials said Wednesday. Fawzi Ayoub, a commander for the Lebanese Shiite militant group, was killed in combat in Syria last week, said security officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to speak to journalists. Ayoub, also known as Abu Abbas, was a dual Lebanese and Canadian citizen. He was wanted on charges of attempting to use a forged US passport to enter Israel. A Twitter account by a pro-Hezbollah media arm known as Mouqawama also confirmed Ayoub's death Wednesday, posting a picture of him performing Islamic prayers, dressed in a military uniform. The Iran-backed Hezbollah openly joined the Syrian conflict last year. The group's fighters have been instrumental to Assad's success on the battlefield, tipping the balance of power in the now 3-year-old conflict in the government's favor after ousting predominantly Sunni rebels from their strongholds along the Lebanese border and near Syria's capital, Damascus.
The United States has declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Ayoub was placed on the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list after he had been indicted by the US Attorney's Office in eastern Michigan on August 5, 2009. They accused him of "willfully and knowingly" using and attempting to use "a false, forged or counterfeit US passport in order to gain admittance into the state of Israel for the purpose of conducting a bombing on behalf of Hezbollah." Ayoub was arrested in Israel in June 2002 on charges that he entered the country with an attempt to organize Palestinian attacks. He was released two years later in a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah.

The Tel Aviv couple’s Brussels killer got away clean after Belgians missed out on intelligence routine

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 29, 2014/As time goes by, the chances grow fainter of catching the murderer of the Tel Aviv couple Miriam and Emmanuel and Riva at the Jewish Museum of Brussels and two other victims on May 24. The Belgian general prosecution handed the case to State Security, after rating it a terrorist-motivated crime and failing to turn up a single lead. debkafile’s intelligence sources report that in the absence of strong interrelations between Israel’s intelligence bodies and Belgian GISS, the intelligence-gathering teamwork essential for solving this sort of crime was not performed. And so the perpetrator got away clean. The counter-intelligence agencies of the Belgian capital, albeit home to NATO and European Union headquarters, have had no experience of terrorism in many years and therefore lowered their guard. In other cases, fast cooperation with Israeli intelligence led local preventive agencies to immediate results. The host agencies wasted no time in handling the “forward” operations such as wiretaps, surveillance, arrests and interrogations – after sealing off the crime scene and escape routes – while Israeli experts provided guidance for logistics.
Had the initial work been entrusted without delay to bodies with sigint (signal intelligence) capabilities, knowledge of the enemy, his methods of operation and even relevant languages or accents, the manhunt would have been launched sooner and been more effective. Even Open Source Intelligence (available on the social media) might have helped the investigators run to earth active or sleeper terrorist cells, monitored their mobile and online communications, IP addresses and analyzed targeted communications. With no arrests or leads, and without the aid of an ally or friendly superpower, the Belgian investigation has very little chance of catching the shooter or identifying the principal who would have ordered a targeted assassination.  Speculation is divided over the reasons for the Brussels killer deciding to stay on the scene after murdering the Israeli couple on the street. He subsequently turned to the museum’s entrance and shot dead two museum employees. A professional killer on contract, they say, would have made off without wasting precious escape time. Others surmise that he went into the second stage for the deliberate intent of obscuring his real mission and presenting the impression of an indiscriminate anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish target. The coming issue of DEBKA Weekly offers exclusive details and background for this perplexing crime.
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Canada Concerned by Death Sentence for Sudanese Mother
May 28, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:“Canada continues to be deeply concerned, especially following the birth of her baby in prison yesterday, with the well-being of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, the Sudanese Christian mother of two sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and to death for apostasy. “This case calls into question the Government of Sudan’s commitment to upholding its human rights obligations. “Canada has raised this matter directly with the Government of Sudan and continues to actively call upon it to respect the right to freedom of religion, including the freedom to choose one’s own faith and practise it in peace. This right is enshrined in international human rights law as well as in Sudan’s own 2005 interim constitution.”

Canada Appalled by ‘Honour’ Killing
May 28, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement: “Canada is appalled by the stoning of a pregnant woman by her family in Lahore, Pakistan on May 27, 2014. “Such events remain all too common in Pakistan, where, according to some estimates, more than 800 women were victims of so-called “honour” killings in 2013. It is unacceptable for the world to stand by and watch as the most vulnerable are targeted in such a brutal and barbaric way. “The fact that this killing was done publicly and in front of a Pakistani High Court is even more shocking. “Canada calls upon the Government of Pakistan to respect its international human rights obligations and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Thirty Christians Slaughtered As Sectarian Violence Plagues the Central African Republic
Islamic Militants Commit Mid-day Massacre At Church Compound
05/28/2014 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Muslim militants have attacked Notre Dame de Fatima in the capital city of the Central Africa Republic (CAR), Wednesday, May 28. The pastor of the church estimated that more than 30 were killed in the attack.
Notre Dame de Fatima, a Roman Catholic compound situated in KM5, a neighborhood located 5 kilometers (or 3.1 miles) from Bangui's city center, suffered an attack by Islamic militants allegedly affiliated with the radical Islamic insurgency known as Séléka. A coalition of largely Muslim forces, Séléka took control of the CAR on March 24, 2013, before being ousted from power in January of this year.

"We were in the church when were heard the shooting outside," Reverend Freddy Mboula told The Associated Press, saying, "There were screams and after 30 minutes of gunfire there were bodies everywhere."According to Reuters, the attackers hurled grenades into the compound's "garden," killing 30 of the hundreds that have reportedly sought refuge behind Notre Dame de Fatima's walls.
For months the CAR has been plagued by sectarian violence between Islamic militants, including active Séléka remnants, and anti-balaka (or anti-machete) militias, which have been widely associated with the CAR's Christian populations. Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga, told Vatican Insider, "the anti-balaka do not represent the ideas and beliefs of us Christians, even though they are associated with us."The anti-balaka militias, which initially formed to protect vulnerable communities, have committed reprisal attacks against both Séléka militants and Muslim civilians. Attacks by militia members on Muslim civilians have incited violent reprisals, including the massacre of a Christian family in Bangui and a series of violent attacks perpetrated Easter week against Christians.
Séléka (or "coalition" in Sango, one of two national languages in the CAR) formed as result of an agreement between a fundamentalist group that splintered off the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) and the Patriotic Convention for Saving the Country (CPSK). While not an overtly religious group, Séléka militants have committed egregious attacks against Christians throughout its 9-month reign under then-President Michel Djotodia.

Israeli strike on Iran would be a 'grave mistake' while talks continue
Michal Margalit /05.29.14 /Ynetnews /Israeli nuclear experts warn concessions Tehran has made so far on nuclear program are easily reversible. An Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear facilities is not a relevant option as long as Tehran continues negotiating with world powers over its atom program, Israeli nuclear experts said Thursday. An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report released last week noted that Iran has been significantly reducing its most sensitive nuclear stockpile, in accordance with an interim deal signed in November with world powers.
The IAEA report showed that since January, Iran had acted to reduce its stockpile of higher-grade enriched uranium gas – a relatively short technical step away from weapons-grade material – by more than 80 percent. Despite Iran's compliance with the terms of the deal, Israeli nuclear experts stress all of the moves Tehran has made in the hopes of gaining sanctions relief are reversible. So, if the Islamic Republic wanted to resume its attempts to produce a nuclear bomb, it would have no trouble doing so. "It needs to be said that everything (the Iranians) did so far will not prevent them, if they want, to change direction. All of the concessions they've made so far have been made for tactical reasons," said Prof. Meir Litvak, the director of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Prof. Litvak asserted the Iranians were only fulfilling their obligations because sanctions imposed on the country have yet to be removed, and Tehran is under pressure to relieve the Iranian economy. Considering the IAEA report, is an Israeli military strike on Iran still relevant? "Israel's military option doesn't exist right now because there is no chance the Americans would give Israel a green light for a military operation as long as there are negotiations with Iran on a permanent agreement."Prof. Litvak warned that "an Israeli military strike against Iran while international negotiations under the auspices of the United States continue would be a grave mistake. It would be an irresponsible move." Dr. Emily B. Landau, the head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), noted that while the Iranians are indeed complying with the interim agreement, their commitment is very limited.
"At first we heard a lot about the fact Iran is stopping its (nuclear) activity and in return receiving sanctions relief to give them some breathing space to negotiate a permanent agreement. But in actuality, it all comes down to their commitment to stop 20 percent uranium enrichment, and diluting the existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium."
While the IAEA report notes the Iranians now have very few kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium left, "you have to remember these processes are reversible. Meaning, you can turn the diluted uranium back to 20 percent," Dr. Landau said. "So while they are complying with the interim agreement, they continue 5 percent uranium enrichment." Iran also continues research and development of new and advanced centrifuges that can spin at very high speeds, an issue that is not addressed in the interim agreement. "It's very concerning, because the moment you have centrifuges that spin in much higher speeds, you can enrich the 5 percent uranium to levels higher than 90 percent, much faster," Dr. Landau explained. "It neutralizes the importance of limiting enrichment to 20 percent. The Iranians are not allowed to use these advanced centrifuges, and they are indeed not using them, but they're allowed to conduct experiments. As long as they keep working on them, their nuclear program hasn't been stopped," she added. Dr. Landau agreed with Prof. Litvak's assertion that as long as the international community is negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program, a military option is not realistic.
"It's unlikely the military option will be used, even though it's possible that Israel sees value in sending threats of that nature as part of a general dynamic. You have to differentiate between talking about using military force as a threat that is meant to pressure Iran during the negotiations, and actually using military force," she concluded.

Iran benefits from creative Arab chaos
May 29, 2014 12:12 AM
By Michael Young /The Daily Star
With all the attention focused on a nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, there has not been much discussion in the West of the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East. While Arab states, particularly in the Gulf, have expressed anxiety with Iran’s growing power in the region, little has been said about the limits of Iranian ambition and the strong counterreactions it has provoked and will continue to provoke. Iran has a finger in several Arab pies. Tehran’s influence over Iraq and its government is said to be significant. In Lebanon, the ties with Hezbollah have given it a major role in deciding the fate of the country. In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Iran has re-established ties with a financially strapped Hamas. And in Syria, Tehran has greatly expanded its authority, having played an essential part in bolstering Bashar Assad’s regime.
However, just leaving matters there means ignoring the tremendous contentiousness and complexity of any Iranian project for regional hegemony.  The primary medium through which Iran has extended its influence is Arab Shiite communities. The most obvious problem here is that in no Arab country do Shiites rule on their own. Everywhere, even where Shiites form a majority, they must coexist with sizable Sunni minorities, and the perception of an Iranian threat has usually meant that these Sunnis are, or quickly can become, mobilized against Shiite power plays. A second problem is geographical. The continuity of territory between Iran and the Levant (or Iran and Yemen), which can allow Iran to arm and assist Shiite communities there, is never uncontested. This has created a vulnerability in the Iranian position, pushing the Islamic Republic to frequently resort to Shiite communal solidarity, which itself has hardened sectarian fault lines and redoubled the obstacles Iran faces. In Iraq, the Shiite-centered policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have only generated discontent among Sunnis and Kurds. The Iraqi government is facing a full-fledged revolt in Anbar, a consequence of its mismanagement of relations with the Sunni tribes that had spearheaded the Sahwa, or Awakening, movement. Jihadist groups have sought to take advantage of the ensuing sectarian tensions. As for the Kurds, earlier this week Massoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, threatened to take Kurdistan out of Iraq if Maliki was appointed to a third term as head of government. There are many specific disputes between the Kurds and the government, but Barzani has been particularly critical of Maliki’s methods of governance in the past. As they survey this state of affairs, are the Iranians happy? There is a view that as Tehran cannot control Arab countries directly because of their sectarian makeup, it is left with playing on their divisions. An astute observer has suggested that Iran benefits from “creative chaos” (a term once directed against American neoconservatives) in the Arab world. Unable to impose a classical model of hegemony in the region, it is destined to look for openings in its chronic disorder.
To a large extent that conclusion is true. But Iran is also a country of institutions, where the impulse is to create permanence. Its strategy in Lebanon, which involved anchoring Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Shiite community, is a prime example of this and a particularly successful one. In contrast, when it comes to Syria, Tehran’s most important battlefront today, the Iranians have kept Assad’s regime in place. But they have done so by effectively pushing a policy that partitions Syria, with their focus on consolidating Assad’s control over Damascus, the coast, the border with Lebanon and all regions in between. Outside that vital area, the Iranians seem little concerned with what happens. Nor have they presented a proposal for a political settlement of the conflict, one that can reunify the country.
All this leads to a more nuanced interpretation of Iranian power, one that involves two sets of contradictory objectives: In some countries where it sees the possibility of controlling the commanding heights of decision-making, the Islamic Republic will perpetuate dynamics of unity. Lebanon is a good example.
However, in countries where political, sectarian and ethnic divisions make this impossible, Iran will exacerbate fragmentation. In that way, it can control chunks of a country, usually the center, while enhancing the marginalization and debilitation of areas not under its authority. Iraq and Syria are good illustrations of this version of creative chaos. Whether the Iranian approach has been an effective one is a different question altogether. Certainly, it has given Tehran considerable latitude to be a regional player and obstruct outcomes that might harm its interests. But there is also fundamental instability in a strategy based on exploiting conflict and volatility, denying Iran the permanence it has historically achieved through its creation of lasting institutions. Ironically, the United States may help Iran in this regard. If a nuclear deal is reached this year, it could prompt the Obama administration to engage Iran in the resolution of regional issues. This recognition of Iranian power will reinforce those in Tehran who seek a greater say in the Arab world. But if what we have seen until now is anything to go by, it may not necessarily lead to a more settled Middle East.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

Two ex-spies debate Saudi Arabia’s peace plan
May 29, 2014/By David Ignatius /The Daily Star
Getting the former spy chiefs of Israel and Saudi Arabia to talk together about peace is hardly a breakthrough, but it at least helps keep alive the idea of an eventual Israeli-Palestinian settlement.
Sharing a public stage in Brussels Monday were Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, and retired Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israeli military intelligence. The gathering was sponsored by the German Marshall Fund, of which I’m a trustee. It was streamed live on the Internet around the world, including to Muslim countries where the very idea of such an open discussion is heresy.
There aren’t records kept of such things, but this appeared to be among the highest-level public conversations ever between senior members of the Israeli and Saudi establishments. It came about because Turki asked in Munich four months ago for an Israeli response to Saudi King Abdullah’s Arab Peace Initiative. Yadlin said he wanted to deliver a public answer, and when I asked Turki to join the dialogue, he agreed.
I wish real peace talks were as easy as these back-channel discussions. And even in this 90-minute conversation there were significant disagreements. But the two agreed that Abdullah’s peace initiative should be seen as a framework for discussions, rather than a diktat to the Israelis, and that issues such as borders, the status of refugees and Jerusalem must be negotiated.
A similar framework approach was attempted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry until it imploded last month after the Israeli announcement of new apartments for settlers and the Palestinians’ refusal to bargain. You could argue that returning to the peace train is a waste of time, given such intransigence on both sides.
And yet the talks continue, as in the conversation Monday, and the reason is obvious: Even premier Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas recognize that they have terrible options if hope for peace really disappears. Meanwhile, the international community continues to push the parties to settle this conflict. The latest evidence is Pope Francis’ statement during his visit to the West Bank last weekend that the stalemate is “increasingly unacceptable” – and the agreement of Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to meet him next month in Rome.
Pope Francis could even propose the Saudi peace initiative as one framework for his talks. As expressed in Brussels by Turki, it would include a promise of Arab recognition of Israel and an end of the conflict, if workable compromises can be found on the hard issues of borders, refugees and Jerusalem.
Yadlin feels so strongly that Israel needs a settlement that he proposed a “Plan B” if other options fail. He wants Israel to open the way for a Palestinian state by withdrawing unilaterally to defensible borders. He would offer financial and other incentives to coax resettlement inside Israel by what he estimates to be 60,000 to 100,000 Israeli West Bank settlers who would be on the other side of the new declared boundary. Such unilateral moves have a history of backfiring (think Gaza), but many thousands of Israelis agree with him that some version of Plan B makes more sense than continued occupation.
What the Brussels meeting showed me, finally, is that Israel and Saudi Arabia agree on most other major security issues in the region, if they could just broker a Palestinian settlement. On Syria, for example, Turki outlined a plan for aiding the moderate opposition and Yadlin said he “agreed with every word” of Turki’s answer, and then went even further by proposing steps to dismantle Syrian air power.
On Iran, too, the two countries have a similar view of the need for negotiations to halt any Iranian bomb-making capacity. Turki again went further, proposing that Israel should forswear the bomb in a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East that would be guaranteed by the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Given that the U.N. couldn’t agree on even the mildest sanctions against Syria after it used chemical weapons, Yadlin explained why Israelis wouldn’t trust such a plan. But it was good to hear the two discuss the usually undiscussable.
The Brussels conversation was just so much talk, a cynic might say. And it will surely take more pain to convince Abbas and Netanyahu that the benefits of a peace agreement are worth the political price. But listening to this discussion was a reminder that the status quo really isn’t tenable. Several weeks after Kerry’s negotiations broke down, sensible people are already talking about how to get them started again.
**David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.


Sabahi concedes defeat in Egypt election
By Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News /Wednesday, 28 May 2014
Leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi conceded defeat in Egypt’s presidential election on Thursday, after preliminary results gave former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi more than 93% of the vote.
“I accept my defeat and respect the people’s choice” in the three-day election that ended on Wednesday, Sabahi told a news conference in Cairo. The official voter turnout figures were an “insult to Egyptians’ intelligence,” he said. Sabahi vowed to continue the “fight against tyranny and corruption,” and pledged not to reconcile with “terrorism,” in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is blacklisted by the state as a terrorist group. Judicial sources said Thursday that Sisi won 93.3% of votes cast with most ballots counted. Sabahi gained 3%, while 3.7% of votes were declared void, Reuters reported.  All results announced by campaigns or judges supervising polling centers are still considered unofficial, and must be verified and announced by the Presidential Elections Commission. Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour said turnout had reached 46%, the Associated Press reported. The vote showed “broad consensus for the roadmap” announced after the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July, Mansour added.
Tepid turnout
However, a lower-than-expected turnout has raised questions about the credibility of Sisi, idolized by his supporters as a hero who can deliver stability. Critics said the lack of enthusiasm at the polls was in part due to apathy among even Sisi supporters, knowing that his victory was a foregone conclusion. Others said it shows discontent with him, not just among his Islamist foes but also among a broader section of the public that believes he has no concrete plans for Egypt’s woes and fears he will return the country to the autocratic ways of Hosni Mubarak.
The tepid turnout was particularly embarrassing because the government and media had been whipping up adulation for Sisi over the past 10 months, depicting him as a warrior against terrorism and the only person able to tackle Egypt’s economic problems, high unemployment, inflation and instability.
Sisi’s supporters in the Egyptian media had been in a panic the past two days. Political talk show hosts and newscasters urged people to vote, warning that otherwise the Brotherhood would be encouraged to step up its challenge to the new government.
By not voting, Egyptians might as well “go directly to the prison and return Mohammed Mursi to power,” said prominent TV talk show host Amr Adeeb. The decision by the election commission to add another day of voting Wednesday raised complaints that authorities were tipping the playing field in Sisi’s favor. The stakes are high for him in a country where street protests have helped topple two presidents in three years. Since a series of TV interviews he gave ahead of the vote, many Egyptians feel Sisi has not spelled out a clear vision of how he would tackle the country’s problems, instead making a general call for people to work hard and be patient. He has presented vague plans to remedy the economy, which suffers from corruption, high unemployment, and a widening budget deficit aggravated by fuel subsidies that could cost nearly $19 billion in the next fiscal year. “All in all, the weak turnout will make it harder for Sisi to impose painful economic reforms that international institutions and investors are demanding,” said Anna Boyd, an analyst at London-based IHS Jane’s. Investors want Sisi to end energy subsidies, impose a clear tax regime, and give guidance on the direction of the exchange rate.


Has President Obama changed?
Thursday, 29 May 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya
U.S. President Barack Obama’s West Point speech on Wednesday confirms that he views the world more realistically and has a deeper understanding of the world than before. It would have been possible to avoid years of suffering and mitigate threats if the American government had fully understood developments on the ground at an early stage. Despite that, it’s important to work with the U.S. all over again to curb the chaos created by terrorism in the region and to stop the tragedy in Syria.
President Obama came close to saying he intends to change the situation in Syria when he said he wants to support the opposition, or rather ramp up support, for those who offer the best alternative to terrorists and a brutal dictator. This is what head of the Syrian national coalition Ahmad al-Jarba called for during his recent visit to the White House. He said the world must choose between a brutal regime which the majority of people reject, terrorist groups wreaking havoc in Syria or the moderate Syrian opposition that includes all sections of Syrian society.
So, has the American government amended its stance on Syria and the rest of the region’s trouble spots?
Meeting with Jarba
President Obama’s meeting with Jarba occurred after the Syrian embassy in Washington was closed, as were Syrian consulates in Michigan and Texas. The meeting also occurred at the same time as reports spread that the U.S. approved handing over advanced weapons to some opposition groups so they can take on the Syrian army’s heavy artillery. Obama’s renewed interest in the Syrian cause also restored Europe’s concern and mobilized international attempts to take Syria’s war crimes to the International Criminal Court. Jordan also joined the fray by expelling the Syrian ambassador this week.
“We expect that international concern over Syria means that all solutions have become a serious option”
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Attempting to control the situation in Syria is no longer just an issue that concerns 20 million Syrians - who are suffering from the worst catastrophe the region has known in years - it’s instead become an issue that concerns everyone’s security. The large-scale expansion of al-Qaeda organizations - as thousands of youths and women join its ranks, increasing its ability to seize vast areas of land – poses a real threat beyond Syria’s borders. It is also part of a vast web of terrorism stretching from Yemen, Libya, and Iraq to south of the Sahara Desert.
We expect that international concern over Syria means that all solutions have become a serious option. The political solution won’t be realized before resorting to the military solution. Strengthening the moderate opposition’s military capabilities will besiege the regime forces and push the regime to once again return to negotiations.
If the Syrian regime’s key ally wants to challenge the new situation, then this will cost it more in terms of manpower and funds. Consequently, it will not be able to confront superpowers’ engagement in support of the opposition. This all depends on the American government’s seriousness and on how frank Obama really was being when he spoke of the importance of ending terrorism and supporting the moderate opposition.
*This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 29, 2014.