May 31/14


Bible Quotation for today/‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me
John 14,1-6/‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Pope Francis'as Tweet For Today
Every Christian can witness to God in the workplace, not only with words, but above all with an honest life.
Pape François
Chaque chrétien, à son poste de travail, peut porter témoignage, par ses paroles et encore avant par une vie honnête.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For May 31/14

Pope’s pilgrimage: full of headline-grabbing moments/By: Daoud Kuttab/Al Arabiya/May 31/14

Moscow’s ‘billion-dollar deals’ to build nuke reactors in Iran/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/May 31/14

Silent on Syria, Obama admits his failures/Brooklyn Middleton/Al Arabiya/May 31/14


The Daily Star Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 31/14

Lebanese Related News

Husband visits Sudanese wife condemned to hang for apostasy

Al-Rahi Says Lebanese who Fled to Israel are Not 'Criminals', Urges 'Reconciliation'

Aoun's Silence on Geagea Proposal over Presidency Seen as a Rejection

Jumblat Considers Taef Accord Needs 'Improvements'
Ban expresses hope STL moves quickly

Salam Fears Government Paralysis over Baabda Vacuum

Lebanese Cabinet still intact despite presidential void

Tripoli mosque reopens after devastating bombing

Rifi returns legal notices against Jumblatt, Khashan

Lebnanese Civil servants issue ultimatum over wage hike
Without Hariri, Aoun wants Parliament elections

Cannabis legalization: the seed of a good idea

But first, let me take a selfie: Lebanese MPs snap one
Al-Akhbar editor accuses STL of oppression

Lebanon's Arabic press digest – May 30, 2014
World Bank president to visit Lebanon

FPM to attend Cabinet session after Salam warning
Bassil urges diaspora members to invest in Lebanon
Miscellaneous Reports And News

Life increasingly difficult for Christians in Israel

Kerry: Israel's response to Palestinian unity

Middle Israel: Soldiers of fortune

Source: Russian troops leave Ukraine border

NATO says bulk of Russian troops pulling back from Ukraine border
Russia: Crimea not like Israel-Palestine

Thousands flee Syrian cities ahead of election

ISIS accused of massacring Kurdish villagers

U.N. mulls Syria aid under Chapter 7

US confirms American carried out Syria suicide bombing

Syrian opposition denies Nasrallah claim it collaborates with Israel

Delusions of superpower

Thousands rally to support renegade Libya general

Kuwait MP Nabil al-Fadl  to resign if ‘bikini ban’ approved  


Al-Rahi Says Lebanese who Fled to Israel are Not 'Criminals', Urges 'Reconciliation'
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Friday said the Lebanese state must not deal with its citizens who fled to Israel in 2000 as “criminals,” noting that they are not the ones who have “impeded the presidential election.” During a visit to the Druze village of Isfiya near the northern Israeli city of Haifa, al-Rahi said he was “profoundly hurt” by those who have criticized his historic visit to Israel and the Holy Land. “Can't we perform our duties? Has compassion died? Have social duties died?” the patriarch asked. “We have several times repeated that this visit is purely religious. I did not come here to make political deals … I did not come here to make commercial, economic, military or security deals. I came here to see our loving people,” al-Rahi underlined. Commenting on the issue of the Lebanese who had fled to Israel after its forces withdrew from south Lebanon, al-Rahi said: “The solution is reconciliation.” “We are not collaborators. I did not see any Lebanese collaborating against Lebanon,” he added. According to LBCI TV, al-Rahi rejected in his speech that their possible return to Lebanon be tied to “an amnesty or international resolutions.”
“Had they fought against Lebanon? Had they fought against the Lebanese state? Had they fought against Lebanese institutions?” al-Rahi asked rhetorically. “Have they paralyzed the presidency? Have they displaced and impoverished the Lebanese? Have they created an economic and social crisis in Lebanon? I want to know what their crime is,” the patriarch added.
Mentioning the undermining of state institutions in Lebanon and the closure of the presidential palace, al-Rahi went on to say: “Who is committing crimes against Lebanon? You? You who love Lebanon and carry its flags in your hearts?”Israel has invaded Lebanon several times, occupying part of the country's territory for 18 years until it withdrew in 2000 following armed resistance. In 2006, a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead. Lebanon bars its citizens from visiting Israel or having business dealings with Israelis. However, Maronite clergy are exempt from the ban to enable them to stay in touch with the faithful in the Holy Land. On Wednesday, al-Rahi celebrated mass with exiled Lebanese as part of his controversial trip to Israel. Hundreds of Lebanese Maronites came to Saint Peter's church in the village of Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Trained, financed and armed by Israel, the South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia battled Palestinians and Hizbullah fighters during the occupation of southern Lebanon. Many SLA veterans feel they have been abandoned by Israeli authorities in their adopted home, often working in low-paying factory, restaurant or cleaning jobs, but unable to return home for fear of retribution from Hizbullah and others who consider them traitors. Al-Rahi arrived in Israel earlier in the week to join a brief visit by Pope Francis.
The Maronite Patriarch was condemned by media close to Hizbullah, which said traveling to arch-enemy Israel would be a "sin." His critics have also said the pilgrimage implies normalization with Israel at a time when the two countries remain formally at war. Al-Rahi's speech marked the end of a weeklong visit to the Holy Land. He spent the first two days in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel occupied in the 1967 war, but on Monday ventured into Israel for the first time.


Husband visits Sudanese wife condemned to hang for apostasy
AFP, Khartoum/Al Arabiya
Friday, 30 May 2014
The husband of a Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for apostasy said Friday he had visited her in jail, where she just gave birth, and that she and their daughter are well. There was an international outcry after Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag was condemned on May 15 under Islamic sharia law, which has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions on pain of death. The 27-year-old is being held at a women's prison in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, where she gave birth on Tuesday. Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen originally from South Sudan, told AFP he had visited Ishag and the baby on Thursday, after being denied access earlier in the week, and that they were both in "good health." He said he had obtained permission from the authorities to see them two days a week.
He also disclosed that he had sought permission for his wife to be transferred to a hospital to give birth, but that this was refused. "We were afraid, but God protected her," he said. Ishag already has a 20-month-old son, who is also incarcerated with her, rights activists say. Ishag was born to a Muslim father but told the court, before Judge Abbas Mohammed al-Khalifa passed the verdict against her: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy." The judge said to her: "We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged." He also sentenced her to 100 lashes for "adultery."Under Sudan's interpretation of sharia, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man, so any such relationship is regarded as adulterous. Britain and Canada last week summoned the Sudanese envoys to their countries over Ishag's case, which they say conflicts with Sudan's international human rights obligations. United Nations rights experts have called the conviction "outrageous" and said it must be overturned. An appeal has already been filed against the verdict, and one of Ishag's defense lawyers, Mohannad Mustapha, said a hearing that was to have been held on Wednesday was postponed because the case file was incomplete. Ishag should be allowed to nurse her baby for two years before any death sentence is carried out, legal experts have said. If she is hanged, Ishag will be the first person executed for apostasy under the 1991 penal code, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a British-based group working for religious freedom.

Ban expresses hope STL moves quickly
May 30, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon Friday expressed hope that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s proceedings would move “smoothly and expeditiously,” after his meeting with the head of the court’s defense office Francois Roux. In a statement, Ban also highlighted the importance of the court’s work “in tackling impunity for the crimes within its jurisdiction.” He also “noted the vital role of the Defense Office in ensuring that the proceedings before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon are fair and credible.”Ban’s statement was released after his meeting with Roux at the U.N. headquarters in New York.  The STL is investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri which plunged Lebanon into political turmoil. The U.N.-backed court has so far indicted five Hezbollah suspects in the killing.Ban's statement came a day after a controversial contempt hearing for a Lebanese journalist accused by the court of undermining justice by publishing a list of alleged witnesses.  Ibrahim al-Amin, editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar newspaper, along with Karma Khayyat, editor of Al-Jadeed television, is charged with contempt for publishing the list. Amin walked out of the hearing he attended via video-link after delivering a tirade accusing the court of “oppression” and denouncing the U.N. Security Council that brought it into existence.


Lebnanese Civil servants issue ultimatum over wage hike
May 30, 2014/By Nizar Hassan/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Union Coordination Committee threatened Friday to start an open-ended general strike if lawmakers do not pass the wage hike before June 6, calling for a series of strikes and protests starting next week. “We are giving you the last chance,” said UCC’s statement addressing Lebanese MP’s, “either you pass the wage hike before June 6, or we will paralyze the public sector and boycott the official exams.” The union called for sit-ins on June 2 at 10 a.m. in front of local educational institutions, on June 6 at 9 a.m. in front of the Education Ministry and on June 7 in front of the General Administration of Technical Teaching building. The general strike will include all state administrations, its governmental palace and its municipalities.  The statement called for the elimination of all articles related to the employment contracts in the parliament’s proposed draft law. It also rejected any taxes that would be imposed on Lebanon’s middle and low classes to pay for the wage hike. The committee addressed students who are concerned with the exams boycott, saying that their fears were legitimate and understandable, but Parliament was responsible for the consequences of not passing the legislation.
UCC had released a statement Thursday calling on teachers and administrative staff to stop all preparations for official school examinations. The boycott includes the proctoring of exams, setting the questions and correcting the tests. Friday’s news conference confirmed this call, highlighting that the unions “totally refuse” the elimination of the official exams. Instead, according to the UCC, they should be postponed until the wage hike is passed.  Parliaments failed to convene Tuesday for a session scheduled to debate the wage hike, failing to achieve quorum due to the absence of many March 14 MPs and MP Michel Aoun’s Reform and Change bloc’s lawmakers. Many Christian MPs are boycotting any legislative sessions in Parliament as long as the presidency remains vacant. As a result, Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the discussion of the wage hike until June 10.  The official exam’s delay is almost certain with this announcement from the UCC. If Berri doesn’t move up the date for the legislative session, the country “will enter a crisis,” in the words of Education Minister Elias Bou Saab.  Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Bou Saab urged MPs to consider the salary scale as one of “utmost importance” and “national interest,” after Christian lawmakers said they would not discuss any issue other than the presidential elections unless it was of exceptionally high importance.

Lebanese Cabinet still intact despite presidential void
May 30, 2014/By Hasan Lakkis /The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Lebanon's Cabinet passed a difficult test Friday, with ministers attending the first executive session after the end of former President Michel Sleiman's term to agree on a mechanism that would govern the work of the government in light of a presidential vacuum.
Ministerial sources said the Cabinet agreed that Prime Minister Tammam Salam would send the government’s agenda 72 hours before the scheduled session but further discussion was needed to finalize the mechanism. “They will try to agree on how many signatures are needed to issue a decree, for example, whether the signatures of the 24 ministers were required or merely third of the Cabinet,” a ministerial source told The Daily Star. Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said the atmosphere was “positive,” adding that the ministers were seeking a consensus on all issues “because it is in everyone’s interest to do so.” But Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil was pessimistic, saying the Cabinet had not yet reached a consensus on any of the vital issues. “The proof that there is no consensus on either the issue of signatures or the power vested in the Cabinet is that we did not even discuss any of the items on the agenda,” Bassil told The Daily Star after the end of the session.
Several ministers said the discussion was positive but admitted that the issue was “very difficult” and required further discussion. “The Constitution is not very specific and we need to establish grounds for that,” Minister of State Nabil De Freij said. There had been rampant speculation that some Christian ministers would refuse to attend Cabinet sessions while there is a vacuum in the presidency, the top Christian post in Lebanon. The Cabinet's next session will be Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Salam, who chaired the session at the Grand Serail, said the Cabinet should remain intact to provide a positive atmosphere to elect a new president, which he said must take place as soon as possible.
“This is a Cabinet of national interest and its primary concern is to create the appropriate atmosphere to elect a new president. Even if it did not happen within the Constitutional time frame, the election should take place as soon as possible,” Salam said at the beginning of the session. He also said that the Cabinet would function in line with the Constitution, which grants the executive branch full powers, including those of the presidency, until a new president is elected. “Our concern is for the Cabinet to remain intact and coherent [and function] in a positive atmosphere,” he added.
Although there were 25 items on the agenda, Bassil said that he, along with Free Patriotic Movement ministers, were attending the session to "talk politics rather than discuss the agenda."
"We already agreed to that with Prime Minister Salam ... our attendance was conditional: We agree on the political issues before discussing the agenda," Bassil told reporters at the Serail before he stepped into the session. Telecoms Minister Butros Harb, a March 14 Christian lawmaker, said he would make proposals to govern the work of the Cabinet in the absence of a president.
Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour criticized what he said were "invented reasons" to obstruct the government's work. "We should not invent reasons to disrupt the Cabinet and Parliament and those who are keen on the presidency should head to Parliament to elect a new president," Abu Faour told reporters at the Serail. Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi from the Kataeb Party met with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at Maarab before attending the session. The two affirmed that the Kataeb Party and the Lebanese Forces should have a unified stance with regards to the mechanism governing the Cabinet's work in light of the presidential vacuum.

Rifi returns legal notices against Jumblatt, Khashan
May 30, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi Friday returned the two Syrian legal notices against MP Walid Jumblatt and journalist Fares Khashan to the Foreign Ministry, saying they neither adhere to the Lebanese Constitution nor to judicial treaties between the neighboring states. The notices violate the judiciary convention signed by Lebanon and Syria on February 25 1951, the National News Agency reported.
Article 28 of this convention states the right of the notified state to decline any legal notice that might disturb its security. Since Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt enjoys legal immunity as an MP, judicial authorities are not permitted to consider the legal notice against him. Doing that, the report explained, would disrupt the separation of powers between different Lebanese authorities, thereby violating the Lebanese Constitution. The Syrian Embassy in Lebanon had handed in the notices to the Lebanese Foreign Ministry earlier this month, which in turn had transferred them to the Justice Ministry.
However, they had not been signed by any representative of the embassy, which undermined their credibility, Rifi explained in his letter to the Foreign Ministry today.
The two lawsuits were originally issued by the criminal court of Latakia in 2006. They accused Jumblatt and Khashan, the Paris-based reporter of Al-Mustaqbal, of “defaming” the Syrian state by blaming Syria for assassinations that occurred in Lebanon in 2005. A judicial source had previously informed The Daily Star that the notices would be ineffective, given Jumblatt’s parliamentary immunity and Khashan’s absence from the country. Ahmad Jabra, President of the Syrian National Coalition, expressed his solidarity with Jumblatt and Khashan thanking them for supporting the Syrian people and their “just causes,” according Anbaa Online, the website of PSP’s newspaper. For his part, Jumblatt ridiculed the notices in a statement last Friday saying, “...I will not forget to add this lawsuit to the file of other cases; I will make a catalog out of them and distribute it to friends for free!”


Al-Taqwa Mosque reopens after devastating bomb attack
May 30, 2014/The Daily Star /TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Al-Taqwa Mosque in the northern city of Tripoli has been fully reopened after repairs to damage from a terrorist bombing last August, with crowds of worshipers showing up for Friday prayers. The mosque was packed Friday with some 1,300 worshipers, and another 1,000 outside. At least 42 people were killed and more than 400 wounded when twin car bomb blasts hit Al-Taqwa Mosque and nearby Al-Salam Mosque on Aug. 23, 2013. The mosque suffered extensive damage in the blast. A sit-in was held outside the mosque after midday prayers Friday to protest the re-election of Syrian President Bashar Assad. "Someone who kills women and children with barrel bombs cannot rule Syria," the protesters shouted.


Pope’s pilgrimage: full of headline-grabbing moments
Friday, 30 May 2014
Daoud Kuttab/Al Arabiya
At all levels, the visit of Pope Francis to Jordan and Palestine was a huge success.
For about 26 hours everything worked as planned. And the few unplanned moments worked out quite well, leaving indelible memories and images.
The Pope’s visit was billed as a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the slogan chosen by the Vatican was unity, in reference to the historic meeting planned with the head of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.
Fifty years after a similar trip was made by Pope Paul VI, the trip was aimed at rekindling the spirit of unity among Christians of different denominations, as well as an interfaith effort.
Pope Francis was accompanied by Muslim and Jewish religious leaders (one each) from his days; the spirit of unity was evident in various meetings, speeches and homilies.
But the highlight of the entire trip was not planned, rehearsed or even expected.
The Pope had decided not to cross any checkpoints to enter the U.N.-declared non-member state of Palestine and so the idea of an image of the Pope interacting with the occupation or seeing the wall was thought to have been bypassed by the decision to visit Palestine flying a Jordanian military helicopter straight to Palestine.
As he was driving around Bethlehem in his open car, the Pontiff passed by the entrance of the Aida refugee camp and noticed the separation wall. It is hard for anyone not to take notice of the 10-metre-high wall (which the media insist on calling a separation barrier) and it is even harder for the Jesuit Pope who has empathy for the weak and oppressed not to stop.
To lessen the impact of the image of the Pope at the wall, Israeli media spin tried to show that the point where the Pope stopped was simply a barrier between Israel and the West Bank.
That is not true. The wall, built deep on Palestinian land, divides the Aida camp in half, surrounds Rachel’s Tomb and cuts off Palestinian communities from each other for the exclusive benefit of Jews.
Headline-grabbing moment
The Pontiff’s visit in Jordan had its own headline-grabbing moment.
After being personally driven by the King to the baptismal site, the Pope met handicapped children as well as Syrian and other refugees.
In his speech to those gathered, including journalists and live TV cameras, the Pope sounded angry about the continuation of the violence in Syria.
An Associated Press report said that the Pope deviated from his prepared remarks to blast arms traders praying to God to “convert those who seek war, those who make and sell weapons!”
The Pope reiterated his call for peace but did not spare the group he felt was responsible for making war. “We all want peace, but looking at the tragedy of war, looking at the wounded, seeing so many people who left their homeland who were forced to go away, I ask: ‘Who sells weapons to these people to make war’?” he asked.
“This is the root of evil: the hatred, the love of money.”The visit went without a hitch. Security officials were worried about the insistence of this humble Pontiff not to travel in a glass-covered vehicle, to be able to greet and touch the believers.
In Jordan, Christians came from Lebanon to swell the numbers of those from Jordan, Syria and Iraq.
d to participate in the Manger Square mass, and a large contingent of Palestinian Christians came from the Galilee, even though they were unhappy that the Holy See had skipped a visit to Nazareth and other important stops during any Holy Land pilgrimage.
In Israel
In Israel, the Pope met with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
An exchange between the Pope and the Israeli premier reflected badly on the latter.
The Pope refused Netanyahu’s attempt to claim Jesus by saying he lived in that land and spoke Hebrew. The Pope, whose Jesuit order is known for high scholarship, responded immediately that Jesus spoke Aramaic, leaving a surprised Netanyahu o say “yes, but he also spoke Hebrew.”
The Pope had earlier bypassed the Israeli prime minister, when he invited the Palestinian and Israeli presidents, even though the Israeli presidency is symbolic. In addition to the political and symbolic gains made during the Pope’s visit, one of the most important goals was to strengthen and empower the local Christian community. High-level visits such as that by the Pope go a long way towards strengthening the resolve of Arab Christians to stay put in the land where Jesus was born and raised.
As one Jordanian Christian woman said while glued to the TV set, “every Christian that has emigrated should come back.”
This article was first published in The Jordan Times on May 28, 2014.
**Daoud Kuttab, an award winning Palestinian journalist who resides in Jerusalem and Amman. Mr. Kuttab is the director general of Community Media Network a media NGO that runs a radio station in Amman (al balad radio 92.4fm) a newsweb site and a TV production operation in Palestine Penmedia ( which is producing the Palestinian version of Sesame street. You can read his blogs on and find him on Twitter @DaoudKuttab.


Christians' life in Israel not so wonderful
By: Farid Jubran/Ynetnews
Published: 05.30.14/,7340,L-4525312,00.html
Op-ed: Pope's visit was an opportunity to highlight distress and discrimination suffered by Christian community in State of Israel.
Pope Francis' historic visit to Israel this week, beyond its political and symbolic meaning, was highly important for the Christians living in the country. It was an opportunity to put their distress on the agenda.
The Christians' situation in the Middle East is difficult. In Iraq, Syria and Egypt, churches are torched and Christians are slaughtered over their religion as a matter of routine. In some parts of Syria the Islamic Sharia laws have been applied, Christians are forbidden to conduct ritual ceremonies in public and special taxes have been imposed on them.
On the background of the religious persecution in many of the region's countries, there is an impression that the Christians' situation in Israel is good. In his latest AIPAC address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that Israel was "the one country in the Middle East that protects Christians," and Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor elaborated on the wonderful treatment of Christians in an article in the Wall Street Journal.
Comparing between the situation of Christians in Israel and the situation of their brothers in the Middle East is populist and shameful. The "only democracy in the Middle East," whose leaders say has "shared values" with the countries of the West, should compare the situation of its minorities to the situation of minorities in the countries it has shared values with, rather than to the situation of minorities in Middle Eastern countries.
There are some 140,000 Christians in Israel, 1.7% of the population. A minority of a minority, exposed to waves of hatred. How can anyone forget the image of Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari ripping the pages of the New Testament at the Knesset and throwing them into the garbage while uttering harsh words of incitement?
Jews in Israel fire gunshots inside churches and set fire to monasteries, spray-paint malicious graffiti and slash the tires of Christians' cars. In the Old City of Jerusalem, religious Jews spit on monks, and in Christian cemeteries gravestones are shattered. Death threats are sent to bishops and heads of Christian communities.
Dozens of hate crimes – and the authorities stand idly by, apart from a few words of condemnation to do the minimum.
The state itself restricts the churches' activity immensely by imposing a strict and discriminating regime of visas for Christian clerics. A priest who wishes to stay in Israel in order to serve in one of the Christian communities will be forced to undergo a humiliating via dolorosa on the part of the authorities until he receives the stay permit, if at all.
Many Christian clerics have been residing in Israel for several decades and are still restricted to a visa which does not grant them any social rights, despite their years-long service for the community in churches, schools, hospitals, senior citizens' homes, etc. The Christian schools that have existed in this country for centuries, in which generations of Christians, Muslims and Jews have been educated, are suffering from discrimination in the form of significantly low budgets compared to the state schools and a lack of Christian supervisors. In addition, their identity, nature and the autonomy they have always enjoyed are constantly undermined.
The Christian community itself is divided on the issue of its sons' enlistment with the army, and the debate is inflaming the situation. The government, instead of acting as the "responsible adult" and encouraging a public discourse, has chosen to side with the enlistment supporters and set the law enforcement authorities on those who oppose it, while launching an intimidation campaign and attempting to undermine the ethnic and national identity of the Christians in Israel.
The pope's visit, therefore, serves as a golden opportunity for decision makers in Israel. If all it comes down to is ceremonies, then it was an unnecessary visit. If, on the other hand, the visit serves as a catalyst for a discussion on the acute issues related to the Christians in Israel and on the way to handle them, it will be a blessing for everyone.

**Farid Jubran is an Arab Christian lawyer and a citizen of the State of Israel.



Kuwait MP Nabil al-Fadl  to resign if ‘bikini ban’ approved
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Friday, 30 May 2014
Kuwaiti MP Nabil al-Fadl announced that he would present his resignation from the country’s Ummah Council if the proposal to ban the nudity of women in swimming pools and public places was approved by the Assembly, the Kuwaiti daily newspaper al-Shahed reported Friday. The new proposal, which does not provide a clear definition for the term “nudity,” is an assault on personal freedom, al-Fadl said.
“If approved, I will deliver my resignation as I do not approve of this regression and out of respect for my electorates who voted for my ideas and thoughts,” he added. Also read: Show respect! Qatar ‘dress code’ shocks expats
The head of the Kuwaiti National Assembly committee who approved the move, MP Hamdan Al-Azemi, said the ban also applies to women at hotels, according to the Kuwait Times. While the Islamist lawmaker did not provided a definition for the term “nudity,” a few days ago “he issued a statement strongly criticizing women dressed in bikinis at some swimming pools on beaches and in hotels. The term also includes revealing or improper dress,” according to the report. To become a law, the proposal must first be approved by the Assembly and accepted by the government. Also read: Bahrain to ban booze? MPs push for sober state
In 2011, a parliamentary committee in Kuwait rejected a motion to ban bikinis, saying that it was unconstitutional. The motion would ban women from wearing bikinis, revealing bathing suits and clothes with deep cleavage at the beach. It also stipulated that offenders be sentenced to one year in prison and to pay a fine. Kuwait is not the only GCC country in which issues of culture and conservatism have come to a head. This past week has seen a Qatari campaign urging tourists and foreign residents to respect the country’s strict dress code sparking controversy among its majority expatriate population. While some expats seem unperturbed by the campaign, others expressed discontent. One American man living in Qatar, who preferred not to be identified, said the dress code should only apply to “religious and official places.” “It is completely understandable to ask expats to dress appropriately in religious and official locations but not in malls, beaches or souqs, commonly known for being the first attractions of expats,” he said. Meanwhile, Bahraini MPs have backed a proposal to gradually outlaw the sale of alcohol in the kingdom, linking it to “sleaze and prostitution,” Gulf Daily News reported this week.
The sobering proposal calls on the government to set a timeline for the phasing out of alcohol sales until it is no longer available in the country.

Delusions of superpower

May 30, 2014/The Daily Star
In an attempt to frame America’s new foreign policy approach as less interventionist and more diplomatic, U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday spoke of his country’s recent so-called achievements. But in actual fact he did little but highlight his administration’s failings. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama said, “our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development.” It is difficult to see what he means. While elections have recently been held in both countries, they are still beset by extreme violence on a near daily basis. U.S. military intervention appears to have inflamed, rather than reduced, legacies of bloodshed. While it is impossible, he said, to ignore what goes on beyond America’s borders, it is also important to know when not to pull the trigger. After George W. Bush’s trigger-happy terms, this is certainly true, but in the examples of Syria and Ukraine it can be argued that the U.S. has not done enough. Mere words from Washington have mattered little to the civilians dying in the field.
He also failed to mention Palestine – perhaps inevitably, given his utter failure to deliver on the peace process – and ignored the soured relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf, once key U.S. allies in the region. Obama also stressed that the U.S. would not become isolationist, and that “America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will.” This smacks of self-delusion. Once the world’s leading superpower, the U.S. looks increasingly dwarfed by Russia and China. On Syria and Ukraine, what has and what can it actually achieve?
Though much of the American public might believe Obama’s interpretation of events, the rest of the world is watching, and it is not so easily deceived. Where Obama sees success in soft diplomacy and stepping back, the international community sees stumbling and inaction.

Moscow’s ‘billion-dollar deals’ to build nuke reactors in Iran
Friday, 30 May 2014
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
The economic, geopolitical and strategic ties between Tehran and Moscow have recently been on the rise; particularly after the Crimean crises and since President Hassan Rowhani participated in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek.
Several Iranian-Russian energy deals worth billions of dollars have inevitably raised concern in the West and the United States. Russia and the Islamic Republic have been capable of undermining Western sanctions, undercutting the efficacy of the sanctions on Tehran by using other methods of exchanges outside of the dollar in order to facilitate these deals.
The recent deals being negotiated include the oil-for-goods exchange which are worth $1.5 billion a month. This will assist Tehran in increasing its oil exports by nearly 50 percent to boost its economy. According to Reuters, Iran will provide approximately 500,000 barrels of oil a day. Russia will deliver equipment and goods in exchange.
“European countries are increasingly looking at Tehran as a potential resource to wean themselves off Russia”
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The total deal is worth an estimate of $20 billion. “Our officials are discussing the matter with the Russians and hopefully it will be inked soon, regardless of whether we can reach a [nuclear] agreement in Geneva,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters.
The other substantial economic collaboration between Tehran and Moscow includes the $8 billion to $10 billion energy deal. This deal would require Moscow to export 500 megawatts of electricity to Iran, upgrade Iran’s power plants, construct new thermal and hydroelectric generating plants, as well as provide electrical transmission lines in exchange for oil.
The third bilateral deal being negotiated is Russia’s plan to build eight additional nuclear reactors in the Islamic Republic. Two of these reactors will be at the Bushehr power plant. “Russia and Iran may sign an intergovernmental agreement this year on building from four to eight nuclear reactors, and, under the deal, the contract for the construction of the first two reactors as additions to Bushehr,” an official source told Reuters.
In such deals, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom generally manages the construction of new nuclear reactors. Moscow previously built Iran’s operating nuclear power reactor at Bushehr. Part of the West’s concern is linked to Iran’s Bushehr project, which can yield adequate enriched uranium to be utilized in nuclear weapons.
Strategic, geopolitical and economic purposes
While some experts might sum up the reason behind Iranian-Russian cooperation as economic it is, nevertheless, crucial to point out that Moscow-Tehran ties rely on a combination of factors: strategic, geopolitical and economic. While for the Islamic Republic, these economic and energy deals will substantially boost Tehran’s struggling economy, for Russia the strategic benefits outweigh the economic purposes.
Both Hassan Rowhani and Vladimir Putin’s governments view their increased bilateral relationships as a bulwark against U.S. and European influence in the region. This heightened cooperation is likely to increase Moscow’s political leverage and regional presence in the future.
In addition, Tehran views Moscow as a powerful pawn against the American position on the Islamic Republic, Washington’s objectives and presence in the region and Gulf, as well as a counterbalance against the American influence.
Inevitable tensions between Tehran and Moscow
On the other hand, it is critical to point out that although many experts have analyzed and interpreted the recent heightened Russia-Iran cooperation as solely beneficial, depicting Moscow and Tehran as natural allies, tensions between Russia and the Islamic Republic do exist and are likely to come to the forefront. First of all, both the Islamic Republic and Russia are major energy exporters. According to the latest estimate of world gas reserves, the Islamic Republic has surpassed Russia and is ranked number one. According to IRIB, the world’s natural gas reserves of 187.3 trillion cm “is sufficient for 56 years. Russia has lost its position of the country having much blue fuel. According to calculations, the natural gas reserves fell to 32.9 trillion cm from 44.6 trillion cm. Iran has become first with the 33.6 trillion cm of blue fuel.” BP, the UK-based energy corporation, has also placed Iran at the top of the world’s gas-rich countries.
This issue is becoming more crucial since the Ukraine crisis began. The tensions between Putin and European leaders over Crimea as well as Moscow’s threats to cut off gas supplies, have forced European countries to search for other alternatives for their gas imports, decreasing their dependence on Moscow. The European Union imports approximately 30 percent of its natural gas from Russia, according to a Bloomberg report. Some European countries import more than 60 percent of their natural gas from Russia. European countries are increasingly looking at Tehran as a potential resource to wean themselves off Russia. In addition, Moscow is cognizant of the fact that Iran is eager to step in and export natural gas to the European Union. Finally, some Iranian politicians, particularly the reformists and moderates, do not trust Moscow as a reliable geopolitical, strategic and economic partner in global and regional politics. Russia has joined other members of the U.N. Security Council in voting for and passing four rounds of sanctions on the Islamic Republic. From the Iranian perspective, Russia has been playing a double-cross strategy by opting out when Tehran needed Moscow on the global stage, and by selling out Tehran in order to serve their economic interests with the West and United States. This illustrates the Rowhani government’s eagerness to mend relationships with the West and the United States in order to decrease its reliance and dependence on Russia.

Silent on Syria, Obama admits his failures
Friday, 30 May 2014
Brooklyn Middleton/Al Arabiya
U.S. President Barack Obama’s commencement speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point was an address that poetically decried considering major United States foreign policy dilemmas with “narrow rationale;” yet, the president then proceeded to defend U.S. inaction in Syria with narrow rationale.
Before eventually mentioning Syria, President Obama attempted to underscore the degree to which the world views America as both a beacon of hope and as a pragmatic partner who will actually act on its behalf in times of need. He pointed to several different occasions as evidence of this, including the typhoon devastated Philippines, heartbroken Nigeria when several hundred schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, and Ukrainian security forces when pro-Russian rebels occupied eastern Ukrainian buildings.
There was, breathtakingly, no mention of the Syrian conflict at that moment - a situation which has caused what the U.N. referred to “the worst humanitarian crisis” in two decades. There was no mention of the implied pleas for help by thousands of children killed during indiscriminate air strikes or a madman’s detonation of his own explosives-laden body. Absent was the figure of 2.8 million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) - whose existence remains perpetually threatened by barrel bombings and radical rebel suicide car detonations.
There was no mention of repeated pleas by Syrian opposition chief Ahmad al-Jarba, asking for American-supplied arms that could dare to threaten Assad’s own arsenal.
“President Obama announced that, “tough talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans””
Brooklyn Middleton
Perhaps this was a silent admission of his administration’s own failures regarding Syria. Regardless, it would seem, while touting America’s status as a leader to countries in time of need, it would be imperative to immediately counter those statements with at least acknowledgment that the country which has consistently sought America’s help the most in the recent term has ultimately been ignored.
Obama did, however, reiterate that he believed the U.S. should “help” Syrians “stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his own people.“ But he failed to say what that would precisely entail. And in the same breath, President Obama reminded that he remains confident in his decision to not send troops to Syria. His administration may feel that is an accomplishment but requests for help were hardly loud cries from the Syrian opposition demanding U.S. troop deployment. In fact, only a few weeks ago, Jarba reiterated this point, telling President Obama he did not want America “to send their sons to Syria” and that the opposition sought only “effective and efficient weapons.”
Al-Qaeda militants
From a security standpoint, as al-Qaeda militants continue to flock to Syria and as Hezbollah continues setting up camp, the assertion that the former would not perhaps eventually be necessary - by President Obama’s own reasoning - cannot be ruled out.
And when he speaks of counterterrorism strategies targeting “countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold,” one cannot help but assert that the country with the second highest number of Islamist foreign fighters in modern history would seem like a solid place to kick off these efforts.
Ultimately, President Obama implores critics of his foreign policy to avoid thinking only in black and white and yet he himself relies on such thinking by blaming criticism over inaction in Syria on those who “think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.” This tired talking point is intended to paint those who’ve long called for the U.S. to play a greater role in the Syrian conflict - predicated on the justification that it is both ethically and strategically imperative - as mere political adversaries.
Dig deeper
Asking the American public to dig deeper on complex issues of foreign policy, President Obama then does nearly the antithesis of that when discussing Syria - this speech was the latest reminder of that.
Lastly, in what was perhaps a not so veiled reference to his infamous chemical weapons are a red line for U.S.-led intervention in Syria statement, President Obama announced that, “tough talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans.” This is true, to be sure. But the notion that tough talk followed up by continued inertia and an orchestrated chemical weapons deal (that does nothing to eradicate the chlorine gas which Assad’s regime continually uses) is in any way representative of a new era of a more evolved foreign policy is concerning.
Perhaps President Obama did not focus more of his speech on the Syrian conflict - while making points of when U.S. military pressure should become a reality - because it would have only further etched the failures of his administration in the minds of his political adversaries and supporters alike.