November 07/14

Bible Quotation For Today/The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,
Romans 10/01-21: "Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. ”For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”] Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
Indifference towards those in need is not acceptable for a Christian
Pape François
L’indifférence envers ceux qui sont dans le besoin n’est pas acceptable pour une personne qui se dit chrétienne

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 06-07/14
The Taif turns 25/Khalil Gebara & Makram Rabah/Now Lebanon/November 06/14
Fighting extremism must not be left to the hesitant/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/November 06/14
US Middle East Policy after the Midterms/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/November 06/14
'Car intifada' cartoon campaign encourages vehicular attacks/Elior Levy/Ynetnews/November 06/14
Obama sent letter to Iran's Khamenei; Israel kept in the dark/Barak Ravid/Haraatz/November 06/14
A Two-and-a-Half-Country Union/Burak Bekdil/Hürriyet Daily News/November 06/14

Lebanese Related News published on November 06-07/14
'Verbal Dispute' with UNIFIL as Israel Violates Lebanon Territorial, Maritime Sovereignty
No Comment from Govt. on Extension as Salam Says Captives Case 'Difficult, Complicated'
France backs Lebanon power-sharing system: Paoli
General Security head Abbas Ibrahim: Israel, jihadists seeking to ignite civil war in Lebanon
Lebanese Cabinet meets amid Parliament extension tensions
Future considers Nasrallah’s call for dialogue: MP
Future lobbies for n. Lebanon development council
Motorbike gunmen wound soldier in Arsal
Italy helps Lebanon streamline Customs Department
Business activity in Lebanon contracts in October
Jumblat Meets Top Russian Official ahead of Talks with Lavrov4 hours
South Lebanon woman gives birth to quintuplets
17 Syrians Charged with Belonging to Terrorist Group
Unknown Assailants Open Fire at Soldier in Arsal
Dispute between UNIFIL, Israeli Patrol after Crossing Border Line
Army Arrests 2 Dangerous Fugitives in Sidon, 7 'Terrorists' in Dinniyeh
General Security Busts Syrian Network Forging Lebanese IDs
Australia Issues Travel Advisory to Lebanon, Citing Security Fears
Bassil: Parliament Extension Will Not Provide Political Stability
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi Says ISIL, Qaida Don't Exist in Lebanon
Report: Iran building ‘new Hezbollah’ in Syria

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 06-07/14
U.S. General: Iran Strikes Would only Delay Nuclear Program
Obama Has Written to Iran Supreme Leader
Canada Denounces Beating and Burning to Death of Christian Couple in Pakistan
Canada mulls ban on polygamist immigrants
Peshmerga morale is “high” in fight against ISIS: Kurdish security official
Israel tightens security after Palestinian car attack
Palestinian who ran over 3 soldiers turns himself in
Jerusalem terrorist's son: 'I'm happy and proud'
French Lawmakers Prepare Motion to Recognise Palestine
Fear on streets of Jerusalem in wake of attack
Jerusalem on edge after car attack as extremists plan march
Mortar fire on Syria school kills 13 children
Obama: ‘too early’ to say if U.S. is beating ISIS
US-led airstrikes hit Nusra in northwest Syria: activists
Libya court invalidates elected parliament
Libya faces more chaos as top court rejects elected assembly
Pakistani police officer axes man to death US denies telling Yemen ex-president to leave Saudi clerics warn against sectarian conflict as anti-terror efforts continue
16 Men Arrested by Nigeria Soldiers 'Found Dead with Bullet Wounds'
Kurdish Woman Shot Dead on Syria-Turkey Border

Below Jihad Watch Posts For Wednesday
Egypt: Two bombs planted near St. Mina Church in Port Said

UK: Muslim parents tell daughter they would “cut her head off” if she went to authorities over forced marriage
Islamic State slave price list shows Yazidi, Christian girls aged 1-9 being sold for $172
Video: Hamas hit-and-run jihad attack in Jerusalem this morning
Jerusalem: Hamas calls for third intifada as Muslim plows car into Israeli pedestrians, killing one and injuring dozens
Moronic anti-Islamic State hackers target Jihad Watch
Atlanta: Bloody Shi’ite Muslim ritual includes children this year
Nigeria: Boko Haram renames city “City of Islam,” implements Sharia, starts amputating limbs
Reza Aslan’s lies about Islamic female genital mutilation — on The Glazov Gang

In a letter addressed to Archbiship Atallah Hanna in Jerusalem, the Middle East Christian Committee MECHRIC, the largest coalition of Middle East Christian NGOs in the United States and internationally asked the Archbishop to remove Nihad Awad, the director of Islamist group CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) from a coalition said to be aimed at helping Christian minorities in the Middle East. MECHRIC said "Middle East Christian minorities are offended by having Nihad Awad and his Islamist group CAIR claim they are part of a coalition in defense of Christian minorities." MECHRIC argued that Awad and his group are liked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a terror organization in Egypt and other Arab countries, linked to Hamas, and part of a bigoted campaign against Middle East Christians in the US and world wide.
Following is the text of the letter, with copies send to many members of Congress
Nov 4th 2014
Archbishop Atallah Hanna
Archbishop of Sebastia,
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem
P.O. Box 14518, Jerusalem 91145
Re: interfaith Coalition to Protect Christians
Dear Bishop Hanna:
We have learned that you have sponsored the formation of an “interfaith coalition to protect Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.” We are troubled by the fact that among the NGOs and activists invited to join the coalition are a number of Islamist and pro-Jihadi groups whose agenda has been and continues to be hostile to the freedom and survival of Christian and other minorities in the Middle East.
Among the activists you have included is Nihad Awad, the President of the Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR), which is an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation Terrorism case and is not the civil rights organization it claims to be. For more than a decade, CAIR members and former members have been indicted, and some are serving jail sentences, for terrorism cases successfully brought against them. The Islamist organization is considered by experts as a front to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has inspired leading members of al Qaeda and ISIS (Daesh) and has been put on terror lists by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain. Several members of Congress, including the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Pete King, and the Chairwoman of the subcommittee on Intelligence, Rep. Sue Myrick, have considered CAIR an extremist Islamist organization. There are bills introduced in the US House of Representatives calling for identifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a Terror organization.
CAIR has attacked Middle East Christian leaders across America, including Copts such as Dr. Shawki Karas, Lebanese Christians, as well as Iraqi and Syrian Christians while also waging smear campaigns against prominent Middle East experts for raising the issue of persecution of minorities in the Middle East. CAIR stood with the oppressive regimes against Christians and other sectors of civil societies and backed the genocidal regime of Sudan headed by the ICC indicted General Omar Bashir. CAIR backs the Muslim Brotherhood, who in Egypt has been responsible for attacks against Christian Copts and in Libya backed the Jihadi forces responsible for violence against civilians. But even more dangerous, CAIR politically backs the Islamists and the Jihadists who in Syria and in Iraq have persecuted Christians. Some of these factions joined the Islamic State known as ISIS, which has perpetrated war crimes and crimes against Humanity in Mosul, the Nineveh Plain, and Sinjar against Christians and Yazidis.
CAIR and its executive director Nihad Awad have been notorious for suppressing educational programs, both in the public and private sectors, aimed at informing the American public about the persecution of Christian minorities in the Greater Middle East. Awad and his acolytes have politically harassed writers and intellectuals, academics who have been raising the issue of persecution of religious minorities and have become the main obstructers of truth about this persecution. In a sense, Awad and CAIR, by being supportive of the Jihadists and the Islamists and by suppressing the voices defending the persecuted Christians, actually bear some moral responsibility for the persecution and violence against Christians in the Middle East.
It would be unthinkable and unbearable for Middle East Christians and Yazidis to see a so-called interfaith Coalition presided by a Church official, partnering with haters of Middle East Christians and bigots against oppressed Middle East minorities
We therefore, as representatives of the Middle East Christian Committee MECHRIC, representing the largest coalition of Americans from Middle East Christian descent, including Copts, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Maronites, Melkites and other groups, as well as Yazidis, ask you to remove Nihad Awad and any Islamist militant from your coalition immediately. Our communities have been offended by the presence of pro-Jihadists in a coalition claiming to help Middle East Christians and other minorities.
John Hajjar, on behalf of the Middle East Christian Committee MECHRIC
Executive Committee
CC: Members of Congress (Foreign Relations and Homeland Security Committees in House and Senate)

'Verbal Dispute' with UNIFIL as Israel Violates Lebanon Territorial, Maritime Sovereignty
Naharnet/An Israeli patrol crossed Lebanon's border and penetrated 50 meters into the outskirts of the southern town of Shebaa on Thursday, sparking a verbal dispute with peacekeepers from the Indian UNIFIL battalion who are positioned in the area.
“At 9:30 am, an Israeli enemy pedestrian patrol crossed the withdrawal line and penetrated 50 meters into the outskirts of the Jabal al-Shahel area in Shebaa inside Lebanese territory, before retreating to the occupied territories,” the Lebanese army said in a statement.
Earlier on Thursday, Lebanon's National News Agency said Israeli forces crossed the border line into the liberated Jabal al-Shahel region, that lies west of the occupied Shebaa Farms. The eight-member infantry patrol infiltrated into the liberated zone “for a distance of around 100 to 150 meters,” NNA said. It reached an area close to an observation post of the UNIFIL's Indian battalion. A verbal dispute then erupted between the Israelis and the Indian peacekeepers, which led to the withdrawal of the Israeli forces half an hour later, the agency said. Separately, the Lebanese army said “three Israeli helicopters violated the Lebanese airspace over Lebanon's territorial waters for a distance of 200 meters at 1:30 pm, firing 10 missile-deflecting balloons.”The territorial and maritime violations are being followed up in coordination with UNIFIL, the army said. In the morning, Israeli construction workers equipped with several cranes dismantled an iron barrier surrounding an Israeli observation post in Mount Hermon (Jabal al-Sheikh).  The procedure is an annual routine that kicks off with the beginning of the winter season. The iron barrier is re-installed early in summer.

Canada Denounces Beating and Burning to Death of Christian Couple in Pakistan
November 5, 2014 - Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:
“I was saddened to learn of a Christian couple who were beaten and burned to death by a local mob in Pakistan’s Punjab province, Pakistan. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the deceased.
“The two victims, Shahzad and Shama Masih, were said to be in their mid-20s and expecting a child. They leave behind three children. It has also been reported that following a financial dispute, the two were accused of blasphemy, a charge that sparked the mob to attack the couple.“This is only the latest in a long series of religiously motivated, violent attacks on individuals who are accused, often falsely, under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. It underscores the need to support Pakistani civil society to strengthen pluralism, human rights and the rule of law, and for the Pakistani government to reform the blasphemy laws to prevent their abuse, as they are used disproportionately and often opportunistically to target religious minorities.
“Canada strongly denounces such violence, and we call for Pakistani authorities to ensure both the personal safety of all Pakistani citizens and the right of all religious communities to practise their faiths in peace and security, free from violent attack.”

Canada mulls ban on polygamist immigrants
‘We are strengthening our laws to protect Canadians and newcomers to Canada from barbaric cultural practices,’ a minister said. (Shutterstock)
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News/Thursday, 6 November 2014
For those who like to have more than one wife and a fresh new citizenship, Canada may be slipping off the list.The North American country - which is considered by some as one of the top destinations for those looking to acquire a powerful passport - is planning to ban entry to migrants who practice polygamy and “barbaric cultural practices,” its immigration minister said Wednesday. The move follows a spate of so-called “honor” killings over the past decade involving immigrant families from the Middle East and South Asia.
“We are strengthening our laws to protect Canadians and newcomers to Canada from barbaric cultural practices,” Chris Alexander said in a statement, Agence France-Presse reported. “We are sending a strong message to those in Canada and those who wish to come to Canada that we will not tolerate cultural traditions in Canada that deprive individuals of their human rights.”The sweeping changes to Canada’s immigration act would also prohibit forced marriages, set a minimum age for marriage at 16 and limit possible defenses in “honor” killings and many spousal murders. In “honor” killings, carried out to protect what is seen as family pride, reasons for disapproval can include having relationships outside of one’s caste or religion. In May, a court ordered the mother and uncle of a Canadian woman allegedly killed overseas over her secret marriage to a poor rickshaw driver to be extradited to India to face prosecution for murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the 14-year-old case.(With AFP)

No Comment from Govt. on Extension as Salam Says Captives Case 'Difficult, Complicated'
Naharnet/The cabinet did not comment on the issue of the parliament's term extension in the statement issued after its weekly session on Thursday, as it admitted that the case of the servicemen held hostage by jihadist groups is “difficult and complicated.”“As in every session, the prime minister (Tammam Salam) called for the election of a new president and he mentioned the issue of extending the parliament's term without discussing it in detail,” said Information Minister Ramzi Jreij after the meeting at the Grand Serail, in response to a reporter's question. On Wednesday, 95 MPs voted in favor of extending the parliament's term till June 20, 2017, amid a boycott by the Change and Reform and the Kataeb blocs. Al-Jadeed television, meanwhile, said the ministers of the Change and Reform bloc and the Kataeb party refused to sign the extension decree during Thursday's cabinet session. Former president Michel Suleiman for his part announced on Twitter that the three ministers loyal to him – Samir Moqbel, Alice Shabtini and Abdul Mottaleb Hennawi – would not sign the decree. Separately, Salam pointed out during the session that “the case of the (captive) servicemen is difficult and complicated,” while noting “that there is some progress that might lead to positive results.”Extremists from the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State have been holding around 27 Lebanese troops and policemen hostage since August 2, when they stormed the northeastern border town of Arsal and engaged in bloody clashes with the army. Jreij also announced that the issue of the global call for bids for the management of the two state-owned mobile operators was postponed in order to allow ministers to submit further observations. The cabinet also approved “the Higher Relief Commission's request for two treasury loans worth LBP 450 billion that are aimed at paying compensations for damages from recent clashes and bombings,” Jreij added.

France backs Lebanon power-sharing system: Paoli
Nov. 06, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: France strongly supports the Lebanese state and Army in the fight against terrorism and is keen on preserving Lebanon’s existing power-sharing system as stipulated in the Taif Accord, French envoy to Lebanon Patrice Paoli said Thursday.
“I wanted to reaffirm (France's) attachment to the Lebanese institutions and stress the importance of reactivating regular work in these institutions,” Paoli told reporters after a meeting with PM Tammam Salam. “The election of a president of the republic is the priority of all priorities and should reinstate normal operations in (public) institutions,” Paoli said, a day after Parliament extended its mandate for more than two and a half years, citing the presidential vacuum, security conditions and the lack of agreement over a new election law.Paoli said he briefed Salam on progress in implementing the Saudi-funded $3 billion French arms deal for the Lebanese Army to beef up its ability in combating jihadist groups who have been emboldened by the war in Syria. “We are moving forward with the implementation of assistance to the Lebanese Army at a time the country is facing big threats on its security, and it is involved in the battle against terrorism,” Paoli said. "Paris will begin practical steps to supply the Army with weapons in line with the Saudi grant," Paoli added.
Paoli said his country backed the Army’s crackdown on jihadist militants in Tripoli and other parts of the north last month which killed more than 40 people, including 11 soldiers and eight civilians. “We support the authorities, and we support the Army in the battle (against terrorism) and express our sympathy and solidarity with all the Lebanese,” Paoli said. “I came to reaffirm these facts and to stress France’s attachment to the Taif peace pact which is the Lebanese constitutional reference as far as we are concerned,” Paoli said, denying allegations that Paris did not mind an amendment of the accord which had redefined power sharing among Lebanese sects, ending Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. The comments appear to be in response to remarks made by Foreign Minsiter Gebran Bassil Wednesday in which he said France sought amendments to the power-sharing formula stipulated in the accord. “It should be very clear that France is committed to the balance (of powers) stipulated under the Taif agreement,” Paoli added.
Lebanon, whose sectarian divisions have been exacerbated by the war in Syria, has said it needs more resources and better hardware to deal with the instability and encroaching fighters. The Lebanon arms deal signed Tuesday between Saudi Arabia and France will involve about 20 French companies and cover a mix of land, sea and air equipment, including armored vehicles, heavy artillery, anti-tank missiles, mortars and assault weapons.

General Security head Abbas Ibrahim: Israel, jihadists seeking to ignite civil war in Lebanon
Nov. 06, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Israel and Islamist militants are seeking to ignite civil war in Lebanon, General Security head Abbas Ibrahim wrote in an editorial published Thursday. "Independence Day arrives while Lebanon battles the odds ... in an ordeal not destined to end until [Lebanon’s] inevitable victory in the battle for existence and identity in the face of organized terrorism, which is seeking to ... strike at its elements of existence through inciting [sectarian] strife and setting the stage for a civil war by targeting the military institution and other security agencies,” Ibrahim said in the article for the November issue of General Security Magazine.“Zionism is equally as dangerous [a threat] as takfiri terrorism,” he said. Without naming them, Ibrahim said takfiri groups – clearly indicating ISIS and the Nusra Front – in addition to Israel have similar objectives, while each party “is trying to strengthen its status.” “It is no secret to anyone that their [Israelis and takfiris] relationship is overt and implicit.”He reiterated that Israel and “takfiri” terrorism still posed the most dangerous threat to Lebanon, adding that confronting them was possible if Lebanon freed itself from the “agendas that make some people depend on them directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally." Lebanon has been on the offensive against militants since ISIS and Nusra Front jihadists briefly overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in August. As they retreated, the militants took more than 30 Lebanese soldiers and policemen hostage. They are still holding most of the servicemen near the Lebanon-Syria border after having released seven and killed three.The Lebanese Army also cracked down on Islamist militants in and around the northern city of Tripoli last month.  The Army has arrested more than 300 militants across Lebanon in recent weeks.

Lebanese Cabinet meets amid Parliament extension tensions
Nov. 06, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A Cabinet meeting got underway Thursday with the contracts of mobile phone operators and progress in government efforts to free the captive Army and police personnel topping the agenda, ministerial sources told the Daily Star. Ahead of the meeting, ministers highlighted the issues of concern put forward for discussions. The deadlocked presidential election, which was cited as the main reason for extending Parliament’s mandate a day earlier, would take center stage in Cabinet debates, according to Education Minister Elias Bou Saab. “A new operation of embezzling the presidential powers is happening, but as defenders of the president of the republic we will not sign the [Parliament] mandate extension,” Bou Saab said before walking into the meeting.
“We will ask for returning the [extension] decree to Parliament, a move necessitating the agreement of 24 ministers,” added Bou Saab, whose Free Patriotic Movement party boycotted Wednesday’s Parliament session during which lawmakers extended their tenure for more than two and a half years. Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb said discussions would focus on the mobile phone issue, noting that the subject of the captive soldiers was a permanent government priority that was being followed up on daily. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil rebutted accusations that he was putting off preparations for the voting of Lebanese expatriates in general elections. He said that the Lebanese embassies in Kuwait and Australia had been prepared to hold elections for expats since September.

Future lobbies for n. Lebanon development council
The Daily Star/Nov06, 2014/BEIRUT: The Future Movement will draft an urgent draft law to establish a development council for Lebanon’s northern region and lobby for its endorsement, the party's secretary general said Thursday.
“The Future Movement, as per [former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri's instructions, will no longer accept development of a region at the expense of another and will reject ... attempts to turn service ministries as political havens that offer substantial amount of money to specific regions and much less for others,” Ahmad Hariri said. His comments came during a ceremony in the former PM’s residence in Beirut where the Future Movement and the Kuwait Fund celebrated the signing of an agreement to operate a factory for vegetable cooling and packaging in Akkar to be constructed on a property provided by Hariri. “We will take all necessary measures and the Future bloc will draft an urgent law to create a development council for the northern region, and will lobby for its creation in Parliament and the government so that the council would be working soon because the situation in Akkar and the north is no longer tolerable,” Hariri said. Hariri said that development remained the main pillar of late-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's policy, saying the party would spare no efforts to achieve such a goal. "We recognize that the battle for development is the basis in confronting terrorism and protecting Lebanon,” he said. He also spoke about Saad Hariri’s recent donation to Akkar and the northern region of $20 million, which would “create job opportunities and turn Tripoli into a suitable environment for an investment.”

Motorbike gunmen wound soldier in Arsal
Nov. 06, 2014 /Rakan Fakih/Antoine Amrieh/The Daily Star
HERMEL/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Two masked gunmen on a motorcycle shot and wounded a Lebanese Army soldier Thursday in the northeastern border town of Arsal, security sources and the military said. Security sources told The Daily Star Adjutant Ahmad Awdeh suffered gunshot wounds to the back in the 5:30 a.m. attack.  They said Awdeh had just left home heading for duty when two gunmen on a red dirt bike opened fire on him. They added that Awdeh was taken to Rayan hospital in Baalbek, some 35 kilometers from Arsal, where he is said to be in stable condition. The Army confirmed the attack and said soldiers had launched a hunt for the attackers. In related news, a man nicknamed Abu Madariss tossed a stun grenade only meters away from a Lebanese Army position near the Mankoubeen-Beddawi neighborhood of the northern city of Tripoli, according to security sources. They said soldiers returned fire. No casualties were reported from the dawn attack. In a statement, the Army said it arrested two suspects in connection with the 1 a.m. attack: Ali Mohammad Ghazi al-Ish, who was riding a motorcycle without legal documents, and Shadi Mahmoud al-Shami, who was in his company. The security sources said Ish also goes by Abu Madariss. In an earlier statement, the Army said that late Wednesday it had arrested six Lebanese men and a Syrian in Dinnieh, north Lebanon, for suspected links with terrorist organizations. The statement said the suspects had images of terrorists on their cell phones, in addition to conversations inciting attacks on the Army with orders to monitor patrol movements.  The Army has intensified its crackdown on militants across the country after soldiers have repeatedly come under attack in recent weeks. There has been rising tension between Lebanon’s Sunni community and the Army. While the Army says it is targeting terrorists, regardless of their sect, some Sunnis have criticized the military for only focusing on Sunni militants, while looking the other way at Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war.

US-led airstrikes hit Nusra in northwest Syria: activists
Nov. 06, 2014/Agence France Presse
BEIRUT: US-led coalition airstrikes hit Al-Qaeda's Syrian branch overnight, expanding the raids to jihadists outside ISIS for only the second time, an activist group said Thursday. The strikes against the Nusra Front in northwestern Syria killed several jihadists as well as two children, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Coalition aircraft carried out "several raids after midnight" targeting a Nusra vehicle and one of its positions, the Observatory said. The militant group confirmed the strikes on Twitter, saying they were carried out by "the alliance of Crusaders and Arabs on Nusra positions, causing deaths, mostly of civilians." The Observatory said Thursday that the coalition had also carried out strikes for the first time on another Islamist group, Ahrar al-Sham, near the Turkish border.
U.S. and Arab nations have been carrying out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria since September 23 in a bid to prevent the jihadist group from seizing more territory in the conflict-hit nation. On the first day of the strikes they also hit a group of Al-Qaeda veterans that Washington called "Khorasan," although analysts said the attack actually targeted Nusra. There have been no reported strikes on groups outside ISIS since, but this second attack comes after Nusra made gains against Western-backed rebel fighters in the northwestern Idlib region. Nusra fighters in the past week drove the Western-backed Syrian Revolutionary Front from its bastion in Idlib province and captured a town after the withdrawal of the Hazm movement, another moderate opposition group. The advances were seen as a blow to U.S. efforts to create and train a moderate rebel force as a counterweight to jihadists and the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Jerusalem on edge after car attack as extremists plan march
Nov. 06, 2014/Hazel Ward/ Agence France Presse
JERUSALEM: Jewish extremist groups planned to march through Jerusalem Thursday in a move expected to stoke tensions following a deadly Palestinian car attack and clashes at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Israeli police set up concrete barriers and roadblocks in annexed Arab east Jerusalem, a day after a Palestinian deliberately ran over two groups of pedestrians, killing a policeman, in the second such attack in a fortnight. Hours later, another Palestinian ran over three Israeli soldiers in the southern West Bank, leaving one in serious condition and hiking Israeli fears of a wave of copycat hit-and-run attacks. But the 23-year-old driver, who comes from a village near Hebron, turned himself in on Thursday morning, insisting it was nothing more than a road accident, his family told AFP.
Jerusalem has been on edge for months, with almost nightly clashes in Arab neighborhoods since the brutal summer murder of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists. Wednesday's attack - in which the driver was shot dead by police - sparked a fresh wave of rioting.
The worst unrest took place in Shuafat refugee camp where the driver, Ibrahim al-Akari, lived, but there were also clashes in Issawiya and Silwan, an AFP correspondent reported. During the night, police arrested 16 Palestinians for public order offences but by morning, the city was calm, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
Police set up roadblocks in flashpoint Palestinian neighborhoods and deployed reinforcements at key road junctions. They also began installing concrete barricades at the 24 stops along Jerusalem's 14-kilometer light railway.
Akari, 38, rammed his car into passengers waiting at the Shimon HaTsadik light rail stop after running over three border policemen. His rampage came exactly two weeks after another Palestinian rammed his car into passengers at a light rail stop on the same road, killing a young woman and a baby. Since that incident, police have arrested 188 people, 71 of them minors, Samri said. The car attack took place after fierce clashes between police and Palestinian stone-throwers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound - the third holiest site in Islam - left 39 Palestinians injured and prompted Jordan to recall its ambassador in protest. The unrest flared after Jewish extremist groups publicised plans to visit the site in a move viewed as a major provocation by Palestinian Muslims. Although Jews are permitted to visit the site, they are not allowed to pray there for fear it could disrupt the fragile status quo at one of the most sensitive sites in the Middle East.
Despite the clashes, Jewish extremists were on Thursday pushing ahead with fresh plans to march to the compound in a protest scheduled to begin at 1600 GMT. The march is linked to last week's attempted murder of Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a prominent lobbyist for Jewish prayer rights at the compound, by a Palestinian on a motorcycle. "We will march with Temple flags from the site of the attempted murder to the gates of the Temple Mount," read a flyer advertising the march, using the Israeli term for the compound.
The compound, which is located in the heart of the Old City, is holy to both Jews and Muslim. In recent months, tempers have flared into violence over rumours that Israel is considering legislation to change the decades-old status quo to allow Jewish prayer at the site.
But ahead of the march, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved to calm the situation by reiterating that Israel had no plans to change the status quo and distancing himself from rightwing voices within his governing coalition expressing support for such a move.
"At last night's security consultation, the prime minister made it clear that there will be no change in the status quo on the Temple Mount and that whoever expresses a different opinion is presenting a personal view and not the policy of the government," his spokesman Mark Regev said.
The unrest prompted an appeal to the U.N. Security Council by Jordan, which described it as "an unprecedented escalation."The Palestinians' U.N. representative, Riyad Mansour, warned that Israel's actions were pushing the region into a "religious confrontation."
He blamed the violence on Israeli "extremists" who entered the mosque, some without taking their shoes off, describing it as "extremely provocative."He was referring to an incident in which Israeli police confirmed entering "several meters" inside the mosque to remove blockages set up by the protesters in order to lock them inside.

Lebanon's Parliament extension will not hasten presidential vote

Nov. 06, 2014/Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The extension of Parliament’s mandate will not help accelerate the election of a new president, an issue that largely depends on a Saudi-Iranian consensus which seems to be far-fetched, given renewed tensions between the two regional heavyweights, political analysts said Wednesday. They also predicted a prolonged deadlock as long as Riyadh and Tehran remained at loggerheads over a host of regional conflicts, namely in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, said the extension of Parliament’s term for two years and seven months would not spur a major change in the complicated political landscape or help break the 5-month-old presidential stalemate. “After the Parliament extension, I don’t think we are heading for the election of a new president because this requires a regional consensus, mainly between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” Khashan told The Daily Star. “The next move is for the rival factions to continue to talk about the election of a new president.” He added that the presidential vote also depended on the warring factions in both Syria and Iraq, ravaged by sectarian violence, reaching a peace settlement. Khashan noted that since Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943, Parliament has never elected a president but endorsed him as a result of a regional agreement. “The Lebanese Parliament has never elected a president. It only rubber stamps a president following a regional agreement on him,” he said.
Sami Nader, a professor of economics and international relations at Universite St. Joseph, echoed a similar view, saying the extension of Parliament’s mandate would not hasten the election of a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year tenure ended on May 25. “The extension, the second time in more than a year, is a blow to democratic practice and constitutional principles,” Nader told The Daily Star. “Following today’s move, the country is taking a downhill slide with regard to the Constitution and institutions.”
Nader, also the director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs (LISA), a Beirut-based think-tank, stressed that a Parliament that had failed to agree on a new electoral law last year and elect a new president in the past six months does not deserve to have its mandate extended.
“With the new extension, Parliament was seeking to consecrate and legitimize its failure,” Nader said. Referring to the two extensions of Parliament’s mandate, he said: “This is the only achievement they [lawmakers] are capable of.” Amid protests by civil groups and political activists who rallied in Downtown Beirut early in the morning to denounce the extension, Parliament voted Wednesday to extend its mandate, which expires on Nov. 20, until 2017, citing security concerns linked to the war in Syria.
Ninety-five out of 97 MPs present voted for the extension bill, while two opposed. The vote was boycotted by MP Michel Aoun’s bloc and the Kataeb Party lawmakers.
In what appeared to be a conciliatory gesture to placate critics of the vote, the extension law was coupled with a provisional clause promising a parliamentary vote after the election of a president, in which case Parliament’s term would be shortened.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, who has blasted the MPs for failing to choose a president, dismissed the extension of Parliament’s term as “illegitimate and unconstitutional.”
Because Saudi Arabia and Iran back opposing sides in Lebanon, Khashan predicted a prolonged presidential impasse. Saudi Arabia backs the Future Movement-led March 14 coalition, while Iran supports the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance.
“The regional environment is not conducive to the election of a new president,” Khashan said. “Therefore, the presidential deadlock will persist. The Lebanese have put themselves in a situation where they depend on foreign powers to resolve their domestic problems.”
Khashan scoffed at the idea that Lebanon’s democracy was dealt a blow with the extension of Parliament’s mandate. “Lebanon is not a democracy. It is an accommodationist political system,” he said.
Nader, the USJ professor, said a Saudi-Iranian deal held the key to resolving Lebanon’s prolonged political crisis.
“The country, which is taking a downward slide, can only be saved through an Iranian-Saudi deal. Unfortunately, this deal does not seem to be on the horizon,” he said. Nader rejected the argument held by some parliamentary blocs which voted for the extension of Parliament’s term that the move was essential to avert a new vacuum in the legislative branch of power after the vacuum in the presidency. “I can’t say this [extension] is justifiable. It is not constitutional or acceptable,” he said. He added that had the lawmakers elected a new president, there would have been no need to extend Parliament’s term. Shafik Masri, a professor of international law at the Lebanese University and the American University of Beirut, concurred that a Saudi-Iranian détente was key to defusing the Lebanese political crisis and speeding up the election of a president. But he said the internal crisis in Yemen, namely the Houthi rebels who swept into Sanaa in September, has complicated attempts to achieve a Saudi-Iranian reconciliation. “Following the extension of its mandate, Parliament now has two urgent issues: to amend an electoral law and elect a president. However, the election of a president is more linked to regional developments, especially a Saudi-Iranian consensus, than local factors,” Masri told The Daily Star. “The extension has provided Parliament with a new chance to agree on a new electoral law.”
Though Parliament got a new mandate to elect a president, he said: “In the absence of a Saudi-Iranian consensus, the presidential election will be placed on the back burner.”Asked to assess where Lebanon was heading following the extension of Parliament’s term, Masri said: “The country has a functioning government and its Parliament can now legislate after its mandate has been extended. The Army has been granted carte blanche to crush the sleeper and active terror cells. Yet, Lebanon is waiting for propitious regional circumstances to allow the election of a president.” He said regional and international factors had always influenced positively or negatively the presidential election process in Lebanon. “Therefore, the presidential vote has never been throughout Lebanon’s history a purely local issue,” he said.
A long-awaited rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran is seen as a key factor in defusing sectarian tensions and long-simmering conflicts in the region, particularly in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.
Signs of a thaw in strained Saudi-Iranian ties emerged in September when Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. “This is a new page in relations between the two countries,” Zarif said. Prince Saud has said Iran is a neighboring state that can contribute to stability in the region. But the fast-moving developments in Yemen have apparently stalled Saudi-Iranian reconciliation attempts.

Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi Says ISIL, Qaida Don't Exist in Lebanon
Naharnet/Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi stressed on Thursday that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and al-Qaida don't exist in Lebanon, ruling out that jihadists established an Islamic "emirate" in northern Lebanon. “Daesh and al-Qaida don't exist in Lebanon,” Rifi said in an interview published in the Saudi newspaper Okaz, holding Hizbullah responsible for the negative impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon after its involvement in the war raging in the neighboring country. He pointed out that “Hizbullah cracked the barrier that separated Lebanon from Syria, allowing some groups, which are not a serious threat, to enter the country.”In October, eighteen suspected members of the Islamic State jihadist group were indicted on charges of aiming to set up an "emirate" in northern Lebanon.
Fifteen of the accused are on the run. Rifi, who is affiliated to al-Mustaqbal Movement, denied that Tripoli is a solid ground to be turned into an “Islamic emirate,” stressing that the people of the North are exerting efforts to avert incidents that tarnish their image.
“Everyone knows that there is an Iranian project that includes the regime of (Syrian President) Bashar Assad and Hizbullah to distort the image of Tripoli,” the minister told his interviewer.  Tripoli was rocked by three days of devastating fighting between troops and gunmen last month that left several soldiers and civilians dead. The gunmen in the clashes are suspected of links to al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, which opposes IS inside Syria although they have an ambivalent relationship in Lebanon.

Unknown Assailants Open Fire at Soldier in Arsal
Naharnet /Unknown assailants opened fire at dawn at an army adjutant in the northeastern border town of Arsal, the state-run National News Agency reported on Thursday. The NNA reported that two unknown assailants riding a red motorcycle opened fire in the town's al-Jamarek Square at adjutant Ahmed Awdeh while he was heading to his work. Awdeh was severely wounded in his back and was swiftly transferred to al-Rayyan hospital. NNA said that Awdeh's condition is stable. The army later on Thursday issued a communique confirming the shooting. The reasons behind the attack remain ambiguous. In August, fighters from the two jihadist groups – al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State - briefly overran Arsal. They are still holding several policemen and soldiers they took hostage during the clashes. Three other soldiers have already been executed. Meanwhile, media reports said that a bomb targeted overnight an army patrol al-Mankoubin area in the coastal northern city of Tripoli. The army said in a statement that “an army patrol detained Mohammed Ghazi al-Esh and Chadi Mahmoud al-Shami, who are suspected of tossing a stun grenade in al-Beddawi area at 1:00 am.” The army has come under growing attacks in Tripoli by militants who accuse it of colluding with Hizbullah in its intervention in the Syrian conflict on the side of the regime.

Dispute between UNIFIL, Israeli Patrol after Crossing Border Line

Naharnet /Israeli forces crossed on Thursday the border line into the liberated Jabal al-Shahel region, that lies west of the occupied Shebaa Farms,the state-run National News Agency reported. The eight-member infantry patrol infiltrated into the liberated zone for a distance of around 100 to 150 meters. It reached an area close to an observation post of the UNIFIL's Indian battalion. A verbal dispute occurred between the Israelis and the Indian battalion,which led to the withdrawal of the Israeli forces half an hour later. Meanwhile, Israeli construction forces equipped with several cranes dismantled the iron barrier surrounding its observation post in Mount Hermon (Jabal al-Sheikh). The procedure is an annual routine that kicks off with the beginning of the winter season. The iron barrier is re-installed early in summer.

Lebanon's Parliament Extension is a lesser evil
Nov. 06, 2014/The Daily Star/After completing an initial 17-month extension of Parliament’s mandate, the body again voted Wednesday to extend its term yet again, this time by two years and seven months, but those criticizing the move should consider the alternative.
Democratic systems should be dictated by the electorate, not those in power. But it is simply unfeasible for new elections to be held by Nov. 20 – in terms of the budget required, time to campaign and the lack of a new election law. So on top of a presidential vacuum, the country – beset by a whole host of problems – would also be without a Parliament. This is not the first time Parliament’s term has been extended – during the Civil War the unstable situation required a pragmatic approach to the situation, rather than rigidly sticking to four-year terms. So too does the chaotic situation now. The current extension is the lesser of two evils, and hopefully the situation can be smoothed out before the full two years and seven months. But for some parties – namely the Free Patriotic Movement – to have boycotted Wednesday’s vote and to be so fiercely critical of the extension is not only disingenuous, it is damaging. All parties knew that an extension was inevitable, for lack of a new election law, and to pretend otherwise is hypocritical. Were the FPM as genuinely concerned with the situation as they now claim to be, they could have done a lot more to suggest new election laws in the last 17 months. It does no good to simply criticize for the sake of attempting to shore up popularity. The popularity of Christian parties is at an all time low, and their electorate has been let down by too many broken promises. They are mature enough to know when they are being lied to.

Afghans in Syria: Ayatollah’s soldiers serving Assad
By: Sayyida Zeinab shrine. (AFP/Louai Beshara) /Now Lebanon
KABUL - Mohammad Ali Maradli was a 45-year-old Afghan man who spent six years of his life in Iranian prisons on drug smuggling charges. He was released by the authorities in Tehran on the condition that he would go to Syria and join the militias fighting alongside the Syrian army. “He agreed to the offer in exchange for a salary of $600 a month,” Maradli’s family told Alaraby Aljadeed. “A few days after I receive training in Tehran, the Iranians will send me and a number of Afghan and Pakistani fighters to confront members of the Free Syrian Army who have demolished the tombs of Sayyeda Zeinab and Sayyeda Ruqayya, and the shrine of Hujr ibn Adi,” he told his family as he bid them farewell before leaving.
Maradli’s story ended in Damascus where he was arrested by FSA forces. Many other Afghan fighters also met their ends in Syria, either being killed or taken prisoner, like Murtada Hussein, who was captured by rebel battalions in Homs.
Afghans serving Assad
“After their arrival in Syria, Afghan combatants fought, at first, with Iraq’s Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade until Iran formed a special unit for them called Liwa Fatemiyoun. They also fought in a new branch of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, called Hezbollah Afghanistan,” an Afghan journalist who has worked in Syria told Alaraby Aljadeed. Syed Hamed Iqtidar confirmed that thousands of Afghans are fighting in the ranks of both the regime and the opposition. Iqtidar clarified that although some Shiite Afghans fight for salaries, most come to Syria to defend their sect after undergoing indoctrination in Iran. The Afghans fighting alongside the regime in Syria can be divided in to a number of categories, the most important of which is made up of Afghans who lived in Syria before the war and ran large commercial enterprises. “Most of them belong to the Shiite Hazara ethnicity that is found in central Afghanistan, in Bamyan Province to be exact. They left during the Taliban’s reign. Thousands of them sought refuge in Syria, fearing that they would be subject to violence,” Iqtidar said.
Afghan refugees in Iran are the group Tehran has had most success recruiting in large numbers to fight alongside the Syrian army. Despite the Iranian authorities’ denial that they are behind the recruiting of Afghans, Shiite Afghan sources confirmed to Alaraby Aljadeed that a number of Afghan religious scholars residing in Iran — including the religious scholar Muhaqqiq Kabuli who lives in the Iranian city of Qom — have conspired with Tehran authorities to recruit Afghan refugees.
This is proven in Kabuli’s case by a past statement from his press office, which confirmed that Afghan refugees were being recruited to defend holy sites. However, the scholar stopped making such statements after being put under official pressure. The sources also revealed that Tehran is encouraging Afghan university and schools students in Iran to fight in Syria. Teachers and religious scholars tell stories of militants bombing Shiite holy sites to motivate Afghan students from the cities of Tehran, Mashhad and Zahedan to go and fight in Syria. This matches up with the story of Rida Ismaili, a student from Mashhad University who was killed by the FSA last year in Aleppo.
Inmates in Iranian prisons, especially those sentenced to death or internment for long periods, are a golden opportunity for Iran. The story of Mohammad Ali Maradli mentioned at the start of this report serves as a good example.
“Iran takes advantage of poor Afghan refugees’ neediness. It entices them with salaries that reach $500 and grants them permanent residence if they go to Syria,” confirmed a Shiite sheikh of Hazara ethnicity who preferred to remain unnamed.
The Afghan sheikh revealed to Alaraby Aljadeed that a young relative of his had left Iran with his family and returned to the Afghan province of Herat, which lies on Iran’s eastern border. An Afghan Shiite religious scholar had asked him to go to Syria and threatened him with deportation if he refused.
Propaganda on social media
Alaraby Aljadeed has observed Iranian propaganda targeting Afghans in European states — especially young men — via social media. Many Persian language pages call on young men to come to Syria and defend holy sites. The Syrian Liwa Fatemiyoun publishes images of Afghan fighters complete with rousing Persian language music aimed at young men of Hazara ethnicity who speak the Hazaragi Persian dialect. Hazara sheikh Ali al-Mehdi explained to Alaraby Aljadeed that although the salaries paid by the Iranians ($500) are not enough to make people sacrifice themselves, the influence of certain religious scholars is strong. This, he said, is what motivates young Shiites to contact Iranian recruiters via social media websites and arrange travel to Syria. Another community leader of Hazara ethnicity — who preferred not to reveal his identity — denied the suggestion that young Shiites are traveling from inside Afghanistan to fight alongside the Syrian regime. However, he did confirm the participation of Afghan refugees from Iran, saying that he “knows many of them.”
“Iran sends us dead men every day after they are executed for one excuse or another,” he added sarcastically.
“How could we possibly travel to Syria to fight for Iran?”
Huge benefits for Iran
Security analyst Obaidullah Wazir told Alaraby Aljadeed he believes Iran stands to benefit most from the recruitment of Afghans. Wazir pointed out that Afghan fighters reduce losses for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which he said has formed a special subsidiary brigade made up of Afghans called Hezbollah Afghanistan. He also said he expects Iran to use fighters trained in Syria to enforce its policies in Afghanistan in the future.
Wazir added that sending Afghan refugees to Syria does not require a great deal of effort on Iran’s part. This, he explained, is due to their living conditions, which are already bad, and the fact that they do not require weapons training as they are already accustomed to war.
Adverse effects for Afghanistan
Wazir predicted “dangerous negative effects for Afghanistan and the entire region” in the future, saying that as “most of Afghan society is Sunni, [it] opposes the participation of Afghans in fighting in Syria alongside the Assad regime. Therefore, there is a [danger] that Afghan participation in activities against Iran will increase in the region, especially as reports have confirmed the presence of Islamic State (ISIS) sympathizers inside Afghanistan. There is also a [danger] that a sectarian war could be ignited inside Afghanistan in the future if Iran decides to transfer Afghan fighters in Syria to Afghanistan, as some of them support Iranian policies while others do not. These Afghans will also be influenced by Afghan Shiite marājiʿ who reside in Iran.”
The security analyst concluded that “the recruitment of Afghans, in addition to the loss of Afghan lives, damages the image of Afghans in the world, and will therefore lead to increased tension in Afghan-Iranian relations.”
Iran’s response to the accusations
Iran denies the accusations made against it by Afghanistan of recruiting its citizens and sending them to Syria. The Iranian embassy in Kabul has released a statement to that effect, which also stresses Iran’s condemnation of foreign intervention in Syria. In the statement — a copy of which was acquired by Alaraby Aljadeed — the embassy said that Iran recently arrested a number of Afghans from Iran who wanted to travel to Iraq to join ISIS. Mohammad Ali Maradli’s family denied the story. “Everyone knows very well that it is Iran who recruits Afghans,” the family said. “This is proved by [the activities] of Afghan religious scholars in Qom and other Iranian cities who encourage young people from their country to defend holy sites. Meanwhile, Iranian military officials are constantly participating in the funerals of Afghans killed in Syria, and buried in various Iranian cities.” Not long ago Maradli’s family heard a rumor that he had been buried secretly inside Iran along with five other Afghans who, like him, were killed in Syria. Although they were all buried in the city of Qom at the beginning of this month, according to the rumor, the family prefers to consider their son missing at present.
Afghanistan’s stance
Afghanistan’s official stance on the recruitment and transfer to Syria of its citizens by Iran is expressed by Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Siraj al-Haqq Siraj, who confirmed to Alaraby Aljadeed that there are Afghans fighting with both the Syrian regime and the opposition. “The Afghan government has tasked its embassy in Jordan with running an investigation into the subject,” the diplomat told Alaraby Aljadeed. He added that Kabul has “threatened to refer the case to the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees if evidence is found proving Iran’s involvement in recruiting Iranian refugees and sending them to Syria.” Some observers have said that Afghanistan’s current status may not allow the country to lodge a complaint with the UNHCR. However, legal expert Dr. Khaled Ahmad Khatim told Alaraby Aljadeed he believes the UNHCR could discuss the case with Iran without Afghanistan’s intervention. Iran is a signatory to the UNHCR’s 1951 refugee convention, which stipulates that host states may not politically exploit the situation of refugees, and stresses that their lives must be protected. This means that by sending Afghan refugees to fight in Syria Iran is in breach of international law.
**This is a translation of an article written in Arabic by Sibghatullah Saber which originally appeared in Alaraby Aljadeed.

The Taif turns 25
Khalil Gebara & Makram Rabah/Now Lebanon
The 25th anniversary of the Taif agreement is yet another sad reminder of the schizophrenia of both the Lebanese people and their system.
It is safe to assume that the Lebanese are sentimentally attached to anniversaries, memorials and commemorations. In a pluralistic society with an assortment of religious and national occasions, the Lebanese enjoy plenty of holidays throughout the year. Chief among these is the annual 13 April remembrance of the 1975 outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War.
The public generally assumes that the civil war lasted for exactly 15 years and six months, ending on 13 October, 1990, with the removal of the renegade General Michael Aoun from the presidential palace in Baabda. However, it was almost a year prior to this date in the Saudi city of Taif that the countdown to the end of the civil war started.
Sixty-two of the surviving 99 members of the 1972 parliament met to iron out and draft a national reconciliation document — commonly referred to as the Taif Accord — which was ratified two weeks later and incorporated into the Lebanese constitution.
The deliberations and deal making behind Taif were not entirely unique in their own sense. In this regard, the Taif agreement can best be described as a culmination of previous miscarriages to end the civil war, including the Constitutional Document of 1976, the Geneva and Lausanne Conferences of 1983 and 1984, the late PM Rashid Karami’s 1984 declaration and, finally, the short-lived Tripartite Agreement of 1985.
Recently, the Lebanese commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Taif Accord. Civil society organizations put together workshops and conferences, political talk shows hosted former parliamentarians, while commentators flooded daily newspapers with op-eds discussing the importance and continuing relevance of this agreement.
Conventional wisdom has it that the Taif Accord was never properly implemented. The Syrian regime, throughout its 15-year presence in Lebanon, derailed the implementation of many of the reforms approved by the 62 parliamentarians. The Syrian regime delayed the redeployment of its troops and did not facilitate crucial elements of the Accord, including the establishment of a senate, the abolition of political sectarianism and the launching of a comprehensive process of administrative decentralization.
However, it is difficult to imagine how Lebanon’s political system and constitutional institutions would function if the Taif agreement had been properly implemented. In this regard, many have argued that the amended constitution that incorporated many of the Taif agreement themes needs to be revisited in order to address ambiguities that affected the proper functioning of the institutions.
Proponents of this argument fail to realize that the Lebanese Constitution is designed to serve a power-sharing political system that rests on cooperation between the elites who, in turn, represent the interests of their communities. Any deadlock in this system, therefore, should not be simply resolved by looking to the constitution for proper and straightforward arbitration. Rather, it requires communal consultation and cooperation outside constitutional institutions.
Another issue that has been repeatedly raised is that the Taif constitution needs to be revisited so as to take into account changes in the balance of power and demographics between the various sectarian communities. The argument here is that the confessional parity that was introduced in the Taif agreement has expired and thus there is a need for a power-sharing formula. The main methodological problem with this argument is that it implies that the power-sharing formula should change continuously and be modified to reflect communal power on the ground. In other words, the power-sharing principal should be transformed from a constant to a variable.
On the 25th anniversary of the Taif agreement, it is safe to wonder whether an objective, constructive and practical debate on the Taif constitution is possible given the drastic regional changes and upheavals. The existential question remains, however, whether such a debate can be launched given the presence of a political and military entity – Hezbollah – that participates in the political system and its constitutional institutions, but at the same time has established its own independent political system with all its relevant symbols, such as an army, flag, socio-economic institutions, border management, as well as air and naval power.
Unfortunately, the 25th anniversary of the Taif agreement is yet another sad reminder of the schizophrenia of both the Lebanese people and their system, something which will surely survive for the next 25 years, if not beyond.
**Khalil Gebara is a Lecturer of Political Science at the American University of Beirut. Makram Rabah is a PhD candidate at Georgetown University’s History Department.

Report: Iran building ‘new Hezbollah’ in Syria

By Staff Writer | Al Arabiya News/Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Iran is working to unite Shiite foreign militias fighting in Syria under one organization that could serve as a “parallel army” to that of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, pro-opposition news website Siraj Press reported on Wednesday. The new organization, described as similar to the highly organized and well-armed Lebanese Hezbollah group, would bring together Afghan and Iraqi mercenaries under one military command. “This army would resemble Hezbollah in Lebanon… and will gradually work on recruiting Syrians,” Siraj Press quoted a source as saying. The organization would then be well-armed and trained to be an independent force for long-term presence in Syria, even if the regime of President Assad collapses.
The Iranian move coincided with Damascus’ decision to recruit thousands of Syrian youth to join military service. Jordanian Maj. Gen Fayez al-Doueiri suggested that Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Qods Force, was behind the new Iranian project.
“The decision maker in Syria is General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds force,” Gen. al-Doueiri said during an interview on Al Arabiya’s sister channel Al Hadath. Gen. Doueiri noted that it was Suleimani’s idea to send Iran’s Basij brigades to Syria in the early months of the Syrian civil war. He explained how Suleimani reportedly used Iraq as a training ground for foreign Shiite militias who desired to join the Syrian civil war. Tehran, the longtime supporter of the Assad’s regime, could be re-adjusting its strategy in Syria following the rise of the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and the ongoing U.S.-led military campaign, according to Gen. Doueiri. He suggested that Tehran no longer sees Assad’s tattered army as reliable to safeguard its interests in the country; so it needs a “parallel army” for long-term service.  The new army would provide field support for the Assad’s army, which has reportedly lost more than 200,000 fighters since the civil war began in 2011. Iran considers the war in Syria as critical for its geo-political influence in the region and a crucial battleground in its conflict against the U.S. and Western powers. Syria provides a strategic bridge between Iran and Hezbollah, its proxy militia in Lebanon. The fall of Syria to the liberal, pro-West opposition means that Hezbollah could be isolated and Iran’s strategic reach could be diminished.

Palestinian who ran over 3 soldiers turns himself in
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News/Thursday, 6 November 2014
A Palestinian who ran over three Israeli soldiers in the southern West Bank turned himself in to the security forces on Thursday, the army said, according to Agence France-Presse. “The Palestinian suspected of running over the three soldiers last night turned himself into the security forces and has been taken for investigation,” an army statement said. Following the deadly attack, Israel stepped up security along the Jerusalem light rail tracks. Israel began installing concrete blocks around the 24 light rail stations, an AFP correspondent reported.
Israeli Police had set up roadblocks in several Palestinian neighborhoods in the east of the city and deployed reinforcements at key road junctions. Jerusalem holy site Meanwhile, Israel's prime minister has emphasized there will be no change in the status of a contentious Jerusalem holy site amid spiking tensions in the area.Government spokesman Mark Regev said Benjamin Netanyahu made the comment at a meeting with security officials late Wednesday. For several hours before Wednesday's car attack, heavy clashes raged at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City as police faced off with Palestinian stone-throwers bent on preventing a visit by Jewish extremists. Police managed to calm the situation by locking the protesters inside the mosque then allowed the visit by the Jewish groups to go ahead. The mosque compound, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, was open as usual on Thursday morning, an AFP correspondent reported.(With AFP)

Fighting extremism must not be left to the hesitant

Thursday, 6 November 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Saudi security forces in six cities pursued terrorist cells linked to the terror attack in the town of al-Ahsa where seven citizens died this week. During a confrontation with gunmen, two members of the security forces were killed, including one who had been injured in 2005 during clashes with al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in the same area. Interesting how history repeats itself! Extremist teachings yield terrorism, unarmed civilians are killed; the country becomes overwhelmed with fear about the return of terrorism; and a member of the security forces who survived a previous fight is destined to die in a later battle. Terrorists are not born terrorists. They are victims of the schools of extremism in their broad context, i.e. of local culture, incapability to confront extremism, a defect in the system and a weakness of the judiciary. Several terrorist detainees were freed after complaints by some, despite that they were active in extremism. At this time, extremist teachings and discourse increased because the situation was left to get worse. The circle of believers in extremism thus expanded until it all became as if we were living among the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group. It’s as if extremism had settled everywhere, controlling the mentality of a huge minority and sparking fear among a majority who were afraid of confronting it and who were afraid for themselves, their children and their future.
Walking dead
The situation reminds me of The Walking Dead series, where a few survivors in an apocalypse find prison to be the best place to be safe from flesh-eating zombies. The zombies are increasing in number and their brutality and the scale of their activities is also increasing. Confronting them continues to be the state’s responsibility. What’s the fate of the youths who are subject to such extremist ideology and which logic is adopted when arresting them – even though they are just victims of an available culture?
“Every time a devious generation is pursued, a more devious generation is born. These generations are a threat to the international community who publicly complains about them and does not settle at discomforting Saudi citizens across the world’s airports and universities”
Are we aware of the size of the problem and that the problem is not just one involving security? Every time a terrorist cell is started, we get security forces to pursue it and treat it as a threat to society and to emerging generations.
Every time a devious generation is pursued, a more devious generation is born. These generations are a threat to the international community who publicly complains about them and does not settle at discomforting Saudi citizens across the world’s airports and universities. The same societies also criticize us as they speak of the issue threatening the entire world as a result of our culture and as a result of our failure to curb extremism and get rid of the disease which terrorized the world since the 1990’s.
Hostile countries
We must realize that there’s an international responsibility we must bear and that our rivals will exploit it to hold us accountable. The world will not just settle with avoiding us like it’s currently doing with societies stricken by the Ebola virus and similar fatal diseases.
Extremists are a source of internal and external threat. Hostile countries find in our sons, their organizations, crimes, publications and media a means to turn the international community against us, isolate us and thus destroy everything we’ve built.
Our record in fighting terrorism will not succeed at defending us. Is there someone who realizes the scale of the threat and is doing something to prevent it other than just counting on security forces to pursue terrorists who become like ticking time bombs walking among us?
It’s been a long time since the issue of terrorism surfaced and we’ve realized its extent since the mid 1990’s during the first wave of bombings. Then we were shocked by the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York 2001. Similar attacks then directly struck us in 2003 in Riyadh and we were then engaged in a fierce war against al-Qaeda across Saudi Arabia for around six years.
First of its kind
We thought all of the al-Qaeda cells had been destroyed, but their extremist ideology reproduced even more cells. These same cells recently fired their first bullet in al-Ahsa and their crime was the first of its kind.
Truth be told, the Saudi grand mufti’s strong and frank stance against the perpetrators is what encouraged many to say that we must not be silent regarding these terrorist cells, as the lives of millions of people are in danger. We must not be caught between the possibilities of either being a victim of extremist ideological deceit or of being a victim for extremists.
The responsibility of confronting extremism must not be left up to hesitant, scared and suspicious people. The practice of leaving it up to such individuals has not stood the test of time. They have done nothing to deserve success during a whole decade since war was declared on extremism. Funds continue to be collected, leaflets continue to be distributed and extremist doctrines continue to reign over different media outlets.
Meanwhile there are plenty of extremists in universities and schools - both teachers and students - and this leaves no room to doubt regarding the dangerous path of our future generations! Even our students abroad are not left alone to develop and flourish in an atmosphere beyond their influence.
This tough talk about the kingdom is not exclusive only to us. It applies to similar countries in the Gulf and to Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, migrant communities in the West and to all societies in which this Ebola-like virus of religious extremism has spread.

US Middle East Policy after the Midterms
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat
Thursday, 6 Nov, 2014
Following President Barack Obama’s refusal to take any action against the escalation of the brutal war the Syrian regime is conducting against its own people, observers in the Arab world have begun to re-evaluate Washington’s Middle East policies.
These policies are expected to change after the midterm elections, and while there is no agreement on the scale of changes, one thing is beyond any doubt: President Obama is now in a much weaker position vis-à-vis Congress during his last two years in the White House.
The results of the midterms do not usually favor the president’s party, as they present an opportunity to register a protest vote against the administration. Furthermore, although domestic rather foreign policy is uppermost in most voters’ minds, the general mood of the electorate plays an important role in influencing the outcome. The “feel-good factor,” or lack of it, affects the president’s standing, and if the electorate have a good feeling about the general outlook of things, they may overlook presidential errors that might otherwise prove fatal. Today, the general mood is troubled by the steady growth of the jihadist and takfirist threat in the Middle East and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa; and if the president cannot be held responsible for the Ebola outbreak, he has a lot to answer for as far as the jihadist–takfirist threat is concerned.
Looking at the recent history of the Middle East and the Arab world one can easily see several developments, all of which have convinced Arabs who are interested in American affairs that the relationship between Washington and its Arab “friends” is fast losing its luster.
These include Washington’s helplessness in the face of Israeli intransigence on the issue of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Such a negative attitude has weakened Palestinian moderates led by Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, and allowed Iran to strengthen its ties with Islamist organizations controlling Gaza.
Moreover, Washington’s rapid withdrawal of support for Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak in Tunisia and Egypt, respectively, at the outset of the “Arab Spring,” and their subsequent encouragement of Islamists in several Arab countries, made some believe there was a radical shift in Washington’s policies in these groups’ favor.
There is also the issue of Obama’s accelerating rapprochement with Tehran, especially in the wake of President Hassan Rouhani’s election. This rapprochement has gathered momentum despite Iran’s procrastination and endless maneuvering on its nuclear program, and the Arabs’ increasing worries about Iran’s expansionism and virtual takeover of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and now Yemen. The revelation of ongoing talks between the US and Iran in Muscat has been a significant development.
Next, Washington has all but adopted the Russo–Iranian perspective on the Syrian crisis, whereby the whole crisis is now limited to confronting the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—despite ISIS appearing on the scene two years after the initially peaceful popular uprising was answered by the Assad regime with brutal force. Washington’s refusal to adequately arm the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with advanced weapons, and its rejection of the creation of no-fly zones and safe havens to protect liberated areas and displaced civilians, have made the FSA the weakest fighting force on Syrian soil. This has allowed ISIS to seize control of considerable swaths of territory in eastern and northeastern Syria and Al-Qaeda affiliate the Al-Nusra Front to make gains in the southwest of the country while advancing on the northwest.
Earlier this year, following the failure of pro-Israel moves to slow the White House’s eager push to begin normalizing relations with Iran, a Washington-based friend, quoting a pro-Israel lobbyist, said: “We have to wait until the end of the president’s term. I do not expect any agreement with him during the next two years.” In the meantime, while Iran’s lobby was congratulating itself on an exceptional victory, perceptive analysts have come to see the Iran–Israel confrontation as a competition for the greatest share of regional influence under Washington’s auspices. The two countries have no “official” shared borders, and both are too smart to think that either one can cancel out its competitor, let alone challenge the might of America.
The next few months are likely to be critical in defining the future shape of the Middle East. The personal relationship between President Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has never been warm, but it has been going even further downhill since the rapprochement with Iran began in earnest, and the accusations from unnamed American officials that Netanyahu is “chickenshit” have hardly helped. During the elections this week the Israeli right-wing was openly anti-Obama, and by association anti-Democrat; so it was not surprising that many Democratic candidates distanced themselves from the president believing he has become a liability. Thus, from now on, the White House finds itself forced to adopt a new approach with the Likud government, while making sure that appeasing the Israeli right does not further erode Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian moderates’ credibility.
Regarding the Iranian nuclear program, there is the November 24 deadline. Both Washington and Tehran seem to be keen on securing a deal they could sell to their respective publics as a victory, and hence score points against their respective conservative domestic opponents. Equally critical is the volatile situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The situation there cannot wait, politically or militarily, for decisive action to be taken. Bombing ISIS and its ilk from the air has proven ineffective, so it was interesting to read in the London-based Daily Telegraph that come next spring ground forces could be deployed. On the other hand, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’s warning regarding the dangers in store if Aleppo is to fall to Assad is an indication of how uneasy Paris feels about Washington’s indifference to the moderate Syrian opposition, allowing extremists to control most of the liberated territories. Lebanon remains without an elected president, as Hezbollah insists on imposing its candidate Michel Aoun in order to join the string of regional pro-Iran regimes in the face of growing Sunni Muslim bitterness and tension. Last but not least, the Houthis are now pushing Yemen toward a catastrophic situation in which Washington cannot remain blameless.
Tense coming months? Definitely!

'Car intifada' cartoon campaign encourages vehicular attacks
Elior Levy /Ynetnews
Published: 11.06.14 / Israel News
Palestinians distribute cartoons likening cars to Hamas rockets on social networks in wake of wave of vehicular terror attacks.
After two vehicular terror attacks occurred on Wednesday, wounding 16 people and killing one, Palestinians have termed their latest resistance efforts a "car intifada" and are posting cartoons online likening vehicles to rockets launched by Hamas during Operation Protective Edge. Following the wave of attacks in which drivers ploughed their cars into groups of people, which started two weeks ago with the attack that took place at the Ammunition Hill light-rail stop, killing 3-month-old Haya Ziesl Baron and Ecuadorian Karen Mosquera (22) – Palestinians came to understand that vehicles could potentially be used as lethal weapons. Hamas, whose officials praised on Wednesday the terror attack in Jerusalem, is fueling the fire and is attempting – through vehicular attacks – to initiate an intifada.
During the past day, many cartoons were distributed on social networks following the terror attacks. In one of them, which garnered significant popularity, the word "daes" appears ('run over' in Arabic), alluding to the jihadist organization Daesh, which is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. Another cartoon shows the vehicle used for the terror attack yesterday, entitling it a M-75 on four wheels, hinting that such methods of attack are an alternative to Hamas' weapons (the M-75 missiles). Next to the cartoon, the words "Soon, there will be a R160 bus" appear, hinting at Hamas' longest-range rocket, which reached the outskirts of Haifa in the latest round of fighting. Meanwhile, two people who were wounded in the terror attack in Jerusalem on Wednesday are still hospitalized at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem. One is critical condition and the other is listed in moderate condition. Three people wounded in the Gush Etzion terror attack are also being treated at the hospital, with one in serious condition, one in moderate-to-serious condition and the other in light condition. Three other people wounded in the run over attack in Jerusalem are hospitalized at the Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center in the city, including two in serious condition and the other in moderate condition.
On Wednesday, Police forces arrested sixteen people suspected of disrupting public order in Jerusalem. Since Oct. 22, 188 suspects were arrested on charges of disrupting public order, including 71 people under the age of 18.
**Kobi Nachsoni and Noam (Dabul) Dvir contributed to this report.

Israeli Border Police officer killed in Jerusalem terror attack laid to rest
J.Post 06.11.14/Thousands of people attended the funeral of Jidan Assad, 38, including Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. Assad was killed when a Palestinian rammed his car into pedestrians near the light rail track in Jerusalem. He leaves behind his pregnant wife and young son along with his parents and four siblings. Fourteen others were hurt in the attack, including three other Border Police officer who suffered serious wounds.  Aharonovitch said that Assad "was murdered yesterday with heartless cruelty and taken evilly from his wife, his son and his parents."The Yisrael Beytenu minister accused the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, of being responsible for the attack.

A Two-and-a-Half-Country Union
By: Burak Bekdil/Hürriyet Daily News
November 5, 2014
This is from my column nearly two years ago:
"The bitter truth is that Turkey is too oriental for the European Union, too non-Arab for the Arab League, too non-African for the African Union, too irrelevant for ASEAN and the Union of South American Nations and too western for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization ('The Shanghai Seven?' Feb. 8, 2013)."
Before Prime Minister (then Foreign Minister) Ahmet Davutoğlu failed to foresee that spring could also blossom on the Arab Street, he was busy masterminding what looked like a "Middle East Steel and Coal Union" – with, of course, Turkey as its leader. It was the moment to feel imperial again!
Borders between the region's Muslim "brothers" would disappear "a la Schengen." Trade would prosper (indeed, it did). Sunni Islamists would be the emerging Turkish empire's own "commonwealth of nations." Systematic doses of Israel-bashing could always suffice to keep Shia Iran, Shia Hezbollah and Nusayri-ruled Syria docked at the Turkish bay. The failed state Somalia was easy to win with stacks of dollars and – part-time – common faith. And the Maghreb could wait.
"We believe that [world peace] can only be achieved through a Turkish Islamic Union, where all the countries will be independent in their [local governance], but they will be under one roof, and Turkey will be the spiritual leader of this Turkish Islamic Union." Thus wrote a Turkish journalist in 2012, reflecting the illusions of grandeur more honestly than what the very important men in Ankara had rather more subtly in their minds.
Instead, a hostile, violent and extremist neighbor has emerged in Syria, a neighbor that goes by the name the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), threatening the Turkish Islamic Union-in-the-making. (Apparently, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not like the acronym ISIL and prefers "Daesh," the Arabic acronym for the same name that, sadly, also contains the world "Islamic.")
For the Shia in Lebanon, Mr. Erdoğan is no longer the "rock star" he was a few years earlier. Too bad, he will remain a potential enemy even if he declares war with Israel. Libya is too war-torn and busy to care about any union, Turkish, Islamic, or both.
Egyptians, until last week, were fuming at anything Turkish, including consumer goods and even soap operas. Last week, they took governmental action to raise the stakes in their cold war with Mr. Erdoğan's Turkey, when Cairo announced that it would not renew a three-year transit trade agreement with Turkey.
The Turkish Islamic Union must now remain in deep freeze for a few more decades before a new generation of Turkish Islamists give it another try.
(The transit trade agreement, signed in 2012 when Mohamed Morsi was in power, had facilitated Turkish exports to African nations and the Gulf through Egypt's mainland, via Egyptian ports. It had allowed Turkey to bypass the Suez Canal and other shipping costs, which Turkish companies had previously avoided by transporting their merchandize overland through Syrian ports.)
Ironically, the Egyptian move will leave only one option for the Turkish trucks: An alternative Ro-Ro Line between Iskenderun and the Israeli port of Haifa to transport exports to countries on the Arabian Peninsula and Jordan. So, Israel has become a part-time partner: Ideological enemy and pragmatic ally.
Echoing Cairo last week, Iran's ambassador to Ankara, Ali Reza Bigdeli, said Iran would not sell fuel to Turkish trucks due to the way Ankara responded to a transit fee and fuel row with Tehran. That was not very "brotherly," but very "Middle Eastern."
On the western near-end of the would-be Turkish Islamic Union, Ennahda, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, has conceded defeat in elections to its main secular rival, Nidaa Tounes. The election was a huge setback for Mr. Erdoğan's Tunisian ideological allies.
The Middle East Steel and Coal Union, the Turks' shrewd idea before they upgraded it to the Turkish Islamic Union, must now remain in deep freeze for a few more decades before a new generation of Turkish Islamists give it another try.
But if Messrs. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are in a rush to see a great Turkish-led union of noble nations, they could always thumb their noses at the Shanghai Six and invent "The Middle East Two-And-a-Half," bringing together Turkey, Qatar and Hamas.
**Burak Bekdil is a columnist for the Istanbul-based daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Obama sent letter to Iran's Khamenei; Israel kept in the dark
In secret letter, U.S. president says cooperation in fight against ISIS hinges on reaching a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
By Barak Ravid/Nov. 6, 2014/Haaretz
U.S. President Barack Obama sent a secret letter to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last month, in which he wrote that the two nations have shared interests in fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, but that any cooperation between Tehran and Washington on this issue would hinge upon reaching an agreement over Iran's nuclear program by the November 24 deadline, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The White House did not inform either Israel or America’s Gulf State allies, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, about the letter, which was sent in mid-October, according to the report.
The White House refused to either confirm or deny the report. At a daily briefing for reporters, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he cannot discuss private correspondence between the president and other world leaders.
But the Wall Street Journal reported that senior administration officials didn’t deny the letter’s existence when asked about it by foreign diplomats over the past few days. It’s possible the diplomats in question were members of the high-level Israeli delegation that went to Washington last week for talks with the administration over Iran’s nuclear program. The delegation was headed by National Security Advisor Joseph Cohen, and the visit included a private meeting between Cohen and his American counterpart, Susan Rice.
Earnest said that senior American and Iranian officials have discussed the battle against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, on the sidelines of the nuclear talks in recent weeks. But he stressed that the negotiations with Iran remain focused on its nuclear program.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the report. But if Israel really wasn’t informed about the letter to Khamenei, and learned of it only from the Wall Street Journal, that is liable to deepen the already severe lack of trust between Jerusalem and Washington on an issue –Iran – that is critical to their relationship.
Iran is negotiating with a six-nation group comprised of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia. Israel’s fear is that the America and the other Western powers will soften their positions as the November 24 deadline approaches out of a desire to reach an agreement.
Friday morning, Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz will arrive in Paris for meetings with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in an effort to coordinate positions with Paris on the Iranian issue.
Over the past few weeks, Israeli officials have discerned a retreat in the West’s positions with regard to the number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to keep under a final agreement. Iran, they say, hasn’t budged, but the West has gradually upped the number of centrifuges it would be willing to live with.
The report on Obama’s letter to Khamenei, his fourth since 2009, was published just days before a planned tripartite summit at which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the European Union’s chief nuclear negotiator, Catherine Ashton, will strive for a breakthrough that would enable a permanent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program by the official deadline. The summit will take place on Sunday and Monday in Muscat, the capital of Oman.
Obama, who has made the effort to reach a nuclear deal with Iran a key aim of his second-term foreign policy, discussed the issue at a press conference on Wednesday. He said the United States and the other powers had offered Tehran a “framework” for a deal that would enable Iran “to meet their peaceful energy needs.”
“And if in fact what their leadership says, that they don’t want to develop a nuclear weapon, if that is in fact true, then they’ve got an avenue here to provide that assurance to the world community and in a progressive, step by step, verifiable way, allow them to get out from under sanctions so that they can reenter as full-fledged members of the international community,” he added.
Obama said he preferred a diplomatic agreement with Iran to all the alternatives, including the military option. Nevertheless, he insisted, he would prefer no deal at all to a bad deal.
He also said there was a serious question as to whether Iran would be capable of accepting the West’s offer for a nuclear deal.