November 13/14

Bible Quotation For Today/Let Us put on the armor of light
"Romans 13/08-10: "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 12-13/14
Netanyahu: Iran is America’s enemy, not its partner/By TOVAH LAZAROFF/J.Post/November 12/1
The terror attacks Israel cannot thwart /Yossi Yehoshua/Ynetnews/November 12/14
Punishing Saleh and the Houthis/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/November 12/14

Lebanese Related News published on November 12-13/14
Al-Nusra Claims Bomb Place of Abducted Soldiers, Families Postpone Escalation
March 14 decries Resistance Brigades recruitment

Constitutional Council to hear extension challenge
Berri defends pro-extension lawmakers amid criticism

Gemayel Considers Parliamentary Extension 'Flagrant' Violation of Constitution

Lebanon unaware of what it’s eating
Constitutional Council Vows to Deal with Any Constitutional Challenge as per Norms

Shame On the Lebanese food establishments: Meat your nightmare
Food scandal: Menu of death Future ready for compromise with March 8
Lebanon's Druze wary of Syrian spillover Muslim leaders: Sectarian strife will not erupt
Paris-based uni keen to attract Lebanese talent AUB and BLC competition to fix up Adlieh roundabo
Muslim leaders: Sectarian strife will not erupt Wife of abducted soldier gives birth to baby boy
Salam to visit UAE – but first, Cabinet

Kidnapped Kuwaiti freed for huge ransom
Potential for more violence in Tripoli Salafists struggle as radicals tarnish reputation Wife of abducted soldier gives birth to baby boy
Beit Misk’s $1 billion megaproject on track ISF needs help identifying woman killed on highway
EDL urges government to 'liberate' headquarters

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 12-13/14
Moscow: Hope, but no breakthrough so far in nuclear talks with Iran
GCC leaders to hold “emergency” meeting in Riyadh: source
Russia sees chance of deal at nuclear talks with Iran
Death toll in Nigeria school bombing rises to 58
Iraq’s president meets King Abdullah in Riyadh War of words mars Arafat anniversary US officials: More work needed on Iran nuke deal
Washington assumes a deal is coming with Iran
Abbas: Israel dragging region into religious war
Poll: Majority of Israelis support responding to terror with peace talks
Qatar issues summit invite amid strains Palestinians commemorate Yasser Arafat 'Gaza rocket fire on Israel could resume' Israeli woman joins Kurds in battle against ISIS
U.N. talks in Tehran, Riyadh fail to break presidential deadlock
Car bombs wound at least 20 in east Libya as chaos mounts
Saudi Beheads Drug Smuggler in 66th Execution of Year
Israel MPs Back Bill to Ban Free Distribution of Pro-PM Paper
Iran Denies Nuclear Scientist Killed in Syria

Below Jihad Watch Posts For Tuesday
Qatar warns Washington to support Muslim Brotherhood, likens group to “Christian democratic parties”

New Prager University Course: Raymond Ibrahim on Muslim Persecution of Christians
Pope calls for seminary training for “constructive dialogue with Muslims…to live a peaceful coexistence with them”
Nazareth billboard supports car jihad terror attacks while alluding to the Islamic State
New York hatchet attacker had “obsession” with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State

Ontario school board tells schools to allow Muslim students to be exempt from Remembrance Day observances
Senior Saudi Salafi cleric: The Islamic State is “a true product of Salafism”
All Pakistan Private Schools Federation holds “I am not Malala” day because she is against “Islamic ideology of Pakistan”
Georgetown University panel shows how Islamic State’s caliphate has justification in Islamic history and appeal for modern Muslims
Middle Eastern Christian Committee asks Archbishop of Jerusalem to remove Hamas-linked CAIR’s Nihad Awad from coalition
Friday sermon by Israel-based Islamic supremacist Raed Salah: Jerusalem will be capital of global caliphate
UK “security chiefs”: Jihad terror attack “almost inevitable,” three foiled in recent months

UK: Muslim gang rips medals from 70-year-old army veteran on his way to Remembrance Sunday service
Robert Spencer speaks at Veteran’s Day Ceremonies in Sierra Madre, California
Armistice Day 2014
Turkish journalist: Charge of “racism” and “Islamophobia” are “accusations bullies always use to silence people who disagree with them”

Hezbollah recruiting non-Shiites for ISIS fight: report
Nov. 12, 2014 /The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah is recruiting young Christian, Druze and Sunni men in east Lebanon for the Resistance Brigades to fight ISIS, local newspaper An-Nahar reported Wednesday. The report said Hezbollah members in the northern and western parts of the Bekaa Valley were offering the recruits weapons and training “to counter the threat of ISIS and its affiliates.” As the recruitment was reportedly ongoing in the Bekaa, the report said similar training of Christians, Druze and Alawites was taking place in Syria, “but not under the Resistance Brigades.” Hezbollah formed the Resistance Brigades in 2009, recruiting Sunni allies into the group, which later sparked controversy when clashes erupted between the militia and residents in south Lebanon. Last year, Hezbollah reduced the number of the Resistance Brigades fighters from around 500 to between 200 and 250 and purged its ranks of those who had been exacerbating tensions with the local community, a source close to the party had told The Daily Star. An-Nahar said “hefty” pay had been offered to those recruits who “directly” joined Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to fight in Syria, while more modest salaries are given to those volunteering with Hezbollah’s official military wing, the Islamic Resistance. As for militants who chose to join the militias of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party because of their secular beliefs or their non-Shiite identity, An-Nahar said they received wages similar to Hezbollah fighters. On the other hand, the report stressed that the Resistance Brigades did not operate in Syria and that its role was to monitor Lebanese territory and be ready to act against any move by Israel or a fundamentalist group. Relatives of those who return from the battle in Syria back to Lebanon said the fighters were earning monthly salaries between $1,500 and $2,500, according to the report.
Lebanon is engaged in a battle against jihadists from ISIS and the Nusra Front along its northern and northeastern border with Syria after the extremists briefly took over the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal early in August, capturing more than 30 Lebanese servicemen.
The militants have so far released seven hostages and killed three.
Also Wednesday, An-Nahar’s Elie Lahhoud published an interview with the head of the Resistance Brigades, who he said preferred to stay anonymous and use the nickname “Hajj.”According to the article, the meeting was held in the leader’s soundproof office. Hajj revealed that his militants had actually participated in the clashes with Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir’s militants in Sidon last year.The clashes erupted between Assir’s fighters, hiding in the Bilal bin Rabah mosque of Sidon’s Abra neighborhood, and soldiers of the Lebanese Army, leading to the death of 18 soldiers. Members of the brigades started acting before receiving their leaders’ permission, Hajj explained, and evacuated the Army soldiers who were wounded and killed in the clashes.
According to the group’s chief, the Hezbollah-affiliated fighters also directly clashed with pro-Assir militants coming out of the Ain al-Hilweh camp to attack Army troops, and succeeded to push them back. As for the Arsal clashes last August, he said the militants were ready with “the hand on the trigger,” but the Army’s special units did not need any support. He explained that the brigades would be fighting if any danger erupted on the Lebanon-Syria border, but stressed that the military information had been kept secret to protect the brigades’ structure and hierarchy. The group has been receiving “thousands” of applications from those wishing to join, according to Hajj, mostly coming from young Christian men. “The Deir al-Ahmar and Ras Baalbek groups of the Brigades are purely Christian, from the members to the leaderships, and they are in hundreds,” the chief said. “The battle against ISIS shall not be restricted to one Lebanese side,” he added in reference to Lebanese Shiites. “It is rather imposed on us all.”The leader “surprisingly admitted the actual participation in the battle.”While the group has been perceived as part of a Hezbollah tactic to penetrate into non-Shiite communities, their leader said the party was trying to spread the ideology of resistance and enhance it in all areas, while preserving the special characteristics of each community.

March 14 decries Resistance Brigades recruitment
Nov. 12, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition Tuesday slammed Hezbollah’s reported recruitment of non-Shiite fighters to join its Resistance Brigades, accusing the party of promoting a culture of violence and attempting to monopolize resistance. “The phenomenon of arms distribution that is directly monitored by Hezbollah under the umbrella of what is called 'Resistance Brigades,' is an act we refuse and condemn,” March 14’s General Secretariat said in a statement following their weekly meeting.
The statement said that such actions by Hezbollah are posing a great risk to Lebanese society, by shaking its stability and pushing it “towards explosion.”
“Hezbollah insists on this distribution for the sake of spreading its culture, which is based on armament and fighting a unilaterally chosen enemy,” the statement said. The Resistance Brigades is the military wing of Hezbollah designated for non-Shiites, or for Shiites who do not want to commit to the party's main military formation. An-Nahar carried an interview with the Brigades' leader Wednesday, who said the group has hundreds of fighters across Lebanon prepared to act at a moment's notice. Its role, according to the anonymous leader, is to monitor any Israeli military movement in Lebanon, or any potential threat posed by fundamentalist groups.
March 14 said the brigades served to enforce Hezbollah’s monopoly over weapons, which is in turn used to claim the party's monopoly over resistance, “as if Lebanon does not have an Army or security forces to protect the people and the country.”

Constitutional Council to hear extension challenge
Nov. 12, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Constitutional Council will not fail to achieve quorum in the session designated to discuss the appeal against the law extending the Parliament’s mandate, the council’s chair pledged Wednesday. “I confirm that the quorum will not be obstructed again in the Constitutional Council,” Issam Suleiman said in a news conference held to celebrate the council’s 20th anniversary. “The council will deal with this appeal in accordance to what the Constitution states about its internal organization.” Last week, Parliament approved a law to extend its own mandate for another 2 years and 7 months, after a similar move in 2013, when it renewed its term for 17 months.  Ninety-five out of the 97 MPs attending the session voted yes, with the Free Patriotic Movement and Kataeb Party boycotting the vote in opposition. The FPM’s parliamentary bloc, Reform and Change, announced Tuesday that it would challenge the extension law at the council, the judicial authority tasked with protecting Lebanon’s Constitution. Former President Michel Sleiman and the FPM had submitted appeals against the first extension law at the council, but the challenge was not heard after Shiite and Druze council members boycotted the sessions. The failure was protested by civil society activists, who through tomatoes and shouted slogans outside the council's office, accusing it of being controlled by political parties. The council needs eight of its 10 members to attend any session for the quorum to be met, which is an exceptionally high percentage compared to other government institutions. “Once the council does not make a decision about an appeal for 30 days, the law will automatically become valid,” Suleiman explained. The council’s chief argued that the internal laws of the council must be amended, so that an absolute majority would be enough for a quorum. He also argued that the current majority needed for a decision to be made, which is 70 percent, must be also changed to 60 percent. “According to the current rules, if four of the members do not approve a decision, and 30 days pass, their opinion will win over that of the other six,” he said. “Thus, the minority and not the majority would be ruling.”He said he expected such amendments to be approved soon.

Lebanon unaware of what it’s eating
(AFP/ Ramzi Haidar) BEIRUT – Lebanon's health minister dropped a bombshell Tuesday, revealing that a number of popular restaurants and stores had been selling contaminated food. "Lebanese people do not know what they are eating, and it would be even worse if they did," Wael Abu Faour said in a press conference. He revealed that his ministry had undertaken a wide-ranging probe in the past 20 days, taking 3600 samples from 1500 locations across the country, including restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries, butcheries and sweet shops. "The lab results revealed that the Lebanese [are eating] food full of diseases and microbes." The minister went into troubling details on the inspections, saying that "some of the tested food samples contained [elements] of human feces" while others had Salmonella and E.Coli. The press conference took a political tone, with Abu Faour calling for the immediate passage of a food safety law while warning that the government would be unable to protect citizens without one. Abu Faour, who is a member of the Progressive Socialist Party, also touted in the press conference that his ministry's health inspections came as part of a "comprehensive reform policy" adopted by his party that is currently being implemented by its ministers.

Berri defends pro-extension lawmakers amid criticism
The Daily Star/Nov. 12, 2014
BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday defended the 95 lawmakers who voted to extend Parliament's mandate by more than two years amid an avalanche of criticism. “We were always and still are with freedom of the press media and its national role. ... But freedom of the press must not take away [peoples’] dignities,” he stressed during his weekly meeting with lawmakers. He said the parliamentary extension was the result of the circumstances “that are known to everyone.” Last week, Parliament approved a law to extend its own mandate by another two years and seven months, after a similar move in 2013, when it renewed its term for 17 months. Ninety-five of the 97 MPs attending the session voted yes, with the Free Patriotic Movement and Kataeb Party boycotting the vote.
The vote prompted rebukes by a number of local officials including former President Michel Sleiman and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, as well at the United States, European Union and United Nations. The FPM said it plans to file an appeal against the law with the Constitutional Council. Berri said that efforts were currently focused on electing a new Lebanon president and approval of a new electoral law. The speaker expressed optimism and said “internal and external signs are encouraging” when asked whether any progress has been made in the presidential election crisis. Lebanon has been without a head of state since May with lawmakers botching several attempts to elect a new president.

A Lebanese New president on the horizon?
Alex Rowell/Now Lebanon
November 12/14
Sleiman Frangieh among names being discussed as possible Future-Hezbollah deal looms
A number of developments in recent days have fuelled speculation that the time may be nigh for Lebanon’s feuding political blocs to bring an end to an almost six-month-long vacuum in the country’s presidency.
For a start, the question of parliament’s term, which was due to expire this month, was put to rest last Wednesday when MPs voted in favor of a proposal to extend their mandate until the year 2017. With uncertainty over the fate of the legislature now dispelled, the argument goes, attention will inevitably turn to the executive branch.
Perhaps more importantly, in a rare live appearance last Monday Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah officially declared, for the first time, that his party’s presidential nominee was Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun. The statement was widely seen as a kiss of death for Aoun, since as Hezbollah’s official candidate, he could no longer feasibly be considered a politically neutral ‘compromise’ or ‘consensus’ pick, as Lebanon’s largely ceremonial presidents generally are. Nasrallah also gave atypical praise to his chief rival, the US- and Saudi-allied Future Movement, and stated that “the time has come for a dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah.”
The Hezbollah leader’s formal endorsement of Aoun’s candidacy was a “game changer,” according to Antoine Haddad, secretary-general of the Democratic Renewal (Tajaddod) Movement. What remains to be seen, Haddad told NOW, is whether Hezbollah will in fact follow through on its conciliatory rhetoric and negotiate a compromise candidate, or whether Nasrallah was merely bluffing, as some within the Future-led 14 March bloc have asserted. “The coming days will show if Hezbollah will continue on this path” or not, said Haddad.
Among those taking Nasrallah’s words seriously is Future MP Bassem al-Shab. Speaking to NOW Tuesday evening, immediately after a Future parliamentary bloc meeting, Shab said there were a range of views expressed during the meeting but that his own opinion is that “the flexibility we’re seeing from Hezbollah is real. I think it reflects an Iranian sentiment that there is a need for flexibility in Lebanon, as there was a need for flexibility in Iraq with [former Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki.” Iran is Hezbollah’s principal regional patron and exerts considerable influence over the party. Accordingly, Shab foresees serious negotiations taking place within “weeks, not months” to agree on a candidate “who can navigate a Sunni-Shiite conflict and who has the confidence of both parties […] someone with a certain degree of legitimate representation, but who is also agreeable to both sides.”
Asked by NOW who might fit that profile, Shab cited the leader of the 8 March-aligned Marada Movement, MP Sleiman Frangieh. When NOW queried how Frangieh, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, could be acceptable to 14 March, Shab hinted at a hypothetical agreement by which Frangieh’s presidency would be paired with Future leader MP Saad Hariri as prime minister.
“If a deal is struck, you cannot have all the top positions leaning toward the same side,” Shab told NOW. “Just as we now have [Future members] Nohad al-Machnouk and Ashraf Rifi in government — who would have thought the other side would be accepting of them?”
Aside from Frangieh, other names mentioned in recent press reports include Lebanese Armed Forces Commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji — considered favorable to Hezbollah but reportedly also amenable to Saudi Arabia, where he recently visited to formally accept a $3 billion grant to the military — and 75-year-old former lawyer and journalist Jean Obeid, seen as pro-Damascus but also, according to leaked US Embassy cables, well-esteemed by Riyadh.
At the same time, many observers, including Haddad, maintain that Nasrallah’s speech may have simply been a diversion tactic, aimed at buying time while awaiting the outcomes of various regional initiatives, from Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1 countries on its nuclear program to UN plans for truces in Syria. “Hezbollah may want to see some calming of the situation until [it’s clearer] what’s going on at the regional level […] it could be just this,” Haddad told NOW.
Shab, by contrast, sees the appointment of a Lebanese president as part and parcel of those same regional initiatives.“It’s no longer a local issue now, it’s a regional one,” he told NOW.“Something is going to give soon.”Alex Rowell tweets @disgraceofgod

Shame On the Lebanese food establishments: Meat your nightmare
Nov. 12, 2014/The Daily Star/Health Minister Wael Abu Faour didn’t mince his words at Tuesday’s news conference naming and shaming Lebanese food establishments which are pushing the definitions of cleanliness, but this announcement – and subsequent public outrage – now needs to be capitalized on. There have been many food scandals over recent years, with food poisoning a common complaint, and routine hauls of outdated meat and other produce, but these revelations are on another level. For too long the Lebanese have known that the food they buy in supermarkets and in restaurants is far from the highest standards, but have also known that not enough is being done about it, or to warn them. It would be reassuring to think that the Beirut establishments’ owners were duly concerned ahead of Thursday’s list, but this is unlikely, given the inadequate punishments meted out to those who violate food safety standards. While the Lebanese people are being distracted with the usual dirty politicking and name-calling, people should be united in their horror at this disgusting state of affairs, which results in us literally poisoning ourselves and our children. Such food safety investigations should not be a once in blue moon event, but should occur regularly, so that no proprietor can rest easy in the knowledge he is taking the lives of everyday Lebanese in his hands with his blasé attitude to expiry dates and human waste storage.All Lebanese must now work together to demand updated laws, and continued efforts to eliminate this appalling situation which has blighted Lebanon for too long.

Potential for more violence in Tripoli
Nov. 12, 2014 /Misbah al-Ali/The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Despite the increased Army presence in Bab al-Tabbaneh and the constant raids since the disappearance of Islamist Shadi Mawlawi on Oct. 20, the impoverished, largely Sunni neighborhood of Tripoli is still on edge. The intense clashes at the end of last month between the military and Islamist gunmen inspired by the Nusra Front and ISIS – just the latest installment in violence over the last few years – has left its marks in the bullet-ridden building exteriors.
People of Bab al-Tabbaneh endure tough living conditions that have only deteriorated over the last few years, due to round upon round of Syria-linked fighting, all of which seems pointless to most of those who reside there.
Outside a grilled chicken shop, a group of residents are having a heated conversation about compensation payments to those whose buildings were damaged in the October battles, and about the recent tour of the area by the Higher Relief Committee’s chief, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Khair. The owner of the chicken shop, Abdel-Hamid al-Hanoun, listens with interest as the men argue over who will get what and whether it will come through.
“My damages have exceeded $30,000 after both my restaurant and its store were burned down,” he told The Daily Star. “So far I have fixed everything out of my own pocket, without waiting for anyone to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do.”
“Our problem with the Lebanese government – whose existence we welcome because it is a guarantor of a dignified life – is that it is not doing its job and caring for us,” he said. “It shirks all of its duties, while asking us to heed of all of ours, such as paying taxes.
“The joke is that Tripoli’s municipality has collected taxes, while garbage is gathering in the streets unchecked,” he said.
Hanoun’s words are indicative of how many people in the area feel.
They are less bothered by the heightened security measures than they are by the continuing perceived governmental neglect and lack of basic services.
The situation for many has now become so desperate that there are even rumors that residents are selling on what little aid they receive to make money.
A security source expressed his relief that the military crackdown had gone off well, allowing the Army to penetrate places in the restive neighborhood that it had not been able to reach since 2005.
According to the same source, reports indicate that fugitives Mawlawi and his partner in crime Osama Mansour – both of whom are believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda – are still in Bab al-Tabbaneh or in the surrounding areas. Their presence was one of the main reasons that Tripoli exploded into violence last month.
“Mawlawi and Mansour will be caught,” insisted the security source. “It is just a matter of time and putting more pressure on the pair. They are now semi-isolated, but still we need to get the plan to capture them just right.”
The mystery of their disappearance has led to many questions, and parallels have been drawn with the vanishing acts pulled by Ahmad Assir, Sidon’s radical sheikh; Shaker al-Absi, Nahr al-Bared’s former head of Fatah al-Islam; Ali Eid, the head of the Arab Democratic Party, which dominates Tripoli’s Jabal Mohsen, and his son Ali. All of these men evaporated into thin air as soon as the battles they were fighting stopped going in their favor.
Remarkably, Mawlawi recently surfaced on social media website Twitter, where he promised to set the facts straight. “Wait for a statement from us concerning the identities of those who sold off the Sunni men in Tripoli, who failed them, who conspired against them and who took their weapons from them [and gave them to the government].” He also accused Tripoli preachers of conspiring against Sunni men.
The tweeted threat is a clear indication of his awkward situation, which may soon lead to his arrest.
But tension in Tripoli is unlikely to disappear soon.
Tripoli militia commanders who turned themselves in to the authorities in the wake of the security crackdown in April have decided to turn against the politicians who previously protected them and incited them to fight residents of Jabal Mohsen, and are waging an attack against them in the media.
The commanders, in particular Saad Masri and Ziad Allouki, are enraged that the politicians have not expedited their trials as promised, but instead have left them to sit in prison. Families of those imprisoned have said the fighters will no longer stay silent and will instead reveal which of the politicians were involved in the fighting, including parties and former and current ministers and deputies.
Security in Tripoli is still on a knife-edge and remains vulnerable to attacks by ISIS and Nusra Front, who continue to look for logistical supply routes from the Syrian border into the country.
But the mukhtar of Bab al-Tabbaneh, Ali Ajaya, is not worried about these issues.
Instead, he is more concerned with repairing and strengthening the battered relationship between locals and the government.
“You have to realize that the latest events have created real hatred [among residents] for the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah and the security measures,” he said. “Because of the spillover of the Syrian crisis and the escalating sectarian tensions, the majority of people in Bab al-Tabbaneh stand with the Syrian people [opposition] against the [President Bashar] Assad regime.
“Yet the general atmosphere is supportive of the Army and is with the Lebanese government. Embracing these people requires hard work, but they should not be punished for supporting the Syrian revolution.”
Ajaya added that the conflict would not truly go away as long as the main militants involved had not been arrested but had simply disappeared for a while, especially given that the underlying factors behind the fighting had not been dealt with. “The sectarian background of the young men from this area pushed them to take up arms,” Ajaya said.
“We warned the government that it had to deal with the reasons behind this trend if it wants to stop the fighting. “The situation in Bab al-Tabbaneh could explode again at any minute; this is what we all fear.”

Wife of abducted soldier gives birth to baby boy
Nov. 12, 2014
Samya Kullab/Nidal al-Solh/The Daily Star
BAALBEK/BEIRUT: The wife of a soldier held by Islamist militants gave birth to their child Tuesday, as the issue of involving Syria in negotiations to free him and 26 other servicemen has stalled, according to a well-acquainted source. Three months after his abduction, the wife of Abbas Msheik, who is among the 27 hostages held by the Nusra Front and ISIS, delivered a baby boy Tuesday morning at the Dar al-Amal Hospital in Baalbek. Zahraa Msheik, also mother to 7-year-old Fatima and 5-year-old Ali, named her newborn Mohammad. Msheik had been pregnant for almost six months when her husband was captured along with more than 30 troops by militants in Arsal in August during their brief takeover of the border town. ISIS and the Nusra Front have killed three soldiers so far in a bid to pressure the government to meet their demands, accusing Lebanese authorities of not dealing seriously with the matter. Msheik’s relatives and families of the other kidnapped servicemen have been protesting outside the Grand Serail for over a month in a bid to pressure the government to win the release of their loved ones, and a member of Msheik’s family has said the captive suffers from liver problems and needs urgent treatment.
In a statement two weeks ago the Nusra Front presented the Lebanese government with three options for a potential swap deal that implicitly brought the Syrian regime into the fore. It included either releasing 10 Islamist detainees from prison per captive; releasing seven and requesting that the Syrian government free 30 female prisoners per captive; or releasing five detainees in Lebanon and 50 Syrian prisoners per captive. Though General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim had expressed hope in reports published last week that Damascus would be willing to help, a source in direct contact with the militants in Arsal said Syria’s unwillingness to agree to the terms laid out by the Nusra Front with respect to a swap deal in particular has strained talks.
The source added that Qatari mediator Ahmad al-Khatib was still anticipating a response from the government. “The last message he got [from the government] was to wait,” said the source, who requested anonymity. No progress has been made on the file in the last two weeks, he added. The Syrian government has set conditions for helping secure the release of the captives, Al-Liwaa newspaper said Tuesday, citing diplomatic sources.
The daily reported that Syria had conditioned its participation in the hostage release process on receiving an official request from the Lebanese government, asking the Syrian regime to help facilitate the release of named captives by ISIS and Nusra Front.
However, a ministerial source, speaking to Al-Liwaa, voiced doubt that the Lebanese government would respond to the Syrian terms. According to other ministerial sources, Turkey is also engaged in the negotiations and Ankara’s Ambassador to Lebanon Suleiman Inan Oz Yildiz is expected to meet with a delegation of the relatives of the captured servicemen in the coming days. As Lebanon has not officially broken diplomatic ties with Syria, the Army has not officially severed military and intelligence ties with the regime, according to analyst Aram Nerguizian. While, the current Army posture toward the Syrian army is not hostile, no “real world” military cooperation exists between the two nations at the moment, he said.
If any cooperation between the two military institutions exists at the moment, it is “narrowly tied” to maintaining and sustaining stability in north Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and the frontier with Syria.
“For years, that meant trying to push for cooperation with Syria on border demarcation – a push the Assad regime broadly did not take seriously from 2005 through 2011. Since the start of the Syrian conflict, both sides have acted broadly unilaterally to secure their side of the frontier, although consultations were likely,” he said. The ministerial sources, describing the issue as “complicated,” said Prime Minister Tamam Salam was adamant on keeping the hostage file top secret, communicating covertly about developments with other key government players, including Ibrahim and the interior, defense, finance and health ministers. Salam’s crisis cell is expected to convene Wednesday at 6 p.m. to discuss the hostage issue. – Additional reporting by Hasan Lakkis

Future Bloc ready for compromise with March 8 to break deadlock
Nov. 12, 2014
Hussein Dakroub/he Daily Star
BEIRUT: The parliamentary Future bloc offered Tuesday to reach a compromise with its March 8 rivals over electing “a strong and consensus president,” in the latest attempt to break the deadlock that has left Lebanon with no president for nearly six months.
Meanwhile, the law that extended Parliament’s mandate went into effect Tuesday after it was published in the Official Gazette, clearing the way for lawmakers opposed to the extension to challenge it.
Speaker Nabih Berri defended the extension of Parliament’s term, which expires on Nov. 20, to June 2017, as an essential move to ward off the dangers of a vacuum in the legislative branch of power.
Asked to comment on positive signals he spoke concerning the presidential election, Berri was quoted by visitors as saying: “If I disclose them, they will no longer be positive. Of course, there are signals, consultations and moves serving the issue of the presidential election because Parliament has already been called for electoral sessions. A session is scheduled on Nov. 19.”
Lawmakers last week extended Parliament’s mandate for two years and seven months, citing security concerns and arguing that the move was necessary to avert a vacuum in the legislative body.
The Future bloc, which voted for the extension of Parliament’s term, defended its decision, saying it was the “lesser of two evils” to prevent the country from falling into another vacuum, in addition to the 5-month-old presidential void. It stressed that electing a new president should be Parliament’s top priority.
“The bloc considers that the first and main mission of Parliament after the approval of the extension law is still a swift election of a new president in order to end the vacancy in the top presidency post,” the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting chaired by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
It blamed Hezbollah and MP Michel Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc for the presidential deadlock by thwarting a quorum with their persistent boycott of Parliament sessions to elect a president since April.
“Nevertheless, the bloc sees that this boycotting and negative stance should be reviewed and deeply examined by those who took it in the hope the Lebanese political parties could reach a national compromise over the presidency, resulting in the election of a strong and consensus president who respects the Lebanese Constitution,” the statement said.It added that the strength of a strong president should be manifested in his leadership qualities, as well as in his comprehensive vision of Lebanon’s role in its Arab environment and the world.
“A strong president must enjoy the support of the largest section of the Lebanese and who can work to unite them and boost their solidarity in order to enable Lebanon to confront the accumulating and dangerous problems facing the country,” the statement said.
The bloc stressed that an agreement between the rival factions over the election of a new president is sufficient to create a favorable political climate for the country’s major parties to communicate with each other to tackle divisive issues.
The bloc recalled a recent initiative by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the March 14 coalition’s initiative on Sept. 2, both of which called for an agreement with the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance on a consensus president.
Meanwhile, the law that extended Parliament’s term officially went into effect Tuesday after it was published in the Gazette. Political parties that opposed the law can now file a challenge with the Constitutional Council.
Aoun’s bloc said it would submit a challenge against the extension law to the Constitutional Council during the required period.
“The bloc has decided to file a challenge with the Constitutional Council against the Parliament’s extension law. The bloc’s members have signed the challenge and it will be submitted within the legal deadline,” MP Ibrahim Kanaan said after the bloc’s weekly meeting chaired by Aoun. “The bloc considers the challenge as the only means available to those who want democracy and elections to change the current situation.”
Kanaan added that lawmakers and civil society should support the Constitutional Council in order to guarantee the Lebanese their right to choose, run for the elections and elect.
“The only solution to all debate about a vacuum is by holding [parliamentary] elections. We cannot fill the alleged vacuum except by returning to the people,” he said. “Therefore, the extension [of Parliament’s mandate] is an extension of all crises in which we are living.”
He reiterated Aoun’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to allow the election of a president directly by the people instead of by Parliament.
Last year, the bloc challenged the first extension of Parliament’s mandate, but the Constitutional Council was not able to meet to discuss it for lack of a quorum, caused by the absence of members close to Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt, who backed the extension. The two leaders also backed the new extension, making it uncertain if the council would be able to look into it.

Salafists struggle as radicals tarnish reputation of sect

Nov. 12, 2014
Elise Knutsen/The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Despite his formidable stature, Fawaz Zouq tries to avoid driving alone in Tripoli. It’s not the recent paroxysms of violence in Lebanon’s second city that have Zouq on edge. As a Salafist who began growing his beard in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America, Zouq says that unless his wife or children are in the car with him, he is treated with suspicion by security forces. “I’m a peaceful man,” he told The Daily Star. “But if I pass a barrier [checkpoint] they will take me to the side because of my look and ideology.”
Salafists in north Lebanon say that while just a handful of their co-religionists are involved in militant activities, many believe that Salafism is inherently intolerant and violent.
The reality is much more complex, say both Lebanese Salafists and academic experts.
“Very often, people ... think Salafists are [similar] to violent militants, to the jihadi brand of Islam, which is untrue,” said Zoltan Pall, a professor at the National University of Singapore who is currently working on his second book about Salafism in Lebanon.
Modern Salafism was born in Saudi Arabia in the late 18th century when Mohammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, an Islamic preacher, sought to rid Islam of religious and cultural innovations introduced as Islam expanded throughout the world.
Wahhab promoted a return to the original texts of Islam: the Quran and hadith, the traditions and sayings of the Prophet Mohammad passed down from his contemporaries. He forged a pact with a local chief, Mohammad bin Saud, and together they worked to create a religio-political entity that would eventually become the modern Saudi Arabia.
Salafism was brought to Lebanon in the 1940s by Sheikh Salem al-Shahhal, who maintained close ties to the Saudi ruling family.
While holding some common beliefs, Salafists in Lebanon today are not homogenous. Today, there are three distinct schools of thought among Salafists in Lebanon, according to Robert Rabil, a professor at Florida Atlantic University and author of the recently published book “Salafism in Lebanon: From Apoliticism to Transnational Jihadism.”
The delicate interplay between religion, politics and jihad is what differentiates the groups.
Some Salafists, who Rabil calls “quietists,” are largely apolitical and seek to unite Muslims under the banner of pure Islam.
Hasan Shahhal, a Salafist scholar has long been a proponent of inter-confessional dialogue, and spearheaded a memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah in 2008.
He roundly opposes Muslims who consider non-Muslims or even Muslims who do not share their ideology as apostates. “I’m against takfriri ideology,” he said. “I do not accept that anyone who says the shahadatayn [declaration of faith] would be considered an apostate,” he said.
“I am a staunch supporter of dialogue [between sects], and even with atheists on the condition that all sides remain objective and avoid fanaticism,” he added. Others, the activist or “Haraki” Salafists, work within Lebanon’s confessional political system to engender social change and promote their ideology. From his elegant home atop a hill near Tripoli, Sheikh Salem al-Rafei explains that his followers cooperate with the political powers that be.
“We believe in working with the government,” he said. The soft spoken sheikh is convalescing from a bullet wound suffered near Arsal when he was attempting to negotiate a cease-fire between Islamist groups and government forces last August.
Rifai, who was expelled from Germany in 2005 for his inflammatory speech, said he unsuccessfully tried to dissuade a more radical Salafist, Sheikh Khaled Hablas, from attacking the Army several weeks ago.
“On two occasions we met, and I said ‘Don’t do it ... our problem is not with the Army, it’s with Hezbollah.’”
“Any time we have a problem with the Army it benefits Hezbollah.”
But Hablas, along with militant Tripolitans like Shadi Mawlawi and his ilk, is aligned with the radical strain of Salafist jihadism. Many who follow this brand of Salafism are intolerant and fanatical, calling for retribution against those who do not abide by their ultra-orthodox creed.
The Salafist jihadis have gained a toehold, if not popular support, in Tripoli. “We have a few extremist leaders here,” Rafei said. “They are naive about religion. That’s why they are becoming radical.”
According to Pall, some sheikhs in Tripoli are concerned about the expansion of the Salafist jihadi ideology. “Some sheikhs told me ... that Salafist jihadism is spreading among the young generation,” he said. “One of them even told me that a new generation of jihadis might emerge.”
Still, militant Salafist jihadis in Lebanon are few.
Sheikh Zakaria Masri, who Rabil classifies as an activist Salafist, said he was concerned that the environment in Tripoli was pushing some Salafists toward violence.
Several prominent Salafist sheikhs, including Omar Bakri and Hussam Sabbagh, have been imprisoned. Others, like Dai al-Islam al Shahhal, have fled the country.
If security forces constantly tell Salafists they are terrorists, the prophecy will fulfill itself, Masri warned. “Security bodies in general are treating Salafists unfairly in the north. Some Salafists are being humiliated, cursed and arrested at checkpoints,” he added.
“Pressure leads to explosion. And so maybe some Salafists when faced by all this pressure could resort to violence. We pray to God that they will not do so because we believe that they should use reason.” – Additional reporting by Wassim Mroueh

U.N. talks in Tehran, Riyadh fail to break presidential deadlock
Nov. 12, 2014
Antoine Ghattas Saab/The Daily Star
A U.N. official’s recent talks in Saudi Arabia and Iran have failed to achieve a breakthrough in the 5-month-old presidential impasse in Lebanon, political sources said, fueling fears of a prolonged vacuum in the country’s top Christian post.
The official, who had discussed the Lebanese presidential deadlock with Saudi and Iranian officials, returned to Beirut with a message to the Lebanese not to undermine security and political stability “because so far there is no known alternative” to the current situation, the sources said.
They added that attention is now focused on a long-awaited visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Saudi Arabia in the hope of facilitating the election of a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25.
Many Lebanese officials and analysts hold the view that the election of a new president depends largely on a rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran, the two regional powers which back opposing sides in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia backs the Future Movement-led March 14 coalition, while Iran supports the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance.
A Western diplomatic report expected the state of disarray in Lebanon, coupled with security incidents in some areas, to continue until details of a regional settlement, namely in Syria, have been outlined.
Therefore, linking the future situation in Lebanon and the election of a Lebanese president to a solution to the Syrian crisis, means that the current situation will go on as long as the country’s two major components, the Future Movement and Hezbollah, are joined together in one government, the report said.
Meanwhile, the report noted that top priority was still being given to the U.S.-led international coalition to fight ISIS, while the political crisis in Yemen has emerged as a key element to be pursued by international powers after the collapse of the Yemeni example on the transfer of power, which some states had called to apply in Syria, Iraq and other countries.
On the ISIS issue, the report said the U.S. administration, in its policy to deal with this danger, was seeking to simplify issues related to the jihadist group.
It is not wise for U.S. officials to resort to portraying the battle against ISIS as a struggle between good and evil because the nature of the struggle points to a complex, multilateral formula and a competition among regional powers, the report said.
“Therefore, U.S. leaders must contemplate options on the table very carefully as Washington finds itself in a geopolitical minefield which carries with it a high risk of political failure and frustration,” it added. The report touched on Turkey’s refusal so far to actually get involved in the war on ISIS, something that should prompt the U.S. administration to listen to the Turkish demands and fears.Therefore, the report said, Washington must do its best to convince Turkey to get involved in the war on ISIS instead of putting the blame on past experiences. It said the U.S. must show more support for the Turkish government, which is facing internal problems linked to the huge regional challenges caused by the collapse of Iraq and Syria, by holding a meeting of “Friends of Syria” in Turkey with the participation of the rebel Free Syrian Army and Kurds battling ISIS in the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab on the border with Turkey. Another Western diplomatic report dealt with the instability in Yemen following the collapse of the transfer of power formula that led to the ouster of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The report cautioned the decision-makers in Washington “not to ignore what is happening there [Yemen], though this should not be interpreted as an attempt to blame the U.S. and its allies for the tragedies in Yemen.”
The Western report urged regional and international powers seeking to apply the Yemeni example on the transfer of power in Syria and Iraq to review the shortcomings of this experience.

Israeli woman joins Kurds in battle against ISIS
Nov. 12, 2014 /Isabel Coles/Dan Williams/Reuters
IRBIL, Iraq/ OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A Canadian-born immigrant to Israel has become the first foreign woman to join Kurds battling ISIS in Syria, a Kurdish source said Tuesday, as details of the volunteer’s turbulent past surfaced. Gill Rosenberg, 31, is a civil aviation pilot who enlisted in an Israeli army search-and-rescue unit before being arrested in 2009, extradited to the United States and jailed over an international phone scam, one of her former lawyers said. Israel Radio Monday aired an interview with Rosenberg in which she said she had traveled to Iraq, was training with Kurdish guerrillas and would go into combat in next-door Syria. The station did not name the interviewee, who spoke North American-accented Hebrew, but the source involved in the report identified her as Rosenberg.
“They [the Kurds] are our brothers. They are good people. They love life, a lot like us, really,” Rosenberg said, explaining why she joined up after contacting the guerrillas over the Internet.
A source in the Kurdistan region with knowledge of the issue said Rosenberg was the first foreign woman to join YPG, the Kurds’ dominant fighting force in northern Syria. She has crossed into Syria and is one of around 10 Westerners recruited by YPG, the source said.
Rosenberg could not be reached by Reuters for comment. A source provided an Iraqi Kurdistan cellphone number for her, but it was turned off Tuesday. A Facebook page registered to Rosenberg showed photographs of her in settings marked as Kurdish areas of Iraq and Syria. “In the IDF [Israeli army], we say ‘aharai,’ After Me. Let’s show ISIS what that means,” read a Nov. 9 post by Rosenberg. Yahel Ben-Oved, an Israeli lawyer who represented Rosenberg in the U.S. criminal proceedings, said they had no knowledge of her joining the Kurds though they had spoken recently. “It is exactly the sort of thing she would do, though,” Ben-Oved said. Rosenberg had consented to extradition and served around three years in a U.S. prison under a plea bargain, Ben-Oved said. A 2009 FBI statement on the case names her as Gillian Rosenberg, among 11 people arrested in Israel “in a phony ‘lottery prize’ scheme that targeted victims, mostly elderly.” Israel’s NRG news site reported at the time that Rosenberg turned to crime after running short on money, that she was estranged from her parents and had tried in vain to join the Mossad spy service. Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, seeing in the minority group a buffer against shared Arab adversaries.
The Kurds are spread through Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. In the latter they have the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government. Israel bans its citizens from traveling to enemy states, among them Syria and Iraq. It has been cracking down on Israeli Arabs who return after volunteering to fight with ISIS or other rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule. Canada similarly worries about its citizens fighting in Syria. Israeli and Canadian officials said they were aware of Rosenberg’s case, but did not immediately elaborate on what, if any, efforts were being made to return her.

The terror attacks Israel cannot thwart

Yossi Yehoshua/Ynetnews
Published: 11.11.14
Analysis: Lone terrorists pose an impossible challenge for the IDF and Shin Bet. There is no real security solution to this new-old type of terrorism apart from calming the situation down, on both sides – and that's the government's responsibility.
Starting with the kidnapping of the three teens, through the failure to make progress in Operation Protective Edge, which lasted 50 days, to the recent wave of terror attacks – the government is standing on a slippery slope of losing the security-related credit it has been given by the public.  The current terrorism may not be an organized intifada, as we were accustomed to seeing in the past, an intifada composed of terror infrastructures from Nablus and Hebron which carry out attacks, and is therefore very complex for the Shin Bet and IDF to thwart. While in the past we used to hear the tale about "the terrorist who dreamt at night about carrying out an attack and was arrested by the Shin Bet in the morning," it's now clear that there is a lot of difficulty exposing, through intelligence means, a local initiative by an illegal resident, who enters Israel to work in Tel Aviv and decides to pick up a knife and stab a soldier or a civilian. There are no infrastructures, there is no guidance, there is no command. It's an individual act, and that's why it's hard to detect.
A year ago, we witnessed a similar wave of terror attacks in Jerusalem, but those days there was no atmosphere on the street pushing young Palestinians to go out and attack. Today, defense establishment officials are talking about the incitement in the Palestinian Authority, mainly from Hamas, which is adding fuel to the Temple Mount fire. The heads of the defense establishment will not say anything in public against Israel's senior political officials who are "fueling" the events with their statements and actions, but they would be very glad to see them stop. Because the truth is that there is no real security solution to the new-old type of lone terrorists apart from calming the situation down, on both sides.  Until they calm down, the army and the police will take several steps: First of all, they will increase the enforcement against illegal residents, who infiltrate Israel through the breaches in the separation fence in order to work here. So far, despite the defense establishment's demands, these holes have not been sealed, and they can cross the Green Line quite easily.
The second action will be to boost the military presence in Judea and Samaria. The army will dispatch larger forces there to try to give the residents a sense of security.
The third action will be to increase the deterrence. The method which is being examined, once again, is to demolish the terrorists' homes. Opinions are divided on the effectiveness of this move.

Netanyahu: Iran is America’s enemy, not its partner
11/11/2014 23:29
But the first thing the government has to do, before everything else, is to choose between national responsibility and public incitement and political survival. Because against this kind of terrorism, the only thing the defense establishment can do is try to keep its finger in the dam. It is incapable of providing a real solution. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the US not to embrace Iran in its fight against Islamic State (ISIS), stating: “Iran is not a partner of America. It’s an enemy of America.”
There have been suggestions that Iran can help solve the problem of extremism in the Middle East, but nothing could be further from the truth, said Netanyahu. “Iran is not part of the solution. It’s a huge part of the problem,” Netanyahu said. “As I said to the United Nations a few months ago, to defeat ISIS and allow Iran to be a threshold nuclear power would be to win the battle and lose the war,” the prime minister said.
He spoke via video on Tuesday afternoon to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly, which met this week in National Harbor, Maryland.
The danger of a nuclear Iran figured prominently in his address, even though the US, the EU and Iran failed to bridge the gaps between them during two days of discussions in Oman. Talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union envoy Catherine Ashton and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi were held in advance of a November 24th deadline for an agreement to halt Tehran’s nuclear program.
As the deadline draws closer, Israel has become increasingly concerned that the six world powers involved in the negotiations would settle for an agreement that made some gains, but left Iran with the capacity to build nuclear weapons.
Extensive briefings from their American counterparts have led Israeli officials to say they won't be able to accept the terms of any agreement that might emerge from talks between Iran and the six world powers: the US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany.
“Instead of holding firm and demanding that Iran dismantle its program, the international community is reportedly — and I hope these reports do not prove to be true — willing to leave Iran’s nuclear program largely intact,” Netanyahu said.
Planning for that contingency, leading Israeli and pro-Israel figures are gearing up a concerted public relations effort intended to degrade the merits and wisdom of such a deal.
Israel on Monday sent a letter to the foreign ministers of the six world powers describing its concerns. Netanyahu has also ratcheted up his rhetoric on Iran.
An agreement is not the only diplomatic tool that could be used to halt Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu said.
In the past, Netanyahu has often spoken of the importance of a credible military threat in forcing Iran to halt its nuclear program. But on Tuesday afternoon he veered away from that message and focused on diplomacy, noting that failure to reach an agreement with Iran did not mean that war was the only other option.
“The alternative to a bad deal is not war," he said. Stiff economic sanctions could sway Iran to dismantle its nuclear program, he said. “The worst thing that can happen now is for the international community to agree to a deal that leaves Iran as a threshold nuclear power and removes the sanctions,” Netanyahu said. A nuclear Iran “would be a disaster of historic proportion,” Netanyahu said. It would trigger a nuclear arms race between Sunnis and Shi’ites that could endanger “the entire planet,” the prime minister added.
It would also strengthen Iran’s terrorist proxies in the region, Netanyahu said. “The greatest threat facing our world is to have the forces of militant Islam get the bomb,” Netanyahu said. "That must never be allowed to happen, for Israel’s sake, for the peace in the Middle East, for the peace and security of the entire world.”

Does Israel prefer Bashar al-Assad to ISIS?
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Diana Moukalled /Al Arabiya
In the last few years, the news that has been reaching us about the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has periodically veered all the way from the abominable to the absurd, arousing feelings of horror and complete shock, and sometimes even hysterical laughter deriving from sheer disbelief. So it is with some of the latest news coming out of the country, informing us that the official news agency SANA is launching a number of new foreign-language services, including ones in Farsi and Hebrew.
Over the past years, we have become accustomed to the standard comment by the Syrian regime—“We will respond at the appropriate time”—whenever faced with Israeli attacks on its territory. So, do we now have at last, with this new SANA Hebrew service, that long-awaited, elusive response? The Syrian regime says it is launching this service, and its other foreign-language counterparts, in order to “confront the media war that has been launched against Syria.” Most media outlets from the Arab world have dismissed news of these foreign-language services, contending they will have absolutely nothing to offer from a journalistic point of view—considering the low-quality of the flagship Arab-language service, its apparent obsession with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and its continual announcements of “victories” by the Syrian army against “terrorists.”
Totally worthless
So, yes, these services will be totally worthless, even considering their raison d’être—they will offer nothing newsworthy, or any analysis, to sway those against the regime, or even those on the fence, not to mention those who regard this regime as an enemy. Why, then, does whoever it was that came up with this idea think it is a necessary step to take at this particular point in time?
Officially, Syria remains in a state of war with Israel, so, naturally, Israeli citizens will now all be falling over each other to access SANA and get their daily fix of accurate news reports on the country, ones which will now no doubt sway public opinion in Israel regarding this longtime enemy.
“SANA says it is determined to launch the service in order to bring the “truth” ... to “our people” in the occupied Golan Heights and Israeli Arabs living in Israel”
SANA says it is nonetheless determined to launch the service in order to bring the “truth” of its point of view to “our people” in the occupied Golan Heights, Israeli Arabs living in Israel, and Israeli public opinion in general.
Well, regarding the latter, public opinion in the Jewish state has not been at all tardy in its response to this announcement. One look at the Jerusalem Post or any other Israeli publications with an Arabic-language arm will give you a pretty accurate idea of this response—and most of it is not necessarily about Syria per se, but more specifically about Bashar al-Assad and his regime. Yes, there is a very large slice of Israeli public opinion that is supportive of Assad remaining in power. It includes some of the country’s most prominent politicians, who have said this quite explicitly, whether in public or private. Here is but a sample of what they have been saying about Syria: “I prefer to support Assad than the Syrian revolutionaries. He may be a tyrant, but things have been more stable with him around;” “Syria is all that stands between Israel and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria;” “Israel stands hand-in-hand with Assad.”
The new foreign-language service comes as part of Assad’s delusional contention that he and his regime are part of the international War on Terror—and the need to publicize and spread this view as widely as possible. This has become a boring, hackneyed political lie, one which has been completely exposed, especially in regard to another lie expounded by the “steadfast” regime in Damascus: that the main cause for which it fights is the Palestinian cause, and that its main enemy is the Zionist enemy.
This lie was completely punctured when prominent Syrian businessman and Assad aide Rami Makhlouf said, at the very beginning of protests against the regime back in 2011, that Israel’s stability was directly tied to Syria’s, and that there would not be one without the other.
Throughout the events of the last few years, the regime has repeated lies like this again and again: Either me or the storm, “Après moi, le deluge” - and that is exactly what we have right now.

Punishing Saleh and the Houthis
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
There is neither an international force on the ground in Yemen to support and protect the legitimate transitional regime nor is there an air force to launch attacks on the hideouts of rebel leaders. Such leaders include Ali Abdullah Saleh, the ousted president, and Abdul Malik al-Houthi, leader of armed rebel group. However, there is one weapon capable of protecting legitimacy and supporting the new government - the U.N. Security Council’s approved international sanctions.
In a rare case in the history of disputes addressed by the U.N., all U.N. Security Council members agreed on punishing ousted President Saleh and two Houthi leaders. The U.S. immediately implemented the sanctions once they were announced and blacklisted all three men, froze their assets and threatened to arrest them should they land in any airport or dock in any port outside Yemen.
“Yemenis must not allow a small group to manipulate them and their future”
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The sanctions are the legitimate weapon which the international community can use to in Yemen in order to prevent the collapse of the state. Yemen has been standing on the brink of the abyss for a few months now due to the rebellion in the north and defections in the south which Saleh himself has plenty to do with. Sanctions will greatly hurt Saleh while the two other Houthi commanders probably aren’t familiar with airports and most likely keep their money stashed away under their beds. The U.N. panel of experts on Yemen presented irrefutable intelligence evidence on the conspiracy planned by Saleh, the mastermind behind chaos and the man willing to sabotage Yemen and take the country hostage in order to return to power. The secret evidence distributed to U.N. Security Council members exposed how Saleh has, since the fall of 2012, worked with the Houthis to orchestrate murder and sabotage. The panel’s report stated that Saleh had until last September secretly funded operations and politically supported those operations across Yemen. Evidence shows that last February, Saleh did not only support the Houthis but was also behind the violent acts of some southern separatists and some acts perpetrated by the al-Qaeda organization! This is how rampant Saleh has become; he is willing to sabotage the country and harm its unity to serve his own personal interests. His most recent undertaking toward this end was expelling Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi from his party, the general people’s congress, and expelling Abdul Karim Al-Iryani, one of Yemen’s most important politicians.
Destroying the state
Despite Saleh’s enthusiastic speeches against the U.N. Security Council’s decisions, his refusal to submit and his vow to continue destroying the state if he and his family don’t return to power, Saleh will lose the most as a result of these sanctions if he dares defy the U.N. Security Council. Saleh has millions of dollars in Swiss banks, millions which he stole from international aid and oil revenues during his long years in governance and these funds have been recorded in detail. However, the wounded fox Saleh is not used to fighting using his own weapons. He is, rather, one of those who uses others and exploits them to serve his own interests and then gets rid of them. He has already begun to prepare the ground to get rid of his Houthi ally, encouraging concerned countries to allow him to return to power by saying he is the only man capable of confronting the Houthis. His supporters have also begun to market the idea that “Saleh is the only solution to save Yemen.”
The two other sanctioned men are Houthi commanders Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim and Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi and they were blacklisted due to evidence of their involvement in murder and conspiracy. There is evidence that al-Hakim organized a secret meeting in Sanaa in June to plan a coup against President Hadi. The meeting was attended by various security and tribal leaders and by representatives of Saleh. There’s also evidence that in June, Hakim led forces to take over the city of Amran. The report added that Hakim orchestrated the takeover of the capital, Sanaa, and noted that he is still in charge of the coup and is in control of Sanaa’s entrance points.
The second sanctioned leader is Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi who was accused of leading group of gunmen disguised as armed forces to take over the city of Dammaj last October. The assault led to the death of many Yemenis. In August this year, he transferred arms and ammunition from Amran to a camp near Sanaa to prepare for the war. Last month , intelligence reports said he was preparing to orchestrate attacks against some embassies in order to sow chaos in the capital and justify the coup.
Yemenis must not allow a small group to manipulate them and their future. The millions of dollars Saleh stole are enough and so are the 30 years of failure and underdevelopment under his rule. Saleh must let Yemen be and must, with international support, give the Yemenis a new chance to be saved from destruction and the civil war which he is preparing alongside the Houthis. Those who know Saleh must not allow him to involve them and exploit them to serve his interests. After all, it turned out that all his groups are infiltrated and that all his actions are monitored. Saleh has no foreign ally he can bet on and this includes Iran. Regardless, Saleh would sell them all out tomorrow in exchange for retrieving his money or for attaining permission to travel to Germany for medical treatment.