November 26/14

Bible Quotation For Today/God's Children
Galatians 04/01-31: "What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.  So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.  But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you,  and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them.  It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.  My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.  Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.".

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 25-26/14
Sunni Political Islam: Engine of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict/By: Jonathan Spyer/PJ Media/November 25/14
Netanyahu was fiddling while Iran became a nuclear state/Shimon Shiffer/ Ynetnews/November 25/14
ISIS and Al-Ahsa/Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq AlAwsat/November 25/14
Al-Sisi's peace plan/ Yaron Friedman/Ynetnews/ November 25/14

Lebanese Related News published on  November 25-26/14
Future links Hezbollah talks to facilitating presidential vote
15-Member Parliamentary Subcommittee to Discuss Food Safety Law
Hizbullah Fighter Ayyad Freed in Return for Two Captives
Onshore Lebanese oil survey suspended over delay of licensing round
A taste of Tripoli: Mixing the old and the new
PFLP-GC military buildup stokes fears of clashes
The PFLP-GC in Lebanon: a timeline
Reports: Hizbullah-Mustaqbal Talks in Tatters over Conditions
Abu Faour: Food safety campaign not about revenge
Lebanon braces for new storm
Asiri Says Saudi Backs Dialogue 'Regardless of Regional, Int'l Stances'
Al-Rahi Welcomes 'Any Dialogue' that Can End Political Crisis
ISF Busts Captagon Ring, Arrests 'Dangerous' Bulgarian Chemical Expert
Mustaqbal Urges 'National Settlement' over New President
Retired Soldier Abducted in Arsal as Syrian Man Killed
Bassil Rejects Foreign Intervention in Presidential Stalemate, Considers LF Positivity 'Useless'
Project aims to plant a million trees in south
Hakim Follows Abou Faour's Steps, Decides to Close Violating Dairy Factories
Ibrahim denies hostage mediator resigned
Beirut retail rent 37th most costly
Judge Orders Release of Abra Suspect as Army Detains Asir Supporter
Lebanon Prioritizes Unity after Refugee Assistance Warning
Army Refers Terror Suspect to Judiciary  

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on  November 25-26/14
Rouhani Squeezed over Nuclear Talks Extension, Khamenei Rejects 'Bringing Iran to Knees'
Pope Francis urges Sisi to ensure peace during Egypt transition
Syrian Air Strikes on IS 'Capital' Kill 36 Civilians
Canada's FM, John Baird Comments on Iran-P5+1 Talks
Canada Concerned by Erdogan’s Comments Regarding Equality of Women
Iran talks extended, leaving region in limbo
Erdogan blasts feminists and gender equality
Turkey's "Foreign" Citizens
Syria Jihadists Behead Ismaili Man for 'Apostasy'
France pushing for ‘safe zones’ in Syria
ISIS ordered Ahsa attack: Saudi Interior Ministry
GCC to launch Joint Military Command at Doha summit: source
Tunisian president to be picked in runoff race
Peshmerga waiting on Barzani’s go-ahead to retake Sinjar: official

ISIS stones 2 ‘gay men’ to death in Syria: observer
Ferguson smolders after racially charged
At least 18 killed in Cairo building collapse

Below Jihad Watch Posts For Monday
Israel: Iran pact will only delay, not end, nuke program — contemplates military action

Nearly 18,000 people died in terrorist attacks in 2013 — 66% by Taliban, Boko Haram, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State
Saudi Arabia’s plush rehab facility for jihadists a spectacular failure
Fort Sam Houston: Saudi national with explosive materials in car detained after driving through gate without stopping
UK: 40 jihad terrorist plots foiled since July 7, 2005 jihad mass murders
UK Law Society apologizes and withdraws Sharia guidelines
Peace Train to Nowhere: Profs on Israeli-Palestinian ‘Negotiations’
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: UK: It Was “Racist” to Prosecute Muslim Rape Gangs
Islamic State training children to be jihad killers
Muslima who called for burning of Robert Spencer book threatens legal action over Spencer quoting her
Professor Mia Bloom, Univ. of Mass.-Lowell, approvingly cites Nazi site’s depiction of Robert Spencer as “rat boy for Israel”
Obama makes Chuck Hagel the scapegoat for his foreign policy failures
2 Jewish men wounded outside Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate in suspected jihad terror attack
Karen Armstrong on Harris and Maher: “It fills me with despair, because this is the sort of talk that led to the concentration camps”
Benghazi security team disputes House Intel Committee Report

15-Member Parliamentary Subcommittee to Discuss Food Safety Law
Naharnet/The joint parliamentary committees formed on Tuesday a 10-member subcommittee to tackle the contaminated food scandal, granting it a 15-day ultimatum to draft a food safety law. The subcommittee that will be headed by Mustaqbal MP Atef Majdalani will work on merging two proposals and form a final food safety law.  The first proposal is suggested by Majdalani, while the second by Tripoli MP and former Prime Minister Najib Miqati. MP Majdalani lauded in a press conference after the joint parliamentary meeting Health Minister Wael Abou Faour's food safety campaign. “The shock that Abou Faour made gave swift results,” he told reporters gathered at the parliament,” considering that he “restored the citizens faith in the state.” Majdalani called for the establishment of a food safety association that is independent from all ministries and comprised of technicians and experts.  For his part, Abou Faour vowed to ahead with his campaign against corrupt institutions, noting that the health ministry will resort to the judiciary regarding food safety cases. He also called for the formation of a general prosecution for food, urging officials to separate the case from politics. “The food safety case brought the Lebanese closer,” Abou Faour added.  Abou Faour has so far announced three lists of violating institutions that include some popular restaurant chains and supermarkets that are serving customers food contaminated with bacteria and other inedible substances. Violations included the presence of flies on the refrigerators of dairy products, the presence of open garbage bins in kitchens, workers not wearing gloves, and frying oil that was not changed for months.

Retired Soldier Abducted in Arsal as Syrian Man Killed
Naharnet /An armed group on Tuesday kidnapped a retired army first adjutant from the Bekaa border town of Arsal before taking him to the area's outskirts. “Retired army first adjutant Mohammed Ahmed al-Hujeiri was abducted by an armed group from his grocery shop in Arsal's Ras al-Sarj,” LBCI television reported. The group took Hujeiri to its base in the town's outskirts, LBCI added. One week ago, an armed group from the extremist Islamic State organization stole the pickup truck of retired army first adjutant Muhieddine al-Hujeiri after abducting him for several hours in Arsal's outskirts. The IS and the Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front have been holding several troops and policemen hostage since August 2, when they overran Arsal and engaged in bloody clashes with the army. The militants of the two groups have bases in Arsal's outskirts and in the neighboring Syrian region of Qalamun. Separately, state-run National News Agency said Syrian national Khaled al-Arab was found killed in the Arsal area of Wadi Ata. It said he was murdered over “disputes between Syrian refugees and gunmen in the town.”

Al-Rahi Welcomes 'Any Dialogue' that Can End Political Crisis
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi announced Tuesday his support for any dialogue between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement, welcoming any step that might pull the country out of its political crisis. “Any dialogue is a necessary dialogue and we must not forget that the interruption of dialogue between (the) March 14 and March 8 (coalitions) has led us to what we're currently suffering,” al-Rahi said in response to a question about his opinion on the prospects of dialogue between Hizbullah and Mustaqbal. The patriarch was speaking at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport upon his arrival from a several-day visit to Rome. “We totally welcome such a dialogue and we would bless it with great joy,” added al-Rahi. Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat have been exerting efforts lately to launch dialogue between the two rival parties.  Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has recently expressed willingness to engage in dialogue with Mustaqbal, but the movement noted that such talks need a clear agenda in order to be effective. Asked whether Bkirki will seek to hold a meeting for Christian leaders in the near future, the patriarch said the Maronite church is always willing to exert efforts to that end. “After I assumed my duties, I gathered the Christian leaders in Bkirki, and I'm still willing to do that, as Bkirki's doors are open to everyone and we support any dialogue that can lead to pulling the country out of its crises,” al-Rahi added. “Without dialogue, things will not move forward,” he stressed.

Asiri Says Saudi Backs Dialogue 'Regardless of Regional, Int'l Stances'
Naharnet/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri announced Tuesday that his country supports any dialogue initiative that could pave the way for electing a new Lebanese president, “regardless of the events in the region.” “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that the priority that Lebanon needs at the moment is enhancing unity among its citizens,” Asiri said after meeting Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain al-Tineh. He added that Riyadh backs any “agreement among all political forces to hold a thorough dialogue,” hoping the Lebanese parties will “elect a new president regardless of the events in the region and their repercussions and despite any regional or international stances.” Relations between Saudi Arabia and Hizbullah were strained again last week after Riyadh's envoy to the U.N. Security Council demanded that the party be put on the international list of “terrorist organizations.”Hizbullah sources dismissed the call as a “sonic bubble” that has no value. “National dialogue is the responsibility of the Lebanese brothers, not anyone else, and it is the best way that can lead to achieving the higher national interest,” Asiri added. He noted that “the kingdom has confidence in the wisdom of the brothers in Lebanon and their loyalty to their country, whose interests must come before anything else,” the Saudi ambassador added.

Onshore Lebanese oil survey suspended over delay of licensing round
Osama Habib/The Daily Star/Nov. 25, 2014
BEIRUT: All 2-D seismic onshore surveys for gas and oil in Lebanon have been halted until the government launches the licensing round for oil and gas exploration off the country’s coast, insiders said Monday. Before companies can bid for the rights to drill for offshore oil or gas, the government must set the number of blocks for auction and establish a revenue mechanism, two steps that have been delayed several times. According to a source close to the Petroleum Administration, the British-based company Spectrum has decided to suspend its onshore 2-D seismic survey in Lebanon, due to the fact that politicians have been so slow to launch the offshore licensing process. “They also could not find new investors to buy the data,” the insider added. “Why should they [companies] keep on spending money from their pockets if there is no real determination to launch the offshore gas licensing?” Spectrum started the first onshore oil and gas survey in October 2013 in Batroun and some regions in the Bekaa Valley to assess the geological structure in these regions.
However, informed sources say that after completing the first phase of the onshore survey, Spectrum has decided to suspend the operation until the government sends out a clear signal that it is sincere about launching the offshore gas licensing, which has been postponed five times. In October 2014, the U.S.-based company NEOS Geo Solutions conducted the first airborne oil and gas surveillance operation over parts of Lebanon in another bid by the authorities to assess whether oil and gas deposits could be present in the country.
Amanda Jane, NEOS Geo Solutions’ project manager for Lebanon, told The Daily Star before the operation that the airborne survey should take 60 days.
However, after covering a big part of Lebanon, NEOS Geo Solutions suspended its flights over the remaining regions due to poor weather conditions. “Most companies [that were shortlisted in the bidding process] are not too optimistic about the prospects of launching a licensing round,” a senior executive of an international oil company said. “They realize that reasons for the constant delay in launching the licensing round are purely political and have nothing to do with technical and financial reasons. “I will be surprised if 14 of the 46 companies that were shortlisted three years ago will be interested in bidding for the offshore blocks if the government does decide on the licensing date.” However, he added that the onshore results collected by Spectrum were very promising, noting that the geological structure in the Bekaa valley was identical to that of neighboring Syria, which suggests that Lebanon could have abundant quantities of gas and oil onshore. Wissam Zahabi, head of the Economic and Financial Department at Lebanon’s Petroleum Administration, said in a lecture at the Defense Ministry in September of this year that some international companies were re-evaluating the situation in light of the repeated delays to the launch of the licensing round.
A source close to the government and to the Petroleum Administration, which was appointed by the government, said that the international oil companies would want a clear sign of commitment from Lebanese authorities before showing any interest in the bidding process in the future. “The government is not telling the companies it will start the bidding process, nor is it telling them that the licensing round plan has been dropped. They need a signal from Lebanon and they are not getting this signal,” the source said.
He added that the companies had allocated certain budgets for oil and gas exploration and if Lebanon failed to grab this chance, then these firms would invest their money in other countries. The executive of the oil company said international firms believed that Lebanon was sitting on a huge amount of gas and oil but they were not going to wait forever until the authorities decided to extract the hidden wealth.

Hizbullah Fighter Ayyad Freed in Return for Two Captives
Naharnet/Hizbullah managed Tuesday to secure the release of one of its fighters who had been in the custody of Syrian groups in the mountains of the Qalamun region near Lebanon's border, which has been witnessing fierce clashes in recent months. “The captive Imad Ayyad was freed at noon following weeks of negotiations with the abductors,” Hizbullah's media department announced in a statement. Ayyad was released “in exchange for two gunmen who were in Hizbullah's custody,” the statement revealed. Earlier on Tuesday, Hizbullah's al-Manar television said “the captive Imad Lobnan Ayyad was freed following weeks of negotiations with al-Nusra Front,” al-Qaida's official Syria affiliate.  A Hizbullah source, meanwhile, flatly denied to Agence France-Presse any al-Nusra involvement in the deal, referring instead to Ayyad's kidnappers as "gunmen in Qalamun."OTV meanwhile said that negotiations over Ayyad took place between Hizbullah and the rebel Free Syrian Army.
Later on Tuesday, Ayyad received a hero's welcome as he arrived at his residence place in Beirut's southern suburbs. “We congratulate all Lebanese on the liberation of resistance hero, freed captive Imad Ayyad,” deputy head of Hizbullah's Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qaouq said in a speech from the location. “The joy will not be complete before the (Lebanese) servicemen are freed from the captivity” of al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State, Qaouq added. He also conveyed the congratulations of Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to Ayyad and his family. Hizbullah is allied to Syria's President Bashar Assad, and has sent thousands of fighters to support his army's bid to quell a nearly four-year revolt across the country. The Lebanese group has played a key role in fighting around Damascus, especially in Qalamun. The prisoner swap comes as Qatar-mediated talks try to secure freedom for 27 Lebanese soldiers and policemen held hostage by al-Nusra and the IS since August after a fierce battle for the Lebanese border town of Arsal. Three soldiers held by the jihadist groups have already been executed. Ayyad had appeared in an Internet video published on October 9, in which he urged his family to “meet the demands” of the Free Syrian Army should they be contacted by the rebels.
The Hizbullah fighter also announced that he hails from southern Lebanon as websites close to the party said the 24-year-old man is from the Tyre District town of Tayrfilsay. Answering the questions of his captors in the video, Ayyad said Hizbullah tasked him with “a mission in Qara and Assal al-Ward in Qalamun's mountains,” noting that he was a “Hizbullah reservist.”He said he was among “four Syrians and three Lebanese” guarding a “Hizbullah-commanded” post in Qalamun's mountains. “There are 200 Hizbullah fighters in Qalamun's mountains and there are Syrians operating under our command … We also have fighters specialized in air defense,” Ayyad added. On October 21, the young fighter appeared in another video in which he expressed surprise over “lack of efforts” to secure his release and urged his family to communicate with Hizbullah officials. Ayyad was taken captive during a deadly assault by Qalamun-based militants against several Hizbullah posts along the Syrian-Lebanese border.

Mustaqbal Urges 'National Settlement' over New President
Naharnet Newsdesk 9 hours ago/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc called Tuesday for a “national settlement” aimed at electing a new president, warning over “the continued obstruction of electoral sessions by Hizbullah and the Change and Reform bloc.”“The presidential void and the continued boycott and obstruction of electoral sessions by Hizbullah and the Change and Reform bloc will only aggravate this dangerous, abnormal situation that the country is going through,” the bloc cautioned in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. “Any salvation initiative in this regard requires national efforts by all parties in order to reach a national settlement that would eventually lead to consensus over the country's next president,” the bloc added. It said such a settlement would “open the door to a new experience among the Lebanese parties” and would “reach solutions to some of the current difficulties.”Lebanon has been without a president since May 25 amid a boycott of electoral sessions by the MPs of Hizbullah and the Change and Reform bloc. Last week, Change and Reform chief MP Michel Aoun launched at initiative aimed at limiting the presidential battle to him and his main rival Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Turning to the issue of the troops and policemen held hostage by jihadist groups, Mustaqbal called on the government to “continue its efforts with all due seriousness and determination.”It urged all parties to back the government's endeavor in order to “contribute to the quick return of the aggrieved captives to their families and institutions.”

Future links Hezbollah talks to facilitating presidential vote
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/Nov. 25, 2014
BEIRUT: Hezbollah should facilitate the election of a new president if a long-awaited dialogue with the Future Movement is to get started, a Future lawmaker said Monday, pouring cold water on Speaker Nabih Berri’s optimism that talks between the two rival parties would be held without preset conditions. “Hezbollah must facilitate the presidential election in order for dialogue with the Future Movement to get off the ground,” Future MP Ghazi Youssef told The Daily Star. Although efforts have been stepped up to bring the Future Movement and Hezbollah to the negotiating table, Youssef said a mechanism to unleash the dialogue between the influential Sunni and Shiite parties has not yet been put on track. Asked to comment on Berri’s enduring optimism about launching a dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah, whose strained ties have stoked political and sectarian tensions in the country, Youssef said: “I hope Speaker Berri’s optimism will be justified.” Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the Future Movement should take time to prepare for dialogue with Hezbollah.
“We cannot say whether progress has been made in this respect,” he told As-Safir newspaper, adding that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri was expected to give some indication during an interview with LBCI TV Thursday as to the steps to be taken toward dialogue.
Asked whether the Future Movement had preconditions for a dialogue with Hezbollah, Siniora said: “At least, the rules of dialogue should be outlined.”A March 8 source said preparations to start the Hezbollah-Future dialogue were on the “right track.”
On whether Hezbollah is ready to facilitate the presidential vote as demanded by the Future Movement, the source told The Daily Star: “If intentions are good and the atmosphere is positive, Hezbollah is ready to discuss all divisive issues.”
The source said he did not feel that the Future Movement was setting preconditions for a dialogue with Hezbollah. Berri, who said he has been working with MP Walid Jumblatt to promote a dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement, was quoted by visitors Sunday as saying the planned dialogue would be held without preconditions. He added that efforts were underway to prepare the dialogue’s agenda.
The Future Movement and its March 14 allies have accused Hezbollah and its key Christian ally, MP Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, of derailing the presidential polls by thwarting a quorum with their persistent boycott of Parliament sessions to pick a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25.
Parliament failed this month for the 15th time since April to elect a president over a lack of quorum, as the rival March 8 and March 14 parties remain at loggerheads over a consensus candidate. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Fneish, one of two Hezbollah representatives in the Cabinet, said efforts were underway by “allies and friends,” a clear allusion to Berri and Jumblatt, to get the Future-Hezbollah dialogue started.
Asked whether Hezbollah was ready to discuss the presidential deadlock with the Future Movement, Fneish told The Daily Star: “We will be open in the dialogue to discuss how to enhance the points of agreement and boost the country’s security and stability in the face of threats. We will not set conditions for dialogue and we hope the other side will do the same.”
As to when the planned dialogue could begin, Fneish said this depended on the outcome of ongoing efforts to agree on the details and agenda of talks. Fneish refused to comment on reports that Hezbollah was not ready to discuss two key contentious issues with the Future Movement: the party’s military intervention in the war in Syria and the presidential election.
Hezbollah MP Kamel Rifai said a dialogue with the Future Movement would help defuse sectarian tensions.
In an interview with Akhbar al-Yom news agency, Rifai said March 14 demands for Hezbollah’s disarmament and the party’s withdrawal from Syria were divisive issues that could not be settled quickly during the dialogue with the Future Movement. “Therefore, they should be put aside in this stage,” he said.
“No doubt, a dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah can put Lebanon on the road to a solution,” Rifai added.
In an interview with the Voice of Lebanon radio station, Future MP Hadi Hobeish said the planned dialogue with Hezbollah would concentrate on “priority to the presidential election and strengthening security in the country.”
Future MP Ammar Houri said what spurred his party to accept a dialogue with Hezbollah was the “vacancy in the presidency post and the spiraling sectarian tension.”
“The election of a new president is the gateway to a solution to reactivate constitutional institutions, to ensuring stability and to solving all other problems,” Houri said in an interview with Al-Fajer radio station.
He added that any decision to enter into dialogue with Hezbollah has not been taken before Hariri’s TV interview. Houri said Hariri would announce during the interview a road map to resolve outstanding problems in the country.
A thaw between the Future Movement and Hezbollah is deemed crucial for any solution to the deepening political crisis. A long-simmering political feud, exacerbated by Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria, had erupted into street violence between supporters of the two parties in the past.
Meanwhile, the FPM denounced Parliament after the extension of its mandate as “illegitimate,” calling on the Constitutional Council to accept the FPM’s appeal filed earlier this month against the extension.
“The legitimacy of Parliament, whose term has been extended for a second time, has been lost as a result of the extension and the failure over a quarter of a century to adopt an electoral law to achieve equal power sharing [between Muslims and Christians],” MP Ibrahim Kanaan said, reading a statement after an extraordinary meeting of Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc ahead of the Constitutional Council’s decision on the challenge.
He said the FPM would continue following up on the challenge against the extension of Parliament’s mandate for two years and seven months.
The bloc urged the council’s 10 judges to take “a historic stand to put an end to the series of attacks on the Constitution and [attempts] to destroy the parliamentary democratic system.”

Bassil Rejects Foreign Intervention in Presidential Stalemate, Considers LF Positivity 'Useless'
Naharnet /Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil ruled out any foreign interference in the presidential elections amid the regional developments, stressing that Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea's agreement to run in presidential race that includes him and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun isn't enough to resolve the country's lingering crisis. “We don't need foreign agreements to elect a president. We are seeking to elect a president according to local balances,” Bassil said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Tuesday.
“Only the Lebanese system gives priority to any issue and no one else. For the first time we have a chance not to have anyone interfering in our affairs.” Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended over differences among the parliamentary blocs on a compromise head of state. Bassil, who is affiliated to the Free Patriotic Movement that is allied with the March 8 coalition, expressed belief that foreign countries have no “will or intention” to impose anything on Lebanon amid this stage.
Asked if the the FPM rejects any foreign intervention after several countries refused Aoun's candidacy, Bassil denied that the party “carried out any contacts with outside countries regarding the presidential elections.”“We have limits to any offered foreign aid because we want to maintain our independence and self-respect.”Saudi Arabia has reportedly rejected the nomination of Aoun for the presidency, fearing his “hidden intentions.”Commenting on Geagea's stance regarding Aoun's proposal to head to the parliament and elect a president in a race that only includes both of them, Bassil considered the stance as “positive but not enough” to end the presidential deadlock. “He (Geagea) would still have to convince his allies to agree on the proposal,” the FM said. He stressed that his party “isn't preventing anyone from running in the presidential elections.” Bassil added that the Christian representation of March 14 leader and Kataeb party chief Amin Gemayel comes in the “third and fourth rank but not the second.”
Gemayel had continuously expressed willingness to run in the elections instead of Geagea as the majority of the March 8 camp's lawmakers have boycotted the presidential elections sessions, which has been seen as a sign of their rejection to Geagea's candidacy.
Bassil told al-Hayat newspaper that the FPM encourages any dialogue between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal Movement. “Whatever this dialogue produces will be better than the rift... It could have fruitful results that would be used in preserving the country's interests and ease the presidential crisis.”However, he pointed out that the dialogue between the FPM and al-Mustaqbal became “useless.”On accusations that the Change and Reform ministers are obstructing the work of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet, the FPM official denied the reports, saying: “the state can cope with the vacuum (at the Baabda Palace) which indicates that the system is fragile.”The cabinet assumes the executive tasks of the president as stated by the constitution until a new head of state is elected.
Bassil expressed fear that “Lebanon could pay the price of the conflict between the Sunnis and Shiites and could also seek solutions.”“Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon could agree regardless of the regional conflicts and the Christians could play a positive role.”

Pope Francis urges Sisi to ensure peace during Egypt transition
Agence France Presse/Nov. 25, 2014
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis urged Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi Monday to ensure peace during his country’s political transition and called on Egypt to embrace its diplomatic role in the troubled Middle East. Sisi met the 77-year-old Francis at the start of his first European trip since ousting his Islamist predecessor and overseeing a crackdown that has killed hundreds. During what the Vatican described as “cordial” talks – the first between an Egyptian leader and the pope at the tiny city state in eight years – the pontiff stressed “the closeness and solidarity of the Church to all the people of Egypt during this period of political transition.” The Vatican statement expressed hope that Egypt’s constitutional safeguards on human rights and religious freedom “may be strengthened.”The pope also told Sisi he hoped “the path to inter-religious dialogue may continue to be pursued,” it said. The pair also discussed Egypt’s role in the promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa. “It was reiterated that dialogue and negotiation are the only options to put an end to the conflicts and to the violence that endanger defenseless populations and cause the loss of human lives,” the Vatican said. Sisi’s visit was celebrated by hundreds of Egyptian supporters in Rome’s city center, where they danced draped in the national flag to music at a street party, holding up banners with the president’s face. Sisi, while army chief, ousted president Mohammad Morsi, the country’s first freely elected leader, in July 2013, prompting a wave of deadly violence between security forces and Morsi’s supporters that drew rebukes from Europe and the United States. But boosted by its increasingly central role in combating Islamist militancy, Egypt has come in from the cold since Sisi won a presidential election in May after crushing both Islamist and secular opponents. Egyptian officials said Sisi’s four-day tour, which will also take in France, is aimed at securing European investment in the Egyptian economy, which has been battered by political turmoil since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011.

Sunni Political Islam: Engine of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
By: Jonathan Spyer/PJ Media
November 25/ 2014
"What must not happen is that this political conflict becomes a religious conflict," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned last week.
An oft-repeated sentiment currently doing the rounds in discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that it is imperative that the conflict not become a "religious" one. This sentiment, guaranteed to set heads nodding in polite, liberal company, stands out even within the very crowded and competitive field of ridiculous expressions of historical ignorance found in discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
This sentiment is connected to the recent wave of terror attacks in Jerusalem, which are the result of Palestinian claims that Israel is seeking to alter the "status quo" at the Temple Mount. As this theory goes, up until now this conflict had mainly been about competing claims of land ownership and sovereignty, but it is now in danger of becoming about "religion," and hence turning even more intractable. So this must be prevented.
In objective reality, the conflict between Jews and Arab Muslims over the land area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has been, from its very outset, inseparable from "religion."
The conflict between Jews and Arab Muslims over the land area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has been, from its very outset, inseparable from "religion."
On the Arab/Palestinian/Muslim side, recent events in the Levant (specifically in Syria and Iraq) ought to have taught us just how very flimsy and contingent the supposed "secular, national" identities of the local populations are. Both these identities have now largely been eclipsed, replaced by sectarian, ethnic, and religious markers of loyalty. As Professor Mordechai Kedar pointed out in a recent article, there is no reason to think that a "Palestinian" national identity is any stronger or more durable than either of these neighboring constructs.
This does not mean, of course, that the Arabic-speaking population of the area is not mobilized for struggle. The events of recent days suggest a murderous commitment to the fight. The engine for this commitment, however, is a religious one.
The engine is the determination to prevent the Jews from in any way, be it ever so minor, infringing on the situation of de facto Arab Muslim domination of the Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif area. This commitment is not a new development; it has in fact been the driving force of the conflict throughout.
The very first major instances of Arab Muslim violence against Jews in the 20th century were related to this self-same area. In 1929, it was precisely an attempt by Jews to assert Jewish prayer rights at the Western Wall that led to a furious Arab and Muslim counter-reaction. This reaction led to the slaughter of over one hundred Jews and the destruction of an ancient Jewish community (in Hebron).
The supposed threat to the mosques at the Haram al-Sharif and the alleged desire of the Jews to build the Third Temple continued to form a staple in Arab propaganda against the Zionists in the 1930s and 1940s. This was a time when the nascent Palestinian "national" movement was led by a man holding a position of religious authority: Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini.
The central role of religion in this conflict has served to prevent the eventual resignation to and compromise with Israel's presence, which many early Zionist leaders predicted.
This centrality of religion continued to fire the various movements fighting Israel. The very name "Fatah," for example, which is often – absurdly — described as a "secular" movement, is a religious term. "Fatah" is in Arabic a term literally meaning to "open," but is used in context to mean "to conquer a land for Islam."
The central role of religion in this conflict has served to prevent the eventual resignation to and compromise with Israel's presence, which many early Zionist leaders predicted. This prediction was based on similar national conflicts elsewhere, where after a period of struggle the two sides grow tired and settled their difference, cutting a deal.
But religious sentiments have a way of not growing tired.
And in the case of Israel and its Arab Muslim enemies, the core energy on the Arab side is one of religious rage — a feeling that the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in parts of the land formerly ruled by Muslims constitutes a crime against god. Such a crime cannot be forgiven or compromised with.
In a recent article on the Hamas website expressing support for the recent terror attacks, Palestinian columnist Dr. Issam Shawer summed up the issue in an admirably succinct way:
We maintain, and believe, that our battle against the occupier is fundamentally religious, not geographic, historic, or economic.
Allah the Exalted mentioned [in the Koran] our [current] conflict with the occupier, when he told His servants that they would enter Al-Aqsa Mosque as they had entered it the first time, and told us [also] that everything that "Israel" had built in order to establish its fragile entity would be destroyed. … Therefore, we must stop arguing that our battle against the enemy is political, waged in the arena of the UN, the Security Council, or negotiations. All this nonsense contradicts the Koran and the Hadith.
Shawer grasps the dynamics of the conflict far better than most Western observers.
On the other side, the Jewish idea of the "Return to Zion," the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the renewing of the days of old are deeply embedded in Jewish religious tradition and inseparable from them.
Modern Zionism may have been secular in nature, but it drew from these wellsprings in Jewish self-perception.
The difference throughout has been that the Jews have, since the onset of the modern struggle, demonstrated a willingness to accept political plans proposing a sharing of the land under discussion: in 1937, 1947, 2000, and 2008. The Arab Muslim side has demonstrated no similar capacity.
The Jewish self-perception is that of a small nation, cautious, uncertain, defensive.
Arab Sunni Muslim identity, by contrast, is one predicated on triumph and conquest as the natural state of affairs, now accompanied by the humiliating, bewildering current state of failure and subjection. Hence the enormous, murderous rage at the present state of defeat to a people seen as naturally subordinate: the Jews. Hence the absolute refusal to accept history's apparent verdict, and the latest furious attempt to dislodge the enemy.
Religion, specifically Sunni political Islam, is driving it, as it has driven all previous attempts. It shows no sign of running out of energy, despite the meager results so far. A deep sense of its own superiority and the inevitability of its eventual victory informs its adherents. It is past time that the many obsessive Western observers of this conflict grasp the essential, religious driving force. Political religion, specifically Sunni political Islam, lies at its heart. It has always been there.

Canada's FM, John Baird Comments on Iran-P5+1 Talks
November 24, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“Canada has long held the view that every diplomatic measure should be taken to ensure Iran never obtains the capacity to sprint to nuclear weapons capability. We appreciate the tireless efforts the members of the P5+1 have made to address concerns about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
“While we support the efforts to reach a comprehensive deal, the process cannot be open ended. Iran’s dithering is either a cynical ploy for time or an inability to clearly repudiate military nuclear ambitions. The regime must take immediate actions to resolve the concerns of the international community.
“A nuclear Iran would not only be a threat to Canada and our allies but would also seriously damage the integrity of decades of work on nuclear non-proliferation. It would provoke neighbouring states to develop their own nuclear deterrent in an already volatile region, sparking a dangerous nuclear arms race.
“Canada will also continue to fully support the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ongoing investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
“If Iran continues to obfuscate its international obligations, the international community must take immediate action and implement tough and binding sanctions. Until Canada is satisfied, our sanctions regime will remain in full force.”

Canada Concerned by Erdogan’s Comments Regarding Equality of Women
November 24, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), today issued the following statement:
“Canada notes with great concern the comments reportedly made today by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which he appeared to call into question equality between women and men.
“Such remarks would run contrary to basic international human rights standards and international laws and conventions, as well as equality rights that are explicitly enshrined in, and protected by, the Turkish constitution.
“It is our hope that President Erdogan will seize an early opportunity to clarify his remarks.”

A silver superpower
The Daily Star/Nov. 25, 2014
Most Lebanese politicians, and particularly members of Parliament, are adept at dealing with the media – and equally adept at confusing two very different things, namely quantity and quality. Perhaps politicians speak so frequently, on so many issues, because they think people are actually waiting for their words. But what they fail to grasp is that the public has tuned them out; people are fully aware that around a half a dozen top figures exercise firm control over virtually every important issue, and that the daily stream of rhetoric is simply meaningless – if not poisonous and harmful at times. The media is also at fault, for relaying most of this blather, sometimes out of a cynical desire to fill as much space and air time as possible: page after page, hour after hour, day after day.
If MPs, for example, truly wanted to earn their salaries, they would dispense with the notion that they’re getting paid by the word. They should shut up, lock themselves in a room and pore over the country’s legislation on the fronts that truly interest people: traffic safety, food safety, environment, education, health care, crime prevention, and all manner of social issues. Instead of popping up on talk shows, they should go on verbal strike until they can offer us useful ways to bridge the huge, destructive gaps between what’s in the law, and how it can be feasibly implemented. If speech is silver and silence is golden, Lebanon is certainly a silver superpower, but one threatened by its dangerously low supply of gold.

Netanyahu was fiddling while Iran became a nuclear state
Shimon Shiffer/ Ynetnews
Published: 11.25.14/ Israel Opinion
Amid talks on Iranian atomic program, the prime minister has been busying himself with a law to define Israel as the Jewish nation-state - after failing to convince the world to strip Iran of its centrifuges and nuclear fuel.  On Sunday, in all likelihood just at the point at which one could safely say that by the end of the talks between the world powers and Iran, the state of the ayatollahs will find itself, alongside India, Pakistan and Israel, in the prestigious club of countries on the verge of producing a nuclear bomb, Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers continued to bicker at the cabinet meeting over the bill to declare Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people.Even given that the talks in Vienna on Monday did not bear fruit in the form of an agreement between the parties, but a declaration of principles or the extension of the talks instead, one can readily declare Israel the principal loser in this international campaign. This loss is even more resounding when viewed on the backdrop of the tremendous effort and billions invested to signal to the international community that Israel may launch an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities if the agreement with Tehran does not meet Jerusalem's demands.
At the start of Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu informed the ministers that US Secretary of State John Kerry had briefed him on the status of the talks. "We are following developments in the talks closely and with concern," said Netanyahu, who was in a rush to be interviewed for American television. But the truth must be told: The Americans and the world powers no longer take Netanyahu into account. All that remains for the prime minister to do is to give interviews, to dispatch Minister Yuval Steinitz to the scene, and "to follow and remain vigilant."The recently published memoirs of the American defense secretaries who served in the Obama administration, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, reveal that up until a few years ago, the Americans still believed that the pair, Netanyahu and Ehud Barak as his defense minister, may just attack Iran's nuclear facilities without coordinating the action with the United States. In the end, however, the Israeli side was deterred, and didn't launch an assault. The so-called window of opportunity closed when the Iranians passed a certain threshold in the production and acquisition of nuclear fuel – or as Barak put it: Iran earned itself a "zone of immunity" for its facilities that stripped Israel of the chance to launch an attack. Gates' and Panetta's books also expose the cyber operations that disrupted Iran's nuclear facilities during the period 2006-2009. These covert operations – dubbed, say the memoirs of the senior US officials, the "Olympic Games" – were carried out towards the end of the terms in office of George Bush and Ehud Olmert.
Together with the United States, Israel chalked up significant achievements in this campaign, thereby generating pressure on Iran to enter into negotiations and restrict its development of nuclear weapons – and all this, of course, in conjunction with the economic sanctions imposed on Iranian companies by the international community. And where are the negotiations currently at? The New York Times devoted a detailed report to the subject on Sunday evening: The most significant challenge as far as the Americans are concerned touches on the question of how to ensure that the international intelligence community will be able to monitor Iran's attempts to develop atomic bombs in secret facilities. We know today that the Iranians have dug thousands of tunnels in the mountains in various regions of the country that could be used "to trick and deceive the West." On the other hand, the Iranians, for their part, are demanding the immediate lifting of the economic sanctions following the signing of any future agreement – and this, the world powers refuse to agree to.
And back to Israel: Netanyahu failed to convince the world powers to strip Iran of the tens of thousands of centrifuges and the nuclear fuel it has amassed with the help of North Korea. Unfortunately for Israel, the Iranians have recognized that the United States and its partners to the talks are way too keen to reach an agreement, and are not willing to return home and admit failure.
In any event, the day will come when the findings of a state commission of inquiry or the publication of a study will note that during the term in office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran became a nuclear-threshold state needing only a few months to make a bomb.
Netanyahu's name will of course also be on the law that turns Israel into the state of the Jewish nation. And what about the others who live here? God only knows, and let them petition the High Court of Justice.

Turkey's "Foreign" Citizens

Burak Bekdil/The Gatestone Institute
In 2008, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's official news agency, Wafa, reported that Israel had released poison-resistant rats to drive Arab residents of Jerusalem out of their homes. Scientists are still trying to understand how rats are trained to distinguish between Muslim, Christian and Jewish residents of a city.
In 2011, Saudi Arabia announced that it had "detained" a vulture carrying an Israeli leg band. The griffon vulture was carrying a GPS transmitter bearing the name of Tel Aviv University, and was condemned for being a part of a "Zionist espionage plot." We are still waiting to hear if the bird was beheaded or sentenced to life in prison.
Also in 2011, one of the two Turkish celebrities, who had been accused of raping prostitutes, defended himself by saying that the whole incident was "an Israeli plot against him."
In 2012, a migratory bird, a common bee-eater, caused alarm in a southeastern Turkish village after villagers thought it was an Israeli spy. The villagers' suspicions were aroused when the bird was found dead in a field with a metal ring around its leg stamped "Israel." After deciding its nostrils were unusually large and may have carried a microchip fitted by Israeli intelligence for spying, they called the police.
Also in 2012, Turkish authorities "detained" a kestrel with a similar ring on its leg. The bird was subjected to an x-ray to check if its body contained espionage gear. No joke; in the hospital, the name recorded on the bird's x-ray card was: Israeli spy.
A year later, when millions of Turks rose up against the undemocratic practices and rights abuses by their government in more than 70 cities, the government-friendly media and one minister blamed the riots on the Jewish lobby in general, and the American Enterprise Institute [AEI] in particular. That charge prompted Michael Rubin of the AEI to write in a June 2013 blog posting titled "A little bit of crazy from Turkey:"
"Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can't even get Jewish conspiracies right: Doesn't he know that on Sundays, we control the banks. On Mondays, we control the newspapers. On Tuesdays, we think about how we can stage terrorist attacks and blame al-Qaeda. On Wednesdays, we attend meetings with George Soros to discuss interest rates. On Thursdays, we plan atrocities and then order the international media to broadcast cooking shows so no one need see the violence. On Fridays, we hunt Christian children so we can use their blood to make matzoh. On Saturdays, exhausted, we rest."
Such is the level of collective derangement in a country of 75 million. Quite naturally, it makes an impact on the collective psyche of Turkey's dwindling Jewish community, now barely numbering 17,000 people, who mostly live in the country's biggest metropolis, Istanbul.
If you drive along the Adnan Saygun Avenue in the city's upscale Ulus district and reach the corner of the street where the compound of the Bulgarian Consulate neighbors a rather secluded building, you will notice a police car waiting outside a concrete wall that leads to a gate made of steel bars, and attended by security guards in civilian clothes.
This is the entrance of Ulus Ozel Musevi Okullari, a Jewish school where about 700 students from kindergarten to high-school level study. The security procedures after the gate opens would make you think you are entering either the U.S. or the British consulate building in Istanbul (the British consulate, along with two synagogues and a British bank were bombed 11 years ago this week).
At the weekend, the Jewish school in Ulus hosted this year's Limmud Festival, which started in 1979 as a British-Jewish educational charity ("Limmud" comes from the Hebrew word "to learn"). The charity produces events on the theme of the Jewish learning in nearly 70 communities in 34 countries, including Turkey. Limmud started in Turkey in 2005; this year's event brought together 1,300 participants and nearly 100 speakers, including this author.
For most of Turkey's Islamists, there is no difference between the words "Israel", "Israeli government", "Jew", and "Turkish Jew". They are all the same and are all regarded with hostility.
In conference talks and in private, most members of Istanbul's Jewish community voiced "serious and increasing" concern over their increasingly secluded and riskier lives in the country where their ancestors first arrived 522 years ago. Turkey is their country. And it is not.
They carry Turkish passports. They pay their taxes. Their sons are conscripted into the military. They vote in Turkish elections. They have Turkish ID cards. They make up a peaceful, law-abiding society minding their own business. They remain loyal to their country, Turkey. But they are "foreigners" in their own country. Ordinary Turks, even their own Turkish friends, refer to them as "foreigners."
"Should we pack up and leave?" one of them asked. A middle-aged woman objected: "Why should we be forced to leave our country? We are Turkish, and this is our country."
"Do you think our businesses are in danger of governmental discrimination?" a businessman asked. Others in the hall knew the answer.
"Would this school have to maintain the same level of security at its gate had it been, say, a Georgian school?" a man asked. "If it had it been a Japanese school or an Indian school? Or, to put it in reverse, would this Jewish school have to maintain the same level of security had it been located in Japan or Georgia?"
For most of Turkey's Islamists, there is no difference between the words "Israel", "Israeli government", "Jew", and "Turkish Jew". They are all the same and are all regarded with hostility. Such a view makes Turkey's Jews part-time citizens only. They fulfill their duties to the country they belong to, only to live in fear.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Rouhani Squeezed over Nuclear Talks Extension, Khamenei Rejects 'Bringing Iran to Knees'
NaharnetظIran's President Hassan Rouhani faced thinly veiled pressure Tuesday over a missed nuclear deal deadline and an unexpected seven-month extension of talks, with hardliners denouncing the diplomatic deadlock. The failure to clinch a final agreement with world powers dominated newspaper front pages, with most editorials viewing further dialogue as pointless because the talks have not yet yielded results.
The extension was debated in parliament where the judgment of Rouhani, who told the nation late Monday a deal would still be done despite the setback, was also scrutinized.
Lawmakers have consistently said the president and his negotiators have already made too many concessions over Iran's disputed nuclear program, a sentiment aired again in a tense parliamentary session.
Hamid Rasaie, a diehard conservative MP, said that while a final agreement would be a victory for Iran, Rouhani must resist pressure for a deal whose costs are too high.
"No critic who is caring and supportive of the Islamic republic would be happy about your defeat," he said of the possibility of no deal next year.
"Our criticism relates to your optimism towards the West," he added.
Rouhani has become a lightning rod for opponents who routinely doubt the merit of the nuclear talks, but the decision on any final agreement rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He officially supports Rouhani's policy, but has said several times the talks have achieved nothing, often blaming the United States and echoing the views of hardliners. On Tuesday, Khamenei said Iran would not sink "to its knees" on the nuclear issue, despite the efforts of "arrogants" -- purportedly Western governments -- to make it do so.
Iran's arch-enemy Israel and many in the international community suspect Tehran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for developing a nuclear bomb, a charge it strongly denies. Khamenei's comments, his first since the missed deadline, came in a speech he made in Tehran. Rouhani on Monday sought to rally support for the talks, saying a deal was within reach and sanctions would be lifted "step by step" though he would never give up the nuclear program.
"During all this time centrifuges were spinning," he said referring to the talks and the technical process of enriching uranium, a hotly contested issue as at high purities it can produce fissile material for an atom bomb.
"I promise the Iranian nation that those centrifuges will never stop working," Rouhani said on state television. Those remarks were challenged by Rasaie who also criticized Rouhani for labeling his critics "illiterate" and "radical". "Right now, neither the centrifuges spin, nor the factories work," the MP said. "We expected Mr Rouhani to apologize but unfortunately this didn't happen."Conservative media also attacked the extension.
"Nothing" said the front page of hardline broadsheet Vatan-e-Emrooz, labeling the extra time a ruse to "cover up that negotiations in fact failed because of America's excessive demands". However, Shargh, a leading reformist daily, said dialogue with the West, notably the United States, signaled "major change" for Iran and a "victory of realism, rationality and pragmatism". Saeed Leylaz, one of Iran's top economists, said the $700 million per month Iran will receive in sanctions relief was a good result, equivalent to a daily increase of 300,000 barrels of oil. "Increasing exports by that amount -- about 30 percent on present levels -- would be very difficult under any other circumstances," he said. On Rouhani, he said: "He will continue to face pressure but he is the only one who can reach the nuclear agreement that most people want." A Western diplomat in Tehran said Rouhani had bought himself time with the extension: "It is neither a defeat or a victory," he added. In a positive economic indicator, meanwhile, the Iranian rial did not fall Tuesday, despite fears that no final deal would hurt the currency. When international sanctions on Iran were announced in December 2011 the rial fell precipitously. In central Tehran, the extension was welcomed. "These negotiations are not a simple task that can reach a result quickly," said Hashemi, who gave only his surname. "The beginning is positive. Hopefully, next time they can reach an agreement."
Agence France Presse

Syrian Air Strikes on IS 'Capital' Kill 36 Civilians

Naharnet /A string of Syrian regime air strikes on the Islamic State group's self-proclaimed capital Raqa on Tuesday killed at least 63 people, more than half of them civilians, a monitor said. The air strikes were the deadliest by President Bashar al-Assad's air force against Raqa since the Sunni extremist IS seized control of the city last year. "Among the 63 killed were at least 36 civilians," said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "There were also 20 unidentified victims who could be civilians or jihadists, as well as the disfigured remains of at least seven other people," he said. The director of the Britain-based monitoring group said previously that "most of the casualties were caused by two consecutive air strikes" on Raqa's main industrial zone. "The first strike came, residents rushed to rescue the wounded, and then the second raid took place," Abdel Rahman, whose group relies on a network of sources on the ground in Syria for its information, told AFP. Amateur video footage distributed by activists in Raqa showed several bloodied bodies laid out on a street near an apparent bombing site, as an ambulance rushed to the scene. Aid workers in red overalls bearing the Red Crescent symbol could be seen placing the corpses into white body bags. Activists from the city meanwhile denounced the raids as a "massacre". The Islamic State organisation emerged in Syria's war in spring 2013. It took over Raqa, the only provincial capital to fall from government control since the outbreak of a 2011 revolt, and turned it into its bastion. Most of the city's civil society activists, as well as rebel fighters who expelled Assad's troops, have either been killed, kidnapped or forced to flee for other parts of Syria or neighboring Turkey. For many months, Assad's regime only rarely targeted Raqa city, apparently reserving most of its firepower for areas under rebel control. But late this summer, the government intensified its air strikes against IS positions in northern and eastern Syria. On September 6, 53 people were killed in air raids on Raqa, among them at least 31 civilians, according to the Observatory. The U.S.-led military coalition that has been carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria has also targeted the jihadist group in Raqa. Activists say Raqa's residents fear the government's strikes far more than those of the coalition because most of the casualties from the regime's attacks have been civilians. Strategically located on the river Euphrates near the border with Turkey, Raqa had a pre-war population of about 220,000 but it is now home to 300,000-350,000 people, including many displaced by the conflict, according to the Observatory. Since the jihadists first started moving into the city, they have been gradually imposing a brutal yet highly-organised system with all the trappings of a state, experts say. Elsewhere in Syria, IS members stoned to death two men in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on Tuesday after claiming they were gay, the Observatory said. And in the central province of Homs the jihadists beheaded a member of the minority Ismaili community, accusing him of "apostasy," said the monitoring group.
Agence France Presse

ISIS and Al-Ahsa
Mshari Al-Zaydi /Asharq AlAwsat
Wednesday, 26 Nov, 2014
The long-awaited statement from the Saudi Interior Ministry on the attack on the village of Dalwah in the country’s Al-Ahsa province has finally been issued, shedding more light on this horrific crime. Before we go into this, let me just say that this dangerous crime targeting innocent people in Dalwah sought to incite sectarian conflict in Saudi Arabia. However, it actually ended up having the opposite effect. In the aftermath of the incident we saw popular and official alignment under the banner of national solidarity and the protection of civil peace. Some well-known figures who have made a habit of sectarian incitement tried via social media to muddy the waters and put forward a false picture of what happened, speculating that this was not a political or terrorist crime, but that it contained personal dimensions. These so-called “preachers” and media figures are like the intellectual writers who appeared during the cultural Sahwa (Islamic Awakening) period in the late 1980s, who thought that what they were doing would make things better, but ultimately had the opposite effect.
It was always clear that the terrorist attack on the village of Dalwah in Al-Ahsa had all the hallmarks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is something that I said openly at the time, when others would preface talk about this crime by saying, “if it turns out to be a terrorist attack in the first place.” This is nonsense; it would be more likely for the attack to have been carried out by the Japanese Red Army or the Basque separatist group ETA, than for it to be the work of a group such as ISIS.
The statement that was issued by the Saudi Interior Ministry was clear, explicit and transparent—as was the rapid response to the attack by the Saudi Interior Ministry and the officials of the Al-Ahsa governorate and the Eastern Province. However, more important than all this was the popular response rejecting this crime and the calls for Saudi national solidarity against terrorism.  The Saudi Interior Ministry confirmed that the security apparatus had conducted a rapid and thorough investigation into the attack and uncovered a “criminal network with ties to the deviant ISIS organization.” Following investigations, the Ministry revealed that the gang of criminals who carried out the attack had received their orders from abroad and that ISIS had specified the timing and target of the attack.
The Saudi Interior Ministry statement also cited the names of the three terrorists who were killed in the subsequent security raids—two Saudi nationals and a Qatari—adding that the head of the cell was received his orders directly from the the ISIS leadership.
The statement also confirmed that Saudi Arabia had arrested a total of 77 terrorist suspects, including a Turkish national, a Syrian national and a Jordanian. What is most striking about this statement is that it acknowledged that 32 of those arrested had previous terrorism convictions while 15 others were awaiting trial and were on release. This is something that re-opens talk regarding the rate of recidivism among those convicted of terror charges, including those who go through the Munasaha rehabilitation program. In this case, has the time come to review the way we deal with terror convicts?  Ultimately, the clarity and speed with which this case is being dealt may prevent many of the complications and difficulties that those who initially ordered this terrorist attack envisioned. To foil the secondary aims of attacks such as this, which include the stirring up social divisions, is something that can only be commended.

Al-Sisi's peace plan
Yaron Friedman/Ynetnews
Published: 11.26.14/Israel Opinion
Analysis: The general-turned-president would like to send Egyptian forces into the West Bank and Gaza, as a temporary measure until Israel and the Palestinians strike a peace deal; as tempting as it sounds, Israel would do well to be cautious for now.
During his first trip to Europe, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave an interview to the Italian media in which he voiced a far-reaching and highly significant proposal concerning the peace process – the deployment of Egyptian military forces to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
It's safe to assume that every Israeli cringes on hearing the phrase "the deployment of military forces to Palestine," with all the negative connotations it evokes (the War of Independence, the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War). Are we dealing this time with "a peace assault?" Is the Egyptian initiative a serious one worthy of discussion?
The Egyptian option
In the late 1980s, Shimon Peres, in his capacity as foreign minister at the time, tried to promote the idea of the "Jordanian option" – Jordanian control of the West Bank in exchange for a comprehensive peace with the kingdom. The proposal was shelved with the outbreak of the first intifada.
The current Egyptian proposal constitutes an "Egyptian option" of sorts, under which Egypt will temporarily deploy observer forces in the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Al-Sisi explained that the Egyptian presence would not be "eternal," but coordinated instead with the prime minister of Israel and the Palestinian Authority chairman until implementation of the permanent peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is secured.
The idea of Egyptian observers comes to replace an earlier proposal concerning the deployment of international observer forces on behalf of the UN – an option that the government of Israel is not keen on at all, and justifiably so.
The deployment of Egyptian forces in the Gaza Strip would mirror the situation that prevailed in 1967 – just like the "Jordanian option" in the West Bank. But al-Sisi's proposal talks of Egyptian forces in all of the PA territory. The question for Israel is: Is the proposal worth considering? And what is the significance of an Egyptian military presence just minutes away from Israeli cities?
Against the Muslim Brotherhood
When reviewing al-Sisi's proposal, it's worthwhile examining the policies he has promoted since coming into power. Or, in other words, where is he headed? President al-Sisi claims that he seeks to lead Egypt into the 21st century and thus solve its economic problem. The major obstacle he faces in this regard is the Islamic terror groups' cynical exploitation of the Egyptian revolution of January 25 to take control of the country.
According to senior Egyptian military officials, the Muslim Brotherhood's regime destroyed the Egyptian economy, exacerbated the hunger woes of its people, and scared off tourists. Since his rise to power following the June 2013 military coup, and the toppling of Mohamed Morsi's government, al-Sisi has sought to restore control to the army and completely eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
On this quest, he has won the support of the country's urban residents, the middle class, secular Egyptians, the major newspapers (such as Al-Ahram), and even the Al-Azhar Institute, the highest authority in Sunni Islam.
As far as al-Sisi's regime is concerned, the Muslim Brotherhood is, for all intents and purposes, a terrorist organization; and the al-Sisi government displays far less tolerance towards its activists than did Hosni Mubarak's. This approach is trickling down to Egypt's allies too. Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya news network, for example, now calls the movement the "Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organization."
Jordan, however, didn't adopt the same attitude, and the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the country was afforded legitimacy as long as it did not pose a threat to the monarchy; but according to reports on Tuesday, Jordanian authorities have recently detained senior Muslim Brotherhood officials for undermining the interests of the kingdom.
During his year in office as commander of the army, and then as president, al-Sisi introduced new anti-terrorism legislation; and today, the Egyptian regime puts the Muslim Brotherhood on a par with al-Qaeda, Islamic State and Hamas in Gaza – they're all sides of the same coin.
Against Hamas
Al-Sisi is waging an all-out war against the terror groups in northern Sinai, and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in particular. The Egyptian Army has blocked the crossings between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, evacuated the population of the Egyptian Rafah, and blocked the terrorists' access to fuel and water. Currently, large Egyptian military forces are engaged in conflicts with jihadists throughout the region; and anything goes in the war to eradicate the terror – targeted killings, bombings, life sentences and executions.
In his war on terror, al-Sisi has widespread support in the West (Europe and the United States) and among the moderate Sunni-axis countries (Saudi Arabia and the UAE). The Egyptian president's policy is designed to uncompromisingly cleanse Egypt of the scourge of terrorism.
Egypt's new approach towards Hamas has left the organization in dire straits in the Gaza Strip. Operation Protective Edge offered an indication of this distress when Hamas voiced its displeasure with the Egyptian mediation efforts. From Egypt's point of view, Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and thus a symbol of the last remnant of the former regime that al-Sisi toppled in a coup.
Egypt regularly accuses Hamas of aiding the terror groups operating in northern Sinai, and smuggling weapons through terror tunnels from Gaza into Sinai. The Egyptian regime also believes that Turkey and Qatar are aiding Hamas in an effort to destabilize the Sinai. And according to the Egyptian media, Muslim Brotherhood activists in Turkey are using Facebook to promote a mass demonstration after Friday prayers this week.
In response, the military has taken unprecedented measures to deter the protests, including the deployment of troops in Cairo, near important state facilities and institutions, the use of drones and the establishment of a special operations room to manage the situation.
The Egyptian government has denied reports in Israel about the Egyptian proposal to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza and northern Sinai, with senior officials explaining that the idea originated from Morsi's former regime, which had plotted to extend Hamas' rule to the Sinai Peninsula. According to the senior officials, the Egyptians did not send out their sons to die for Hamas but for the purpose of "returning Sinai to the Egyptian people."
Egypt marches forward
Al-Sisi is promising to lead Egypt forward into the 21st century, as opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to take it back to the Middle Ages. In recent months, al-Sisi has promoted huge projects, including the expansion of the Suez Canal and the establishment of a global logistics center for the handling and storage of grain and food commodities in Damietta; and the Egyptian media are talking about the day after the eradication of terrorism in Sinai – the yield of raw materials from the Sinai earth, and not only oil but valuable types of marble too.
Al-Sisi is on a world tour to drum up political support and raise capital. The temporary suspension imposed by the United States on the supply of arms to Egypt after the revolution was cause for grave concern among the regime. Now, Egypt has stopped relying on the economy of just one country and is trying to strengthen its ties with as many as possible – European states, Russia, India, China and, more recently, South Korea.
The significance for Israel
President al-Sisi is unlike his predecessors and requires a different approach. He is not anti-Israel like Morsi, and he doesn't hold the status quo holy like Mubarak did. He is an active president in the positive sense of the word. He's concerned, of course with Egyptian and not Israeli interests, but the interests are shared to a large extent, in terms of both security and economics.
Al-Sisi thinks big, as befits the leader of the most powerful Arab state; he's calling on the West to join the war on terror in Libya, which could become Islamic State's next base after Iraq and Syria; and he wants to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The solution of an Egyptian observer force in the West Bank and Gaza would certainly be a nightmare for Hamas, since the Egyptians won't handle the organization's activists with kid gloves. Al-Sisi's solution appears to remove the principal obstacle to the peace process that led in the past to the failure of the Oslo process – the incessant Islamic terror.
In practice, however, the proposal is fraught with grave danger. The Egyptian Army could end up in control of the Palestinian territories all the way through to Nablus in the north – something Egypt was unable to achieve in all its wars with Israel.
Over the past year, large numbers of Egyptian forces have moved "temporarily" into Sinai to fight terrorism, in violation of the peace agreements. Al-Sisi's proposal would facilitate the "temporary" deployment of Egyptian forces in Gaza and the West Bank. As in the case of the Sinai, the war on terror will require the deployment of large numbers of soldiers, tanks and helicopters in "Palestine."
The Middle East is currently undergoing far-reaching changes. One can only hope that al-Sisi's regime will ensure and achieve its objectives. But until Egypt is stabilized and can ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood regime will not return, and until the trust between al-Sisi's new regime and Israel is well founded, the government in Jerusalem will struggle to consider the proposal, despite all its advantages.