LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For
Today/Freedom in Christ
Galatians 05/01-26/"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."
It is sad that our Maronite Patriarch Al Raei does not have the humility talent. His response to a suspicious and questionable Church real estate case was through a proverb that says, I don't care
editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 26-27/14
What Difference Would an Iran Deal Make/Patrick Clawson and Mehdi KhalajiWashington Institute/November 26-27/14
Iraqi Kurdistan: The Middle East's Next 'Little Sparta/Michael Knights/Washington Institute/November 26/14
Friday's Islamist 'Uprising' in Egypt Could Be Bloody/Eric Trager/Washington Institute/November 26-27/14
Lebanon says goodbye to Sabah/Mirella Hodeib/The Daily Star/November 26/14
Lebanese Related News
published on November 26-27/14
U.S. State Department Renews Lebanon Travel Warning
Lebanon’s university students over-caffeinated: study
March 14: Hizbullah's Deal to Release its Captive from Islamists Proves its Double Standards
Frustration Grows among Relatives of Hostages after Hizbullah Fighter Freed in Swap
LebanonZureikat Vows to Destroy Hizbullah Security Zones
Hariri to highlight urgency of dialogue
Much weight on Future-Hezbollah talks
Six Lebanese dairy factories ordered to halt labneh production
Lebanon’s ongoing food safety saga/No politics zone
Centers prepared for snowfall: minister
Flight of Iraqi Christians into Lebanon persists
Funds for building power plants released
Lebanon weathers the storm, braces for more chaos
Asiri Welcomes Mustaqbal-Hizbullah Dialogue, Denies Naming Aoun for Presidency
Lebanese FM: Cyprus may be jihadist transit point
Lebanon’s civil society sector: a lost continent
Hariri to higlight urgency of dialogue
Tripoli residents still waiting on compensation
Abu Faour battles on with food purges
Assyrian Christians want to return to Turkey
Book kindles connection with Lebanon’s trees
Khalil determined to pass draft budget
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Syria ‘no-fly zone’ not being considered: NATO general
Syrian opposition PM plays down failure to elect ministers
Hollande urges Sisi to pursue ‘democratic transition’
Egypt opens crossing to Gaza for 1st time in month
Stop coddling Assad
Putin lends unwavering support for Assad’s war
Activists raise Raqqa strikes’ death toll to 95
Yemen defense minister visits Ma’rib amid tensions
British trio on brink of Europa knockout phase
British town council votes to ban all Israeli goods, in defiance of Labor policy
IDF official: 3 months after Gaza war Hamas still rehabilitating military hierarchy
Netanyahu: There is an effort to undermine the Jews' right to their own state
ISIS says its flag will wave over Jerusalem, even if the Jews don't like it
Below Jihad Watch Posts For Tuesday
Hamas-linked terror org CAIR to Muslims: Lady Liberty says “Shhhh!”
UK: London police afraid to patrol alone because of jihad threat
Islamic supremacist groups connect their jihad to Ferguson riots
Iran: ‘Americans have very clearly surrendered’
Islamic State has “sleeper cells over here…preparing to unleash their war in Europe”
UK can watch fewer than 50 jihad terror suspects
Bulgaria: Mosque raided in jihad incitement probe
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Hagel takes the fall
Pakistan: Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy files last-ditch appeal
Nigeria: Teenage Muslimas murder at least 30 in crowded market
Video: Robert Spencer on Sun TV on Israel and Iran’s nuclear program
Lebanon says goodbye to Sabah
Mirella Hodeib/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: There are very few moments of shared joy in Lebanon’s collective memory. Sabah, who died Wednesday, was responsible for several of them. With her death, so passed one of the totems of Lebanon’s collective memory: the very embodiment of the “joie de vivre a la Libanaise.”Born Jeanette Gergis Feghali, Sabah died at 3 a.m. Wednesday in the Beirut suburb of Hazmieh, at the age of 87. She chose to spend her last seven years away from the limelight and passed away in the Brazilia Suites hotel, where she had spent the final years of her eventful life. Ever-glamorous, Sabah will not only be remembered for her powerful vocals and acting skills. In a region where social and cultural mores are increasingly drawn to zealotry and isolationism, Sabah was one of a few Arab women who won emancipation, living and loving freely, in public, unconcerned by society’s shackles.
“You want me to tell you what my secret is?” Sabah said in a 2012 interview with Al-Akhbar newspaper. “The secret – that no one knows – is that I am reconciled with myself and I worked very hard to be different, successful, elegant, generous and loving.”
The third, unwanted, daughter of Gergis Feghali – who, like many young Arab men of his time, had longed to father a boy – she often confided that she had grown up scorned and neglected.
“One day I was crying because they forgot to feed me,” she recalled in a TV interview, “and one of my uncles told my parents that I had a beautiful voice when I sobbed.”Art critic and media expert Jamal Fayad told The Daily Star that in his opinion, Sabah’s death marked the end of the era of “joyful and optimistic” ballads. Sabah began her musical and acting career at an early age, after she attracted the attention of Cairo-based Lebanese filmmaker Asia Dagher, who reputedly had her sign three film contracts all at once. Dagher brought the young Jeanette Feghali to Egypt to rival another Lebanon-born artist Nour al-Huda, who at the time was asking for a better pay for her work. In the beginning, Fayad said, Egyptian critics were not very welcoming.
It was in Egypt that Jeanette Feghali acquired the stage name Sabah (“Morning”). Thanks to her wit and innate talent for acting and singing, Sabah won the hearts of the Egyptian public and quickly became a box office star. She starred in movies alongside such prominent Egyptian actors as Anwar Wagdi, Salah Zoulfiqar and heartthrob Roshdi Abaza – to whom she was married for a short period.
“I managed to win Roshdi’s heart and marry him at a time when he was coveted by all the women,” Sabah recalled in the 2012 interview. “I was the one who asked for a divorce because Roshdi was often too pompous and incapable of separating his public and private lives.”Sabah, who liked to be referred to as “Sit al-Sittat” (the lady of the ladies) was purportedly married nine times. She starred in 83 films and 27 Lebanese stage plays and her musical repertoire included over 3,000 Lebanese and Egyptian songs.
“The death of Sabah is a loss for Egypt as much as it is a loss for Lebanon,” Fayad said, adding that the deceased singer had excelled at rendering the Egyptian persona in her music and acting. Sabah was not only matchless in performing the Lebanese genre of mawal, the critic said. She also aced Egyptian tarab.
The performer collaborated with the Arab world’s top music composers including Lebanon’s Assi Rahbani and Philemon Wehbe, Syria’s Farid al-Atrache and Egypt’s Mohammad Abdel-Wahhab, Baligh Hamdy and Sayyed Mekkawi. One of Sabah’s most successful musical collaborations was her pre-Civil War concert with the late Lebanese vocalist Wadih al-Safi at the Baalbek International Festival, where they explored Lebanon’s folkloric repertoire. Sabah’s hit song “Habibet Oumaha” (Her Mommy’s Love) was composed for her by Farid al-Atrache and Hussein al-Sayyed. Dedicated to her daughter Huweida (the fruit of her marriage with Egyptian violinist Anwar Mansi) “Habibet Oumaha” has been the most popular Mother’s Day song for the past five decades.
Sabah is credited with being the first Arab singer to perform at Olympia and the Palais des Sports in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York, Piccadilly Theatre in London and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
She was also a prominent icon in the world of fashion, her daring outfits and dresses having influenced the fashion choices of tens of thousands of Arab women. Sabah collaborated with, and contributed to the fame of, such Lebanese designers as William Khoury, Robert Abi Nader and Zuhair Murad. In Fayad’s view, Sabah’s personality and career were unique. Future generations of Arab singers, he said, have a lot to learn from her legacy. In 2011 Sabah Media launched a TV drama based on Sabah’s life called “Shahroura” – Shahroura (song bird) being one of Sabah’s many nicknames – starring Lebanese vocalist Carole Samaha.
“The series was a flop,” Fayad opined, “and it did not do justice to Sabah’s life and career. Sabah is a larger-than-life character.” The critic argues that there is one song that encapsulates Sabah’s professional experiences, as well as her personal ones.
In the 1980 Egyptian movie “Layla Baka Fiha al-Qamar” (The Night when the Moon Wept), Sabah, aged 53, performed the tune “Saat Saat” (There are times), written by leftist poet Abdel-Rahman al-Abnoudi and composed by Jamal Salama.
“There are times I love life and enjoy the [little] things,” Sabah sang “and there are times I feel lonely, the words in my mouth meaningless.”
U.S. State Department Renews Lebanon
Naharnet /The United States on Wednesday renewed its travel warning to Lebanon and advised U.S. citizens already in the country to remain cautious. “The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of ongoing safety and security concerns. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks,” the department said in a travel advisory on its website. It noted that Wednesday's alert “supersedes the Travel Warning issued on August 15, 2014.” The State Department explained that the potential for death or injury in Lebanon “exists in particular because of the frequency of terrorist bombing attacks throughout the country.” It also pointed out that “attacks now regularly involve suicide bombers.” “Although there is no evidence these attacks were directed specifically at U.S. citizens at this time, there is a real possibility of 'wrong place, wrong time' harm to U.S. citizens,” the State Department warned. It also cited recent armed clashes in several regions and the proliferation of kidnappings. “Kidnapping, whether for ransom or political motives, remains a problem in Lebanon,” the Department noted. It also warned U.S. citizens of the risk of “traveling on airlines that fly over Syria.” The situation is still tense in the Bekaa border town of Arsal following deadly clashes between the Lebanese army and Syria-based jihadists. The northern city of Tripoli has also witnessed unprecedented fighting between the army and Islamist gunmen in late October. The U.S. warning, however, did not mention the Arsal battle or the deadly clashes in Tripoli and Akkar.
Frustration Grows among Relatives of
Hostages after Hizbullah Fighter Freed in Swap
Naharnet /The families of the Lebanese soldiers and policemen taken captive by jihadists four months ago warned the authorities they would take escalatory measures starting Friday morning to press the authorities to negotiate faster. The relatives warned they could block all of Beirut's entrances, a day after Hizbullah managed 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. Imad Ayyad was released in exchange for two gunmen who were in Hizbullah custody, the party announced on Tuesday. Frustration among the families of the soldiers and police, who were taken hostage when militants overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in August, grew after learning about Ayyad's release in a prisoner swap.
“Let no one blame us for our moves,” said one of the protesters at Beirut's Riad al-Solh square. “Hizbullah is not stronger than the state for being able to set free its captive,” he said. The relatives of the captured men have surrounded Prime Minister Tammam Salam's office, the Grand Serail, with protest tents, demanding the government negotiate faster. “There are no results on the ground. We are not seeing serious efforts by the government,” said another relative. A female protester addressed Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, pleading him to bring home the captives the same way he did with the Hizbullah hostage. Last Monday, the relatives of the soldiers burned tires and blocked several roads after they said Islamic State group extremists threatened to kill their sons. The jihadists from the IS and al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front have already executed three of the hostages.
Asiri Welcomes Mustaqbal-Hizbullah
Dialogue, Denies Naming Aoun for Presidency
Naharnet/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri noted Wednesday that Riyadh's call for blacklisting Hizbullah as a “terrorist” organization must not have any impact on the domestic Lebanese affairs, voicing support for any dialogue between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement. “We back any dialogue that gathers the Lebanese,” Asiri said in an interview with NBN television, revealing that during talks in Ain al-Tineh he sensed insistence by Speaker Nabih Berri to secure the success of dialogue between the two parties.
The ambassador hoped all parties will cooperate with Berri's initiative in order to “reconcile viewpoints and dissipate differences.”In another interview on MTV, Asiri said the priority of any dialogue must be “ending the presidential vacuum and preserving security.”
“We encourage dialogue and it must involve everyone,” Asiri added. Asked whether dialogue should include Hizbullah after Riyadh labeled it “terrorist,” the Saudi diplomat said: “The kingdom has a sovereign right to take the decision it wants anywhere in the world, but we support any decision that can strengthen stability in Lebanon.” “What happens outside Lebanon must not affect the domestic situation,” Asiri added. He stressed that Christians must have the first say in electing the new president. Asked about media reports claiming that he had described Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun as the best candidate for the presidency, Asiri described the allegations as baseless. “I do not nominate anyone for the presidency,” the ambassador underlined. “I don't have the right to name General Aoun or any other figure as this is exclusively the right of the Lebanese,” he went on to say. 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 condemned the call but described it as a “sonic bubble” that has no value.
March 14: Hizbullah's Deal to Release
its Captive from Islamists Proves its Double Standards
Naharnet/The March 14 General Secretariat condemned on Wednesday Hizbullah's negotiations with Islamists that ensured the release of a party member at a time when the government has been laboring to release servicemen held by extremist groups. It explained: “The party has disregarded the government's crisis cell aimed at releasing the servicemen even though it is a member of the cabinet.”“Hizbullah's deal is another sign of its undermining of the role of the state,” it remarked. “The party resorts to the state when it cannot achieve a goal and chooses to disregard it when it believes it can obtain its aims on its own,” it said. Hizbullah chooses to negotiate “with those it calls takfiris and terrorists … and prevents the state from striking any possible deal over the release of the servicemen,” remarked the General Secretariat. Moreover, it noted that the kidnapping of the soldiers and policemen is a product of Hizbullah's fighting in Syria. It accused the party of deeming the servicemen as “state prisoners who are unworthy of freedom, while its members deserve protection.”
The case of captive servicemen should be an “absolute national priority” because it concerns all the Lebanese people regardless of their sect or political affiliations, it added. It has become necessary to resolve this case for the sake of the captives' families and the dignity of the state, it stressed. 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.
The families of the servicemen, kidnapped from the northeastern border town of Arsal in August, voiced on Wednesday their frustration with the development. They remarked how the party was able to release its captive, but the state has been incapable of reaching any breakthrough in its negotiations. They vowed to take escalatory measures on Friday in order to pressure the state to release their loved ones. The servicemen were kidnapped by Islamic State and al-Nusra Front gunmen following clashes with the army in Arsal in August.
Salam lauds global awareness campaign on refugee crisis
Dana Halawi/The Daily Star
Nov. 26, 2014 |
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam hailed an awareness campaign Tuesday aimed at reaching out to the international community to help curb the negative repercussions of the Syrian refugee crisis on the Lebanese community.
“I am very happy to participate even partially in launching one of our campaigns that highlight the importance of dealing with the situation of Syrian refugees in a very professional and clever way,” he told an audience of NGOs and media at the Grand Serail.
“I wish this action today all the best,” he said, voicing hope that with the help of the international community ministers would be more successful in tackling this issue while achieving results that would improve the situation for both Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities. Dubbed “Tied Down,” the campaign was launched by the Economy Ministry and financed by the Lebanese Recovery Fund. The Lebanese Recovery Fund has been playing a prominent role over the past seven years in addressing targeted projects aimed at promoting development in Lebanon’s underprivileged areas, which are currently the main hosting communities of the Syrian refugees. The Lebanon Recovery Fund benefits from Spanish, Swedish, German and Romanian support. The global communication initiative was designed to inform the public that Lebanon has the highest per capita concentration of refugees recorded anywhere in the world in recent history. It also aims to show the extent of the impact the Syrian refugee crisis has had on the Lebanese hosting communities, especially given the lack of sufficient support by the international community. “There is certainly insufficient support coming forth and there has been quite a bit of money poured in due to the great competition for limited funds,” Ross Mountain, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, told The Daily Star on the sidelines of the launching ceremony. Mountain warned that Lebanon was not only facing a humanitarian crisis with the huge influx of refugees. “What Lebanon is facing today requires countries to understand the importance of maintaining stability in the country and therefore being able to tap into the development resources, which for most governments are much greater than the humanitarian resources,” he said.
Mountain said the United Nations was determined to help the Lebanese government in addressing the needs and challenges in the most vulnerable communities. “The U.N. has been working over the past six months to put together the Lebanon Crisis Response Program,” he said. “The program, which will be launched in 2015, brings together some 78 entities from governments, NGOs, national and international U.N. agencies, seeking to combine a humanitarian response that indeed deals with the Syrian displaced and poor Lebanese but also with host communities, municipalities and government services,” he added. Mountain said Lebanon needs the help of the international community to deal with this crisis and to help ensure continued protection of the Syrians in the country in addition to their safe return home.
For his part, Economy Minister Alain Hakim told The Daily Star the only way to improve the economic situation in the country was through the return of refugees to their country. “Refugees should go back to their country. We insist on their return and this will not take place unless there is cooperation with the current Syrian government,” he said. Hakim said in his speech that the huge influx of Syrian refugees was having a huge negative impact on the resources in the country, a situation that has become untenable. “The strain on our resources has made life unbearable,” he added. Hakim said the international community had a responsibility to share more of the growing burden. “We must act now at this very critical moment when humanitarian and development efforts for the Syrians as well as for the hosting communities are both essential and complementary,” he said. Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil said that proper management of refugee issues by the government and the international community was a priority. “The government should secure help and support for the Syrian refugees who are most in need of it,” he said, adding that Lebanon’s resources and the contributions from the international community were very limited and therefore the focus should be on helping the neediest people
Berri: U.S, Saudi Arabia back Future,
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
Nov. 26, 2014
BEIRUT: The United States and Saudi Arabia have voiced support for the planned dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah, Speaker Nabih Berri said Tuesday. Berri, according to visitors, said he had won support for the long-awaited talks between the Future Movement and Hezbollah from U.S. Ambassador David Hale and Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri during separate meetings with them at his Ain al-Tineh residence Tuesday. Asked about his attempts to promote a dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement, Berri was quoted by visitors as saying: “I am waiting for the Future Movement to send its agenda proposal, while I continue to prepare a proposal for this agenda.” The Future parliamentary bloc called Tuesday for an initiative by rival factions to reach a national compromise over the election of a new president, warning that the continued vacuum in the top Christian post entailed dire consequences for the country’s volatile security and struggling economy. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, appealed to the feuding Lebanese parties to close ranks and quickly elect a president without waiting for the outcome of regional developments.The Future and Saudi calls came as efforts have been intensified to launch a dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah aimed primarily at defusing sectarian tensions and facilitating the election of a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year tenure ended on May 25.
The Future bloc lamented that the 71st anniversary of Lebanon’s independence last week came amid “the continued presidential vacancy that carries with it the aggravation of various risks to which Lebanon is exposed at the national, security, political and economic levels.”
It said the repercussions and reverberations of the 6-month-old presidential deadlock harmed the state’s role, credibility and reputation and reflected negatively on the Lebanese people’s interests, security, civil peace and living standard.
“The vacancy in the presidency and the continued boycott by Hezbollah and [MP Michel Aoun’s] Change and Reform bloc and their obstruction of [Parliament] sessions to elect a president have aggravated this abnormal dangerous situation in the country,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting chaired by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
“Therefore, salvation in this case requires an initiative for a national action with the participation of all the parties to reach a national compromise under which a consensus over the next president could be achieved,” the statement added. 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 split over a consensus candidate for the presidency. In the absence of an internal accord to elect a president, senior government officials have said that a regional consensus, mainly between Saudi Arabia and Iran, was essential to break the presidential stalemate. “We might be able within months to reach a sort of regional agreement that could allow the election of a president, especially since the election of a president in Lebanon is not a Lebanese decision,” Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said in a TV interview Tuesday. He also said that dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah should help protect Lebanon from the consequences of the fast-moving developments in the region. “We are undoubtedly going through a transitional phase in Lebanon that is part of a transitional phase that the whole region is going through,” Machnouk said during a ceremony commemorating the United Arab Emirates 43rd anniversary in Abu Dhabi.
The Saudi envoy, Asiri, called for Lebanese unity and the swift election of a president, saying his country supported an inter-Lebanese dialogue.
“Saudi Arabia sees that the top priority that Lebanon needs now is boosting its unity and a consensus among all the political parties to hold a serious dialogue and speed up the election of a new president in isolation of the ongoing events in the region and their repercussions,” Asiri told reporters after meeting Berri in Ain al-Tineh. In a TV interview, Asiri said his country encouraged a dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah if it served Lebanon’s interest. “Saudi Arabia hopes that all the parties will engage in dialogue to find a solution to the crisis facing Lebanon, particularly the presidential crisis,” the Saudi envoy said. For his part, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said he welcomed the planned dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah. “Should a dialogue begin now between Hezbollah and the Future Movement, this means we have begun emerging from the black tunnel in Lebanon,” Rai told reporters at Beirut’s airport upon his return from Rome. He said the suspension of dialogue between the March 8 and March 14 parties has brought the country to where it is now. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Council met Tuesday to discuss the challenge presented by the FPM against the extension of Parliament’s mandate for two years and seven months. The 10-member council will meet again Wednesday to continue its discussion into the FPM’s appeal filed against the extension. Aoun’s bloc Monday urged the council to take “a historic stand” by annulling the extension.
Six Lebanese dairy factories ordered to halt labneh production
Nizar Hassan/The Daily Star
Nov. 26, 2014
BEIRUT: Economy Minister Alain Hakim Tuesday ordered six dairy factories to halt labneh production after samples failed health safety tests, in the latest push of a nationwide crackdown on establishments violating food standards. Meanwhile, a parliamentary subcommittee was formed to draft a food safety law within two weeks. A statement from Hakim’s office said labneh samples taken from some dairy factories failed to meet required Lebanese health specifications and were a danger to public health. Hakim ordered the withdrawal of these products from the market, the statement said. The statement did not name the factories, but local media reported them to be Laqlouk, Qaisar, Masabki, Center Jdita, Chtaura products and Hawa Dairy. “The minister did not order the shutting down of the factories,” Ruba Keek, a spokesperson for Hakim, told The Daily Star. “He only asked them to stop producing labneh temporarily until they resolve their issues.”Keek said the labneh tested contained microbes, bacteria and acids that could endanger consumers, particularly pregnant women. “But he promised to allow them to resume their work once they corrected the violations, and even said he would go visit them and eat their products,” Keek said.
The issue of food safety came into focus earlier this month when Health Minister Wael Abu Faour announced the names of restaurants and food establishments he said were selling contaminated food. Parliament’s joint committees decided in a meeting Tuesday to form a subcommittee to draft a food safety law within two weeks that would stipulate the formation of a National Committee for Food Safety.
The body would monitor every stage of the food industry and maintain high standards across the board. MP Atef Majdalani said after the meeting that once the subcommittee finalized its work, it would refer the draft law back to the joint committees that would meet on Dec. 8.The subcommittee will try to merge two draft laws on food safety, one proposed by Majdalani and another one by former Prime Minister Najib Mikati and MP Ahmad Karami earlier this month. Late Economy Minister Bassel Fleihan was the first to propose a food safety draft law in 2003 stipulating the establishment of the NCFS, but the process was halted after several ministries complained its formation would infringe on their powers. The Tourism, Economy, Health and Agriculture ministries are among eight different bodies believed to have a hand in monitoring the food industry. “Discussions have reached a stage that requires further talks to tackle details related to the structure of the committee and its presidency,” Abu Faour said after the joint committee’s meeting.
“We know we are in a country that has many political sensitivities, and I hope politics will not get into this issue and ruin it,” he added. “This is a national campaign that has nothing to do with politics and what is needed is national legislation to protect the food of the Lebanese.” Abu Faour predicted that discussions would take some time, adding that even if the draft law was endorsed by Parliament, it required executive decrees to establish the NCFS’ administrative cadre.
“In the meantime, the Health Ministry will continue its campaign, and I think we now need to resort to the judiciary [to hold violators accountable],” Abu Faour said. He added that Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud have promised to follow up seriously on the issue. “Maybe the establishment of a state prosecutor office for food safety is among the considered options,” he said. Abu Faour did not provide an opinion about the hierarchy and affiliation of the NCFS, saying he was only interested in having a body dedicated to monitoring food safety. Abu Faour said the health of the Lebanese mattered more to him than the powers of ministries, including the Health Ministry.
The minister also held discussions with MP Mohammad Qabbani about enforcing Law 210 to crack down on unlicensed water companies selling bottled potable water so that they meet safety standards. Only then would the firms be granted licenses. “There are hundreds of unlicensed companies which sell highly polluted water,” Qabbani said. w 210 will be applied to a big number of these companies,” Qabbani said, adding that required decrees and decisions would be made by Abu Faour and Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan.
Jean Nehme: from surgeon to entrepreneur
Nov. 27, 2014
Mazin Sidahmed/The Daily Star
Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of articles about Lebanese entrepreneurs who took part in the Central Bank’s Accelerate 2014 International Startup Conference. BEIRUT: Plastic surgeon and CEO of Touch Surgery Jean Nehme is doing his utmost to help trainee surgeons improve, and along the way is overcoming the challenges of being an entrepreneur. Touch Surgery is a phone application that is designed to let trainees practice performing operations and develop the essential decision-making skills necessary to be a surgeon.
Nehme and his co-founder Andre Chow came up with the idea through their own experiences as doctors. According to Nehme, the work of a doctor is very straightforward: “In surgery and as a doctor all you’re ever trying to do is diagnose people’s problems and fix them.”Over the 12 years he trained to be a surgeon, Nehme developed a knack for solving problems. During his training, he and one of his colleagues, Chow, identified a problem within their field: There was a need for a better tool to allow surgeons to learn and rehearse.
Due to new regulations in the United Kingdom, where Nehme is from, and around the world, to prevent overworking surgeons, their hours are now being reduced. “A surgeon used to do 10,000 hours; now they may qualify with 2,000 hours,” Nehme told The Daily Star.“So they need to find ways to [learn more] efficiently.”
During his master’s he was asked to do some research on simulators and realized they were great tools to learn. An avid fan of video games, he saw them as “big PlayStations.”It was at that point that he and Chow came up with Touch Surgery.
The app contains a wide range of different operations and is animated using 3-D graphics. Users are also graded on their performance to see how they’ve done. A prototype was released last year and racked up more than 30,000 downloads in the first few weeks. Today Nehme and his partners have managed to raise $2.5 million in funding and the app has 300,000 downloads with 250,000 registered users. The app itself is completely free to use and Nehme and his co-founders intend to keep it that way because they view it as a public good. “Our strategy really is to try and build something that is very valuable to the community,” Nehme said.
“It is about getting surgeons to have free access to this tool that will really help them be better prepared for patients and ultimately give patients better care.” The app has generally received positive feedback from the medical community at large.
They have even teamed up with expert surgeons from the University of Toronto, Stanford, Yale, Imperial College and Cambridge to contribute operations to the app. “We get emails from surgeons in Nigeria just saying thank you so much for this. It’s been really useful to allow me just to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing here,” Nehme said. The journey to this point has been long and arduous, Nehme recalled. It started with long days of coding after operations to get the first prototype off the ground.
Shortly after launching they took part in an accelerator program in New York called Blueprint Health that taught them how to build and scale their product. This was the first company that anyone on their team had started and there were a lot of doubts that still persist to this day. “[I have doubts] all the time. It still happens today,” Nehme admitted. “I spent all of my life training to be a surgeon ... [giving that up] is hard, it makes you kind of evaluate what you’re doing.” Nehme’s advice to anyone wishing to start his or her own company is to learn to accept rejection as it will happen often, and to make sure that you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing. “You have to be passionate about it,” he stressed. “Because you will hit so many hurdles and if you don’t have that passion, you’ll fall at the first.”
Nehme recently attended the Central Bank’s Accelerate 2014 conference in Beirut that brought together prominent people in the tech startup industry and coincided with a new wave of investment money being pumped into the sector in Lebanon.
Nehme was heartened by what he saw in Lebanon. Despite the fact that most of the innovation that is currently happening is copycat products, Lebanon is heading in the right direction, Nehme said. “I think there is a long way to go and the guys that have organized the [Accelerate conference] have made great steps toward it and essentially what needs to happen now is a greater investment in the ecosystem,” he added. “I think that [this investment] is saying to the entrepreneurs: You can do it here. The infrastructure will come. You may not have electricity; you may not have the Internet. You have to be resilient, you have to be brave, and you have to be bold.”
Lebanon’s university students over-caffeinated: study
Kareem Shaheen| The Daily Star/Nov. 27, 2014
BEIRUT: A steady stream of students flocked undeterred to the multitudes of cafes along Bliss Street despite the torrential rains for their daily fix of caffeine. Naim Chehab, who has been a barista for seven years at Latte-Art, a small coffee shop across from the American University of Beirut, seems to be on a first-name basis with all his customers. “You get used to the people,” he said in between coffee orders. Chehab said a large number of his customers are students, not a surprise given the location, and they visit more frequently during exams. One of his regular patrons consumes up to eight cups of Turkish coffee a day, while another will drop by four times a day for a cup of Nescafe. Generally, most of the students tend to order cafe lattes or Nescafe, the ubiquitous instant coffee. But perhaps Lebanon’s university students are drinking a bit too much coffee – new research shows that nearly half may have developed a dependence on caffeine. “Some can’t even go two days without consuming the caffeine,” said Marie Tannous, assistant professor at the faculty of natural and applied sciences of Notre Dame University-Louaize. The study, which looks at the caffeine consumption habits of college undergraduates and graduates, reported that nearly 45 percent of students are dependent on caffeine, telling researchers that they cannot go more than two to three days without it. Two-thirds also report withdrawal symptoms and after-effects of caffeine including insomnia, increased aggression and arrhythmia. The researchers looked at a random sample of 215 students in three universities in north Lebanon who filled a questionnaire on their caffeine consumption habits. Essentially all the students who responded to the survey said they consumed caffeine, with the most commonly consumed drink – by almost a fifth of the student population – being Nescafe, followed by hot chocolate and soft drinks. The least common type of caffeine consumed was espresso.
Two-thirds of university students increase their caffeine consumption during exams. They also drank more of it in the latter years of university – for instance, 40 percent of students over 24 years of age consume caffeine more than three times a day.
“University students rely increasingly more on caffeine as they become older,” the researchers said in the paper, which was published in the Public Health Research journal. The students said they primarily drank the caffeine to stay alert, due to academic stress or to get through long shifts – essentially while pulling all-nighters to study for tests. While moderate caffeine usage has reported health benefits ranging from better cognition to protecting against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and liver disease, excessive caffeine consumption can cause insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, quicker heartbeats and muscle tremors. The Mayo Clinic says 400 milligrams of caffeine a day “appears to be safe for most healthy adults” – the equivalent of four cups of brewed coffee.
But one of the main problems with excessive caffeine consumption in Lebanon is that the country’s population appears to be genetically predisposed to hypertension. Out of all the students in the survey, 58 percent of them had a history of hypertension in the family, increasing the likelihood that they develop the condition later in life. While some individuals can develop a tolerance for caffeine, others can have higher blood pressure due to regular consumption of caffeinated drinks.
“Their families and parents have hypertension and they’ll eventually inherit some of these genetic abnormalities, and if they keep taking caffeinated beverages it’s going to catch up to them,” Tannous said. “If they have that genetic predisposition and they eat healthy and don’t drink a lot of caffeine they would not develop hypertension eventually.”She said she plans to expand the research to include universities in Beirut, but believes the results apply to them as well. She also wants to study the health effects of the additives people usually include with coffee or Nescafe, including creamers and added sugar.
Hariri to highlight urgency of dialogue
The Daily Star/Nov. 27, 2014
BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to highlight Thursday the need for dialogue between his Future Movement and Hezbollah to facilitate the election of a president and defuse Sunni-Shiite tensions, an MP from his party said.
“There are two starting points. The first is that the current vacuum in the presidency entails huge dangers and maybe dialogue will achieve a breakthrough in the presidential deadlock,” lawmaker Ammar Houri told The Daily Star Wednesday.
But the Beirut MP stressed that specific names of candidates would not be discussed during the talks. “Going into names requires discussions with all Lebanese parties, not just between the two of them.”
“The second point is that dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement could defuse Sunni-Shiite tensions,” Houri added. The lawmaker said his group had not set conditions for dialogue with Hezbollah, and would not accept any from its rival.
Currently outside Lebanon, Hariri will do a televised interview from France that will be aired on LBCI’s Kalam an-Nas talk show program at 9:30 p.m. local time. Expectations that dialogue between the two bitter rivals – both of whom are members of Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government – would take place arose after Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah announced earlier this month that he backed the idea.He was responding to a proposal months before by Hariri himself, who said Future was ready to communicate with all parties, including Hezbollah, to end the country’s presidential vacuum, which is now in its seventh month.
Parliament has failed since April to elect a successor to former President Michel Sleiman due to disagreements between the March 8 and March 14 coalitions over who should assume the country’s top Christian post.
Speaker Nabih Berri Tuesday said he had held separate meetings with Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri and U.S. Ambassador David Hale and that they both backed the planned dialogue. He added that he was waiting for the Future Movement to send him an agenda for the talks and that he would prepare his own as well. Speaking to local media outlets Wednesday, Asiri denied that there was any link between his country’s demand for sanctions on Hezbollah earlier this month at the United Nations Security Council and Saudi Arabia’s attitude toward dialogue talks in Lebanon.
“We support any dialogue which brings the Lebanese together,” he said. Asiri said he felt during his meeting with Berri that the Parliament speaker was determined to make the dialogue attempt a success.
The Saudi envoy said he hoped all Lebanese factions would respond positively to Berri’s initiative so that all disputes between Lebanese parties could be resolved. He added that the dialogue would focus on the presidential election issue and the need to preserve stability in the country, stressing that the Christian community’s voice should be a priority in former subject.
The Saudi diplomat also dismissed reports that he backed Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun’s presidential bid.
“It is not my right to nominate either General Aoun or any other figure; this is the right of the Lebanese,” Asiri said.
“Sabah was a free soul despite the family issues and the tragedies that marked her personal life,” Fayad said. “She had a remarkable ability to separate her personal and public lives and to carry on the fight with a wide smile.”
Sabah began her musical and acting career at an early age, after she attracted the attention of Cairo-based Lebanese filmmaker Asia Dagher, who reputedly had her sign three film contracts all at once.
Dagher brought the young Jeanette Feghali to Egypt to rival another Lebanon-born artist Nour al-Huda, who at the time was asking for a better pay for her work. In the beginning, Fayad said, Egyptian critics were not very welcoming.
It was in Egypt that Jeanette Feghali acquired the stage name Sabah (“Morning”).
Thanks to her wit and innate talent for acting and singing, Sabah won the hearts of the Egyptian public and quickly became a box office star. She starred in movies alongside such prominent Egyptian actors as Anwar Wagdi, Salah Zoulfiqar and heartthrob Roshdi Abaza – to whom she was married for a short period. “I managed to win Roshdi’s heart and marry him at a time when he was coveted by all the women,” Sabah recalled in the 2012 interview. “I was the one who asked for a divorce because Roshdi was often too pompous and incapable of separating his public and private lives.”Sabah, who liked to be referred to as “Sit al-Sittat” (the lady of the ladies) was purportedly married nine times. She starred in 83 films and 27 Lebanese stage plays and her musical repertoire included over 3,000 Lebanese and Egyptian songs.
“The death of Sabah is a loss for Egypt as much as it is a loss for Lebanon,” Fayad said, adding that the deceased singer had excelled at rendering the Egyptian persona in her music and acting. Sabah was not only matchless in performing the Lebanese genre of mawal, the critic said. She also aced Egyptian tarab. The performer collaborated with the Arab world’s top music composers including Lebanon’s Assi Rahbani and Philemon Wehbe, Syria’s Farid al-Atrache and Egypt’s Mohammad Abdel-Wahhab, Baligh Hamdy and Sayyed Mekkawi. One of Sabah’s most successful musical collaborations was her pre-Civil War concert with the late Lebanese vocalist Wadih al-Safi at the Baalbek International Festival, where they explored Lebanon’s folkloric repertoire.
Sabah’s hit song “Habibet Oumaha” (Her Mommy’s Love) was composed for her by Farid al-Atrache and Hussein al-Sayyed. Dedicated to her daughter Huweida (the fruit of her marriage with Egyptian violinist Anwar Mansi) “Habibet Oumaha” has been the most popular Mother’s Day song for the past five decades.Sabah is credited with being the first Arab singer to perform at Olympia and the Palais des Sports in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York, Piccadilly Theatre in London and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
She was also a prominent icon in the world of fashion, her daring outfits and dresses having influenced the fashion choices of tens of thousands of Arab women. Sabah collaborated with, and contributed to the fame of, such Lebanese designers as William Khoury, Robert Abi Nader and Zuhair Murad. In Fayad’s view, Sabah’s personality and career were unique. Future generations of Arab singers, he said, have a lot to learn from her legacy. In 2011 Sabah Media launched a TV drama based on Sabah’s life called “Shahroura” – Shahroura (song bird) being one of Sabah’s many nicknames – starring Lebanese vocalist Carole Samaha. “The series was a flop,” Fayad opined, “and it did not do justice to Sabah’s life and career. Sabah is a larger-than-life character.”The critic argues that there is one song that encapsulates Sabah’s professional experiences, as well as her personal ones. In the 1980 Egyptian movie “Layla Baka Fiha al-Qamar” (The Night when the Moon Wept), Sabah, aged 53, performed the tune “Saat Saat” (There are times), written by leftist poet Abdel-Rahman al-Abnoudi and composed by Jamal Salama. “There are times I love life and enjoy the [little] things,” Sabah sang “and there are times I feel lonely, the words in my mouth meaningless.”
Much weight on Future-Hezbollah talks
Antoine Ghattas Saab/The Daily Star
Nov. 26, 2014 |
Observers are putting much weight on the outcome of possible dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah, especially after both sides appear to be aware of how important their communication will be in the current political context. Sources with knowledge about the progress of the dialogue, still at the beginning stages, said at the moment representatives from both parties are meeting to set the agenda of the future dialogue.
The first level of dialogue won’t involve top officials, the sources said. But representatives will be given authorization from party leaders, which the source said was an important step.
Also, the manner by which agenda topics are raised – whether with openness and understanding or based on previous convictions – would indicate whether talks will be successful or not, the sources added.
Figures from the Future Movement recently met with former premier Saad Hariri in Riyadh, where they discussed the dialogue agenda, while Hezbollah is preparing its own proposals, the sources said.
Hariri is expected to announce his official stance on the dialogue on Kalam an-Nas, a political television show, this Thursday.
He is currently holding intensive sessions with Future officials and senior aides in preparation for the announcement. He met with Future bloc head Fouad Siniora, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and Nader Hariri, director of Hariri’s office.
Sources did not rule out the possibility that the agenda would not stray from the one recommended by Hariri during an iftar banquet at BIEL earlier this year, in which he said talks should touch on the presidential election, a new electoral law and parliamentary elections.
Knowing that it’s near impossible to negotiate with Hezbollah about its weapons arsenal and presence in Syria, as these issues relate to its regional ally and patron Iran, the source believes the dialogue will center on the presidential vacuum.
The file became negotiable after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah agreed to enter a dialogue with Future, a decision made in light of new political calculations after Tehran and the West failed to reach a final agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, the sources said.
The dialogue is highly anticipated, the source said, because it is expected to bring about positive changes at the political, security and economic levels.
Concerning the agenda from Future’s perspective, party sources said agreement over agenda items with Hezbollah would indicate whether talks are to proceed. What is clear is that the now six-month and counting presidential vacuum and the tough security situation in the context of precarious regional developments require engaging deeply with Hezbollah.
“We don’t want the dialogue with Hezbollah to only be talk,” one source said. “We already hold talks with the party’s ministers and lawmakers. What we really expect from the dialogue is to produce practical decisions.”
The meeting in Ain al-Tineh earlier this month between Siniora and Nader Hariri on one side and Speaker Nabih Berri on the other resulted in an agreement about the importance of determining an agenda for the dialogue.
Berri had confirmed during the meeting that he would take care of preparing the atmosphere for talks to take place, which has proved to be no easy task.
Former Prime Minister Hariri, for instance, first had to contain Saudi Arabia’s escalation against Hezbollah, and had asked his party’s leaders to not discuss the Saudi demand at the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Hezbollah and other “terrorist” organizations, the sources told The Daily Star. In the end, Hariri’s political maneuvering was well received, and was considered a positive sign as preparations to hold the dialogue continued.
Berri will mediate the dialogue and move talks along according to a detailed schedule prepared in advance, the sources said. They also indicated that the dialogue’s outcome would not require major compromises to be made, but consist of a list of items aimed at putting the state institutions back on track, starting with a consensus president. In addition, a visit made by a Hezbollah delegation to Rabieh, the headquarters of the Free Patriotic Movement, where it announced its sponsorship of MP Michel Aoun for president, has also threatened to undermine dialogue. One of the goals of the dialogue is to first agree on a president who can later head a national dialogue in Baabda.
Deep trust issues remain between the Future Movement and Hezbollah, yet working on creating an atmosphere amenable to holding talks is crucial. If talks fail, Hariri’s supporters will be affected, and the Future Movement leader keeps this fact close in mind.
Lebanon’s ongoing food safety saga/No politics zone
The Daily Star/Nov. 26, 2014 |
Lebanon’s ongoing food safety saga shows little sign of letting up, which is a good thing if government officials and politicians manage to achieve tangible results that improve the public health situation. In the meantime, however, the public is subjected to the insulting sideshow of various parties raising red flags, for ludicrous reasons.Some politicians have doubted the wisdom of going after lawbreakers, because it could hurt the country’s reputation. Some politicians have complained about a “biased” campaign, as people from a certain sect are accused of breaking the law – even though the campaign has spared no sect or region of the country. Some businessmen are outraged that their sector is coming under government scrutiny. They have the audacity to stage demonstrations as a response, while the authorities unfortunately allow these actions to take place.Some feel no shame in opposing any action, because thousands of families depend on a given economic sector for their livelihoods – as if this justifies the total disregard for the health of tens of thousands. While it’s difficult to imagine learning exactly who is responsible for allowing these unhealthy conditions to become so dangerous in the first place, it’s important to remember that people simply want credible action, and not pontificating. People want an end to the silly accusations of “bias” when someone tries to address their true priority issues that affect their daily lives. They’re sick to death, literally, of politicians playing politics with the food they eat, the roads they drive on, the medicines they take, the air they breathe and the water they drink. They want politics out of these issues as desperately as they want unhealthy food off their plates.
Iraqi Kurdistan: The Middle East's
Next 'Little Sparta'?
Michael Knights/Washington Institute
The Kurds may be leveraging recent arms agreements to achieve a more direct security relationship with Western powers on the road toward de facto autonomy.
When US defence officials want to give a compliment to a junior military partner they will often use the phrase "Little Sparta", referring to the ancient Greek city state revered for its small but potent army. Most recently the phrase has been applied in reference to the UAE.
Now Iraqi Kurdistan is making a major play to become the next "Little Sparta". The Peshmerga -- Kurdistan's fighting force -- has always enjoyed the admiration and trust of the US military. Now Iraqi Kurdistan is emerging as an unparalleled launchpad for western operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), offering secure bases with easy access to Mosul, eastern Syria and over a thousand kilometres of ISIL's front-line in Iraq.
This week has seen a senior Kurdish delegation making the rounds in Washington DC, lobbying Congressional leaders and think tanks to support a radical tightening of the military ties between the US and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). At the present time, Washington continues to provide most of its weapons and training support to the KRG only after consultation with and approval by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence. In the past, this nod to Iraqi sovereignty has allowed Baghdad to delay or even block US security cooperation with the Kurds.
'SENSE OF CONGRESS'
On November 10, senior US Congressman Ed Royce, the chairman of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced a "sense of Congress" resolution that called for US President Barack Obama to "directly provide the Kurdistan Regional Government with advanced conventional weapons, training, and defence services, on an emergency and temporary basis". The motion explicitly encourages the president to "accept End Use Certificates approved by the Kurdistan Regional Government" to allow the KRG to directly receive US "anti-armour weapons, armoured vehicles, long-range artillery, crew-served weapons and ammunition, secure command and communications equipment, body armour, helmets, logistics equipment, excess defence articles and other military assistance that the president determines to be appropriate" for a three-year period.
A similar piece of legislation was introduced by another senior Republican congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, on September 19, and is awaiting review by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Neither of these developments can force the US government's hand but they do add to the clamour of voices calling for the US to reverse its standoffish policy towards Iraqi Kurdish autonomy.
On November 7, Obama asked Congress for $1.6bn to train nine Iraqi army and three Peshmerga brigades ahead of the effort to retake the ISIL's declared capital of Mosul in 2015. A US training site and air base is being developed at Bashur airfield, near the KRG town of Harir.
LARGER US EFFORT
The Kurds want a far larger US effort to train over a dozen Peshmerga brigades, and they have a good story to tell US legislators. From 2003 to 2011, the US helped the KRG to develop eight of their Peshmerga brigades with just $92m of US support. In contrast, the US built 109 brigades in federal Iraq at a cost of more than $25bn.
The average amount invested in each KRG brigade was $11.5m, compared to $229.3m spent on each federal Iraqi brigade. Today, the eight US-assisted Kurdish units are intact, whereas almost a quarter of the federal forces have disintegrated.
Opponents of the KRG's drive for a direct security relationship with the US will instead argue that bypassing Baghdad could hasten the disintegration of Iraq, for instance setting a precedent for the Sunni areas within Iraq to receive arms and training directly from neighbouring states. The US government will also be hesitant to undermine the new Minister of Defence Khalid al-Ubeidi, a Sunni Arab from Mosul, who visited the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga on November 3 to discuss mutual cooperation. Thus far, Ubeidi has been supportive of both the US plan to train Peshmerga brigades and Germany's commitment of sufficient equipment to outfit two entire Peshmerga brigades, much of which has already arrived in Erbil unhindered by Baghdad.
The Kurds may seek to overcome US objections by offering their cooperation on critical issues. Future advances by the Peshmerga to close the ring around Mosul or shut off terrorist movements along the Syria-Iraq border may be contingent on boosted provision of US equipment and training. The Kurds are also needed to provide training bases for two new federal government brigades being raised in KRG-controlled areas from the survivors of the destroyed Iraqi army and police units.
ROAD TO DE FACTO AUTONOMY
Leveraging these advantages, Erbil could achieve a more direct security relationship with the US and other western partner nations, representing another milestone on the road towards de facto autonomy. Alongside security relations with foreign states, the KRG is making strides to become economically independent.
The interim revenue-sharing agreement announced by KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on November 14 is an indication that Baghdad grudgingly sees more upside in cooperatively exporting KRG and Kirkuk crude than in maintaining its economic sanctions against Erbil.
Though tough negotiations will follow over the 2015 Iraqi federal budget, the likely outcome will be an arrangement that implicitly allows the Kurds to independently sell around half a million barrels of oil a day in the coming year. The KRG is readying debt financing legislation that will support its energetic efforts to take out sovereign loans from international banks using oil revenues as collateral.
This is statehood by another name, which may be viewed by Iraq's Kurds as good enough for the time being. Regional states may also find the arrangement less threatening than full Kurdish de jure independence.
**Michael Knights is a Lafer Fellow with The Washington Institute. This article originally appeared on the Aljazeera website.
What Difference Would an Iran Deal
Patrick Clawson and Mehdi KhalajiWashington Institute
November 25, 2014
Implementing a nuclear agreement will be no easier than reaching one, and Washington will have little influence over what Iran decides to do over time about the deal.
Reaching a nuclear deal with Iran is proving to be tough, as evidenced by the seven-month extension of talks agreed to on Monday. But negotiating an agreement will only be the first part of resolving the nuclear impasse. At least as important will be persuading Iran to abide by the deal over time, and the regime's track record suggests that will not be easy. In 2003-2004, Tehran reached two nuclear agreements with the EU3 (Britain, France, and Germany) and then walked away from them. And in 2009, the regime reached a deal with the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States), but Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vetoed it before it could go into effect. Today, a variety of economic and political factors stand to threaten the durability of any new accord.
To the extent that a deal is seen as bringing real benefits at modest cost, then Iran has good reason to follow through fully. By contrast, if a deal is seen as not bringing much to Iran, the regime may be tempted to skimp on implementation or withdraw entirely, perhaps blaming the West for not living up to its end of the bargain. Put more bluntly: if Iran's economy improves after a deal, the agreement will look good; if the economy stagnates, the deal will look bad.
As in most countries, including the United States, such a straightforward economic evaluation will have more political traction in Iran than a complicated explanation about what actually happened versus what would have happened had there not been a deal at all. Indeed, the Iranian public may make up its mind quickly based on short-term economic changes. That is not good news -- while the economy may perform better after a deal, it will not experience the type of immediate boom many Iranians are likely expecting.
Because the short-term economic effects will be mixed at best, they will be subject to varying interpretations. Some Iranians will focus on the paucity of immediate positive effects. In the aftermath of a deal, most U.S. and many international sanctions will remain in place. The nuclear-related sanctions will be phased out over a period of years, and only after Iran follows through on the deal's provisions, while the many sanctions related to terrorism and human rights will remain indefinitely. Moreover, Iran's longstanding economic problems are so extensive that any improvement from lifting sanctions may not be politically impressive. Furthermore, the very people who benefit from the current economic distortions can be counted on to deplore the changes if Iran opens up to freer trade and investment.
In contrast, some Iranians will capitalize on the immediate changes resulting from a deal. Restoring the country's access to more of its frozen foreign exchange reserves held abroad would allow for a substantial injection into the economy, particularly in the first few years before the full impact of relieving trade sanctions is felt.
So perhaps Iranians will see a deal as a good thing, but that is by no means assured. The most likely situation is that some politicians will champion the deal's positive effects while others will blame the continuing economic problems on the West. The latter camp would no doubt argue that Western governments have not lived up to their obligations, and that rather than pursuing economic cooperation with the West, Iran would be better advised to follow the path of "resistance economy" long advocated by the Supreme Leader.
A nuclear deal might also strengthen President Hassan Rouhani and lead to improvements in U.S.-Iranian relations. But that is not guaranteed. If the economy does not improve apace with public expectations, disappointment with Rouhani -- already a common sentiment in Iran -- may grow. If the public believes the deal has brought little, then the accord could eventually collapse, with Washington and Tehran blaming one another for the breakdown.
The structure of the Iranian system works against Rouhani becoming more powerful. Khamenei's interest in amassing greater authority for the Office of the Supreme Leader inclines him toward undercutting other institutions, be it the Majlis or the presidency. Indeed, Iran's last three presidents suffered this fate after their first two years in office, and Khamenei has been less than vigorous in supporting Rouhani. The Supreme Leader is increasingly vocal about his view that the West is not to be trusted and that resistance works much better than compromise. In many speeches, he has denounced the very negotiations he authorized. For instance, on August 13 he stated:
"Relations with America and negotiations with this country, except in specific cases, not only have no benefit for the Islamic Republic but also are harmful...It was decided that contacts, meetings, and negotiation should take place at the level of foreign ministers, but this was futile, and the rhetoric of Americans became more aggressive and offensive; they have increased their unreasonable expectations in the negotiation meetings and public announcements...This is valuable experience for all of us to learn that sitting and talking to Americans would not have any influence in diminishing their animosity and is futile."
Despite that skepticism, Khamenei may allow a nuclear deal to proceed. He is not as powerful or charismatic as his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, so he cannot speak his mind as freely on some issues or expect officials to follow him unquestioningly. This explains his tactic of temporarily accepting certain policies, leadership appointments, or election outcomes that command much public support, only to criticize or subvert them later. Khamenei could use that same strategy with a nuclear deal, particularly given his deep suspicion of the negotiations. He may calculate that if implementation of the deal turns out better than he expects, it will work well for the Islamic Republic, and if the effects prove to be as bad as he fears, then the elite and the populace will realize that he was correct in calling the talks futile. In other words, if a deal works, Khamenei takes credit; if it fails, Rouhani gets the blame. In neither scenario does Rouhani become more powerful.
THEORY OF THE CASE?
Even if a nuclear deal does somehow strengthen Rouhani, it is by no means clear that he would press for change in other objectionable Iranian policies. In the White House, one popular "theory of the case" is that a nuclear accord would strengthen Rouhani's hand and, over time, give him more authority on issues over which he now has little say, such as Syria and Iraq. The presumption is that, much like his handling of the nuclear file, he will want to find ways to normalize Iran's relations with the rest of the world.
Perhaps so, but thus far Rouhani has been a man of the system. He may see little reason to modify the regime's support for terrorism and destabilization of neighbors, much less its human rights stance at home. His public speeches have certainly provided no indication that he would change Tehran's problematic nonnuclear policies.
In any case, Washington can do little to influence which post-deal scenario comes to pass inside Iran, optimistic or pessimistic. So much depends on Iran's internal political dynamics, in which the United States is at most only a minor player. Since there are no guarantees that an agreement will lead to change in Iranian policies outside the nuclear realm, any deal should be evaluated based on its impact on the nuclear impasse, not on its putative benefits on other issues. In short, it would be inappropriate for Washington to enter into a nuclear deal because of its expected impact on overall bilateral relations.
**Patrick Clawson is director of research at The Washington Institute. Mehdi Khalaji left the Institute this summer after nine years to direct the Idea Center for Arts and Culture. They recently wrote the Institute Policy Focus How Iranians Might React to a Nuclear Deal.
Friday's Islamist 'Uprising' in Egypt Could Be Bloody
Eric Trager/Washington Institute
November 26, 2014
Although past uprisings have been quickly snuffed out, the latest calls for mass protests have been more strategically savvy and explicitly violent than usual.
On Friday, while Americans are recovering from Thanksgiving food comas, Egypt might experience its most violent day in over a year. The Salafist Front -- a fundamentalist group that opposed Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi's July 2013 ouster -- has declared a "Muslim Youth Intifada" that day against the government of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, and other groups have signed on, including the Brotherhood. While it is difficult to predict the size and impact of the protests, they will likely spark severe confrontations between Islamist youths and government security forces, since both sides view their struggle as an existential one.
Indeed, the organizers are referring to their uprising as an "identity battle" and openly seek to topple Sisi. In a November 15 YouTube video, which has now been viewed nearly 172,000 times, Islamist youth activists accuse Sisi of preventing the implementation of Islamic law (such as by "teaching dancing, heresy, and adultery"), permitting the media to "insult the Prophet [Muhammad] day and night," and opposing the establishment of a caliphate. Similarly, a November 22 "Intifada" music video calls Sisi a "pharaoh" and Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim "Haman," equating them with Quranic villains who rejected the Prophet Moses's call to worship Allah.
By the same token, Sisi's supporters have invoked religious language to discredit the Intifada. In a recent statement, former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa lambasted the anti-Sisi Islamists as "khawarij," an epithet referring to the extremists who rebelled against the Caliph Ali in the seventh century. "Raising the Qurans is an insult to the Quran. The first act of betrayal that people committed was the raising of the Quran against Ali," he said, implying that rebelling against Sisi is un-Islamic.
As with previous calls for mass mobilization against Sisi, the turnout for Friday's demonstrations is difficult to predict and could ultimately underwhelm. After all, Egyptian Salafists are deeply divided, and their largest organization, the Alexandria-based al-Dawa al-Salafiya, has strongly supported Sisi and rejected the latest calls for an uprising. Moreover, security forces have successfully, albeit brutally, repressed other recent attempts at Islamist mobilization, none of which has had any impact on Egypt's political trajectory or domestic security. The Sisi government further enjoys strong support among the public, who fear the kind of instability that the planned Intifada portends. A critical mass of Egyptians will therefore welcome a government crackdown on the protestors, no matter how severe.
Still, the Intifada organizers have demonstrated strategic savviness. They are calling on their supporters to march from mosques after dawn prayers, which will enable participants to coalesce into groups immediately before clashing with security forces, as the organizers are explicitly encouraging them to do. Participants are also being instructed to mobilize toward their local public squares, which could result in protests proliferating all over the major cities while it is still dark. In addition, Muslim Brothers and anti-regime Salafists have unified behind the Intifada, which could boost turnout. The protests will also include pro-Morsi soccer hooligans known as "ultras," who are notoriously motivated fighters against the security forces.
Given that the Intifada is explicitly calling for Sisi's overthrow and urging direct confrontation, the government will likely respond with significant force. For this reason, the images from Egypt on Friday will likely disturb U.S. policymakers and catalyze new calls for criticizing, and possibly punishing, Cairo. Washington should resist this urge, however. While the Obama administration is right to criticize Cairo for its repressive handling of peaceful protests since Morsi's ouster last summer, Friday's Intifada is an explicit call to violence.
Moreover, Washington should have no illusions about its ability to positively influence Egypt's domestic political struggles. Again, the government and its Islamist opponents view their conflict as existential, and Sisi therefore sees accommodating the radicals as suicidal. In this context, excessive criticism of Cairo would likely encourage the radicals and further alienate the military-backed government -- neither of which is in Washington's interest.
**Eric Trager is the Wagner Fellow at The Washington Institute.