September 03/14


Bible Quotation for today/Come, everyone who thirsts, to the waters!
Isaiah 55/1-13: "Come, everyone who thirsts, to the waters! Come, he who has no money, buy, and eat! Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which doesn’t satisfy? listen diligently to me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Turn your ear, and come to me; hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.  Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples.  Behold, you shall call a nation that you don’t know; and a nation that didn’t know you shall run to you, because of Yahweh your God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he has glorified you.”  Seek Yahweh while he may be found; call you on him while he is near:  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to Yahweh, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” says Yahweh.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky, and doesn’t return there, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing I sent it to do. For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing; and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree; and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to Yahweh for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” God is Sovereign: Life often feels confusing. If we're experiencing a tragedy or great turmoil, we might begin to doubt that God is in control. But these words remind us that the Lord is sovereign ... even in our pain, even in our troubles. Through it all, his love is transforming us, perfecting us, completing us. James MacDonald in Gripped by the Greatness of God, explains it this way: "God's sovereignty is first painful, then slowly powerful, and over much time seen to be profitable. It is to be studied with great sensitivity for the experiences of others and deep reverence for the One who controls the outcomes of every matter in the universe."/

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
The Christian who does not feel that the Virgin Mary is his or her mother is an orphan
Pape François
Un chrétien qui ne perçoit pas la Vierge Marie comme une mère est un orphelin

Press Release: God Bless Steven Sotloff's Soul
Elias Bejjani/02 August/14
With sorrow, and angry I learned today about the shocking, savage, barbaric & unacceptable death of Steven Sotloff at the hands of  the Jihadist DAESH criminals ISIS in Iraq.
My Prayers, empathy and deeply felt thoughts are with his family and loved ones.
This barbaric bloody conduct is a mere crime against humanity that requires comprehensive international denouncement and enforcement of appropriate international judicial and military responses.
The Western countries, and the USA in particular, must take action on the ground in both Iraq and Syria.
The free world countries who are democratic and advocate for human rights, peace and equality are ethically obligated o stop only issuing mere rhetoric condemnation releases.
They have an obligation to militarily intervene and put an end to the horrible unprecedented barbaric crimes in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and other countries where the so called Jihadist are committing crimes against humanity.
God Bless Steven Sotloff Soul

Internet video purports to show beheading of US reporter Steven Sotloff by Islamic State group

The Canadian PressBy Zeina Karam, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – 02 August/14
BEIRUT - An Internet video posted online Tuesday purported to show the beheading by the Islamic State group of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, who went missing in Syria last year. The extremist group, which has claimed wide swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq and declared itself a caliphate, said Sotloff's killing was retribution for continued U.S. airstrikes targeting its fighters in Iraq. It brazenly killed American journalist James Foley last month in the same manner and again threatened to kill another hostage, this one they identified as a British citizen. Sotloff, 31, who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, had last been seen in Syrian in August 2013 until he appeared in a video released online last month by the Islamic State group that showed the beheading of Foley.
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against the backdrop of an arid Syrian landscape, Sotloff was threatened in that video with death unless the U.S. stopped airstrikes on the group in Iraq. In the video distributed Tuesday and entitled "A Second Message to America," Sotloff appears in a similar jumpsuit before he was purportedly beheaded by an Islamic State fighter. The Associated Press could not immediately verify the video's authenticity. The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. terrorism watchdog, first reported about the video's existence. Unlike Foley's beheading, which was widely shared on Twitter accounts affiliated with the Islamic State group, the video purporting to show Sotloff's killing was not immediately posted online, though several jihadi websites told users to expect it Tuesday. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said U.S. intelligence analysis will "work as quickly as possible" to determine if the video of the beheading is authentic. "If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act, taking the life of another innocent American citizen," Psaki said. "Our hearts go out to the Sotloff family and we will provide more information as it becomes available."
Psaki said it's believed that "a few" Americans are believed to still be held by the Islamic State but would not give any specifics. The fighter who beheads Sotloff in the video called it retribution for Obama's continued airstrikes against the group in Iraq.
"I'm back, Obama, and I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State ... despite our serious warnings," the fighter said. "So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people."
At the end of the video, he threatened to kill a third captive, a Briton, David Cawthorne Haines. It was not immediately clear who Haines was. Officials with the British Foreign Office declined to immediately comment. Sotloff's mother had pleaded for his release last week in a video directed at the Islamic State group. Addressing the leader of the Islamic State group by name, Shirley Sotloff said in a video her son was "an innocent journalist" who shouldn't pay for U.S. government actions in the Middle East over which he has no control.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he wasn't immediately aware of the purported Sotloff video and wasn't in a position to confirm its authenticity.
"This is something that the administration has obviously been watching very carefully," Earnest said. "Our thoughts and prayers first and foremost are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff's family and those who worked with him."A man who answered a phone listed in the name of Sotloff's sister hung up when called by the AP. The Islamic State group which has taken over a third of Syria and Iraq has terrorized rivals and civilians alike with widely publicized brutality as it seeks to expand a proto-state it has carved out on both sides of the border.
In its rise to prominence over the past year, the extremist group has frequently published graphic photos and gruesome videos of everything from bombings and beheadings to mass killings. Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Lara Jakes in Washington and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 02 and 03/14

Hamas perfects the art of celebrating defeat/Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/ September 03/14

Debunking claims of failure in Gaza/Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/September 03/14

A Gulf agreement out of fear of ISIS/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya/September 03/14
Keep ‘God’ out of it/By: Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya/
September 03/14

When Syrian soldiers become the victims/By: Diana Moukalled/Al Arabiya/September 03/14


Lebanese Related News published on September 02 and 03/14

March 14 ready for consensus candidate

Syrians held hostage by Lebanese families escape

Lebanese Cabinet addresses public financing

Report: Beirut a Possible Stop in Ban's Regional Tour
Kidnapped Syrians Escape from Families of Arsal Hostages
Salam in a Speedy Cabinet Session: Security Situation Thoroughly Followed
Report: Al-Mashnouq a 'Guest of Honor' at GCC Ministers Meeting
March 14 Holds onto Geagea but Says Ready to Negotiate on Compromise Candidate

HRW Says Alleged Beheading of Sayyed 'War Crime'
Army Engages in Overnight Battles with Gunmen on Outskirts of Arsal

Rai to head Christian delegation to Washington

Al-Rahi in U.S. Next Week to Attend Conference on Christians
Report: Nusra Front Demands al-Rahi's Apology over Burning of ISIL Flag
France and Saudis 'Finalizing' $3bn Arms Deal, Hollande Says Lebanon is 'Vulnerable'

Lebanese civil servants to face corruption charges

Army raids Syrians' apartments in Sidon

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 02 and 03/14

Iran unveils new surface-to-air missile, radars

Saudi Crown Prince discusses regional security with French president

Fighting continues on Golan Heights

Fiji says Syrian rebels want compensation, removal from terror list

UN, Egypt slam plan to seize Palestinian lands

Palestinian official: Israel imperils Gaza cease-fire if it ignores talks

Liberman thanks US for support during Operation Protective Edge

Naftali Bennett, not Netanyahu is the leader of Israel's Right, poll finds

Following alert of terrorist infiltration from West Bank, police arrest suspect

Lapid slams West Bank land appropriation: Why anger US and world?
Egyptian troops hunt Hamas, Islamic Jihad rocket gangs loose in Sinai. Palestinians stall on truce talks
Iraq Forces Advance as IS Accused of 'Ethnic Cleansing'

Saudi Arabia detains 88 over 'terrorist' plot

Scores killed as Boko Haram overrun Nigerian town
Internet video purports to show beheading of US reporter Steven Sotloff by Islamic State group

March 14 ready to discuss consensus candidate
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition is ready to hold direct talks with all Lebanese parties – even Hezbollah – on a consensus presidential candidate, after the group announced what it described as a national compromise initiative. "The March 14 coalition is committed to the nomination of Samir Geagea and announced at the same time that it is fully willing to hold consultations over a name that Lebanese agree to and [someone] who is committed to national principles similar to Geagea," Future bloc MP Fouad Siniora told reporters at a news conference in Parliament. Minutes before Siniora spoke, MPs failed for the 11th time to elect a new president with many March 8 coalition lawmakers failing to show up to secure quorum for the session. MP Michel Aoun's bloc, along with Hezbollah, has boycotted the sessions to elect a new president, saying such attempts are futile without an agreement on a nominee. Speaker Nabih Berri scheduled another election session for Sept. 23. Siniora said the March 14 group would launch contacts with all political parties "to reach a consensus with all national factions in line with the Taif Accord so we could immediately elect a new president.""We would stick to our original stance [in nominating Geagea] in case our efforts for this national compromise fail," said Siniora, the head of the Future bloc, who was seated next to fellow March 14 lawmakers. Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan asked his rivals in the March 8 coalition to meet "us halfway," saying his group was ready to hold direct talks with Hezbollah as part of the initiative. Direct contact between Hezbollah and the Future Movement-led March 14 has been limited for the last several years over the resistance party’s involvement in the Syrian civil war on the side of President Bashar Assad. March 14 lawmakers also rejected MP Walid Jumblatt's proposal to limit the presidential term to two years, with Telecoms Minister Boutros Harb saying that the president "was not a contract worker" and that "his strength is derived from his four-year term."During a conversation with reporters, Siniora described the presidential election as a “master key” that would pave the way for the country to meet constitutional deadlines, including the Parliamentary election, which is expected to be postponed for the second time in less than two years. After the March 14 announcement, Geagea gave a news conference with March 14 coordinator MP Fares Soueid. “I have confirmed since the very first moment that I am not the ‘me or nobody’ candidate,” Geagea said from his office in Maarab. “The initiative launched by the head of the Future Movement bloc, MP Fouad Siniora, is a step forward, and through this initiative, we will communicate with all political sides to elect a president,” he added. “The first step is to communicate," the Maronite leader said. “If the other camp is ready to negotiate, then we will discuss names."
Soueid echoed Geagea, saying that March 14’s initiative came because some “current developments required the transcendence up to the level of responsibility.”“We do not believe that Aoun could possibly be agreed upon as a compromise candidate, because he is a [one-sided] candidate in the presidential battle,” Soueid told reporters. Soueid praised the initiative, saying it brought “the issue of presidential elections [back] to Lebanon.”However, minutes after March 14 MPs left the podium, Development and Liberation bloc member MP Qassem Hashem held a news conference, criticizing his political rivals. “The initiative has not brought anything new, and it is just a repetition of March 14’s previous statements,” he said. “What we need is to agree on the characteristics of the president, and not to shout slogans

Lebanese Cabinet addresses public financing
Hasan Lakkis| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s public finances dominated Thursday’s Cabinet session, with Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil addressing outstanding issues, including a draft law to issue eurobonds as well as the controversial salary scale issue.
Ministers arrived around 9:30 p.m. to the Grand Serail, where Prime Minister Tammam Salam chaired an extraordinary session designed to discuss the “financial situation in the country,” a ministerial source said. After convening the session, Salam spoke about the “worrying situation in the country particularly in terms of security,” which he said the government was closely following. According to Information Minister Ramzi Joreige, who spoke to reporters after the end of the 90-minute session, Salam said Thursday's Cabinet session would address security developments. A ministerial source told The Daily Star that the next session would discuss the situation in the border town of Arsal and ongoing contacts to secure the release of the remaining soldiers and policemen being held by ISIS and Nusra Front as well as the security situation in the country. During the session, Khalil presented an overview of growth rates, annual revenues, public debt and interest rates, as well as public sector salaries. Khalil spoke about the absence of an approved state budget since 2005 and presented the ministers with a table of revenues, which have remained flat for the past four years. He also showed them the increase in state deficit, which he said was the result of an increase in expenditures. Khalil proposed means to cover the deficit, including issuing eurobonds “We reviewed the challenges ahead, among them is the absence of legislative work because they are related to issuing eurobonds and other matters related to revenues and needed measures that have not been taken since 2005,” Khalil said after the end of the session. “We discussed the reality of the financial situation starting from the size of the public debt, revenues and expenditures particularly that expenditures have increased in an alarming rate vis-à-vis flat revenues in the past four years which is what we explained in detail,” he said. He also said that the ministers discussed the public sector wage hike draft law, reiterating that a proposal should find a balance between revenues and expenditures. Minister of State Nabil de Freij said he disagreed with Khalil on means to finance the wage hike.
“If what he said were true, we would have agreed to it in the beginning. We think that the draft law requires further study so that it will not affect the public debt, which is in principle very large,” he said. “This needs more discussion and we might reach a conclusion.”
He said that Salam would schedule another Cabinet session to continue discussion on the financial situation. Khalil has opposed measures to pay the wage hike via installments over a period of three years, as proposed by the Future Movement and de Freij. Lawmakers have not yet agreed to a formula that would a balance revenues and spending given that the public sector salary rise is expected to cost some $1.2 billion a year. Along with the draft law to issue eurobonds at low interest rates to finance the public debt and cover state expenditures, Khalil requested a bill to allow extra-budgetary spending. Khalil is seeking to legalize his ministry’s extra-budgetary spending via a Cabinet draft law that would be later approved by Parliament. But the March 14 coalition is demanding that the government retroactively approve $11 billion of extra-budgetary expenditures by the government of Fouad Siniora between 2006 and 2009. “Issuing the eurobonds requires Parliament’s approval, but the draft of the extra-budgetary spending should include all previous spending by governments since 2005 to this date,” de Freij said before the Cabinet session. “We should legalize spending for governments under [former] prime ministers Najib Mikati, Saad Hariri and Fouad Siniora but the other coalition is saying that such a draft law would take time.”
He said the Cabinet was still waiting for the Finance Parliamentary Committee headed by MP Ibrahim Kanaan to finalize calculations and the amount spent by previous governments. “But he has not yet finished, why is that?" he asked. "Unfortunately, politics is meddling in the economy.”

HRW Says Alleged Beheading of Sayyed 'War Crime'

Naharnet/Human Right Watch described on Tuesday the alleged beheading of Lebanese army sergeant Ali al-Sayyed as a “war crime.”The rights group (HRW) considered in a statement “the alleged beheading of al-Sayyed a horrific act, and if true, would amount to a war crime.” The Middle East director at HRW, Sarah Leah Whitson, said that the group “remains concerned about the fate of the remaining captives.” Abu Musaab Hafid al-Baghdadi, who identifies himself as a member of the Islamic State, posted photos on his Twitter account on August 28 purportedly showing an Islamic State militant beheading a blindfolded man who is identified as Ali al-Sayyed. On Monday, the body of al-Sayyed was handed over to Lebanese authorities that in turn transported the corpse for the necessary DNA tests to confirm his identity. The Internal Security Forces confirmed to HRW that 13 soldiers and policemen have been released. On August 2, gunmen belonging to the two aforementioned groups overran the northeastern border town of Arsal as clashes erupted with the Lebanese army, killing 19 troops. Several soldiers and policemen were kidnapped as the Islamist gunmen withdrew from the town. Meanwhile, HRW said that several Syrian refugees were “physically attacked” in the streets of Lebanon following the outbreak of violence in Arsal.
“Lebanese security forces should remain vigilant against any abuse of Syrian refugees and ensure that anyone responsible for violations is held to account,” HRW said in its statement. “Syrian refugees should not be scapegoated for criminal acts committed by extremist groups such as the Islamic State,” Whitson added.

Report: Beirut a Possible Stop in Ban's Regional Tour

Naharnet/U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could include Lebanon in his tour to the region to discuss with Lebanese officials the situation in the country, An Nahar newspaper reported on Tuesday. The daily said, however, that the issue hasn't been settled yet. Ban has held phone conversations with the officials of several Arab and Western countries over the presidential deadlock in Lebanon, it said. An Nahar quoted officials in New York as saying that U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly recently visited Russia and Saudi Arabia to discuss with officials there Lebanon's presidential crisis. But the results of his meetings have been “limited,” they said. Ban last visited the region in July. Lebanon has been without a president since May 25 when Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended amid the failure of the parliament to find a successor. The rival MPs are in disagreement on a compromise candidate.

Syrians held hostage by Lebanese families escape
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Seventeen Syrians in east Lebanon escaped from a garage they were being held in by relatives of captured soldiers, a security source told The Daily Star Tuesday. The Syrians were taken hostage by people who claimed to be families of soldiers captured by ISIS and the Nusra Front during last month's clashes with the Lebanese Army, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. They stayed overnight in a garage in the village of Shmustar and were able to break the door and escape. Media reports said the families held the Syrians to exchange them for the captured soldiers. Meanwhile, the families of the hostages blocked the main northern Batroun-Tripoli highway at Qalamoun, calling for the speedy release of the remaining captives after the Nusra Front freed five soldiers Sunday. Jihadists from ISIS and the Nusra Front are now holding at least 23 soldiers and policemen captive to trade them for Islamist prisoners held at Lebanon’s Roumieh prison. Five soldiers and policemen were freed earlier this week while the body of Ali al-Sayyed, who ISIS beheaded last week, was handed over to the Lebanese Army Monday. In videos posted by the radical groups, the captive soldiers and police officers have pleaded with their communities to block roads in the country to pressure the government to negotiate with the Islamist fighters or they would be killed. The gunmen are demanding the release of Islamist detainees in Roumieh Prison, most of whom have been held since 2007 over involvement in clashes with the Army in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. The government has decided to speed up the trials of the detainees and release those who have been in detention longer than any sentence they face. According to judicial sources, the government is working through the Justice Ministry with the judiciary to find “a legal and judicial solution” for the cases of 94 Islamist detainees held in Roumieh prison since 2007, judicial sources said.

France and Saudis 'Finalizing' $3bn Arms Deal, Hollande Says Lebanon is 'Vulnerable'

Naharnet /France and Saudi Arabia are close to signing a $3 billion arms deal for Lebanon, the Elysee Palace said Monday following talks between President Francois Hollande and the Saudi crown prince. "It will not be signed Monday but it is being finalized," an aide to the president said. The deal is for military equipment and arms to be supplied to Lebanon's army. Hollande told an official dinner at the Elysee presidential palace attended by Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who is also the Saudi deputy prime minister and defense minister, that Lebanon was a "great but vulnerable country" which "needs security.”"We have come together, Saudi Arabia and France, to help Lebanon on the condition that it also helps itself, for its own security," Hollande added, without commenting directly on the joint contract.
The deal comes as Beirut faces the threat of jihadists on its border with Syria. More than a million refugees have fled the war in Syria by escaping to Lebanon, according to figures from the United Nations. Hollande added that France and Saudi Arabia have a "shared priority of peace and security in the Middle East.”Salman is due to hold talks with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday. He is also due to meet Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday for talks over the situation in Iraq and Syria, where jihadists have seized swathes of territory and are terrorizing Christians and other minorities. Last week, Hollande rejected any cooperation with Syrian President Bashar Assad whom he accused of being a "de-facto ally" of Islamic State militants, after the regime said it was willing to work with the international community to tackle the jihadists.And in comments carried on national TV at the weekend, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah warned the West would be the next target of the jihadists sweeping through Syria and Iraq, unless there is "rapid" action. "If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month," he said in remarks quoted on Saturday by the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper and Saudi-backed al-Arabiya television station. Agence France Presse

Report: Al-Mashnouq a 'Guest of Honor' at GCC Ministers Meeting
Naharnet /Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has been invited to the Gulf Cooperation Council's interior ministers' meeting scheduled to be held in Doha next week, al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Tuesday. Al-Mashnouq will be the “guest of honor” in the meeting that would also be attended by five cabinet ministers from the GCC countries, the daily said. The meeting is aimed at discussing ways to coordinate efforts to confront terrorism. According to al-Akhbar, al-Mashnouq said his visit to the Qatari capital follows the meeting of Arab interior ministers that he attended in Morocco last March. Discussions are underway to invite Prime Minister Tammam Salam to the Doha meeting, the daily added. Analysts have said that advances by jihadists in Syria and Iraq, and U.S. calls for a coalition against them have made Gulf monarchies set aside disputes over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Wary of spectacular gains made by Islamic State jihadists, the oil-rich monarchies fear the militants could advance towards their own borders, where the extreme ideologies could find support. Qatar's relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain sank to a new low in March when the three governments withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, accusing it of meddling in their affairs and supporting the Brotherhood -- designated as "terrorist" by Riyadh. But Kuwait's top diplomat Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah said that the six-months spat with Qatar was on its way to being resolved. He said the ambassadors could return to their posts "at any time,” without giving a specific date.

Kidnapped Syrians Escape from Families of Arsal Hostages
Naharnet/Eighteen Syrians, who were kidnapped by the relatives of Lebanese soldiers and policemen taken hostage by jihadists, have escaped, the state-run National News Agency reported Tuesday. NNA said the relatives of the captives abducted the Syrians in Shmestar in Baalbek. But the abductees broke the door of a warehouse where they were held and escaped, the agency added. The soldiers and policemen were taken captive by militants who overran the northeastern border town of Arsal last month. The gunmen withdrew to Syrian territories after a ceasefire was brokered by Sunni clergymen. Several of the captives have been released on stages. But many remain in captivity.

March 14 Holds onto Geagea but Says Ready to Negotiate on Compromise Candidate
Naharnet/The March 14 alliance on Tuesday kept its support for Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea but said it was ready to agree on another consensual candidate for the presidential elections. Al-Mustaqbal bloc leader Fouad Saniora announced the initiative along with LF lawmaker George Adwan during a press conference they held at the parliament. “Out of its keenness to hold the elections, the March 14 alliance calls for the respect of constitutional deadlines and the rotation of power,” Saniora told reporters minutes after Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned a parliamentary session aimed at electing a president. The March 14 alliance holds onto the candidacy of Geagea, the lawmaker said but expressed the camp's “full readiness to discuss with the rest of the factions the name of a person who receives the backing of all the Lebanese and who is committed to the country's principles.”“Contacts aimed at reaching a settlement based on the Taef accord start with the immediate election of a president,” Saniora added. Adwan said after Saniora: “It was compelling for us to open the door for a compromise president to salvage Lebanon.” The LF MP stressed that the rival parties “are capable of putting their differences aside to open the door of settlement.” After the announcement of the March 14's initiative, Geagea stressed that he had repeatedly said he wasn't the sole candidate. “I have never said either me or no one else,” Geagea told reporters at his residence in Maarab. The majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs, including Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Aoun's Change and Reform bloc, have been boycotting the parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a president, causing a lack of quorum. Tuesday's session had a similar fate. But Berri set September 23 as a new date for the election of a head of state. The majority of the March 8 camp's officials have claimed that there should be an agreement on a compromise candidate before heading to the polls. But their boycott is a clear message of rejection to Geagea's candidacy. Aoun has not officially announced that he was running for the polls, claiming there should be a compromise on him first. The disagreements among the rival parties and the parliamentary blocs have left the country's top Christian post vacant. President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure ended in May.

Rai to head Christian delegation to Washington
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A 3 day-long conference on protecting the Christian presence in the East will be held next week, gathering senior Middle Eastern Christian figures and American officials in Washington D.C. Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai will head the delegation of Christian patriarchs and will meet with top U.S. officials during his brief stay. According to the Central News Agency, the conference may include a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and Foreign Secretary John Kerry. The first day of the conference will take place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C., followed by two days at the Capitol building where Rai and his companions will hold talks with U.S. senators and attend lectures on human rights and freedom of belief. The meetings, according to the CNA, are aimed at producing an American position on the Christian situation in the Middle East, along with a decision to take concrete steps toward safe-guarding the group’s survival under the threat imposed by the rise of fundamentalist groups. The agency also reported that Rai will extend his visit for a few days after the conference, in order to visit several Maronite dioceses in Los Angeles, California and San Antonio, Texas. The CNA said that sources close to Rai did not dismiss the possibility of a similar visit to Moscow later on, as part of the tour that started with the visit to Kurdistan and continued with the trip to Vatican that ended Tuesday. The Christian delegation, which includes Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, is expected to leave Lebanon Monday morning.

Al-Rahi in U.S. Next Week to Attend Conference on Christians
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi is expected to head to the United States on September 8 to participate in a conference on the conditions of Christians in Lebanon and the region. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper, al-Rahi will travel on Monday to the U.S. The Patriarch headed over the weekend to the Vatican to brief Pope Francis on the latest developments regarding the presidential deadlock and to discuss with him and other senior officials the conditions of Iraqi Christians. Islamic State militants in Iraq have been waging a campaign against minorities in Iraq, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. Pope Francis had called recently for collective action through the United Nations to "stop unjust aggression" in Iraq. Lebanon's top Christian post was left vacant in May this year when the rival MPs failed to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman over their differences on a compromise candidate.

Army Engages in Overnight Battles with Gunmen on Outskirts of Arsal
Naharnet/Intense clashes erupted between the Lebanese army and gunmen on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal overnight Monday. The state-run National News Agency said that rocket fire could be heard in Lebanon's Eastern Mountain Range, in particular, in the Sweid valley. The gunbattles had reportedly remained for 15 minutes. Media reports said that Syrian warplanes carried out two air raids on the outskirts of the Bekaa village, targeting gunmen. There were no immediate reports on the number of casualties. Several soldiers and policemen were taken captive by Islamist gunmen who overran Arsal on August 2. Arsal lies 12 kilometers from the border with Syria and its inhabitants are overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Sunni-dominated uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and is widely suspected of smuggling weapons and fighters across the border.

Report: Nusra Front Demands al-Rahi's Apology over Burning of ISIL Flag
Naharnet/Al-Nusra Front is reportedly demanding Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi to apologize for the burning of an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant flag by youth in Beirut's Ashrafiyeh district.Sources close to the Muslim Scholars Committee said in comments published in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Tuesday that “the group (al-Nusra Front) will not release the soldiers and policemen without anything in return.”Media reports have said that the jihadists have a list of demands, including the withdrawal of Hizbullah from battles in Syria, the release of ten Syrian inmates held at Roumieh prison in return for each captive soldier and policeman, an apology from al-Rahi over the burning of the flag and the end of calls by the Free Patriotic Movement to mobilize Christians against the Syrian people.
Islamists have allegedly burned crosses in the northern city of Tripoli in retaliation to the burning of an ISIL flag in Ashrafiyeh's Sassine Square. Reports said however that the flag was burned last month and not over the weekend. Several threats were written on the walls of Churches in the northern city of Tripoli, the latest on Tuesday when assailants vandalized the walls of Mar Elias Church. They vowed to “slaughter the worshipers of the Cross." Lebanese Forces lawmaker George Adwan had said that al-Rahi “will not address these people,” considering that the apology demand will not occur. Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi vowed to legally pursue the youth who set ablaze the flag, considering it a sectarian incitement. He also called for an investigation to be carried out into the burning of crosses in Tripoli. For his part, FPM official MP Ibrahim Kanaan said that he will defend the youth who set ablaze the flag. The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group has prompted widespread concern as it advances in both Syria and Iraq, killing hundreds of people, including in gruesome beheading and mass executions.

Salam in a Speedy Cabinet Session: Security Situation Thoroughly Followed

Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam stressed on Tuesday during a speedy cabinet session that the security developments in Lebanon is being thoroughly followed. “The security situation in the country is being followed and it will be discussed on Thursday,” Information Minister Ramzi Jreij said after the government session. He pointed out that the session focused on the financial situation in the country, adding that the numbers showed an increase in the financial deficit. “Today's session only discussed the country's financial status,” Jreij said, pointing out that Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil presented a detailed analysis for the economic situation in the country. The security situation deteriorated along the Lebanese-Syrian border after troops clashed with Syrian rebels in the area on August 2 after the army detained a leading jihadist. It ended with a truce negotiated by Muslim clerics, but the jihadists withdrew from the area taking 24 policemen and soldiers hostage. Arsal lies 12 kilometers from the border with Syria.
There are fears that the situation along the border would have an impact on the whole country.

Iraq Forces Advance as IS Accused of 'Ethnic Cleansing'
Naharnet/Iraqi forces regained control on Tuesday of part of a key highway linking Baghdad to the north where Amnesty International said jihadists had carried out a wave of ethnic cleansing. Iraqi troops backed by militia have been pushing north after breaking a months-long jihadist siege by Islamic State fighters of the Shiite Turkmen town of Amerli. Visiting the town on Monday, outgoing prime minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed that the army would turn Iraq into a "graveyard" for IS. A senior U.N. human rights official said the jihadist group had carried out "acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale," since it swept through much of the Sunni Arab heartland north of Baghdad in June and then stormed minority Christian and Yazidi Kurdish areas last month. Amnesty International accused the jihadists of "war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions". "The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq," said its senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera. IS has carried out beheadings, crucifixions and public stonings in areas under its control in Iraq and neighbouring northeastern Syria, where it has declared an Islamic "caliphate." The breakthrough at Amerli on Sunday was the biggest success for the Iraqi government since the army's collapse across much of northern and north-central Iraq in June. The United States carried out limited air strikes in the area during the Amerli operation, the first time it has expanded its more than three-week air campaign against IS outside the north. On Tuesday, troops regained control of a stretch of the main highway to the north which had been closed by the miliants for almost three months, Army Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi said.
A senior militia commander said it would be be several days before the road reopened as sappers needed to clear it of mines and booby-traps planted by the retreating militants. On Monday, troops and Shiite militiamen retook Sulaiman Bek and Yankaja, two towns north of Amerli that had been important militant strongholds.
- 'Graveyard' for jihadists -
The government's reliance on Shiite militiamen in this and other operations risks entrenching groups which themselves have a history of brutal sectarian killings. The United States has said it had launched four air strikes in the Amerli area, meaning that it effectively supported operations involving militia forces that previously fought against US troops in Iraq. David Petraeus, a former commander-in-chief of US-led forces in Iraq, has warned against America becoming an "air force for Shiite militias". Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday said "extreme force" was justified in battling IS militants, comparing them to Nazis and communists.
- At least 1,420 killed -
Meanwhile, more pledges were made to provide arms to Iraq's Kurds, who are battling jihadists in the north and east. Germany has announced that it will send anti-tank rocket launchers, rifles and hand grenades to support Kurdish forces. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that an estimated 400 German nationals had travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside jihadists, and that "we must fear these fighters could return one day".Similar fears have been expressed by other Western governments. British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced tougher measures against suspected returning jihadists. The United Nations mission to Iraq said on Monday that at least 1,420 people died in violence in August. It said the figure did not include Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where the army has been battling militants all year. IS and its allies control a large swathe of northeastern Syria as well as territory in Iraq, and its rule has been marked by repeated atrocities, some of them videotaped and posted on the Internet.  "The reports we have received reveal acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale," deputy U.N. rights chief Flavia Pansieri said on Monday. The U.N. Human Rights Council unanimously agreed to send an emergency mission to Iraq to investigate IS atrocities. "We are facing a terrorist monster," Iraqi Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani told the council, adding that IS had carried out acts "equivalent to genocide and crimes against humanity". Washington has said operations in Syria will be needed to defeat IS, but has so far ruled out any cooperation with the Damascus regime.Agence France Presse

Egyptian troops hunt Hamas, Islamic Jihad rocket gangs loose in Sinai. Palestinians stall on truce talks

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 1, 2014/A wide-reaching Egyptian military hunt is on across northern and central Sinai for intruding Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket squads and the launching sites they have buried beneath the desert surface, according to debkafile’s exclusive military and counterterrorism sources. In the last week of warfare with Israel, up until the declaration of the Aug. 26 ceasefire, Hamas and Jihad secretly moved rocket teams across the border into Egyptian Sinai. They plan to use them as a second front for resuming rocket fire on Israel, or provide themselves with a lever in case no deal comes out of the Cairo negotiations later this month for a durable ceasefire and the rehabilitation of the shattered Gaza Strip. Egyptian and Israeli intelligence surmised at first that only a handful of rocket teams had got through to Sinai and intended to pick them off quickly by air strikes. But in the course of the pursuit, it turned out that the two Palestinian terrorist groups had put down a substantial and elaborate network of sunken rocket pads across northern Sinai and along the Egyptian-Israeli border. It is linked to a remote activation system located in Bedouin villages and encampments, which also serve as the teams’ contact points. Hamas and Salafi groups from Gaza pay the tribesmen, who also work with Al Qaeda’s Ansar al-Maqdis, to provide them with food and water. Hamas has long maintained strong operational ties with al-Maqdis. For an independent supply of ordinance, Hamas set up rocket manufacturing workshops in the northern Sinai towns of Rafah and Sheikh Zweid.
Two days after the ceasefire went into effect, the semiofficial Egyptian news agency Mena quoted an Egyptian military source as disclosing that, on Aug. 21, “Thirty-one huts and houses used as launching pads and workshops for rockets were destroyed in the crackdown.”
Then, on Monday, Sept. 1, Gen. Will Safti, head of the Palestinian desk at Egypt’s intelligence service, arrived in Ramallah. He came for an attempt to bring the quarrelling Hamas and Mahmud Abbas’ Fatah factions together for a coherent Palestinian line at the forthcoming talks in Cairo for a permanent ceasefire, political and economic solutions for rebuilding the Gaza Strip, and for the establishment of stable Palestinian Authority rule over the territory. Those talks were scheduled to take place after the ceasefire had held for one month.
But the acrimony between Fatah and Hamas was described as so relentless, that the Egyptian officer gave up and returned to Cairo, without hope of bridging the differences between them or setting a date for the comprehensive Gaza talks to begin.
It is now feared in Cairo that Hamas will take matters in its own hands and activate the covert rocket gangs in Sinai for a resumed barrage against Israel – only this time it will be launched from Egyptian soil. Hamas' Gaza command will then be able to deny responsibility and Israel’s hands will be tied for hitting back. In Gaza City, meanwhile, Hamas announced Monday that it was doubling the budget earmarked for its military wing, Ezz e-Din al-Qassam. There was no word about where the Palestinian fundamentalists had found the tens of millions of dollars they had lavished on their fighting arm.

Iran unveils new surface-to-air missile, radars
Associated Press/Published: 09.02.14/Ynetnews
Following number of incident in which Islamic Republic claims to have downed Israeli drown, country's air defense chief says new missiles can 'shoot down any hostile target.' Iran has unveiled a new surface-to-air missile and two radar systems it claims will boost the country's defense capabilities. Air defense chief Gen. Farzad Esmaili says the missile will enable Iranian forces to "shoot down any hostile target," even at high altitudes. The report came after recent weeks have seen a number of reported incidents in which alleged Israeli drone were downed in Iran, with another reportedly crashing in Iraq. Iran launched a homegrown defense industry in 1992 that produces light and heavy weapons ranging from mortars to tanks and submarines. It has surface-to-surface missiles with a range of about 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), enough to reach Israel and US military bases in the region. The Iranian air defense chief said the Talash-3, or Endeavor-3 missile was successfully test-fired recently. Esmaili's speech was broadcast on state TV Tuesday.
The general also inaugurated two radar systems - Arash-2, tasked with detecting miniature drones at a distance of 150 kilometers (93 miles), and also Kayhan, said to be capable of detecting cruise missiles and drones.
Tehran regularly announces military advances that cannot be independently verified. Last Thursday Hezbollah-affiliated Al Maydeen news channel reported that an Israeli-made Hermes drone crashed near the Baghdad airport area. Representatives of the US embassy in Iraq arrived on the scene and collected the pieces of the broken aircraft, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. The incident was preceded by another incident on Sunday, in which Iran's Revolutionary Guard said it shot down a purported Israeli drone near the country's uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of the capital, Tehran. Last week, the official IRNA news agency reported that Iran has produced a new generation of short-range marine missiles and aerial drones.
The report said the Ghadir missile, with a range of 100 kilometers (62 miles), is designed to destroy marine targets. It did not give a range for the Nasr-e Basir cruise missile, but said it could "operate in silence," without elaborating.
Iran has unveiled two new drones, the high-altitude Karrar-4 and the Mohajer-4. The latter can be used to generate maps for both military and civilian purposes, IRNA said.
The report said President Hassan Rouhani attended a ceremony marking the inauguration. The week before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the visiting head of the UN nuclear watchdog that Tehran will not discuss its long-range missile program as part of talks aimed at resolving a decade-long nuclear dispute, official media reported. UN nuclear agency chief Yukiya Amano said Sunday's visit to Tehran was useful and that he was very glad to hear a firm commitment from Iran to resolve all outstanding issues through cooperation between the two sides. Amano's trip came ahead of an Aug. 25 deadline for Iran to provide information relevant to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inquiry into what it calls the possible military dimensions of the country's disputed nuclear program.
"Iran's missile power is not negotiable in any level under any pretext," Rouhani told Amano, the official IRNA news service reported. Reuters and AFP contributed to this report

Debunking claims of failure in Gaza
Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews
Published: 09.02.14
Analysis: The recent Gaza conflict has already been called World War III: an asymmetric battle between western democracies and guerrilla warfare and terrorism. They can always claim to have won. But we can beat them, and we're on the right track - it just takes time. The disappointment and even humiliation felt by large portions of the Israeli public after each round of fighting in Gaza (and Lebanon) has repeated itself.
It's been said that the public is suffering from manic-depression; it swings pendulum-like between expressions of strength, solidarity and intense elation, and depression the day after. This time, it seems that this phenomenon has only intensified.
According to surveys, the majority of Israelis assume that what happened after previous rounds will be repeated. There are many who wonder if we and our children have a future in this country, in this region. The sense of security among residents of southern communities along the Gaza border fence is close to zero, with many refusing to return to their homes. Perhaps this is a transient thing, but this has never happened before in the 66 years of Israel's existence, and is therefore worrying.
It is evidently not hard to figure out what's behind this feeling. Any civilian looking at the casualties on our side, at the 50 days of the war and especially the emotional and material damage suffered by the home front, will ask what we have achieved: a ceasefire without an expiration date?
Our political and military masters tell us that Hamas was badly beaten, both militarily and politically, lost more than 1,000 soldiers and almost all of its military capabilities; nor does it have the ability to replenish its rockets and missiles or recreate its assault tunnels, that we and the Egyptians are sitting on the border crossings.
Fine, we say, but will that benefit us? Hamas did not stop firing rockets and mortar shells at a murderous rate and number until the very last minute; the population in Gaza did not rise up against them, and the terrorist leaders who climbed out of their holes are declaring that they will be back to fight us. In effect, the Israeli deterrence has not been reinforced - the next round is only a matter of time.
At the same time we're told that we could topple Hamas if only we had a determined prime minister and defense minister and a courageous and creative chief of staff, who would devise the right strategy and give the right commands to the IDF.
They simply prevented the biggest and mightiest army in the region from winning and eliminating once and for all what is a wretched local militia which is inferior in equipment, technology and fighting spirit.
This is, in essence, the rational basis for the sour atmosphere prevalent among many. It utilizes the facts, but, I believe, hastily and therefore incorrectly interprets what our eyes are seeing and especially what our ears are hearing right now.
Too many of us demand immediate emotional satisfaction - a "picture of victory" or at least a declaration of surrender by the terrorist leaders. We do not have the patience to wait and judge the outcome of the fighting and the subsequent political campaign over the medium and long term. But the main reason for the deep plunge in morale could be a misunderstanding of the characteristics of the asymmetrical war against fanatical Islam which we are currently waging, alongside almost all Western democracies. Some are calling it World War III.
Chronic cancer
This war takes the form of violent clashes between the regular armies of nations and military organizations and activist militias using guerilla and terrorist tactics.
States have an obligation to provide physical security for their citizens, entire territory to protect and often a commitment to humanitarian values ​​and international law; militias and terrorist and guerrilla groups have only one mission – to physically and mentally exhaust the democratic population through death and destruction until we surrender to the terrorists' demands.
A secondary mission of these groups is to create for themselves a solid base of operations within a population that is helping them either forcibly or voluntarily.They have almost no safety or welfare obligations toward the civilian population from whose territory they are operating. On the contrary; the population used as human shields.
Their only obligations are to the religious or political ideal (or both) in whose name they act and to the leaders they obey without question, whether through the charisma and myth associated with those leaders, the military and religious authority they project, or the fear they instill in their subordinates. The main comparative military advantage that fanatical terrorists have is the motivation of their people. The asymmetry is also reflected in the methods of warfare and chosen weaponry. Militia fighters are assimilated among non-combatant civilians and "evaporate" when they encounter the superior firepower, movement, protection and fighting skills of regular army units.
But they reappear to tail the national army when it enters their territory, particularly if that area is densely built and if it has static positions. At the same time they keep up the strategic attacks, including suicide bombings and use of high-trajectory weapons.
Because they have a fanatical motivation that is extremely difficult to undermine, as well as foreign sponsors, and a submissive non-combatant population to provide shelter and sustenance, terrorism has the ability to regroup after a hard blow.
Global experience proves this almost without exception. Terrorists are like chronic cancer waiting for an opportunity to return, revitalized and even more destructive. It is possible, therefore, for it to go on for years undefeated; in the same way, there is no picture of victory.
It is unlikely that Hamas or Hezbollah will emerge humiliated from their holes and waving a white flag, even they are dealt a decisive blow.
In fact, quite the reverse takes place: terrorist leaders, who are in hiding during and after the fighting, come out of their bunkers immediately after the fighting ends to put on an impressive "victory performance" using the best tools that public relations technology can offer.
The survivors
I will never forget the huge, red banners hanging in Beirut at the end of the Second Lebanon War of 2006, proclaiming in three languages ​​the "divine victory" of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
This was while the ruins of Dahiya were still smoldering in front of me and Bint Jbeil and Maroun al-Ras, like so many villages in southern Lebanon, were completely destroyed.
There is no connection between the performance and the bleak reality, but firing rockets after a truce has been declared, belligerent claims of achievement against a "cowardly enemy" and the triumphant displays allow Nasrallah, and Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal of Hamas to survive as leaders of their organizations, preserve the loyalty of their people and maintain some popular and regional legitimacy. Does this mean that an army cannot defeat guerrillas and terrorism? Is the sword eternally triumphant? The unequivocal answer is that one can win against guerrillas and terrorism, and democracies or quasi-democratic states have indeed done so in this century.
For instance, the Tamil ​​rebels in Sri Lanka were brought to surrender in 2009, Russia has managed to almost completely quell the Chechen Muslim fanatics, and Israel managed to defeat suicide terrorism in the Second Intifada.
It would take too long to explain why and how the asymmetric victories were achieved, as well as in another half dozen or so recent cases. But here are the most prominent components that enabled these countries to prevail:
1. A constant presence in the area from which the guerrillas and terrorists are operating, including among the civilian population, allows the army to conduct effective counterterrorism operations and hold on to its achievements.
2. Superiority intelligence and freedom to conduct military operations to fight terrorism in that territory (like the IDF in the West Bank and the Americans in Iraq in recent years, until Obama decided to get out).
3. Controlling the perimeter, in other words, close monitoring and maintaining the boundaries of terrorists' living and operational area thwarts smuggling and thereby prevents the buildup of weapons and munitions.
4. The primary factor: Time. It takes years to perform all of the above.
We have time
Operation Defensive Shield of 2002 did not in itself lead to the victory against suicide terrorism. It was just an indication of the turnaround in intelligence superiority and operational freedom that the IDF and Shin Bet still enjoy until today. Israel endured at least four hard years after the start of Defensive Shield. It was the same in Chechnya and Sri Lanka. The problem is that remaining and controlling an area and its population demands an unbearable price in blood and in money. In the case of terrorism that was rooted out in Judea and Samaria, the heart of Israel and the settlements were in real and immediate danger, which justified the risk.
Israel maintains a presence in this area to this day because of the settlements, and especially because the price demanded in human lives and economic cost is not high. This is not the situation in Gaza or in Lebanon, where there is a religious fanatical enemy who is not ready to give up its armed struggle and negotiate.
Keeping a hold on these areas and controlling the population for years under these conditions exacted a heavy price that became unbearable. So, after pointless and bloody wars of attrition, the State of Israel withdrew from both areas.
As a strategic alternative to a presence in the field, the Israeli government is utilizing a system of short bursts of fighting, during each of which the IDF deploys some of its capabilities with high intensity, thereby restoring the deterrence that had eroded since the previous round. The strategic assumption is that the cumulative effect of these rounds of fighting will eventually lead to a turnaround - that is long-term calm and perhaps even acceptance of Israel's existence. One might also call this thrifty method of fighting "steadfastness and a frustrated enemy."
This is not a new invention. David Ben-Gurion conceived of it, claiming that if we won enough times in combat, we would frustrate the enemy. The deterrence that was achieved would cause them to understand after a certain number of years the futility in trying to throw us into the sea. Indeed, this is what happened with Egypt and Jordan, and with Mahmoud Abbas.
History teaches us that eventually even violent Islamic extremism will gradually fade, and give way to a more enlightened and less bloodthirsty ideology.
In the past, this evolution has taken decades or even hundreds of years - in our era, the timeframe will be much smaller. But one must understand that in any event, winning and obtaining that image of victory in Gaza would exact a price in blood, in Israel's economy stability and in diplomatic isolation far in excess of any temporary emotional satisfaction we would receive.
The entry of an IDF armored column into central Gaza City was accompanied by an aerial bombardment and massive shelling to avoid heavy losses to the troops.
The mission would have been carried out, however, even had thousands of people, perhaps tens of thousands, including children and the elderly, being killed, wounded and left homeless.
What happened in Saja'iyya was just a small sample. And all for the dubious pleasure of sinking into the swamp of terrorism after six months, and fleeing two years later with our tails between our legs.
No, I am not pessimistic. To put it simply, I've been in this movie before, here and in other parts of the world; I have seen this scenario played out several times.
It's not a game
My conclusion is that we need patience and endurance; we need to stop seeing Arab terrorists as an enemy easily scared into submission by the sight of an oncoming Merkava tank. There were mistakes and failures during Operation Protective Edge of all kinds and types – tactical and strategic, political and military, before the war and in its wake.
We need to investigate these deeply and produce the correct conclusions. For the meanwhile we can cautiously say that Protective Edge was managed carefully and responsibly by the political and military hierarchy according to the "strategy of rounds."
The political, legal, and humanitarian constraints were what limited the IDF from reaching its full operational capabilities. And it was the long-term strategic thinking that prevented an unnecessary and costly occupation of the Gaza Strip.
It's doubtful whether such a move would have been the final blow to Hamas, but it would have crippled Israel's economy and its international standing.
This is why the complaints against the hesitation and apprehension of Defense Minister Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Gantz were silly.
Mainly, we must remember that the actual results of a campaign or a war in the 21st century are not measured like a soccer game – by the number of goals scored by each side or how entertained the fans were by the performance.
Success and failure, at this time, are measured by the endurance of the ceasefire agreement and by the ability to reinforce and maintain deterrence for years to come.

A Gulf agreement out of fear of ISIS?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Over the past few days, it has been said that Gulf countries had to put their disputes aside out of fear of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Has this terrorist organization’s threat reached the extent that it is capable of ending the Gulf’s disputes? Also, is ISIS really capable of toppling Gulf capitals?
Of course, no one will believe this story unless they are distant from the region, or a resident who is clueless about the details of political developments. Geographically speaking, this is impossible unless ISIS has an air force and this is also not possible. The city of Ramadi – in Iraq’s Anbar province, which is close to Saudi Arabia’s borders - is the closest ISIS stronghold to the Gulf. Kuwait is the closest Gulf capital to Ramadi and despite this, the distance is still huge – it is more than 760 kilometers, most of which is barren desert. The Saudi capital is almost twice as far as it is more than 1,400 kilometers away from Ramadi.
The arrival of ISIS, via land, in the capitals of Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman is impossible no matter how strong, speedy and well- armed the organization is!
ISIS fighters, traveling in armed vehicles, have crossed from Syria into the Iraqi city of Mosul via the Qaim border crossing, because of the short distance, the chaos in Syria and the security vacuum in Iraq, which was the result of the central government’s weakness in Baghdad. Therefore, arguing that Gulf governments put their disputes aside out of fear of ISIS is an exaggerated claim. Logic, however, dictates that Gulf governments must end their disputes for many good reasons; the specter of ISIS, however, is not among those reasons.
“When Gulf countries agree, they become a strong powerhouse, but when they disagree, they fight in other parties’ arenas”
The paradox is that the concerns of Gulf states are also their assets. They are similar to each other in three areas: financial influence, strong relations with the West and political stability. Instead of directing these common assets towards similar objectives to benefit the people of the region in general, and the people of the Gulf in particular, there has been an increase in proxy “wars” on which billions of dollars were spent. These wars will eventually lead to collective damage as no one will gain anything from them. Those assets were used in buying international military, legal, media, political and commercial services as part of a “cold war” among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. This reflects a state of political absurdity, the likes of which the region has not seen before!
A strong powerhouse
When Gulf countries agree, they become a strong powerhouse, but when they disagree, they fight in other parties’ arenas. A particular incident when Gulf countries cooperated was when they decided to support Bahrain during its ordeal in 2011. At the time, there were fears that the smallest Gulf country, which faced the most sensitive situation on the sectarian level, may collapse as a result of Iran’s and other parties’ interferences. The Gulf Cooperation Council succeeded in saving Bahrain, both internationally and domestically, and it also succeeded in preventing chaos and an extended state of war. The concern over the Gulf comes from the concern about the actions of its people, not about ISIS. Terrorism poses a direct threat to the Iraqi and Syrian regimes because it grows and expands where it finds chaos and security vacuum – just as we have seen in Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen. Gulf countries are protected against ISIS, just as they were against al-Qaeda in the past. This is not to deny that the threat of armed extremist groups to Gulf stability and their aim to shake the internal order and harm the Gulf authorities and embarrass them internationally. The Gulf countries’ current crisis is that they fight amongst one another over a vast geographic area, stretching from Syria to Mauritania. Even if one Gulf country emerges victorious over another, it’s still a worthless victory because Gulf countries are not global superpowers which can turn these victories into areas of influence or interests. They cannot even maintain their gains for long – like what happened to Qatar in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria and to Saudi Arabia in Syria and Yemen. It’s an expensive videogame that offers no real reward except for Saudi Arabia as it has to protect its borders with Iraq and Yemen, and it needs to support Egypt because chaos there may directly harm the kingdom. In general, ending negative Gulf competition falls in everyone’s favor but claiming that reconciliation has occurred out of fear of ISIS is an unrealistic interpretation.

Keep ‘God’ out of it
Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
This is not a column about religion. Nor does it aim to convince you of anything religious. Quite the contrary, this is purely about humans, their politics, evil, and how they dump it all - for blame or justification - on religion; or worse, on “God” - theirs or somebody else’s.
Hiding behind the safety of religion and relying on existing slogans and symbols known for swaying minds into brainwashed submission, evil now avoids criticism because the word “Allah” is invoked in various contexts. No, “God” does not have a “party,” “army” or “spokespeople.” If you believe that such a thing exists, then you need appropriate professional attention and serious treatment before you join us in the 21st century. Just because someone claims they speak for “God” and they pretend to be performing his will on earth, it does not make it so. If a group of lunatics wrap their evil in a flag that carries the word “God” does not make them untouchable or beyond reproach. The opposite is true; if you apply logic, their behavior makes them perfect candidates to be eradicated because they are the enemy of “God” as you say you know him. “Just because someone claims they speak for “God” and they pretend to be performing his will on earth, it does not make it so” Just as children playing thieves and police, doctor and patient, husband and wife, does not make it so, calling oneself an advocate of “God” or his representative does not give one authority. But when people follow blindly such moronic claims, they give them false credence. The lie then becomes our bitter reality, and if you don’t stand up for one, it will be harder to stand up for other lies. It will eventually be impossible to fight insanity when reason becomes outnumbered. The language of fear works on the masses, otherwise religions would not have thrived the way they have across continents and cultures. The question we ought to ask ourselves is, whatever my religion, is it making me a better citizen of this world? Am I an effective participant in this vast world of ours or am I shrinking into a corner and becoming more insignificant? This is a philosophical question not a territorial one.
No matter what your religion, it does not interest me. Your actions and your words interest me. They define you as a person. Adding the word Allah in any shape or form does not change your evil, your goodness, your intention or your purpose.
Leave “God” out of your business, because I certainly will never associate God by your actions. Nor will I judge you mercifully because of a word representing a much higher concept you’re not worthy of being mentioned with.

When Syrian soldiers become the victims
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Diana Moukalled/Al Arabiya
I have discovered I am not the only person who suddenly feels alert or wary when scrolling down news feeds on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. This is especially true when I see a picture of a head or a body looming at the bottom of the screen. No sooner do I hold my breath in anticipation of once again seeing a severed head being brandished in front of the camera than someone comes along and justifies bringing images such as this onto my and hundreds of others’ screens.
These days, full as they are of blood and killing, the motives of those who post photographs and videos of decapitations, crucifixions and executions range from spreading news to expressing horror to, of course, showing their pride in these acts.
The fact that these images are becoming almost “mainstream” puts the differing aims of those who spread them on an equal footing. We have been blind to the changes that have occurred within us—the diminishing of our humanity that we endure by accepting, and becoming so desensitized to, such images. “The motives of those who post photographs and videos of decapitations, crucifixions and executions range from spreading news to expressing horror”
Here we are then, about to reach the end of the fourth year of living with the reality of widespread death and destruction, which, in the last two years especially, has reached a peak in terms of the stream of violent images reaching us online.
We feel such misery
We feel such misery, we who were naively deluded back in 2011, when we remember how we thought we were moving towards having our dreams and wish for freedom fulfilled in our countries. Now there is darkness and blood and death, all overflowing to the extent that one need only open one’s eyes for a brief moment to want to immediately shut them again.
What can one do in the face of these insane violations of our most basic right—the right to live? How can this have been dismantled with such ease and intensity, to the extent that we are unable to fathom the meaning of the death of an individual, any individual?
Proof of this is the debate surrounding the images of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) executing Syrian soldiers after taking over the airbase in Tabqa. This incident shows the kind of circumstances we are living in right now, ones that no longer stir in us the kind of feelings and questions one should associate with such things. Here they are, Syrian soldiers being dragged and stripped of their uniforms, some shot and others dealt with in the way only ISIS has become so adept at. The comments then flood in over the pictures, with a large proportion of those posting and spreading the images condoning the criminal actions they depict, and seeing the Syrian soldiers as being no better than their executioners.
Out of spite
Here we saw how easy it was for some to accept what happened, to even be happy about it out of spite towards the soldiers, who were conscripts. We all know how much choice such conscripts have when it comes to fighting in the Syrian war, how they are recruited by the regime and driven to their places of death without anyone from that regime so much as batting an eyelid over their fate. In moments like these we discover what we are and what we believe in. The right to life is not a luxury; the idea of human rights not merely a book that we open up and leaf through in our spare time. Condemning the regime Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in no way, shape or form justifies the actions of ISIS’ fighters against its soldiers, whose lives the regime seems always ready to trade with and abandon.
The Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein, during his last moments before his death at the hands of vengeful executioners, became a victim. The Libyan tyrant Muammar Qaddafi, in his last moments, dragged across the ground, violated and tortured, became a victim. These are simple truths from which we cannot deviate. Fighting against the excesses of political regimes, and the killers and deviants they employ to do their dirty work, requires a moral framework and values that are total anathema to those regimes and the crimes they commit.
Yes, the Syrian regime has killed and continues to kill its own people. But ISIS’ atrocities cannot achieve justice; they will only spread more death and destruction. What happened to the Syrian soldiers at the hands of ISIS was abominable. Our acceptance and tolerance of it deadens us for a while . . . only for us to go back to drinking our coffee with our friends once we are done.

Hamas perfects the art of celebrating defeat
Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Hamas is not ashamed of depicting the cease-fire in Gaza as a “victory.” If the long-term cease-fire which was achieved through Egyptian mediation is a victory, then what is to be defeated? Maybe Hamas won. It triumphed again over the people of Gaza who have been exposed thanks to its missiles and tunnels to a new Israeli aggression that cost the lives of more than two thousand people, most of whom are civilians. How long will this victory for the Palestinian people last?
Above all, there is the devastating destruction that Israel deliberately caused to the Strip. Who will compensate for the losses of the people of Gaza? Is it enough to bring a woman from here and a young man from there to talk about the “victory of the resistance,” so that the Palestinians believe that they have defeated Israel?
“Perhaps the only goal achieved by Hamas is that it is still controlling the Strip”
The important question now is: what will happen after the cease-fire? In case the victory was real, Hamas should first of all admit that it was defeated, given that the war did not achieve any of its objectives. The war did not embarrass Egypt, the Arabs, and other Palestinians; the Islamic movement, which is an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood, did not get out of its deep crisis.
Hamas' achievements
Perhaps the only goal achieved by Hamas was that it is still controlling the Strip but this is neither guaranteed nor acceptable in the long term except in one case. It is only accepted if Hamas provides clear guarantees that it will not launch anymore missiles from Gaza. Most of all, Hamas should provide guarantees to Egypt that it will prevent Gaza from being a source of terrorism and terrorists and a haven for those who seek to conspire against Egypt and the Egyptian people.
Israel took advantage of the recent Gaza war on all levels. It seems that it took advantage of the missiles fired on cities and towns to avoid the search for a political solution of any kind. Moreover, it took advantage of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, which is one of the most radical governments in Israel’s history. All that Hamas is doing is to proceed with a policy that blocks all ways to reach a political solution that helps to provide a minimum of legitimate rights for the Palestinian people.
What is sure after the recent war in Gaza is the failure of Hamas on the Egyptian, Palestinian and Arab fronts. It is now clear that it has no other place to go to except Egypt. As for the West Bank, it has once again confirmed that it is prepared to learn from the mistakes of the past by preventing their repetition, including the mistakes of militarizing the intifada, the outcome of which was disastrous in 2000, a past that is not so long ago.
What is important now is that Hamas should be aware that it has lost all its bets. It did not embarrass Egypt. I did not embarrass other Palestinians. It did not embarrass Arabs. All it did was serve Israel’s interests. Hamas was only cheered by those who previously applauded for the missiles of Saddam Hussein and Hezbollah. What was the result?
Well, Saddam got overthrown as we all know, and Hezbollah found a party to defeat. It defeated Lebanon and the Lebanese and here it is now seeking to win over Syria and the Syrians. Hamas was only able to defeat the people of Gaza. And since it was not able to achieve this victory, it only found 18 Palestinians and executed them in order to spread terror in the Strip, a few days before the cease-fire.
What should Gaza expect?
What should Gaza expect tomorrow? Who will build its houses? Who will compensate for the losses that have afflicted ordinary and poor people? Why would it escalate against a state that practices terrorism and possesses enough weapons to destroy every house in the Gaza Strip? Where is the bravery in what Hamas did?
The last heroic act that Hamas can do is to stop talking about the conditions for a cease-fire. It did not do so, at least until now. It is still imposing conditions. Perhaps it needs these kinds of conditions to save face.
In fact, the balance of power does not allow for the imposition of conditions. All that Hamas can do is to let Egypt settle things and be convinced that defeating Israel is possible, but not through rockets and tunnels. Defeating Israel will be realized through the establishment of a basis for a peaceful Palestinian state in Gaza with a very clear objective. This objective is not to give Israel more excuses to escape serious negotiations, given that such negotiations are not foreseeable in the near future.-+
After what happened in Gaza, Netanyahu will claim that he cannot accept an independent Palestinian state in any form, especially after the missiles were launched from Gaza threatening the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. He will resort to security excuses in order to impede any serious negotiations. Is there a greater service that Hamas can provide to Israel?
In case Hamas was not aware of all the obvious warnings, it will keep on celebrating fake victories, like the last victory in Gaza. There seems to be a new trend; the art of celebrating the defeat as being a victory instead of realizing that it is impossible to correct mistakes by committing bigger mistakes. A mistake is a mistake and a defeat is a defeat, nothing else. No one can ever win if he cannot admit his defeat and learn from his past experiences. What Hamas is currently asking for Gaza was available in 1998 when Yasser Arafat’s airport was still in operation. It was also the case for the port and it was not even besieged.
Honestly, Hamas has worked with the help of Israel and I believe there was a secret agreement between the two on transforming Gaza into a big prison, simply because its objective was not the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, but rather to change the nature of Palestinian society and drag it to be more and more underdeveloped and miserable in order to make it easier to control.
Does Hamas have enough courage to retreat? At least in order to maintain what is left of Gaza, if there is anything left at all?

Fiji says Syrian rebels want compensation, removal from terror list

Baz Ratner/Lincoln Feast| Reuters
EIN ZIVAN, OCCUPIED SYRIA/SYDNEY: Islamist fighters who seized dozens of Fijian soldiers serving as U.N. peacekeepers on the Golan Heights last week are demanding that their group be removed from a global terrorism list and that compensation be paid for members killed in fighting, the head of Fiji's army said Tuesday. Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga said negotiations had been stepped up betweenh the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and a new U.N. negotiation team now in place in Syria.
"The rebels are not telling us where the troops are, but they continue to reassure us they are being well-looked after," Tikoitoga told media in Suva. "They also told us they are ensuring that they are taken out of battle areas."
Heavy fighting erupted on Monday between the Syrian army and Islamist rebels near where 45 Fijian peacekeepers were captured and scores of their fellow blue helmets from the Philippines escaped after resisting capture. The number of Fijians captured had previously been put at 44. Syria's three-year civil war reached the frontier with Israeli-occupied territory last week when Islamist fighters overran a crossing point in the line that has separated Israelis from Syrians in the Golan Heights since a 1973 war.
The fighters then turned on the U.N. blue helmets from a peacekeeping force that has patrolled the ceasefire line for 40 years. After the Fijians were captured on Thursday, more than 70 Filipinos spent two days besieged at two locations before reaching safety.
The Nusra Front, a Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda, says it is holding the peacekeepers because the U.N. force protects Israel.
Tikoitoga said the group was demanding compensation for three fighters killed in the confrontation with the U.N. peacekeepers, as well as humanitarian assistance to the people of Ruta, a stronghold of the group on outskirts of Damascus, and the removal of the organisation from the U.N. list of banned terrorist organisations. "We've been assured by U.N. headquarters that the U.N. will bring all its resources to bear to ensure the safe return of our soldiers," the Fijian army chief said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in the Syrian civil war, said the Nusra Front and allied fighters were battling government forces near the Qunaitra crossing and in the nearby village of Hamidieh.
The Observatory said there were casualties on both sides. Observatory founder Rami Abdel-Rahman told Reuters that the Nusra Front's aim appeared to be "to end once and for all the regime's presence in the area and it also appears that the goal is to expel the international observers."The U.N. peacekeeping force in the area, known as UNDOF, includes 1,223 troops from India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands as well as the Fijians and Filipinos who came under attack last week.
The United Nations has announced that the Philippines will pull out of UNDOF. Austria, Japan and Croatia have also pulled their troops out of the force because of the deteriorating security situation as the civil war in Syria reaches the Golan.


Who is Gilbert Chagoury? From 2008 Achieves
Bill Clinton's Complicated World
Wall Street Journal
Donor to Former President's Foundation Had Business Ties to Nigerian Dictator
By John R. Emshwiller
Updated Dec. 20, 2008 12:01 a.m. ET
Bill Clinton's ties to Nigerian businessman Gilbert Chagoury illustrate the kind of complicated relationships with foreign figures the former president is now disclosing to pave the way for Hillary Clinton to become secretary of state.
Nigerian businessman Gilbert Chagoury, shown with his wife, Rose-Marie, has long been a financial supporter of Mr. Clinton. Getty Images
Mr. Chagoury is one of the biggest donors to the Clinton Foundation, having given between $1 million and $5 million, according to the list of over 200,000 contributors released Thursday by the former president's charitable organization. The release of the names came as part of an effort by Mr. Clinton to satisfy the incoming Obama administration that his extensive array of foreign donors wouldn't present problems for Mrs. Clinton as the nation's top diplomat.
Mr. Chagoury has long been a financial supporter of Mr. Clinton. He donated funds to support then-President Clinton's 1996 re-election effort, and later helped the former president land a lucrative speaking fee. Members of the Chagoury family donated thousands of dollars to Mrs. Clinton's recent unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Mr. Chagoury is also a figure with a controversial past. In the mid-1990s, he was known for a close association with Nigeria's military dictator, Sani Abacha, which helped him land lucrative business contracts in construction and other areas.
After Gen. Abacha died in 1998, Swiss and other European authorities froze a number of bank accounts, including some related to Mr. Chagoury, as part of an investigation by the Nigerian government and others about whether billions of dollars had been improperly taken out of the country during the Abacha regime, according to news reports and a 2001 British court decision in Abacha-related litigation. Mr. Chagoury later agreed to return funds, estimated to be as much as $300 million, to the Nigerian government in exchange for indemnity from possible charges and to unfreeze his accounts, according to the British court decision.
Mr. Chagoury and his family still have large business interests in Nigeria. That country's big oil supplies and large population make it one of the most important nations in Africa to the U.S. "He has lots of contacts in Nigeria and knows lots of people who are still in power," said Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential, a leading newsletter covering African affairs. Given Mr. Chagoury's record in Nigeria in connection with the Abacha dictatorship, his relationship with Mr. Clinton "must be a problem" for Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state, said Mr. Smith.
The Nigerian embassy in Washington didn't respond to inquiries about Mr. Chagoury.
The Nigerian-born Mr. Chagoury, whose family is Lebanese, has also been a financial supporter of Christian politicians and religious leaders in Lebanon, another potential diplomatic hot spot, say people familiar with that nation's political scene.
Mr. Chagoury and representatives for Mr. Clinton have repeatedly declined to comment on the two men's relationship. Following Thursday's disclosures by the Clinton Foundation, a spokesman for President-elect Barack Obama said Mr. Obama wouldn't be commenting on any of the donors.
Mr. Chagoury's ties to Mr. Clinton apparently began in the mid-1990s. The Clinton administration was being urged by human rights-activists and others to put severe sanctions on Nigeria because of the Abacha regime's practice of jailing and executing political opponents.
In August 1996, President Clinton dispatched then-Rep. Bill Richardson to Nigeria to lay out the U.S. government's concerns. In an interview earlier this year, Mr. Richardson, currently New Mexico's governor and President-elect Obama's nominee for commerce secretary, said that after a meeting with the dictator, he was taken to see Mr. Chagoury, who supposedly "had a lot of influence with Abacha." During an hour-and-a-half discussion over pizza at Mr. Chagoury's home, the businessman seemed sympathetic to U.S. complaints but noncommittal, Mr. Richardson said.
A few weeks later, prior to the 1996 U.S. presidential election, Mr. Chagoury contributed $460,000 to a tax-exempt voter-registration group connected to the Democratic National Committee. A 1997 Washington Post article said that Mr. Chagoury subsequently received an invitation to a White House dinner for Democratic Party supporters. He also met with Clinton administration officials on Nigeria and later talked privately about his efforts to influence U.S. policy toward that country, says a person familiar with the matter.
Over the years, business deals Mr. Chagoury has been involved with have been the subject of government investigations into suspected bribery by Western companies that do business in Nigeria, according to news reports. In 2004, Mr. Chagoury was among those whom Nigerian investigators sought to question about a gas-terminal deal, according to news reports. He hasn't been accused of wrongdoing in any of the investigations.
Despite any controversies, Mr. Chagoury has steadily built ties to Mr. Clinton. In 2003, he helped organize a Caribbean trip where the former president was paid $100,000 for a speech. Mr. Clinton has made over $40 million giving speeches around the world. According to news reports, Mr. Chagoury attended Mr. Clinton's 60th birthday bash two years ago in New York. He also joined the former president at the gala wedding celebration in France last year of Mr. Clinton's top aide, Douglas Band, say people who were there.
During the just-completed election campaign, a Chagoury relative, Michel Chaghouri of Los Angeles, was listed in campaign records as someone who raised at least $100,000 for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign. Campaign records also show that Mr. Chaghouri raised money from a number of individuals named "Chagoury" or "Chaghouri" or "Chamchoum" -- Chamchoum is the maiden name of Gilbert Chagoury's wife. Several gave the federally allowed maximum of $4,600 each. Mr. Chagoury's name doesn't appear as a donor. As an apparent foreign national, Mr. Chagoury would generally be barred from giving to a U.S. presidential campaign.
Mr. Chaghouri declined to discuss his relationship with Mr. Chagoury or his fund-raising efforts. "I honestly can't talk with you," he said.
*Write to John R. Emshwiller at

Chasing the Ghosts of a Corrupt Regime
Gilbert Chagoury, Clinton donor and diplomat with a checkered past.
January 8, 2010

BY Robin Urevich/Business Of Bribess
In July 2004, police lay in wait at an airfield in the far northeastern corner of Nigeria. Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese businessman and one-time adviser to the late dictator Sani Abacha, was set to touch down in his private jet. Nuhu Ribadu, then the country's top anti-corruption prosecutor, says that Chagoury was a kingpin in the corruption that defined Abacha's regime.
"You couldn't investigate corruption without looking at Chagoury," Ribadu tells me in a recent interview in California.
Six years after Abacha's death, Ribadu's officers stood ready to take Chagoury down. Ribadu says that Chagoury made it possible for Abacha to steal billions of dollars and lined his own pockets in the process. The prosecutor says he indicted Chagoury and ordered his arrest for relatively minor violations related to Chagoury's businesses so that he could later bring additional charges for his activities in the Abacha era.
Gilbert Chagoury attending a benefit in Beverly Hills, California, in 2008. Photo: Getty Images.
But, no sooner had Chagoury's plane hit the ground, than it took off again. Ribadu says it's likely that an airport official tipped him off, and Ribadu's big catch slipped away, literally into thin air.
Chagoury was among the last of the all-powerful middlemen who served the heads of oil-rich African states, says Philippe Vasset, longtime editor of Africa Energy Intelligence, one of a series of influential energy industry newsletters. "He [Chagoury] was the gatekeeper to Abacha's presidency," Vasset says.
In many African countries, a Western entrepreneur might hand over money to a fixer or middleman, who would then pass it on to a political leader in exchange for support for a business venture. In Nigeria, Vasset explains, Chagoury was just such a figure in the mid-1990s, when Abacha ruled the country and held the key to much of the country's oil wealth.
Today, Chagoury is a diplomat representing the tiny island nation of St. Lucia. He is also a friend of former President Bill Clinton and a generous philanthropist, who, since the Abacha years, has used his money to establish respectability. He appeared near the top of the Clinton Foundation donor list in 2008 as a $1 million to $5 million contributor, according to foundation documents. (His name made the list again in 2009.)
Chagoury's contribution to the Louvre in Paris some years back was large enough for the museum to name a gallery for him and his wife. In recent years, he has put up $10 million for the construction of medical and nursing schools in Lebanon, his parents' country of origin, that also bear the Chagoury name.
Unlike his friend, the former president [Clinton], Chagoury conducts his affairs largely out of public view. He rarely talks to reporters.
Unlike his friend, the former president, Chagoury conducts his affairs largely out of public view. He rarely talks to reporters.
But on a cool day in late 2008, I headed up a gently winding road in Beverly Hills, where Chagoury's Moorish-style villa sprawls across the top of a steep canyon. The home once belonged to entertainer Danny Thomas, and Richard Nixon, Raquel Welch, and Michael Caine have all lived in the neighborhood.
After a written request for an interview and many follow-up phone calls, Chagoury invited me to meet him. "We'll see if we can get along," he said. Chagoury's home is packed with art, antiques, and crystal chandeliers, and offers a staggering view across West Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean.
As I'm taking it all in, Chagoury climbs a thickly carpeted, winding staircase to the living room to greet me. He's a stout man, dressed in a navy blue sport coat with buttons that strain against a barrel chest. His fingernails are buffed and manicured, and he has a full head of salt-and-pepper hair.
Almost immediately, he has a proposal: Do your story, but don't sell your work to a media outlet. "Do it for me," he says, offering me access and contacts -- even the chance to write a book. In exchange, I would get cash, and he would get full control of the product. I politely turn him down, but he brings up the offer several times during the interview.
"I am an industrialist," he says in lightly accented, near-perfect English. "I spend a lot of time with my family. I don't have time to do all that people say I do."
As we talk, I learn that much of what Chagoury says about himself is so out of sync with the public record and what others have told me -- even those who are friendly toward him -- that it seems he's not just in the market for positive spin, but for all-out reinvention.
When I bring up his days in Nigeria, he tells me that he detests his reputation as Abacha's middleman. "I am not in that business," he says. Rather, he has worked hard since he was a teenager, building a conglomerate called The Chagoury Group, which employs 20,000 people in Nigeria in construction, real estate development, telecommunications, and other sectors.
"I am an industrialist," he says in lightly accented, near-perfect English. "I spend a lot of time with my family. I don't have time to do all that people say I do."
"I have never bribed anyone," he says, looking me straight in the eye. "I have never had to make a crooked deal." He is absolutely sure of himself, even though he has offered me a bribe of sorts just minutes earlier.
As for Ribadu, the Nigerian investigator who says his officers nearly made that 2004 arrest on corruption charges, Chagoury says, "He's not such hot stuff." He tells me that Ribadu -- who until 2007 headed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, an agency similar to the FBI -- was an attack-dog set against the enemies of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who appointed him.
Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president of Nigeria in 1999 on an anti-corruption platform.
Ribadu was pushed out of his job after Obasanjo left office, and says he was given the freedom to act independently during his tenure and was ousted because of his zealous prosecution of high-level officials.
Chagoury, who turns 64 this month, was born in Lagos and is the eldest of eight children. He has dual citizenship in Lebanon and the United Kingdom because of his parents' heritage and because he was born in Nigeria while it was still under British rule.
His father came to West Africa in the 1930s from the northern Lebanese town of Miziara. The elder Chagoury followed what was by then a well-worn migrant trail to Nigeria, where he traded in textiles and helped his brother in a small trucking operation.
Chagoury is part of the Lebanese diaspora, which is by some estimates several times larger than the population of Lebanon, and includes such influential members as Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, the world's third richest man, Columbian entertainer Shakira, and American activist Ralph Nader.
Like their Palestinian and Jewish neighbors, the Lebanese have scattered about the world, and Chagoury seems equally at home in Lagos or Beverly Hills. He has also maintained close ties to his parents' home town of Miziara.
Today, Miziara survives -- and even thrives -- because of Chagoury and his brothers, says Gilbert Aoun, who was Lebanon's ambassador to Nigeria during Abacha's rule. Still, nine months of the year, the mountainous settlement of some 15,000 is a ghost town, Aoun says, because most Miziarans old enough to work are employed by the Chagourys in Nigeria.
Chagoury didn't grow up rich, but he says that he always wanted the security and prestige that money brings. He went into business with his father-in-law, and later with his brother. The family established several flour mills in Benin and Nigeria, a construction company in Nigeria, and a club in Lagos.
An Indispensable Adviser
Chagoury says he met Abacha by chance on a flight to the Niger Delta city of Port Harcourt, when the future dictator was a young officer. The two struck up a friendship, and when Abacha seized power in a 1993 coup, Chagoury became the general's indispensable adviser.
General Abacha was an eccentric man and a brutal leader, who consolidated his power by declaring martial law and jailing political rivals. He kept a menagerie of exotic animals and rarely removed his sunglasses. The regime drew worldwide condemnation in 1995, when activist playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other men who had campaigned against the environmental degradation of the oil-rich Niger Delta were executed for what most observers say were trumped-up murder charges.
From his earliest days in power, Abacha set the tone for an administration that would become the most corrupt in Nigeria's history. Today, more than a decade after the dictator's death, investigators from Washington DC to the Nigerian capital of Abuja are still unraveling the web of shady dealings around Abacha's rule.
Within months of taking office in 1993, Abacha began to divert money from Nigeria's central bank to the overseas bank accounts of his family members and associates, including Chagoury's. A lawsuit brought by the Nigerian government against Abacha's heirs and associates in the United Kingdom shows that the dictator fraudulently ordered the bank transfers for national security purposes.
By the time of Abacha's death in 1998, those so-called security payments would total $2 billion, but they would represent less than half the funds that money-laundering investigators around the world estimate that Abacha and his associates stole from their country.
However, Abacha found other ways to pad his bank accounts. A $180 million bribery scheme -- the largest ever discovered as part of a U.S. Justice Department investigation -- was hatched the first year Abacha was in office.
Halliburton's Nigerian Bribes
The scheme began in the early 1990s, when Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), at the time a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corporation, led a joint venture that bid for a $6 billion contract to build a sprawling liquefied natural gas facility in the Niger Delta.
The group won the bid, but not before Abacha had agreed to accept a $40 million bribe that he would share with other Nigerian officials, according to Department of Justice court papers. It was the first installment of $180 million in bribes that KBR would pay, not only to officials of the Abacha regime, but to officials of the two heads of state who succeeded him.
A few months before I interviewed Chagoury, former KBR CEO Jack Stanley had pleaded guilty in a Texas courtroom to charges related to organizing the bribery scheme that went on for a decade in Nigeria, and to taking millions in kickbacks for himself. Since then, two more KBR contractors have been indicted, and Halliburton entered a guilty plea and paid the government a record fine of more than $500 million.
Chagoury denies any involvement in the bribery case, but his name surfaces in notes taken by one of the indictees, William [Wojciech] Chodan [Chaudan].
Chagoury denies any involvement in the bribery case, but his name surfaces in notes taken by one of the indictees, Chodan, who kept detailed records of so-called cultural meetings, where bribes were discussed.
One entry reads, "$250 ... to IPCO via Chagoury."
When I ask Chagoury about these records, he doesn't dispute that the note refers to a sum of $250 million, but he argues that it refers to a contract, which, he says, was legitimately awarded to one of his companies, IPCO Nigeria Limited, for construction related to the liquefied natural gas plant.
Chagoury has not been named by the Department of Justice or charged with any crime related to the KBR affair.
His work as an intermediary for Abacha went beyond business affairs. He was also deeply involved in diplomacy, even though he held no official government post. In the mid-1990s, when Nigeria came under increasing pressure from Washington to hold elections, Chagoury gained access to high-level U.S. emissaries like Jesse Jackson and Bill Richardson as well as to a number of senior State Department officials, according to Donald McHenry, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, who worked in U.S.-Nigeria diplomacy at the time.
The Clinton Connections
Chagoury, along with his wife and three of his children, were guests at a the Clinton's White House holiday dinner shortly after Chagoury gave nearly half a million dollars to a voter registration committee, Vote Now '96, according to a report in The Washington Post. (Chagoury would have been barred from donating directly to the Clinton campaign because he is not a U.S. citizen.) Since then, Chagoury and Clinton have traveled together and seen each other socially.
"Every one knows I'm friends with the Clintons," Chagoury says.
As Abacha's health began to fail in the late 1990s, Chagoury made major efforts to prop up the dictator. A State Department memo obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, entitled "The Health Watch on the Head of State Continues," shows that Chagoury appeared to have brought medical specialists and sophisticated medical equipment to the presidential residence in Abuja, while publicly downplaying the seriousness of Abacha's condition.
When Abacha died in June 1998, a second State Department memo notes that Chagoury placed an in-flight call from his private plane to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria to report that he was in touch with Nigeria's Provisional Ruling Council, which would be meeting later that day to discuss a successor to Abacha. In the phone call, Chagoury asked what governmental structure would be acceptable to U.S. officials, according to the memo.
Immediately after Abacha's death, Ribadu, then a young police investigator, says he began looking into the dictator's financial affairs. "It wasn't uncommon for Nigerian leaders to put money elsewhere," Ribadu says. "But the magnitude was beyond anybody's comprehension."
Nigeria's former chief prosecutor, Nuhu Ribadu, who unsuccessfully tried to indict and arrest Chagoury in 2004.
The money -- estimated at more than $4 billion -- was stashed in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and the Isle of Jersey in the names of dozens of individuals and companies. Ribadu argues that it was Chagoury who vouched for Abacha's sons at banks where the source of their assets might otherwise have been questioned.
Indeed, Chagoury's Swiss attorney, Luc Argand, told me that his client served as a reference for Abacha's sons at Credit Suisse. The Nigerian government eventually requested help from law enforcement around the world in tracking the stolen assets. In 2000, Chagoury was convicted in Geneva, Switzerland, of laundering money and aiding a criminal organization in connection with the billions of dollars stolen from Nigeria during the Abacha years.
Argand has insisted that Chagoury used the money for diplomatic missions on behalf of Abacha. Asked if he had records to substantiate that claim, Argand said he couldn't produce any. He also conceded that the money was "stolen by Abacha, and had to be returned."
However, Argand says that Chagoury had already decided on his own to return it. In the end, he says, his client agreed to a plea deal: Chagoury would pay a fine of a million Swiss francs and hand over $66 million to the Nigerian government. Swiss authorities promised to expunge the conviction after two years, which they have done.
In 1999, Chagoury won immunity from prosecution in a separate looted-assets case in Nigeria by agreeing to return money that he held in Swiss bank accounts. The precise amount that Chagoury returned is unclear.
Meanwhile, the hunt for Nigeria's stolen treasure continues. A panel appointed by Nigeria's current president, Umaru Yar'Adua, is currently investigating which Nigerian officials took bribes in the Halliburton case and has reportedly requested U.S. Department of Justice cooperation in the probe. However, some Nigeria watchers, including Ribadu, doubt the seriousness of the inquiry.
The Clinton Foundation did not respond to emailed questions and repeated phone calls about the nature of Bill and Hillary Clinton's relationship with Chagoury.
While the Nigerian government struggles to recoup the losses it suffered under Abacha, Chagoury has prospered and continued to win acceptance from influential people around the world.
Last year, he was knighted by the Catholic Church and inducted into the Order of St. Gregory the Great, an honor bestowed upon those who serve the church, including many who are big donors to the institution. Bob Hope, Ricardo Montalban, and Rupert Murdoch are among past recipients.
The Clinton Foundation did not respond to emailed questions and repeated phone calls about the nature of Bill and Hillary Clinton's relationship with Chagoury. Former Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe, who, according to The Washington Post, was a sponsor of Chagoury's invitation to the White House in 1996, also failed to return phone calls. A spokesman for former Clinton political advisor James Carville, also a Chagoury acquaintance, said that Carville could not comment on the relationship.
And Chagoury hasn't stopped earning his fortune. Knowledgeable sources say that Chagoury controls South Atlantic Petroleum, a company that was awarded a choice oil exploration license before Abacha's death. Three years ago, the company sold a portion of its government-granted concession to the Chinese oil company, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, for $2.7 billion.
In our interview, Chagoury didn't deny that he profited from the deal, but he said rumors that former President Clinton helped make the deal happen were untrue.
Chagoury is unfazed by the crackdown by the U.S. Justice Department on foreign bribery, exemplified by the Halliburton case, and waves off the recent spate of prosecutions like an elder statesman: "You have lobbyists; we have agents," he says.
"You are never going to stop corruption," because it's favoritism, and that's human nature, which laws won't change, he tells me.
It's no wonder he is so confident. He is now free to come and go in Nigeria, while his nemesis, corruption hunter Nuhu Ribadu, left the country last year, he says, after an attempt on his life.
**Robin Urevich is a reporter in Monterey County, California. Her work has appeared on NPR, Marketplace, NPR affiliates KQED and KPCC, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Las Vegas Sun. She is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley School of Journalism.