September 07/14

Bible Quotation for today/"Warning to the Rich

James 05/01-06: "And now, you rich people, listen to me! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches have rotted away, and your clothes have been eaten by moths. Your gold and silver are covered with rust, and this rust will be a witness against you and will eat up your flesh like fire. You have piled up riches in these last days. You have not paid any wages to those who work in your fields. Listen to their complaints! The cries of those who gather in your crops have reached the ears of God, the Lord Almighty. Your life here on earth has been full of luxury and pleasure. You have made yourselves fat for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent people, and they do not resist you".

Question: "How can I know how to properly worship God?"


Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 06 and 07/14

Israel's next war will be fought on the northern front/By: Yossi Yehoshua /Ynetnews/September 07/14

ISIS poses an impossible dilemma for Obama/By:Alon Pinkas/Ynetnews/September 07/14

ISIS brings Saudi Arabia and Iran closer/By: Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/September 07/14


Lebanese Related News published on September 06 and 07/14

IS Says Beheaded Another Lebanese Soldier after He 'Tried to Escape'

LF Chief Geagea at Annual Mass Commemorating 'Lebanese Resistance Martyrs'
Captive Policemen Contact Relatives, Urge Families to Mobilize to Release Hostages

Salam: Resolving Tragedy of Captive Soldier is a Main Priority

Christians arm as Mideast perils mount

US delivers more arms to Lebanon

Army kills Syrian gunman in brief clash on border
Captured soldiers contact families, demand action

Captive Policemen Contact Relatives, Urge Families to Mobilize to Release Hostages
Equating Iran with Islamists ignorance: Hezbollah
Iron Dome would not cope with Hezbollah missiles: report

Rai: Israel seeks regional divisions to justify presence

Muslim-Christian Delegation Meets al-Rahi, Stresses Need for Coexistence

UNIFIL plays football match with land mine victims
Harb unveils plan to upgrade broadband

Expert: Delays normal in gas sector

Gunmen Break into Makari's Residence, Beat up Guards

Report: March 8 to Hold Rabieh Meet to Support Candidacies of Aoun, Franjieh

Zasypkin: Lebanon Has Turned into Front to Confront IS

Report: Kerry May Travel to Beirut to Address IS Regional Threat

Report: Saudi Arabia Advises Lebanese to Turn to Consensual Presidential Candidates

Arsal Municipal Chief Says Syrian, Not Qatari, Carrying out Negotiations over Captive Soldiers


Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 06 and 07/14

Obama, congressional leaders to meet on ISIS

New Iraq Coalition Not a 2003 Redux, U.S. Insists

Kurdish fighters retake territories seized by Islamic State
Aharonovitch: Lieberman will be Israel's next prime minister

Iran failed to meet nuclear deal deadline

Iran to spare no effort to help Iraq stave off IS

Iran gives IAEA rare access into centrifuge sit

ran: Nuke deal possible if world is 'sincere'

Iran backs US military coordination over ISIS: report

US confirms: Al-Shabaab leader killed in attack
Iraq: Allawi, Nujaifi and Maliki offered VP posts

Kurdish Peshmerga will never pullout of disputed areas: ministry

Saudi Arabia launches new border security project

Report: Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting was IS member who tortured prisoners in Syria

24 year old survives Islamic State massacre
A memorial service for murdered journalist Steven Sotloff


IS Says Beheaded Another Lebanese Soldier after He 'Tried to Escape'
Naharnet /Several pro-jihadist Twitter accounts on Saturday published gruesome pictures apparently showing Islamic State militants beheading another Lebanese army soldier, around ten days after the same group executed captive army sergeant Ali al-Sayyed. “We executed another army soldier, Abbas Medlej, after he tried to escape,” Turkey's Anatolia news agency quoted an unnamed IS leader as saying. The so-called Qalamun branch of the Islamic State also published a statement confirming the execution of Medlej. “Today, Lebanese soldier Abbas Medlej tried to escape from his prison in a malicious manner,” the group said in a statement circulated on social media websites. “After he tried to open fire at ... the Islamic State's soldiers, we managed with God's help to control the situation and beheading was the fate of this Rafidi (derogatory term for Shiites),” the group added. Meanwhile, picture posted on social media showed a masked gunman cutting off Medlej's head and a number of jihadists surrounding the decapitated body.


LF Chief Geagea at Annual Mass Commemorating 'Lebanese Resistance Martyrs'
Geagea: Our first and only choice is the state and its institutions, army and security forces. We will fight alongside it through stances, words, patience and endurance ... but we won't hesistate for a single moment to confront anyone who tried to transgress against the state through the forces of arms, whether it is called ISIL or anything else.
Geagea: Our martyrs did not fall to allow the presence of foreign gunmen on Lebanon's soil, nor the presence of Lebanese gunmen who serve foreign interests ... President-elect Bashir Gemayel did not die so that someone tries to prevent the election of a president.
Geagea: Should the need arise, or should the IS come, we are ready for resistance, and we will only die on our feet.
Geagea: We reject all schemes of autonomous scurity, especially those that exploit the threat of terrorism ... to enhance the trembling positions of some parties on the domestic scene.
Geagea: We salute the souls of the Lebanese army's martyrs, the last of whom was the martyr Ali al-Sayyed, and we hail the army's major sacrifices. We throw our support behind it as it preserves Lebanon's borders in both directions and defends national sovereignty. We also call for the immediate release of the abducted Lebanese troops.
Geagea on Arsal: What happened confirmed our viewpoint on the need that the state fully control the Lebanese-Syrian border, with the assistance of UNSCR 1701, in order to prevent all gunmen from all sides to cross into and from Syria.
Geagea: Why are the March 8 forces insisting on rejecting this proposal and keeping the border and security in a chaotic manner? Why are they putting the Syrian regime's interest before the higher Lebanese interest?
Geagea: Do some realize that impeding the presidential vote will paralyze the entire political life and create social, security and economic instability?
Geagea: The alibi claiming that amending the Constitution is an attempt to secure the election of a strong president is a futile alibi.
Geagea on Aoun's proposal on electing the president by the people: Some parties have come up with a demand to amend Article 49 of the Constitution but they would not have made this proposal had their attempts to secure the election of their candidate been successful.
Geagea: It is a complete political crime when some parties seek to "behead the republic" with the aim of becoming its head, and when they take the country hostage in order to get the presidential chair as a ransom.
Geagea: It is a flagrant political crime to vacate the Lebanese republic of its Christian president at a time Mosul and Nineveh's plain are being emptied of their Christian residents.
Geagea: Implementing the Lebanese Constitution requires the dissolving of all illegitimate armed groups and returning the military and security conditions exclusively to the Lebanese state, in addition to approving a just and balanced electoral law.
Geagea: The problem in Lebanon is that some parties want to turn the Constitution into meaningless papers, although the principle of the modern state is clearly stated in the Constitution. Some parties are preventing the implementation of the state's pillars and conditions.
Geagea: The Arab Spring revolutions -- despite all the negative and bloody trends -- will eventually succeed to replace the outdated principles in the Levant with ones that are more humanitarian, democratic and civilized. We support the societies' struggle to achieve better conditions regardless of anything and are with change despite everything.
Geagea: Eradicating the IS is an instant duty that must be accompanied by eliminating the reasons that led to the rise of the IS. The principles of freedom, democracy, pluralism and civil and humanitarian culture must be spread.
Geagea: There is a statelet operating outside state authority in Lebanon and manipulating the fates of the Lebanese contrary to their will. It is usurping their military and security decisions, which was recently manifested in fighting the opposition in Syria on behalf of the regime. It is a statelet that eliminates moderate forces and laments over the threat of extremists.
Geagea: Is slaughtering an American journalist in the presence of cameras a less terrorist act than blowing up and murdering Rafik Hariri, Bassel Fleihan, Samir Qassir, George Hawi, Gebran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel and other martyrs?
Geagea: Is destroying Syria's cities and killing its people with heavy artillery and tank shells less brutal than sabotaging city neighborhoods and villages with primitive means?
Geagea: Is throwing tens of thousands of Syrians and Lebanese arbitrarily in jails and dungeons -- where thousands of them were tortured to death -- less horrible than the IS' practices?
Geagea: Is the use of chemical weapons and the killing of thousands of people in a few minutes less horrible than the IS' practices and the murder of hundreds of people in a few hours?
Geagea addressing Lebanese people: As if the “achievements” of the dictatorial regimes in the styles of oppression, murder, destruction and brutality were not enough. We now have the “invention” of the ISIL, which has come to crown those “achievements.”
Geagea: The IS is like a cancerous tumor that suddenly appeared in certain parts of Syria and Iraq and it is still limited. Therefore, it can be quickly removed if there is a joint effort and will.
Geagea: This new and suspicious phenomenon, which has suddenly surfaced due to "Assad's magical tricks," has nothing to do with Islam nor with Arabism nor with all the principles of our time. Confronting such a destructive trend is an obligatory ethical duty that everyone of us must perform.
Geagea: My martyr comrades, after years and years of injustice and lies against you, the tragic events in Syria and Iraq have come to do you justice. After years of accusations and defamation, those who had made allegations against you have become worried and frightened, begging for either protection from a tyrant or for a fake autonomous security.
Geagea: Had it not been for you, our people would have abandoned their land and towns, similar to what happened to the people of Qaraqush, Mosul, Qusayr and Maalula.
Geagea addressing martyrs: Had it not been for you and for your surviving comrades, we would have been still stranded until today “at the peak of some Mount Sinjar,” waiting for a certain pilot to drop us water and food.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea after the annual mass commemorating the “Lebanese Resistance Martyrs”: Your commemoration this year carries a deeper meaning in light of everything that happened over the past months and weeks and is still happening in Syria and Iraq.


Equating Iran with Islamists ignorance: Hezbollah
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Equating the radical movements with Wilayat al-Faqih is pure ignorance and stems from disappointment that such extremist groups are unable to destroy the resistance group, Minister of State Mohammad Fneish said Saturday.
“Some of the stances by people in Lebanon represent either complete ignorance or disappointment because the Takfiri forces failed in achieving those people’s goals and wishes,” Fneish, awho represents Hezbollah in the Cabinet, said during a ceremony in south Lebanon.
“We accept people discussing with us the issue of Wilayat al-Faqih if they knew what they were talking about and the achievements it has made in Lebanon’s interest,” he said. “We also accept discussions about our behavior, which is derived from our commitment to the Wilayat as well as our beliefs and understandings.” Under the Wilayat al-Faqih doctrine, which was introduced in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the supreme ayatollah, or highest religious authority, has final say in political matters as well as religious.
Supporters of the March 14 coalition have ridiculed Hezbollah’s role in Syria to fight the rise of radical groups such as te Nusra Front and ISIS, saying that both the party and the Islamist forces seek to establish similar goals. “Equating between the criminal, takfiri forces and Wilayat al-Faqih is pure ignorance and represents their rage because they have lost bets on Israel and these takfiri forces destroying the resistance,” Fneish said. Hezbollah has remained evasive about its adherence to Wilayat al-Faqih and support for the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon inspired by that doctrine.

Lebanese Army kills Syrian gunman in brief clash on border

The Daily Star/HERMEL, Lebanon: Three gunmen shot at a Lebanese Army unit in a border town, prompting soldiers to fire back, killing one of them. The three, two Syrians and one Lebanese, were on a motorcycle when they shot at an Army Intelligence unit at the entrance of the eastern town of Al-Qaa. The Army briefly clashed with the gunmen, killing a Syrian. The Lebanese, a man from the northeastern town of Arsal, and the other Syrian were detained. The second Syrian was slightly wounded in the clash

Rai: Israel seeks regional divisions to justify presence

The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The conspiracy to divide the Middle East into sectarian states is still alive, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai warned Saturday, saying it was being used to justify Israel’s presence as a Jewish state. “The project of the new Middle East is not dead, but it is in play in light of what we saw of the Arab Spring, which did away with popular movements and replaced them with radical organizations,” Rai said during his meeting with a Christian-Muslim delegation from the Bekaa Valley, Wadi Khaled and the Hermel-Baalbek district. “The goal is to divide the Middle East and create sectarian states so that Israel can live in peace and give itself the justification to be a Jewish state.” The delegation handed Rai a “national document to strengthen coexistence and civil peace,” covering 12 points to build a better country that embraces all of its citizens and to confront the takfiri movement and Israeli threats. Rai said Lebanon was confronting the conspiracy to serve a blow to coexistence, saying Israel succeeded in inciting Sunni-Shiite strife “but we are still betting on the wisdom of many that promotes nationalism instead of sectarian thinking.” The prelate also repeated his criticism of lawmakers for their inability to elect a new president to replace former President Michel Sleiman, whose term ended on May 25. “A republic without a president is similar to a body without a head,” he said. “We will not allow [the lawmakers] to cut off Lebanon’s head and deny us the right to have a president.”

US delivers another arms shipment to Lebanese Army
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The U.S. delivered weapons and ammunition to the Lebanese Army Friday evening as part of Washington's promise to help support the military in its battle against radical groups. According to an Army statement, the shipment was delivered in the presence of a number of military officers in line with the U.S. aid program to the military as well as bilateral agreements.The handover took place at the Rafik Hariri International Airport. A source at the American Embassy had told The Daily Star that 1,500 M16s, more than 450 anti-tank guided missiles and 60 mortars delivered by the U.S. military last week were worth nearly $9 million. A further estimated $11 million of military aid, including undetermined heavy weapons, was to be delivered to the Army by “early September."

Iron Dome would not cope with Hezbollah missiles: report
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Israel’s Iron Dome Defense System would not be able to cope with Hezbollah’s precision rockets in any future war, an officer in the Israeli army has said, while warning that the next conflict with the resistance group would be “very violent.”
In a report broadcast by Israel’s Channel 2, Col. Dan Goldfus said that Israelis needed to know that a war with Hezbollah would be “a whole different story,” than the recent war Israel waged on Gaza. “We will need to move quickly and flexibly,” he said. The report said that Israel estimated that Hezbollah had about 100,000 rockets, with most of them hidden in south Lebanon but with long-range missiles in Beirut capable of carrying large warheads of up to 1 ton. The missiles in Beirut are equipped with precision guidance systems and can reach all of Israel, which would make it difficult for the Iron Dome missile defense system to deal with them as successfully as the less sophisticated rockets used by Hamas during the Gaza war. The report also spoke of repeated concerns that Hezbollah had dug tunnels along the border with Israel, saying residents had reported noise under their houses. Goldfus did not rule out the possibility of Hezbollah digging tunnels, saying that the Israeli army was concerned over the matter in light of recent tunnels unearthed and later destroyed by Israel in Gaza. In any future war, Goldfus said: “We will have to use considerable force” to quickly prevail over the Hezbollah, “to act more decisively, more drastically." - with Anadolu

Lebanese captured soldiers contact families, demand action
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Captured soldiers contacted their families Saturday by phone and asked them maintain pressure on the government and Hezbollah to secure their release, while a minister succeeded in partially opening a vital road that has been blocked by a family.
“My husband called me today at 10 in the morning for 10 minutes and he asked me to hold this news conference,” the wife of soldier Ziyad Omar told a few reporters at her home in Ain al-Sawda in Baalbek.  "After he reassured me that he was OK and that the rest of the soldiers were in good health, he asked me, in the name of all the soldiers, to stand against the Iranian Hezbollah and its killing of children and elderly people,” she said. She also said that her husband asked her to address the Lebanese people via the conference and ask them to pressure Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria and deplore the party’s alleged refusal to free the Islamist detainees. “I speak to the Sunnis, Shiites and Druze, why is it our fault that a fraction of Lebanese did not surrender its arms after the Taif [Accord]?” she asked
“My husband asked me to speak on behalf of all the soldiers.” A local television station reported that soldiers Pierre Geagea and George Khazaqah contacted their families and asked them to block roads and hold protests for their release.
In videos posted by both the Nusra Front and ISIS, the two groups holding the soldiers, the troops along with the policemen have asked their families to block roads to pressure the government to negotiate with militants or else they would be killed.
Families of the captured men took to the streets and blocked several vital roads in the country including the Qalamoun road. The protests escalated after ISIS executed one of the captives. Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi visited the protesters in Qalamoun and voiced his solidarity with the family of Ibrahim Samir Mgheit, who is among at least 23 soldiers and policemen captured by ISIS and the Nusra Front.  The minister asked the relatives to partially open the international highway in both ways to facilitate the movement of traffic between Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said the government's only priority was to secure the release of the captured men, who were taken during battles between Lebanese Army and militants from Syria on Aug. 2
“Lebanon will not be defeated in front of the challenges facing it particular the wave of terror,” Salam said during his meeting with a delegation at the Grand Serail. He stressed on the importance of Lebanese standing in solidarity with each other “so that we can confront the current challenges, primarily the crisis of the captured Lebanese soldiers.” ISIS and Nusra Front handed over their demands to a Qatari delegation that visited them Friday. The Qatari mediation came a day after the government rejected the militants’ primary demand to swap the hostages with Islamist detainees held in Roumieh Prison.

Captive Policemen Contact Relatives, Urge Families to Mobilize to Release Hostages

Naharnet/A policeman abducted by Islamists from the northeastern border town of Arsal contacted his wife on Saturday, reported al-Jadeed television. It said that Ziad Omar telephoned his wife and urged the families of the captives to mobilize to ensure the captives' release. He added that the hostages are being treated well. Omar is being held by al-Nusra Front, said al-Jadeed. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) later reported that captive Pierre Geagea contacted his wife. LBCI television said that Geagea and another captive, George Khazzaqa, had contacted their relatives on Saturday morning, urging them to mobilize to pressure for their release. He urged the families of the hostages to mobilize, stage rallies, and pressure Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria. A number of soldiers and policemen were abducted in August in light of clashes between the army and Islamists in Arsal. Some of the captives were released at different stages, while the rest remain held by Islamists from al-Nusra Front and Islamic State. The government tasked earlier this week a ministerial panel to follow up on the case. Qatari mediators have become involved in the negotiations to release them. The families of the captives however have refused to meet with the panel. On Thursday, they called on Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji to “arrest all ministers and swap them for the abductees.” “We want our sons, with or without an exchange, and we all throw our support behind the army chief and we hope he will fulfill our demand,” they said. The extremists are reportedly seeking to exchange the soldiers and policemen for Islamists held in Roumieh prison.

Salam: Resolving Tragedy of Captive Soldier is a Main Priority

Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam stressed on Saturday that Lebanon will not be defeated by the challenges it is facing, especially terrorism, reported the National News Agency. He said before a cultural delegation: “Resolving the tragedy of the captives soldiers and policemen is a main priority for us.”He highlighted the importance of Lebanese unity that “will enable the people to overcome current hardships.”Earlier, Salam had told As Safir newspaper that efforts to free the abducted soldiers have not ceased and that the terrorist groups who abducted them only aim to trigger Sunni-Shiite strife. “Local and international efforts to solve this issue have not stopped since the beginning,” he said. He continued expressing dismay at the situation that Lebanon has come to, noting: “If the situation were normal in the country and we had a president and parliament that works according to the norms, I would have said farewell to all the political parties and left. “I am fed up with political conflicts...if we continue down this path Lebanon will turn into a political jungle,” reiterated Salam, while stressing that electing a president could be the solution to puting the state on the right track.Lebanon entered into a stage of presidential vacuum as parliamentarians failed since May to elect a president to replace Michel Suleiman. On the Lebanese soldiers abducted by the al-Nusra Front and Islamic State groups in the northeastern town of Arsal, Salam remarked that efforts to free them have been ongoing since day one. “We kicked off efforts and contacts with internal parties, friendly and brethren countries like Qatar, Turkey and others in order to contribute to the liberation of the soldiers and we welcomed any effort,” he said. “Since the beginning we had the choice to mediate with the kidnappers but not to the extent of running behind them because we too possess pressure cards to help us in the negotiations, but we need the help of the abductees' families.”Heavy clashes erupted in August between the Lebanese army and terrorist armed groups who took around 35 soldiers and policemen hostage. They have been demanding the release of Islamist inmates held in Roumieh prison, Lebanon's largest jail, in exchange for the soldiers and policemen. Al-Nusra Front freed several of the hostages at different stages, but they have beheaded Lebanese army sergeant Ali al-Sayyed.

Troops Abductors Reportedly Ask for Ransom, Release of 400 Prisoners as Mashnouq Prepares to Visit Qatar
Naharnet /Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq described as “excellent” the meeting of the ministerial panel tasked with following up on the case of soldiers and policemen abducted by Islamist militants from the northeastern border town of Arsal, reported the daily An Nahar on Friday. The minister is scheduled to travel to Qatar on Monday in order to follow up on the issue. Mashnouq and General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim will head to the Gulf country to attend the Arab interior ministers' general secretariat conference.
“Only positive results can be achieved from Qatar's efforts towards Lebanon,” the minister told An Nahar. Later on Saturday, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said a Qatari delegation that spent two days in Arsal had received a list of the abductors' demands, which are topped by “the release of 400 Islamist prisoners from Lebanese jails and the payment of five million dollars.” LBCI television for its part quoted judicial sources as saying that “the Qatari team has left Arsal after receiving a list of the Islamic State's demands regarding the abducted troops.”“Al-Nusra Front and the IS are insisting on the condition of swapping the troops for Roumieh inmates and the issue of money has entered the negotiations,” LBCI added. Qatar has been mediating the release of the captives who were abducted by al-Nusra Front and Islamic State extremists in August. A widely-informed Lebanese source told As Safir newspaper on Saturday that the Qatari officials had held talks recently with Nusra Front representatives in al-Qalamun.
They returned with “an impression that the extremists will not harm any of the 13 captives for at least a month, but on two conditions.”The first condition was not revealed, while the second calls for the Lebanese judicial authorities to speed up the trial of Islamists held in Roumieh prison. IS extremists meanwhile hold at least 15 soldiers and policemen, said As Safir.They have not yet met with the Qatari mediators, who had suggested that the executions of the captives halt in return for pledges from Lebanese authorities.
The nature of the pledges were not disclosed. A ministerial panel following up on the case of the abducted troops convened on Friday as the Islamic State group accused Qatari mediators of maneuvering and “obstructing the negotiations” before eventually meeting with them.
Earlier on Friday, the so-called Qalamun branch of the Islamic State said in a statement: “After having agreed to hold indirect negotiations with the Lebanese government ... (the IS) was surprised that the Qatari side … is procrastinating in the issue of meeting the IS' negotiators.”The group held the Qatari delegation directly responsible for “obstructing the negotiations and for the lives of the troops.”However, the IS later issued a statement confirming that it did meet with Qatari mediators and that "other parties" were obstructing the talks.
The group also announced that the Qatari delegation will be "the only channel of negotiations" and that it handed it a list of its demands. The delegation had arrived overnight Thursday in Lebanon before immediately heading to the Bekaa town of Arsal, which borders Syria.
Around 36 Lebanese soldiers and policemen were taken hostage last month after IS and Nusra gunmen overran Arsal during deadly battles with the Lebanese army. Lebanon has been reportedly seeking the help of Qatar and Turkey to ensure their safe release.
The militants have released several hostages in different stages but they have also beheaded Lebanese army sergeant Ali al-Sayyed. The jihadists have reportedly called on the Lebanese government to release Islamist inmates from the country's largest prison in Roumieh in exchange for the captive security personnel.

Expert: Delays normal in gas sector
Dana Halawi| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: From a technical perspective, Lebanon is very advanced in the oil and gas sector, although its potential industry is still at an early stage, an energy expert has said. “It is important to emphasize that Lebanon is already advanced technically when it comes to the oil sector and multiyear delays for major developments and investments are absolutely standard in this field all over the world,” Bill Farren-Price, CEO of Petroleum Policy Intelligence, said Thursday. Price’s remarks came during a two-day workshop organized by the Petroleum Administration with the aim of giving journalists insight into Lebanon’s potential oil and gas sector and improving coverage on the topic in Lebanese media. Dubbed “For specialized journalism on oil and gas,” the workshop gathered over 20 journalists from different media organizations in Lebanon and included sessions focusing on story ideas and highlighting some facts about this new field in the country. Price explained that Saudi Arabia is a rare example of a country where oil expansions come on time.
“But if you look at other countries in the Middle East such as Kuwait, Algeria and Egypt in addition to Russia and Asia, for instance, you realize that delays are very normal,” he said. “So there is nothing unusual in Lebanon.”
Lebanon recently postponed for the sixth time a licensing round for offshore oil and natural-gas exploration after the Cabinet failed to discuss two decrees setting the number of blocks and the share of the government from untapped wealth.
Energy experts and international oil companies have repeatedly warned against further delays of the licensing round. They note that Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Angola and Montenegro – all of which began licencing processes at around the same time as Lebanon – have already awarded contracts and started oil exploration off their coasts. Energy and Water Minister Arthur Nazarian has said that the licensing round would take place within the next six months. But observers are skeptical that Lebanon will be able to meet this deadline because of the enormous political and security problems the country is facing. During the workshop, Price explained the process the country should go through to be able to benefit from its potential oil and gas sector. “ Lebanon is at the upstream stage for the time being,” he said.
The upstream stage includes locating potential underground or underwater crude oil and natural gas fields, drilling exploratory wells, and subsequently drilling and operating the wells that recover and bring the crude oil and/or raw natural gas to the surface.
“This stage can take years so it is important to get a grip on how this is a multiyear process,” he said. He then outlined what Lebanon could expect during the next two stages, midstream and downstream.
The midstream stage involves the transportation, storage and wholesale marketing of crude or refined petroleum products. As for the downstream stage, it commonly refers to the refining of petroleum crude oil and the processing and purifying of raw natural gas, as well as the marketing and distribution of products derived from crude oil and natural gas. Price said that Lebanon is mainly an importer of products so refining will probably happen elsewhere. “That is pretty normal for small countries. Cyprus had a refinery but it is closed and now it imports the products it needs,” he said. Petroleum Administration President Nasser Hoteit gave a brief introduction ahead of the workshop highlighting the progress that has been made in this sector so far. “Out of the 52 companies that applied for prequalification, 46 were accepted out of which 12 can bid as operators and 34 as non-operators,” he said. He added that the sector would be capable of attracting investments from its inception and not after seven years. “These investments will facilitate the creation of small and medium enterprises which, in turn, will be translated into more job opportunities,” he said.

ISIS brings Saudi Arabia and Iran closer

Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The ISIS threat has brought Saudi Arabia and Iran closer together, and convinced the two rivals of the need to cooperate in order to face an “existential and strategic” menace to their countries, analysts and experts said. They also emphasized that Saudi-Iranian cooperation is crucial to confront the mounting threat posed by ISIS. The jihadist group has sent shockwaves across the entire world over the past few months following its significant military advances in Iraq and Syria, coupled with its brutal practices, namely the execution of its prisoners and the beheading of two American journalists.
A long-awaited rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran is a key tool to defuse sectarian tensions and long-simmering conflicts in the region, particularly in Syria and Iraq, analysts said.
“The ISIS threat has brought Iran and Saudi Arabia closer together and convinced them to engage in diplomacy in order to resolve lingering issues,” Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, told The Daily Star.
“I think Saudi-Iranian cooperation is very important in the battle to defeat ISIS. In order for them to successfully eliminate the ISIS threat, they need to agree on lingering regional issues, such as the situation in Yemen, Iraq and Syria,” he said.
“For Saudi Arabia, ISIS poses an existential threat, while ISIS poses a strategic threat for Iran in the region,” Khashan added. “ ISIS can have an appeal to a segment of the Saudi population, but it does not have such an appeal within the Iranian population.”
Sami Nader, a professor of economics and international relations at the Universite St. Joseph, echoed a similar view.
“A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement is fundamental to confront the Daesh threat in the region,” Nader told The Daily Star, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “For Saudi Arabia, ISIS poses an existential threat, while the militant group poses a strategic threat for Iran.”
“Both countries have shown a great deal of pragmatism in the attempt to cooperate to face the Daesh threat,” said Nader, also the director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs (LISA), a Beirut-based think-tank. “A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement is a master key to defuse conflicts in the region, namely in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Bahrain.”
Nader said that strained Saudi-Iranian ties were going through “détente” that could lead to the beginning of a rapprochement.
“For now, [the] détente is based on a single subject, which is a common threat posed by ISIS. Both countries are facing the Daesh threat. This is why the confrontation by their proxies in the region has calmed down,” he said.
Signs of a thaw in strained Saudi-Iranian relations emerged last month when Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian held an ice-breaking meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in the Saudi city Jeddah.
Abdollahian described the talks, which also covered the ISIS threat, as “positive and constructive.”
“Both sides emphasized the need to open a new page of political relations between the two countries,” he said after meeting Prince Saud.
Abdollahian is expected to visit Beirut next week as part of a tour that will also take him to Syria to brief officials in both countries on the new climate of understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a political source told The Daily Star.
Prince Saud has said he had invited his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to visit Saudi Arabia and was awaiting a reply. He said Iran is a neighboring country which can contribute to stability in the region.
Zarif said he was ready to visit Saudi Arabia and welcome Prince Saud in Tehran. Speaking at a news conference in Tehran Aug. 31, Zarif, commenting on Abdollahian’s talks in Jeddah, said: “ Iran is always eager to establish good relations with neighboring states and Saudi Arabia is the most important of these states. It is an important country at the Islamic world level and enjoys a wide role and influence.” He said Iran and Saudi Arabia have “common interests and are facing common threats.
“Extremism, violence and terrorism are the most important dangers facing the Islamic world,” he added.
Since he was elected as Iran’s president last year, Hassan Rouhani has said he would make it a top priority to mend frayed relations with Saudi Arabia.
The imminent détente between Riyadh and Tehran comes as U.S. President Barack Obama, with his NATO allies, is struggling to establish an international coalition to confront the ISIS threat.
The United States said Friday that it was forming a “core coalition” to battle ISIS militants in Iraq. Obama sought to use a NATO summit in Wales to enlist allied support in fighting the Islamist militants, but it is unclear how many nations might join the United States in the battle. A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would have ramifications across the Middle East, potentially cooling political and military struggles in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has long been suspicious of Iran’s influence in the region. Riyadh and other Gulf states have also been apprehensive of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Saudi-Iranian relations have been further strained by policy differences, particularly over the war in Syria, where the two countries support opposing sides. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors back rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad’s government, which is supported by Tehran. In Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iran also support opposing sides. While Saudi Arabia backs the Future Movement-led March 14 coalition, Iran supports the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance.
Speaker Nabih Berri and rival Lebanese politicians have said that improved Iranian-Saudi relations would result in breakthroughs in Lebanon and the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Berri expressed hope that renewal of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran would ward off terrorism threats facing the region. “I am counting on the Saudi-Iranian meeting to fight off the danger facing the region,” Berri was quoted as saying by lawmakers last week.
Shafik Masri, a professor of international law at the Lebanese University and the American University of Beirut, agreed that a Saudi-Iranian détente is pivotal to confronting the ISIS threat.
“A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement has not materialized yet. But there are intentions driven by an understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” Masri told The Daily Star. “The Saudi-Iranian understanding is seeking to address the region’s problems, beginning with the ISIS threat.”However, he said the fate of the Riyadh-Tehran understanding hinged on “the U.S. administration’s credibility in forming a regional and international coalition which was announced by President Obama to confront the ISIS threat.”
According to Masri, the popular upheavals that swept across the region, including the rise of ISIS, have brought Saudi Arabia and Iran to the conclusion that neither country can establish stability in the region alone.
“The two countries became convinced of the need to reach an understanding. ISIS constitutes a dual threat to both Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he said.
He added that among the results of the understanding was the political situation in Iraq, where Iran has ditched its ally, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and accepted a new prime minister.
Both Masri and Nader said an improvement in Saudi-Iranian ties would reflect positively on the situation in Lebanon by defusing sectarian tensions and clearing the way for the election of a president acceptable to both rival factions.
“The election of a new president in Lebanon signals that the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement is on the right track,” Nader said.
Khashan also said Saudi Arabia and Iran are working to contain sectarian tensions and prevent the situation in Lebanon from erupting into violence. “Saudi Arabia, Iran and the U.S. are working to prevent the crisis in Lebanon from exploding,” he said.

Minority report/Is the link between Assad and the Islamic State a Christian one?

By: Tony Badran
Published: 6/09/2014/Now Lebanon
Is the link between Assad and the Islamic State a Christian one?
For a long time, the conventional narrative about the rise of the Islamic State (IS) has been that the jihadist group owes its rise to financial support from Gulf donors. However, as it has been established over the past year, the IS had far more lucrative revenue streams, including from the sale of oil from the fields it has seized in eastern Syria. What’s more, the IS sold that oil back to the Assad regime. This financial dealing was but one aspect of the tacit, opportunistic understanding between Bashar al-Assad and the IS.
A report on Lebanese news site on Monday added more information to this angle, further denting the common wisdom regarding Assad and the IS. The report claimed to identify the middleman who handled the transactions between the regime and terrorist group. According to the site, the man is George Haswani, a Greek Catholic businessman from the town of Yabroud, near the Syrian border with Lebanon. The report claims that Haswani “was able to forge a relationship with the group that led to an understanding to transport crude from the fields it took over to regime areas, in return for cash and wire transfers, which he himself handled.”
Haswani’s name surfaced in late 2013/early 2014 in another mediatory role, namely the negotiation over the release of nuns then held by Jabhat al-Nusra in Yabroud. Reports at the time described Haswani as a businessman with “close ties to the Assad regime,” and “strong ties” to Assad personally.
A Syrian rebel commander told NPR’s Deborah Amos last year that Haswani “runs an oil and gas construction business with ties to Moscow.” In March, the Syrian pro-opposition website All4Syria provided more data on Haswani’s business and ties to Russia; information it said it obtained from someone who worked with him. Haswani was deputy general manager of the Banias refinery. He had studied in Russia, where he married his first wife. While in Russia, Haswani made contacts, “some of whom,” according to the website’s source, “had gone on to assume high-ranking positions in the Russian security establishment.” As a result, Haswani’s firm, HESCO Co., “secured contracts with Russian oil and gas firms, as well as in importing spare parts for Russian military vehicles and oil wells.” Haswani’s son-in-law, Yousef Arbash, runs his Moscow office. There, All4Syria’s report added, he works closely with Amjad Douba, nephew of former Military Intelligence chief Ali Douba, who has long been established in Moscow.
Specifically, HESCO is the subcontractor for Russian company Stroytransgaz. In an interview in June of last year, Arbash explained that HESCO has been “strategic partners” with the Russian firm, working on joint projects in Sudan, Algeria, the UAE and Iraq. Back then, HESCO had started working with Stroytransgaz to build a gas processing plant in Palmyra, which is supposed to be completed in the second half of 2014. The Russian company also signed a deal with the Syrian regime in June of this year for the first phase of an irrigation project for northeast Syria. The deal, valued at SYP30 billion ($194 million), is for the construction of a main pumping station in the Ain Diwar area, near the Turkish and Iraqi borders, to draw water from the Tigris River. Haswani was present at the signing, and confirmed moving forward with the Russian company as its subcontractor “on vital projects in Syria despite difficulties in implementation.”
In the Syrian context, the ability to land such contracts would situate Haswani in the class of cronies that the Assad family and its Makhlouf cousins have cultivated and tied to their rule. The All4Syria report also claimed that Haswani’s second marriage was to an Alawite woman from Lattakia “connected to the Assad family.” This could further explain his privileged status and closeness to the ruling family, as well as Assad’s confidence in him as a middleman.
If the allegation regarding Haswani’s role as Assad’s intermediary with the IS is true, then it turns the conventional narrative regarding Assad and the IS on its head. The regime’s line is that Assad constitutes the best hope for protecting minorities from the IS. However, it may well turn out that it was a Christian crony of the regime who facilitated its dealings with the IS and directly contributed to the growth of the group.
The claim about Haswani paints a picture of cynical dealings between two monsters, with a Christian middleman handling their mutually-beneficial business. This underscores the problem with a sectarian approach to US policy in Syria, especially one premised on supposed Christian solidarity. Certain high-profile Christian figures, including some in the clergy, have advocated, implicitly or explicitly, aligning with Assad under the pretext of protecting minorities against the predations of the IS. However, not only is their position suspect, but also, some may themselves turn out to be accomplices to both Assad and the Islamic State.
Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets @AcrossTheBay.

ISIS’s Billions
By: Mshari Al-Zaydi
Saturday, 6 Sep, 2014
There can be no collective action without organization; no organization without direction; no direction without control; and no control without proper financing.
Despite all the ideological, political and social discourse surrounding the rise of extremist groups and terrorism, there is another question that must be asked regarding where they are getting the money to finance their criminal activities across Iraq and Syria. This is not to mention the terrorist groups present in Yemen and the hardline extremist organizations that have a presence across North and sub-Saharan Africa. The sources of finance for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), for example, are well known, and the same goes for other terrorist organizations of its ilk. ISIS gets a large portion of its fund from sympathizers outside of Syria and Iraq, including through criminal organizations that put themselves forward as charities and NGOs. Then there is the ransoms paid to secure the release of foreign hostages. Following the execution of US journalist James Foley, it was revealed that ISIS had demanded 132 million US dollars to release him, so the kinds of figures that the group is paid in ransom is clear to see. ISIS has also endeavored to control oil and gas production in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, as well as factories and even accommodation services. ISIS is selling oil and gas on the black market, through Turkish and Kurdish intermediaries; this is perhaps the terrorist group’s biggest source of revenue. However ISIS is also selling oil products locally, with some reports estimating that it is able to secure revenue around 1.5 million US dollars per day from this.
The terrorist group has also outright stolen massive amounts of cash from banks in territory under their control, including the central Bank of Mosul. Estimates indicate that they could have obtained as much as 425 million US dollars from this brazen policy.
This is not to mention ISIS’s trades in weapons and military equipment; the group managed to get its hands on sophisticated arms and expensive military vehicles that were left behind by retreating Iraqi military units. Some of these sources of funding are beyond our ability to deal with, however we can address some issues. We must particularly be alert to the donations that ISIS receives from foreign sympathizers. In an infamous TV clip that has since gone viral, Kuwaiti Preacher Hajjaj Al-Ajami openly bragged that foreign governments are incapable of uncovering and stopping funding from being delivered to the Al-Nusra Front and similar groups in Syria.
There are billions of dollars—and this is not an exaggeration—being moved around around the world to fund terrorism and unfortunately this includes money from people who—either out of ignorance or a misplaced desire to do good—are supporting these criminal groups.
We must trace this funding, wherever it comes from and wherever it leads. If we are able to turn off the tap of this funding, terrorism and extremism will suffocate.

ISIS poses an impossible dilemma for Obama
By:Alon Pinkas/Ynetnews
Published: 09.05.14/Israel Opinion
Analysis: Can a strategy even be devised against a stateless, borderless or shapeless element?
If anyone had asked US President Barack Obama about ISIS in August 2013, he would have probably thought it was the acronym of an unfamiliar government agency or a rapper's stage name.
In the summer of 2013, the Western intelligence agencies failed to realize that an assortment of Sunni gangs, demanding their share in the crumbling Iraqi government and revenge against the Shiites, were uniting. What appeared on the intelligence screens as an amorphous ameba, moving aimlessly in no particular direction, turned into a monster which is very dangerous even if its size is overestimated. The al-Qaeda threat had also been downplayed until September 11, 2001. The map of terror organizations sketched by the American intelligence in the past year included global al-Qaeda and its different branches in Maghreb and the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab in Somalia, the remains of the Afghan Taliban, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Hamas in Gaza and, on the bench, Hezbollah in Lebanon. If anyone had told Obama at the time that a murderous, messianic Sunni militia with sociopathic characteristics would declare an Islamic caliphate in the Levant, he would have likely thought it was a simulation game.
Now think about the jolting August the American president experienced in 2014: The Iraqi government is collapsing, and American planes are attacking ISIS targets in the northern part of the country. Obama also ordered strikes within Syria. Israel and Hamas are waging a war in Gaza for nearly two months. Libya is disintegrating into anarchy. Russian President Vladimir Putin is still defying international pressure and threatening to invade eastern Ukraine.
And that's not all: The negotiations between the world powers and Iran over the nuclear issue are being resumed while the US has a shared interest with Iran against ISIS (as well as with, I hate to admit, Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime).
Obama is currently visiting the Baltic countries on his way to a NATO summit in Wales. On the surface, the key issue is the Russian crisis in Ukraine, but in practice all eyes are on ISIS. A week ago, Obama faced the world and said candidly what an American president should never say: "We don't have a strategy yet." Tactically, the Americans are carrying out efficient airstrikes against ISIS in northern and western Iraq, and quietly in Syria as well. But the main question remains unchanged: What is the strategy? And can a strategy even be devised, phrased and executed against a stateless, borderless or shapeless element like ISIS? This is a complicated dilemma, which is in fact impossible. And it is not necessarily advisable to formulate an overall strategy and an organized policy against the diversity, the uniqueness, the frequent changes and the instability created by the different crises in the Middle East in the past two years. The only strategy adopted by Obama in the past in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is a patient, uncompromising war, using a great amount of force against terror. This will be the policy against ISIS as well.
**Alon Pinkas served as Israel's consul-general in New York


Israel's next war will be fought on the northern front
Yossi Yehoshua /Ynetnews/Published: 09.06.14/ Israel Opinion
Op-ed: What worked in the fight against Hamas might not be enough in the fight against Nasrallah. To deal with 100,000 rockets and thousands of Hezbollah fighters gaining precious operational experience on the Syrian battlefields, the IDF needs a budget increase.
NIS 9 billion? NIS 11 billion? Perhaps just NIS 5 billion? It is unclear how high the addition to the defense budget is going to be. It is also not certain there is someone outside the defense establishment that could gauge the amount needed. But one thing is clear after the last war in Gaza: What happened, cannot repeat itself.
In the last four years the IDF hasn't had even one multi-year plan. The never-ending battle over the budget has forced the military to undertake only short-term plans, ones confined to one year ahead. That is why the army could not properly prepare its forces for the war. That is why it cannot save money by purchasing arms in bulk. The fight for the budget has harmed the IDF's preparedness for the war, and the army went into Gaza in near total shutdown.
The Gaza Strip, it's important to note, is the least grave of all of the threats Israel is facing. Just as several of the country's leaders buried their heads in the sand when it came to the threat of the tunnels, in the future, the fact we are not prepared to deal with a war on the northern border could blow up in our faces.
As Hezbollah grows stronger, and global terrorism is gaining traction, we can already see this challenge would be a much more serious. And no, this isn't just about the threat from Lebanon – it is one arena that includes two fronts: Both the land of cedars and Assad's domain. After 300 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria, it is obvious the Syrian president will return the favor.
Those who are closely familiar with the threats on that border and are familiar with the IDF's level of preparedness to these threats, should be very worried.
In addition to minimizing conscript units' trainings and cancelling training for reservist battalions - who make up the main fighting force in case of a war in the north - the army is also ill-equipped with protective tools.
Nowadays, the IDF has a very small amount of Namer armored personnel carriers (APC) that can provide proper protection. The rest are light M113 APCs (nicknamed Zelda), and we've already seen how safe they are in the APC disaster during Operation Protective Edge. Had the public known the numerical ratio between the Zeldas and the Namers, it would've been outraged.
In a war in Lebanon, these old APCs would turn into a real death trap when facing Hezbollah's advanced anti-tank missiles. Since the army only has a small amount of Trophy active protection systems (APS), many of the advanced APCs would be left exposed as well.
As far as aerial protection is concerned, the situation is not much better. The IDF currently has only nine Iron Dome batteries, and it is clear they won't be enough to protect Israel from the catastrophe of thousands of rockets launched at its population. The David's Sling missile defense system, which is capable of intercepting long-range rockets and missiles, will only become operational in over a year, and even then it'll have one main shortcoming: One interception would cost $1 million.
If we glance northward we'd see that Hezbollah is currently doing the complete opposite of Israel: It is arming itself, it's getting stronger and it's getting more advanced. This is according to high ranking officers in the Galilee Division, and Hezbollah experts in Army Intelligence. The organization armed itself with 100,000 rockets of different kinds, which are heavier, more accurate and can reach longer ranges than those Hezbollah used in 2006. Hezbollah's launching ability currently stands at 1,000 rockets a day - and Israel doesn't have an appropriate answer to counter that.
While our reservists, because of insufficient budget, were sitting in their living rooms instead of going to Tze'elim for training, Nasrallah has turned the Al-Qusayr area in Syria to his own Tze'elim.
Over 5,000 fighters and commanders are up to their necks in fighting in Syria at any given moment, gaining a lot of experience. Each of the organization's fighters had at least one tour in Syria, and learned how to fight in armed forces not unlike regular armies. Hezbollah fighters have also turned into Assad's top fighting forces, the ones that conduct the most sensitive missions. In addition, the organization's fighters have trained to improve launching of long-range rockets, which are considered critical for their next war against Israel. In fact, in the past three years, Hezbollah fighters have underwent training under fire - the dream of any combatant organization.
In the past, Narasallah promised that next time, he would take over the Galilee. To achieve that, Hezbollah doesn't even need tunnels. It's enough for its special forces to cross the border and take over one of the Israeli communities.
The Northern Command knows the Hezbollah leader's warnings are serious, and because of that, the Command dramatically changed its battle plan, adding defensive elements to it. Just like in Gaza, except that in the north, the challenge is that much harder.
There are those who say Hezbollah has no interest in starting a war tomorrow morning. The organization has its hands full fighting in Syria, they explain, while ISIS and other jihadist groups challenge it inside Lebanon.
But even if the opening shot of the war in the north is still a way off, it's important to see the full picture – Hezbollah is building up its strength as IDF troops get rusty.
A senior officer in the General Staff, one who is considered level-headed, is saying Israel must wake up. According to him, if the ground forces are not strong enough, they'll run into trouble in the north.
So what's the solution? The army will have to use the additions to the budget to train the reservists. The IDF also needs to allocate funds to the acquisition of the most advanced systems and tools, and perhaps finally setting up a multi-year plan for arming.
In the same spirit, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Thursday that "We must not get to a situation in which, in a few years from now, we'll look back and say with regret that not investing in security was an irresponsible move that we've paid a heavy price for."
Additionally, the army will have to alter the perception that leans solely on aerial attacks and intelligence and neglects the ground forces - a perception that turned out to be wrong in the Gaza war. To bridge those gaps, the IDF will have to immediately transfer budgets from the Air Force to the Ground Force. Major-generals in the General Staff have been publicly saying the army could, for example, give up some of the 19 F-35 stealth fighter planes it had ordered and have yet to arrive. Each of these F-35 planes costs $140 million, and the money saved should be allocated to the army's immediate and urgent needs. The IDF can still deal with threats with only 15 stealth fighter planes, but without ground forces - it won't end well.

ISIS poses an impossible dilemma for Obama

By:Alon Pinkas/Ynetnews
Published: 09.05.14/Israel Opinion
Analysis: Can a strategy even be devised against a stateless, borderless or shapeless element? If anyone had asked US President Barack Obama about ISIS in August 2013, he would have probably thought it was the acronym of an unfamiliar government agency or a rapper's stage name. In the summer of 2013, the Western intelligence agencies failed to realize that an assortment of Sunni gangs, demanding their share in the crumbling Iraqi government and revenge against the Shiites, were uniting. What appeared on the intelligence screens as an amorphous ameba, moving aimlessly in no particular direction, turned into a monster which is very dangerous even if its size is overestimated. The al-Qaeda threat had also been downplayed until September 11, 2001.
The map of terror organizations sketched by the American intelligence in the past year included global al-Qaeda and its different branches in Maghreb and the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab in Somalia, the remains of the Afghan Taliban, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Hamas in Gaza and, on the bench, Hezbollah in Lebanon. If anyone had told Obama at the time that a murderous, messianic Sunni militia with sociopathic characteristics would declare an Islamic caliphate in the Levant, he would have likely thought it was a simulation game.
Now think about the jolting August the American president experienced in 2014: The Iraqi government is collapsing, and American planes are attacking ISIS targets in the northern part of the country. Obama also ordered strikes within Syria. Israel and Hamas are waging a war in Gaza for nearly two months. Libya is disintegrating into anarchy. Russian President Vladimir Putin is still defying international pressure and threatening to invade eastern Ukraine.
And that's not all: The negotiations between the world powers and Iran over the nuclear issue are being resumed while the US has a shared interest with Iran against ISIS (as well as with, I hate to admit, Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime).
Obama is currently visiting the Baltic countries on his way to a NATO summit in Wales. On the surface, the key issue is the Russian crisis in Ukraine, but in practice all eyes are on ISIS. A week ago, Obama faced the world and said candidly what an American president should never say: "We don't have a strategy yet." Tactically, the Americans are carrying out efficient airstrikes against ISIS in northern and western Iraq, and quietly in Syria as well. But the main question remains unchanged: What is the strategy? And can a strategy even be devised, phrased and executed against a stateless, borderless or shapeless element like ISIS? This is a complicated dilemma, which is in fact impossible. And it is not necessarily advisable to formulate an overall strategy and an organized policy against the diversity, the uniqueness, the frequent changes and the instability created by the different crises in the Middle East in the past two years. The only strategy adopted by Obama in the past in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is a patient, uncompromising war, using a great amount of force against terror. This will be the policy against ISIS as well.
**Alon Pinkas served as Israel's consul-general in New York

Kurdish fighters retake territories seized by Islamic State
Ynetnews/Published: 09.06.14/Israel News
By: Roi Kais
While US president Obama says NATO allies agree to take on Islamic State threat, Kurdish forces continue operations on ground, recapture villages from grip of ISIS militants in Iraq's Mosul province. It is a duty of everybody who loves democracy and freedom and human rights to struggle against the terrorists," CNN quoted Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Shaways, a Kurd, as saying.In recent weeks, the US conducted 131 air strikes against Islamic State targets and has sent military advisers to help Iraq battle ISIS.
Jordanian crisis management cell. Meanwhile, a senior Jordanian government official told the Al-Hayat newspaper on Saturday that the country would establish a crisis management cell that will attempt to deal with the possible threat ISIS could pose to Jordan.
The official said that the Council of Ministers, headed by King Abdullah, selected Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour to head the group, which will be composed of representatives from all political and security institutions in the country.
According to the minister, the cell is supposed to "operate in efforts to improve and reformulate strategies to combat terrorism. Plans will be laid out, offering methods of dealing with extremist elements and combating them in the political, security, social and ideological arenas."
He added that the "increasing influence of the jihadist factions in the region is the driving force behind the establishment of the cell. We will use all measures in our power to monitor the extremist factions and protect us from their extremist ideologies."
The paper reported that the idea for the establishment of the cell came after security reports surfaced showing that the number of Jordanian jihadists has grown from 1,200 to 7,000 in the past two years, including 2,500 who are fighting in Syria.
According to the paper, Jordanian police forces arrested 100 Jordanians who expressed support for the Islamic State group. Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani told the newspaper that "there are ongoing contacts between Jordan and other countries in an attempt to tackle the regional challenges, particularly those posed by the terrorist organizations."
NATO allies take on ISIS threat
With the Islamic State militants spreading across eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, President Barack Obama noted on Friday that the moderate Syrian rebels fighting both the group and the government of Bashar Assad are "outgunned and outmanned." In addition to the action pledged by fellow NATO leaders, he pressed Arab allies to reject the "nihilism" projected by the group.
Obama at NATO summit
The new NATO coalition will be able to mount a sustained effort to push back the militants, Obama said. The US secretaries of State and Defense, meeting with their counterparts at the international gathering, insisted the Western nations build a plan by the time the UN General Assembly meets this month.
"I did not get any resistance or pushback to the basic notion that we have a critical role to play in rolling back this savage organization that is causing so much chaos in the region and is harming so many people and poses a long-term threat to the safety and security of NATO members," Obama said at the summit conclusion. "So there's great conviction that we have to act, as part of the international community, to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, and that was extremely encouraging."
Laying out a strategy for Iraq, Obama hinted at a broader military campaign, likening it to the way US forces pushed back al-Qaeda along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, taking out the group's leadership, shrinking its territory and pounding at its militant followers. To do that, the US used persistent airstrikes, usually by CIA drones.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
Kurdish forces backed by American warplanes made significant advances against Islamic State fighters in Iraq's Mosul province on Friday, CNN reported, while US President Barack Obama declared that a new NATO coalition will be able to mount a sustained effort to push back the militants.
According to the report, Kurdish fighters, known as the Peshmerga, recaptured several villages that were seized by ISIS over the past summer, as well as a plain that overlooks Mosul, Iraq's second largest city that is currently under the control of the extreme Islamist group.

Aharonovitch: Lieberman will be Israel's next prime minister
By: Ilana Curiel /Published: 09.06.14/ Israel News/Ynetnews
Although Netanyahu already announced his intentions to run for prime minister in next elections, one of his senior ministers has already identified a successor.
"Avigdor Lieberman will be Israel's next prime minister," Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Saturday morning at a culture event in Be'er Sheva, later clarifying his statement: "He will be a future prime minister – he's the kind of leader who can lead this country." "I don't see any elections in the near future. However if elections will be held, I am sure that Yisrael Beiteinu will grow in strength," explained Aharonovitch, a member of Foreign Minister Lieberman's party. Just recently, Netanyahu – who ran on a joint list with Lieberman in the previous elections – said that he planned to run for prime minister in the next elections. During the event, Aharonovitch also spoke about Operation Protective Edge and the possibility of defeating Hamas: "We gained broad legitimacy from the international community." "Had we went inside (the Gaza Strip), we would have been able to complete the task. The criticism should not be directed to the IDF or the Chief of Staff, but rather to the diplomats, the cabinet and the government. The IDF was acting on orders it received from the political echelon," Aharonovitch said. The Internal Security Minister was also asked about the recently announced budget cuts and the military's request for significant hike in the 2015 defense budget. "I'm not entirely at ease with these figures," he said, referring to the addition to the defense budget, and preferred to focus on his office instead: "The more relevant question that needs to be asked has to do with internal security. Why would we need less officers and police cars on the streets? They cut two percent, NIS 66 million."
"The demands of the security establishment are excessive," Aharonovitch added. "They did the easy thing – made budget cuts everywhere except the defense budget." Aharonovitch also stated that in his view, it is best not to harm ministries that provide personal security, health and education. "The budget cuts harm the security of the citizens of Be'er Sheva and Kiryat Shomna." Earlier this week, the security cabinet convened in Jerusalem to discuss the financial consequences of Operation Protective Edge, as the government prepared for the negotiations over the 2015 budget. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz briefed the assembled ministers on the costs of the operation, which he said stood at 9 billion shekels. Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon presented the security establishment's needs and goals for 2015, which they claimed to require a budget injection of 11 billion shekels. The presentation spurred fierce debate between Ya'alon and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who opposes any additional defense funding beyond the already-budgeted 52 billion shekels.
The cabinet meeting did not end with a vote on the topic, meaning further deliberations are expected in the coming days.

Question: "How can I know how to properly worship God?"
Answer: Worship can be defined as the act of honoring and loving a deity, idol or person in a “selfless” manner. The act of worship involves the total self in giving praise, thanksgiving and reverence to that deity, person or material object. It is not a half-hearted affair, and it is only after we distinguish between that which is and isn’t worship, with regards to the divine objective, that we can begin to answer the above question more fully. True, biblical worship, as defined by the scholar A. W. Pink (1886 – 1952) in his exposition of the gospel of John, says this: “It is a redeemed heart, occupied with God, expressing itself in adoration and thanksgiving.” Likewise, A. W. Tozer, once regarded as a prophet of the 20th century, said, “True worship is to be so personally and hopelessly in love with God, that the idea of a transfer of affection never even remotely exists.”
So, the true worship of God is distinguished by the following criteria: first, it comes from the redeemed heart of a man or woman who has been justified before God by faith and who is trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of sins. How can one worship the God of heaven if his sin has not been dealt with? Never can that worship be acceptable that proceeds from an unregenerate heart where Satan, self and the world hold sway (2 Timothy 2:26; 1 John 2:15). Any worship, other than that from a “washed” heart, is vain.
Second, true worship of God comes from a heart that desires Him alone. This was precisely where the Samaritan people erred; they sought to worship both God and idols (2 Kings 17:28-41), and this is reaffirmed by the Lord Jesus Christ when He discourses on the subject of true worship with the Samaritan woman who came to fetch water from the well. “You Samaritans worship what you do not know” (John 4:22). These people worshipped God “half-heartedly” because their total affection was not set on God. It is possible for even true believers to fall into this second error. We might not assent to having physical idols, like the Samaritans did, but what absorbs our will, our time, our resources most of all? Is it careers, material possessions, money, health, even our families? Let us cry out, like King David in Psalm 63:5, “My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips, my mouth will praise you.” Nothing less than God should satisfy the heart of the regenerate man, and his response to that divine satisfaction, comparable to the best food ever, is the fruit of lips that sing God’s praise (Hebrews 13:15).
Third, true worship of God is the desire to continue to build up our knowledge of God. How we have lost that desire in these days! Apart from the Bible, which we should be reading daily, we need to supplement our knowledge by reading other good books, too. We need to fill our minds constantly with the things of God; God should always be on our mind, and everything we do should be done with reference to Him (Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31). It is interesting that the Greek word for “worship” in Romans 12:1 can also mean “service.” So, our daily lives should also be considered as worship. Every day we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. The church is supposed to be “squeezing” the world into its own mold, the mold of Jesus Christ, but too often it’s the other way around.
Let us purify our hearts if we really want to worship the triune God in spirit and in truth. Our God is holy; He is altogether “Other,” a God who cannot share us with other objects of our affection. Indeed, a God who WILL not share us, for the sake of His holiness. We were made to be worshipping creatures, but the Fall has crippled and ruined us. Worship is the most natural thing for man, but until we are restored to God through the sacrifice of His dear Son, then all our worship is but a vain thing. It is as “strange fire” before the altar (Leviticus 10:1).



The IS-Kurdish War
by Jonathan Spyer/The National Post

[original National Post title: "An Ominous Silence: Armies at a stalemate as ISIS battles toward a Kurdish capital swollen with refugees"]

Kurdish peshmerga fighting to retake Mosul dam last month
"Eighty years ago, they joined three nations together and formed Iraq. This mistake must not be repeated … The solution is a breakup," says General Maghdid Haraki.
The Kurdish peshmerga officer is speaking from the front lines in Khazar, northern Iraq. His position is only 45 kilometres northwest of Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish regional government (KRG), which along with Sunni and Shiite Arab lands makes up modern Iraq.
Today, not only the existence of Iraq is in jeopardy. So is the existence of the KRG itself, assailed by the Islamic State of Iraq & Al-Sham (ISIS), whose harsh brand of Islam is terrifying locals and appalling the world.
A single war between ISIS and the Kurds is now under way, stretching along an enormous front line from Jalawla, near the Iraq-Iran border, all the way to Jarabulus on the frontier between Syria and Turkey.
On the jihadi side of the line, the Iraqi-Syrian border no longer exists. ISIS now controls huge swaths of Syria and Iraq, and will continue to do so unless and until it is destroyed.
After their lightning advance from Mount Sinjar in early August, the jihadis have dug in on three sides of Erbil. Facing them are Gen. Haraki and the peshmerga.
The front lines are quiet for now, mainly because U.S. air strikes Aug. 8 stemmed the Islamists' headlong rush toward the Kurdish capital. But the general and his men know the quiet is likely to be only transient.
To reach Erbil, ISIS forces would have to advance over bare, flat ground. Were they to attempt this, the Kurds would request the help of the Americans and the ISIS force would be obliterated. ISIS knows this, too. Hence the strange and sullen silence.
Nevertheless, Erbil remains tense. The city is swollen with refugees — Chaldean Christians from Mosul, Yezidis from the Sinjar area — who understand all too well what any jihadi advance would mean for them, non-Muslim minorities who were smart or lucky enough to get away in time.
They are living in tent encampments in open areas of Erbil and in the half-built grey structures that characterize this place, which had the feel of a boom town until fairly recently.
Now, the bars and restaurants catering for foreigners are largely empty. Employees of the big foreign oil firms and consular staff left hurriedly when the jihadis seemed to be about to descend. Many residents also fled.
ISIS has not forgotten Erbil. A terror campaign has begun here. There are mysterious explosions of a type familiar to residents of Iraqi cities further south. Last week, a car bomb ripped through a central neighbourhood, wounding several people.
But Kurdish forces are hunkering down, facing the jihadis with grim determination. With the help of U.S. air cover and Iraqi special fores, they are beginning to reconquer some of the areas lost. Most significantly, these include oilfields near Mosul, retaken this week, and the Mosul Dam, which provides water and electricity for much of northern Iraq.
The Kurds are well aware of what an ISIS victory would mean. After the jihadis took the Mount Sinjar area (Shinghal in Kurdish), they unleashed a series of atrocities that shocked even this most hardened of lands.
At the fly-blown Newroz refugee camp in northern Syria, Yezidi refugees described what happened when ISIS fighters appeared in their villages near the mountain and the peshmerga fled.
"We tried to withdraw all the women and kids from the village. People who could get to the mountains were safe, people who stayed were killed," said Kawa, 30, who was lucky enough to escape with some of his family.
The refugees' bitterness at their abandonment by the peshmerga remains raw and palpable. But still more tangible is the sense of stark horror as they recall the jihadis' actions.
"When ISIS came to the village, they took all the women, and any man who could hold a weapon was slaughtered. Now they are selling Yezidi women for $5 in the slave market in Mosul," Kawa says.
"My parents were too old and sick to come with us, and we had to leave them. We don't know what has happened to them. Also, some people didn't have fuel for their cars, and those ones couldn't get to the mountain."
The man and his family were among the lucky ones, rescued by members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Turkish Kurds, who led them to safety in Syria.
The peshmerga's failure to hold the line at Sinjar was a shock, both for observers and inhabitants of Kurdish northern Iraq. Gen. Haraki blames it on the help afforded ISIS by local Sunni Arabs.
In this regard, at least, he is in agreement with the refugees at Newroz.
"Our neighbours in Iraq became our enemies, and killed us," says Kawa's wife.
But the peshmerga's initial failure was not only the product of local Sunni support for ISIS. These once-vaunted fighters had not taken part in combat for 20 years. Deprived of modern equipment by the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad and the West, which remains suspicious of Kurdish separatist ambitions, they found themselves outgunned and initially outfought by the jihadi blitzkrieg.
But, as the refugees' testimony suggests, other Kurdish forces appeared at Mount Sinjar mountain — the ragged and formidable fighters of the Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Units) militia from Syria and PKK guerrillas from Turkey.
Armed only with Kalashnikovs and light machine guns, but with much combat experience, these fighters succeeded in opening a road from Sinjar up to Jezza, Rumeilan and then to the refugee camp outside Derik. Tens of thousands of lives may have been saved because of this action.
The YPG and ISIS are old acquaintances. The Kurds have been battling the jihadis since late 2012 to maintain two Kurdish-controlled enclaves on the border between Syria and Turkey, Jazeera and Kobani.
ISIS has been notably unsuccessful in its efforts to make progress in this little-reported front of the Syrian war.
The opening of the corridor from Mount Sinjar was the most notable achievement yet for the YPG/PKK.
It indicates that, for all their undoubted fanaticism, the jihadis are not invincible and can be turned back when met by equal commitment and greater skill.
On the Kurdish side, the peshmerga and the YPG, and their very different political masters are for now allied in the face of the common threat. They sense both threat and opportunity in the break-up of Syria and Iraq.
The threat can be seen 45 km outside of the KRG capital, in the silent but glowering positions of the Islamic State.
The opportunity, meanwhile, is that Kurdish sovereignty has already emerged as a more benign successor entity in a contiguous line across the old border — and Kurdish forces are today the only ones engaged in earnest against a savage force universally acknowledged to constitute an enemy of humanity.
Gen. Haraki's statement a break-up of Iraq represents the solution may well be heard more widely and insistently in the months ahead. This is a war to create new borders, and to hold back the advance of a savagery not seen in the Middle East for a generation.
**Jonathan Spyer, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is a Jerusalem-based journalist and researcher.