LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For
Today/Everyone Who Sins is a Slave of Sin
John 08/31-37: “So Jesus said to those who believed in him, “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “We are the descendants of Abraham,” they answered, “and we have never been anybody’s slaves. What do you mean, then, by saying, ‘You will be free’?” Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there forever. If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are trying to kill me, because you will not accept my teaching
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 15 and 16/14
The propaganda of the American-Iranian dispute/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/September 16/14
Iran is now the player everybody wants on their team/Camelia Entekhabi-Fard /Al Arabiya/September 16/14
Obama’s last chance to regain his credibility/Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya/September 16/14
Iran is now the player everybody wants on their team
Turkey's New Government: Old Wine in a New Bottle/By: Burak Bekdil/The Gatestone Institute/September 16/14
In Turkey, It is Better to be Sorry than Safe – Again/By Burak Bekdil/Hürriyet Daily News/September 15 and 16/14
Iran is taking aim at the anti-ISIS coalition/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/September 16/14
Shameless power play/The Daily Star/September 16/14
Lebanese Related News published on September 15 and 16/14
Bassil, Kerry focus on Lebanon in terror fight
Lebanon rejects Syria’s cooperation against ISIS
Lebanon needs $1B to help refugee host communities
ISIS proves 'great need' to remain in Syria: Hezbollah
Daylong blackout frays nerves in Lebanon
Lebanon likely to play defense role in ISIS fight
Rival blocs file to run in unlikely elections
Refugee crisis hinders Lebanon development
Jumblatt urges Cabinet to reinstate draft
Towns solve power problem privately
Achkar: Hotel revenues down 60 percent
Lebanon's blackout begins to ease
Hezbollah: We Won't Leave Syria
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 15 and 16/14
'Israel Might Have to Strike Iran at Any Moment'
ISIS withdrawing from Anbar: Local official
Without Iran, world leaders tackle ISIS
UN pulling out peacekeepers from Syrian side of Golan Heights
Obama threatens to hit Assad air defenses: report
UN nuclear chief suggests little headway in Iran probe
Brotherhood figures expelled from Qatar likely going to Turkey and Malaysia: source
Iraq wins military support pledge against ISIS
Libyan Haftar forces seek Benghazi port closure to deny
arms to Islamists
Kurdish fighters advance on jihadis in Syria
Muslim Brotherhood leader Badie sentenced to life in jail
Egypt says it will boost security at tourist sites
Israeli Arabs overwhelmingly deny support for Islamic State
UN pulling out peacekeepers from Syrian side of Golan Heights
Can Qatar-Funded American Mediators be Trusted?
Lebanon rejects Syria’s cooperation against ISIS
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon has rejected the idea of cooperating with the Syrian government against ISIS, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said. “The Lebanese government has received advice to [help] cooperate with the Syrian regime in its fight against extremist militants spread on the highlands of the border town of Arsal,” Machnouk said in remarks published Monday. “The Lebanese government rejected this advice,” he told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat. achnouk warned that a new round of clashes could be sparked with the beginning of winter, as militants would be forced to return to Syria. He said that Hezbollah “hopes the Lebanese Army will take over the task of removing the militants from Arsal and its outskirts, so they could focus on building a line of defense along the eastern Lebanese border to stop ISIS’ expansion." The Lebanese Army fought five days of deadly gunbattles with extremist militants affiliated with ISIS and Nusra Front in Arsal last month.
Bassil, Kerry focus on Lebanon in terror fight
Mirella Hodeib/The Daily Star
PARIS: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil discussed with his American counterpart John Kerry Monday the role Lebanon would play as part of a global coalition to fight terror and the nature of the assistance Washington could provide to help the country combat terrorism on its territories. During a meeting on the sidelines of a Paris conference on peace and stability in Iraq, Bassil and Kerry discussed the “circumstances and factors” that shape Lebanon’s engagement in the war against terror, the Lebanese foreign minister told The Daily Star.
They also deliberated on the “political and intellectual role Lebanon could play in the fight against terrorism as well as the assistance the United States could provide to help Lebanon root out extremists based on its territories,” Bassil added.
During a meeting in Jeddah last week, the U.S won backing from 10 Arab countries, including Lebanon, for a coalition to fight the Sunni militants who have seized swaths of Iraq and Syria.
On the sidelines of the Paris meeting, Bassil held talks with several foreign ministers including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Italian Foreign Minister Frederica Mogherini, who is expected to assume her post as the new EU foreign policy chief this fall. Diplomatic sources told The Daily Star that the 25-minute meeting with Kerry was “very positive and very cooperative,” with the U.S. official saluting Lebanon’s engagement in the war against ISIS and the Nusra Font, in addition to Al-Qaeda.
“Washington is very much aware of the Lebanese position and understands the sensitivities,” a source said. According to the sources, the Bassil-Kerry meeting discussed all issues related to Lebanon with a special focus on the war on terror. The U.S. also pledged continued aid to the Lebanese Army. The two foreign ministers underlined that the fight against terrorism was a global act that must respect international law and United Nations conventions, the sources said. They added that Bassil avoided raising the issue of the $3 billion Saudi grant to the Lebanese Army that has yet to materialize due to delays in finalizing a deal between Riyadh and Paris, which will provide the weapons.
“Minister Bassil deliberately did not bring up the issue because he wants to do his utmost to encourage the deal to be brokered swiftly and smoothly,” a source said.
French President Francois Hollande also pledged support to the Lebanese Army and underlined the need to preserve Lebanon’s unity, security and sovereignty in light of ISIS threats. Addressing the foreign ministers of more than 24 states during the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq, Bassil outlined immediate, short term- and long-term measures required to effectively and efficiently counter terrorism. The immediate reinforcement of the capabilities of the Lebanese Army is one of the urgent requirements in the fight against terror. Bassil argued that buttressing the abilities of the Lebanese Army is a main prerequisite to avoid Iraq-like scenarios in Lebanon. “ Lebanon has been a pioneer in the fight against sectarianism and terrorism and its troops have every single time proven their professionalism and patriotism,” Bassil said.
“In addition,” he added, “their [the Army’s] weapons never fell in the hands of allies or enemies.”According to Bassil, time was pressing and acting on eradicating ISIS and the like was a matter of utmost urgency. “There is a need to act collectively and swiftly.”
Bassil highlighted that Lebanon would be part of an international front fighting ISIS. “Let’s work for the humanist values to prevail, so that dialogue and tolerance take over violence, hatred, sectarianism and the rejection of the other. Let’s help Lebanon be a lever for our action rather than a burden,” he told his counterparts.Bassil argued that United Nations Security Council Resolution 2170 of Aug. 15 provides a good basis for future action against extremist groups. He said any plan of action against global terrorism should be an “inclusive initiative, the largest possible, endorsed and overseen by the U.N.” “This action will be political, judicial, military and humanitarian,” he said. Bassil also called on foreign ministers attending the talks to endorse “in whichever manner they deem appropriate” Lebanon’s bid at the International Criminal Court to bring to justice terrorists hailing from countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute.
Sources close to Bassil said Lebanon’s initiative received the endorsement of several foreign ministers, mainly Jean-Arthur Regibeau of Belgium. Bassil called for the establishment of judicial cooperation protocols between countries to track, identify and bring terrorists to justice. He underlined the need to cut all channels of financing to terrorists and their patrons. For Bassil, the global strategy to combat ISIS requires operating on three central axes. These include the massive implication of aerial forces in accordance with and respect of international laws, an engagement by legitimate governments, national armies and communities to fight terror and the creation of internal dialogue processes in each of the countries to preserve unity, territorial integrity and stability while respecting principles of democratic and liberty. “In addition, initiating political and religious dialogue to eliminate divergences and defuse tensions within our societies and countries,” Bassil said. Also, Bassil argued that protecting religious minorities and anchoring them in the region should constitute an integral part of the coalition’s efforts. “To passively tolerate their [minorities] immigration and their departure to the West is as dangerous as some countries facilitating the influx of foreign militants into Middle Eastern countries,” he said.
“Protecting the youth from misleading ISIS propaganda is key,” he said. “In the long run,” he added, “the reform of our school curriculums in a bid to develop tolerance is more crucial than ever.”
“The multiplication of projects to modernize the economy in the hope of paving the way for sustainable development [is essential],” he added. “Combating poverty goes hand in hand with combating terrorism.”
Refugee crisis hinders Lebanon development
Justin Salhani/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: In the face of the the Syrian refugee crisis, Lebanon is failing to meet vital national development goals related to female empowerment, the environment and poverty, a report unveiled at the Grand Serail Monday showed. “A third of the population is below the poverty line,” said Zeina Abla, who presented the Lebanon Millennium Development Goals Report for the years 2013-14. “[This statistic] increased under the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis.” Since the start of the civil war in neighboring Syria over three-and-a-half years ago, more than 1.2 million refugees have resettled in Lebanon. Slightly smaller in size than the U.S. state of Connecticut, Lebanon now hosts more refugees per capita than any other country on earth. “[The Syrian refugee crisis is] the highest burden on a country since the 1980s according to UNHCR,” Abla said. “It cannot be ignored.” Abla also called for better integration of international aid with “self-aid,” saying Lebanon needed international help but also had to properly implement policies to help meet its developmental goals. She highlighted strategies that could be used to achieve this, such as institution building, changing the current cliental and sectarian government policies, and increasing the accountability of all institutions. It wasn’t all bad, as Lebanon has met its goals in literacy rates, family and universal education, and decreasing child mortality rates, the report noted, but the country has also fallen in many other areas. Randa Hamade, representing the Health Ministry, noted a gap between local and international policy. She stressed that certain changes were needed with regard to health care, including an increase in the role of municipalities, community partnership and integration, wider access to medical centers, and greater local awareness of what is available. Lebanon currently has 200 primary health care centers, of which 67 percent are run by NGOs, according to Hamade. As with everything in Lebanon, the Syrian refugee crisis has also affected the ability of primary health care centers to function properly and provide full services as they struggle to deal with hundreds of thousands of extra people seeking medical assistance. Hamade also mentioned the current security situation, which has led to a number of setbacks in all sectors as the country’s attention has been shifted to car bombs, rocket attacks, and border infiltrations. “Security is always a concern,” she said.
To try and improve coordination between ministries and local communities in order to meet the country’s development goals, four ministries have signed a memorandum of understanding with the UNDP. The MoU was signed by the ministries of Health, Social Affairs, Education and Interior. “[This MOU] is for places with needs,” said Helen Clark, visiting UNDP Administrator and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, during the event. She added that “strength in local government and community engagement delivers better results for people.”Clark noted that before the Syrian war, around 28 percent of the population was living on below $4 a day – well below the poverty line in Lebanon. Today, that figure is over 33 percent, largely due to the influx of refugees – an influx Clark noted was “the largest per capita host of anywhere in the world.” Clark earlier met Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail, where she spoke of UNDP’s commitment to continuing and expanding its projects in the country. According to a statement by the prime minister’s office, Clark talked about Lebanon’s serious need for structural development as a way to both enhance growth and reduce unemployment and poverty. “Enhancing efforts in this direction has become an urgent need in light of the harsh challenges Lebanon is facing due to the Syrian crisis and the flow of refugees into its territory,” she said. Salam echoed Clark, highlighting the importance of implementing projects that target Lebanon’s poorest areas, which are currently hosting a disproportionately high number of Syrian refugees. The prime minister said his office had completed “a list of urgent projects submitted by several ministries that could be used to help and support Lebanon.”During the meeting Salam thanked the UNDP for supporting Lebanon over the years with wide and effective projects in the areas of administrative reform, as well as social and economic development. He also spoke of the need to establish a comprehensive approach to initiate sustainable growth for the country in harmony with the millennium goals set by UNDP.
Lebanon needs $1B to help refugee host communities
Elias Sakr| The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon is in need of close to $1 billion to finance urgent projects aimed at supporting host communities that are reeling under the increasing burden of around 1.6 million Syrian refugees, a senior Lebanese government representative told The Daily Star.Shadi Karam, the representative of the government on the steering committee of a World Bank-supervised multi-donor trust fund (MDTF) for Lebanon, says he expects money to start flowing into the fund now that its work mechanism has been officially ratified by the Cabinet. The Cabinet, which appointed Karam as its representative on the MDTF steering committee last April, officially ratified in mid-August the fund’s work mechanism. Three countries so far have made donations – Finland, Norway and France – that totaled 7 million euros ($10 million). Karam, who has been following up on the issue of displaced Syrians in Lebanon since 2011 in his previous capacity as senior economic adviser to former President Michel Sleiman, says it would be difficult to predict the timeline of fundraising but expects it to gain pace in the near future. “The timeline can be very difficult to predict. History and experience has taught us that fundraising goes by bouts. It goes up very quickly and then slows down due to donor fatigue before picking up again,” he says.
“We need close to $1 billion to start making a difference,” Karam adds. Following the end of Sleiman’s tenure in May of this year, Karam assumed the same duties alongside Prime Minister Tammam Salam and has continued to frequently meet diplomats in Beirut and abroad. He says several donor countries have made pledges to help Lebanon restore economic stability and boost economic growth to pre-crisis levels. “I think now that the ball is rolling. It is hopefully going to snowball.”
Donor countries are more likely to commit funds to support Lebanon in 2015 as opposed to 2014, Karam says, since governments start appropriating budgets in September after the summer recess. “This is why we had everything ready before countries start with their budgeting exercise.” A meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISGL) scheduled for Sept. 26 in New York will be crucial in terms of reiterating support for the Lebanese government in light of the recent game-changing events in Iraq, Karam adds, referring to the military gains made by ISIS. The alarming situation in Iraq and Syria as a result of the threat posed by ISIS should help international and regional powers mitigate political complications and could lead to an opening that reflects positively on Lebanon, Karam explains.
“ Lebanon is convening under the same roof several parties that are in disagreement,” Karam says of the ISGL meeting that brings together permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the European Union and the Arab League.
“In light of recent regional and local security developments, the international community needs to pump money quickly to support Lebanon,” Karam says, but stresses that the ISGL meeting shouldn’t be regarded as a fundraising event in itself, though it often serves as a support platform for future fundraising. Almost a year has passed since ISGL’s first meeting in New York Sept. 25, 2013, that was followed by two conferences in Paris in March and in Rome in June.
The first meeting in New York paved the way for the establishment of the MDTF, Karam says.
During the meeting the World Bank submitted, upon the request of the Lebanese government, an assessment on the impact of the Syrian conflict on the Lebanese economy.
“A lot of the merit has to be given to the World Bank that produced nothing short of a small miracle because they came out with a remarkably well prepared document in a miraculously short period of two months. It would normally take six to nine months to produce such a document,” Karam says. “This document was instrumental to convince world powers that Lebanon needed massive and urgent help.”
The report said the Syrian crisis had depressed government revenue collection by some $1.5 billion while increasing state expenditures by $1.1 billion, with a total fiscal impact of $2.6 billion over three-year period from 2012 to 2014.
According to Karam, the World Bank’s assessment focused on the economic needs of the Lebanese host communities following efforts that were first directed to provide humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees.
Since then, Karam and his team, in cooperation with the Finance Ministry, have been adapting the road map that was adopted in 2013 to fit today’s changing environment and realities. “We have reworked the previous road map to address urgent and necessary projects, mainly on the short- to medium-term projects because the host communities are under five times more pressure than they were in 2013,” Karam says. The increased pressure on host communities is raising the possibility of social tensions between them and displaced Syrians, according to Karam, who says the government gave priority to immediately feasible projects. “For example, if we had to choose between a project that requires the government to expropriate land and another that doesn’t, we favor the second. In other words, we are adopting an open-architecture arrangement in line with the vision of the government and urgent needs.”The government has recently approved a major project aimed at helping 11 municipal federations across Lebanon invest in developmental projects ranging from water treatment, electricity distribution and education, among other services, Karam says. The MDTF comprises a steering and a technical committee. The steering committee, which decides on broad strategic issues, includes the finance minister and Karam in his capacity as representative of the Lebanese government, along with delegates of the World Bank, the U.N. and donor countries, as well as other agencies.
The technical committee, which decides on the specifics of each project, includes, in addition to representatives of international groups, delegates from concerned Lebanese ministries.
Concerned ministries draft studies and submit them to the steering committee that decides on priority projects and refers them to the technical committee that determines the feasibility plan before submitting the plan for government approval along with the grant attached to it.
After approval, the project is referred back to the concerned ministry that receives the needed funds for its implementation from the Finance Ministry under close monitoring from the technical committee.
“The loop starts with the ministry and ends with the ministry. The process guarantees transparency, accountability and efficiency in implementation,” Karam explains, pointing out that regular reports are filed with the steering committee and donor countries on implementation phases. In addition to supporting host communities, the government is also at an advanced stage in discussions regarding the establishment of camps for Syrian refugees in “the Lebanese part of the no-man’s land” along the Syrian-Lebanese border, Karam says.
Some 1.2 million Syrian refugees are officially registered with UNHCR in Lebanon, but government estimates put the total number at 1.6 million. The trust fund will play no role in funding the establishment of camps, according to Karam, who says the government is seeking to secure funding to build the necessary infrastructure for some 5,000 to 10,000 housing units that could be later dismantled and relocated to Syria when refugees return home.
Jumblatt urges Cabinet to reinstate draft
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Lebanese government should consider reinstating Army conscription, MP Walid Jumblatt said Monday, arguing that the move would reinforce the military during times of need. Jumblatt urged parties to adopt mandatory military service as a means of reinforcing Army reserves. Such measures were necessary in the absence of sufficient financial resources to fund all state expenses, including the cost of volunteers in security institutions, the Progressive Socialist Party leader said.
Mandatory military service in Lebanon was eliminated as of Feb. 10, 2007. The PSP chief also urged all parties to pledge their full support for the Army, which engaged in fierce battles with militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front in the northeastern town of Arsal last month. Both groups still hold at least 22 Army soldiers and policemen they captured during the five-day battles. Jumblatt said that while Lebanon awaits detailed clarifications on how a newly formed international coalition would fight ISIS, the country still shoulders a large burden in fighting terrorism, which necessitates swift logistic and military support. The need for further aid, however, did not overshadow the importance of previous aid commitments, Jumblatt said, asking for updates concerning a $3 billion Saudi grant announced late last year that would allow the Lebanese Army to acquire French arms.
It has failed to materialize so far due to delays in finalizing the deal between Riyadh and Paris. “Why is there an absence of news about the $3 billion aid?” he asked. Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim held further talks with officials in Qatar Monday as part of efforts to win the freedom of the security personnel, a source from the General Security told The Daily Star. “There are signs indicating that the atmosphere is positive,” the source said, requesting to remain anonymous. “The picture will become clearer tomorrow.” Ibrahim arrived in Qatar Sunday with a ministerial delegation headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam.
The prime minister said Sunday that he was encouraged by his talks with the Qatari emir over the hostage crisis, but added that the Qatari-sponsored talks with the militants holding the Lebanese soldiers and policemen were still in an early stage.
Ibrahim stayed in Qatar to follow up on efforts to release the hostages while Salam and the delegation returned to Beirut Sunday. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said the judiciary should speed up the trials of Islamist inmates at Roumieh prison.
In a statement Monday marking the start of the new judicial year, Rifi called on the judiciary to speed up all trials, including those that have made progress and are near conclusion, saying that justice would prevent “all kinds of violence, chaos and vengeful acts.”The government is working with the judiciary through the Justice Ministry in order to find “a legal and judicial solution” for the cases of around 93 Islamist detainees held in Roumieh prison since 2007, most without trial.
Speeding up their trials and releasing them could be part of any deal with ISIS and Nusra Front militants that would also see the freeing of Lebanese security personnel.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah MPs in the Baalbek-Hermel region have joined Sunni and Shiite politicians and religious figures in the eastern city of Baalbek in signing a code of honor aimed at defusing sectarian tensions and renouncing all forms of violence in the Bekaa Valley. The meeting Sunday was called by Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc in response to a wave of tit-for-tat sectarian kidnappings that swept the Bekaa region last week following the beheading of captive Sgt. Abbas Medlej, the second Lebanese soldier to be slaughtered by ISIS militants in less than two weeks after the killing of 1st Sgt. Ali al-Sayyed. In other areas of the Bekaa, relatives of the kidnapped soldiers carried on with their protests in a bid to pressure the government to work on releasing their loved ones. In Toufiqiye, a small North Bekaa town less than 15 kilometers from Arsal, families of the captured servicemen continued their solemn protest by blocking one of the town’s main thoroughfares. Sitting under a tent, family members of the policemen and soldiers being held hostage lamented the state’s slow response. “Where is the Army?” Zeina Bazal, whose son Ali Bazal is among the Nusra Front captives, asked. “They go crazy over things that Israel does,” she told The Daily Star, “but why aren’t they doing the same for my son?”
Lebanon's blackout begins to ease
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The electricity shutdown that Lebanon has been experiencing since 9:30 a.m. Monday would be fixed in a matter of hours, Electricite du Liban said in a statement, with power already having been restored to some areas. “The network received a shock on the Boushrieh- Jamhour 66 Kv line, which resulted in the disconnection of all production units from the network and stopped electricity flow to most Lebanese areas,” EDL’s statement said. An EDL executive had confirmed the blackout to The Daily Star earlier Monday, and said the incident was due to a malfunction at the Zahrani power plant. However, a source from inside the plant told The Daily Star that the facility had nothing to do with the blackout and that, similar to the other plants, it had merely received the consequences of the network shock. EDL’s statement said the Zahrani and the Deir Ammar plants, as well as the two Turkish power ships had already been reconnected to the network, and that the flow would be back to “normal” in the coming hours. Although the shutdown was due to a technical failure that is not uncommon for Lebanon, the public company blamed the protesting contract workers for worsening the situation. "It happens every year,” the executive said, “but this time it’s different, because the control room that handles electricity flow was moved from the headquarters to the Jamhour facility.”EDL later confirmed this in the statement, saying “identifying and analyzing” the malfunction was more difficult due to the “lack of data.”“All the equipment is at the headquarters, which is blocked by the contract workers,” the executive said, explaining that only the technology that was movable, and not even all of that, was transported three weeks ago to the other facility. While Lebanon has been experiencing intensive rationing for weeks, with EDL warning against a possible blackout if contract workers continued their strike, Monday’s incident was sudden and unexpected. Usually, Lebanon’s electricity output is less than 1,600 megawatts, while its electricity needs are over 2,400 megawatts. As a result, all areas in Lebanon are subject to a degree of electricity rationing. However, two weeks ago, a malfunction emerged in the electricity network near UNESCO that increased the rationing in Beirut from 3 hours a day to nearly 14.
Achkar: Hotel revenues down 60 percent
Dana Halawi| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Most hotels in Lebanon this summer season experienced a drop in their occupancy rates by 40 percent and a steep fall in their revenues by around 60 percent compared to 2009 and 2010, the head of a hotelier association said. “Most of the hotels witnessed a drop in their occupancy rates by 40 percent, which caused a remarkable drop in their revenues, even though most of them reduced their prices to attract clients,” Pierre Achkar, head of the Hotel Owners Association, told The Daily Star.
Achkar attributed the low occupancy rate to the deteriorating political and security situation in the country over the past couple of years.
Lebanon has been rocked over the last three years by clashes and bombings related to the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria, and the instability has taken a toll on the tourism sector. Hotels saw a steep decline in occupancy following an explosion in June at Duroy Hotel in Raouche, where a suicide bomber detonated himself during a pre-emptive raid by General Security. “We were starting to witness an improvement in tourism activities following the formation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government and the speech made by the Saudi ambassador back then to encourage Saudi nationals to visit Lebanon,” Achkar said.
“We were also very optimistic about having a successful summer season following Ramadan,” he added. “This would have compensated a bit for the losses we’ve witnessed over the past three years, but this was not the case unfortunately.”
Achkar explained that not all hotels have been impacted to the same extent. “Some of the hotels, restaurants and car rentals are on the verge of bankruptcy while others are doing better,” he said.He said hotels in Mount Lebanon were suffering the most.
“Some hotels in Mount Lebanon did not open during the summer, such as Sheraton in Bhamdoun and Grand Hills in Broummana,” he said.
Anwar Chehayeb, general manager of Aley Suites, said he would close his business if by next year tourism activity does not pick up. “We currently do not have any reservations for Eid al-Adha, and our occupancy rate during July and August stood at only 40 percent despite a low price of $50,” he said. “Demand this year mostly came from Lebanese and Syrians; there were no tourists at all.”
Likewise, Mohamed Kannan, director of sales and marketing at Golden Tulip, reported a current occupancy rate of 30 percent to 50 percent, compared to 70 percent for the same period last year. “As for reservations for Eid al-Adha, they are nearly nonexistent,” he said. “This year is worse than the previous one because of all the clashes taking place in Arsal.”Kanaan said that one of the floors at the hotel is closed for the time being for maintenance since it is not being used by tourists anyway.
“Some hotels pretend to be closed for maintenance and renovation purposes but in fact they are doing so to minimize their losses,” Achkar said. “I can assure you that these hotels would have never thought of doing any maintenance work during summer if they had high reservation requests for this season.”Some hotels in Beirut reported a fair occupancy rate in view of the security situation in the country.
“Today we stand at 47 percent occupancy rate since the beginning of this month which is considered to be fine taking into account the complicated security situation in Lebanon,” said Hilal Saade, director of sales and marketing at Le Grey Hotel. “The positive side of the story is that we reached 47 percent occupancy without having to reduce our prices.”
Saade, however, explained that while the hotel was offering promotions for those who reserve three days ahead of their trip, it was also charging one night for those who cancel their reservations in a bid to prevent cancellations.
Saade added that reservations during Eid al-Fitr and during August were not as expected. “In 2009 and 2010 we registered a 100 percent occupancy rate during the Eid al-Fitr period and during summer seasons, but this year we only recorded 77 percent,” he said.
On the other hand, Riviera Hotel seems to have bucked the trend, recording an occupancy rate ranging between 70 percent and 90 percent since the beginning of this month. “We experienced a really good season this summer even though we were selling at $250,” said Maria Mouawie, director of sales at Riviera Hotel.
Mouawie attributed the good performance to the fact that Riviera is a resort and the availability of swimming pools attracts clients during summer.
But Mouawie added that Riviera has dropped its prices by 30 percent this month compared to August in order to boost occupancy rate. “We are expecting a drop in reservations after Eid al-Adha and at the beginning of the winter season,” she said.
ISIS proves 'great need' to remain in Syria: Hezbollah
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The threat of ISIS and other radical groups demonstrated to the world the necessity of Hezbollah remaining in Syria, the deputy head of the party's executive council said Monday. Speaking at a ceremony in the southern village of Aita Shaab, Nabil Qaouk also said that Hezbollah and the Amal Movement had succeeded in defusing sectarian tensions following the beheading of soldiers by ISIS last week, which “disappointed the radical group.”
“There could never be a war of words between ISIS and us, but there is the field where we will defeat them. We will not engage in a war of statements or political disputes,” Qaouk said. “Day after day, it is becoming clear to Lebanon, the Arab, Muslim and international communities that there is a great need for Hezbollah to remain in Syria. The current situation today imposes on Hezbollah to stay in Syria more than any other time.”
The Hezbollah official said a battle with radical groups has been imposed on Lebanon, which was now in the eye of the storm, referring to last month’s clashes between the Lebanese Army and fighters from ISIS and Nusra Front. “This battle demands a change in national priorities.”
During the five-day clashes between Lebanese troops and Islamist fighters, the militants attempted to overrun the border town. A cease-fire ended the fighting but Nusra and ISIS still hold at least 22 soldiers and policemen captured during the battle.
While Nusra has so far released seven policemen, ISIS has beheaded two soldiers in a bid to pressure the government to agree to their demands. Qaouk said the current circumstances required the formulation of a national strategy to combat any aggression on Lebanon, calling for the widest national solidarity that would "tighten the noose on the takfiris and strengthen the Army so that it could free the soldiers.”“Any delay in drafting a national defense strategy or in using strong cards would endanger the lives of soldiers and paves the way for takfiris [to launch] more attacks and provocations,” he said.
Describing the battle in Arsal as the beginning of the war with radical groups, Qaouk asked that the Lebanese Army regain full control over Arsal's territory, questioning whether the March 14 coalition "would agree to a government decision for the military to do so."Hezbollah and its allies have criticized the March 14 coalition for sympathizing with radical groups fighting in Syria, but the Future Movement-led alliance has voiced its full support for the Army to liberate Arsal and its outskirts.
In his speech, Qaouk also commended efforts by the party and Amal to defuse sectarian tensions after ISIS beheaded a second soldier, which was followed by a spate of tit-for-tat kidnappings that took an increasingly sectarian bent.
“The beheading of soldiers by ISIS was aimed at inciting strife between Sunnis and Shiites but Hezbollah and Amal succeeded in eliminating such strife, not just putting out the blaze,” he said. “ Hezbollah and the Amal Movement's stance to preserve stability in Lebanon surprised the takfiris, who were in despair.”
Shameless power play
The Daily Star/16/09/14
Hostage-taking, blackmail and extremism dominated Lebanon’s headlines Monday, but it was unrelated to the takfiri group ISIS – instead, it was the same old sad saga of the country’s power network.
In the latest version of this chronic problem, two political factions have behaved in extremist fashion, determined to do everything in their power to ensure they get their way, and the public gets shafted.
The Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun insists on blocking the full-time employment of hundreds of contract workers at Electricite du Liban out of concern for the “sectarian balance.” Meanwhile, the workers’ demands are championed by Speaker Nabih Berri, but when it comes to these workers’ qualifications, and the exact number of people who should benefit, the picture becomes clouded and confusing. The workers’ blockade of EDL offices led to the failure to repair the network, which broke down Monday, inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of people who were caught in the political crossfire. The political system shows no respect for the grievances and problems of ordinary Lebanese. They are already burdened with double-billing for their power, because of the parallel private generator sector. They might see “energy minister” tour progress Tuesday on a dam-building project, as if conditions in the water sector are any better. Officials and politicians who are responsible for such catastrophic governance have no shame and work under no system of accountability; they can take the public hostage on a daily basis, because no legal or political force deters them.
The only question is whether these politicians truly believe that anyone takes them seriously.
Iran is taking aim at the anti-ISIS coalition
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
Tuesday, 16 Sep, 2014
The sudden dispute over striking ISIS has a backstory. All parties agreed to fight the terrorist organizations of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front following the sudden rush of ISIS’s victories in Iraq. These parties are Iran, the US, Russia, the Gulf states, European countries and Turkey. This agreement has been strengthened by the relatively speedy political transition in Baghdad, ending a crisis in governance that could have lasted for months. Nuri Al-Maliki was removed from the premiership, and everyone agreed to a new prime minister, parliamentary speaker and president. Then, US forces began their aerial military operations against ISIS and drove its fighters out of the areas surrounding the Mosul Dam and Sinjar, forcing them to flee deeper into Iraq and Syria.
However, these were limited operations, and ISIS has enough men and arms to once again threaten the security of Iraq, the region, and perhaps the world. Therefore, concerned countries decided to hold a conference to hammer out a strategy to confront this security threat, which is a danger to them all in one way or another.
Take Turkey, for example. Some of its consulate employees are still being held hostage by ISIS, which is threatening to kill them. Saudi Arabia knows that ISIS is hiding close to its borders on the Iraqi side. Europe has realized that hundreds of these ISIS fighters are EU citizens and their return poses a threat to it. Meanwhile, Russia was one of the countries most enthusiastic to fight against ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front.
However, as the conference neared, the Iranian government requested that the Syrian government be invited to attend the summit in Jeddah. It was only normal that the host country, Saudi Arabia, rejected this request, as the continuing existence of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is one of the causes of the current crisis. If Assad had accepted the proposals of the Geneva I conference, ISIS wouldn’t even have been born, and much of the chaos, bloodshed and displacement of millions of people we see today would not have happened. It is also the Syrian regime that released Al-Qaeda prisoners and handed over poorly protected areas to ISIS in order to harm the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Above all, if ISIS has so far killed 5,000 people, then what of the 200,000 civilian victims the Syrian regime has killed?
Therefore, when fighting terrorism, it’s not possible to cooperate with a party whose hands are stained with blood.
Despite that, the Iranians said the Assad regime’s participation was a pre-condition for their attendance. The Russians followed in Iran’s footsteps, and said they would boycott the anti-ISIS conference. At this point, the celebratory rhetoric promising to confront terrorism turned into a defense of ISIS, as the conference was depicted as a war on the Syrian and Iraqi people, and as a plan for a new occupation. This came in addition to some other nonsense that has circulated in the media in the past few days.
This makes it easier to assert that ISIS serves both the Assad regime and the Iranian regime, particularly in Syria. During an embarrassing moment following the collapse of Mosul, many were afraid Baghdad would be next, so they needed the US military support and Saudi Arabia’s political support to save the Iraqi regime in Baghdad.
There is currently an Iranian propaganda push being disseminated via daily newspapers, TV satellite channels, Twitter and other social networking websites. This propaganda push seeks to cast doubt on the aims of the conference and distort the facts, making it seem as though confronting ISIS is an act that serves the West.
Truth be told, regional states have been calling on the international community—particularly the US—for two years, asking them to cooperate in confronting these dangerous terrorist groups. Unfortunately, the White House rejected these appeals. However, the US president was eventually forced to act following international pressures and after the atrocities committed by ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front became too much to ignore. Those who fear international intervention include Iran and the Assad regime, because ISIS plays an important role in sabotaging the rebels in Syria, and because the Americans are, for the first time, convinced that supporting the FSA may be the only means to establish a new government as an alternative to Assad’s worn-out regime, to confront terrorism. This is why Iran and Russia decided to launch a propaganda campaign to discredit the Jeddah conference, and to distort the international campaign against terrorism. Many partisan groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and others, are now echoing this Iranian propaganda as well.
The propaganda of the American-Iranian dispute
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Monday, 15 September 2014
The sudden dispute over striking ISIS has a backstory. At the beginning, all parties agreed to fight the terrorist organizations of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the al-Nusra Front following the flash victories ISIS achieved in Iraq. These parties are Iran, the United States, Russia, the Gulf states, European countries and Turkey. This agreement was highlighted by the quick political transition in Baghdad, where a crisis in governance could have lasted for months. Nouri al-Maliki was removed from the premiership post in less than two weeks and everyone agreed to assign a prime minister, a parliament speaker and a president. Then, American forces began their aerial military operations against ISIS and drove its fighters out of the areas surrounding the Mosul Dam and Sinjar and forced them to flee deeper into Iraq and Syria.
“Saudi Arabia knows that ISIS is hiding close to its borders on the Iraqi side. Europe has realized that hundreds of these ISIS fighters have European nationality and will return”
However, these were limited operations and ISIS has enough men and arms to once again threaten the security of Iraq, the region and perhaps the world. Therefore, concerned countries decided to hold a conference to hammer out a strategy to confront this security threat which has targeted them all in one way or another.
Take Turkey as an example. Some of its consulate employees are still being held hostage by ISIS, which is threatening to kill them. Saudi Arabia knows that ISIS is hiding close to its borders on the Iraqi side. Europe has realized that hundreds of these ISIS fighters have European nationality and will return to Europe in the future and pose a threat to it. Meanwhile, Russia was one of the most enthusiastic countries to fight against ISIS and the al-Nusra Front.
However, as the conference neared, the Iranian government requested that the Syrian regime be invited to attend. It was only normal that the host country, Saudi Arabia, reject this request as Assad’s regime is the cause and the problem and if it had accepted the peaceful solution approved at the Geneva I conference, ISIS wouldn’t have been even born and this chaos, bloodshed and the displacement of millions of people would not have happened. It is also the Syrian regime which released al-Qaeda prisoners and which handed over poorly protected areas to ISIS in order to harm the Free Syrian Army. Above all that, if ISIS has so far killed 5,000 people, then what of the 200,000 civilian victims the Syrian regime has killed?
Therefore, when fighting terrorism, it’s not possible to cooperate with a party whose hands are stained with blood!
Despite that, the Iranians said the Assad regime’s participation is a pre-condition for their attendance. The Russians followed in Iran’s footsteps and said they will boycott the anti-ISIS conference. At this point, the celebratory rhetoric promising to confront terrorism turned into a defense of ISIS as the conference was depicted as a war on the Syrian and Iraqi people and as a plan for a new occupation. This came in addition to other nonsense the media has circulated over the past few days.
This makes us more confident that ISIS serves both the Assad regime and the Iranian regime, particularly in Syria but not in the entirety of Iraq. During an embarrassing moment following the collapse of Mosul, many were afraid Baghdad would be next so they needed the U.S.’s military support and Saudi Arabia’s political support to save the Iraqi regime in Baghdad.
There is currently an Iranian propaganda push being disseminated via daily newspapers, TV satellite channels, Twitter and other social networking websites. This propaganda push is seeking to throw doubt on the aims of the conference, distorting facts and making it seem as though confronting ISIS is an act that serves the West.
Truth be told, the region’s countries have been calling on the international community - particularly on the U.S. - for two years, asking them to cooperate in confronting these dangerous terrorist groups. Unfortunately, the White House rejected these appeals. The American president had to act, following international pressures and after the atrocities committed by ISIS and al-Nusra spread and after thousands of civilians were killed and displaced regardless of their sects and ethnicities. Those who are afraid of this international action include Iran and the Assad regime because ISIS plays a sabotaging role against the rebels in Syria and because the Americans are, for the first time, convinced that supporting the Free Syrian Army may be the only means to establish a political regime, as an alternative to Assad’s worn-out regime, to confront terrorism. This is why Iran and Russia decided to launch a propaganda campaign to discredit Jeddah’s conference and to distort the international campaign working towards cooperating against terrorism. Many partisan groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and others, are now echoing this Iranian propaganda as well.
Obama’s last chance to regain his credibility
Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
Monday, 15 September 2014
President Barack Obama has a precious opportunity to carve out a legacy for himself and carry out a coup against the reputation of weakness, repudiation and retreat that has dogged and haunted him. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had invited the U.S. president to a war, which has opened a window for Barack Obama to shape his own fate rather than leaving his historical political legacy in the hands of others. If he shows boldness and acts decisively from a position of strength and leverage, President Obama will be able to leave the White House on a white horse of sorts, instead of leaving the presidency while being chased by a reputation for political failure and for contributing to the strengthening of terrorism – and perhaps even to the return of terror to the U.S. homeland. Yet limiting military action to airstrikes and covert operations against ISIS and similar organizations will not reap success for President Obama and will not rescue him from disappointment in his performance, whether at home or internationally. Barack Obama must therefore make qualitatively new political decisions and forge solid and conscious alliances if he wants to have the legacy of a president who took advantage of the opportunity and altered the way history was set to perceive him.
Not long ago, Barack Obama appeared to be running after the Islamic Republic of Iran. This became the main theme in Obama’s legacy to be, in which he sought to become the president who made peace with Tehran and took the United States out of the confrontation with the Islamic Republic. Obama seemed desperate for appeasement with Iran at any cost, and risked traditional U.S. ties with the allies in the Middle East in order to please Iran. Obama turned a blind eye to the excesses of the mullahs’ regime in Iran, and vowed not to support any Iranian opposition, seemingly declaring his respect for the Iranian regime and his recognition of its legitimacy. He claimed not to see the flagrant violations of Security Council resolutions, with the direct intervention of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Syria and its support for Hezbollah’s overt involvement in the conflict there alongside President Bashar al-Assad, who the U.S. president had said should step down for having lost his legitimacy. He turned left and right to avoid seeing Iranian hegemony in Iraq where Sunnis were excluded. Obama maintained the de facto partnership with Tehran in supporting former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose policies led to the emergence of the ISIS phenomenon, with support from a Sunni uprising that had had enough marginalization. Obama fought al-Qaeda in Yemen using drones, but he kept mum over the direct Iranian intervention in support of the Houthis there – with the result being that they are now creeping into Sanaa, seeking to topple the government and deliver the country to chaos. In short, Barack Obama had resolved to exempt the Islamic Republic of Iran from accountability, because it was the core of his presidential legacy.
In stepped ISIS
ISIS changed the equation. What happened in Iraq when the Iraqi army retreated before the ISIS onslaught was a major defeat for Iran. Iran no longer enjoys the formidable reputation of being the victor in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Suddenly, the illusion collapsed. Suddenly, the Islamic Republic of Iran appeared brittle and breakable – at least in relation to one of its three main demands, namely, forcing the United States and the rest of the world to bless its expansionist regional ambitions in the Arab countries, on the grounds that it is a major regional power with the “right” to do so.
“President Obama is able to help Iran make positive turns that would be beneficial for Iran, the Middle East, and the United States”
Moderate Iran represented by President Hassan Rowhani has yet to eliminate hardline Iran represented by the Revolutionary Guard. Moderate Iran wants to restore Iran’s natural status rather than its expansionist status. It wants to rescue the economy and promote respect for rights internally. Moderate Iran does not want regional hegemony and does not want to enter the Syrian war as a direct party in the civil war. It does not want to wage the wars of terrorism as a party.
President Obama is able to help Iran make positive turns that would be beneficial for Iran, the Middle East, and the United States.
The first important message he must send out to Tehran is that the war on ISIS requires Tehran necessarily and inevitably to reconsider its policies on Iraq and Syria primarily, and also Yemen and Lebanon. Only this way can the needed alliances be built to defeat ISIS. These alliances and partnerships include most definitely the moderate Sunnis, at both the level of governments and the level of local populations, which require political ammunition in order to renounce ISIS, as they had renounced al-Qaeda before through the Awakening movements.
Some in Iran may think that President Barack Obama will fight extremist Sunni groups like ISIS on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Iran would hit two birds with one stone: Relieve itself from a war that it directly wages to defend itself; and benefit from the U.S. war on ISIS to improve its odds for victory in Syria with the survival of the regime, and in Yemen by toppling the government. Indeed, another U.S. president had waged a war on behalf of Iranian interests, that is, when U.S. President George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, ridding the mullahs in Tehran of two of their most important enemies – the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.
It is important for President Barack Obama to make it clear to Tehran that he does not intend to go to war on its behalf, even as he seeks to push back ISIS wherever it is, as he has vowed. It is important for him to persuade Tehran that the time has come for clear and public attitudes, even if this requires challenging the status quo inside Iran.
In other words, the U.S. president can remind Iran that it is in dire need to have the sanctions against it lifted, and that this is possible if it is honest in nuclear negotiations and if it abandons its quest to have the know-how to make a nuclear bomb “a few turns-of-the-screw away.” However, the U.S.-Iranian relationship requires more than a nuclear agreement, particularly since ISIS poses a threat to U.S. national interests. Thus, it is time for President Obama to tell Tehran that it must stop its meddling in Syria and its adventures in Yemen.
Why would Iran listen? First, because ISIS is a threat to it as much as it is a threat to others. Second, because postponing decisive military action against ISIS in Syria will lead not only to the group’s expansion to the point of radically weakening the Syrian regime, but also to the point of turning Syria into a Vietnam for Iran in an even more dramatic manner.
The U.S. president can send the same message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is now at the top of the list of the targets ISIS wants to take revenge against, given Putin’s policies in Syria and his attempts to present himself as the leader of the war on ISIS and similar groups in the Syrian war. ISIS has vowed to retaliate on Russian soil, and Putin understands that his victories in Syria are neither real nor permanent, though he is showing stubbornness. Barack Obama can give Putin a way out of the impasse, though this requires Putin to adopt qualitatively new policies in Syria.
Why would Putin cave in on Syria, when he is showing intransigence and defiance in Ukraine? Because he might be in dire need of being rescued, if Barack Obama proves his seriousness and determination, and shakes off his reputation for weakness and retreat.
Perhaps Obama intends to not rush strikes against ISIS in Syria, exactly in order to convince Tehran and Moscow of the need to push for a radical political transformation to resolve the “Assad obstacle,” just like the “Maliki obstacle” had been resolved. If the Maliki problem had not been resolved, it would not have been possible to mobilize support from and build an alliance with the six GCC countries led by Saudi Arabia, to wage war on ISIS.
If Moscow and Tehran dither and wager on Barack Obama’s weakness, then Syria will eventually become a “graveyard” for all sides in the war of attrition and mutual exhaustion. Obama may be able to claim that he acted from the outset with farsightedness, and that this was an achievement for him because he steered clear of the Syrian conflict, and left Syria an arena to degrade foreign fighters of all types and backgrounds as well as their sponsors, and to defeat the regime.
So far, Barack Obama has appeared as a loser twice: When he endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, who were defeated, forcing him to adjust course; and when he endorsed Iran without accountability, and when it was defeated in Iraq, he hastened to adjust course as well.
New regional relations
Now, the U.S. president is formulating new regional relations that are critical, after he had relied on positions and policies that suggested he was abandoning the U.S. traditional relations of alliance. Today, the U.S. president is relying drastically on Saudi Arabia, and he realizes that the UAE plays a crucial role in containing and fighting extremist Islamist groups in more than one place.
He has an opportunity for partnership in cleansing Islam from bloody extremism with Muslim leaders and peoples. He has an opportunity to initiate unprecedented collaboration between the Gulf states and Iran, if plays well the cards he has available.
In his talks with Turkey and Qatar, for example, the U.S. president has to be convincing on having made a final decision saying that it is too late for reviving the Muslim Brotherhood project in the Middle East.
In his talks with Iran, the U.S. president has to be convincing when he tells Tehran that he has abandoned the bid to place the entire future of his legacy in its hands. He must be convincing when he tells the leaders of Iran that the United States would not bless its regional ambitions because its Arab partners – who are indispensable in the war on ISIS and similar groups – would not agree to remain in the partnership or the alliance if the U.S. president intends to offer this war as a gift to Tehran to expand in the Arab countries. In other words, the U.S. president must show that he is trustworthy, particularly since he had lost this quality at some stage. The litmus test of this trustworthiness lies in whether or not Obama will understand and accept the moderate Arab Sunni rejection of a dangerous war against Sunni extremism without U.S. political guarantees related to the nexus of American-Arab-Iranian relations.
President Obama has announced that he would be leading a war with non-American soldiers. Those “soldiers” happen to be moderate Arab Sunni state and non-state actors. This is a new kind of war, because previous wars involved American soldiers. Barack Obama is fighting a war with others’ soldiers. The U.S. president will not be able to win this war by means of airstrikes alone, and he has erred in comparing the situation with ISIS to “successes” he made in the aerial wars he is fighting in Yemen and Somalia, where no permanent victory has been achieved in the kind of aerial warfare America is waging in these two countries.
The coming challenges are greater and graver. The Iraqi arena is simpler and easier. The Syrian arena is full of pitfalls. ISIS is terrorizing all corners of the Middle East, and setting off alarms in the U.S., Russia, and Europe. The pledge President Obama has made to destroy ISIS is not impossible to achieve, but it will definitely require Obama to adopt new American policies and to make a serious shift toward restoring confidence in the U.S. president.
Iran is now the player everybody wants on their team
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard /Al Arabiya
Monday, 15 September 2014
Commander of the Iranian Quds Force Qassem Suleimani seems to truly be devoted to the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he has high level security clearance and has influence beyond Iranian territory, it seems. But the real question is, what is he allegedly doing in Iraq? Even since Hassan Rowhani became president, the Quds Force reduced their public appearances, perhaps because of Iran’s nuclear talks with Western powers.
Two weeks ago, rumors spread like wildfire that Suleimani was being replaced by deputy Hossein Hamedani due to Soleimani’s inability to secure a third term for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. However, those reports were denied by news websites close to the ruling establishment. Also, Suleimani was apparently caught on footage near the Iraqi city of Amerli last week, fueling rumors that he masterminded the operation to push ISIS militants out of the city.
“Even if the nuclear talks break down, Iran and the West will have to work together to face ISIS” The alleged push in Iraq is taking place as Iran negotiates over its nuclear program. Iran and the U.S. are set to hold talks in Geneva before the interim deal expires on November 24, although the details of the discussions have not yet been revealed to the media. Despite the importance of the nuclear talks, both countries should know that the issue of Iraq is equally important.
Iran needs to showcase full cooperation with the international community over its nuclear file in order to play an open and bigger regional role. Even if the talks break down, Iran and the West will have to work together to face ISIS. World security has been threatened by ISIS and Iran could be a valuable partner in the fight against the terrorist organization, even if it operated indirectly in Iraq.
September will be an important month for Iranian diplomats to outline their desires and set the tone for how they would like to be viewed by the international community. This will prove to the international community that Rowhani was serious about the changes he promised his people.
In Turkey, It is Better to be Sorry than Safe – Again
By Burak Bekdil/Hürriyet Daily News
September 10, 2014
Turkey's leaders often boast that their country has a big and quickly growing
economy and a big population. That criteria never makes a country a decent place
to live in. That explains why most Turkish expats are scattered through Europe's
tiny countries instead of Bangladesh or Egypt. And why, of course, Turkey ranks
69th in the UNDP's Human Development Index, behind all of Europe's smaller
countries with slowing economies.
In Turkey, many of the social maladies are so persistent that we journalists must often revisit archives and, sometimes, must even repeat our headlines or column titles – such as this one, which first appeared in this column in May, when 301 workers in Soma were killed in an explosion, once again proving why Turkey's mines are six times more dangerous than China's.
A parliamentary motion submitted by the opposition to set up a committee to investigate the mine in Soma had been rejected by the votes of the ruling Justice and Development Party a few months prior to the accident. Mysteriously, the government's most recent inspection at the Soma mine – at the end of March – had found out that the mine was "successful" in terms of workers' health and safety.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then prime minister, said after the accident that "death was in the nature of mining." He was motivated by defending his party's popularity in the aftermath of the tragedy – and shortly before the presidential election which he comfortably won. He did not need to worry, I wrote here. Presidential elections showed that his popularity in Soma had risen by two percentage points after the accident. Nearly half the grief-stricken town voted for Mr. Erdoğan on Aug. 10.
Apparently, death, in Turkey, is not in the nature of mining alone. On the weekend, 10 workers were killed at a construction site in Istanbul when an elevator carrying them malfunctioned and suddenly plunged to the ground from the 32th floor during an early evening shift. And a similarly bitter story has unfolded.
Back in April the same elevator at the same construction site had plunged and killed one worker. He was a mere statistic among the 1,270 workers killed in accidents in the first eight months of 2014 alone. Labor Ministry inspectors arrived at the site for their postmortem checks and found several functional weaknesses and errors with the elevators.
Instead of suspending the construction like their colleagues in smaller but better countries are obliged to do, they left the site after giving the operators of the construction, one of Turkey's biggest, a fine worth about $7,000.
Two weeks ago, an elevator at the same construction site malfunctioned again and plunged from the 15th floor, only to miraculously stop before reaching ground. The construction had to carry on. It did, and produced 10 new coffins. What will happen now?
The rich construction company will pay their families fat compensations. They will be entitled to receive government benefits, too. They will mourn their beloved ones but believe that, as Mr. Erdoğan often stresses, they died because "God wanted it so, not because of human negligence." By next June, their anger will have subsided and they will run to the ballot box to vote for the governing party, hoping the flourishing construction industry will keep on producing more jobs for their remaining relatives.
The families of luckier workers who will carry on their shifts will feel grateful to the government because their beloved ones have jobs thanks to the flourishing construction industry and a quickly growing economy.
Just as only a few people remember what happened in Soma and why only four months ago, the tragic plunge of the elevator will slowly fade from the newspaper pages and Turks' collective memory. Only until a similar accident kills others and we journalists revisit archives to repeat our headlines and column titles.
**Burak Bekdil is a columnist for the Ankara-based daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Turkey's New Government: Old Wine in a
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
September 10, 2014
In 2011, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party [AKP] won a landslide election victory, garnering almost half of the national vote. Customarily, he read out his government's program in parliament:
"One of the most important prerequisites for stability in the [Middle East] region is a humanitarian and peaceful solution to the Palestinian dispute....The key to peace is a two-state solution that should come under UN resolutions and [parties that can live in] peace with each other. Turkey will keep on actively supporting any reconciliation to revive peace talks... It is out of the question that our ties with Israel normalize unless Israel apologizes for this unlawful incident [Israel's raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla], pays compensation for our citizens who lost their lives and removes the embargo on Gaza."
Four years and two wars later, Erdogan was elected Turkey's president and appointed Ahmet Davutoglu, his foreign policy czar since 2009, as his prime minister and heir.
On Sept. 1, Davutoglu, customarily, read out his government's program in parliament:
"One of the most important prerequisites to sustainable stability in the Middle East is to find a just, comprehensive and viable solution to the Palestinian dispute.... Turkey's efforts for an end to the human tragedy in Palestine, achievement of sustainable peace in the region and support for the unity government in Palestine will continue on.... Any progress in the process of normalization of ties with Israel, which began after Israel apologized in 2013 for the Mavi Marmara attack, will not be possible unless Israel stopped its military strikes on Gaza and removed restrictions [on Gaza]."
Judging from the two manifestations of governance in 2011 and last week, the only major change in Turkey's foreign policy calculus is that Erdogan devoted only six pages to foreign policy whereas Davutoglu's text contains 19 pages on foreign policy.
That is, of course, if we do not count Yalcin Akdogan, Erdogan's top political advisor in 2011. Akdogan, now deputy prime minister, left everyone speechless last year when he remarked that, "[Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] could wish to win support from Arab countries by creating further polarization [tensions] with Israel. This trap should be avoided."
How ironic that Erdogan's men were complaining of "traps set on creating tensions with Israel in order to win Arab hearts and minds." With that pace of events, a Turkish foreign minister could accuse Greece of trying to revive the Ottoman Empire. Not just the sky, but apparently all outer space, is the limit in Turkish political hypocrisy. Happily, the new Turkish cabinet has one more Israel-obsessive member.
When Prime Minister Davutoglu declared his government's program in parliament he was full of hope and optimism that Turkey would soon achieve the place it deserves to achieve in a better world order -- an optimism he never abandoned while he was at the helm of the country's foreign policy. Ironically, as he was speaking, Turkish diplomatic missions, once opened with Kodak-moment, half-baked ceremonies, seemed to be deserted: Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus, Mosul, Basra, and Baghdad pending. Turkey's ambassador recently appointed to Tripoli is still stuck in Ankara, not able to leave "for safety reasons."
What would the Turkish consul general in Mosul -- now a hostage of the Islamic State [IS], along with 48 others consisting of consulate personnel and their families -- think about Davutoglu's grandiose portrayal of Turkey's foreign policy successes if he could watch the prime minister's speech in the dungeon in which he is being kept by Davutoglu's one-time allies?
These Turkish hostages have been kept, since June 11, by a terrorist army which even al-Qaeda says it thinks is too violent, extreme and radical. If the hostages could be interviewed by a journalist while Davutoglu proudly spoke of Turkey's greatness, their quotations would probably not be suitable for print.
Davutoglu is a dreamer of a future that will blend neo-Ottomanism with pan-Islamism. Despite outstanding failures in a span of five years, he still -- perhaps childishly -- believes that the overthrown dictatorships in the formerly Ottoman Muslim lands will one day be replaced with Islamic regimes, thus creating a regional "Muslim Brotherhood belt" under Turkey's leadership.
When his ideals fail, Davutoglu does two things: he asserts that they failed not because his vision was wrong but because the world order is wrong, and must be corrected; and he tends to find euphemisms. After the IS took 49 Turks hostage, Davutoglu's deputy minister said that "they were not actually being kept hostage," but "were merely interned." How nice! Perhaps the Turkish consulate personnel are now playing backgammon with IS's backgammon heavyweights. Meanwhile, the standard Turkish official attribution to the IS is that it is "an organization," with careful abstinence of the word "terrorist." Do the Turks think that the Islamic State is a charity organization?
June 2015 will be election time in Turkey, again. As there is more than enough evidence that Erdogan, Davutoglu & Co. always win votes by Israel-bashing in a country that is increasingly anti-Semitic, it should not be a surprise if Ankara quietly requested its Hamas comrades to start a new war prior to the June parliamentary elections so that the AKP will win again.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily News and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.