LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For Today/Whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their works
Matthew 23/01-37/1 Then
Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The
scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses’ seat. 3 All things therefore
whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their
works; for they say, and don’t do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens that
are grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they
themselves will not lift a finger to help them. 5 But all their works
they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries * broad, enlarge
the fringes† of their garments, 6 and love the place of honor at feasts,
the best seats in the synagogues, 7 the salutations in the marketplaces,
and to be called ‘Rabbi, Rabbi’ by men. 8 But don’t you be called
‘Rabbi,’ for one is your teacher, the Christ, and all of you are
brothers. 9 Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your
Father, he who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for one is
your master, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you will be
your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever
humbles himself will be exalted. 13 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and as a pretense you make
long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. 14 “But
woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut up the
Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you don’t enter in yourselves,
neither do you allow those who are entering in to enter.‡ 15 Woe to you,
scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and land
to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as
much a son of Gehenna§ as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, you blind guides,
who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever
swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ 17 You blind fools!
For which is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold?
18 ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by
the gift that is on it, he is obligated?’ 19 You blind fools! For which
is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 He
therefore who swears by the altar, swears by it, and by everything on
it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it, and by him who has
been living** in it. 22 He who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of
God, and by him who sits on it. 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin,†† and have left undone
the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. But you
ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone. 24 You
blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel! 25 “Woe to
you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the
cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and
unrighteousness. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the
cup and of the platter, that its outside may become clean also. 27 “Woe
to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitened
tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead
men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly
appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and
iniquity. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you
build the tombs of the prophets, and decorate the tombs of the
righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we
wouldn’t have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31
Therefore you testify to yourselves that you are children of those who
killed the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33
You serpents, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the judgment
of Gehenna?§§ 34 Therefore behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and
scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you
will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city; 35
that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the
blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom
you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Most certainly I tell
you, all these things will come upon this generation. 37 “Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, who kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her!
How often I would have gathered your children together, even as a hen
gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not! 38 Behold, your
house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me
from now on, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 19 and 20/14
Israeli Christians Officially Recognized as Arameans, Not Arabs/Israel Today /September 20/14
A chronicle of Christian death foretold/By: Basem Shabb/The Daily Star/September 20/14
The Gaza plan that never was/By: Smadar Perry/Ynetnews/September 20/14
The Posse and the Iranian Fugitive/Amir Taheri/ September 19 and 20/14
Iran is not needed to beat ISIS/Majid Rafizadeh /Al Arabiya/September 20/14
Lebanese Related News published on September 19 and 20/14
Deadly day for Lebanese Army
Report: Syria's Nusra Front kills captive Lebanese soldier
Machnouk discusses security with Russia
Breaking taboos for healthier view of sexuality
Deal underway for Parliament extension, wage hike
Renewable energy could ease Lebanon’s power woes
Lebanon mourns Shiite scholar Sayyed Fahs
3 Rockets from Border Area Hit Northern Bekaa Region
Grenade Targets Army Checkpoint in Tripoli as ISF Arrests Fugitives
Hale Lauds Unity, Cooperation among Lebanese Security Agencies
Lebanon in Limbo over Growing Number of Syrian Refugees
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 19 and 20/14
Two Years, but Still Praying for Pastor Saeed imprisoned In Iran
New Iran nuclear talks face old hurdles
ISIS fight requires 'genocidal' Israel leave 'Palestine', Iran says
Iran moving to comply with nuclear deal: IAEA
Iranian youths behind ‘Happy’ video sentenced
Kerry sees role for Iran in ISIS war
Islamic State threatens ancient sites in Iraq
France says it launches first air strikes in Iraq
Persian pretense in Yeman, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria
Lies in the service of Hamas
After Abbas, who will lead the Palestinians?
Iranians caught in Kenya carrying fake Israeli
France: Israel-Palestinian solution to be presented to
Egypt militants behead man in restive Sinai
OPCW document: Syria had ricin program
Queen urges unity after Scottish independence vote
Syrian Kurds fleeing ISIS cross border into Turkey
Syrian nuclear activities divide global powers at UN atomic meeting
ISIS fighters capture 60 Kurdish villages in Syria
Kurdish Peshmerga forces expand ISIS offensive
Bahrain National Dialogue set to resume
Yemen: Government mulls fresh Houthi demands
Scotland Rejects Independence in Historic Referendum, Salmond Decides to Resign
Israeli Christians Officially
Recognized as Arameans, Not Arabs
Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Israel Today Staff
Earlier this year, Israel took the first step in recognizing the nation’s Christians as an independent minority. Now, local Israeli Christians can register as a distinct ethnicity, as well. Lumped together with the Arab population for centuries, Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) has been instructed to now recognize the bulk of the country’s Christians as Aramaeans, the actual ethnicity of most of the region’s Christians prior to the Arab Muslim conquest.“The existence of the Aramean nationality is clear and obvious,” wrote Interior Minister Gideon Saar in his official directive to the PIBA. Saar noted that local Aramean Christians have a distinct “historical heritage, religion, culture, descent and language” - all the conditions necessary to be recognized as a national or ethnic group. The change in the national registry will be by request for those Christians born into Christian families or clans and who can speak Aramaic. A large group of Christians had already applied for such recognition four years ago, and will now be granted the desired ethnic status. This decision “corrects a historic injustice that wrongly defined Israel’s citizens of eastern-Christian descent as ‘Christian Arabs,’ although other than their spoken language, they have absolutely no connection to the Arab nationality,” wrote Father Gabriel Naddaf on his Facebook page. Naddaf is the spiritual leader of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, which encourages local Christians to volunteer for Israeli army service and fully integrate with Israeli Jewish society. Naddaf and like-minded Christian leaders have been arguing for years that in modern Israel, Middle East Christians are finally free to once again express themselves and their faith independent of the Muslim Arab majority.
“This is a historic moment,” forum spokesman Shadi Khalloul told Israel’s Ynet news portal. “The Aramean people are finally seeing justice after being persecuted across the region.” Asked why the Israeli government’s decision means so much, Khalloul provided a short history lesson: “We have existed in this region for thousands of years. We accepted Christianity, but then had Arabic forced upon us during the Arab conquest, just as local Jews did. But we preserved our language in churches and other cultural settings.”Khalloul further explained that the lack of proper ethnic recognition was a gaping hole in the lives of many local Christians. “I refused to officially register my two-year-old son after his birth because the Interior Ministry wanted to register him as an Arab,” he said. “Now I can happily register him as an Aramean.”Khalloul and his Jewish interviewer went on to speak of the shared history between Jews and Arameans, and even the deep connections between Hebrew and the Aramaic language. In fact, many Jewish prayers, most notably several Passover blessings, are in Aramaic, and common modern Hebrew words like “aba” and “ima” - father and mother - come from Aramaic. “Yesterday in Israel we saw the correction of an historical injustice,” wrote columnist Dror Idar in the daily newspaper Israel Hayom. “Congratulations to the Aramean nation, and here’s to a life of fruitful coexistence in the Holy Land.”
Two Years, but Still Praying for Pastor Saeed imprisoned In Iran
ICC to Join Thousands in Calling for the Release of Imprisoned American-Iranian Pastor
09/19/2014 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) joins with thousands of Christians around the world to call for the release of American-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini. September 26, 2014 marks two years since Pastor Saeed was taken to an Iranian prison. He is serving an eight year prison sentence for his work among Iranian house churches in the early 2000s. One week from today, thousands are expected to gather at more than 460 prayer vigils in over 30 countries spanning the globe to mark the two year anniversary of his imprisonment.
"Saeed was encouraged to know that so many cities and countries are gathering for a prayer vigil to remember him and the persecuted church on September 26," Naghmeh, Saeed's mother, said following her recent visit mother to the prison where he is being held in Karaj, Iran. "Thank you for all who are standing with us and the persecuted church. Thank you for bringing a smile to Saeed's face during such hard times."
Since his imprisonment, Saeed has been subjected to long periods of solitary confinement and physical abuse. He is believed to be suffering from internal injuries that continue to go untreated and are causing him severe pain.
Saeed's case has been raised before numerous international groups including the UN Human Rights Council which has released a report documenting his arbitrary detention. "The report details how Pastor Saeed was detained in Iran while finalizing the details of a government approved orphanage in July 2012, was subjected to a sham trial on charges related solely to his religious beliefs, and has spent nearly two years behind bars, enduring periods of solitary confinement and brutal beatings, because of his Christian faith," Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said of the report adopted by the working group on Arbitrary Detention at its August 2013 session.
On September 27, 2013, one day after prayer vigils marking the first anniversary of Saeed's imprisonment, President Obama raised Saeed's case in his "historic phone call" with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The Iranian President will again be in the United States next week for the UN General Assembly. While no meeting is currently planned for the two presidents, Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to meet with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, presenting an opportunity for the Secretary to directly address Saeed's case with his Iranian counterpart.
As U.S. and Iranian officials continue to negotiate regarding Iran's nuclear program ahead of the November 24 deadline, the freedom of American citizens who are unjustly imprisoned in Iran should certainly be part of the concerns for the United States.
For times and locations of the prayer vigils visit: www.beheardproject.com
Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, "We are privileged to join with thousands who will exercise their fundamental right of religious freedom by gathering to pray together, an act that, for Saeed Abedini and many more in Iran and around the world, would put them in prison. In a time when Christians around the world are facing increasing persecution, the church cannot remain silent. We urge Christians across the United States and around the world to gather and raise their voices to God on behalf of Saeed and others facing similar abuses and to raise their voice before world leaders and call for the freedom for all people to worship freely without fear of imprisonment or persecution. For Secretary Kerry, we urge him to directly address Saeed's case with Minister Zarif and ask him to follow through on offers of clemency that he said may be possible for Saeed."
Serious setback: Pastor Saeed Abedini belongs in US, not in brutal Iranian prison
By Jay Sekulow
Published May 22, 2014
Saeed Abedini is an Iranian-American Christian pastor who was arrested in the summer of 2012 for apostasy and evangelizing and imprisoned in the the brutal Evin Prison. Abedini and his family have maintained that he was only there helping to set up an orphanage that was actually sponsored by the regime government. Supporters have alleged that the State Department has not done enough to ensure his release. (ACLJ)
It happened without warning.
Tuesday, a heavily-armed contingent of Iranian guards stormed a private hospital in Tehran. The guards came for one purpose – to forcibly remove American Pastor Saeed Abedini from his hospital bed and take him back to prison.
Pastor Saeed, a U.S. citizen sentenced to an 8-year prison term in Iran because of his Christian faith, had spent two months at that hospital – a hopeful sign – a hospital room instead of a prison cell – where he received better treatment.
That came to an abrupt end on Tuesday. The Iranian guards did not just take Pastor Saeed into custody. No, they beat him severely. So severely that he passed out.
We know these details because all of this was witnessed by Pastor Saeed’s parents, who were visiting him when the guards stormed the hospital.
They were shocked and helpless. They could do nothing as the guards took their son back to Rajai Shahr Prison.
While we do know the details about this violent encounter, we still don’t know why this happened. The motive is unclear and no explanation was given by the guards.
For Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, the news was devastating. “This came as a complete shock to our family. In some ways, hearing the news about his beating and return to prison was worse than getting the initial call nearly two years ago that Saeed was taken into custody. This is a very difficult time for us -- not knowing what to expect. We continue to receive strength from the many people around the world who are praying for Saeed and our family.”
Pastor Saeed has committed no crime. He is being punished because of his Christian faith. This latest turn of events is extremely disappointing and reveals the true brutality against Christians that is still very real and present in Iran.
With Pastor Saeed now back in prison and suffering from new injuries sustained from beatings this week, we have to sound the alarm. This is a critical time for Pastor Saeed.
Nearly 260,000 people from around the world are demanding that Iran release Pastor Saeed. Hundreds of thousands continue to pray for the Abedini family.
We’re grateful for President Obama directly raising Pastor Saeed’s plight with Iran’s president last fall and highlighting Pastor Saeed at the National Prayer Breakfast in February.
But this new disturbing development warrants even more involvement from our government to save this innocent U.S. citizen.
In response to Pastor Saeed’s beatings and return to prison, the State Department provided this written statement to a reporter:
“We remain concerned about Mr. Abedini’s health and welfare, especially given reports of mistreatment during his transfer back to Rajai Shahr prison. We repeat our request for Iran to permit Mr. Abedini to receive any necessary medical treatment, and to grant Swiss officials, who serve as our protecting power, consular access to determine his well-being. We remain in touch with Mr. Abedini’s family regarding developments in his case. We call on Iran to release Mr. Abedini so that he may be reunited with his family.”
A paper statement should be just the beginning. During this critical time, the U.S. government needs to call attention to Pastor Saeed’s plight. The president and his top leaders must publicly engage with this case again and demand that Iran release this U.S. citizen.
As Pastor Saeed approaches two years of captivity, it’s time for him to come home. His family needs him.
He, Naghmeh and their two young children are suffering. It is time for his ordeal to be over. After two years it is time for him to return to the country he loves, to be reunited with his family. He belongs in America, not in a prison in Iran.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He hosts a daily radio show, "Jay Sekulow Live," which is broadcast on more than 850 stations nationwide as well as Sirius/X satellite radio. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.
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A chronicle of Christian death foretold
By: Basem Shabb/The Daily Star
The In Defense of Christianity conference recently held in Washington D.C. was a success for some because of the participation of all Eastern Christian sects.
Its purpose was to raise awareness of Christian suffering in the Middle East and to rally Western support for Arab Christian communities.
The participants had made numerous calls to help fellow Christians in the face of adversity. However, the inflammatory address of Senator Ted Cruz, who stated that Arab Christians had no better friend than Israel, unleashed a powerful anti-American and anti-Israeli reaction among the participants. Cruz implied that this reaction was anti-Semitic. Though the organizers tried to minimize the damage, the incident brought to light deeper issues of distrust and resentment.
Ever since the invasion of Iraq, Christians throughout the Middle East have blamed the United States for the forced migration of Iraqi Christians. As the Arab Spring degenerated into a civil war in Syria, Christians fell prey to sectarian strife and increasing Islamist radicalization. American disengagement and Western indifference further alienated Eastern Christians.
The drift away from the West accelerated as many Christians took sides with the anti-Western Shiite-dominated axis of Iran, Bashar Assad and Hezbollah. The clergy reflected this tilt by showing indifference to Sunni suffering – for instance after the chemical attack in Ghouta last year – blaming the opposition.
Many clergymen have also espoused strange conspiracy theories. Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako proclaimed only days before the IDC conference that ISIS was an American creation. Others have stated openly to European diplomats that there is a Jewish and American plot to depopulate the Middle East of its Christians. Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Lahham, in response to Cruz’s inflammatory remarks, accused the U.S. of being responsible for evicting the Jews from the Arab states.
Such displays of anti-Western, anti-Jewish sentiment makes it difficult for the U.S. administration or Congress to show solidarity with and empathy for Arab Christians. Accusations of anti-Semitism by Cruz tainted the conference and swayed media away from a defense of Christianity.
Lee Smith, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, implied it was not easy protecting the Christians of the Middle East. “Too many of the priests, prelates and patriarchs from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq ... have also identified themselves as supporters of the Iranian axis in the Middle East. ISIS is a murderous group, but so is the regime in Tehran and so are its clients, chief among them Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Smith wrote.
Jean Aziz, a commentator for the pro- Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper wrote that Cruz’s appearance had been a trap that the participants had escaped by booing the senator off the stage. However, Aziz later conceded the serious negative consequences of the episode for Eastern Christianity. If it was a trap, it succeeded in distancing Eastern Christians from the West.
Despite the fact that many Arab Christians may believe that the West, and the United States in particular, is responsible for their misfortunes, the IDC conference in Washington was an attempt to garner support among Americans. The Greek Orthodox representative at the meeting, Bishop Joseph Zehlawi, did not seem to have much hope, discourteously saying in an interview that Arab Christians were speaking to the deaf.
Many such statements, however, were meant more to appease a populist mood back home. How else can one explain the participation of anti-American politicians, journalists and clergymen at the IDC conference? One wonders whether such anti-American views were expressed directly to Obama when he met with the assembled clerics at the White House.
The fact of the matter is that the IDC conference may mark the beginning of the end for the West’s affinity for Eastern Christianity. The gradual erosion of Western culture in the Levant and Lebanon has culminated in a schism with the West. In fact, both the March 8 and March 14 alignments in Lebanon concur in rejecting direct Western military intervention against ISIS. Both subscribe to the view that Western action is defined solely by interest. No attempt was made to invoke a common heritage that Arab Christians share with the West.
This position of seeking help but refusing direct Western intervention and protection seemed perplexing. Instead, Christians have entrusted their fate to shaky regional alliances and local governments, many of which are not particularly concerned whether Arab Christians survive in the region. It is interesting that other communities in the region, such as the Kurds and the Shiites, have been less self-conscious about their ties to the West, asking for military intervention, even as Christians have recklessly abandoned these historic ties.
Eastern Christianity should not have portrayed itself as a vanishing species, but as an outpost of Western values and heritage that is today in peril. Should Eastern Christianity disappear, Western culture would disappear too in the East. That should have been the message of the conference.
Eastern Christianity may have reached a point of no return. It has mortgaged its future to an alliance headed by Iran and backed by Russia, even as it has distanced itself from moderate Sunnis. The IDC conference has surely shed a light on Christian suffering but it remains doubtful that it has revived Western interest in Eastern Christianity. What was construed as sympathy may have degenerated into pity, the worst sentiment.
**Basem Shabb is the Protestant representative from Beirut in the Lebanese Parliament. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.
Al-Nusra Says It Executed Captive Soldier Mohammed Hamiyeh
Naharnet /The Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front on Friday said it executed captive Lebanese soldier Mohammed Hamiyeh, describing him as the “victim of the Lebanese army's intransigence.” Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency said it received a phone call from a Nusra leader in Syria's Qalamun, who confirmed that the group murdered Hamiyeh with several bullets.Meanwhile, Al-Arabiya TV said Lebanese security sources have confirmed the execution. “After the operation that the Lebanese army and the Iranian party (Hizbullah) fabricated today with the aim of impeding the negotiations and after (the army's) arrest of civilians in Arsal and shelling of Qalamun's mountains, the time has come,” the Front's Qalamun branch threatened earlier in a tweet.
It was referring to a bomb attack that killed two Lebanese troops and wounded three others earlier in the day in the Bekaa border town of Arsal. “Mohammed Hamiyeh is the first victim of the intransigence of the Lebanese army, which has become a puppet in the hand of the Iranian party,” it added. Muslim scholars had urged al-Nusra not to carry out the execution, according to MTV. The Front had first threatened to kill Hamiyeh on Tuesday over what it called the army's “persecution” of Syrian refugees and “procrastination” in the negotiations between the group and Lebanese authorities. Along with the text of Tuesday's statement, the group published a photoshopped image showing Hamiyeh in a black casket. Hamiyeh was among nine Lebanese security personnel who featured in a video posted by the Front on August 23, in which he was the only one donning army fatigues as the rest appeared in Internal Security Forces uniforms. The troops were abducted during deadly clashes in early August between the army and Nusra and Islamic State gunmen in and around Arsal. Nineteen troops were killed in the fighting as 35 soldiers and policemen were taken hostage. The Front later released seven security personnel who were in its custody while the IS has executed two army troops.
Rumored arrest of Lebanese soldier's killer sparks protest
The Daily Star/BAALBEK, Lebanon: Relatives of soldier Abbas Medlej, whom ISIS beheaded last month, briefly blocked a vital highway in Baalbek Friday after reports surfaced that the Army had detained several Syrians who were present during his execution.
Medlej’s parents gathered dozens of their relatives and burned tires to block the entrance to the eastern city of Baalbek, demanding that authorities hand over one of the Syrians rumored to have beheaded their son.
Speaking to a local television station, Medlej's father said the government should either serve the Syrian who allegedly killed his son with the death penalty or hand him over. A security source told The Daily Star that three Syrians arrested earlier this week in Baalbek were thought to have been involved in the beheading of Medlej. The source said images found on the detainees’ cell phones showed a slaughtered man with a head separated from the body believed to be that of Medlej.
ISIS released a video Sept. 7 showing Medlej’s execution, the second Lebanese soldier to be beheaded by Islamist militants after the killing of 1st Sgt. Ali Sayyed late in August. The security source identified the Syrians who were detained for entering Lebanon illegally as Dahham Abdul-Aziz Ramadan, 18; Abdullah Ahmad al-Salloum, 21; and Khaled Walid Zakir, 39.
He said the suspects were handed over to the Internal Security Forces headquarters in Beirut at midnight Thursday for further interrogation with the ISF’s Information Branch. While media reports have said the three confessed to being present during the execution of Medlej, the security source could not confirm this.Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army said a Lebanese man identified as Bassam Hujeiri along with Syrian Ahmad Samir Heen and Fadi Ammar al-Halabi were detained for lacking proper identification documents.
During interrogation, the two Syrians confessed to belonging to a terrorist organization, the Army said in its statement, adding that the three were detained in the village of Masyadeh in Arsal, the northeastern border region where the Lebanese troops battled Islamist militants last month.ISIS and Nusra Front, whose fighters were involved in the clashes, are holding at least 22 soldiers and policemen captured during the fighting in Arsal. ISIS has so far beheaded two soldiers while Nusra has released seven as a sign of goodwill.
Two Lebanese soldiers killed in Arsal blast
Rakan al-FakihNidal al-Solh| The Daily Star
BAALBEK, Lebanon: Two Lebanese soldiers were killed Friday in a roadside bomb that targeted an Army patrol unit in the northeastern region of Arsal, security sources told The Daily Star. The explosion occurred as the unit made its way to Wadi Hmeid on the outskirts of the Arsal, near the border with Syria, the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. Two soldiers, Mohammad Daher and Ali al-Kharrat, died of wounds they sustained from the blast, the source said, while three others, identified as Mahmoud Fadel, Yehya Mheish and Mohammad al-Baghrini, were wounded. Daher was from the northern village of Aydamoun in Akkar while Kharrat was from the coastal city of Sidon. A source at the hospital in Arsal told The Daily Star that one of the wounded was in critical condition and had been transferred to another hospital. The other two are stable and remain in Arsal. The source said all three suffered head wounds, along with injuries to their arms. Soldiers quickly cordoned off the area of the explosion. Hours later, the Lebanese Army confirmed the deadly incident, saying the blast occurred around 12:15 p.m. and that the military police had launched an investigation. Military units launched raids in several parts of Arsal including Wadi Hmeid in search of militants as Syrian jets bombed the outskirts of the region, a security source said. Meanwhile, The Nusra Front accused Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army of "fabricating" the assault. “The Lebanese Army kills its own members” The militant group tweeted on a Nusra-affiliated Twitter page.
Earlier this week, the Nusra Front warned that it would kill abducted Army soldier Mohamamd Hammieh. However following Friday’s assault, the militant group said that the “time has come”, announcing that developments concerning Hammieh would be revealed “soon.”“Who’s going to pay the price?” tweeted the militant group. The Lebanese Army has beefed up security in the northeastern region following last month's clashes with militant fighters from ISIS and Nusra Front who sought to overrun the town, which provided the gunmen with a strategic smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria. Soldiers have arrested a number of Syrians suspected of belonging to radical groups as well as involvement in the clashes that have left 19 soldiers dead.
Nusra Front and ISIS are holding at least 22 soldiers and policemen captured during the fighting in Arsal. ISIS has so far beheaded two soldiers, while Nusra has released seven as a sign of goodwill.The border with Syria is believed to have been infiltrated by large numbers of militants affiliated with ISIS and Nusra Front, who have claimed responsibility for several suicide attacks in Lebanon over the last year.Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tammam Salam followed up on the latest developers in Arsal, contacting Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and Army commander Army Gen. Jean Kahwagi. Salam stressed on the need to remain alert and ready to face "the takfiri forces" in their attacks in Arsal.
Issue of captive soldiers will take a while to resolve
Misbah al-Ali| The Daily Star
The Lebanese security personnel being held hostage by Islamist militants will not be freed anytime soon, as there are still many complications to resolve, a senior source with knowledge of the matter told The Daily Star. The top-level security source explained that there were obstacles related to the militants’ demands, the approach to negotiations and the mediators.The abduction of the ISF and Lebanese Army soldiers, who were caught during the five-day clashes in Arsal in early August, has prompted a heated public debate in Lebanon, and deep disagreements have emerged over how to handle the issue.These divisions have also been reflected at a governmental level. Officials from Hezbollah have expressed their irritation at what they refer to as “official confusion” over the way this matter has been handled, and especially at the hasty assignment of the negotiating mission to the Muslim Scholars Committee. The committee has announced that it was forced to suspend its work due to the number of people involved in the negotiations.
The government has also been criticized over the fact that the militants were able to safely withdraw from Arsal with their captives, when the Lebanese government had numerous advantages over the militants while they were on Lebanese territory. Army forces could have encircled them and limited their movement, instead of creating a situation in which they were able to leave.Having been involved in similar situations involving Israel over the years, Hezbollah officials have been keen to point to their experience in such matters.
The party faced many challenges in its negotiations with Israel, including deception by the opposing side’s negotiators. Additionally, it has been noted that when deals were made with Israel to release prisoners, detainees or hostages, Israel always set a deadline for completing the process. It is said that in its dealings with the Nusra Front and ISIS, the Lebanese government could easily follow the negotiation methods used by Hezbollah; some believe the extremist groups are becoming more restrained and no longer have the ability or desire to keep the captives for much longer. Still, getting to the point where the hostages will be released remains a mammoth task, one which falls to the director-general of Lebanon’s General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.
The Lebanese government seems to be incapable of meeting the militants’ demands, as Lebanese officials refuse to discuss a number of points, on the grounds that there is no legal justification or political way to comply with them.
For example, releasing Roumieh’s Islamist prisoners, all of whom were arrested on terrorism charges and none of whom have yet been tried, is something the Lebanese government is not able to do on a whim. As a result, it is expected that the situation will be allowed to cool down until negotiations can resume via trusted mediators. There has been a great deal of pressure on the government recently by the understandably anxious and angry families of the captives, and politicians seem confused about how they should deal with this.
Tensions soared in particular after soldiers Ali Sayyed and Abbas Medlej were executed by ISIS. Before the killing of third soldier, Mohammad Maarouf Hammieh by the Nusra Front, Lebanese negotiators had been working hard to pressure both of the groups into refraining from more murderous acts.
The senior security source said he sensed the Qataris – who have been enlisted as negotiators – were serious about resolving the matter. A Lebanese delegation headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam went to Qatar last week.
But the source hinted that it was likely that the actual negotiations had not begun yet, and were being hindered by the fact that the Nusra Front’s demands differed in form and content from those of ISIS. One of Nusra’s main demands is Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria. The source emphasized that the Qataris, like the Turks, were keen for the situation to end well. This is because they are intent on strengthening Lebanon and protecting it from the current regional turmoil.
Their interest in keeping Lebanon safe is partly down to the fact that the country has played an important role in the Syrian crisis. Turkey is also grateful for Ibrahim’s work that resulted in the release of two Turkish Airlines pilots kidnapped in Beirut last year, and his handling of the case of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in Syria, who were also eventually released last October. Separate sources said the Turkish side had asked Ibrahim to announce a period of no longer than 10 days to take all the necessary measures and instigate contacts, in order to put pressure on the kidnappers. After the 10-day-period ends, extensive meetings would be held. The security source did not disclose how the issue of the Roumieh prisoners would be resolved, which is problematic, as this issue is of great importance to ISIS.
However, the source said that there could be alternatives to the release of these prisoners. Recent clashes in Arsal resulted in nine fighters being wounded and treated in Beirut Government Hospital and other places.
A large number of fighters were arrested in the clashes. It is believed that the Nusra Front is seeking to recover these men, especially given that some of them are Gulf nationals, a potentially sensitive issue. This should give Lebanese negotiators leverage to free their own captives. It is also said that the Syrian government, with Hezbollah, has indicated that it would be able to take a flexible approach in order to help Lebanon in this matter.
Hale Lauds Unity, Cooperation among Lebanese Security Agencies
Naharnet/U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale hailed on Friday the unity and cooperation between Lebanese security agencies, saying it would thwart any attempt to cause division.“The Internal Security Forces, along with the Army, and General Security, have demonstrated bravery and courage in their mission to protect Lebanon’s security and stability,” Hale said during a ceremony to deliver 38 vehicles to the ISF at the ISF Mobile Barracks in Dbayeh. He lauded the efforts exerted by the security agencies, pointing out that they have offered many sacrifices while seeking to “sow instability and division” to safeguard the country. “Cooperation and unity among Lebanon’s security services will make certain that these forces do not succeed,” the U.S. diplomat added.He considered the ISF a “key pillar of public security in Lebanon,” noting that his country is proud of its “longstanding partnership” with it. The ambassador reiterated the U.S. commitment to Lebanon to ensure unity among its people, build more prosperous institutions, and to secure the country.
Since 2008, the Embassy has provided over $140 million to the ISF, the U.S. embassy said in a statement. “This assistance is comprehensive and ongoing.” The vehicles delivered, valued at $1.6 million, and the U.S. plans to provide the ISF with over $20 million worth of equipment, specialized training, and infrastructure support over the next 12 months, the embassy revealed.
Berri Refuses to Challenge Extension of Parliament's Term: Polls to Facilitate Election of New President
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri stressed on Friday that he will accept the extension of the parliament's term if a new head of state was elected, ruling out that he would challenge the decision to prolong the legislature's tenure. “I would accept the extension of the parliament's term only if a serious and real agreement to elect a consensual president preceded it,” Berri said in comments published in local newspapers. He reiterated that he and his Development and Liberation bloc would vote against the extension of the parliament’s term but will not challenge it if it was adopted by the majority. On Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri's latest statement, the head of AMAL movement considered that their stances meet on the importance of swiftly electing a new president. He described Hariri's stance as a “good-will gesture,” as staging the parliamentary polls without pressing the election of a new president would widen the gap and increase the vacuum at state posts. But Berri pointed out that lawmakers should assume their responsibilities and seek a settlement on the name of the new president before the parliamentary polls. On Wednesday, Former premier Hariri announced that al-Mustaqbal bloc will not take part in parliamentary polls before the election of a new president, denying the presence of any “deal” to extend the current parliament's mandate.President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended in May. “Everyone submitted their candidacies for the parliamentary elections, including those who support the extension of the legislature's term,” Berri noted.
“Once we are done with the polls we should swiftly elect a new speaker and then elect a new head of state.”“This is the only way to avert vacuum,” he remarked. Several political forces had hinted that a second extension of the parliament's term is looming on the horizon while the government has failed so far to form the committee that is supposed to oversee the elections. The speaker wondered why would MPs seek to extend the parliament's tenure if they are not meeting or legislating.
Parliament has been unable to legislate over the boycott of several blocs, including the March 14 alliance's lawmakers and Change and Reform MPs. The paralysis is linked to the presidential deadlock. The majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs have been causing a lack of quorum in sessions aimed at electing a president, leaving the country without a head of state.Berri described Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat's tour on party leaders to press the election of a new head of state as a way to achieve a breakthrough in the political impasse. “He fears, like me, that extending the parliament mandate would expand vacuum,” the speaker said.
Lebanon to tap into huge Russian market
Dana Halawi| The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon aims to capitalize on Russia’s decision to ban imports of food items from Europe and the U.S. by exporting agricultural produce to the country of 150 million citizens, industrialists and experts said.
“The private sector is currently preparing to enter the Russian market as part of a long-term strategy to increase its exports and revenues in the face of the rising cost of production in Lebanon,” head of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists Fadi Gemayel said in a statement to Al-Markazia. “We are willing to open new markets and we are capable of doing so,” he said, adding that Lebanon was planning to export its agriculture produce to Russia following the ban imposed by President Vladimir Putin on imported goods from EU countries. On Aug. 7, Russia banned all meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetable imports from the EU, the U.S., Norway, Canada and Australia for one year to retaliate against Western sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.
“The Russian market is currently in need of a wide range of products and we expect it to be a very promising market for Lebanese industries,” Gemayel said. “We are currently negotiating the types of products that will be exported to Russia.”Lebanon’s balance of trade with Russia stood at $17.068 million up to July 2014. Former Industry Minister Vreij Sabounjian said the new initiative aimed to seize the opportunity for Lebanese industrialists to export their products to a new market, adding that in Russia, consumers care more about quality than prices. “However, we should sacrifice a bit at first and reduce our prices to be able to enter the Russian market while maintaining our operations and creating job opportunities for our people,” he said.
Figures released by the Industry Ministry show that industrial exports totaled $1 billion in the first four months of 2014, constituting a decrease of 14.5 percent from $1.2 billion in the same period of last year. Industrial exports reached $277.1 million in April 2014, up by 7.1 percent from $258.7 million in March 2014 but down by 6.8 percent from $297.3 million in April 2013. Overall, Lebanon exported its industrial products to 40 African countries, 40 European economies, 26 Asian countries, 21 countries in the Americas, 19 Arab countries and four countries in Oceania in April 2014. Gemayel said Lebanon could not compete with other countries that are producing at lower costs unless it produces high quality products. “The Russian market comprises around 150 million consumers,” he said, adding that if 3 to 4 percent of them demand high quality production, Lebanese industries will then succeed in gaining a very important export market. Industrialists have repeatedly complained about the high cost of energy, labor and land and have urged the successive governments to take measures to protect Lebanese industries. The high cost of electricity has long represented a major challenge for Lebanon’s industrial sector. Moreover, an increase in electricity blackouts has had a detrimental effect on local industries – causing extra expenditures due to over-reliance on generators while also impeding productivity. “Lebanese factories are still affected by the excessive power cuts which are [driving] them to either stop production or resort to alternative energy [sources] such as generators by incurring extra costs,” he said. “This is causing factory owners to incur heavy losses.”Sabounjian said that Lebanese industrialists must expand their relations with clients in other countries instead of only focusing on minimizing the cost of production. “It is important to minimize the cost of production but opening new routes can also bring in more revenues to the sector,” he said.
Deadly day for Lebanese Army
Rakan al-FakihNidal al-SolhElise Knusten| The Daily Star
BAALBEK/BEIRUT: Militants from the Nusra Front executed an abducted Army soldier Friday, security sources said, hours after two Lebanese soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb in the northeastern town of Arsal. The execution of Mohammad Maarouf Hammieh marks the first killing of a Nusra Front captive. Two soldiers had previously been beheaded by ISIS militants. The sources confirmed that Hammieh, who hails from the Baalbek village of Taraya in the Bekaa Valley, was shot by the militants.
“Mohammad Hammieh is the first victim of the intransigence of the Lebanese Army, which has become a puppet [of Hezbollah]” a Nusra-affiliated Twitter page said Friday. The Nusra Front and ISIS are still holding at least 21 soldiers and policemen captive.
The Nusra Front first threatened to kill Hammieh Tuesday, saying that he might be the first “to pay the price” of failed negotiations with the Lebanese government and Hezbollah’s continued crackdown on Syrian refugees in Arsal and along the town’s borders. The government has been engaged in indirect negotiations through a Qatari-sponsored mediation with militants over the release of the abducted security personnel. Nusra Front and ISIS are both demanding the release of Islamist prisoners from Roumieh Prison in exchange for the Lebanese hostages. Earlier Friday, two Lebanese soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb that targeted a military truck in Arsal, in an attack that heightened fears of a new bout of fighting between the Army and Islamist militants.
Friday’s was the first attack against the Army since ISIS and Nusra Front militants overran Arsal last month and engaged in five days of pitched battles with Lebanese troops. “Two soldiers were killed and three wounded when an Army truck was targeted with a bomb explosion at 12:15 p.m. while it was traveling inside the town of Arsal,” the military said in a statement. It added that troops had quickly cordoned off the site of the explosion and military police had launched an investigation. In another statement later, the Army said the bomb, which consisted of about 10 kilograms of inflammable materials, had been detonated by remote control. The explosion occurred as the military truck made its way to Wadi Hmeid on the outskirts of Arsal, a security source told The Daily Star. The two dead soldiers were identified as Mohammad Daher from the northern village of Aydamoun in Akkar and Ali al-Kharrat from the southern city of Sidon. The three wounded were identified as Mahmoud Fadel, Yehya Mheish and Mohammad al-Baghrini.
Following the bombing, Army units raided houses in Arsal, including Wadi Hmeid, in search of militants, as Syrian jets bombed the outskirts of the region on the Syrian side of the border, a security source said.
Troops arrested a large number of suspects, who are being interrogated, an Army statement said. The Army later used heavy weapons to target militant positions around Arsal, the National News Agency reported. Prime Minister Tammam Salam called for readiness to face “takfiri forces” in their continuing attacks on Arsal. The attack on the Army drew nationwide condemnation. “We support the efforts of the Army and its command in protecting the border from the infiltration of terrorists and other groups working to incite strife in Lebanon,” former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in a statement. “We salute the fallen soldiers who were on the front line of defending Lebanon.”
Hariri spoke with Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi by phone to discuss the security situation in Arsal as well as the bomb attack. Hariri said the attack should be an additional incentive for the Army to combat terrorism with all means available, hold terrorists accountable and “protect Arsal and its people from the forces of extremism.” Hezbollah also condemned the attack, while commending the military’s efforts to deal with the infiltration of militants into Lebanon.
General Security personnel arrested 11 Syrians in Khartoum, near Tyre, on suspicion of belonging to terrorist groups. Five were released and the other six were being held for further investigation, a General Security source told The Daily Star. Relatives of soldier Abbas Medlej, whom ISIS beheaded earlier this month, briefly blocked a major highway in Baalbek Friday after reports surfaced that the Army had detained several Syrians who were present during his execution.
Medlej’s parents gathered dozens of their relatives and burned tires to block the entrance to the eastern city of Baalbek, demanding that authorities hand over one of the Syrians rumored to have beheaded their son.
A security source told The Daily Star that three Syrians arrested earlier this week in Baalbek were thought to have been involved in the beheading of Medlej.
The security source identified the Syrians who were detained for entering Lebanon illegally as Dahham Abdul-Aziz Ramadan, 18; Abdullah Ahmad al-Salloum, 21; and Khaled Walid Zakir, 39.
The Army said a Lebanese man identified as Bassam Hujeiri had been detained for lacking proper identification documents, along with Syrians Ahmad Samir Heen and Fadi Ammar al-Halabi. During interrogation, the two Syrians confessed to belonging to a terrorist organization, the Army said in its statement, adding that the three were being detained in the Arsal region.The Lebanese Army has beefed up security in the northeastern region following last month’s deadly clashes with ISIS and Nusra Front militants in and around Arsal, which was being used by the gunmen as a strategic smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria. Soldiers have arrested a number of Syrians suspected of belonging to radical groups as well as being involved in the clashes, which left 19 soldiers dead.
In the northern city of Tripoli, unknown attackers threw a grenade at an Army checkpoint, but no casualties were reported, security sources told The Daily Star. The assault targeted the Army checkpoint on the Omari road that separates the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.
Lebanon mourns Shiite scholar Sayyed Fahs
Mohammed Zaatari| The Daily Star
JIBSHEET, Lebanon: Lebanon bid farewell to prominent Shiite scholar Sayyed Hani Fahs in a grand funeral Friday that was attended by the country’s top officials and a high-profile Palestinian delegation. Fahs’ coffin was transported in the morning from Beirut to his southern hometown Jibsheet, where he was laid to rest.
The sound of women crying filled the air and rice and roses were thrown at his casket, which was wrapped with both the Lebanese and Palestinian flags.
The casket was preceded by a number of funeral wreaths, including those sent by Speaker Nabih Berri, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Paying tribute to Fahs, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said in a statement: “ Lebanon has lost a man whose religious beliefs transcend sectarian boundaries, and whose Islamic values are open to all of Lebanon with humanity that was reflected in each of his stances.”
Fahs “spent his life fostering a communicative approach that made him a luminous beacon of thought, culture and dialogue,” he said.
Salam also praised Fahs’ ability to be close to groups of people from all religions and walks of life. “He loved all of them to the point where his friends and admirers started calling him an area of successful civil work,” he added.
“Scholar Hani Fahs was able to offer calm dialogue as an alternative for heated debate; he proposed areas for freedom of speech that don’t promote ideological conflicts but an abundance of thought and ... common bonds between people,” he said. The prime minister offered his deepest condolences to Fahs’ immediate family, asking those who were related to him or knew him “to continue the dialogue approach that the great deceased left for us ... God rest his soul,” he said in his statement. The deputy head of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, also mourned the Shiite scholar’s death, saying during his Friday speech: “ Lebanon lost ... a prestigious religious figure that is eminent in social work and local and Arab politics.”“This incredible human being was in the service of his people and worked toward their best interest,” Qabalan said. “We have lost ... a friend and a companion and a loving brother,” Qabalan added. You [Fahs] were always benevolent and honest in your speech and straightforward in your life as you dealt with everyone.”
MP Bahia Hariri mourned the death of Fahs “after a journey full of spiritual and humanitarian giving and national work.”
In a statement, she said: “ Lebanon says goodbye today, with the entire Arab and Islamic and humanitarian world, to a man of piety, religion, science, mind and conscience, who spent his lifetime in the service of Islam and the ordinary citizen.”
“[Fahs] used his mind and pen to defend noble values and he founded an approach to inter-religions dialogue involving respecting others and accepting them,” she said. “He put distinct efforts into building the partnerships between Muslims and all sects.”Hariri sent her “condolences and sympathy to the family ... and to the Lebanese people and the Islamic and Arab world.”
Hariri said that Fahs had worked for a united, diverse and modern Arab and Islamic society, and “these are the qualities we hope to combine in Lebanon, the nation and state, because it’s the basis of the Lebanese message.”
Among those who participated in the funeral were MP Hani Qobeissy, representing Berri; Sheikh Nabil Qawouk, representing Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah; and Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the central committee of Fatah, representing Palestinian President Abbas. Also present were Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan, representing the deputy chief of the Higher Shiite Council; Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb as the head of a delegation representing the Socialist Progressive Party; head of Hezbollah’s bloc MP Mohammad Raad and party deputies Alaeddine Terro, Yassin Jaber, Abdel Latif el-Zein, Ali Asayran and Abdel Majid Saleh. Other political, social and religious figures who attended the memorial included Fathi Abu al-Ardat, representing the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour, Nasrallah’s media consultant Mohammad Afif, and the head of the institution of “Adyan” Father Fadi Daou.
The Gaza plan that never was
Smadar Perry/Ynetnews/Published: 09.19.14 / Israel Opinion
Analysis: Proposal for Palestinian state in Sinai was basically aimed at getting rid of Hamas leadership. But just like they are stuck with Gaza siege, Israel and Egypt are stuck with military wings and missile launchers.
No one likes Gaza, and no one wants to carry it on their head. There are about two million men, women and children living in Gaza without a future, alongside the organizations under Hamas' umbrella. Those who were lucky managed to get as far away from the Strip as possible and make a fresh start. The others are stuck.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did not settle for one sweeping denial of the reports and mountains of commentaries in Israel about the generous offer he allegedly made to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In the middle of last week, when the Israeli Army Radio's political correspondent was the first to report that al-Sisi had suggested establishing a Palestinian state in Sinai and donating a territory five times bigger than the area of Gaza, the Egyptian president explained in a speech scheduled for the "teachers' holiday" that "I had to get here late because I have been busy drafting denials since 7 am."
Accords that an original idea for separation is put on the table. He angrily elaborated on what was broadcast here and what he had to say about the "plot" devised behind his back. It won't work, al-Sisi declared. No one is entitled to concede Egyptian lands, not even in favor of the Palestinians. An hour later, another denial, an official and detailed one, was issued by the presidential palace, and a third statement came out of the foreign ministry in Cairo about the "inventions" and "lies" and the wedge people were trying to drive between Egypt and Abbas. Judging from the reactions of veteran commentators and esteemed columnists in Cairo, they are not rushing to buy the denials. They are troubled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's silence. They are troubled by the reports that Abbas is the one who revealed al-Sisi's offer and the plan "being concocted against him in Jerusalem" to donate Sinai's sands for the sake of solving the refugees' right of return issue. Think about it: If these lands are anyway empty, if Hamas is Egypt's headache, and if the plan talks about a demilitarized state under the Palestinian Authority's responsibility, what's wrong with it? To the Israeli ear this sounds too good to be true, and why didn't anyone think of it before. They truth is someone did: Officials here, in Washington and in Paris, checked out the issue with four Egyptian presidents. The state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper published a summary of the efforts to expropriate lands in Sinai in order to establish the state of Palestinian or throw Gaza into Egypt, as suggested by the late Menachem Begin, the late Yitzhak Rabin and other senior officials who tried to get presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak interested in the idea. It's interesting that the "Gaza plan" appealed mostly to Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. For him, creating territorial continuity between Gaza and Sinai could have been the fulfillment of a dream. In Israel it is perceived as a nightmare. A large Hamas state, open crossings and a tunnel industry, with the military wings of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah running wild along the Sinai border.
The big question is whether al-Sisi really promised to hand over Sinai lands (that's unlikely) and if Abbas really rejected the plan out of hand. In any event, if there was any chance, even the slightest, the fresh leak killed the initiative. Al-Sisi will not concede territories, a demilitarized Palestinian state will not be established in Sinai, and the refugees will not return. This solution was basically aimed at getting rid of the Hamas leadership. But just like they are stuck with the Gaza siege, Israel and Egypt are stuck with the military wings and missile launchers. The hands are working, the eyes are open, no one is resting.
An economic solution is the only thing that will calm Gaza down. In the moderate camp of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Abbas as well, no one has to suddenly fall in love with Gaza. Let them live in dignity, explain to them the economic potential they have and make sure that the funds and investments reach the right hands only.
France: Israel-Palestinian solution to be presented to UNSC
AFP/Published: 09.19.14/Israel News/Ynetnews
French president Hollande says country 'will have a resolution that will say very clearly what we expect from the (peace) process and what the solution to the conflict must be'. A “solution to the conflict” between the Israelis and Palestinians will be put to the UN Security Council, French President Francois Hollande said yesterday after meeting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Paris."We will have a resolution, to be presented to the Security Council, that will say very clearly what we expect from the (peace) process and what the solution to the conflict must be," Hollande told reporters. The French president said that stop-start negotiations had gone on "too long" and "there is a perception that there will never be a solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though we know the outlines" of a possible deal".The most recent armed confrontation was "the third time that Gaza has been destroyed," Hollande said. "What we must look for is a durable peace accord," he said, adding that stalled peace talks "must now reach their end".
Abbas urged "all countries to assume their responsibilities to end a conflict that has lasted more than 66 years". "Making peace will give added legitimacy to the fight against terrorism in the region," he added.
Abbas, who is trying to build support ahead of a new Palestinian diplomatic push within the United Nations, said that France could give impetus to an Arab League-backed plan calling for an end to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the formation of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. After France, he is to go on to New York to participate in the annual UN General Assembly starting September 24. The Palestinians, who have already won observer state status in the world body, are threatening to join the International Criminal Court, which could open the way to them urging the prosecution of Israeli officials for "war crimes".
Persian pretense in Yeman, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria
The Daily Star/The dramatic events unfolding in Yemen have seen a bold offensive by the Houthi movement in the capital Sanaa, defused with difficulty Friday after dozens of people lost their lives in the violence. Taking advantage of the central government’s difficulties in tackling a southern secessionist movement and an insurgency by Al-Qaeda militants, the Houthis shelled the state TV building and disrupted international flights to Sanaa. While there are homegrown reasons for the Houthi rebellion, Iran has played an enabling role by training and arming the Shiite group, as part of a general objective to pressure its rival Saudi Arabia. Yemen is just one arena where Iran is trying to influence events abroad using direct or indirect interventionist tactics – the list extends to countries such as Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.This is why all of the outraged rhetoric from Iranian officials, warning the U.S. and other countries against intervening in the affairs of Syria and Iraq – both in the grip of an insurgency led by ISIS – is so grating. If there is one theme that Iran has become adept at promoting, it is that the outside world should respect the sovereignty of this region’s states, and its lectures against “double standards” have been heard time and time again. The simple fact is that Iran itself lacks credibility in the Arab world – for starters – because it so flagrantly engages in double standards itself. By trying to keep so many regional pots on the boil, Iran has become skilled at making enemies, and not earning the respect of its anxious neighbors. The sooner the hypocrisy ends, the better for all sides.
Iran is not needed to beat ISIS
Majid Rafizadeh /Al Arabiya
Friday, 19 September 2014
Among Iran’s fundamental foreign-policy objectives is to project itself as the sole regional power capable of defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and eliminating extremism in Iraq. These objectives are in line with Tehran’s regional hegemonic ambitions.
As such, Iranian leaders were understandably furious at not being invited to the international conference aimed at charting a strategy to defeat ISIS. Although Washington has been directly negotiating with Tehran on the sidelines, the former refused to invite the latter to participate in the “core coalition” against the group. “Despite using most of its resources, Tehran has been unable to make any significant military gains against ISIS, whose power and territorial expansion have been remarkable”
In an unprecedented move, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei immediately wrote a statement on his official website and took to Twitter to attempt to alter the narrative. In order to preserve its hegemonic ambitions and to save face, he argued that it was Iran that refused to join the core coalition. “Right from the start, the United States asked through its ambassador in Iraq whether we could cooperate against [ISIS]… I said no, because they have dirty hands,” Khamenei wrote. He added that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “personally asked” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who “rejected the request.”
The crucial issues to address are whether Iran’s military power is needed to defeat ISIS, and what are the costs and benefits of seeking Tehran’s assistance in Iraq. The mainstream media has been filled with analysis about the urgent necessity to include Iran in the anti-ISIS coalition. Projecting Tehran as an indispensable power in defeating the group is naive, and falls right into its foreign-policy objective of regional supremacy. It is crucial not to exaggerate Iran’s military power in general, and its ability to fight ISIS in particular. For several months, Tehran’s elite Quds Forces have been fighting ISIS in Iraq, as well as assisting and advising Baghdad. Iranian leaders want to preserve the dominance of the ruling Shiite coalition in Iraq, strengthen the central government, maximize their own influence in Iraq and preserve their interests there. Nevertheless, despite using most of its resources, Tehran has been unable to make any significant military gains against ISIS, whose power and territorial expansion have been remarkable. In addition, Iran’s military capabilities - compared to that of the core coalition, Western powers and NATO - are inferior. Tehran has two main armies with conventional, old or home-made weapons: the Islamic Republic of Iran Army, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its projection of its military power has long been showy and pretentious, to project itself as the regional superpower. The negative repercussions of inviting Iran to these international conferences against ISIS outweigh the benefits. Inviting Tehran would further legitimize its interference in Iraq, and increase its military activities in other countries, including Syria. Iran would also use its “legitimate” involvement as leverage to obtain more concessions in nuclear negotiations.
The Posse and the Iranian Fugitive
Amir Taheri /Asharq Al Awsat
Friday, 19 Sep, 2014
As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prepares to fly to New York, the buzz in his faction is that he will return with “another great diplomatic victory.”
We heard the same tune last year when Rouhani paid his first visit to the Big Apple for the United Nations General Assembly. A brief phone chat with US President Barack Obama, followed by the “Geneva Agreement,” were marketed as “the greatest diplomatic victory in Islamic history.”
Later, we were told that the “Geneva Agreement” was no agreement at all, but a press release on what Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), led by the United States, intended to do.
However, while Iran did freeze a substantial part of its nuclear program, the P5+1 not only failed to lift old sanctions but also imposed new ones.
The P5+1 agreed to let Iran spend 4 billion US dollars of its own oil income, released in tranches, but continued to freeze 1 billion dollars in new oil income each month. The upshot is that, today, more of Iran’s oil money is frozen than a year ago.
With the Iranian economy in decline by almost 2 percent and inflation hovering close to 40 percent, Rouhani needs another “Fatah Al-Fotuh” (Victory of Victories) to prop up his failed presidency. He may try to achieve that by signing something, anything, to create the illusion that he has cut the Gordian knot of Iranian politics.
To camouflage his market of dupes, Rouhani has tried to present the objective as one of persuading the P5+1 to recognize Iran’s right to enrich some uranium. Whether the US-led group does that or not is neither here nor there.
The right to enrich uranium is recognized for all nations, including those which, like Iran, have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The NPT, as its name demonstrates, is about preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, not restricting peaceful nuclear activities. This was how former Iranian foreign minister Ardeshir Zahedi, who signed the NPT in July 1969, put it at the time: “This treaty opens the way for the development of our nuclear industry, with the help of advanced nations, while we strive to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.”
That was reaffirmed in a dozen agreements with many countries, including most members of the P5+1—some signed even before Iran joined the NPT. Examples include agreements signed with the US in 1957, 1958, 1966 and 1969.
The famous 15 billion dollar agreement signed by former Iranian economy and finance minister Hushang Ansary and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1974 included the building of eight nuclear power plants in Iran.
Iran signed similar agreements with France (in 1975) and the German Federal Republic (in 1977). Throughout the 1970s, American, French and German leaders visited Tehran to discuss trade, including nuclear cooperation. Within a decade, numerous Iranian students trained in various fields of the nuclear industry in European and American universities and Iranian nuclear scientists were invited to key conferences.
After the mullahs seized power, they shut down the program because Khomeini regarded it as a “Zionist conspiracy.” When they revived it they signed accords with the Soviet Union (later the Russian Federation) and China.
What Rouhani promises to achieve is the acknowledged right of all nations, including Iran. Apart from that, the P5+1 group is not authorized to offer anything. This is an ad hoc body with no legal status. No one knows how it came about or on whose authority it is working. Nor do we know what its mission statement is, to whom it reports, or who will be the arbiter of whatever deal it makes. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif admits this when he says the group cannot lift sanctions but could recommend doing so to the Security Council. Etymologically, the word “negotiation,” from its Latin root, means “trading” or “give-and-take.” In this case, one side—Iran—being a nation-state, has precise mechanisms for giving, while the other—the P5+1—being a shadowy club, cannot give, even if it wanted to. The P5+1 reminds me of the posse in Western movies—armed gangs formed to hunt down a fugitive. Often, the posse transmutes into a lynch mob, acting as judge, jury and hangman. The accused is better off dealing with an official sheriff.
If Iran does not want to cheat by pursuing a clandestine quest for the bomb, it would do better to seek a solution through negotiations with the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency—legally established bodies of which Iran is a founder and member.
In the case of sanctions imposed by individual powers, notably the US, direct nation-to-nation negotiations are needed. The agreement Rouhani is begging for amounts to reducing Iran’s national sovereignty without solving the nuclear dispute. The P5+1 demands a veto on Iran’s enrichment capacity, number of centrifuges, scope of scientific research with real or imagined dual use, the location of nuclear sites, and the fate of the heavy water plant in Arak.
The term “dual use” is employed to secure what the French call “un droit de regard” (right of supervision) on key aspects of Iran’s industrial strategies as a whole. The P5+1 insists that Iran remain under its supervision, including exercising a veto on how Iran spends its oil income, for 12–20 years. If Rouhani signs such a deal it would not be the first time Iran has been put under foreign tutelage. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, when Iran was in decline, Belgians controlled Iranian customs, an Australian owned the oilfields, Brits had a monopoly on tobacco, Russians commanded Iran’s only armed unit, an American headed the gendarmerie, a Swede commanded the police, and an American was minister of the economy.
A century later we have a government ready to sign such a deal to hide the follies of a loud-mouthed but incompetent regime. A sad story, indeed.
Scotland Rejects Independence in Historic Referendum, Salmond Decides to Resign
Naharnet /Scotland's pro-independence leader Alex Salmond said Friday he would resign after losing a referendum that left the United Kingdom intact but opened a Pandora's box of demands for more autonomy across Britain. Despite a surge in Scottish nationalist support in the final fortnight of the campaign, the anti-independence "No" camp secured 55.30 percent of the vote against 44.70 percent for the separatist "Yes" side. After a campaign that fired up break-away movements around the world and stoked political passions across the United Kingdom, turnout was 84.6 percent -- the highest ever for an election in Britain. "No" campaigners across Scotland cheered, hugged and danced as the results came in the early morning. British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "delighted". He declared that the referendum had produced a "clear result", and added: "Now the debate has been settled for a generation." Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond conceded defeat and said he would be stepping down from his post and from the leadership of his Scottish National Party (SNP) at its conference in November. "For me as leader, my time is nearly over. But for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die," he said at a press conference in Edinburgh.
Many "Yes" activists had watched the result in tears, although Salmond urged them to take heart from the huge number -- 1.6 million -- who backed independence. "We lost the referendum vote but Scotland can still carry the political initiative," he said, adding that "the party, parliament and country would benefit from new leadership." The result reassured investors worried about the economic risks of a break-up and the pound reached a two-year high against the euro while European stock markets rallied.
The CBI lobby group said the result would be greeted by a "collective sigh of relief across the business community", while the Scotch Whisky Association urged "politicians of all parties to work to bring our country together."There was also relief in many European capitals, where a "Yes" vote would have given unwanted encouragement to separatist movements from Flanders in Belgium to Catalonia in Spain. U.S. President Barack Obama said he hoped to continue his country's "strong and special relationship with all the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland." A "Yes" vote would have brought to an abrupt end a union between Scotland and England stretching back to 1707. But while the UK survived, it could soon look very different. The British government must now deliver on promises made in the heat of the campaign to give more powers over tax, spending and welfare to the devolved government in Edinburgh.
Cameron stood by the pledge on Friday, under which "Scotland gains almost everything except for full independence", said Emily St Denny, a politics professor at Stirling University. However, Salmond cast doubt on Cameron's ability to deliver, saying there were already signs that the tight timetable for implementation was slipping. The prime minister also promised more local control for other parts of the UK, heading off growing demands from Conservatives and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) for England to be given more powers. "Just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues," he said. In what would be a radical shake-up of the constitutional order, he said these new powers would be delivered at the "same pace" as the Scottish settlement, suggesting legislation would be drawn up as soon as January. "We're moving towards a more federal version of Britain," Tony Travers, professor of politics at the London School of Economics (LSE), told Agence France-Presse. In Edinburgh, nationalists struggled with their emotions. Charlotte Darroch, one of many 16- and 17-year-olds who were allowed to vote in a British election for the first time, said the result was "just crushing, quite devastating.""I genuinely thought the feeling on the ground was different," said the 16-year-old, wearing a blue-and-white Scotland flag over her school uniform. But Louise Fleming, 21, who also lives in the Scottish capital, said she was "relieved.""We can't expect everything to be great tomorrow but the right outcome has occurred," she said. Scotland's largest city Glasgow was among some big wins for the "Yes" campaign, but the margin was not enough to mitigate a flood of "No" votes across the country. The indication was that better-off and rural areas had voted "No" while urban centers and poorer parts voted "Yes."
'Harry Potter' author and pro-union supporter J.K. Rowling, who is English but lives in Scotland, said Scots should be "proud," whatever their differences.
"Been up all night watching Scotland make history. A huge turnout, a peaceful democratic process: we should be proud."
Agence France Presse