April 07/15

Bible Quotation For Today/ Jesus showes himself to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 21/01-14.: "After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you? ’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Bible Quotation For Today/We have been buried with Jesus by baptism into death &we too might walk in newness of life with Him
Letter to the Romans 06/03-11: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 06-07/15
The West's Romance with Iran and Islamists/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/April 06/15
Turkey: "Zero Problems with Neighbors"/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/April 06/15
Obama to Israel: Nuclear deal with Iran is “our best bet” – but “we’ve got your backs”/DEBKAfile/April 06/15
Iranian hard-liners are already saying that Tehran gave away too much/By YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post/April 06/15
Moscow is seeking a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula/Salman Aldossary/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/15
Obama was right, Iran capitulated/Efraim Halevy/Ynetnews/April 06/15

Lebanese Related News published on April 06-07/15
Hezbollah's actions 'hard to understand': visiting US official
Blinken Meets with Lebanese Officials during Beirut Trip
Security Forces Thwart Attempt to Smuggle 3.5 Tons of Cannabis to Libya
16 Youths Saved from Nahr Ibrahim after Being Stranded overnight
Destitute Ain el-Hilweh Camp becomes Jihadist Refuge
Baalbek Resident Seifeddine Freed after Arsal Abduction
Missing Lebanese Man Found Killed in Ain el-Hilweh
US court seeks Obama's views on Beirut barracks bombing judgement
ISF Arrests Wanted Syrian in Baalbek
ISF crackdown on drug dealers after TV show tip-off 
Two truckers still in captivity on Syrian-Jordanian border 

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 06-07/15
Israel official: Military action against Iran still possible
Arab states fear Iran will become America's 'policeman' in Gulf
Netanyahu Once Again Blasts Iran Nuclear Deal
Israel prepares lobbying strategy on Iran deal
Obama: US won't let anyone mess with Israel
Former Mossad chief slams Netanyahu for insistence that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exit
Iran claims to have killed 'terrorist team' run by foreign intel agencies
Pakistan: Saudi requested warplanes, warships and soldiers
Unlike Arab Neighbours, Oman Sees Friend in Tehran
Houthis setting up command centers in civilian areas: Saudi Defense Ministry
Maarib tribes mobilize more than 30,000 to confront Houthi threat
Saudi cabinet 'welcomes' Iran's framework nuclear deal
PLO official to hold talks with Syria on Yarmouk relief
Kenya bombed 2 Shabab camps in Somalia Sunday
Islamist rebels kidnap about 300 Kurds in Syria
Boko Haram disguised as preachers kill at least 24 in Nigeria

Jihad Watch Latest News
Islamic State blows up Assyrian church as Christians celebrate Easter
Bosnia: Muslim attacks Jewish leader with weighted chain as leader was being interviewed about status of Jews
UK prosecutor: Islamic State like the Beatles, “the boys want to be like them and the girls want to be with them”
Yemen: Al-Qaeda announces “Jihad against Shiites”

Hezbollah's actions 'hard to understand': visiting US official
The Daily Star/Apr. 06, 2015
BEIRUT: Hezbollah's intervention in Syria has helped ISIS recruit fighters, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday during a visit to Lebanon. "If I'm Lebanese and I want my country to be peaceful and stable, it's hard to understand their actions," he told Al-Jadeed in a televised interview.By supporting the Syrian government in the war against the rebels, Hezbollah is contributing to the massive influx of refugees into Lebanon, and helping ISIS gain recruits, he added. The comments came after Blinken began a series of security meetings with Lebanese officials, including Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, and Speaker Nabih Berri. Blinken, who is in Lebanon on a two-day visit, met with Bassil over Beirut's role in combating terrorism, a statement from Bassil's media office said. Iran’s nuclear deal with the West and its potential positive impact on the region were also discussed at the 90-minute meeting. Talks also tackled the issue of foreign fighters who join ISIS and efforts to counter terrorism funding. Blinken, accompanied by Ambassador David Hale, also met with Berri Monday, a statement from the speaker's media office said. The one line statement did not specify the topics of discussion. Blinken had met upon his arrival in Beirut Sunday with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt.
MP Marwan Hamadeh, who attended the meeting at Jumblatt's residence in Beirut, said talks touched on Iran's recent nuclear deal with world powers, in addition to developments in Lebanon and the region. A PSP statement said Jumblatt hosted a dinner in honor of Blinken.
The visiting official is also scheduled to hold discussions with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, and other officials. Media reports said Blinken will also meet Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, Maronite Patriarch Boutros Rai and Grand Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian. An-Nahar newspaper said the talks will focus on developments in the region in the wake of the the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. Blinken told Al-Jadeed that he will fly to Saudi Arabia at the end of his Lebanon visit. He reiterated American support for the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, but expressed hope that that parties in Yemen would return to negotiations. When asked if he brought with him a gift for Lebanon, Blinken pointed to his country's "strong support to Lebanon and its sovereignty, its armed forces," and its aid for Syrian refugees.

Security Forces Thwart Attempt to Smuggle 3.5 Tons of Cannabis to Libya
Naharnet/Security forces succeeded in thwarting an attempt to smuggle 3.5 tons of cannabis from Lebanon to Libya, the anti-drug bureau announced in a statement on Monday. The drugs were transported from Lebanon to a ship, called Mare Ta Queen, which was docked outside of Lebanon's regional waters. It then sailed to Libya's Tobruk port near the border with Egypt where it was halted by Egyptian authorities near the coast of Damietta. The ship's entire cargo was seized and all those on board were arrested.
Investigations are underway to arrest the remaining members of the drug gang in Lebanon. In a separate development, two Venezuelan nationals were arrested at Turkey's Istanbul airport for the possession of four kilograms of cocaine paste. They were suspected of traveling to Lebanon.They had arrived in Turkey from Brazil via Italy.

Blinken Meets with Lebanese Officials during Beirut Trip
Naharnet/The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, held talks on Monday with Lebanese officials during an official visit to Beirut. Blinken met with Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, with whom he discussed the issues of terrorism, foreign fighters and ways to combat terror. Discussions also focused on the Iranian nuclear file and the repercussions of the deal signed last week between world powers and Iran. A day earlier, the visiting U.S. official held talks with Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat. The meeting was attended by several ministers representing the PSP in Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet, lawmakers from Jumblat's parliamentary bloc and former MP Ghattas Khoury, who is al-Mustaqbal movement leader Saad Hariri's advisor.
Jumblat later threw a dinner banquet in Blinken's honor. The meeting between the visiting U.S. official and the Lebanese politicians was an occasion to discuss several international issues, including the nuclear deal, Hamadeh told Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5).
The talks also focused on the situation in Lebanon amid the vacuum at the Baabda Palace. Lebanon has been without a head of state since President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended in May last year. Blinken told MTV that the U.S. will continue to support Lebanon and the Lebanese to enable the country to confront the burden of Syrian refugees. He hoped that the agreement on Iran's nukes would stop the Islamic Republic from backing terrorist organizations. Blinken is scheduled to meet with Salam and other top officials.Newspaper reports said last week that he will also meet with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. He will visit Saudi Arabia after his Beirut trip, said Hamadeh.

ISF Arrests Wanted Syrian in Baalbek
Naharnet/An Internal Security Forces unit raided overnight the house of a Syrian national on suspicion of having links to the murder of a Lebanese man. The state-run National News Agency reported that 20-year-old Syrian Nawwaf Abdul Aziz Mansour, who is suspected of having links to the murder of a 50-year-old Lebanese, was detained. The Syrian resides in the town of al-Taybeh in the eastern Bekaa city of Baalbek.Suleiman Hamadi al-Hamadi was found killed with a hunting rifle in a sheep barn in the village. The reasons behind the murder remain unknown.

Arab states fear Iran will become America's 'policeman' in Gulf
Several Arab states fear that the nuclear framework deal between the West and Iran agreed to last week will lead to Tehran becoming Washington's "personal policeman" in the Persian Gulf region. The concern is that Iran will interfere in neighboring Gulf states in order to spark sectarian wars, such as the fighting currently taking place in Yemen. Some in the Gulf states see the United States actions as responsible for the bloody war transpiring between Sunnis and Shi'tes in recent years in Iraq, Syria and now Yemen. US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed to the Gulf states that any deal with Iran would prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons, and the Arab leaders even praised this statement. Kerry stressed the Obama administration's obligation to maintaining the security of the Gulf states, and the issue will be further clarified at a summit between Gulf state leaders and US President Barack Obama scheduled to take place later this month at Camp David. Obama called the leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on Friday to update them on the details of the framework deal with Iran. Iran has also asked that Oman help in its efforts to stop air strikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen. Oman is the only Arab Gulf state that is not participating in the operation, due to its good ties with Tehran. In addition to fighting the Yemeni government, Iranian-backed Shi'ite Houthi militias have also fought with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemenite branch of the Sunni terrorist organization. In Yemen, some accuse the US of having an interest in continued fighting between Houthi militias and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that US counter-terrosim efforts have focused on for years.

Iran claims to have killed 'terrorist team' run by foreign intel agencies
By JPOST.COM STAFF/04/06/2015/The Iranian Revolutionary Guard killed a team of terrorists Monday that were working under the orders of "foreign spying services," Iran's official IRNA news agency reported. The Revolutionary Guard did not specify which countries' foreign intelligence services were behind the terrorists. The Revolutionary Guard tracked the terrorists for days before locating them and killing them in the Qasr Qand and Nik Shahr districts in southeast Iran, IRNA reported. The terrorists were found to be carrying "a remarkable amount" of weapons and equipment, the report added. Iran claimed in August that it had shot down an Israeli spy drone that was heading for its Natanz nuclear enrichment site. In the past, Iran has often accused its Western and Israeli foes of trying to sabotage its nuclear program, which Tehran says is peaceful. Iran has accused Israel and its allies in the West of assassinating its nuclear scientists and attacking its nuclear sites with computer viruses. Israel has always declined comment on such accusations, saying that it does not comment on foreign reports. Reuters contributed to this report.

Analysis: Iranian hard-liners are already saying that Tehran gave away too much
By YOSSI MELMAN/04/05/2015/J.Post
Iran renewed its nuclear program at the tail end of its war with Iraq more than a quarter of a century ago. Approximately a decade ago Iran accelerated the program, and despite this, it still does not have a nuclear weapon.
Countries with less developed infrastructure and less advanced technological knowledge, such as Pakistan and North Korea, were able to build a nuclear weapon in five to seven years.
Thus, it can be concluded that Iran was afraid of making a bomb and remains so.
Iran did tirelessly endeavor to become a nuclear threshold state that would be a screwturn away from the ability to produce a bomb. In order to achieve this, it was willing to go very far, subjecting itself to painful, international sanctions and risking military repercussions.
It was all kosher in the eyes of the leadership, especially Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The leadership secretly established purchasing networks, schemed, concealed and blatantly lied. When its lies were exposed, Tehran hemmed and hawed, became more entangled, half-way confessed and went back on its tracks of lies. This behavior flew in the face of all of Iran’s international obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran eventually succeeded in its mission, establishing an advanced nuclear program, including two uranium enrichment facilities and a heavy water reactor to produce plutonium.
It enriched uranium to 20 percent and secretly held experiments to further enrich it to close to 93%, which would make it capable of being used to build a nuclear bomb. Tehran built underground facilities that would be harder to destroy and held secret experiments and simulations of nuclear chain reactions.
Iran already became a nuclear threshold state two years ago, just months away from a bomb. However, Tehran then gave way under the weight of the sanctions, which, together with the drop in oil prices, badly hurt the Iranian economy.
Khamenei changed his tune and agreed that his relatively moderate government could start negotiations on rolling back the nuclear program.
As far as Israel is concerned, it would be better if there was no deal and the sanctions would continue. However, it must be admitted that the deal achieved is reasonable. Iran is the party that made the most meaningful concessions. Iran wanted to retain outward signs of nuclear independence and did so at the cost of having its nuclear weapon breakout period pushed back to a year’s time.
It is forbidden from enriching uranium to more than 3.67%.
The number of its operational centrifuges will be cut in half to 5,000, of the old model, which are more than 40 years old. Iran cannot install or operate new centrifuges. Tehran’s stock of enriched uranium, enough to make five to six bombs, will be put under the supervision of the IAEA.
It cannot enrich uranium at the underground facility at Fordow, and can maintain some 2,000 centrifuges there. That is not enough to make fissionable material for nuclear weapons.
The heavy water reactor at Arak will be severely restricted and will not be capable of creating plutonium for a bomb. Iran will be subject to an intrusive inspection agreement.
However, there are holes in the framework deal: Will all of Iran’s uranium be shipped abroad? Will it be able to continue its centrifuge research? Will the sanctions be gradually lifted? This is not an agreement, but rather a generic framework of principles, whose implementation will be negotiated in complicated and stubborn talks until the end of June. The gaps are still wide. Each side interprets the principles a little differently and it is not at all clear if an agreement will be signed in the end.
This has already happened once before: In 2009, a deal was signed that was even supported by then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The hard-liners, backed by Khamenei, torpedoed that agreement.
In Iran, the voices of the conservatives and hard-liners that oppose the framework deal that has been reached are already being heard. They believe that Iran caved. An adviser of Khamenei described it best: We kept the reins, but gave away the horse.
Yossi Melman is an Israeli journalist and writer who specializes in security and intelligence affairs. He is co-author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel's Secret Wars.
Visit Yossi Melman's blog:

Former Mossad chief slams Netanyahu for insistence that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist
By JPOST.COM STAFF/04/06/2015
Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday for his insistence that world powers demand Iran recognize Israel's right to exist. Netanyahu had said Friday that any final nuclear deal with Iran must include a clear and unambiguous recognition by Tehran of Israel's right to exist. Netanyahu's comments came after a meeting of the security cabinet called to discuss the framework deal agreed upon Thursday between the world powers and Iran in Lausanne. This was the first time he has called for an explicit recognition of Israel by Iran. Netanyahu said that Israel would not accept an agreement that “allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period.” Speaking in an interview with Army Radio on Monday, Halevy said, "The demand from the Muslim world to recognize Israel's right to exist is almost like asking them to change their religion." According to Halevy, "In Islam they don't recognize Israel's right, nor do they recognize the right of other nations to exist." Haaretz editor Aluf Benn noted on Sunday that Netanyahu’s call for the international community to condition an Iran deal on the Islamic Republic recognizing Israel’s right to exist was taken directly from Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog’s campaign rhetoric. He suggested that gesture may have been intended by Netanyahu to persuade him to become his foreign minister. But Herzog’s associates said he was not taking Netanyahu’s words too seriously. “There is no advancement whatsoever toward a unity deal,” a source close to Herzog said. A source in the Likud negotiating team also said he did not see Netanyahu’s words as a gesture to Herzog.
**Herb Keinon and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

The West's Romance with Iran and Islamists

Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute
April 6, 2015
While "peace-loving" liberals in the West show support and sympathy for Hamas, and have removed Hamas from Europe's terror list, Hamas leaders have been busy expressing their support and sympathy for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.
Why then, for Europeans, is Hamas a "more acceptable" terrorist group than ISIS? Because it targets Jews?
If these Islamic jihadist groups cannot carry out their mission right away, it is not because they do not want to. It is because they do not have enough power to -- at least for now.
In the eyes of most Islamists -- whether or Sunni or Shia -- nothing is cheaper or more worthless than human life. It can be seen in the accelerating rate of executions in Iran since the "moderate" President Hassan Rouhani arrived on the scene, and in the ghoulish slaughters committed by ISIS.
As terrorists throughout the Muslim world lay down their own lives to bring death, the U.S. and Europe silently watch Islamic terrorism in Sudan, in Pakistan, in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, in Nigeria by Boko Haram and especially in Iran by the Mullahs' regime, which the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) deludedly still seem to think will turn nuclear warheads into plowshares.
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, proclaims "Death to America" on March 21, 2015. (Image source: MEMRI video screenshot)
U.S. and Iranian foreign ministers continue talks past deadline after deadline to give Iran -- one of the most corrupt, repressive and genocidal countries on the planet – a nuclear weapons capability to threaten the rest of the Middle East, the U.S. and Europe. Granting nuclear capability is seen as a reward for lying, cheating and breaking treaty after treaty. What a brilliant precedent for everyone else.
The West seems to have lost the will to criticize political Islam. Not speaking out or taking action against Islamists is a sickness not only of the current U.S. government; many intellectuals also seem to suffer from it. In the West, there are goodhearted intellectuals who also apparently wish to deny what an all-enveloping role religion -- and particularly Islam -- plays in shaping and influencing how people think and act.
The Marxist view holds that religion is just a placebo in the face of economic oppression. So, the thinking goes, if there is a problem in a Muslim society, it must mainly stem from poverty, inequality and class conflicts, as well as "Western imperialism." Many people influenced by this view therefore tend to believe that after the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism, the "oppressed" will cast off religion, to which they cling merely for consolation and the hope of a better future in an afterlife. Those who maintain this view remain silent on viciously repressive governments such as Hamas, Iran and North Korea, even as they claim to fight "imperialism" alongside regimes that hate Jews, Christians and women, and, in their effort to expand, are often themselves "imperialist."
In the meantime, many of these intellectuals, who include government leaders, seem to fantasize about the future of the Western and Muslim worlds as if once "capitalism," "American imperialism" and "Zionist occupation" were abolished, these despots would suddenly discover they no longer need violence or Islamic radicalism, and that a sunny new era of peace would begin. So, their view seems to go, if you criticize Islamism, you are an intolerant, hard-hearted "racist" or "bigot," and your remarks are obviously "hate speech."
It seems painful for many intellectuals in the West to understand or accept that a religious ideology which permits enslaving girls, beating "disobedient" wives or chopping off the heads of infidels can exist. They come up with supposed explanations for these acts, including poverty, "American imperialism," or mental illness.
Poverty or imperialism, however, do not cause people to burn people alive, kidnap schoolgirls and sell them at a slave market, while saying that God commands the practice. Poverty, anger or alienation do not cause people to behead or crucify non-Muslims; cite relevant verses of their holy book as a justification, and brag about and film what they do.
These leaders and intellectuals seem wrongfully to associate political Islam with "being oppressed." Political Islam, however, is not the ideology of the oppressed. It is an ideology that oppresses. It brings about the very the sufferings to which these intellectuals object.
Even Egypt's Muslim President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, seems to have realized that a worldview which makes excuses based on Islamic theology for many of the crimes committed in the Muslim world, only enables even more kidnappings, beheadings and deaths.
While "peace-loving" liberals in the West show support and sympathy for Hamas, as well as removing it from Europe's terrorist list, Hamas leaders have been busy expressing their support and sympathy for Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban:
In 2005, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, co-founder of Hamas and a member of the Hamas leadership, said, "The Taliban are 1,000 times more honorable than the American occupation and its collaborators... We are not a copy of the Taliban... Judge us according to what we are. Everyone must stop blaming the Taliban for things that in fact characterize the people of the West, who seek to turn the international community into a swamp of corruption and destruction, and to spread abomination and disease in the name of absolute freedom..."
In 2011, Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas's administration in the Gaza Strip said: "We regard this (the killing of Osama Bin Laden) as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood... We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs."
Why then is Hamas a "more acceptable" terrorist group than ISIS? Because it targets Jews? How can Hamas' Western sympathizers be so sure that the same extreme Islamic jihadist groups will not target them, "the infidels," in the future, as they say they will?
If these Islamic jihadist groups cannot carry out their mission right way, it is not because they do not want to. It is because they just do not have enough power to -- at least for now.
*Uzay Bulut, a journalist born and raised a Muslim, is based in Ankara, Turkey.

Turkey: "Zero Problems with Neighbors"
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute
April 6, 2015
After losing Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Egypt, Turkey has now lost Libya.
More U.S. politicians are realizing that their country's old staunch ally, Turkey, has turned into an unstable, unreliable, authoritarian and part-time friend that has the habit of sending shipments of arms to Middle Eastern Islamists of a variety of radical behavior.
In a speech in December 2011, Turkey's then foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu (now Prime Minister) said that Turkey's Middle East foreign policy had pushed an "isolated" Israel to "kneel down" before the Turkish Republic. He also claimed that his own "zero problems with neighbors" policy would succeed.
More than three years later, however, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has admitted to Turkey's own isolation. "I do not mind isolation in the world," Erdogan said, and claimed that "other world leaders might be jealous of him."
Apparently, Messrs Erdogan and Davutoglu may have failed in formulating a realistic foreign policy calculus, but they have proven their skills in black humor.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (left) is the architect of Turkey's "zero problems with neighbors" policy, which ironically has led Turkey to have no ambassador in Israel, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Cyprus and Armenia. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) says, "I do not mind isolation in the world," claiming that other world leaders might be jealous of him.
In a speech in parliament on March 24, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said that the government's "foreign policy has collapsed ... Turkey is entirely isolated ... For the first time in its history Turkey does not have ambassadors in four capitals [in its region]." Turkey is, in fact, the only country in the world that does not have ambassadors in all of Israel, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Libya (in addition to two non-Muslim neighbors, Cyprus and Armenia). But there is more.
One of Erdogan's (and Davutoglu's) strategic policy goals was to fulfill a long-time Turkish dream: full membership in the European Union (EU). A recent report by an independent body revealed how Turkey's regional isolation in the Middle East echoes on the EU front as well. The Independent Turkish Commission, a non-governmental organization led by former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari, reported on March 17 that the EU and Turkey were in fact drifting apart instead of drawing closer together, "due to growing authoritarianism, stuttering growth and faltering Kurdish peace process" in Turkey.
The commission summarized it all in one line: Turkey is no longer "the rising regional star." The commission's diagnosis was extremely realistic: "With a 900-kilometer border with Syria, [Turkey] is hosting nearly two million Syrian refugees and is vulnerable to attacks and infiltration by the Islamic State. Tensions with both Iran and Israel have become deeply entrenched, and the country has become increasingly dependent on energy from a revanchist Russia."
Indeed, while trying obsessively to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey has created its own Peshawar (a restive, terror-stricken Afghan region) along its border with Syria by supporting various jihadist groups, at the price of suspicious (and belated) looks from its Western and NATO allies.
Additionally, after losing Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Egypt, Turkey has now lost Libya.
In late February, Libya's internationally recognized government accused Turkey of sending weapons to Islamist groups in the country, and said it would stop dealing with Turkey. Libya's prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, did not even resort to any diplomatic language: "Turkey is a state that is not dealing honestly with us. It's exporting weapons to us so the Libyan people kill each other." A few days earlier, al-Thinni's government had said it would end all contracts with Turkish companies. That means a loss of billions of dollars worth of business, mostly for Turkey's construction companies.
Against that backdrop, more U.S. politicians are realizing that their country's old staunch ally, Turkey, has turned into an unstable, unreliable, authoritarian and part-time friend that has the habit of sending shipments of arms to Middle Eastern Islamists of a variety of radical behavior.
In an unusual move, a group of 74 U.S. Senators sent an unprecedented letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on March 18, to express their concern over "deviations from the basic principles of democracy in Turkey." The signatories -- who make up three fourths of the U.S. Senate -- said: "We write to express our deep concern about the persistence of human rights violations in Turkey." About a month earlier, 90 members of the US Congress had sent a similar letter to Kerry.
Erdogan's response was typically Erdogan. He accused the U.S. Congress for being "for hire." Turkey's pro-Erdogan media claimed the U.S. senators who signed the letter had been bribed.
A few days after the Senators' letter to Kerry, the U.S. administration expressed concerns over "Turkey's press freedom violations, as well as its interference with freedom of assembly and the administration of justice."
U.S. State Department Press Office Director Jeff Rathke said that the U.S. remains concerned about freedom of expression and assembly in Turkey.
Not surprisingly, Turkey's international isolation is growing exponentially. But Prime Minister Davutoglu remains a useful tool in forecasting regional developments. Whatever he predicts, any smart man should go and bet on the opposite option.
**Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Obama to Israel: Nuclear deal with Iran is “our best bet” – but “we’ve got your backs”
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis April 6, 2015,
If anyone messes with Israel, America will be there.” This was the main message US President Barack Obama had for Israel in his New York Times interview with Thomas Friedman Monday, April 6. He was trying to fend off the constant stream of criticism coming from Israel, as well as Washington and the Gulf, of the nuclear framework deal the US-led group of world powers shaped with Iran in Lausanne last week.
On his clash with the Israeli prime minister over diplomacy with Iran, Obama offered a conciliatory note: This deal is “our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon,” he said.
“I respect Mr. Netanyahu’s security argument and agree that Israelis have every right to be concerned about Iran,” a country that has threatened “to destroy Israel, that has denied the Holocaust, that has expressed venomous anti-Semitic ideas.”
He went on to say, “I would consider it a failure on my part, a fundamental failure of my presidency, if on my watch, or as a consequence of work that I had done, Israel was rendered more vulnerable,” he said.
“But what I would say to them is that not only am I absolutely committed to making sure they maintain their qualitative military edge, and that they can deter any potential future attacks, but what I’m willing to do is to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them.”
Those words from the US president were certainly welcomed in Jerusalem, but they failed to address the deep concerns besetting Israel and the region over Iran’s rising belligerence, which has drawn encouragement from Obama’s policies:
1. The US president is focusing too narrowly on the nuclear dimension of the Iranian threat, when Tehran is already in the throes of an aggressive drive for regional expansion by conventional military means. It is actively stirring up civil strife and using subversion and terror to disrupt its neighbors.
Obama talks about Israel’s security concerns in the future tense in potential terms, when already an Iranian noose is tightening around its borders. He must have been apprised by his own intelligence advisers about the tasks Tehran has awarded its proxies, the Lebanese Hizballah, and the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad, for turning the heat on the Jewish state – else why has Tehran raised Hizballah’s rocket-firing capacity against Israel to 1,000-1,500 rockets per day? And why send Hamas tens of millions of dollars for rebuilding the terror tunnels Israel destroyed in the Gaza Strip last summer and replenish its rocket arsenal?
Israel does not have the luxury of standing by until a foreign power, however friendly, “has its back.” Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israel Defense Forces have made their own preparations for the worst-case scenario. But they also ask: Is it right for Israel to be put in this position so that President Obama can claim what he calls “a historic agreement?”
2. The list of governments skeptical of the value of the nuclear “framework” or “solutions” – depending on which of the Washington or Tehran versions they accept – does not end with Netanyahu. The day before it ran the Obama interview, The New York Times headed a front page story with the caption” Arab allies cry betrayal.”
Saudi King Salman has clearly decided to brush off White House attempts to sell its nuclear deal with Iran or wait for Obama to catch up with events in the region. He is forging ahead in the defense of what he considers the oil kingdom’s interests. His first step was to go ahead, without consulting with Washington, with military intervention in Yemen to stall the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
It is worth noting here that even Netanyahu, in his most heated diatribes against the US president’s policies, never used the term “betrayal.”
3. Obama and his advisers are fond of declaring that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would not delay its program more than a couple of years. For one thing, that theory has never been proved: Iran could be held back from the nuclear threshold by four or, for that matter, six years. Who’s to say? By then, Obama would have long been gone and also, by then, the ayatollahs – if they still ruled Iran - might have had a change of heart and decide to drop the current regime’s nuclear bomb aspirations.
All these propositions are equally speculative.
Still more short-sighted is the US president’s determination that the talks with Iran are a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table.”
Even if the issue is resolved to the US president’s satisfaction by June 30, which most informed opinion doubts, it will still loom large on the tables of King Salman, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sisi, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
4. There is also a question of credibility. Whereas Obama now questions the value of tougher sanctions for deterring Iran from violating any nuclear deals, such as are envisaged Congress, just a year ago he was all in favor of these penalties for bringing Tehran to the negotiating table.
5. In his long interview to The New York Times, the president made no mention of the contrasting versions of the Lausanne process produced by Washington and Tehran- as debkafile was the first to disclose in detail on Saturday, April 4.
So which of the two is the correct one? Or were the two different narratives deliberately cooked up between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif as a selling device for their respective home audiences.
6. Getting to the bottom of the real deal concluded in Lausanne will be further complicated by the secret annexes which were appended and never intended to see the light of day. Middle East rulers can’t be expected to take on faith a deal contracted by outside powers with their neighbor, that includes secret clauses to which they are not privy.
7. Nothing is said in either the US or Iranian version about Tehran’s long-range ballistic missiles or the “research and development” work performed to outfit them for carrying nuclear warheads. Iran doesn’t need these missiles to attack Israel, but they would pose a threat to America.
The Obama interview and reiterated pledge to Israel’s security followed Netanyahu’s latest broadside.
Saying he sees better options than “this bad deal or war,” the prime minister said to CNN Sunday:
"I think there's a third alternative, and that is standing firm, ratcheting up the pressure until you get a better deal.” As it stands now, said the prime minister, "It does not roll back Iran's nuclear program. It keeps a vast nuclear infrastructure in place. Not a single centrifuge is destroyed. Not a single nuclear facility is shut down, including the underground facilities that they built illicitly. Thousands of centrifuges will keep spinning, enriching uranium. That's a very bad deal.”
Netanyahu said Iran is a country of "congenital cheating" and that it can't be trusted to abide by the terms of the deal.

Unlike Arab Neighbours, Oman Sees Friend in Tehran
Naharnet/Iran's ties with its Arab neighbors across the Gulf have long been strained but one nation -- Oman -- has carved out a unique and potentially crucial relationship with Tehran. From Syria and Iraq and now the conflict in Yemen, Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia have vied with Shiite Iran for influence in the Gulf and the greater Middle East. The rhetoric has risen in recent days, with Iran saying a Saudi-led intervention against Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen is "dangerous" and could spark a wider conflict. But unlike other members of the Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Oman has not joined the air strikes in Yemen. And Iranian media reports this weekend said Tehran had reached out to Oman to see if it can help end the strikes and find a political solution to the crisis in Yemen.
While these ties may raise hackles with some of Oman's fellow GCC members, experts say Muscat could also act as an important bridge with the Islamic republic, both for its neighbor and the West. "Given the political sensitivities and the wide gap over regional security issues, any improvement of ties can function as a confidence-boosting measure that can help to overcome years of mistrust between the GCC states and Iran," said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Middle East Fellow at Houston-based Rice University. Friendlier ties with Iran, he said, could even open up new economic opportunities for Gulf Arab states. "Iran can offer the GCC states a significant and largely untapped regional market so any upsurge in relations will focus likely on economic and commercial benefit to both sides," he said.
- Host for nuclear talks -
Oman's unique role was highlighted last November when it hosted Iran, the European Union and the United States for talks on its nuclear program. After last week's potentially historic framework nuclear deal, US Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Oman for its "critical role in getting these talks off the ground in the first place". Oman also mediated between Tehran and Washington for prisoner releases, including the freeing of three US hikers jailed in Iran on suspicion of being spies after they strayed across the border in 2009. In 2012, it mediated the release of an Iranian woman, Shahrazad Mir Gholikhan, jailed by the United States for allegedly smuggling arms. Mohammed Saad al-Muqaddam, a history professor at Sultan Qaboos University and expert in Iran-Oman relations, said Oman's ruler has long understood the importance of its neighbor across the narrow Strait of Hormuz. Sultan Qaboos "talks of Iran as a neighbor with whom there should be good relations. Your neighbor will not move," Muqaddam said. Since coming to power in 1970, the pragmatic Qaboos has carefully nurtured historic ties with Tehran, Muqaddam said. That relationship has paid political dividends, as when Iran sent troops to help Oman quell the Dhofar rebellion -- a leftwing uprising in the country's south -- in the early 1970s.
- Growing trade links -
But it is increasing trade that is at the heart of the two countries' growing ties.
Tehran's ambassador to Muscat, Ali Akbar Sibeveih, said trade had rocketed in the past two years from $198 million to $1.05 billion. "We are expecting in 2015 to see very much progress in the business relations between the two countries," Sibeveih told Agence France Presse, pointing to a number of recent deals. Oman and Iran agreed last year to build an underwater pipeline to pump Iranian gas to the Omani port city of Sohar. Half of the 10 million cubic meters of gas pumped each year will go to Japan, India and South Korea, Sibeveih said. Iran also plans to build and operate a $1.5-billion 400-bed hospital in Barka, a city near Muscat, he said. Iran "can offer much more in terms of future energy projects and perhaps even defense ties, given the two countries' shared interests in the Strait of Hormuz," said Christopher Davidson, professor of Middle East politics at Britain's Durham University. A thriving unofficial trade also exists, with speedboats from Oman frequently crossing the strait to smuggle goods into sanction-hit Iran. Part of the reason for Oman's independent path, experts say, is that with most of its citizens adherents to the Ibadhi branch of Islam, the country stands to some degree outside the Sunni-Shiite divide that colors much of Middle East politics. Agence France Presse

Saudi cabinet 'welcomes' Iran's framework nuclear deal
Associated Press/Apr. 06, 2015/RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's cabinet says it welcomes the framework agreement between major world powers and Iran on its nuclear program. The Council of Ministers said in a statement issued after Monday's weekly cabinet session that it hopes a final agreement would be reached, leading to greater regional security and stability. King Salman expressed similar sentiments Thursday in a phone conversation with President Barack Obama, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. In a reference to the kingdom's regional rival Iran, the Cabinet said stability and security require non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries. The statement added that the kingdom seeks a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction - a clear reference to Israel, which is overwhelmingly considered to possess nuclear arms but declines to confirm it.

Moscow is seeking a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula
Salman Aldossary/Asharq Al Awsat
Monday, 6 Apr, 2015
So Russia is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen! Do not ask how and why this has suddenly happened. Russia seems to have a twinge of guilt perhaps and wants to atone for its previous mistakes against the Syrian people, hundreds of thousands of whom it has helped kill, also displacing millions. But Russia will not atone for its mistakes in Syria, as one expects it should; instead it will do this in Yemen in favor of the Houthis, the friends of its Iranian ally. After its biased intervention in Syria and Ukraine, Russia is this time directing its foreign policy towards the Arabian Peninsula via Yemen—sorry, I meant via the Houthi militia.
In politics, one cannot rely on good intentions. If we were to assume that Russia is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen and that, as a major global power, it wants to contribute to global peace efforts there, then what prevented Moscow from communicating with Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations? What would make Russia circumvent well-known diplomatic customs by submitting a draft resolution directly to the UN Security Council despite the fact that the Arab draft resolution on Yemen already tackles the humanitarian and political aspects—including the condemnation of the Houthi side for undermining the political process in the country and calling on them to abandon the insurgency and return to the political track. I wonder if Moscow went to the Iranian, and not the Yemeni, ambassador by mistake when it sought to coordinate the draft resolution.
The shrinking political role of the US has given Russia a chance to continue to surprise the world time and again. When they first emerge, Russia’s actions are deemed unacceptable by everyone, but soon they become acceptable and matter-of-fact as days go by. Otherwise, who would have believed that Russia could confront the whole world—except for Iran, that is—and support Bashar Al-Assad’s regime against the will of millions of Syrians? Who would have believed that Moscow could infiltrate the EU by occupying parts of Ukraine? And today Russia is slowly crawling toward securing a foothold in Yemen, first in the form of a strange letter Mr. Putin sent to the Arab League summit, in which he opposed foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Yemen, and second by proposing a draft resolution to the UN Security Council under the pretext of a “humanitarian policy.” Who knows, perhaps tomorrow Putin will supply the Houthis with Russian weapons, and for purely “humanitarian,” not political, reasons.
Russia’s awakening of conscience came to reduce pressure on its Iranian ally, whose confusion was apparent the moment Operation Decisive Storm began. The coalition that produced the anti-Houthi campaign is politically immune before it is militarily powerful, and the sins of Tehran in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon have exposed it in front of the whole world. Russia is no longer capable of boasting. This is not to mention the repercussions from the Syrian crisis on Gulf–Russian relations, which have prompted Moscow to act towards Yemen under a humanitarian cover. We should expect more such intervention attempts by Russia—reminiscent of the time when South Yemen was the pampered child of the former Soviet Union—so it can find an opening somewhere in the underbelly of the Gulf.
Moscow—whose humanitarian sense has been upped all of a sudden—is afraid that another Operation Decisive Storm will follow in the future in Syria, or somewhere else, once the Gulf-allied coalition achieves all of its objectives in Yemen. This is something which Moscow sees damaging to its interests in the region. Therefore, it is not unlikely that we will witness more gradual moves by Moscow in a bid to secure a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula via the Yemeni crisis.

Obama was right, Iran capitulated
Efraim Halevy/Ynetnews
Published: 04.06.15/Israel Opinion
Netanyahu should accept the American offer of dialogue on the draft agreement reached in Lausanne, instead of signalling his intent to scupper it out of hand.
The document approved in Lausanne is full of loopholes and lacks numerous details. There's a great deal of exhausting work to be done before the talks are completed, and we can expect some tough battles over the coming months before the formulation of a final agreement.
Nevertheless, US President Barack Obama was right in labeling the document a "historic" one – and for the following reasons:
1. For decades, Iran rejected the international community's demand to hold talks of any kind with respect to its nuclear program. The interim agreement reached in Lausanne proves that Tehran capitulated, by agreeing to conduct negotiations about its plans and the nuclear infrastructure it has built up for years, primarily in secret.
2. Iran was forced to agree to the curtailment of its programs, the destruction of valuable equipment at some of its facilities, and a drastic reduction in the number of centrifuges that will remain in operation. The vast majority of the centrifuges will be removed from the production sites and stored in known locations under international supervision. The new centrifuges will be removed from the existing facilities and stored under international supervision.
3. The Fordow facility will be left with just 1,000 of its more than 6,000 centrifuges, and these will be used for research and development for civilian purposes only, under international supervision. No fissile material will remain in Fordow, and uranium-enrichment operations will not take place there for a period of 15 years.
4. Iran was forced to agree to an unprecedented regime of international supervision and monitoring of its nuclear facilities and the dismantling of critical systems. The facility in Natanz will be left with approximately 5,000 old-model centrifuges, and 1,000 new ones will be removed from the site and stored under supervision. The Arak reactor will cease production of plutonium, the original core of the reactor will be destroyed or removed from the country, and the facility will be used for research and development programs only with the approval of the superpowers.
5. Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years. It has also agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to just 300 kilograms. The surplus quantities will be removed from the country or handled in a different manner, but will not remain under Iranian control.
6. Iran has agreed to implement measures, the details of which have yet to be finalized, to meet the demands for clarification with respect to trials it has carried out in the field of nuclear weapons systems.
7. Obama's speech following the signing of the framework agreement was broadcast live on Iranian state television without any censorship or breaks in the middle. Never before, since the Islamic Revolution, has an American president been afforded such a stage, and on such a sensitive subject to boot.
And thus President Obama could say there is a historical dimension to the agreement that was reached. Anyone who has followed events in Iran in recent decades or has studied the matter has to admit truthfully that he never believed Iran would ever agree to discuss these issues, let alone agree to each of the clauses I have mentioned.
According to the introduction to the understandings reached, "Important implementation details are still subject to negotiation, and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."
This statement, along with Obama's open invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to enter into an intensive dialogue, affords the Israeli government the opportunity to improve the agreement in its final version. However, Israel's hasty response – its total rejection of the memorandum of understanding – seems to herald the beginning of an Israeli campaign designed to thwart the deal. Scrapping the deal would of course mean scrapping all the understandings already achieved.
You can't have your cake and eat it too; you can't conduct an all-out war against the president to thwart his historic achievement and, in the same breath, hold talks with him to improve the product. Moreover, taking the fight to Congress would require deeper Israeli intervention in the approaching elections in the United States.
One of the arguments being voiced against the continuation of the talks is that Iran has a history of lies and cunning, and can thus be expected to breach the agreement and deceive the world. True, the Iranians have a tendency to deceive, but they could do so even if they agreed to zero centrifuges, the closure of all their nuclear facilities, and supervision on the part of the Mossad itself. Loopholes can always be found, so there is no such thing as a "good agreement." The Iranians will uphold an agreement only if it is worth their while.
Netanyahu has raised a new demand – that the framework agreement should include Iran's recognition of Israel's right to exist. Clearly, Iran is not going to change its spots; therefore, anyone who voices such a demand is signaling that he doesn't want the agreement and has his eyes on an aggressive solution.