LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For Today/Look
at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 24/36-45: "While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,"
Bible Quotation For Today/The
person who does these things will live by them
Letter to the Romans 10/04-12: "For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or "Who will descend into the abyss?" ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April
Lebanon’s Civil War, 40 years on/Michael Young/The Daily Star/April 09/15
April 13, 1975: A tragedy to remember/Hiba Huneini/The Daily Star/April 09/15
After the Iran deal, Obama can start worrying/David Ignatius/The Daily Star/April 09/15
Could Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Egypt be under threat/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 09/15
Analysis: Obama finds out that honesty on Iran deal doesn’t pay/YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post/April 09/15
Analysis: The risks Iran will face if final nuclear deal fails/Reuters/April 09/15
Israel needs answers to tough questions on Iran deal/Alex Fishman/Ynetnews/April 09/15
Radicalism, not sectarianism, is the threat in Yemen/Manuel Almeida/Al Arabiya/April 09-10/15
Easter under Islam, Churches under Attack/Raymond Ibrahim/April 09/15
Lebanese Related News published on April
Nasrallah, Iranian envoy discuss nuke deal, Yemen
Authorities Mulling to Resort to Costly Transport of Goods by Sea after Border Crisis
Riyadh Tells Hizbullah to Mind its Own Business over Yemen Row
Police arrest woman smuggling drugs to prisoner
Khalil: Lebanon Should Witness Change in Management of Ports and Customs
Army Intelligence Frees Iraqi Hostage Held in Wadi Khaled
Rouhani's Envoy Meets Lebanese Officials, Says Military Grant Ready if Lebanon Wants It
Mother, baby wounded in crossfire during shooting
U.S. Embassy Warns of Scammers Impersonating Hale to Solicit Money
Baalbek Infant Wounded after being Caught in Crossfire
U.N. Vaccinates Syrian Refugee Animals in Lebanon against Goat Plague
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Canada launches its first anti-ISIS airstrikes in Syria
Iran will only sign nuclear deal if sanctions lifted “same day': Rouhani
Khamenei: US fact sheet on Iran nuclear deal shows 'devlish' American intentions
Israeli PM: Iran's breakout time will be near zero
Iranian ships ‘not allowed’ in Yemeni waters
Iran faces risks if nuclear deal fails
Top Saudi mufti reportedly issues fatwa allowing starving husbands to eat wives
Erdogan: Egypt must free Morsi before it can restore ties with Turkey
Erdogan: Islamic world risks ‘disintegration’
Saudi-led air strikes hit Sanaa, border areas and south Yemen overnight
Saudi barred Iranian plane from entering airspace
Mortar fire kills 11 civilians in Egypt’s Sinai
Nearly half of European militants in Syria, Iraq are French: report
Iraqi officials: next battle is regaining Anbar from ISIS
Little sign of progress at Moscow Syria talks
Nusra confirms emir death in Aleppo after ISIS car bomb
Syria, PLO support military solution in Yarmouk
PLO: Palestinians Back Joint Yarmuk Operation with Syria Army
Argentina declassifies files on 1992 Israel embassy attack
Obama and Castro to break Cold War ice in person
Jihad Watch Latest News
Yazidi women bought back from Islamic State after being raped in public and sold to jihadis
Islamic State: Man accused of “witchcraft” beheaded in town square
Escapee from Yarmouk says he saw Islamic State jihadis “playing with a severed head as if it was a football”
Wisconsin Muslim arrested at airport for trying to join the Islamic State
Raymond Ibrahim: Easter under Islam, Churches under Attack
Boston Marathon jihad murderer’s mom: “Americans are terrorists, my son is the best”
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Boston Marathon jihadi shows wrongheadedness of Obama’s counterterror strategy
Islamic State hackers cut transmission of French TV network
Rouhani's Envoy Meets Lebanese
Officials, Says Military Grant Ready if Lebanon Wants It
Naharnet/The special envoy of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Morteza Sarmadi, announced Wednesday from Beirut that Tehran's proposed military grant to Lebanon is still on the table, hoping the Lebanese will manage to find an “appropriate solution” to the presidential crisis. “Now that the nuclear settlement has been achieved, if the Lebanese side believes that it can now receive the Iranian military grant to the valiant Lebanese army, we are fully ready to offer this donation on a silver platter,” said Sarmadi, in response to a reporter's question. The Iranian official, who arrived in Lebanon earlier in the day, was speaking after talks with Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil in Ashrafieh. Discussions over the controversial Iranian grant to the Lebanese army were reportedly “frozen” in late 2014 to avoid any rift between cabinet members. The head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, who made a one-day visit to Beirut in 2014, said that Tehran will provide military assistance to Lebanon. Iran's offer of support followed aid packages for the Lebanese army from both its regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United States.
As for the stalled presidential election, Sarmadi hoped Lebanese officials will be able to find an “appropriate solution” in the coming period. “We're fully confident that the Lebanese political leaderships, movement and parties have enough maturity and awareness that qualify them to find the appropriate solutions to the presidential crisis,” added Sarmadi. He also underlined that Tehran is “committed to its firm principled stance on noninterference in the domestic affairs of other countries,” while noting that his country “encourages the Lebanese to reach this appropriate solution.”Earlier in the day, Sarmadi met with Speaker Nabih Berri after which he explained that the nuclear agreement reached last week is aimed at reaching a final one, expected before the end of June. The talks also addressed regional developments, most notably the conflict in Yemen.
Sarmadi stressed the need to halt the Saudi-led military operation against Yemen's Huthi rebels, encouraging the concerned sides to launch dialogue. He suggested holding dialogue in a neutral location with the participation of all Yemeni political factions to reach an agreement on a national government. Sarmadi then headed to the Grand Serail for talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam. The Iranian official said after the meeting: “A strategic mistake took place against Yemen.” “The claim that the airstrikes are aimed at restoring legitimacy are not based on any international resolution,” he added. The Iranian official is scheduled to visit the grave of slain top Hizbullah operative Imad Mughnieh in the evening. An Nahar daily reported that Sarmadi will likely hold a meeting with party chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Diplomatic Iranian sources told al-Liwaa newspaper Wednesday that “his talks will not address Lebanese affairs, such as the presidential elections, because Tehran refuses to interfere in the internal matters of friendly countries.”Al-Liwaa noted that Lebanon is the fifth stop of a tour Sarmadi is making to a number of countries, which included Turkey and Germany.
Authorities Mulling to Resort to Costly Transport of Goods by Sea after Border Crisis
Naharnet/The Lebanese authorities are mulling ways to transport goods by sea after overland exports to Gulf states stopped last week following a rebel seizure of the Syrian side of the border with Jordan. At least 30 drivers were stranded on the Syrian-Jordanian border's free zone area last Wednesday after they entered the crossing, as a group of rebels, backed by al-Nusra Front, seized control of it following clashes with government forces. The move prompted Amman to close the Nasib crossing, which is the only functioning crossing between Jordan and Syria and is considered a crucial gateway for Syria's government and for Syrian, Lebanese and Jordanian traders and merchants. Many of the drivers returned to Lebanon but others remain stranded there. During a session held under Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Wednesday, the cabinet tasked Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayyeb with preparing a report on ways to solve the crisis. Shehayyeb told al-Mustaqbal daily published Thursday that the government approved in principle to cover the difference in the cost that would result from transportation by sea. The newspaper also quoted Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan as saying that such a move would cost the government 1-2 million dollars monthly. The issue will be discussed again during a cabinet session next week after a thorough study to take the appropriate decision, he said.Al-Joumhouria daily also quoted a cabinet minister as saying that a vessel named Roro which is a truck carrier could be used to transport the goods via two lines – from Beirut Port to Jordan's Aqaba Port or from Beirut to Alexandria, Suez Canal and the Saudi Yanbu Commercial Port.
Riyadh Tells Hizbullah to Mind its Own Business over Yemen Row
Naharnet/The Saudi Ambassador to Beirut, Ali Awadh Asiri, has urged Hizbullah without naming it to deal with its own issues rather than meddle in Riyadh's affairs. The parties that “shove” themselves into the Saudi-led coalition's move against Huthi rebels in Yemen and which “have the audacity” to criticize Saudi Arabia “should deal with their own affairs,” Asiri said in remarks published on Thursday. He hinted that Lebanon has no interest in being pushed in a battle that has no ties to it. The diplomat warned in reference to Iran that Lebanon was being used as a mail box to serve regional sides whose sole interest is to tamper with the security and stability of the region. Asiri told the Saudi Okaz daily that Riyadh only deals with the Lebanese government headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam and its state institutions, which are keen on the best of ties between the two countries. On Monday, Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah declared that Saudi Arabia will be defeated in the Yemeni conflict. “Saudi Arabia will suffer a major defeat that will have an impact on its domestic situation and the entire region,” he told Syria's al-Ikhbariya in an interview that was broadcast by Tele Liban. Saudi Arabia began its airstrikes in Yemen on March 25, announcing that it had put together a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies, for the military operation to defend Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansur Hadi's government against the Shiite Huthi rebels. The military move against the rebels triggered fury from Saudi Arabia's rival Iran, Hizbullah's main regional ally, with officials in Tehran warning that the military action threatened to spill over into other countries. In his remarks to Okaz, Asiri confirmed that Information Minister Ramzi Jreij telephoned him to apologize for TL's airing of the interview from al-Ikhbariya, which is backed by Syria's Assad regime.
The minister promised him to hold the employees behind the airing accountable, said Asiri.
Nasrallah, Iranian envoy discuss nuke
The Daily Star/ Apr. 09, 2015 /BEIRUT: Visiting Iranian presidential envoy Morteza Sarmadi discussed Thursday with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah the crisis in Yemen and the recent nuclear deal reached between Iran and the West. A statement from Hezbollah’s office said the two sides discussed the “progress of the Iranian nuclear agreement and the results that have been reached as well as various developments in the region, particularly the situation in Yemen.” Sarmadi has said that the Saudi-led military campaign launched two weeks ago against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen was a “grave strategic mistake.”Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dispatched Sarmadi to the region to find political solutions to Middle East conflicts. Lebanon was the fifth leg of his tour that has also taken him to Oman, Tunisia, Algeria and Iraq. Sarmadi arrived in Beirut Wednesday on a two day-visit for talks on Yemen and to brief Lebanese officials on the outcome of last week’s nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. On Wednesday, Sarmadi met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
"The Obama Administration is not really defeating Iran in Yemen""
Dr. Walid Phares/Several news agencies, including AP developed an assessment projecting that Iran and the US "will be clashing because the Ayatollahs are on the side of the Houthis while Washington has sided with the Saudi-led coalition." But Dr Walid Phares disagreed with the bulk of the assessment. He told BBC Arabic: "While it is a fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been and is fully backing the Houthi-Ansarallah offensive in Yemen, and has been for years, we are not sure that the Obama Administration is fully on the side of the Saud-led campaign in Yemen to defeat the pro-Iranian militias." Phares cited several statements by US Administration officials particularly the following cited by AP: "A U.S. defense official Anthony Blinken said the U.S. and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council must coordinate closely and press all parties to seek a political solution."Phares said "it is our assessment that the Administration is backing the Saudi led coalition to a point, that is to create a balance of power between the two parties before it attempts to take the coalition and Iran to the negotiations table. Which means that Washington won't back the Arab coalition to a victory in Yemen but to a deal, another deal, with Iran. We could be wrong, but in our assessment, we don't see the elements of a US strategic support leading to the liberation of all of Yemen and a defeat of the pro-Iranian militia. It may change, but the Administration overarching deal with Tehran doesn't allow such confrontations."
Khamenei: US fact sheet on Iran
nuclear deal shows 'devlish' (Satanic) American intentions
By REUTERS, MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/04/09/2015
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday he neither backed nor rejected an interim accord with six world powers on Tehran's disputed nuclear program but demanded all sanctions be lifted immediately once a final agreement was concluded.
He added in a televised speech that the details of the accord would be decisive, and the publication of a US fact sheet showing terms that were at variance with the Iranian view of the agreement showed "devilish" US intentions. "I neither support nor oppose it," he said. "Everything is in the details; it may be that the deceptive other side wants to restrict us in the details." The tentative accord, struck on April 2 after eight days of talks in Switzerland, clears the way for a settlement to allay Western fears that Iran could build an atomic bomb, with economic sanctions on Tehran being lifted in return.
"The White House put out a statement just a few hours after our negotiators finished their talks...this statement, which they called a 'fact sheet', was wrong on most of the issues." Khameni reiterated Iranian denials that Tehran was seeking to build a nuclear weapon.
He added: "What has been achieved so far does not guarantee a deal or even that the negotiations will continue to the end." "I was never optimistic about negotiating with America... nonetheless I agreed to the negotiations and supported, and still support, the negotiatiors."
He said he supported a deal that preserved the "interests and honor" of Iran and that an extension of a June 30 deadline should not matter.
Earlier on Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said that any final deal with world powers must include the immediate lifting of all sanctions. "We will not sign any deal unless all sanctions are lifted on the same day ... We want a win-win deal for all parties involved in the nuclear talks," Rouhani said. The world powers and Iran have not yet agreed on the pace of sanctions relief, a fundamental component of the structure of a nuclear deal. Earlier this week, the White House said that international sanctions would be lifted only gradually.
The disagreement between the parties is over how to pair international sanctions relief for Iran with its demonstrated compliance with an accord. Washington stipulated that it would accept sanctions being “phased out” only as Tehran complies with a final agreement to halt its nuclear program.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday that the US would not budge from its position. A phased approach is the only way to incentivize Iran to comply over the life of the deal, he said, which includes provisions lasting between 10 and 25 years.
“You can’t start talking about relieving sanctions until we’ve reached agreements about how we’re going to shut down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapon,” Earnest told reporters. Under the framework deal with Iran reached earlier this month, framing the parameters of a larger, more technical agreement due by June 30, Iran will be allowed to continue the enrichment of uranium and will close no facilities.
Top Saudi mufti reportedly issues
fatwa allowing starving husbands to eat wives
By JPOST.COM STAFF/04/09/2015/Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority has issued a fatwa allowing a starving man to eat his wife in order to save himself, causing a stir among the Kingdom's residents, London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi reported. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, according to the report, said that the act would display the wife's obedience to her husband and her willingness to become one with his flesh. Saudi Twitter users quickly took to the social network to express their shock at the strange fatwa attributed to the Grand Mufti, al-Quds al-Arabi reported. Following the report Saudi media accused Iranian media of fabricating the fatwa, noting that the fatwa was not on the official's website. The Grand Mufti had previously issued controversial fatwas, such as a decree permitting the marriage of minors under the age of 15. Saudi Arabia follows the ultra conservative Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam. Last year, Al-Sheikh came out against ISIS and al-Qaida, saying they were "enemy number one of Islam" and not in any way part of the faith. "Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilization, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims," he said in a statement.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Erdogan: Egypt must free Morsi before
it can restore ties with Turkey
By REUTERS/04/09/2015/ISTANBU - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Egypt should free ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi from jail and lift death sentences against his supporters before Ankara could consider an improvement in relations with Cairo. Ties between the two former allies have been strained since then Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled elected President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. Egyptian security forces then mounted one of the fiercest crackdowns against the Islamist movement, killings hundreds of supporters at a Cairo protest camp, arresting thousands and putting Morsi and other leaders on trial. "Mr Morsi is a president elected by 52 percent of the votes. They should give him his freedom," Erdogan was quoted by Turkish newspapers as telling reporters traveling on his plane as he returned from an official visit to Iran. An official from Erdogan's office confirmed his comments. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has close ties with Turkey's ruling AK Party, which Erdogan co-founded and which has emerged as one of the fiercest international critics of Morsi's removal, calling it an "unacceptable coup" by the army. Erdogan's recent visit to Saudi Arabia, and his support of a Saudi-led military operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen in which Egyptian warships have taken part, have triggered speculation about a possible thaw in ties between Ankara and Cairo. Erdogan had more conditions before that could happen, and reiterated his criticism of Western countries for not being more vocal about Egypt's treatment of political prisoners.
"Secondly, doesn't the West say it is against the death sentence? There are 3,000 people there sentenced to death. This should be lifted," Erdogan said, when he was asked if there was any chance of rapprochement in relations with Cairo. Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of alleged Brotherhood supporters to death in recent months, many in mass trials condemned by foreign governments and rights groups as violating international law. Erdogan said there were around 18,000 political prisoners who should be retried and bans on political parties in Egypt, which he says are arbitrary, should be removed. "They say 'Turkey should not interfere with our domestic affairs'. We are not interfering. If something happens in a country against freedoms, we should speak up," Erdogan said. Egypt has complained about previous comments made by Erdogan against Sisi and rejected Turkey's criticism of the government.
Analysis: Obama finds out that honesty
on Iran deal doesn’t pay
By YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post//04/09/2015
US President Barack Obama tried to put out a fire and ended up further fanning the flames. He was attempting to defend the framework deal with Iran, but uttered a sentence that his opponents are now using against him.
Obama, in an attempt to be decent, answered a question honestly and discovered that, in the world of political spin and manipulation, honesty about a complicated prospective agreement does not pay.
In answer to a question from his National Public Radio interviewer on Tuesday, Obama said that once the comprehensive agreement ends, in 13-15 years from now (which, by the way, is an agreement that has not yet been reached), Iran will be at “zero” breakout time to build a nuclear weapon.
The president immediately added that this is one of the reasons to seek a deal – to push Iran away from this possibility for as long as possible, and 10 or more years is indeed an eternity in the Middle East. According to Obama, US intelligence estimates hold that Iran today is two-to-three months from the ability to produce a bomb. The deal with world powers, according to US intelligence estimates, would keep Iran’s nuclear breakout capability at a year’s time while it is in effect.
The fear that at the end of such a deal Iran would be closer to a nuclear weapon stems from one of the clauses that has not been agreed upon and which is the subject of dispute between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers. Iran is demanding to continue research and development of advanced centrifuges that will enable it to enrich uranium much more quickly and efficiently – and in doing so to shorten its breakout time to a bomb, if it decides to pursue this path.
The research and development issue is just one aspect upon which the sides disagree.
Just days after the loud applause for the achievement of the framework deal in Lausanne, it has become clear that the two sides have different interpretations of almost every clause. For example, Iran claims that it was promised that sanctions would immediately be lifted when the deal goes into effect. The US claims that the sanctions will be removed gradually, as Iran shows that it is complying with the deal.
The US and its allies speak of intrusive inspection into all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, whereas Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was quoted as saying Tuesday that his country would not allow International Atomic Energy Agency cameras to be placed at the facilities.
It should be noted that cameras are currently in place at the large enrichment facility at Natanz, but the P5+1 and the IAEA are requesting that the deal include more cameras and additional inspection measures, such as cataloging of equipment at all of the Iranian nuclear facilities, including the underground, fortified site at Fordow.
These differences are coming to the surface, because both sides are busy trying to sell the deal to their constituents at home and abroad.
Zarif briefed the Iranian parliament on Tuesday, encountering harsh criticism from opponents who suggested that Iran caved and conceded too much.
While Zarif and the so-called moderate camp, led by President Hassan Rouhani, support the deal, the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard toe a harder line. They don’t have much interest in an agreement that will remove sanctions.
Removal would unburden the Iranian people, but it would also hurt the Guard commanders’ massive profits from the system of fraud they have in place to circumvent the sanctions.
Obama and his aides are also engaged in a difficult campaign to sell the deal with Iran to the US public and also to Israel. Obama must overcome opposition to the deal in Congress, mainly from Republicans, who are being fueled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and their common patron, Sheldon Adelson. It is unclear who has the more difficult mission, Obama or Rouhani.
Within this campaign of half-truths, spin, and distortions, only a few truthful statements have been heard.
They have come from Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief Ali Akhbar Salehi, who formerly served as foreign minister. Salehi, who took part in the talks in Lausanne, said that Iran could have produced a nuclear bomb in the past, but did not want to do so. He said that Iran did not produce a bomb for religious and ideological reasons. This is also the view held by most senior experts in the world. Therefore, pushing Iran’s nuclear breakout time back to a year, for a period of more than 10 years, is an important step, even if it entails risks. After all, how can Israel fear what will happen 10 years from now, if its governments and public institutions cannot carry out plans for more than a month or two into the future?
Analysis: The risks Iran will face if
final nuclear deal fails
ANKARA - Failure to finalize a framework agreement between Iran and the six major powers aimed at curbing the country's sensitive nuclear work could profoundly destabilize the Islamic Republic, analysts and politicians say. Iranians' hopes of ending their international isolation have risen so high since the accord that failure to finalize it would generate levels of dismay that could hurt the authorities, even if the West was portrayed as the guilty party, analysts say. "Finally it is over. The isolation is over. The economic hardship is over. (President Hassan) Rouhani kept his promises," said university student Mina Derakhshande, who was among a cheering crowd on Friday. "Failure of the talks will be end of the world for us Iranians. I cannot tolerate it."
Managing popular expectations will be more difficult in Iran now, said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "If the deal doesn't come to fruition, most Americans won't notice, while most Iranians will be devastated," Sadjadpour said. The tentative deal on curbing Iran's nuclear work, reached on Thursday in Lausanne, revived hopes of an end to sanctions in return for limits on its atomic program, opening the way for economic reform and international recognition.
While the man who ultimately matters, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has remained silent over the agreement, some hardline conservatives have taken off the gloves.
The deal has heightened their anger over pragmatist Rouhani's 2013 election as president on a pledge to improve foreign relations and revive the economy. But politicians and analysts say Khamenei approved "any step taken" by the Iranian nuclear negotiators, and the tension will abate if Khamenei supports the deal. "Without the leader's approval, the Iranian team could not agree to the framework deal in Lausanne. There is no rift among top decision-makers over the framework agreement," said a senior Iranian official, who asked for anonymity.
The establishment groups behind Rouhani's election win -- the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), powerful clerics and influential politicians -- have united in public to support the nuclear deal, which was praised by the president as a "historic opportunity" that would benefit everyone. Speaker Ali Larijani said parliament "supported the deal," Iran's military chief and a close ally to Khamenei, General Hassan Firouzabadi, congratulated Khamenei on the "success" of Iranian negotiators and thanked Rouhani for the deal and , the semi-official Fars news agency reported. "The Iranian nation and the Revolutionary Guards appreciate the negotiators' honest political efforts," said IRGC's top commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, Fars reported on Tuesday. But criticism of Rouhani has also increased, with hardline conservatives casting the government as insufficiently robust on the nuclear program. The critics, wary of any detente with the West they fear would imperil the Islamic Revolution, hold influential positions in parliament, the security forces and intelligence services.
"Iran has exchanged its saddled horse for one with a broken bridle," Fars quoted Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the hardline Kayhan daily and an adviser to Khamenei, as saying.
Israel needs answers to tough
questions on Iran deal
Alex Fishman/Ynetnews/Published: 04.09.15/Israel Opinion
Op-ed: Obama may be vague on the details of the final nuclear agreement being drafted, but Israel cannot afford to be.
I'm going to sign a deal with Iran – and after me, the flood. That's what US President Barack Obama effectively said on NPR on Tuesday.
Obama, one has to admit, was simply being honest and telling the world the truth to its face: In 12 to 15 years, when the deal expires and Iran is free of rigid international supervision, its nuclear weapon breakout time will be next to nothing. The subsequent attempts by the White House to explain that the president was misunderstood are all nonsense. The president was not talking to Israel, but to the American people and, primarily, the Senate. Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't concern him. He despises him, has nothing but disdain for him, and makes no effort to hide his feelings. The entire American PR machine, with the president leading the way, is focused now on the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill. That is where the real battle will take place. There appears to be a majority in the Senate that won't allow the administration to fast-track the lifting of the sanctions. Furthermore, if it turns out that the Iranians' understanding of the deal differs from that of the US lawmakers, the latter will be a lot more determined to expand and intensify the sanctions against Iran.
There is already talk on Capitol Hill that if the UN Security Council lifts the sanctions on Iran and the European Union frees itself of the regime of sanctions, Congress will have no choice but to tighten the American-imposed restrictions on Iran. Obama and his people, therefore, are not addressing Israel at this stage; their statements are for American ears. And that's an audience they can't afford to lie to.
So what did Obama actually say on Tuesday? Firstly, his words seemed to indicate that the sides have yet to reach an agreement on how long Iran will be subjected to tight international supervision. Secondly, Obama spoke about new centrifuges that Iran will continue to develop – seemingly in contradiction to the understandings that are supposed to prevent them from conducting research and development in this field; and these new centrifuges would propel Iran to the status of a nuclear threshold state.
It's strange: A detailed agreement has yet to be formulated, yet Obama already knows that the Iranians will have new centrifuges that will allow them to produce a bomb almost immediately.
Everyone is talking about tight supervision and inspections; what remains unclear, however, is how to ensure that the deal slated for signing in June will indeed include draconian inspection measures, anytime and anywhere along the production chain – from the uranium mines and through to the enriched material.
The United States' capabilities when it comes to nuclear arms control are outstanding. The means at their disposal – from mobile laboratories and sensors to satellite imagery and an entire host of additional exotic resources developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico – afford effective inspections in theory. The problem is that the Iranians have already announced that they are not willing, for example, to allow cameras into their facilities.
This falls precisely in line with statements made on Tuesday by the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi: If Iran wanted to obtain a nuclear bomb, he said, it had the ability to do so right now. As far as the West knows, Salehi was exaggerating slightly; but he probably wasn't that far from the truth. More evidence that the supervision issue is the Achilles' heel of the agreement.
On the sidelines of the agreement, meanwhile, it is interesting to review the minutes of meetings convened by Netanyahu and then defense minister Ehud Barak in 2010 and 2011, and ask a few tough questions: Was it a mistake not to have attacked the Iranian nuclear facilities when it was still possible? Why did professionals among the defense establishment make every effort to thwart the option of a military operation?
And, given the deal in the works, can one say today that they were wrong?
The Israeli government cannot simply sweep these questions under the rug. If the final agreement with Iran takes shape in keeping with the guidelines achieved in Lausanne, these questions will again become relevant – after all, Israel will then be left to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat on its own.
Iran will only sign nuclear deal if sanctions lifted “same day': Rouhani
Thursday, 9 Apr, 2015
Ankara, Reuters—Iran will only sign a final nuclear accord with six world powers if all sanctions imposed over its disputed atomic work are lifted on the same day, President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Thursday. Iran and the powers reached a tentative agreement last week in the Swiss city of Lausanne aimed at restricting Tehran’s nuclear program in return for removing the economic penalties. All sides are working toward a June 30 deadline for a final deal on the nuclear work, which Western powers fear is aimed at developing an atomic bomb but Tehran says is purely peaceful. “We will not sign any deal unless all sanctions are lifted on the same day … We want a win-win deal for all parties involved in the nuclear talks,” Rouhani said. Since the preliminary agreement was reached, Iran and the United States seem to have different interpretations over some issues, including the pace and extent of sanctions removal. “Our goal in the talks (with major powers) is to preserve our nation’s nuclear rights. We want an outcome that will be in everyone’s benefit,” Rouhani said in a ceremony to mark Iran’s National Day of Nuclear Technology.
“The Iranian nation has been and will be the victor in the negotiations.” Iran insists all nuclear-related United Nations resolutions, as well as US and EU nuclear-related economic sanctions, will be lifted immediately once a final accord is signed. But the United States said on Monday that sanctions would have to be phased out gradually under the comprehensive nuclear pact. The US and EU sanctions have choked off nearly 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian exports since early 2012, reducing its oil exports by 60 percent to around 1 million barrels a day. “Our main gain in the talks was the fact that U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged that Iranians will not surrender to bullying, sanctions and threats,” Rouhani said. “It is a triumph for Iran that the first military power in the world has admitted Iranians will not bow to pressure.”Negotiators from Iran, the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China will resume negotiations in the coming days to pave the way for the final deal.
Canada launches its first anti-ISIS
airstrikes in Syria
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Thursday, 9 April 2015
Canada conducted its first air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants on Wednesday, expanding its role in the U.S. coalition against the militant group in Syria. Two F-18 fighters targeted former Syrian military buildings that had been taken over by ISIS near the northern city of Raqa, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported. The strikes were carried out with a group of 10 aircraft, including six U.S. planes. The warplanes also used precision-guided munitions before safely returning to base, the Canadian military said.
Canadian strikes had been limited to Iraqi territory, but at the end of March Canadian lawmakers narrowly passed a measure to allow the country’s aircraft to target ISIS targets in Syria. Opposition lawmakers argued Canada should not deepen its involvement in the long-running and complex war. Canada first joined the anti-ISIS coalition in November and it has also deployed about 70 special forces troops to train Kurds to fight ISIS in northern Iraq. Despite a sustained air campaign and ground advances in Iraq, the radical group still holds large swaths of territory straddling Syria and Iraq.
Could Saudi Arabia’s relationship with
Egypt be under threat?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Thursday, 9 April 2015
New F-15 warplanes, Harpoon missiles and M1 tanks are being shipped to Egypt’s armed forces, who are engaged in a difficult fight against extremist groups in the Sinai Peninsula and are also protecting borders with Libya, the second front. But why does the U.S. suddenly seem to love President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s administration?
The reason is that Washington has retreated from its decision to punish the Egyptian authorities for toppling the Muslim Brotherhood. U.S. President Barack Obama has since contacted his Egyptian counterpart to reconcile and inform him of the decision to resume delivering military and economic aid - a policy in place since the era of former Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat which Washington froze in late 2013.
The chapter of Muslim Brotherhood rule - from 2012 to mid-2013 – has completely ended in the international arena. However, it continues on the virtual world of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
After the Muslim Brotherhood lost U.S. support of its “legitimacy,” it began to sabotage Egyptian-Arab relations and spread stories and interpretations on the apparent absence of Egyptian forces fighting alongside their ally Saudi Arabia in the kingdom-led coalition against Houthi militias in Yemen, with the rest of Saudi’s coalition partners saying the relations between the two countries have relapsed.
Years ago, the world was divided into two camps where each party mostly handled a war on the side of their ally and whoever was outside the alliance ended up being easy bait
This supposition ignores the activity of Egypt’s navy south of the Red Sea. It also ignores what’s more important: the strategic relations between the two countries have actually become more solid and in this current era of chaos which our region hadn’t seen before now, both parties greatly value this partnership.
Therefore, we can understand how precious bilateral ties are and how they cannot be given up just because a few journalists have an opposite opinion or because there are some among the opposition who want sabotage relations.
The region needs a balance which is not easily shaken by differences, rumors or voices of another agenda. As long as the vision regarding the nature of the threats is clear, collective relations will be deepen and will be better able to confront differences and whatever rivals may incite. It’s normal that in this diplomatic jungle around us, the best guard for the region’s countries are their interrelations and alliances to confront the threat of being singled out and weakened by the wolves both outside and in.
Without solid relations, these countries can easily fall prey, one after the other. Egypt is a big country and even Egypt needs regional relations that can assist the level of threats posed on it - threats like those posed on Saudi Arabia, which was dragged into its first war in a quarter of a century.
The situation today is more difficult than before. Years ago, the world was divided into two camps where each party mostly handled a war on the side of their ally and whoever was outside the alliance ended up being easy bait. But today, the chances of counting on pledges from foreign camps have become limited and there are no alternatives to them other than building a regional network of alliances to balance the terror around.
By building relations with clear aims and commitments, we can later go to the table of negotiations which the U.S. suggests we go to in order to reach regional understanding.
However it’s not possible to sit and negotiate with a party when its gun is laid on the table and when they are - quite frankly - involved in destroying the region. Iran and its allies have spread terror that has reached southern Syria, not far from Jordan’s borders.
Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Houthi militias have taken over two neighborhoods in the Yemeni city of Aden.
Iraqi militias - who are also supported by Iran - stirred up a battle near the Kuwaiti border a month ago. Egypt, as I said at the beginning, is fighting using heavy weapons in Sinai against the so-called “emirate of Sinai,” and Egypt may find itself forced into direct military action in Libya due to the establishment of terrorist statelets.
Politicians don’t need us to remind them about the situation of a massive regional war and its threats - as they live through them every day. But there might be a need to remind them of the importance of teamwork and building an alliance which outweighs the calculations of regional and foreign powers.
Radicalism, not sectarianism, is the
threat in Yemen
Manuel Almeida/Al Arabiya
Thursday, 9 April 2015
The message that the Yemeni conflict has little to do with the kind of sectarian violence that plagues Iraq and Syria has been circulating with increasing intensity in mainstream and social media. In many ways, the message is correct. Instead, it is radicalism that threatens to disintegrate Yemen.
Sectarian violence has been largely absent from the country throughout its history. The roots of the current conflict, essentially a struggle for power, lie in years of misgovernment, corruption and marginalization of various groups.
Although the alliance between former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi militias’ leadership is one between the Shiite Zaidi sect, it is defined by both sides’ opportunism and not by religious proximity or a determination to fight Sunnis from the Shafi school of thought.
A good example is that the Ahmars, the Zaidi family who headed the powerful Hashid tribal confederation and the Muslim Brotherhood-oriented Yemeni Congregation for Reform (or al-Islah), became one of their common enemies.
The same goes for the Saudi government’s concerns regarding Yemen. Historically, Saudi Arabia has not looked at Yemen through a sectarian prism. Whenever things got more complicated south of the border, the Saudis have sided with those who could offer a working relationship and minimum guarantees of security and stability.
Historically, Saudi Arabia has not looked at Yemen through a sectarian prism
This is what happened in the 1960s when the Saudis backed the royalist forces after the coup against the last Zaidi Imam Muhammad al-Badr, facing the republicans who received massive military support from the Egyptian forces of Gamal Abdel Nasser.
And today, it is not sectarianism that drives the Saudis and the other Gulf states participating in operation Decisive Storm against Houthi military positions and arms and missile depots. Especially for the Saudis, this is as much about responding to the request for assistance from Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi’s government as it is about their own national security.
All those journalists and experts who reject the sectarian dimension of this conflict point out that Zaidism is doctrinally or theologically closer to Sunnism than it is to Twelver Shiism dominant in Iran. They are right, but they miss a few important details: there are various Zaidi schools and the one the Houthi leadership follows is much closer to Twelver Shiism.
Yet the big problem is not so much the feverous religious beliefs of Houthi leadership but their determination, clearly inspired in Iran and instrumentally explored by radical factions in Tehran, to press forward their own armed insurrection regardless of the consequences.
Since Houthi overthrew Hadi and his government, posters of the movement’s leaders side by side with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah became a common sight in Sanaa. Posters of the Houthi chief Abdul Malik al-Houthi with the motto “The revolution continues” have also been sighted in Tehran.
Nevertheless, the Saudi concerns are not primarily about the ideological affinity between the Houthis and Iran. Instead, they are grounded on a very real threat that derives from that relationship.
Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit with Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, the spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition forces. He confirmed the existence of video and photo evidence of Houthi attempts to build missile sites close to the Saudi border, with the help of “foreign consultants.”
Asiri said that the military support from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah came in the form of conventional weapons, missiles and communication systems, as well as training that took place in northern Yemen. This support has been going on for years, probably since the first of six wars between Houthi and the forces loyal to Saleh began in 2004.
He also ironized about the memorandum of understanding that the Houthis recently signed with Tehran regarding 14 to 28 weekly flights to be operated between Sanaa and the Iranian capital, asking whether people expected these flights would carry tourists. Asiri expressed his surprise about the skepticism revealed by other countries regarding the news of the unloading of tons of weapons and military equipment from Iranian ships, which happened last month in the port of al-Saleef on Yemen’s West coast.
The increasing radicalism and violence of the Houthi campaign, which worsened as its militias pressed south, should worry the international community. The movement has rejected numerous approaches for dialogue while torturing people, killing unarmed demonstrators and intentionally hitting civilian areas in Aden with heavy weapons.
It is tempting to believe the argument put forward by many U.S. regional experts that a nuclear deal with Iran could have a positive impact in easing tensions and addressing the various regional crises. It is also tempting to trust it would empower moderate factions in Tehran, more willing to respect the sovereignty of regional states and stop exporting its revolution. But will then be too late for an all-inclusive political solution in Yemen?
On a recent trip, a Yemeni contact told me about his efforts to convince one of his family members (like him, a Zaidi), not to the join the Houthis. Those attempts, based on the argument that their radicalism has little positives to offer, were fruitless. In his response before the Saudi-led military operation began, one of his family members boasted about the Houthi’s presence in Aden and said the movement would soon reach Riyadh.
April 13, 1975: A tragedy to remember
Hiba Huneini| The Daily Star/Apr. 09, 2015
Forty years ago on April 13, 1975, the Civil War broke out to push Lebanon, the most stable democratic state in the Arab World at that time, into a vicious circle of internal battles. It erupted due to internal and external factors, and was ended by an accord of national agreement, under the patronage of martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Arab auspices and international support in the town of Taif, Saudi Arabia. This agreement constituted a specific historical juncture that paved the way to the new phase of stability and prosperity in the country.Decades have passed after the end of the war, nevertheless, its effects on the Lebanese people can still be touched. It has become part of the social narrative even among the new generation that did not experience its warfare. The effects that the war had on the psychology, fabric, form and function of the Lebanese society are key factors toward understanding its current situation and determining the kind of social choices it needs to take in the future.
The war had a detrimental impact on our social fabric. It resulted in a radical social segregation based on sectarian divide. The hostilities’ demarcation lines remained, until today, as geographical borders and boundaries between the habitants of every sect making social infusion impossible. This has automatically laid the foundation for a trajectory of social and political polarization that’s lasting until today. This “polarized-segregation” has led to a dangerous social setting where one feels more connected to her/his sect than her/his country.
On the other hand, the horror of warfare has been an influential component on our social psychology. It keeps coming up to the surface at times of tension. Although it is a memory full of bloodshed and destruction, it has prevented us from flaming another war. Contrary to the conventional narrative, Lebanon’s painful experience has resulted in a country that can handle an extraordinary amount of stress. For example, we were able to resist the Israeli aggression and to reconstruct our country.
We also managed to absorb the spillovers of the regional conflicts in all its different forms and to resist any effort done to import them into our territory. Nevertheless, we continued to keep our human and moral stances by hosting an incredible number of refugees to find shelter, hospitality and share the limited resources of our small country.
Now, the question is, in the memory of the Civil War, what needs to be done to remove violence from the menu of options for any emerging internal conflict?
There is an action-oriented and multidimensional answer to this question. But before answering, one should understand that the notion of a conflict-free society is a naive one. Societies do have internal conflicts often if not all the time, what matters is the magnitude these conflicts on citizens’ livelihood and the conflict resolution tools. Modern, democratic and civilized nations should not consider violence as an option for conflict settlement and do not compromise their citizens’ welfare for warfare. Therefore, the answer of the above question is basically rooted into the restoration of civil-democratic state, good governance and a reconciliation process.
First, reconciliation is where it all starts. It is a nonlinear over-arching process to transform the people’s divided past to a shared future. Truth-seeking and justice are the interrelated ingredients in any reconciliatory process to heal our wounds and rebuild trust. However, in a sectarian society like the Lebanese one, this reconciliatory process is easier said than done.
It implies a lot of rational choices from the sectarian and political leaders based on a collective decision to invest in our common future not in our divided past. It requires a decision that is based on hope, not fear. Second, in order for Lebanon to stabilize and prosper, true democracy should be restored on the basis of a civil state that does not allow discrimination between its citizens on any sectarian, ethnic or gender basis. Third, a coherent structure of good governance should be put in place in order to prevent cronyism and rent-seeking. This is supposed to return efficiency back to the state institutions, and hence, restore people’s trust, renew its legitimacy and make it able to deliver.
In conclusion, it is mind-blowing how Lebanon needs to remember its painful history as much as it needs to forget it. We need to actively engage with our mistakes, think forward and be driven by hope not fear, as Martin Luther King said, “those who do not learn to live together as brothers are all going to perish together as fools.”
**Hiba Huneini is acting manager of the Youth & Civic Engagement Program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.
Lebanon’s Civil War, 40 years on
Michael Young/The Daily Star/Apr. 09, 2015
In a book on life in Syrian prisons, where he spent 16 years, the Syrian intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh wrote that it was not rare to feel nostalgia for one’s years of incarceration.
Without minimizing the brutalities and humiliations of prison life, Haj Saleh explained that the reason for this nostalgia was that “he who endures this sacrificial rite accedes to something extremely precious, which rarely appears twice in one’s existence: a new departure, a resurrection, a second birth, a mandate to reinitiate life.” To him, the prison experience gave structure to his existence at a time of confusion and despair.
In many respects the war in Lebanon, which began 40 years ago next week, on April 13, provokes many of the same paradoxical reactions. To an unknowing observer, the sheer horror of the 15-year conflict that destroyed and transformed the country cannot in any way invite nostalgia. And yet for many of those who lived through the war’s permutations, it also provided an enthralling occasion to be reborn, to seek new departures and it provided a structure and meaning to the lives of those who survived.
There has been a cliché circulating since the war ended in 1990 that the Lebanese have developed amnesia toward it. However, put together any group of Lebanese over the age of 30, mention the war, and you will see that the reality is precisely the contrary. Indeed, a factor that has calmed political ardors in the past decade is the recollection, and fear, of what war brought us.
Lebanon’s conflict pales in comparison with the unadulterated savagery of the one in Syria – and that’s saying something because what took place in Lebanon was once regarded as a benchmark for the potential barbarism of sectarian hatred and state decomposition. The word “Lebanonization” is still used these days, but it is almost beginning to sound quaint in light of the merciless slaughter in other parts of the Middle East.
What does one remember in a war like Lebanon’s? The friends lost, certainly. The ultimate foolishness of partisanship and unbending political conviction as alliances and beliefs were altered in light of changing circumstances. The terrible price a country can pay for losing a generation or more to emigration. But also the enjoyment felt when the nightmare was over, when streets were no longer borders and when one finally woke up to grasp, and abandon, the countless lies sustaining the war. Often, after killing there is tolerance, and management of such tolerance is one of the most difficult of postwar legacies to negotiate.
This anniversary gains in meaning from the fact that the roles have been reversed since 1975. Whereas then Lebanon was a rare country at war in a region characterized by cataleptic stability, today it seems to be a country that, for all its trials and the proximity of chaos, yet has avoided the worst. Let’s hope this lasts amid the maneuvers of those who refuse to isolate Lebanon from the region’s enmities, thereby threatening the country.
Nor does the Christian-Muslim divide have the meaning it once did. Lebanon’s Christians at present are a minority in a country defined largely by Sunni-Shiite relations, at a time when Christians in the region face existential challenges. Wars throughout the region, beginning in Lebanon, started the process of Christian flight. In a matter of decades, two of the Arab world’s ancient communities, the Jews and Christians of myriad denominations, became increasingly less a part of the Arab landscape. What was once an area of religious and ethnic diversity is drifting into drab, necrotic sectarian uniformity as animosities gain ground and homogeneous territories follow.
In that sense Lebanon, 40 years after the start of its war, has something to offer. The country may be riven by mutual antipathies, and no one should have too many illusions about the Lebanese being intense missionaries of coexistence. But the reflexes of coexistence are a different matter. The Lebanese are well-versed in the language and games of compromise. Ours can often be a violent country, but years of war only brought home to those who lived through the conflict the merits of having a social contract like the often-maligned National Pact.
For all its rigidities and shortcomings, the National Pact outlined a system based on the principle of compromise, even as it recognized and adapted to Lebanon’s sectarian and confessional differences. Rather than artificially camouflage this under a tarpaulin of bogus Arab nationalism, the Lebanese sought to address their pluralism and manage it through a commonly agreed arrangement. This could not prevent the war in 1975, but perhaps it was responsible for ensuring that it did not break Lebanon up irrevocably, despite the attractions of partition among some of the wartime political leaders.
The same cannot be said of Syria or Iraq, both of which are being undone, quite literally, by the centrifugal forces that have been released in their societies. It seems difficult to imagine that Syria will ever be one again, while Iraq will at best survive in the context a political system that ensures a very loose confederation. The greater the nationalist myths, evidently, the harder the fall. Lebanon is not out of the woods, and war not out of our thoughts and anxieties. But I recall some Syrians quoted in newspapers following the imposed departure of their army from Lebanon in April 2005: “The Lebanese will soon eat themselves,” was a notable comment. It was a shameful, bitter thing to say, and without an ounce of schadenfreude one can reply that it’s always better not to tempt fate. We began learning that lesson four decades ago, and it’s a pity that much of the Arab world, depraved and degraded, is only starting to learn it today.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.
After the Iran deal, Obama can start
David Ignatius/The Daily Star/ Apr. 09, 2015
There’s a buoyant sense at the White House this week – a feeling that a much-embattled President Barack Obama has achieved the goal he set in January 2009 of engaging Iran on the basis of “mutual interest and mutual respect.” But like the dog who catches the car he’s been chasing, Obama must now worry about what to do next. The first priority is pinning down the deal that Secretary of State John Kerry reached last week so that it’s not a fuzzy framework, but an actual, enforceable agreement. There are many details left to clarify, and U.S. officials aren’t yet sure they actually have clinched the deal that they appeared to have won. Problem areas include limits on Iranian research and development of advanced centrifuges buried underground at Fordow; the mechanism for removing sanctions and then reimposing them if Iran is thought to be cheating; and the procedures for inspecting supposedly “nonnuclear” sites where covert research might be taking place.
These are big holes in the framework. Its unfinished nature is a sign that the administration wants the final pact so much that it will offer compromises that allow the Iranians to save face, even at modest cost to U.S. interests. The administration’s goal, over the next three months, appears to be gaining the best final accord possible – that the Iranians can also sell back home. Obama’s comfort level has been boosted by the presence at the negotiating table of Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, one of the world’s top nuclear physicists. Moniz can signal compromises that, while appearing generous, have little practical consequence, for technical reasons. Obama’s outreach to Iran has been shaped from the beginning by his effort to understand how Iranians see the world – and to distinguish between truly dangerous, aggressive actions and more comprehensible defensive moves. This empathetic view is part of what irks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But centuries of diplomatic history suggest that such an ability to see the world through the adversary’s eyes is essential for effective negotiation. If there has been a surprise in the Iranian negotiating style, it’s that they have adhered so closely to the terms of the initial framework reached in November 2013, rather than cheating at the edges. President Hassan Rouhani sought to underline this theme of trustworthiness (contrary to what the Israelis and many Arabs see in Iran) when he said last Friday: “If the other side honors its promises, we will honor our promises.”
Obama rejects the case made by Netanyahu and congressional critics that if the United States just keeps squeezing, the Iranians will capitulate. The White House thinks too much pressure could backfire. U.S. officials agree that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s ultimate goal is regime survival, but officials saw the crowds in the streets of Tehran last week cheering the deal as a check on Khamenei and other hard-liners. The most delicate test ahead may involve, not the Iranians, but Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf States. Obama knows that the metastatic danger for the Middle East is a post-agreement scramble by Iran’s Sunni rivals, such as the Saudis, Egyptians, Emiratis and Turks – to achieve their own versions of the Iranian “threshold nuclear capability” envisioned in the agreement.
The White House is still mulling the details, but officials are contemplating a kind of “dual engagement” approach. Even as it negotiates with Iran, the administration might extend security guarantees to the Gulf States, pledging to come to their defense if attacked by external powers. (Tricky question: Would that include a strike from Israel?) In exchange, the Gulf states hopefully would agree to forgo or limit their nuclear programs, keeping some lid on proliferation in the region.
Obama’s challenge is that the Sunni nations have been suffering a kind of vertigo since the Arab revolutions of 2011, doubting themselves and the United States even as they reel from Iran’s proxy wars. Somehow these Sunni nations need to find the will to push back, so that there could eventually be a security balance between Iran and its neighbors. Because Obama understands the need for this pushback, he has supported the Saudi assault on Yemen, and might even endorse a Turkish military move into northern Syria.
Dealing with Congress will be its own special nightmare, as always for this administration. Obama needs a formula that allows members to reassure Netanyahu of their toughness, while keeping what many see as a pretty good Iran deal – and accepting that it’s the president, not Congress, who conducts foreign policy.
**David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.
Easter under Islam, Churches under Attack
April 9, 2015 8:26 am
christian-church-burned-1As millions of Christians around the world were celebrating Easter Sunday, the Christians of the Muslim world were again under attack. The April 2 Islamic jihad attack on a Kenyan school—where the Islamic murderers made sure to slaughter only Christian students, sparing fellow Muslims—was only the most spectacular attack. On Easter Sunday itself, as some media reported, the Islamic State destroyed the Virgin Mary Church in Tel Nasri—loosely translated as “Christian Hill”—in northeast Syria.
Even lesser known is that other churches and Christians in the Middle East were attacked during Easter weekend. Take Egypt. President Sisi recently decreed that a Christian church should be built in the Upper Egyptian town of al-Our, where 13 of the 21 Christians who were gruesomely beheaded by the Islamic State in Libya grew up, and where their families still live. The church was meant to honor them and the nation of Egypt.On Easter Sunday itself, as some media reported, the Islamic State destroyed the Virgin Mary Church in Tel Nasri—loosely translated as “Christian Hill”—in northeast Syria.
But, as always happens in Egypt—that is, as always happens in practically every Islamic nation in the world—local Muslims rioted and protested right after Islamic prayers last Friday. They yelled that they would never allow a church to be built, that “Egypt is Islamic!” and that “Anyway, shape, or form, we will take Sisi down!”By night time, Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at another Coptic church, cars were set ablaze—including one belonging to a relative of one of the those decapitated by the Islamic State—and several people were injured. A day later, on Saturday, April 4, Muslims rioted and attacked the Christians of the village of Gala’, Samalout district. After waiting for years to repair their dilapidated church (also named after Virgin Mary, see pictures here) Coptic locals finally received all the proper permits to begin restoration. And, as usual, Muslim mayhem broke out.
To calm matters, local police invited the Muslim leaders who refused to see the old church building renovated to a meeting with the Christians. The Muslims insisted that the Copts must first accept a number of discriminatory restrictions, including that the building look like a house not a church—certainly no crosses visible anywhere on the building’s exterior—and its entrance must be a narrow side door, not at the front of the building which faces the street.
Although initial reports said some compromise was formally reached, “Muslim youth” still responded with violence, attacking Coptic homes, businesses, and persons, often by hurling stones. Christian owned wheat farms were destroyed and their potato crops uprooted. Islamic slogans were constantly yelled, including “There is no god but Allah” and “Islamic! Islamic!”—a reflection of the paranoid sentiment that if a single church is built or merely renovated, Egypt will cease to be Islamic.
As many Copts have pointed out, they have done everything legally, getting all the necessary permits—and in the instance of the al-Our church, President Sisi himself has approved it—so if Muslim protesters get their way every time, it suggests something else other than Egypt’s government is ruling Egypt.
Indeed, not only did local police, according to human rights activists and eye witnesses, fail to respond to the Muslim assailants, some reportedly joined in on the attack on Copts, including by throwing bricks at a vehicle carrying Christian girls. Often we are told that it is a tiny minority of terrorists—the Islamic State, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, ad nauseum—who have “hijacked” Islam for their political goals. But what do we make of these “everyday” Muslims?Indeed, not only did local police, according to human rights activists and eye witnesses, fail to respond to the Muslim assailants, some reportedly joined in on the attack on Copts, including by throwing bricks at a vehicle carrying Christian girls. The mainstream media and White House brushed aside the Islamic State’s ritual beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by portraying it as a “criminal” act and not mentioning that the Copts were slaughtered simply for being Christian, as the Islamic State emphatically insisted. Instead, the White House condemned the killing of “Egyptian Citizens.”
So what about these other angry Muslims in Egypt? They are of the same nationality and culture as the Copts—they are not Libyans, nor are they “ISIS”—they speak the same exact dialect. Some knew the Copts who were beheaded; some still know their mourning families. But to have a church honoring those slaughtered Christians is unacceptable, and prompts more attacks on Christians, including, as seen, on family members of those beheaded in Libya.
The reason for this animus is, of course, as simple to understand as it is taboo to mention in “polite society”: Islamic law makes unequivocally clear that churches must never be built or even renovated. As relics of a conquered people, churches must go the way of the dodo, one way or another. And that’s the point. Violence and intolerance against non-Muslims is not limited to “terrorist” organizations like the Islamic State. It’s a product of Islam’s core teachings as found in the Koran and Sunna, or example, of Muhammad. Even the aforementioned stipulations for the Samalout church to have no crosses, narrow side door, etc., are a product of Islamic documents, in this case, “The Conditions of Omar.”This hostility for and persecution of Christians is of course evident among “terrorist” organizations like the Islamic State, Boko Haram, etc. But it’s also evident among Muslim governments, Muslim police, and the Muslim populace. The reason is that it’s evident in Islam. We can continue playing games, euphemizing, white washing, invoking “grievances,” and so on, but in the end, it is the Koran, it is Muhammad, it is Sharia—in a word, it is Islam. And it is a testimony to the blindness of the West that a thing so self-evident, so obvious, so well-documented—for nearly 1,400 years—is still, nonetheless, so difficult to acknowledge.