LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For Today/Jesus breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
John 20/19-25: "When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
Bible Quotation For Today/See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition
Letter to the Colossians 02/08-15: "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April
Stones from glass houses/The Daily Star/April 10/15
Obama's Iranian attraction, Netanyahu's repulsion/Nahum Barnea/Ynetnews/April 10/15
There is No "Better Deal" with Iran/Efraim Inbar/BESA Center Perspectives/April 10/15
Why the Lebanese scenario won’t work in Yemen/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 10/15
An apology from Lebanon is not enough/Salman Aldossary/Asharq Alawsat/April 10/15
Contradictions in Obama’s Doctrine/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/ASharq Alawsat/April 10/15
Obama is always wrong on the Middle East/Tariq Alhomayed/ASharq Al Awsat/April 10/15
Lebanese Related News published on April
Inside the Middle East: Palestinians in Syria lose respect for Hezbollah
Geagea-Aoun talks make good progress
Berri Says Dialogue between Mustaqbal, Hizbullah Ongoing
'Iran helping Hamas, Hezbollah build fleet of suicide drones
Iran not trusted to uphold deal by most in the US, NBC poll finds
Security source: Lebanon forces kill ‘militants,’ arrest cleric
Security Forces Arrest Hoblos, Kill Fugitives in Tripoli
Salafist sheikhs question killing of Tripoli militants
Rifi to Raad: Those Criticizing Usurpation of Yemenis' Will Have Condemned themselves in Syria
Raad Responds to Hariri: Only Cowards Remain Silent over Saudi's Genocide of Yemenis
Two Syrians Arrested for Belonging to al-Nusra Front
Health Ministry Anti-Corruption Campaign Shuts Beauty Clinic, Daycares
French Defense Minister Arrives in Beirut on April 20 to Oversee Arms Delivery
Sarmadi Meets Nasrallah, Says Presidential Deadlock Requires Lebanese Consensus
Customs Foil Operation to Smuggle Two Tons of Drugs to Egypt
Maid survives apparent 4-story suicide leap
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Argentina to publish Israel embassy bombing docs
Saudis says no to Swedish monkeys over spat
Rouhani issues nuclear deal terms
Germany says in Iran's hands when sanctions will be lifted
Iran, Saudi Arabia in tense buildup opposite Yemen’s Gulf of Aden shore: US air tankers refueling Saudi jets
Pakistan Parliament Rejects Saudi Call to Join Yemen Coalition
Syria Talks in Moscow Yield no Results
Syria Opposition Figures Seek to Form Alternative Body
Obama, Castro to Break Bread at Historic Summit
Ban: Yarmouk the deepest circle of hell
PLO Rejects Idea of Joining Yarmuk Fighting
71 Chadian soldiers killed fighting Boko Haram: army
Clinton to join US presidential race this weekend: reports
Jihad Watch Latest News
Iranian city bars Christians from celebrating Easter in churches
Syria: Female jihadis screaming “Allahu akbar” set up jihad training camp in world’s oldest Byzantine church
Poll: More than half of Americans have unfavorable view of Islam
Kansas: Muslim charged with jihad plot to bomb Fort Riley for the Islamic State
Islamic State stones man to death for being gay
Finnish parliament cancels free speech event featuring Muhammad cartoonist Lars Vilks over security concerns
Australia Muslim leader: Muslims join jihad because “blood is boiling” over domestic persecution & West’s atrocities
Leftist feminists’ abandonment of women under Islam — on The Glazov Gang
US Muslim: “Cursed secular laws are worse than the laws of Islam”
The Burning Coals Of Hatred
By: Elias Bejjani
(1 Samuel 24/12): "May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you”
Both the Hebrew and Greek words translated “vengeance,” “revenge,” and “avenge” have as their root meaning the idea of punishment. This is crucial in understanding why God reserves for Himself the right to avenge. Believers should refrain from acts of revenge and let God do His work. In both the New and Old Testament God asks us to leave the revenge issues for him.
(Deuteronomy 32/35): "To me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste". (Deuteronomy 32/36): "For the LORD will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining bond or free." ".
It is a known fact that the severance of communication between people is a form of death and an evil readymade formula for bloody and destructive confrontations. When people cease to communicate with each other because of hostility, hatred, resentment, stupidity, ignorance, lack of faith, pompousness or fear of confrontation they simply abandon God Himself because in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John1-1).
How could anyone who alleges to be religious and to fear God, allow himself to assume God's work and judge others based on his/her own concepts and self made criteria for what is right and wrong, and simply put them on trial and issue verdicts against them? He who does so does not really understand Christ's teaching which said: "Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged, for with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7/1-2). Those who unlawfully give themselves this Godly right Christ calls them hypocrites.
When two individuals speak two different languages that neither of them comprehends no actual communication takes place. One of them has to learn the other's language in a bid for the communication to be productive and a two-way one, or otherwise they keep on speaking an incomprehensible Babylonian language.
In this same context righteousness and evilness are two different human qualities with two contradicting frames of mind and mentalities. Those who abandon love, become dominated by hatred, hold grudges, judge others, cease to communicate speak the language of Satan, while those who believe in God and know that He is love, speak His language of problem solving, mercy, openness, consoling, forgiveness and meekness. (Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 13/1-3): "If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing."
A proven devastating fact that is often ignored by the conceited, selfish, stubborn, childish, opinionated and stupid is that dire consequences occur when two parties become possessed with hostilities. They turn into rivals and speak the language of Satan. These two parties fall prey to a vicious cycle of hostilities and an endless cycle of retaliations. (John12/40): “He has blinded their eyes and he hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and would turn, and I would heal them.”.
Impulsivity and anger are common human traits through which one loses control and acts stupidly without thinking of the dreadful consequences. We all know for sure that it does not take much of an effort to hate, despise, resent, act evilly or hold grudges against others, particularly those with whom we might have serious or crucial problems and conflicts with.
At the same time, it is very primitive to act violently and take revenge by physical or emotional means against those who one believes have inflicted pain on him or unlawfully took what is his by force or fraud.
"We should aim in all our desires and expectations of deliverance, both from sin and trouble, that we may do the better service to the Lord; that we may serve Him without fear. If His grace has delivered our souls from the death of sin, He will bring us to heaven, to walk before Him forever in light." (Matthew Henry: 56:8-13)
Meanwhile, to love and forgive is a very difficult task to do. The matter needs a great deal of self control, anger taming, and nobility not to react with revenge against those who confront us with hatred, grudges and evilness, especially when they purposefully hurt us and infringe on our rights, property, and beloved ones. (Matthew 5/44): "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
A well know Lebanese proverb says: "when in the woods if you are not a lion, lions will devour you". Yes, this is 100% right if we were animals, but we are not and the wood's doctrine, "the stronger eats the weaker", does not apply to human beings. Why it does not? Simply because we are God's children and He has created us in His image and we must act accordingly (Genesis 1/27): "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them."
Our conduct ought to be righteous and not evil, civilized, peaceful, loving and shaped in a human and not in an animal manner. As God's children we are taught to love and not to hate, especially those to whom we see as enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. (Luke 6/27): "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you."
As God's Children, we are not supposed to take revenge no matter what, but instead forgive and leave the vengeance for God. (Romans 12/19): "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord". (Leviticus 19/18): "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD". (Nahum1/2): "The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on His foes and maintains His wrath against his enemies." As devoted believers, we are required to leave the work of judgment for the rulers and courts even if we feel they are biased and unfair. God Himself will punish them if they do not fear Him and not perform their duties with justice. (1Peter 2/13-14): "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”
(Hebrews 10/30): "For we know him who said, “vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
There is no doubt that in this contemporary competitive and merciless society that we live in, self defense and protecting oneself and one’s interests is a lawful right, because the law does not protect those who are stupid. Self defense needs a great deal of wisdom, understanding and restraining of physical abilities by spiritual attainment. This simply means that the one who has the ability to bring great harm doesn’t mean he or she needs to use it for more than is required for self defense. Just because we can break someone’s arm, doesn’t mean we need to use that ability. Just because we have a gun doesn’t mean we need to fire on someone who breaks into the home.
Psalm 94/: "1 O LORD, the God who avenges, O God who avenges, shine forth"
The question is, when we are hurt do we have to act on our revenge impulses? Some say by taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing over it, he is superior.
Those possessed with hatred and grudges suffer the most. They sit on unseen burning coals that make them continuously sad, angry, hostile, miserable, unsocial and vindictive.
Let us trust in Almighty God, fear no one but Him, and beg Him to cure us from all ailments of hatred, grudges and hostilities
Psalm 56/11: "In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
French Defense Minister Arrives in Beirut on April 20 to Oversee Arms Delivery
Naharnet/French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected to kick off a two-day visit to Lebanon later this month to oversee the delivery of French arms to Lebanese military under a Saudi financed deal. According to An Nahar newspaper, Le Drian will arrive in Beirut on April 20 to attend a ceremony on the delivery of the first shipment of $3 billion worth of weapons to the army. He will hold talks with prominent Lebanese leaders, including Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji. The daily said that French authorities formally informed its Lebanese counterpart of Le Drian's visit. Saudi Arabia and France inked the deal in Riyadh in November. The deal also includes training programs for the Lebanese army run by the French military. It aims to boost Lebanon's military as it struggles to contain the rising tide of violence linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria. Saudi Arabia last year announced it would give the Lebanese army $3 billion to purchase weapons and equipment from France, but that deal has yet to be fully implemented. In August, the kingdom offered another $1 billion in funds to allow the army to purchase supplies immediately.
Rifi to Raad: Those Criticizing Usurpation of Yemenis' Will Have Condemned themselves in Syria
Naharnet/Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi criticized Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc chief MP Mohmmed Raad's response to Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri over the developments in Yemen and Iran's role in the region, reported the daily al-Mustaqbal on Friday. He said: “Those speaking against the usurpation of the will of the Yemeni people have condemned themselves in supporting the actions of the Syrian regime, which has destroyed its cities and villages on its residents.”
“Those who consider the condemnation of Saudi Arabia as a national, constitutional, humanitarian, and moral commitment are up to their ears in the developments in Syria, which is witnessing the worst humanitarian massacre in the history of people demanding their freedom and dignity,” the minister added. “Hizbullah, through Raad's statement, is right in saying that intelligence lies in learning from experiences and avoiding repeating the same mistakes. Cleverness lies in avoiding transforming people into fuel for the dreams of an empire that is obsessed with fragmenting Arab entities and seizing control of their capitals,” Rifi stressed in reference to Hizbullah's main ally Iran and its regional ambitions. “He is also right in saying that the Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah have strategic differences in that the movement searches for the future, while you return to the past without learning from history's lessons,” he remarked. “Hizbullah has added to its black record under the tutelage of Iran a new characteristic that would not have emerged had it not been for the Saudi-led Decisive Storm military operation in Yemen that is aimed at saving it from the clutches of the delusions of the Persian empire,” he continued. “Hizbullah is playing the role of the obedient pawn in Iran's hands. Iran is orchestrating the battles of influence in the Arab world through the party, its Huthi brothers, Syrian regime, and sectarian majority in Iraq,” he said. “The attack against Saudi Arabia was caused by its mission to preserve the sovereignty of Yemen against Hizbullah's Huthi brothers who seek to repeat the actions of May 7 in Sanaa and Aden,” he noted.
He was referring to the May 7, 2008 clashes that erupted when gunmen belonging to Hizbullah and its allies swept through Beirut’s neighborhoods after the government of then Premier Fouad Saniora decided to dismantle the group's telecom network and sack airport security chief Brig. Gen. Wafiq Shqeir. Raad condemned on Thursday Hariri's recent remarks against the criticism directed to Saudi Arabia, saying that linking Iran to the developments in Yemen and Lebanon are a “major mistake.” “Only ignorants and cowards remain silent over Saudi Arabia's genocide in Yemen,” he stressed. “Condemning the Saudi intervention in Yemen and its military aggression against its land, army, and people is a national, constitutional, humanitarian, and moral commitment that should rein in the aggressors, warn them of the dangerousness of their actions, and steer developments towards a peaceful solution to the crisis.” declared Raad. Hariri on Wednesday had slammed Iran's expansionist plans in the region, defended Saudi Arabia, and attempts to link Lebanon to the neighboring conflicts.
Raad Responds to Hariri: Only Cowards Remain Silent over Saudi's Genocide of Yemenis
Naharnet/Head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad criticized on Thursday Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri's positions on the Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen, saying that linking Iran to the developments in Yemen and Lebanon are a “major mistake.”He said in a statement: “Only ignorants and cowards remain silent over Saudi Arabia's genocide in Yemen.”“We call on Hariri and all of his advisors to listen to their conscience and revise their policies, especially since it appears that the so-called Saudi-led Decisive Storm operation is reaching a dead end,” he added. “They should instead focus on avoiding destroying Lebanon and avoiding stirring sectarian tensions,” he said, while emphasizing the importance of coexistence in confronting challenges. Furthermore, Raad noted that the Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah have long had differing views over local and regional developments, adding however that the differences will not deter the party from continuing the dialogue with the movement. “We understand the sensitive position that Hariri is in during this moment given the criticism directed against the Saudi Arabian leadership and its idiotic policy and failed aggression against Yemen and its people,” he continued. “But remaining silent over the crimes against civilians and the will of the Yemeni people can only be accepted by slaves, ignorants, or cowards,” he stated.
“Condemning the Saudi intervention in Yemen and its military aggression against its land, army, and people is a national, constitutional, humanitarian, and moral commitment that should rein in the aggressors, warn them of the dangerousness of their actions, and steer developments towards a peaceful solution to the crisis.” declared Raad. “It should not be wrong to condemn the aggression, but it should be wrong to justify it,” he noted. “We consider Saudi Arabia an arrogant brother who cannot cover his crimes with regional and international coalitions or with wasting more of the wealth of its people and nation,” he added.
Moreover, the MP said: “Comparing Lebanon to the developments in Yemen is a major mistake that stems from failing to properly assess the developments that have taken place in Lebanon.” “It also stems from the failure to acknowledge the will of the people by instead treating them as pawns to serve the interests of other powers,” he explained. “Iran has long been keen on Lebanon's stability, security, sovereignty, and the right of its people to resist the Zionist aggressors,” he stated.
“Iran has never allowed itself to take decisions on behalf of the Lebanese people, whether in regards to Israel or their internal affairs,” Raad said. “Iran has long sought to help the Lebanese people, regardless of their affiliations or sect in order to empower their national stances against the Israeli enemy or for the sake of their country,” he stressed.He deemed as defamation any claims to the contrary against Iran.“Such claims only serve the enemies of Lebanon,” the MP declared. On Wednesday, Hariri condemned the manipulation of Tele Liban, Lebanon's official television station, after it aired an interview for Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah with Syria's al-Ikhbariya channel.
He remarked that Lebanon was “not in need of further problems created by Hizbullah”, the latest of which was dragging Tele Liban in the political and media battlefield in the country. He condemned in a statement the use of “Lebanese media outlets to target friendly Arab countries and Saudi Arabia similar to the practices adopted by some suspicious voices and yellow journalism that want Lebanon to become a partner in antagonizing its Arab brothers for the sake of Iran and its regional policies.”“Remaining silent over this issue is not justified, whether for the sake of dialogue, which we still seek, or for the sake of placing national interests above foreign ones, especially after witnessing officials from the other side of the divide being adept at jeopardizing these interests on a daily basis,” he added. “It is unfortunate that Lebanon is being used to these ends, such as linking it to regional conflicts,” he lamented. “Saudi Arabia's actions in the region stem from its belief in protecting the Arab identity and the rights of its people to security, stability, and development, as opposed to other countries, like Iran that seek to destroy this stability and turn Arab capitals into open grounds for sectarian and armed chaos,” declared the lawmaker.
“It has become apparent to observers that Iran does not pay heed to Arab countries and their official institutions as much as it is interested in infiltrating societies and manipulating sectarian tensions,” Hariri stated.
“Iran seeks to replicate the Lebanese scenario in Yemen where it has been fashioning the Ansarullah Huthi movement in the shape of Hizbullah in order to transform it into a pawn at the doorstep of Mecca and the Arab Gulf,” he noted, while saying that Saudi Arabia has sought to thwart this plan through its airstrikes on Yemen.
Sarmadi Meets Nasrallah, Says Presidential Deadlock Requires Lebanese Consensus
Naharnet /The special envoy of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Morteza Sarmadi, met during a short visit to Lebanon Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, stressing that the presidential stalemate in Lebanon could only be resolved by the Lebanese. “Such a local matter could only be resolved by the rival parties and the key issue is consensus among the Lebanese,” Sarmadi said in an interview published in As Safir newspaper published on Friday. He stressed that Tehran supports any agreement that the Lebanese reach over the identity of the new president. The Iranian diplomat reiterated his country's offer to deliver arms to Lebanon, pointing out that there are no obstacles preventing Tehran from carrying out such a deal “if the Lebanese would accept it.”The controversial Iranian grant to the Lebanese army was first discussed in October, however it created a rift among cabinet members. Iran's offer of support follows aid packages for the Lebanese army from both its regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United States. It comes as the Lebanese army is battling jihadists from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group, who are entrenched on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border. Sarmadi said that “combating terrorism and extremism requires the unity of all the countries in the region to prevent the expansion of such phenomena.”“We are ready to cooperate with the concerned authorities in Lebanon to counter terrorism.”Sarmadi visited Beirut Wednesday and met with senior Lebanese officials, including Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. As Safir newspaper also reported that the Iranian diplomat met with Hizbullah chief Nasrallah. He praised the party's resistance against Israel, considering that Nasrallah is “wisely leading Hizbullah.”Hizbullah is part of the so-called axis of resistance -- which comprises Iran and Syria.
Geagea-Aoun talks make good progress
Wassim Mroueh/The Daily Star/Apr. 10, 2015/BEIRUT: Talks between the Lebanese Forces and Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement have achieved “remarkable progress,” an MP from FPM chief Michel Aoun’s bloc said Thursday, after meeting with LF leader Samir Geagea. “I don’t want to announce the results [of the meeting], I would rather leave that to Gen. Michel Aoun and Dr. Samir Geagea,” MP Ibrahim Kanaan said after the talks, which he described as “important.”“Certainly, we have achieved remarkable progress. The work is serious and takes into consideration the concerns of both groups.”Kanaan said discussion focused on the content of a “declaration of intent,” which the rival political groups are jointly composing. The document is expected to announce the LF and FPM’s renewed commitment to abolishing past tensions between their parties.Speaking to The Daily Star, a source familiar with the talks between the two Christian groups said the meeting was “very productive – things are on the right track.”The source said that late last month, the LF received the FPM’s proposed amendments to a draft of the declaration. “The Lebanese Forces made their own amendments and will return the draft to [the FPM] in the next few days,” the source said. “Things are being finalized.”
The Future Movement and Hezbollah are also engaged in dialogue sessions, holding nine meetings since December. Despite their ongoing talks, the war of words between the rival parties over the conflict in Yemen erupted again Thursday. MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, responded sharply to recent comments by Future Movement leader Saad Hariri. The former premier had denounced remarks made by Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah in a televised interview, saying they were “offensive” to Saudi Arabia. “We understand the embarrassing situation that Sheikh Saad is facing and his frustration at this moment, especially concerning our criticism of the leaders of Saudi Arabia, their botched policies, and their failed aggression in Yemen,” Raad said. “Condemning the aggression and refuting the aggressors’ crimes is not offensive. What is offensive is justifying the aggression, applauding it, [propagating] illusions about it and making misplaced bets [on its outcome],” Raad added. His statement came a day after Hariri criticized Nasrallah for “luring” Lebanon’s official television channel into airing “offensive” remarks against Saudi Arabia, made during an interview with Syria’s Al-Ekhbariya TV. Nasrallah railed against Riyadh for its recent military intervention in Yemen. Despite his statement, Raad said his party was adamant that the dialogue with the Future Movement would continue.
Berri Says Dialogue between Mustaqbal, Hizbullah Ongoing
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih stressed on Friday that dialogue between the rival two parties al-Mustaqbal movement and Hizbullah will continue, pointing out that the upcoming session will remain on time. “Dialogue will continue and will continue to achieve Lebanon's best interest,” Berri said. His comments came in light of media reports saying that al-Mustaqbal movement is mulling to suspend the talks with Hizbullah over the recent verbal spat between the officials of the two parties. Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal officials have been meeting in Ain el-Tineh under the auspices of Berri since December to defuse sectarian hostility linked to the war in Syria. The upcoming session is set to be held on April 14. Berri expressed pessimism earlier on Friday over the verbal spat between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement. He said that the hostile media exchange should be the center of attention of the upcoming dialogue session between the two parties. “I will demand both sides to tackle the matter amid the strong rhetoric and firm stances,” the speaker's visitors quoted him as saying in comments to al-Joumhouria newspaper on Friday.“We should be cautious.” Meanwhile, al-Akhbar newspaper reported that al-Mustaqbal movement is seeking to adjourn for a week Tuesday's dialogue session over the pretext that Nader Hariri, the adviser of the Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri, is abroad. Sources close to al-Msutaqbal told the newspaper that the “rise in tension between the two parties doesn't allow the holding of a new session, which would make no sense amid the current rhetoric.”
“The matter will be discussed with Hariri, but hasn't been yet proposed to Berri.”Hariri on Wednesday had slammed Iran's expansionist plans in the region, defended Saudi Arabia, and attempts to link Lebanon to the neighboring conflicts, in direct response to a speech by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. However, Hariri's statements prompted Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc chief MP Mohmmed Raad to condemn the remarks against the criticism directed to Saudi Arabia, saying that linking Iran to the developments in Yemen and Lebanon are a “major mistake.” “Only ignorants and cowards remain silent over Saudi Arabia's genocide in Yemen,” he stressed.
Security Forces Arrest Hoblos, Kill Fugitives in Tripoli
Naharnet /Security forces succeeded on Thursday in arresting and killing prominent fugitives wanted on terrorism charges, most notably Sheikh Khaled Hoblos, who is wanted for his involvement in clashes with the army in Bhannine in late 2014. An Internal Security Forces statement late on Thursday announced that Hoblos was arrested while riding in a Kia Picanto vehicle that was driven by Amir al-Kurdi in the northern city of Tripoli. Soon after, an Opel vehicle, with two passengers on board, opened fire at the security forces, slightly wounding two members. The forces retaliated at the car, killing the two passengers.
They were later identified as Osama Mansour and Ahmed al-Nazer. They also determined that Masnour had opened fire. He also possessed an explosive belt that a military expert has since dismantled, added the communique. As Safir newspaper Friday said that the ISF Intelligence Bureau managed to pursue and kill Mansour and al-Nazer in an ambush in the Miatayn crossroads in Tripoli. The Bureau had been monitoring the telephone calls of a terrorist group, finding out that some of its members will be holding a meeting at a cafe in Tripoli's Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood. An Intelligence Bureau unit, under the surveillance of Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, was summoned to raid the cafe and arrest the suspects. As it approached the scene, the unit was surprised with the appearance of two cars leaving the area at high speeds. They took the al-Zahriyeh road leading towards the Miatayn crossroads near an army checkpoint. The security forces sought to block the road against one of the cars, which was transporting Mansour and al-Nazer, in order to apprehend the passengers, said As Safir. They were instead met with gunshots from the other car that was following it and transporting Hoblos and three of his armed companions. Two members of the ISF unit were seriously wounded in the clash that lasted about five minutes, added As Safir. The army was also involved in the incident. Mansour and al-Nazer were killed in the unrest, while Hoblos was wounded and arrested. He has been transported to the ISF General Directorate in Beirut where investigations are underway with him. His companions in the car managed to flee the scene. The army has since cordoned off the area where the clash took place and forensic experts discovered a number of weapons, hand grenades, and explosive belts in the fugitives' abandoned vehicles.
In October, the army engaged in clashes in the northern town of Bhannine with Islamist gunmen led by Hoblos. The clashes in Bhannine coincided at the time with unprecedented fighting between the army and Islamist militants in Tripoli's old souks and Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood. A number of the members of Hoblos' Islamist network have since been arrested. Mansour is wanted on terrorism charges. In January, he was implicated, along with 27 others, in the double suicide bombing that rocked the Jabal Mohsen district of Tripoli earlier that month. Mansour, along with prominent fugitive Shadi al-Mawlawi, was wanted for leading armed groups that engaged in deadly gunbattles with the army in Tripoli and its surrounding areas in October. Mansour and al-Mawlawi were also charged with recruiting people for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks, assaulting the army and planting bombs.
Two Syrians Arrested for Belonging to al-Nusra Front
Naharnet/Two Syrians were arrested in the eastern Bekaa region for belonging to a terrorist group, reported the National News Agency. It said that the Army Intelligence arrested them in al-Labweh for being affiliated to the al-Nusra Front. The detainees have been identified as Mohammed Idris and Abdul Muhaymen al-Abed. The army has in recent months arrested scores of suspected extremists linked to the Syrian conflict. The al-Nusra Front, completely unknown before the rebellion in Syria that began two years ago, has been a rebel standard-bearer since mid-2012 when it became the spearhead of the insurgency ahead of the Free Syrian Army. The organization has been blacklisted in December by the United States as a "terrorist" organization and makes no secret of its aim for Syria to become an Islamist state. The jihadists remain entrenched on the outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border. The mountainous area along the Lebanese-Syrian border has long been a smuggling haven, with multiple routes into Syria that have been used to transport weapons and fighters.
Pakistan Parliament Rejects Saudi Call to Join Yemen Coalition
Naharnet/Pakistan's parliament on Friday voted to stay out of the conflict in Yemen, rejecting Saudi demands for Islamabad to join its military coalition against Shiite Huthi rebels. A unanimous resolution passed by a special session of parliament backed the government's commitment to protect Saudi Arabia's territory, which has so far not been threatened by the conflict. But it said Pakistan should play a mediating role and not get involved in fighting in Yemen -- turning down longstanding ally Riyadh's request for troops, ships and warplanes. "Parliament of Pakistan... underscores the need for continued efforts by the government of Pakistan to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis," the resolution said. "(Parliament) desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis." The motion is not binding, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said last week that any Pakistani participation would need the backing of parliament. It was passed after five days of debate on the Yemen crisis, in which many lawmakers urged Sharif not to send Pakistani forces to join the fight. The coalition of largely Sunni Muslim countries led by Riyadh has been hitting Huthi Shiite rebels in Yemen with air strikes in a bid to restore the government of fugitive President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Saudi Arabia has vowed to bomb the rebels, who it says are backed by Tehran, into surrender to prevent them establishing a pro-Iran state on its doorstep.
- Four-stage plan -
Islamabad found itself in an awkward position on Yemen. It has deep military and religious ties to Saudi and has long benefited from the oil-rich kingdom's largesse. But it has been reluctant to become ensnared in a conflict with sectarian overtones, with violence against minority Shiites on the rise at home in recent years. Moreover, the large Pakistani military is stretched, maintaining a heavy presence on the border with arch-rival India as well as fighting against Taliban militants in the northwest. Instead, Pakistan has pushed diplomatic efforts in the past week, holding talks with Turkish and Iranian officials to try to forge a way ahead. Friday's resolution urged the government to begin work in the U.N. Security Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation bloc to bring about a ceasefire. But analyst Hasan Askari said Pakistan's historic closeness to Saudi Arabia -- and that of Sharif, sheltered by Riyadh when he was overthrown in 1999 -- made a peace-making role problematic.
"Pakistan cannot play the role of mediator or moderator in this conflict because Pakistan is still partisan and supporting Saudi Arabia," Askari told AFP.
"Nawaz Sharif is facing a dilemma because he is under a personal obligation to the Saudis." On Wednesday Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz pledged to work for a peaceful end to the fighting, which has cost hundreds of lives since the Saudi offensive began last month. Zarif laid out a four-stage plan for talks, calling for an immediate ceasefire followed by humanitarian assistance, dialogue among Yemenis and the formation of an "all-inclusive government."
Aziz appeared cool on Iran's idea of an immediate ceasefire, saying it "would consolidate the existing ground position", which currently has Huthis in control of large parts of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.
Instead he called for "a more comprehensive resolution on facilitating an intra-Yemeni dialogue to create the possibility of some kind of negotiated solution."Agence France Presse
Obama, Castro to Break Bread at Historic Summit
Naharnet/U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro will put aside decades of Cold War-era tensions Friday, sitting at the same table with other regional leaders for a landmark summit. Obama and Castro will join some 30 other presidents at the two-day Summit of the Americas in Panama City, breaking bread at a seaside dinner in a complex of ruins from the era of the Spanish conquistadors. Their chief diplomats, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, made history themselves when they held talks Thursday evening. It was the first meeting between the chief diplomats of the two nations since 1958, a year before Fidel Castro's revolutionary guerrilla seized power. In a bombshell announcement, the countries revealed in December they had agreed to restore diplomatic ties. Talks have started. Kerry and Rodriguez "had a lengthy and very constructive discussion this evening. The two agreed they made progress and that we would continue to work to resolve outstanding issues," a State Department official said in a brief statement.
While the meetings are packed with powerful symbolism, the two countries have a long road ahead in their broader goal of normalizing relations.
An Obama-Castro meeting is "part of the overall negotiations that are taking place," said former Cuban diplomat and foreign relations professor Carlos Alzugaray. "This doesn't end with Raul's presence at the summit; it's the beginning."Obama acknowledged as much on Thursday during a visit to Jamaica, before landing in Panama. "I never foresaw that immediately overnight everything would transform itself, that suddenly Cuba became a partner diplomatically with us the way Jamaica is, for example," he said. "That's going to take some time." The U.S. leader may bring to the table a resolution to an old gripe from Cuba, as a senator said the U.S. State Department recommended that he remove Havana from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.Cuba's inclusion on the blacklist, which includes Iran, Syria and Sudan, has been a major sticking point in negotiations to reopen embassies that closed after relations broke in 1961.
Cuba was first put on the blacklist in 1982 for harboring ETA Basque separatist militants and Colombian FARC rebels. Removing Cuba from the terror-sponsor list would not be immediate. Congress would have 45 days to decide whether to override Obama's recommendation. U.S. lawmakers who have been critical of the diplomatic detente could seize on the review of the list to further attack Obama's Cuba policy. Cuba has other major demands, most importantly that the U.S. Congress lift an embargo that the communist regime blames for the island's economic troubles. Washington wants Cuba to lift restrictions on the movement of its diplomats on the island, giving them unfettered access to ordinary Cubans. The reconciliation appears popular in both countries. A Marist College poll showed this week that 59 percent of Americans back the diplomatic thaw, while a survey by U.S. pollster Bendixen & Amandi International in Cuba found that 97 of islanders are in favor.
But Cuban government supporters confronted dissidents on the sidelines of the summit, heckling them as they attended a civil society forum. A meeting between Castro and Obama at the summit will provide a picture moment to immortalize the diplomatic thaw that they announced in December. The two leaders briefly shook hands at Nelson Mandela's funeral in 2013, but they now have a chance for more face time. The White House said the two would have time to interact, but the extent of the encounter remains a mystery and could fall short of a formal, bilateral meeting. But as Obama moves to remove an old source of tension in US relations with Latin America, a new headache has emerged since he imposed sanctions against Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses in an opposition crackdown.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Havana's main ally in the region, said Thursday he had gathered 13.4 million signatures in a petition urging Obama to lift his executive order, which calls Caracas a U.S. national security threat.
Maduro welcomed White House statements saying it does not see Venezuela as a threat after all. But, he added, "I ask Obama why he signed this order. If he doesn't answer ... it will be impossible to open a new era" in U.S.-Venezuelan relations. Agence France Presse
Stones from glass houses
The Daily Star/Apr. 10, 2015/Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s angry rant Thursday about the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen reveals the Iranian leader is increasingly nervous about recent decisions from Tehran, as he should be, given Iran’s contribution to regional strife. Accusing the campaign to protect Yemen’s legitimate government of committing “genocide,” Khamenei seemed to forget that those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Sponsoring conflicts across the region, Iran should do well to consider its own crimes.
In Iraq it conspired with the U.S. to rule the country post-Saddam, with Sunni civilians targeted by Iranian proxies. And more recently in Syria, for years it has been propping up the Assad regime with arms, money, military advisers and footsoldiers to help maintain and prolong a bloody civil war that has killed over 200,000 people and displaced millions. It has set the country back decades, cost billions and had knock-on effects worldwide. And that is not to mention its dealings in Bahrain and Lebanon, or its occupation of three islands belonging to the UAE. Khamenei’s nervous tone perhaps spoke of his realization – a little late – that Iran’s plans for increased expansion in Yemen were shattered overnight with the Saudi-led strikes on rebel positions. If Iran truly wants to see peace in the Middle East, as the more dovish voices in its government often seek to suggest, it should stop sponsoring conflicts across the region, and propping up individuals and crime networks elsewhere. Having foolishly mistaken Gulf patience and overtures in recent years for weakness, Iran may have now realized it has awoken a sleeping giant.
'Iran helping Hamas, Hezbollah build fleet of suicide drones'
By JPOST.COM STAFF/04/09/2015
Iran is building an explosive fleet of so-called “suicide kamikaze drones” while also providing know-how on assembling these new weapons to its terrorist allies Hamas and Hezbollah, according to a new report commissioned by the US Army. The report, which was cited by the American daily newspaper The Washington Times and published by the Army's Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, states that “no aspect of Iran’s overt military program has seen as much development over the past decade as Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).”“Whereas a decade ago Iran’s UAVs and drones were largely for show, a platform with little if any capability, the Iranian military today boasts widespread use of drones, employed not only by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), but also by the regular army, both regular and IRGC navy, and the regular and IRGC air forces.”This development is significant for Israel because both Hamas and Hezbollah have sought to deploy drones which have penetrated Israeli airspace. Thus far, they have not managed to cause damage, though drones outfitted with explosives could inflict casualties against soldiers and civilians. “In a mid-February speech, regular army General Abdolrahim Moussavi outlined the army’s growing use of drones, with emphasis on suicide or kamikaze drones,” according to the US Army report. “While it is easy to dismiss the idea of a suicide drone as more symbolic than real in an age of cruise missiles and precise Predators, utilizing suicide drones is an asymmetric strategy which both allows Iran to compete on an uneven playing field and poses a risk by allowing operators to pick and choose targets of opportunity over a drone’s multi-hour flight duration.”
Iran not trusted to uphold deal by most in the US, NBC poll finds
By JPOST.COM STAFF /04/10/2015 /A survey conducted by NBC News has found that 68 percent of Americans do not believe Iran will uphold its part of a final nuclear accord with six major powers.
Iran and the P5+1 countries – the US, China, Russia, France, Great Britain and Germany – reached a framework deal with Tehran in Lausanne earlier this month, which framed the parameters of a larger, more technical agreement due by June 30. A quarter of those surveyed in the NBC poll, which was conducted online April 6-8 and released on Thursday, said they trusted the Islamic Republic "to abide by a nuclear agreement." Under the pact, cast as an "understanding," Iran will be allowed to continue the enrichment of uranium and will close no facilities. 53% of respondents said Iran's nuclear program constitutes a major threat to the United States. 37%, by comparison, said it was a minor threat, while 8% said it was no risk whatsoever. Also, half said they were following events unfolding throughout the nuclear talks quite closely, with more Republicans than Democrats staying tuned to news coming out of Switzerland. The American TV network also asked participants who they trusted more to spearhead negotiations to curb Iran's nuclear program – US President Barack Obama or the Republicans in Congress – to which most (54%) returned with support for the president. Nearly two thirds of the 2,052 adults surveyed said they felt the country was heading in the wrong direction. As for Obama's job approval ratings – the poll, which was done in conjunction with SurveyMonkey, found that some 51% of Americans approved of "the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president" compared to 48% who disapproved. World powers and Iran have yet to agree on a fundamental component of the structure of a nuclear deal, with the main disagreement between the parties being how to couple international sanctions relief for Tehran with its demonstrated compliance with an accord. The United States and its allies want to lift sanctions over time, providing little relief up front, whereas Iran wants full exemption from all EU and UN sanctions upon the initial implementation of a comprehensive agreement.
There is No "Better Deal" with Iran
Efraim Inbar/BESA Center Perspectives
April 9, 2015
The debate over the pros and cons of the Iran nuclear framework agreement negotiated between the P-5+1 and Iran at Lausanne (April 2, 2015) is simply irrelevant. The search for truth in the conflicting versions and details of the deal coming out of Washington and Tehran is of no consequence. Moreover, the steps suggested by Israel and other critics to improve the efficacy of the deal (by more stringent inspections and so on) will result in little change. The deal is basically dangerous in nature, and needs to be rejected outright.
The deal permits Iran to preserve stockpiles of enriched uranium, to continue to enrich uranium, and to maintain illegally built facilities at Fordow and Arak. Even in the absence of a signed full agreement, the US and its negotiating partners have already awarded legitimacy to Iran's nuclear threshold status. In all likelihood, the United States, quite desperate to secure an agreement, will make additional concessions in order to have a signed formal deal – which will not be worth the paper on which it is written.
This outcome has been a foregone conclusion since November 2013, when the US agreed to the "Joint Plan of Action" on Iran's nuclear program. Already back then, the US decided not to insist on the goal of rolling back the Iranian nuclear program, ignoring several UN Security Council resolutions demanding no uranium enrichment. Washington also disregarded the security concerns of its allies in the Middle East (primarily Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – who better understand the regional realities).
Middle Easterners clearly discern an Iranian diplomatic victory in this accord, which is no surprise. Iranians are much more adept at negotiating than Americans. Iran is getting more or less what it wanted: The capability to produce enriched uranium and to research weapon design; an agreement to keep its missile program intact; and no linkages to Iranian behavior in the region. The deal is a prelude to nuclear breakout and Iranian regional hegemony. With no attempt to roll back the Iranian nuclear program, we are progressing toward the North Korean model.
Indeed, with no attempt to roll back the Iranian nuclear program, as was done in Libya, we are progressing toward the North Korean model. Those two are the only options in dealing with nuclear programs of determined states such as Iran. Iran's nuclear program benefited in many ways from assistance that originated in Pakistan and in North Korea (both are nuclear proliferators despite American opposition). Compare the recent statements by President Obama to the speeches of President Clinton justifying the agreement with North Korea (October 1994). Their similarities are amazing; an indication of the incredible capacity of great powers for self-delusion.
What counts is not the Obama's administration expression of satisfaction with the prospective deal, but the perceptions of Middle East actors. For example, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have deplored the fact that the US is bestowing international legitimacy on Iran's status as a nuclear threshold state. They probably believe the interpretations of the deal offered by Tehran more than those professed in Washington. Therefore, they will do their best to build a similar infrastructure leading inevitably to nuclear proliferation in the region – a strategic nightmare for everybody.
Unfortunately, no better deal is in the offing. Whatever revisions are introduced cannot change its basic nature. The accord allows Iran to have fissionable material that can be enriched to weapons grade material in a short time and Tehran can always deny access to inspectors any time it chooses. This is the essence of the North Korean precedent.
It is more evident than ever that only military action can stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb.
Obama is right that the only alternative to this deal is an Iranian nuclear fait accompli or the bombing of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Obama's penchant for engagement, his reluctance to use force, and his liberal prism on international relations (which adds rosy colors to international agreements) have led to this miserable result.
Netanyahu is wrong in demanding a better deal because no such deal exists. Yet denying its ratification by the US Congress could create better international circumstances for an Israeli military strike. In fact, criticism of Obama's deal with Iran fulfills only one main function – to legitimize future military action. Indeed, Netanyahu is the only leader concerned enough about the consequences of a bad deal with the guts and the military capability to order a strike on the Iranian key nuclear installations.
If inspections, sanctions, sabotage and political isolation ever had a chance to stop Iran from getting the bomb, that certainly is no longer the case. It is more evident than ever that only military action can stop a determined state, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, from building a nuclear bomb. It remains to be seen whether Israel has elected the leader to live up to this historic challenge.
**Efraim Inbar is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Why the Lebanese scenario won’t work
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al AWsat
Friday, 10 Apr, 2015
A Persian proverb warns that “not every recipe is fit for every banquet.”
The idea is that a method that might work in one case need not necessarily work in every case.Applied to empire-building enterprises, the wisdom of this dictum is apparent in the case of Iran’s involvement in the Yemeni imbroglio.
It was by acting as an opportunist power that Iran was dragged into the Yemeni crisis.Some self-styled empire-builders in the Iranian military-security establishment persuaded themselves that they could add another feather to their cap—a temptation they found hard to resist.
They dragged Iran into a complex situation with little or no knowledge of how things work, or don’t work, in Yemen.Whatever the outcome of the experiment one thing is certain: the Houthi strategy backed by Iran has already failed. There are two reasons for that failure.
The first is that the fantasy about the United States switching sides in the Middle East and acknowledging Iran as regional hegemon is just that—a fantasy. That fantasy has been promoted by President Barack Obama who has spoken of Iran as a “regional power” and tried to modulate US policy in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq to please the mullahs.
However, it is enough to recall that Obama has only 18 months or so to play in that fantasy world. Once he has faded into a footnote in history, the US and European democracies might not endorse a policy designed to hand over the Middle East to the mullahs and their ex-KGB allies in Moscow. The fantasy in question is absurd even in the context of Obama’s absurd foreign policy.
Doing all he can to put the US into global retreat mode, he cannot, at the same time, give the mullahs a helping hand in extending their empire into Arabia Felix. The second reason why the Houthi scheme will fail is that it is a poor copy of the Iranian scheme in Lebanon and, as such, inapplicable to Yemen. The Iranian scheme in Lebanon has worked, at least so far, because of factors that are either different or non-existent in Yemen.
Lebanon is a tiny country on a coastal strip backing into a small mountain range, covering just 10,400 square kilometers and thus relatively easy to control with a small force. Yemen, however, covers an area of 527,000 square kilometers with a variety of terrains spanning mountains, deserts, coasts and islands. Lebanon has a population of around 5.6 million concentrated in and around the greater Beirut region and a dozen urban areas. Yemen’s population of almost 27 million, however, is spread over a vast territory with an estimated 7,000 villages and scores of semi-urban settlements from the borders of Rub’al Khali to the Red Sea.
In recent days headlines have shrieked about the Houthis “seizing Aden.”Those who know Aden would know that neither the Houthis nor any other armed group, including the remnants of the national army, have the manpower to seize control of that shapeless sprawling city, which is surrounded by a dozen shanty towns.In the late 1960s the British had to deploy over 50,000 troops to control a much smaller Aden and, in the end, did not succeed. They had to barricade themselves in RAF Khormaksar, being content with launching occasional sorties into the city. This is precisely what the Houthis are doing. That doesn’t mean they have “seized” Aden, however. There is yet another difference between Lebanon and Yemen.
In Lebanon, Iran enjoyed the support of the country’s largest neighbor Syria in its imperial scheme. In the case of Yemen, no neighbor is prepared to act as a channel for Iranian domination. If anything, Yemen’s neighbors—Saudi Arabia and Oman—do not wish to witness a repeat of the Lebanese scenario. Oman cannot have forgotten that, in the 1960s and 70s, Communist insurgents used Yemeni territory as a launchpad in a war of conquest against the sultanate’s southern province of Dhofar. As for Saudi Arabia, the prospect of having a hostile power along its longest frontier is hardly welcome, to say the least. Another major difference is that the Shi’ite community in Lebanon has had historic links with Iran going back almost five centuries. As Twelvers, Lebanese Shi’ites have always been close to Iran, the program to reorganize and strengthen the Shi’ite community started under the Shah with the dispatching of missionaries, led by the charismatic Moussa Sadr and backed with generous donations by the Iranian government. Iran under the Shah had 2,400 soldiers in southern Lebanon ostensibly to protect Shi’ites from Yasser Arafat’s PLO fighters.
The Lebanese Christian community was also sympathetic to Iran because of shared opposition to pan-Arabism led by Nasser and the Ba’ath movement. In Yemen, however, the recent presentation of the Zaydi community—some 42 percent of the population—as Shi’ites does not reflect the reality of how they are perceived in Iran. The Iranian clergy regards Zaydis as a splinter from original Shi’ism in the same way as it regards a range of other communities. Even then, it is clear that the Houthis, though well-armed and well-funded, do not represent a majority among the Zaydi community in Yemen. In recent weeks, many Zaydis in both Sana’a and Taiz have been demonstrating against the Houthis and their Iranian backers. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has not gone for a direct power grab. It has kept the facade of power intact, using its guns to impose its will from inside the system. Lebanon had a president (at least until recently), a prime minister, a cabinet, a parliament and a national army. However, when it comes to Iran’s interests, Hezbollah is able to carry out Tehran’s orders by bypassing all those formal entities. The Houthis, however, went for a brazen power grab which, as might have been expected, mobilized other currents of Yemeni politics against them. Their final mistake was to seize the presidential palace and force the incumbent to tender his resignation at gunpoint.While Hezbollah uses the threat of assassination to force other factions to comply with Iran’s will, it does not solely depend on violence. With a mixture of flattery and bribery involving serious money from Tehran, Hezbollah now has recruited clients within all Lebanese communities.The Houthis, however, have exaggerated their gun power in dealing with Yemen’s various communities.No one can imagine a Houthi administration controlling even the northern, mostly Zaydi, provinces let alone the whole of Yemen. Houthis have heightened their profile largely thanks to an alliance with the deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the remnants of his regular army.
In military terms, too, the Lebanese scenario, with Hezbollah as key player, is not applicable to Yemen.Iran created and armed Hezbollah for low intensity warfare, not wars of position aimed at capturing and holding territory. Iran wants Hezbollah for firing missiles and rockets, conducting urban attacks through car bombs and individual assassinations, and other guerrilla style operations. In Yemen, however, the Houthis’ armed branch, is deployed in a conventional war for which it has neither the necessary training, leadership or logistics.
The net result of the Iranian imperial scheme, if it does indeed exist, could be Yemen’s disintegration. Hadhramaut has already broken loose, perhaps with Al-Qaeda trying to take control. Sana’a and Taiz are divided into mutually hostile neighborhoods while the four ex-sultanates of the south are in the hands of a variety of armed groups. In Aden, a seesaw struggle is unlikely to end anytime soon. Trying to re-enact the Lebanese scenario in Yemen has so far led to disaster for all concerned.
An apology from Lebanon is not enough
Salman Aldossary/Asharq Alawsat
Thursday, 9 Apr, 2015
The issue is not Hassan Nasrallah appearing on TV and reiterating his insults and verbal attacks towards Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States—this is nothing new for the Hezbollah chief, particularly since the launch of Operation Decisive Storm two weeks ago. Rather, the issue is Lebanese state television participating in this campaign of insults and attacks in an unprecedented manner.
In addition to airing Nasrallah’s insulting comments, Lebanese state TV also aired Nasrallah’s interview with Syrian state television. In response to all this, Lebanon’s Information Minister offered a limp apology in passing, promising to launch an “internal investigation” into the matter. This means that the official response of Lebanon, so far, has been nothing more than an off the cuff comment, with the government taking no action to address the negative impact Nasrallah’s remarks will have on Saudi-Lebanese ties.
In all countries of the world, opinions expressed on state television, without doubt, reflect and represent the government’s political orientation. It is true that mistakes can happen, and those who work in the media knows this well, but this argument is not viable when we are talking about a figure such as Nasrallah. Lebanese state TV aired remarks by a man who has been one of the staunchest defenders of the Iranian regime and who has only stepped up his anti-Saudi campaign since the start of Operation Decisive Storm. Nasrallah’s interview was aired in full, as if he were Iran’s Information Minister or an official spokesman, while no Lebanese official stepped in to stop this. This is indicative of some political, not media, message being sent by the Lebanese government to Saudi Arabia.
It is unacceptable for Lebanese state television to demonstrate this kind of bias, placing Iran’s interests above those of the Lebanese state. Aside from the information minister’s apology, which aimed only to deceive Saudi Arabia, the news director at the Lebanese broadcaster Saeb Diab said that national television is “for all Lebanon and is committed to observing objectivity and balance across the Lebanese spectrum.” But can this apply to footage and news taken directly from Syrian state television? When put with this question, Diab asked in surprise: “Why would broadcasting Nasrallah’s interview be banned?”
So while the minister apologized and promised to carry out an “internal” investigation, the real television executives in Lebanon do not see any problem with this in the first place.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have been subject to an organized smear campaign by Lebanese media on a daily basis, whether by TV channels, newspapers or news websites. That the campaign has even reached Lebanese state television is not surprising; this is not because Iran controls the organs of the state through its legitimate proxy Hezbollah, or that several “currents” previously known for their patriotic stances are no longer able to confront Iran’s growing influence; rather, it is unfortunately due to those who do not appreciate the political and economic stances of the Gulf and take them for granted.
“Lebanese Persians” are launching an unprecedented campaign against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf and despite their recently increasing numbers, their stances, orientations and antagonistic discourse is well-understood. As for the “Lebanese Arabs,” of all sects—Sunnis, Shi’ites, Christians or Druze—while they have not been infiltrated by Iran, their role has been diminishing. Unlike in the past, their voices are no longer loud enough to stop Iran’s growing influence in the heart of the Lebanese state. This is something that has been on the rise ever since Tehran succeeded in exporting its revolution to Lebanon.
Contradictions in Obama’s Doctrine
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/ASharq AlAwsat
Thursday, 9 Apr, 2015
I tried to ignore US President Barack Obama’s interview with the New York Times because I was sure it would be part of his propaganda campaign for the framework nuclear deal with Iran. Still, the interview’s impact cannot be ignored. Rather than calming the fears of those in the Gulf region, Obama has provoked many here.
Thomas Friedman, one of the Times’ most prominent writers who is extremely knowledgeable about the region’s affairs, interviewed the president. Perhaps this was why the nation’s leader was dragged into arguing his points, instead of justifying them.
What’s strange about the conversation was that Obama commended the Iranian regime, justifying its actions and implying a sense of guilt over what the US had done against Iran.
I don’t know what books the American president reads before he goes to bed or how he understands the events of the past three decades. Tehran’s mentality and practices are close to those of Al-Qaeda: religious, fascist and hostile towards anyone who opposes their ideology. Tehran’s understanding of the world considers others as either believers or infidels. It is Iran that was responsible for much of the violence in the region under the banner of religion—and this was around 15 years before Al-Qaeda even emerged.
In as much as Obama was apologetic toward the Iranian regime and generous with his gift of a nuclear agreement, he was harsh toward Arabs, and his severity was unjustified. For example, he said that instead of worrying about the threat posed by Iran, Arabs must stand against the crimes of Bashar Al-Assad.
To be frank, I read this paragraph more than once and tried to put it in to context, yet I failed to understand what seemed to me to be contradictions. The crimes of the Assad regime, which have led to the deaths of a quarter of a million people and displaced more than 10 million are the direct result of the support and interference of Iran, the country that Obama is apologizing to and commending.
Obama criticizes Arabs because they have not fought against the Assad regime, when in fact it’s his government that prevented them from using advanced weapons to confront Assad’s tanks and stop Assad’s warplanes that have shelled Syrian cities every day!
For four years now, the Syrian rebels have been defending themselves against Assad’s forces by using low-grade arms such as Kalashnikovs and mortars—this is because the US prevents them from buying and attaining more powerful weapons from any other party.
Then Obama criticized his Gulf allies by saying their problems are domestic, as a result of a lack of satisfaction among their people, as well as the presence of extremism, terrorism and unemployment. Of course, this is all true and no one denies there are domestic challenges. However it does not mean the Gulf will not voice its irritation at the agreement the Americans reached with Iran that gives Tehran free rein in a manner that threatens the Gulf.
There’s no contradiction here. These domestic and external concerns do not contradict one another. To illustrate the point: it would not make sense for us to tell the American president that he does not have to worry about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda because he has internal problems such as unemployment and inadequate healthcare.
As Arabs, we are not against Obama signing a reconciliation deal with Iran—on the contrary we agree with it because we are the weakest party. Our hope is that we all reach peace and end disputes. However, what Obama is doing by lifting sanctions on Iran is that he’s bringing down the wall with the country without placing down any ways in which to restrain it. Meanwhile, Iran sends its forces and generals to fight in Syria and Iraq and funds the Houthi uprising in Yemen.
An acquaintance of mine who read Obama’s interview with Friedman said that perhaps the president wants his name to make it to the history books, like former President Richard Nixon did when opening up relations with China. However, the difference is huge. Comparisons with China and Iran are not valid. Iran is more like North Korea. China was a country closed in on itself, and it was not part of wars and terrorist activities across the world, which Iran has been carrying out non-stop for the last three decades.
What’s stranger still is that after Obama’s statements were published, the president’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes addressed the Arabs of the Gulf, commending and reassuring them—and in doing so some of his statements contradicted what Obama had told Friedman.
Obama's Iranian attraction,
Nahum Barnea/Ynetnews/Published: 04.10.15/Israel Opinion
Why is the president so enchanted with Persia, and will the prime minister negotiate with the US on the terms of the agreement, or go all out to scupper it? President Obama called Thomas Friedman, the respected New York Times columnist, to the White House last Saturday. The summons was not accidental, nor was the timing.
Obama sees before him two target groups: Democratic senators and Israeli public opinion. Friedman caught the attention of both audiences. Obama see the Israelis as important in their own right, but no less so because of their indirect effect on his Senate campaign.
As in any political process, it comes down to numbers. Of the 100 sitting senators, 54 are Republicans. They have no difficulty in passing a law that will effectively thwart any agreement with Iran. The president would then veto their move, and the law would return to the Senate. To overcome Obama's veto, the Republicans need a two-thirds majority, in other words, the support of 13 Democratic senators. The battle is now being fought. Israeli governments have tried to enlist the Congress against the White House several times in the past. These attempts usually end in failure. But a campaign such as the one now being conducted is unprecedented, both in terms of importance of the issue for both sides, and for the depth of its impact on American politics. The US president and Israeli prime minister are each trying to pull the rug out from under the feet of the other.
The game is not symmetrical. In some ways, Netanyahu has a massive advantage: The Republican majority in Congress at his disposal; Jewish billionaires are willing to throw money at any Democratic senator who joins the campaign and to punish any who do not; Israel and Netanyahu enjoy fundamental sympathy in American public opinion, which cannot be said for the attitude of the Israelis towards Obama. But the asymmetry also works for the other side: Netanyahu heads the government of a relatively small country, one sponsored by the United States. While there are those who see his attempt to defeat an incumbent president as heroic, others see it as megalomania, chutzpah, lawlessness. The first to feel uncomfortable senators are members of the Democratic Party, the target audience of this campaign.
There is a gaping chasm between Obama and Netanyahu. What separates them on the Iranian issue is far more than the contents of the framework agreement reached in Lausanne. Obama's recent statements, in public appearances and private conversations, paint the following picture: The possibility of reaching a compromise with Iran, a detente, has a magical effect on Obama. He has had a romantic side when it comes to Iran, an emotional side. This may sound like an odd, speculative statement, given that it relates to such a politician known for being a cold rationalist. I will try to explain.
Obama began his first term with a great approach to the Arab world, which culminated in his speech at Cairo University in June 2009. I was there, seeing the astonished faces of the guests, the excited students. Obama wanted to tell hundreds of millions in the Arab world that this was a new beginning – and this was the main focus of that speech – the start of a liberal democracy, just, fair, Western, secular. There was a great deal of romance in that speech, a lot of optimism, and very little understanding of the history of the Middle East.
What has happened since in the Arab world has brought him only disappointment. He is not impressed by General al-Sisi, who rose to power in Egypt on the bayonets of his soldiers and keeps control with their help. He despises the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, languishing in their artificial wealth and corruption.
Iran touched his heart because of its 5,000-year-long history, because of the wrong done to it by the US in 1953 when America helped oust the legally elected government and reinstall the Shah. The Iranians recognized this tendency in Obama and knew how to play on it.
Primarily, Obama is entranced by the possibility that he can make his mark on American history. In less than two years, he will leave office, and Iran is his last chance. In talks with US officials I ask if they think there is a similarity between the move Nixon made towards China in the 1970s and Obama's move towards Iran. In one move, Nixon ended three decades of uncompromising hostility. On the way he abandoned Taiwan, a country whose alliance to the United States was solid and provided a great deal more than our alliance, and its influence in Congress had a great many years over our own.If in this parable, Iran plays the part of Mainland China, who plays the role of Taiwan, the ally betrayed? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? Israel? All of them? You'd better take a look at the state of Taiwan today, says an American government official dryly. It is living happily ever after, with its money is invested in China and China's money invested in Taiwan.
When Netanyahu hears Khamenei, he likens himself to Churchill dealing with Hitler; Obama writes to Khamenei and imagines himself as Nixon meeting with Mao. And this is just the first step towards the abyss. Obama is offering Netanyahu an alternative plan. He proposed that Israel begin negotiations with the US government on the day after the agreement with Iran is signed. There are many issues that need clarification, from a formal defense treaty or another guarantee ensuring American military intervention against any country attempting to attack Israel. During his interview with Friedman, Obama hinted that he was willing to give such a guarantee. Compensation for Israel includes advanced weaponry and funding for defense systems, steps that will balance out the compensation going to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, and ensuring an Israeli military advantage. It also means a US promise to attack Iran militarily if it violates the agreement or at least an American promise to support an Israeli attack should such a situation arise.
But negotiations of this nature cannot take place when Netanyahu is simultaneously trying to muster a majority in Congress to override the president's veto. Netanyahu cannot have it both ways. The Senate is currently in recess. When it reconvenes next Monday, the government will hold a series of briefings, in camera, listing all of the benefits for the US, both overt and covert, of an agreement with Iran. The Republicans will push for a vote, and the Democrats will push for a compromise on the wording of the law for oversight on any Iran deal: The Senate will be able to track, monitor and verify, but it will not be able to annul the agreement. The Republicans want to pass the legislation before the agreement is signed, while the Democrats would rather wait for the agreement in full. Much will depend on statements by Netanyahu and the intensity of the pressure from pro-Israel lobby AIPAC and a group of Jewish billionaires.This is a massive risk. If Obama beats the campaign against him, Israel will face a greatly reduced ability to obtain the guarantees it needs. It will find itself outside the city gates. The US administration is wondering which way Netanyahu will tilt. The answer lies in the assessment of the power he has to sway American politics, and his willingness to commit to it. Is he going to rail against the agreement to the bitter end? Does he believe there are enough Democratic senators willing to turn their backs on their president for the sake of Israel? Is he going to jump the other way in the final hour and enter into negotiations with the White House? Is he counting on Iran to withdraw from the agreement or violate the understandings and cause an explosion? Is he preparing an Israeli move that would deliver a mortal blow to the agreement? Does Netanyahu even have a Plan B?
Inside the Middle East: Palestinians in Syria lose respect for Hezbollah
By THE MEDIA LINE/HUGO EL-SHAMMAH/ـ/J.Post/04/10/2015
Beirut, Lebanon—Chain smoking next to his living room window in Beirut’s Shatila refugee camp, Khaled recalled the beginning of Syria’s uprising. A 21-year-old Palestinian from Yarmouk, a refugee camp established in 1948 to house Palestinians who fled their homes during the Arab-Israel war, he says his father physically restrained him from participating in demonstrations against the regime. “He locked me in the house,” Khaled told The Media Line while stroking his short beard and curly mustache. “He told me that Palestinians are guests in Syria and that this isn’t our struggle.” Protests continued unabated for months. And as regime repression of the rebels intensified, the uprising soon became weaponized. On July 29, 2011, defectors from the Syrian National Army mobilized to protect demonstrators under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Since Palestinians received more rights in Syria than any other Arab country -- by way of a law enacted in 1957 before the rise of the Baathist regime –most wanted to maintain neutrality as the conflict unfolded. But after the regime of President Bashar Assad bombed Yarmouk on December 16, 2012, opposition and al-Qaida-linked groups seized the opportunity to enter the camp.
Yarmouk was now militarized and civilian casualties mounted. But while Khaled’s friends joined the rebel ranks, he left behind the only home he knew. That December, he fled with his family to Shatila, a Palestinian enclave in south Beirut controlled by the Shi'ite Hezbollah (Party of God) movement. In mid-2012, Hezbollah entered Syria, ostensibly to safeguard a regime that was vital in supporting its operations in the region. Once thought of as the ‘axis of resistance’ against Israel, their intervention, coupled with their ally’s brutal siege on Yarmouk, has damaged the movement’s popularity among Palestinians from Syria.
Abu Ameen, a 40-year-old Palestinian who also escaped from Syria in December 2012, says that though he’s openly pledged support to Hezbollah, he’s merely done so to avoid confrontation under their governance. “We are afraid to talk about them here,” whispered Abu Ameen, while cleaning his eye glasses in a small bedroom in Shatila. “Many of us don’t trust Hezbollah anymore.” In August 2013, tensions between Hezbollah and Palestinians surfaced in Lebanon after the group shot and killed a man who refused to stop at a checkpoint in the Palestinian enclave of Burj Al-Burajneh. The incident took place just days after a car bomb killed 30 civilians in a predominantly Shi'ite-populated area nearby. The bombing was part of a larger sequence of attacks that year in retaliation to Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria.
Sahar Atrache, a senior analyst for International Crisis Group (ICG) in Lebanon, says that Hezbollah’s intervention transformed their image and antagonized previous supporters. By branding anyone fighting the Syrian regime as ‘Sunni extremists,’ the group justified its involvement through a dogmatic rhetoric.
“The group is no longer widely considered the axis of resistance, even if they claim to be,” said Atrache. Those close to the group insist otherwise. Historically framing their movement as a struggle against oppression, Hezbollah’s declining popularity among Palestinians is of symbolic importance. Heba, a journalist for a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper, says Palestinians who no longer support the movement are compromising the ‘resistance’ against Israeli occupation. “They are traitors,” Heba told The Media Line. “We supported their struggle against Israel for 30 years, but now many have turned against us.”“Hezbollah is supporting a regime that’s starving our people,” said Khaled, as he turned towards the window to stare at Shatila’s garbage-ridden streets beneath him.
Yarmouk has become the latest icon in the history of Palestinian suffering. The regime’s total siege has starved nearly 250 people to death. And though more than 18,000 Palestinians remain trapped in crumbled buildings without water and electricity, the crisis has received little coverage in pro-Hezbollah media outlets.
The arrival of Sunni hardline fighters in the middle of 2013 further complemented Hezbollah’s effort in discrediting the popular uprising. Promoting their intervention as a fight to protect minorities, the movement’s rhetoric has intensified sectarian divisions and exaggerated Israeli’s presence in the conflict. Although Israel has provided medical assistance to rebels and civilians in the Golan Heights, Hezbollah-affiliated channels have accused them of militarily backing jihadists in Syria. While Hezbollah’s most devoted supporters have absorbed this narrative, others have questioned the truth of these reports. Raed, a former television presenter for the pro-Hezbollah channel ‘Etejah’ (Direction), says such claims never had any basis.
“Hezbollah’s narrative is that the ISIS project is benefiting Israel but nobody in the news room received any indication that this was true,” Raed told TML. “They are lying,” whispered Abu Ameen. “Hezbollah is fighting in the name of Palestine but they don’t care about us.”
Deepening sectarian rifts have diverted Hezbollah’s attention from Israel to Syria. Their interference has prevented the fall of Damascus and redefined its image. By helping the regime crush the Syrian rebellion and using sectarian rhetoric, the movement has alienated themselves from the very people for whom it purports to fight. Unable to ignore the brutality imposed on Yarmouk, many Palestinians from Syria have lost faith in the ‘axis of resistance’ they once supported. “I respected Hezbollah before the war,” said Khaled, while crushing the stub of his cigarette in his ashtray. “Now I realize they’re just a movement for Shi'ites.”
For more stories from The Media Line go to www.themedialine.org
Iran, Saudi Arabia in tense buildup
opposite Yemen’s Gulf of Aden shore: US air tankers refueling Saudi jets
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 10, 2015,
Saudi-Iranian saber-rattling over Yemen has reached a dangerous peak, Thursday, April 9, the Saudi army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Al-Assiri, warned: “Iranian ships have the right to be present in international waters, but won’t be allowed to enter Yemeni territorial waters.”
This was Riyadh’s rapid-fire riposte for the Iranian decision to deploy its navy’s 34th Flotilla, consisting of the Alborz destroyer and the Bushehr helicopter carrier warship, in the Gulf of Aden opposite the Yemeni coast.
The Saudi general noted that Iran had not evacuated any of its citizens from Yemen because, he said, “they are all involved in training and arming the Houthis.”
Soon after launching their air offensive in late March against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Saleh, the Saudis took control of the country’s airspace to prevent the landing of airlifted Iranian supplies for the Houthis. Russian flights were also barred later from landing in the embattled country.
Gen. Al-Assiri then issued Saudi Arabia's bluntest threat yet: “Those Iranians planning to remain in the country would face the same fate as the Houthis and their supporters,” he said.
Clearly, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel were being trapped in a Saudi vice: Unable to leave Yemen, on the one hand, they were threatened with death if caught, on the other.
Tehran decided to send its most effective naval force to the Gulf of Aden when it realized that Riyadh would not heed its warnings to back off Yemen. Its presence substantiated the threat of direct Iranian intervention in the Yemeni conflict should harm come to the elite IRGC force aiding the rebels.
The Bushehr helicopter carrier made its maiden voyage to Port Sudan at the end of 2012. Shortly after that, on Dec. 8 of that year, DEBKAfile first revealed is features:
The new 13,000-ton vessel carries 12 Iranian strike helicopters, a crew of 200 and has a range of 8,000 nautical miles that reaches the US coast. There are five landing spots on its decks and four parking spots, as well as SM-1 and SAM anti-air missiles and 40-mm Fath-40 AAA anti-air cannon. Tehran invested $800 million in its first helicopter carrier.
If Tehran is not scared off by the Saudi threat and does order the Bushehr to sail into Yemeni territorial waters, its guns and missiles would be in range there to strike targets in neighboring Saudi Arabia to the north. Tehran could justify this attack by Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi having been granted asylum in the oil kingdom.
However, the Saudi Air Force would also be on hand close by over Yemen to retaliate by bombing the Iranian Bushehr and other warships to chase them away from the Yemeni coast, if not to sink them.
Our sources predict that this naval-air collision would likely be limited in extent. After peaking to a dangerous crisis, the clash would most probably be contained before it escalated into a full-blown war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The Obama administration’s backing for the Saudi Arabian intervention in support of the internationally recognized Yemen president Hadi was intended to keep Iran in check.
On Tuesday, April 7, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Riyadh and stated: "Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force. As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center."
He was sending a clear message to Tehran backed up by solid US assistance
1. Tehran was being warned not to make the mistake of assuming that its understandings with Washington over Iran's regional promotion included license for aggression against Saudi Arabia.
2. Tehran was notified that the Saudi operational chiefs would henceforth receive ongoing intelligence gathered by a US military satellite over the region through their joint coordination center in Riyadh. This intelligence would also cover the movements of Iranian warships in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
3. Further details of vital US aid came through Thursday, April 9, from Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren. He announced that the US Air Force had begun an aerial refueling mission for “the Saudi Arabian-led mission engaged in air strikes on Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen.” In its first task Wednesday, a US KC-135 Stratotanker refueled a Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagle and a UAE F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Warren said that the US Central Command aimed to fly one tanker mission a day in support of the Saudi-led alliance, but it would not enter Yemeni airspace to perform it.
Nonetheless, a potential sea-cum-air clash of arms between Saudi Arabia and Iran off the shores of Yemen cannot be ruled out, especially after Riyadh ratcheted up the tension Friday with a ban imposed on Iranian flights carrying pilgrims to Mecca.
It would not be the first firefight to be triggered by the Yemeni conflict. Earlier this week, Egyptian and Iranian warships exchanged fire in the tussle for control over the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The episode ended with the Iranian ships being ordered directed from Tehran to break off contact and distance themselves from the Egyptian craft. The Iranian Navy commander Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari later denied reports appearing in the Gulf media that Egyptian warships had forced Iranian naval vessels to retreat and quit the Gulf of Aden.
The incendiary tension around the Gulf of Aden and rising fear of a Saudi-Iranian military engagement has raised enough alarm for the US, French and British fleets with a naval presence in the Gulf to go on a state of preparedness.
Obama is always wrong on the Middle
Tariq Alhomayed/ASharq Al Awsat
Friday, 10 Apr, 2015
In his interview with journalist Thomas Friedman this week, US President Barack Obama said that the threat to regional states, including Saudi Arabia, is not Iranian intervention, but rather “internal threats.” Can this be true?
The reality is that Obama has an incorrect view of the region, and this is something that has become increasingly clear since he took office. He is always wrong on our region, and has made the biggest mistakes here, and these mistakes have had major consequences.
Obama rushed to withdraw from Iraq, and now here we see him returning once again. He played down the Syrian revolution and Assad’s crimes. He talked about “red lines” but Assad has crossed each and every one of these, while Obama has done nothing. He played down the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) only to subsequently be forced to acknowledge the reality of the situation, although he still had enough time to blame his country’s intelligence services for failing to realize this earlier.
It is also interesting to note a recent Washington Post report that revealed the extent of ISIS’s connection with the former ruling Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and that many members of the group are ex-members of Saddam Hussein’s military. This is the same military that was controversially disbanded following the Iraq invasion. Washington has made many mistakes in Iraq, and Obama must bear some share of the responsibility for this.
Obama also gambled, for years, on political Islam being a successful model in the region. This failed, of course, and the Islamists failure has had a long-lasting effect on the entire region following the so-called Arab Spring.
Obama’s mistakes go beyond this, and we now see him making yet another one today. This misjudgment that will have serious, adverse consequences for the Middle East.
So, Obama thinks that the threat to the region is not Iran, but rather an absence of internal reform. This is simply wrong, and demonstrates worrying double standards.
In 2009, when Obama was already in office, the “Green Movement” broke out in Iran. The Iranian authorities violently suppressed the protests, including through the force of arms. Many protesters were killed, and many more arrested. All the while, Obama looked on and did nothing. Indeed, some leading members of this revolt remain behind bars until today. Since then, Iran has not carried out any significant internal reform. During the same period, Gulf states—and particularly Saudi Arabia—have moved forward with the internal reform process.
More than this, we can clearly see Iran’s threatening action in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. This is not to mention the terrorist sleeper cells with ties to Iran that have been uncovered in the Gulf.
So, after all this, how can Obama say that the threat does not come from Iran, but rather from “internal threats?”
We can ask many questions regarding this perplexing view:
Who is responsible for all the sectarian crises and conflicts in our region? Isn’t it Iran?
Who disrupted political reform in Iraq? Who disrupted the Lebanese presidential election? Who is protecting the tyrant of Damascus Bashar Al-Assad?
The aim of this op-ed is not just to respond to Obama’s comments and paint a clearer picture regarding what is happening in the region. We must also take a deep breath and acknowledge that some of our regional states, particularly the moderate ones, have made mistakes.
Why haven’t we seen them leading a diplomatic offensive in Washington in order to explain and clarify our position? Why have we seen this corresponding slow-down in the pace of reform and development in our countries?
How can we explain Obama’s fluctuating position looking for a “magic” solution to the situation in the region, first rushing to political Islam, and then resorting to Iran? Where are we in all this?
Of course, I am not putting forward a conspiracy theory to explain this, for the simplest explanation is that President Obama does not understand our region, and it is enough to compare his vision with that of another US official, such as Gen. David Petraeus in this regard.
But ultimately, we must look to ourselves. Where are moderate Arab states on these issues? Where is our diplomatic response? Why have we failed so badly in the game of influence and lobbying in Washington?