April 14/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’
"Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 20/11-18: "Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." ’Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her."

Bible Quotation For Today/Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.
First Letter of Peter 01/10-16: "Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated, when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven things into which angels long to look! Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’"

  • Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 13-14/15
    Ali Hmade at the STL: Assad considered Hariri’s conciliation a mockery
    /Daily Star/April 14/15
    The Houthis must be stopped/Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi/Al Arabiya/
    April 13/15
    Us and Them/Diana Moukalled/Asharq Alawsat/April 13/15
    After terrorists claim 13 lives in Sinai, El-Sisi reshuffles top army, navy, intelligence and Suez Canal chiefs/DEBKAfile/April 13/15

    Yemen’s war is linked to Syria/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 13/15

    Lebanese Related News published on April 13-14/15
    Lebanese Politicians Say 'Never Again' on Anniversary of Civil War
    Never again,’ Lebanon says on civil war 40th anniversary

    Hariri Visits Qatari Emir, Stresses 'Arab Unity' over Yemen
    Captives Case Faces 'Decisive Week' as Families Await Ibrahim's Return from Turkey

    Lebanon vows ‘never again’ 40 years after war 
    Asiri Refuses to Assess Lebanese-Saudi Ties based on Hizbullah Behavior
    Berri Urges Members of his Bloc to Avoid Comments on Yemen Coalition

    STL Appoints Lebanese Wajed Ramadan as New Spokesperson

    Hezbollah’s anti-Saudi tirade won’t help Lebanon 
    Nine Drivers Return to Beirut from Jordan
    All kidnapped Lebanese truck drivers return home 
    Nasrallah to Deliver Speech in Solidarity with Yemeni People Friday
    Future, Hezbollah meet amid war of words 
    Lebanese stylist Keyrouz shares her tips 
    Assad considered Hariri’s conciliation a mockery 
    Army demands law and order in Ain al-Hilweh 
    Future official demands end to Hezbollah dialogue 
    Rebels seize Hezbollah position near Lebanon 
    Hezbollah deputy chief lashes out at Saudi Arabia
    Rare spring snowfall blocks Lebanon roads 
    Lebanon mourns death of beloved actor 

    Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 13-14/15
    Netanyahu: Nuclear deal gives Iran billions for terrorism, regional
    Russia Lifts Ban on Supplying S-300 Missiles to Iran, Israel Slams Move
    After eight decades, Arab poet Khalil Gibran’s writings live on
    Sealing a deal with Iran poses other challenges for Obama

    Solution to Yarmouk crisis out of Palestinian hands: official
    Embattled Yemen leader names new vice president
    Saudi-led strikes pound Houthi targets in Sanaa

    Saudi Arabia expands foreign ties beyond ally US
    Hadi Says Yemen Chaos Driven by Iran's 'Hunger for Power
    Saudi Grand Mufti DENIES fatwa allowing men to eat wives

    Turkey, the Vatican and a ‘G-word’ whirlwind

    Gaza: another conflict looms amongst the ruins
    Egypt soldier killed a day after deadly Sinai blasts

    Iran deal spurs Israel unity govt talk
    Iran, Israel in nuclear test drills
    Defiant Turkey draws red line over Armenia genocide recognition

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    Ali Hmade at the STL: Assad considered Hariri’s conciliation a mockery
    Elise Knutsen/The Daily Star/Apr. 14, 2015
    BEIRUT: President Bashar Assad considered one of Rafik Hariri’s final attempts to reduce tensions with the Syrian regime a “mockery,” Ali Hamade told the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Monday. Hamade, a journalist, told the court that he served as an ad-hoc intermediary between Lebanon’s late former prime minister and the Syrian regime. On three occasions he met with his acquaintance, General Mohammad Nassif, a high-ranking Syrian intelligence officer close to the Assad regime, to convey a message of conciliation on behalf of Hariri. The purpose of the meetings, Hamade said, was to “try and allow a different phase in the relations based on the respect of allies ... toward one another.” After the first meeting, Nassif told Hamade that President Assad was “optimistic, positive” about the attempted thaw in relations.
    By the third meeting in December 2004, just two months before Hariri’s assassination, Nassif said that Assad was no longer interested in Hariri’s tidings, Hamade told the court. “President Bashar Assad considers that such messages are just mockery,” Hamade recalled Nassif saying. “I can say that the tone changed, and the discourse had changed in Syria,” Hamade testified. “General Mohammad Nassif was very harsh in terms of political words [he used] toward Premiere Hariri” at the third meeting.
    While five Hezbollah members stand accused of plotting Hariri’s murder and the ensuing cover-up, the focus of recent testimony at the U.N.-backed tribunal has shifted toward Hariri’s fraught relationship with the Syrian regime. After Damascus orchestrated the extension of President Emile Lahoud’s term and Hariri resigned from office in October 2004, relations between the Future Movement leader and Damascus appeared to hit a nadir. Hariri was plotting his return to politics through the upcoming elections where he hoped to win a sweeping majority in parliament that would force pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami out of office. In early January 2005, however, Hamade said that there were signs that the relationship between Hariri and Assad was on the mend.  While Hamade was visiting Hariri’s residence in Paris, the former prime minister received a call from Taha Mikati, the brother of former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who enjoyed a close relationship with the Syrian regime. After a brief meeting, Hariri told his guest that Mikati had conveyed a message from the president of Syria: “That Bashar Assad had no hard feelings toward Mr. Hariri and that he [Assad] could change the government of Mr. Karami in order to allow Mr. Hariri to create a new government,” Hamade told the court. Early on the morning of February 14, 2005, Hariri called Hamade into his office. “He told me ‘Get ready, you will be going to Damascus today to meet with Mohammad Nassif.’” Hamade never learned what message he was to convey to the Syrians that day, however. Two hours before he and Hariri were scheduled to discuss the mission a bomb ripped through downtown Beirut killing the former prime minister and 21 others. Defense attorney John Jones, who represents the interests of Hezbollah member Mustapha Badreddine, questioned Hamade about notes he took during these key meetings. Hamade admitted he could not find them.

    Lebanese Politicians Say 'Never Again' on Anniversary of Civil War
    Naharnet/Lebanese politicians warned on Saturday against the return to war on the 40th anniversary of the start of Lebanon's civil war that killed more than 150,000 people. “We did not end our civil war to precipitate our country into the furnace of Arab wars,” said al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri via twitter. “We cannot protect Lebanon if we do not stop surrounding fires from reaching it, or worse, if we keep throwing ourselves into their flames!” he said. “40th anniversary of the start of Lebanon's civil war: Never again,” he tweeted. The civil war lasted 15 bloody years from 1975 to 1990. It claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people and left some 17,000 missing, according to official figures. The conflict primarily pitted Christian groups against Palestinian factions backed by leftist and Muslim parties, with significant regional and international intervention. Lebanon has veered toward the edge of communal conflict several times since then. In 1991, Lebanon issued a broad amnesty that benefited the country's warlords, allowing many of them to become political leaders and members of parliament. But none of them has publicly apologized.  Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat also said via twitter that he was among the officials who were “swept away by feuds and hatred.”“I prefer to remain silent,” he told his followers. “My point of view will not be fair or objective.”But he stressed that he advised his son Taymour and all Lebanese youth to avoid violence and ignorance. Jumblat said on several occasions that he would hand over his parliamentary son to his son after Speaker Nabih Berri promised him to hold by-elections in May because the Druze leader will submit his resignation from parliament.

    Nasrallah to Deliver Speech in Solidarity with Yemeni People Friday
    Naharnet /Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to make a televised speech on Friday afternoon. The speech will be made during a rally in solidarity with “the brave Yemeni people and condemnation of the Saudi-American offensive” against their country, announced the party in a statement. The rally will be held at the Sayyed al-Shuhada compound in Beirut's southern suburbs of Dahieh at 5:00 pm. Saudi Arabia began its airstrikes in Yemen on March 25, announcing that it had put together a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies, for the military operation to defend Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansur Hadi's government against Huthi rebels. It said that it will continue its operation Decisive Storm until Hadi is restored to power and the rebels, backed by Iran, are defeated. The military move against the Shiite Huthi rebels triggered fury from Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, Hizbullah's main regional ally, with officials in Tehran warning that the military action threatened to spill over into other countries.Nasrallah had slammed during his past two appearances the kingdom's offensive, launching a scathing attack against it and saying that it will suffer a “major defeat.”

    STL Appoints Lebanese Wajed Ramadan as New Spokesperson
    Naharnet /The U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon announced Monday that it has appointed Lebanese national Wajed Ramadan as its new spokesperson, succeeding the Egyptian Canadian Marten Youssef. “Ramadan joined the tribunal in September 2009 and established the STL’s Outreach Office in Lebanon,” the court said in statement. In the following six years, she worked as an Outreach officer in the Beirut Office where she assisted in “creating and maintaining the Tribunal’s strong network of contacts in the country, particularly with the legal and academic communities as well as the civil society,” the STL added. She organized and participated in numerous conferences, meetings, workshops and other events organized by the STL and its partners in Lebanon. From 1998 to 2009, Ramadan was the editor-in-chief, producer, reporter and anchor of the French News Bulletin, which she launched at Future TV. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Ramadan was also the war correspondent for Radio Maroc, while in 2008 and 2009 she was the Beirut correspondent for France 24 International where she also featured in political shows. “Wajed holds a 'Diplome d’Etudes supérieures en Journalisme francophone', a joint Degree from Paris II Assas (Sorbonne University, France), the Centre français de perfectionnement des journalistes (CFPJ) Institut France Presse (IFP), and the Lebanese University, Lebanon,” said the STL. She also holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master degree in Business Management, specialized in Finance and Banking, from the Saint Joseph University in Beirut. Ramadan is a Lebanese citizen, who was born in Beirut and raised in the Ivory Coast, according to STL. Marten Youssef announced in August 2014 that he was stepping down from his post for personal reasons. He told the National News Agency back then that his resignation would not affect the functioning of the tribunal that is looking into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. “No resignation from the STL will affect its work and it will carry on at the same rate with or without me,” he added. Lebanese national Marianne El Hajj had served as acting spokesperson after Youssef's resignation.

    Asiri Refuses to Assess Lebanese-Saudi Ties based on Hizbullah Behavior
    Naharnet /Saudi Ambassador Ali Awadh Asiri said ties between Riyadh and Beirut are strong, stressing he would not assess them based on the behavior of Hizbullah. “Lebanese-Saudi relations are stronger than being evaluated by Hizbullah's behavior,” Asiri told the Saudi al-Riyadh daily published on Monday.“All Lebanese from all sects respect the Kingdom's deeds,” he said. The diplomat also hailed the coordination between Riyadh and the government of Prime Minister Tammam Salam. He said he has received phone calls from all Lebanese factions condemning Hizbullah's verbal attacks against Saudi Arabia. Last month, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stressed that Saudi Arabia will be roundly "defeated" in its campaign against Huthi rebels in Yemen, which he called "unjust" and "illegal.” Several Hizbullah officials have also criticized Riyadh, while the Hizbullah-backed al-Akhbar newspaper has published several reports against the country. Asiri confirmed to al-Riyadh daily that he filed a lawsuit against al-Akhbar “for crossing its moral and professional boundaries.” Earlier this month, al-Akhbar said Asiri's lawsuit was a “a direct threat to the lives of the institution’s employees, a blatant attack on the freedom of expression in Lebanon and a flagrant violation of norms and laws.”It held the ambassador and his government fully responsible for “any form of moral, material or physical harm.”

    Nine Drivers Return to Beirut from Jordan
    Naharnet/Nine Lebanese truck drivers, who had been stranded at the Syrian-Jordanian border following clashes between rebels and Syrian government troops, returned to Beirut on Monday. A plane carrying eight truckers landed at Rafik Hariri International Airport before noon. In the evening, a ninth driver, Hassan al-Atat, arrived at the Lebanese side of the al-Masnaa border crossing, according to state-run National News Agency. Reports had said Atat's captors had asked for a ransom to set him free. The drivers had been stranded in Syria but they later crossed into Jordan. Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayyeb held a press conference at the airport upon the drivers' arrival. The minister told reporters that the Free Syrian Army protected the drivers while they were stranded on the border. At least 30 Lebanese drivers had been stranded on the Syrian-Jordanian border, in the free zone, after rebels, backed by al-Nusra Front, seized the Syrian side, prompting Amman to close the frontier crossing. One of the drivers returning to Beirut on Monday said the men were held by al-Nusra fighters for eight days before local residents "put pressure on al-Nusra to release us.”After that the men stayed with civilians, "under the protection of the Free Syrian Army," Abdel Rahman Ahmed Huri said, until Lebanese government efforts resulted in the drivers being able to cross into Jordan.

    Hariri Visits Qatari Emir, Stresses 'Arab Unity' over Yemen
    Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri discussed with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani the importance of unity against Huthi rebels in Yemen. “The one-hour meeting (in Doha) tackled the latest developments in the region,” said a statement issued by Hariri's press office. The talks “focused on the importance of Arab unity” following the Saudi-led coalition's launch of strikes against Shiite Huthi rebels, it said. Hariri also thanked the Emir on Qatar's efforts to resolve Lebanon's hostage crisis, the statement added. The al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and Islamic State group took Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive in August last year after they overran the northeastern border town of Arsal. Four of the hostages have been executed. During his visit to Doha, Hariri was accompanied by his advisor Nader Hariri and former Ministers Bassem al-Sabeh and Ghattas Khoury. He returned to the Saudi capital Riyadh following his short trip. Agence France Presse

    Captives Case Faces 'Decisive Week' as Families Await Ibrahim's Return from Turkey
    Naharnet/The case of the servicemen held hostage by extremist groups in Arsal's outskirts will go through a “decisive week,” media reports said on Monday, amid the presence in Turkey of General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, Lebanon's top negotiator. “Positive developments prompted Ibrahim to head to Turkey where he has spent a day and a night, during which he held talks with Turkish and Qatari officials on the case of the abductees,” al-Manar television reported. It said his meetings led to “several positive steps whose nature will become clear in the coming days.” “This week will be decisive in the negotiations,” al-Manar added. Meanwhile, the families of the captive troops and policemen announced in a statement that they suspended a protest scheduled for Tuesday, “pending Ibrahim's return from Turkey and his meeting with the families.” The families attributed their decision to the indications that are “leaning towards positivity.”
    Al-Mayadeen TV for its part quoted a “senior security source” as saying that “the case of the servicemen held by al-Nusra (Front) will witness a breakthrough in the coming days.”The source did not say anything about the hostages who are in the custody of the Islamic State jihadist group. More than 25 army troops and policemen are being held hostage by al-Nusra and the IS. They were abducted during deadly clashes that erupted in and around Arsal in early August.
    The two groups executed four hostages in recent months and are threatening to kill more captives if the Lebanese state does not meet their demands.

    Russia Lifts Ban on Supplying S-300 Missiles to Iran, Israel Slams Move
    Naharnet /President Vladimir Putin on Monday opened the way for Russia's delivery of a sophisticated air defense missile system to Iran, a move that would significantly bolster the Islamic republic's military capability.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry objected to Moscow's decision in a phone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the White House indicated the move could endanger plans to ultimately lift sanctions on Iran as part of a final nuclear deal. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said unity and coordination with nations like Russia is critical to the success of the negotiations. Washington has said Moscow played a constructive role in the Iranian nuclear talks, despite sharp differences between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
    Putin's move was quickly welcomed by Tehran, while it worried Israel, which saw it as a sign that Iran already had begun to cash in on the nuclear deal with world powers that is expected to be finalized by the end of June.
    Putin's spokesman said the missile system could be shipped to Iran at any moment. Russia signed the $800 million contract to sell Iran the S-300 missile system in 2007, but suspended their delivery three years later because of strong objections from the United States and Israel. Putin on Monday lifted that ban.
    The preliminary agreement on settling the Iranian nuclear standoff struck earlier this month made the 2010 Russian ban unnecessary, Lavrov said in a televised statement. The deal reached by Iran and six world powers is intended to significantly restrict its ability to produce nuclear weapons while giving it relief from international sanctions. The agreement is supposed to be finalized by June 30, and there is no firm agreement yet on how or when to lift the international sanctions on Iran.
    The S-300 missile system, which has a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and the capability to track down and strike multiple targets simultaneously, is one of the most potent air defense weapons in the world.
    "The S-300 is exclusively a defensive weapon, which can't serve offensive purposes and will not jeopardize the security of any country, including, of course, Israel," Lavrov said.
    Deployed in big numbers, the system could provide a strong deterrent against any air attack. If Israel decides to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, the S-300s would further complicate the already daunting task.
    Israeli Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said the framework nuclear agreement helped legitimize Iran and cleared the way for Monday's announcement by Russia.Israel has harshly criticized the U.S.-led nuclear deal, saying it would give Iran relief from sanctions while leaving its nuclear program largely intact. Israel believes Iran still intends to develop a nuclear weapon.
    "This is a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran obtained from the emerging nuclear deal," Steinitz said. He added that the arms deal shows that Iran plans to use the relief from economic sanctions to buy arms, not improve the living conditions of its people.
    "Instead of demanding Iran stop its terror activities that it spreads in the Middle East and the entire world, it is being allowed to arm itself with advanced weapons that will only increase its aggression," Steinitz said.
    Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov gave no details regarding his statement that the missiles could be delivered any time. Russian officials previously said that the specific model of the S-300 that Russia was to deliver under the 2007 contract is no longer produced, and offered Iran a modified version of it called S-300VM, or Antey-2500.
    In Tehran, Gen. Reza Talaeinik said the decision by Russia on delivery of the air defense system will help improve ties between Tehran and Moscow, the semi-official Tasnim news agency, which is close to Iran's military, reported.
    "With no doubt, this will boost ties and interactions between Iran and Russia," said Talaeinik. "When ties are based on mutual respect and observing rights, the ground will be paved for cooperation in other fields, too."
    Back in 2010, Russia linked its decision to freeze the missiles' delivery to the sanctions the United Nations Security Council imposed on Iran over its nuclear program, but Lavrov argued Monday that the Russian move was voluntary and not directly required by the U.N. resolutions. "It was done in the spirit of good will in order to encourage progress in talks," Lavrov said. "We are convinced that at this stage there is no longer need for such an embargo, specifically for a separate, voluntary Russian embargo."
    Iran responded to the Russian ban by filing a lawsuit with a court in Geneva seeking $4 billion in damages for breach of contract, but the court has not issued a ruling. Lavrov said that Russia had to take into account "commercial and reputational" issues linked to freezing the
    contract. "Because of the suspension of the contract, Russia has failed to receive significant funds," he said. "We see no need to continue doing that."He added that Iran badly needs modern air defense systems because of a tense situation in the region, specifically in Yemen. ِAgence France Presse/Associated Press

    Netanyahu: Nuclear deal gives Iran billions for terrorism, regional
    By TOVAH LAZAROFF/04/14/2015
    Iran will receive billions of dollars for its terrorism and regional aggression once sanctions against it are lifted under the terms of the framework agreement on its nuclear program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Monday night. “Iran is receiving legitimacy to continue these actions and when the sanctions are lifted shortly, if indeed the deal is approved, it will receive billions of dollars to finance its war and terrorism machines, with international legitimacy,” Netanyahu said. He spoke at a dedication ceremony for the national police academy in Beit Shemesh. “It is grasping the Middle East with arms of terror and blood,” he said. The US has pushed hard for the framework agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program. since it was negotiated earlier this month between the six powers and Iran. A final accord with Iran is expected to be finished by June.
    Israel has argued that the deal leaves Iran with the ability to produce nuclear weapons and that after a decade it could be able to manufacture atomic weapons immediately if it so chooses. “It is a deal that leaves Iran in possession of the capability to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “Iran draws encouragement from the concessions that it is receiving from the major powers [the US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain and German],” Netanyahu said. “The message that Iran is receiving from this is that it is not being called upon to halt its aggression, that it can continue and even increase this aggression, and this is exactly what it is doing,” he said.
    Already on Monday Russia said it had started supplying grain, equipment, and construction materials to Iran in exchange for crude oil under a barter deal. It also said that it had lifted its five year ban on the delivery of S-300 anti-missile systems to Iran, defensive equipment that could make it harder for the US or Israel to execute a military strike. “Before our very eyes an absurd reality is taking shape in which the key to our fate and the future of the Middle East is liable to be delivered into the hands of the fanatical Iranian regime,” he said.
    “An agreement full of holes with Iran will not ensure regional stability; a vigorous and resolute policy that prevents it from arming itself with nuclear weapons and compels it to halt its takeover of other nations would,” Netanyahu said.

    Never again,’ Lebanon says on civil war 40th anniversary

    By AFP | Beirut
    Monday, 13 April 2015
    Several Lebanese leaders on Monday warned that the lessons of the country’s civil war should not be forgotten, 40 years after the 15-year conflict began. Monday marks the 40th anniversary of the April 13, 1975 conflict, in which 150,000 people were killed before a peace deal was reached in 1990.The war ravaged the country and left 17,000 people missing, but an amnesty law allowed many of its key protagonists to subsequently become leading political figures. Among them is Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who acknowledged on Monday that his opinion on the conflict could not be considered “fair or objective”. “I was one of the factions driven by fanaticism and hatred,” he wrote on his official Twitter account. “My advice to (my son) Taymur and every Lebanese youth is to beware of violence and ignorance,” he said. Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi tweeted that the anniversary was a reminder of the war’s “lesson to all Lebanese to protect their country and nation and reject violence and death”. Other leaders, including former prime minister Saad Hariri, whose father was a leading post-war premier who was assassinated in 2005, warned Lebanese citizens to ensure the conflict would not be repeated. “Never again, we will never allow it to return,” Hariri said in a statement, warning that Lebanon should be protected from “the furnace of Arab wars”.
    “We cannot protect Lebanon if we do not stop surrounding fires from reaching it, or worse, if we keep throwing ourselves into their flames,” he said. His father Rafiq Hariri led the reconstruction of Lebanon after the civil war and was killed in a massive bomb attack.
    Hariri’s killing is just one example of the violence that has continued to shake Lebanon in its post-war period, contributing to ongoing fragility. Sectarian divides in Lebanon have also been aggravated by the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Many of Lebanon’s Sunnis back the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, while Lebanese Shiites, including the powerful Hezbollah movement, support the ruling regime in Damascus. Lebanon’s political class remains divided and stagnant, with stalemate in parliament meaning the post of president has been empty since May, when Michel Sleiman’s mandate ended.

    Yemen’s war is linked to Syria

    Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
    Monday, 13 April 2015
    The region is one constituency, and its wars are linked to each other no matter what the distance between them. This has been the case since revolutions erupted at the beginning of 2011. Fighting erupted and has spread widely in Yemen since mid-2014, after the Houthis took over the city of Imran and occupied the capital Sanaa. The situation escalated into all-out war after the Houthis besieged the legitimate president and his government. Fighting in Yemen is a result of regional crises involving Iran, particularly in Syria and Iraq, where it is fighting in defense of its allies. This war began in the streets, then developed into geopolitical confrontations between an Iranian axis and an Arab Gulf axis. Iran has sacrificed men, and provided arms and funds, out of fear for the survival of the Assad regime, its ally in Syria. It has done the same in Iraq to save its allies. In order to defend itself and further pressure Iran, Riyadh will need to support Syrian opposition groups more.  Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia had to militarily intervene in its southern neighbor Yemen after the Iranians sought regime-change via their Houthi allies and isolated ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Iranians think that keeping Riyadh busy in Yemen helps prevent confronting their activities in Iraq and Syria. Yemen is a big country, far larger than Syria. Yemen’s land is more rugged than Syria’s, and there is no central system that can easily be eliminated. Weakening Saudi Arabia in the south will mean weakening the Gulf in general so Iran can fulfil its regional aspirations.
    Altering the map
    It is due to this geopolitical connection that the war in Yemen is part of the war in Syria. Another chapter of Iran’s plan is to alter the map by exploiting the chaos that resulted from revolutions. It seeks to place its main rival Saudi Arabia between pliers, threatened between Iraq and Yemen, and Iraq is a natural and political extension of Syria. In order to defend itself and further pressure Iran, Riyadh will need to support Syrian opposition groups more. It is difficult for Iran to win the Syrian war, but Saudi Arabia is more capable of winning in Yemen. Most Syrians oppose the Assad regime, and revolted against it and its ally Iran four years ago. Most Yemenis have had a strong relation with Saudi Arabia for many decades now. Riyadh has a special, long-term relationship with most Yemeni components, from north to south – with its tribes, community leaders and businessmen. Iran has previously entered Yemen in an attempt to influence it, but failed. However, it has invested in its religious and political relation with the Houthis, a group that is not that big by Yemeni standards but that has managed to exploit chaos resulting from the revolution and ally with the ousted regime. Since Iran failed to break the siege imposed on the Assad regime – on whose behalf it has been fighting for two years now – it wants to impose a siege on the legitimate Yemeni government by supporting rebels. I expect this support to double so as to threaten Saudi Arabia from the south. Although Iran’s allies succeeded at ousting the government from Sanaa, and pursuing and besieging it in the temporary capital of Aden, the Saudi militarily intervention and its efforts to create supporting blocs across Yemen will thwart the pliers attempt. However, the chaos that Iran has created in Yemen may keep the Saudis busy from defending their regional interests. This requires Gulf states to provide more support to the Syrian revolution. The aim is to besiege the Assad regime and force Iran to accept a regional solution that makes it respect present entities and end its destructive activity, which has been ongoing since the beginning of the 1980s. This destructive activity is responsible for instability in Lebanon, for Palestinian divisions, for sectarian disputes in Iraq, and for chaos in Bahrain. This is all one story that expresses Iran’s regional activity, which will increase ahead of the Camp David conference that the American president has pledged to organize in order to bring rival regional parties to the negotiating table.

    The Houthis must be stopped
    Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi/Al Arabiya
    Monday, 13 April 2015/My country, Yemen, is under siege by radical Houthi militia forces whose campaign of horror and destruction is fueled by the political and military support of an Iranian regime obsessed with regional domination. There is no question that the chaos in Yemen has been driven by Iran’s hunger for power and its ambition to control the entire region. The Houthi attacks are unjust acts of aggression against the Yemeni people and the constitutional legitimacy of my government, as well as an assault on Yemen's sovereignty and security. The Houthi rebels are puppets of the Iranian government, and the government of Iran does not care for the fate of ordinary Yemenis; it only cares about achieving regional hegemony. On behalf of all Yemenis, I call on the agents of chaos to surrender and to stop serving the ambitions of others.It is not too late to stop the devastation of my nation. The Houthis belong at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield terrorizing their fellow citizens. Their ambition should be to establish a secure and stable Yemen. Yemenis must not be stopped from enacting our constitution and implementing the results of the National Dialogue leading to the transition to a parliament in which both the north and south are fairly represented and the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative, the mechanism, endorsed by the United Nations, to complete the political transition. The Houthi rebels are puppets of the Iranian government, and the government of Iran does not care for the fate of ordinary Yemenis But the Houthis and their patron, Yemen’s discredited ex-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, refused to follow the roadmap for change they had previously agreed to. Mr. Saleh must take responsibility for anarchy in Yemen and call a halt to the needless bloodshed. Operation Decisive Storm, the campaign by a coalition of nations led by Saudi Arabia, is coming to the aid of Yemen at the request of my government. If the Houthis do not withdraw and disarm their militia and rejoin the political dialogue, we will continue to urge the coalition to continue its military campaign against them.
    Brink of the abyss
    Two weeks ago, Yemen was on the brink of the abyss. The unprecedented level of Arab and international support brought us back from the edge. The message they are sending is clear: Iran cannot continue expanding at the expense of the integrity and security of other countries in the region. Our neighbors are certain of what they see: one house in the neighborhood is on fire, and that fire must first be contained and then extinguished lest the entire neighborhood turn to ashes. We will need continued international support to ensure military might on the battlefield now. And we will need assistance for our civil institutions once the fighting has stopped, to return my government to leadership in the capital, Sanaa. Having a hostile government in a nation bordering the Bab al-Mandeb strait — the highly trafficked shipping lane leading to the Suez Canal — is in no nation’s interest. If the Houthis are not stopped, they are destined to become the next Hezbollah, deployed by Iran to threaten the people in the region and beyond. The oil shipments through the Red Sea that much of the world depends on will be in jeopardy, and Al-Qaeda and other radical groups will be allowed to flourish.
    **Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi has been the President of Yemen since February 2012, and was Vice President from 1994 to 2012.

    After terrorists claim 13 lives in Sinai, El-Sisi reshuffles top army, navy, intelligence and Suez Canal chiefs
    DEBKAfile Special Report April 13, 2015/President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi was spurred Sunday, April 12, to make a clean sweep of his top military intelligence, navy and Second Field Army command (responsible for Sinai and the Suez Canal) by another two deadly attacks in northern Sinai by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the lslamic State’s local branch. They claimed 13 deaths, seven of them Egyptian troops, including two officers, and injured more than 50. The Sinai terrorists have played havoc with Sinai security since pledging loyalty to and gained support from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Egyptian military, even after being substantially reinforced and imposing a state of emergency, has been unable to stem the deadly spiral and paid for it with a heavy toll of casualties. In the first attack Sunday, six soldiers, including two officers, were killed when a roadside bomb struck their armored vehicle traveling south of el-Arish, the capital of North Sinai. Twelve hours later, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle at the entrance of a large police station in el-Arish, killing seven people, including five policemen, and injuring at least 40, many of them civilians. In a third smaller attack, militants clashed with soldiers at a mobile checkpoint in Rafah, south of el-Arish, wounding one police officer and two soldiers.
    Saturday, April 11, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdas, using the methods of its new parent, released a video clip depicting an Egyptian soldier being shot dead and the decapitation of an Egyptian civilian. Both victims were snatched during an attack on April 2, which left 15 soldiers dead, on an Egyptian army position in the El Arish vicinity. debkafile’s military sources report that northern Sinai, due to the increasing frequency and scale of terrorist attacks, is beginning to resemble Baghdad, which on that same Sunday was struck by four ISIS car bombs and other devices, which killed at least 12 people and injured dozens. Before the thunder of the blasts died down in Sinai, the Egyptian president announced a major reshuffle of his military, security and intelligence ranks. The most senior officer to be sacked was military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Salah El-Badry. He was replaced by Gen. Mohamed al-Shahat, a former commander of the Second Field Army, which is the current backbone of the army force fighting the Islamists terrorists in northern Sinai. Gen. Nasser al-Assi is the new commander of the Second Army. Our military sources report that al-Assi spent some months in northern Sinai on a personal assignment on behalf of the president and returned to Cairo with new recommendations for combating the terrorists.
    In another key change, Rear Admiral Osama El-Gendy was replaced as commander of the Egyptian Navy by Rear Admiral Osama Mounir.
    The navy’s role is increasingly prominent since Egyptian warships were deployed in the last two weeks off the coast of Yemen to secure the strategically vital Bab el-Mandab Strait -- the gateway to the Suez Canal – against Iranian-backed Houthi rebel control. Their guns have been trained on the Yemeni port of Aden in a running barrage to prevent the rebels and their allies, the mutinous Yemeni army’s 212nd Brigade, from overrunning the town. The Navy’s role in the Yemen war makes a change of commanders in mid-combat highly unusual
    However, it had become just as urgent at this stage to shift Rear Adm El-Gendy from the Navy to the top post in the Suez Canal Authority, to take charge of one of the most important seaways in the world, which had became a highway from the rampant smuggling of the arms and fighters nourishing ISIS terrorist outposts in Sinai. debkafile reports that ships from Libya and Jordan carry the contraband by sea and unload it at secret dropping-off points on the Sinai Peninsula’s western Mediterranean and the eastern Gulf of Aqaba coasts. Some of the goods are conveyed from Libya via the Suez Canal via the towns of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said, whence smuggling rings based on the banks of the waterway collect them by boat. Tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Sinai are also an important smuggling route for supplying terrorist groups. The Egyptian military reshuffle was accompanied by an amendment to the penal code by presidential decree which raised the penalty for building or using cross-border tunnels to life in jail. The penalty also applies to people with knowledge of tunnels who fail to report them to the authorities. The Egyptian government was authorized to seize buildings at the top of tunnels and equipment for digging them.

    Us and Them
    Diana Moukalled/Asharq Alawsat
    Monday, 13 Apr, 2015
    “We have suffered more than you, and you deserve what is happening to you!”
    This sentence pretty much sums up the general mood in more than one country in the Middle East when it comes to sectarian and ethnic conflicts, which have exploded in recent years and threaten these days to engulf everyone in the region in their midst.Arab vs. Kurd, Sunni vs. Shi’ite, Christian vs. Muslim, Lebanese vs. Syrian, Arab vs. Persian—take your pick. But what is truly making this already unbearable situation worse is the involvement of a not inconsiderable portion of those who are in the public eye. It is not just politicians and militants, but journalists, writers, and so-called intellectuals who have now taken up this divisive baton, prolonging a never-ending and self-perpetuating cycle of justification and counter-justification, recounting the ills perpetrated against whichever group or faction they have chosen to identify with, and which are invariably committed by another group or faction. And so they use these grievances to sow the seeds of polarization and curry favor with those of their party, group, religion or sect. It is these facile prejudices which keep us in this seemingly endless cycle of problems—though also, according to some, supposedly keep us “safe” as well. This general dialogue of justification and defensiveness stems at times from a victim mentally, which itself can sometimes be understandable. But in the current context in our region and the corresponding belittlement of the grievances of the “other,” it also represents the most intense of negative and atavistic sentiments related to the different groupings or sects which we all follow. Accentuating these feelings makes it increasingly difficult for those of us who wish to break out of this tribal mentality, to form our own positions—and to speak of them openly. We in the region now live in a milieu which seeks to curb our individual freedoms and keep us confined and segregated within the official “party line,” dissolving any intimation of diversity within a ubiquitous solvent of conformity in return for those delusory reassurances of “safety” and “security” within the flock.
    It is within this general context that those who seek to polarize and inflame shamelessly fan their hateful and violence-inciting narratives, all in the name of defending the tribe, the group, the party, or the sect. How many journalists, writers or academics in the region have become embroiled within these narratives (though they usually present them in other garbs, invariably those which play on those pervasive feelings of victimhood and marginalization)? This is how during this current era of sectarian–ethnic tension and conflict in our region that the boundaries between the repressive regimes that throttle our individual freedoms in the name of security and quelling conspiracies, and those religiously and ideologically motivated groups who are so quick to belittle any opposing voice by branding them as “misled” or in cahoots with “outside forces,” completely collapse. In this way we can see how easy, safe and profitable a choice it is for such public figures to become polarized and biased toward a particular faction of whatever kind. But of course this polarization and blind followership simply inflame the sorry situation that we are in today.
    The usual hesitation and suspicion we should feel when encountering such divisive and vengeful dialogue seems to have disappeared. And it has become completely normal to see what are certainly rightful grievances stemming from persecution or marginalization then appended with words that draw their water from that very same well, justifying violence or revenge and manipulating fervent language in such a way as to play on the emotions of the opressed and the angry. Those embroiled in these narratives do not thereby put an end to the injustices about which they so vociferously complain, but in fact perpetuate them by justifying vengeful action. And in this hostile atmosphere, those brave refuseniks who oppose these narratives are—at best—branded as naïve simpletons or even traitors.
    Truly, this is the era of “us and them,” “you are either with us, or against us.” And it poses a huge challenge now for all principled individuals in the region, for all those who refuse to down the Kool-Aid in one unthinking gulp. They face a formidable and seemingly implacable foe: the group, tribe, ethnicity, or religion. It is an intimidating challenge, yes, but one that must be decisively overcome if we are to carve out spaces for free expression in our region.