April 18/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Jesus expels out Merchants From The Temple
John 02/13-25: "The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Bible Quotation For Today/"Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander
First Letter of Peter 02/01-10: "Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner’, and ‘A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 17-18/15
The problem with Lausanne’s deal and Iran/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 17/15
Would an arms deal with Russia scupper Iran nuclear talks/Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/April 17/15
Iran finally admits to regional interference/Salman Aldossary/Al Arabiya/April 17/15
Has Obama made agreement with Iran more difficult/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 17/15
Arab world: Egypt’s dangerous stalemate/ZVI MAZEL /J.Post/April 17/15

Lebanese Related News published on April 17-18/15
Nasrallah Slams Saudi as Source of 'Takfiri Ideology', Says Yemen Dispute Must Not Affect Lebanon

Hariri Accuses Nasrallah of 'Deception' over Yemen, Says Hizbullah Behavior 'Imported from Iran'

Ban in Report on UNSCR 1559 Urges End to Presidential Vacuum
Negotiations with ISIL over Captive Servicemen Hit Brick Wall
Salam to Riyadh to Ease Tension over Remarks on its War in Yemen
'Israel concerned as Lebanon to begin receiving shipments of French arms'
Hezbollah, Future war of words over Yemen escalates
Is Iranian influence near? Mount Lebanon warehouses shut over food safety 
Checkpoints erected to raise awareness of new traffic law
Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh would support Kahwagi term extension
Roumieh inmates take 3 officers hostage 
Lebanon shuts down warehouses in Mount Lebanon over food safety violations
Lebanese Army seizes arms cache after Tripoli raid
Special economic zone offers hope for Tripoli  
Amid Hammoud Denies Fleeing Lebanon, Stresses He's 'Under the Law'
Hariri to Travel to U.S. Next Week
Islamists Riot in Roumieh's Ward D
Dog Rescues Kfarshouba Shepherd from Kidnap by Israeli Army
ISF Denies Ordering Traffic Police Not to Issue Fines Based on New Law
Army Raids Tripoli Arms Depot
Le Drian Visits Beirut on Sunday to Supervise Arms Delivery

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 17-18/15
U.N. Chief Calls for Immediate Yemen Ceasefire
GCC leaders invited to White House, Camp David
Iranian nukes vs. ‘never again’
War of words over Yemen escalates
Opportunity for Yemen 
Assad: Turkish support 'main factor' in Idlib takeover
Arab world: Egypt’s dangerous stalemate
Saddam deputy Izzat al-Douri killed near Tikrit
Thousands Flee Fighting in Iraq's Ramadi, Says U.N.
Assad says Turkey torpedoed U.N. Aleppo truce plan
Hamas official calls to abduct Israelis, swap for Palestinians
Pakistan and the Gulf: Brothers but not allies?
Would an arms deal with Russia scupper Iran nuclear talks?
Why do people go to war?
Military withdraws from Yemen oilfields
Iraqi forces recapture 2 towns from ISIS
Israel Coalition Talks Run against the Clock
Obama to Host Gulf Leaders in May
Iran Calls for Immediate Yemen Peace Talks

Jihad Watch Latest News
Saddam’s former right hand man, key factor in rise of Islamic State, killed by Iraqi forces
Mufti of Ankara: Pope acknowledging Armenian Genocide will hasten Hagia Sophia’s becoming mosque again
Civilians flee Ramadi under Islamic State shelling
Islamic State destroys Christian graves in Mosul, quotes Muhammad to support doing so
UK: Boney M singer’s brother, a convert to Islam, arrested for jihad terror offenses
Netherlands: Families of those who joined Islamic State to sue government
Oh crusaders, we are the lions of the Islamic State, the falcons of the caliph. Today we killed this Kansas lady Lobo
Moderate Malaysia: Cops hunting for two men over Facebook insults to Islam
Victory! Mason High School principal cancels hijab event, apologizes
Muslim refugees throw Christian refugees overboard during crossing from Libya to Italy
Ohio Muslim who waged jihad in Syria indicted: discussed attacking Texas military base and killing U.S. soldiers
Ohio public high school hosting “A Covered Girl Challenge,” asking students to wear hijab for a day

Your Body Is God's Temple, Do Not Mess With It
Elias Bejjani
April 17/15
Yes, with no fear, with no compromise, and with no shame, we declare loudly that all those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow His Holy Bible do not have the right to mess with their bodies in any way, any form or style. We do not own our bodies, but God does. Our bodies are holy and yes they are because we were created in God's image, and because the Bible tells us so clearly that these bodies are God's temples.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 01/27)
In the Old Testament the we learn that Al Mighty God had a temple for His people; however, in the New Testament He has His people for a temple because we have been redeemed by the death of Jesus Christ. And Because of redemption, the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in the redeemed.
When we do not fully respect the sanctity of our bodies we detach ourselves from God and fall into Satan's temptations and become a prey for his evilness.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship". (Romans 12/01)
Saint Peter in his first letter to the (01 Corinthians 06/12-20) focuses very well on this matter. " Someone will say, “I am allowed to do anything.” Yes; but not everything is good for you. I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave. Someone else will say, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.” Yes; but God will put an end to both. The body is not to be used for sexual immorality, but to serve the Lord; and the Lord provides for the body. God raised the Lord from death, and he will also raise us by his power. You know that your bodies are parts of the body of Christ. Shall I take a part of Christ's body and make it part of the body of a prostitute? Impossible! Or perhaps you don't know that the man who joins his body to a prostitute becomes physically one with her? The scripture says quite plainly, “The two will become one body.” But he who joins himself to the Lord becomes spiritually one with him. Avoid immorality. Any other sin a man commits does not affect his body; but the man who is guilty of sexual immorality sins against his own body. Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God's glory."
Realities of life, experience, history and actuality tell us so plainly and without any shed of doubt that mankind are mere mortal creatures, very weak, extremely vulnerable and so fragile. With our mortal bodies no matter what riches we acquire, and no matter how powerful we become with any sort of earthly authority possessed, we will die and one can escape this ultimate fate. Once death prevails our bodies shall return to the ashes that it was created from. No one of us can carry with him any thing that is earthly. We only carry with our deeds according to which we shall be judged on the Judgment Day.
In conclusion all those of us who allege that they are free to mess with their bodies the way they wish and the way they like are actually committing a sin, challenging God's will and breaching on His commandments. Our bodies were made from ash and to ash they return once God decides to take back His gift of life. This reality is very important and Must not be forgotten by any one individual. Messing with our bodies include among many evil means, torture, rape, abortion, sexual immoralities, sexual deviations, enslavement, oppression, enforced starvation, inflicting of disease, mutilation, suicide, homicide, denial of therapies etc.
Let us all fear God in all that we do, say and think.
Let us all remember that our life on earth is temporary and that Almighty God may take back his gift of life at any moment.
Let us be always prepared and ready to face God happily, surely and with righteousness on the Judgment Day.

Sayyed Nasrallah Salutes Yemen Steadfastness: Time to Tell Saudi to Stop!
Sara Taha Moughnieh
Source: Al-Manar Website/Aprl 17/15
Sayyed NasrallahSayyed Hasan Nasrallah reiterated Friday Hezbollah's full support to the Yemeni people in the face of the barbaric Saudi-US aggression on Yemen, reassuring that even if it took some time, the Yemenis will eventually triumph due to their courage and steadfastness.
In a statement Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah delivered in a ceremony held in Sayyed Al-Shuhadaa complex in solidarity with Yemen, his eminence reassured that "it is our humanitarian, moral, and religious duty to take this stance and the whole nation must take a similar stance, because we will be asked about this by Allah."
Sayyed Nasrallah noted that "since we are now in April, we must remember the sacrifices and steadfastness of the Lebanese and southern people in the face of the Israeli aggression in 1996," adding that "this stand paved the way for the victory in 2000."
Returning to the Yemeni file, Sayyed Nasrallah refuted claims that the attack on Yemen " was for defending Yemen's Arabism". He rather asked: "Did the Arab people authorize the Saudi regime to wage war on Yemen? Moreover, If the Yemeni people were not Arab than who is?"
"The Yemenis don't need to give evidence that they are Arabs, before Islam they were the original Arab culture, when people of the Arabian Peninsula didn't even know how to read... Yemeni scholars and businessmen brought Islam to Indonesia, one of the largest Islamic countries... Yemenis don't need to give evidence that they are Arabs or Muslims, and whoever assaults the Yemeni people should be the one who's Islam and Arabism should be examined," he added, stressing that "they have tried to give a sectarian aspect for the war, claiming that it is a Sunni/Shiite war, but this is not true. It is a Saudi war for political reasons..."
Sayyed Nasrallah pointed out that "one of the funniest headlines I have read in the past couple of weeks was "In defense of the Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina"."
"Who is threatening the two Holy Mosques? The Yemeni people? The Yemeni Army?" he asked, adding: "These are the people who mostly love the prophet and his household... The only people threatening the Holy Mosques are students of the Wahhabi schools in Saudi Arabia and ISIS, one day a suicide bomber from this school will make an operation there, because they consider that the Kaaba is just a pile of stones being worshipped rather than Allah".
"After the Saudi Monarchy emerged, its Wahhabi followers destroyed religious and historical heritage related to the prophet, from houses to graves, forts, and everything... There was even a decision to destroy the prophet's grave, and history proved that, but the Islamic world stood up against them back then," Sayyed Nasrallah further stated, emphasizing that "the Holy Moque is under threat and we don't know when they would destroy it."
On another level, Hezbollah secretary general noted: "Another goal behind the war, according to Saudi claims, is defending the Yemeni people... Is besieging 24 million Yemeni and keeping them without food and medicine, and committing massacres against women and children, a way for defending the Yemenis?"
He asked the Lebanese to remember July war and observe the resemblance between the Saudi war on Yemen and the Israeli war on Lebanon.
"We were the adventurers and the triumphant then," he added, and assured that "while they claimed that their goal was to prevent the Yemeni Army and the Public committees from reaching Aden, they failed in that, and provinces have become under the control of the Yemeni Army now and Al-Qaeda is withdrawing."
In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah reassured that "they wanted to break the will and subjugate the Yemeni people, but the result was a great steadfastness, firmness, patience, demonstrations, and strength by the Yemeni people and Army."
"The aggression failed in transferring the war into a sectarian or regional one, and Saudi has failed in its aerial aggression. The only choice it has now is land incursion in Yemen, so let us see what the Saudi Army will do then," he added.
His eminence stated that "until now, the Yemenis have not chosen their response, and waiting until now is a strategic patience by the Yemenis."
Furthermore, he considered that "the Saudi regime does not seem to be ready for any settlement despite the fact that most of the countries are against this aggression because it will not make any achievement."
Based on that, Sayyed Nasrallah assured that the only outcome from the war on Yemen will be the defeat of the invaders, and expressed gratitude to the Pakistani Parliament for preventing the Pakistani Army from fighting in Yemen.
Moreover, he called upon Pakistan and Egypt to put an end to the destruction of an Arab and Islamic country, and demanded the intervention of all the Arab and Islamic countries to stop this war and save Yemen from this intended catastrophe.
On another hand, Sayyed Nasrallah indicated that "some people in Lebanon consider that criticizing Saudi Arabia is an insult. I tell them that even though we have always been aware of the Saudi role in the Lebanese civil war, in the Syrian crisis, and its direct intervention in Bahrain, we have always called for dialogue, but today Saudi has declared war... and it is time for the entire Arab and Islamic world to stand up for Saudi Arabia and demand it to stop!"
His eminence emphasized that "the biggest loser from the latest developments in the region is Palestine, and the biggest winner is Israel and Netanyahu."
In conclusion, Sayyed Nasrallah addressed the Lebanese saying: "Some in Lebanon are wagering on Yemen's defeat in the face of this assault, and are drawing their future based on that. I remind them that they have previously wagered on the fall of the Syrian regime, and here it is still firm five years later. I further assure to them that we must not transmit the incidents of Yemen to Lebanon, and rather express our opposite opinions in the appropriate way."
Source: Al-Manar Website

Hariri Accuses Nasrallah of 'Deception' over Yemen, Says Hizbullah Behavior 'Imported from Iran'
Naharnet 17.04.15/Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri on Friday accused Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah of “falsification and deception” regarding the Yemeni conflict, noting that Hizbullah's Yemen rhetoric is “imported from Iran” and does not serve Lebanon's interest.“Following in the footsteps of (Iran's supreme leader) Sayyed Ali Khamenei, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has excelled in falsification, deception and the shows of intimidation and sectarian mobilization,” said Hariri via Twitter, only minutes after Nasrallah launched scathing tirades against Saudi Arabia over its Arab-backed airstrikes in Yemen. “What we heard was a chorus of historical fabrications, evocation of the past's grudges and a blatant manifestation of hatred against Saudi Arabia, its founder and its leadership,” said Hariri. “Insulting the late King Abdul Aziz will put the insulters in the line of fire, from their biggest authority in Tehran to the smallest one in Dahieh,” he added. In a televised speech earlier on Friday, Nasrallah launched a vehement attack against Saudi Arabia over its Yemen operation, accusing it of being the source of “takfiri ideology” in the world. He also criticized the late King Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the founder of the kingdom. “After the founding king seized control of Hijaz, his Wahhabi followers -- inspired by their culture -- demolished all historic artifacts that have to do with the Prophet in April 1926,” said Nasrallah. But Hariri stressed that “political escalation” will not manage to “distort the image, role or reputation of Saudi Arabia.” “The scene that Hizbullah is presenting is imported from Iran and has nothing to do with Lebanon's interest,” Hariri warned. He noted that “Hizbullah does not miss a chance to declare that it is capable of putting an entire sect in the Iranian basket.” However, the Mustaqbal leader reassured that “Hizbullah's continuous escalation” will not “drag” his movement into stances that might “undermine the foundations of dialogue and civil peace.”“If their job is to sacrifice Lebanon's interests for the sake of (Huthi chief Abdul Malik) al-Huthi's objectives, our responsibility obliges us not to be dragged into responses of the same nature,” Hariri added. “We are keen to prevent strife in Lebanon while they are keen on rescuing Bashar Assad's regime and on the Iranian role that is interfering in Yemen and the Arab countries,” he went on to say. Tensions between Riyadh and Hizbullah increased in the wake of Saudi Arabia's Arab-backed military operation against Yemen's Shiite Huthi rebels. The air campaign, launched in late March, is aimed at defeating the Iran-backed rebels and restoring power to President Abderabbo Mansour Hadi.

Ban in Report on UNSCR 1559 Urges End to Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet/U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call on all Lebanese leaders to work without any further delay for the election of a new president and work for the nation's interest. According to An Nahar daily published on Friday, Ban expressed his growing concern over the continued failure to elect a head of state in his semi-annual report on the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559. The report has not been published yet on the website of the U.N. The presidential vacuum caused a more delicate situation in the country amid security, economic and humanitarian challenges, Ban said in the report prepared by Norwegian diplomat Terje Roed-Larsen. According to An Nahar, the report criticized the intentional move to create lack of quorum at parliament. Ban hoped that the Lebanese leaders would take advantage of the relative stability to work in favor of the national interest. He also urged MPs to exercise their rights and attend parliament to elect a new president without further delay. “The Lebanese people have the right to have a head of state who contributes to the unity and stability of the country and resolves issues that have tangible effects on all Lebanese,” the U.N. chief said. Lebanon has been without a head of state since May last year when President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended. The majority of the March 8 alliance's MPs have been boycotting the sessions set for the election of a president under the excuse that there should be consensus on a candidate first. Resolution 1559, which was adopted in September 2004, calls for a sovereign Lebanon, the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country and the disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.

'Israel concerned as Lebanon to begin receiving shipments of French arms'
By JPOST.COM STAFF/J.Post/04/17/2015/The anticipation in Lebanon is percolating this weekend as the country prepares to receive a large infusion of French armaments that observers hope will go a long way toward bolstering the military. According to the English-language newspaper The Daily Star, Israel’s neighbor to the north is due to incorporate some $3 billion worth of French military hardware into the ranks of its army. The weapons transaction was subsidized by Saudi Arabia, according to Lebanese press reports. The agreement calls for France to provide Lebanon with warplanes and cruisers. Lebanon is also due to receive armored vehicles, seven helicopters, and light aircraft. Syria-based groups such as al-Qaida's Nusra Front and Islamic State have attacked Lebanon and taken soldiers captive since last summer in some of the worst spillover from the four-year civil war. Israel has traditionally been uneasy about weapons shipments to Lebanon for fear that the arms will end up in the hands of its nemesis, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite organization Hezbollah. Western and Arab governments, meanwhile, have long sought to counter Hezbollah’s influence by bolstering the Sunni Muslim community that has long opposed Iranian and Syrian meddling in Beirut’s internal affairs. Israel has traditionally been uneasy about weapons shipments to Lebanon for fear that the arms will end up in the hands of its nemesis, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite organization Hezbollah.Western and Arab governments, meanwhile, have long sought to counter Hezbollah’s influence by bolstering the Sunni Muslim community that has long opposed Iranian and Syrian meddling in Beirut’s internal affairs.

Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh would support Kahwagi term extension
The Daily Star/Apr. 17, 2015
BEIRUT: Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh said he would support the extension of the term of Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi in order to to avoid a vacuum in the military leadership. “I support the appointment of Brig. Gen. Shamel Roukoz to the Army leadership,” Frangieh said in remarks published Friday by local daily As-Safir. “But if this is not possible, and if I had to choose between Gen. Jean Kahwagi and vacuum, I would choose to extend Kahwagi’s term,” he said. The current military council has already lost half of its members. Only three members of the council remain: Kahwagi, Army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Walid Salman, and Secretary-General of the Higher Defense Council Maj. Gen. Mohammad Khair. As Khair’s term was extended for the last allowable time in February, the most senior general eligible to fill a spot on the council is Imad al-Qaaqour, whose is scheduled for mandatory retirement on Sept. 19, three days before Kahwagi. Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun has stood alone in his rejection of an extension for Kahwagi.
According to sources, Aoun has made a number of remarks on Kahwagi’s performance and the situation of the Army, and is hoping his son-in-law Gen. Shamel Roukoz will become Army commander. Sources had told The Daily Star that Hezbollah is concerned that the top military post could be left vacant if political leaders do not agree on a successor. Hezbollah does not want to destabilize the Army while it is fighting jihadi militants along the Syrian border. Aoun has reportedly threatened to pull out of the government if the terms of senior security officers were extended. Frangieh, an ally of Aoun, said he does not want to see the collapse of Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s government. “However, ths issue would be subject for discussions with all our allies, including Hezbollah.” "If together they decided to withdraw from the government then I will not stay alone there,” he said. Frangieh also predicted that the presidential crisis would continue until a “strong president” is elected.

Lebanese Army seizes arms cache after Tripoli raid
The Daily Star/Apr. 17, 2015/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army said Friday it seized a host of weapons - including mortar bombs, grenades and explosives - after a night-time raid in the northern city of Tripoli. Based on a tip-off, a military unit late Thursday recovered the arms cache located in the vegetable market in the Tripoli neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, a Lebanese Army statement said. It said 50 mortar shells, four rocket launchers, ammunition, 25 kg of explosive material and various other types of military equipment had been confiscated during the raid. The Army said an investigation has been launched.

Lebanon shuts down warehouses in Mount Lebanon over food safety violations
The Daily Star/Apr. 17, 2015/BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities Friday shut down two warehouses in Mount Lebanon over food safety violations, the Agriculture Ministry announced in a statement. After a report by the ministry’s inspectors found food safety violations in Yehya Abou Diab’s kidney beans warehouse in the Shouf village of Jahilieh, police raided and shut down the establishment. The ministry’s statement said the inspectors had found fertilizers stored near the beans and 18 containers in unsanitary conditions, three of which were being used to dye the beans green in order to make them look fresh, the statement added. Asked about the illicit practices, Abou Diab denied that dye was meant to deceive consumers and said that no one had complained about any ailments after eating his products.
Separately, a warehouse for spices and thyme production was also closed due to food safety violations in the Aley district town of Dohat Aramoun. The warehouse, owned by Mustafa Rannan, was located in the basement of a building currently under construction, the ministry said. The warehouse's walls and ceiling lacked basic insulation, while spices and thyme were stored in open containers. The warehouse’s owner was contacted by the inspectors but said the number was wrong and hung up. After attempting to call the owner, a man driving a truck carrying 12 large bags of thyme arrived at the location and confirmed that the warehouse is owned by Rannan. However, when called from the driver’s phone, Rannan denied again that he owns a warehouse and ended the call, the ministry’s statement told.
Police were then called to the scene and shut down the warehouse. The truck’s cargo was also confiscated due to lack the of production and expiration dates. Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb also announced that the state would file chrages against both owners and referred the file to the State Prosecution office, the statement said. The raids are the latest in a series of measures that the ministries of agriculture and health have been carrying out since Health Minister Wael Abu Faour announced last November a nation-wide crackdown on food safety violations.

Le Drian Visits Beirut on Sunday to Supervise Arms Delivery
Naharnet /French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will arrive on Sunday evening in Beirut to oversee the long-awaited delivery of weapons to the Lebanese army under a Saudi financed deal. According to An Nahar newspaper published on Friday, the delivery of the first shipment of $3 billion worth of weapons to the army will be held later on Monday during a ceremony at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport's air base. The French minister is also expected to hold talks with prominent Lebanese officials. Le Drian will also deliver a speech during a ceremony at the French Embassy in Beirut's Sodeco area. The first batch of arms reportedly includes 48 Milan rockets. Saudi Arabia and France inked the arms 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. In August, the kingdom also offered another $1 billion in funds to allow the army to purchase supplies immediately.

Hariri to Travel to U.S. Next Week
Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri is expected to travel to Washington on Monday for a one week visit, al-Joumhouria daily reported. The agenda of his trip is still not complete, the newspaper said Friday. But Hariri is scheduled to meet with top U.S. officials to discuss with them the developments in the region, including Lebanon, said the report. The former prime minister will also meet with members of the Lebanese community there, al-Joumhouria added. Hariri previously visited Egypt, Turkey and Qatar.

Salam to Riyadh to Ease Tension over Remarks on its War in Yemen

Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam is expected to head to Saudi Arabia in the upcoming few days amid a war of words between al-Mustaqbal movement and Hizbullah over Riyadh's offensive in Yemen against the Shiite Huthi rebels. Sources said in comments published in al-Liwaa newspaper on Friday that Salam will hold talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Azizi and senior officials. The sources added that talks will focus on the exceptional bilateral ties between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, in addition to the latest developments in the region, including the war in Yemen. On Wednesday, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri emphasized his right to defend his country in the wake of the criticism against it over its military operation in Yemen, especially by Hizbullah. Tensions recently flared between the Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah over Saudi airstrikes against the rebels. The former has backed the campaign, while the latter has slammed it as blatant interference in the country's affairs. A war of words soon ensued between the two sides, with movement chief MP Saad Hariri declaring Saudi Arabia's right to defend Arab interests against Iran, while Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed that the kingdom will suffer a defeat in its mission. Saudi Arabia launched 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.

Army Raids Tripoli Arms Depot

Naharnet/The Lebanese army said on Friday that it seized mortar shells and explosives during a night raid in the northern city of Tripoli's Bab al-Tabbaneh area. A military communique said an army unit raided a depot at the grocery market on Thursday night after receiving information that militants had stashed weapons there. The troops seized 50 mortar shells, other rockets, 25 kilograms of explosives, in addition to equipment and military gear during the raid, said the communique. The seized materials were handed over to the appropriate authorities and an investigation was launched, it added. On Thursday, the army said it had arrested five individuals in Tripoli's al-Beddawi area where it found rifles, guns, ammunition, mortar shells, hand grenades, telecommunications equipment and other military gear.

Hezbollah, Future war of words over Yemen escalates
Wassim Mroueh/The Daily Star/Apr. 17, 2015
BEIRUT: The war of words between Hezbollah and the Future Movement over the conflict in Yemen escalated Thursday, a day before a much-anticipated speech by the Shiite party’s leader to tackle the situation in the Gulf state.
But Speaker Nabih Berri downplayed the ongoing diatribes between the rival groups, telling his visitors Thursday that both Riyadh and Tehran had informed him they are keen on the continuation of the Hezbollah-Future dialogue.
Ahmad Hariri, the secretary-general of the Future Movement, launched a scathing attack against Hezbollah and Iran over their interference in Yemen, accusing the Islamic Republic of committing crimes in the Arab world.
He expressed surprise that Hezbollah criticized his group for defending Saudi Arabia, “when it is involved from head to toe in the battle of defending the project of Iranian domination and is acting, in word and deed, as the military wing of Iran in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.”
“It is strange that Hezbollah allows itself to fight and commit the most dangerous acts away from Lebanon’s interests and national consensus and wants others to remain silent on Iranian crimes in Arab states,” he said at a gathering of clans in the northern district of Akkar.
Hariri said that the Saudi-led “Decisive Storm” military operation in Yemen had revealed Iran’s hatred toward Arabs and demonstrated that it was far weaker than Arab nations.
“The Decisive Storm was launched to defend legitimacy in Yemen and will not remain only an ‘Arab Awakening’ limited to Yemen,” Hariri said. “God willing, it will pave the way for decisive storms which will [show] Iran and others that Arabs’ resorting to peace and dialogue in previous years did not reflect weakness ... and that confronting Iranian extremism is essential in facing terrorism made by Iran and exported to our Arab countries.”
After adopting a calm political rhetoric over the past months as a result of rounds of dialogue, rivals Hezbollah and the Future Movement have been trading barbs in the media since the Saudi-led military operation against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen began last month. The Future Movement hailed the operation as a necessary step to end growing Iranian influence in Yemen, while Hezbollah slammed it as an interference in Yemeni affairs and an assault on Yemeni people.
The Iranian Embassy joined the war of words Thursday, indirectly responding to Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, who lashed out at Tehran in a speech Tuesday.
ke about the state of Beirut, this city known in the world to be the capital of culture and literature. These qualities require that those who bear them clearly distinguish between the benighted ideology producing terrorism and extremism and between the ideology interested in helping countries and people who want to preserve their rights and security against assaults by Zionists and armed terrorist groups,” a statement by the embassy said.
The Iranian Embassy, however, stressed that stances by these Lebanese officials did not reflect that of the “friendly and brotherly Lebanese state.”
Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc blasted a U.N. Security Council decision to impose an arms embargo on Yemen’s Houthis, describing the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen as a “strategic sin.”
“The catastrophic results and consequences on the stability of Yemen and the region have confirmed that the Saudi regime’s aggression against Yemen is a historic and strategic sin,” the statement said.
“No unfair international decision could erase this fact or end the severe crisis in Yemen, even if issued under Chapter 7.”
The bloc reiterated that the only solution to the Yemeni crisis was through ending the Saudi “aggression” and launching dialogue between all Yemeni groups.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah will comment on developments in Yemen in a speech Friday.
Meanwhile, former MP Ghattas Khoury, an aide of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, visited Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.
Speaking to The Daily Star, an FPM source said the two discussed the potential extension of the terms of senior security officials.
Aoun strongly opposes extension, calling for the appointment of successors for head of Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous and Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, whose terms expire in June and September respectively.
Separately, the U.N. envoy to Lebanon Sigrid Kaag said after meeting Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai that she would press lawmakers to elect a president soon to end the 11-month-old vacuum.
“The patriarch underlined to us his grave concern about the protracted vacancy in the office of the presidency soon marking a one-year vacuum,” said Kaag, the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, after meeting Rai at noon in Bkirki, seat of the Maronite Church.
“We shared this concern, specifically that the 11-month stalemate in the election of the president of the republic is undermining Lebanon’s ability to address the security, economic and social challenges.”
“We committed to sending a strong message to Lebanese leaders ... to act responsibly and put Lebanon’s stability and national interests ahead of partisan politics,” she said.

 Amid Hammoud Denies Fleeing Lebanon, Stresses He's 'Under the Law'
Naharnet /Al-Mustaqbal movement official Amid Hammoud denied on Friday that he had fled Lebanon over confessions by militia leaders in the northern city of Tripoli that he provided them with weapons and ammunition. In a phone interview with LBCI television, Hammoud revealed that he has been in Turkey since ten days and that he resides there on a “near-permanent basis,” declining to respond to any accusations. Addressing Ziad Allouki and Saad al-Masri, who reportedly confessed against him before the Military Court, Hammoud said “may God forgive them.” He also pointed out that he has not received any judicial writ until the moment and that he would turn himself in if summoned by Lebanese authorities. “He noted that he is under the law, stressing that he is not on the run,” LBCI added. A report published Friday by As Safir newspaper had claimed that Hammoud left Lebanon “a week ago.”As Safir said he headed to Turkey after testimonies by al-Masri and Allouki before the Military Court. The daily alleged that the Public Prosecution issued a search and arrest warrant against Hammoud in the wake of the confessions. “Hammoud headed on the first airplane to Turkey after he was informed by a prominent figure in al-Mustaqbal of the prosecution's attempt to arrest him,” said As Safir. “We advise you to leave the country soon because we can no longer protect you,” sources quoted the prominent leader as telling Hammoud. In May 2014, several leaders of armed fighters in Tripoli, including Masri and Allouki, turned themselves in to the military intelligence ahead of the implementation of a security plan in the city.
Allouki and Masri were the leaders of fighting fronts in Tripoli's Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood. The security plan has resulted in the arrest of dozens of gunmen and fugitives in Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa region, but several wanted men have managed to escape, while others remain at large.

Negotiations with ISIL over Captive Servicemen Hit Brick Wall
Naharnet/Negotiations with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) reached a dead end after the group placed tough conditions to release the servicemen in its captivity, media reports said on Friday. According to al-Mustaqbal newspaper, ISIL links the release of the hostages to the operation carried out by the Lebanese army on Lebanon's eastern border with Syria. Sources pointed out that Qatar vowed to exert efforts to release captives taken by the group, similarly to the negotiations carried out with the Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front. The sources said that ISIL is seeking the release of convicted inmates, including females, who were linked to terror acts across Lebanon in return for the freedom of the servicemen, However, the state deems the group's demands as “not serious.” The sources said that the unidentified Qatari-appointed mediator still didn't kick start the direct negotiations with ISIL leaders until the results of talks with al-Nusra Front surface. They noted that Turkey is also playing a logistic role in the negotiations by facilitating communication between the group and the mediator from one side and fortifying communication channels between Qatar and Lebanon. In August, extremists from ISIL and al-Nusra Front overran the northeastern border town of Arsal where they engaged in brief clashes with the army. They withdrew from Arsal at the end of the fighting, but kidnapped a number of servicemen. A few were released, four were executed, while the rest remain held. The ISIL and al-Nusra Front want to exchange the captives with Islamist prisoners in Lebanon and Syria. Media reports said recently that servicemen taken hostage by al-Nusra Front are expected to be released within 10 days after negotiations with the group reached a breakthrough.

Iranian Mullahs' aggressive expansionism scheme is an existential threat to all the Arab countries
Elias Bejjani: Below is a worth Reading piece By Abdulrahman al-Rashed in both Arabic and English. It tells the blind and deaf Obama and other world leaders what are the Iranian actual dangers.

The problem with Lausanne’s deal and Iran
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Friday, 17 April 2015
The nuclear deal reached in Lausanne between Iran and the West has stirred a big controversy. The debate is building up in the lead up to the forthcoming Camp David summit that U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to hold with the leaders of the Arab Gulf states to discuss the deal and its repercussions.
The last ‘preacher’ on the deal was Vali Nasr, an expert in the region’s affairs, a writer, political science professor, and adviser to a number of official departments in Washington. He stated in the “New York Times” that he does not know why Arabs are unhappy with the deal between Iran and the West, as he believes it is in favor of the Arabs.
He thinks that the Lausanne deal will incorporate Iran into the global economy, and this alone would automatically exert restrictions on Tehran’s government’s policy on the region and on its behavior.
Nasr criticized Arab countries and said they were still adopting a reverse logic, because they believed Iran was the main component responsible for their countries’ instability, and that Iran’s aggressiveness was inoperable.
He also believes that Arab countries should seize the opportunity that is looming on the horizon and take advantage of Iran’s commitment, in order to work on the development of their economies, which actually represents a real challenge.
His opinions echo comments Obama made in an interview with Thomas Friedman, in which he said the Arabs were blaming their neighbor Iran, and yet they were at risk from the inside.
'State of hopelessness’
Are we being paranoid about Iran, or is Mr Nasr just a used-car salesman who thinks that he is able to advertise what the U.S. administration has failed to promote?
First, we are not in a state of hopelessness, rather a state of anger. Arabs had hoped Obama would not only care about discontinuing Iran’s nuclear capabilities or keep mum about its policy and aggressive behavior.
Iran is more like North Korea, a state that believes in force and confrontation and rely on maneuvering. This is not paranoia but a long record of Iranian sponsorship of violence in the region
Iran is not Cuba, an old communist country, whose utmost ambitions today are to sell cigars and be a touristic destination for the Americans, and whose danger wiped out with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early nineties.
In fact, Iran is more like North Korea, a state that believes in force and confrontation and rely on maneuvering. This is not paranoia but a long record of Iranian sponsorship of violence in the region.
‘Ethnic wars’
Iranian officials are proud about the existence of militias. Iranians are involved in the fighting in Syria and Iraq, and Iran has sponsored and supported the rebels in Yemen for years, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has confirmed that.
I am surprised that a professor like Nasr would say that Yemen has been suffering from ethnic wars for decades, and that therefore there is no blame on Iran. This is not true.
He might say that about Somalia or Lebanon, but Sunnis and Yazidis were living peacefully in Yemen. Yemen’s tribal feuds were limited and over the years, there were only clashes between Houthis and the central government. As for the Sunnis and Yazidis, they did not take part in the conflicts prior to last year.
The problem with Iran is not sectarian, even though it publicly supports and funds Shiite extremism such as the Lebanese “Hezbollah”. Conversely, its strategies are also to fund different armed groups such as the Sunni “Islamic Jihad” and Palestinian “Hamas” as well.
Sabotaging the Middle East
We cannot be accused of paranoia, because Iran holds a 30-year-old record of sabotaging the Middle East. The irony is that Iran’s hostile activities have dramatically increased during its recent negotiations with the “P5+1” group of nations. Nasr suggests that the Gulf countries should benefit from years-long nuclear-freeze and take heed to develop their economies, rather than engaging in a fight against Iran. Will he be able to enlighten us on how to do so? The deal only prevents Iran from developing nuclear arms for at least 10 years. But it does not restrict Iran from waging an assault. A visit to the two shores of the Gulf shows the nature of the two regimes; quite similar to the border landmarks between North and South Korea. On the east bank, where Iran is, there are deserted beaches, desolate mountains, and huge military camps. Whereas on the west bank - the six Gulf States - there are thriving modern capitals, massive industrial petrochemical complexes, oil refineries and many industrial cities. Iran does not have anything to lose if the Gulf countries waged a war against it, as they spent most of their savings on the development of military capabilities. So what exactly does Vali Nasr want the Arab States to do, especially when President Obama decides to free Iran from the cage? Should the Gulf countries blindly trust this deal?

Would an arms deal with Russia scupper Iran nuclear talks?
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
Friday, 17 April 2015
For the Islamic Republic, one of the most significant by-products and benefits of the ongoing nuclear talks is not solely linked to the future prospect of Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, the international legitimacy that Iranian leaders are gaining from the ongoing nuclear negotiations bear much more positive consequences for Tehran’s strategic, geopolitical, and military power in the region. At the beginning of this year, Sergei Shoigu, a Russian political figure, was the first Minister of Defense to visit Tehran in 15 years. This week, President Vladimir Putin paved the way for delivering a missile system to the Islamic Republic by lifting a ban on the sale of advanced and sophisticated Russian air defense missiles to Tehran. The ban was imposed in 2010 as result of UN Security Council resolutions, as well as pressures and lobbies from the United States and Israel. Nevertheless, Iran’s military power and the Russian-Iranian Partnership is shifting as the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China) and the Islamic Republic have reached a framework for the final nuclear deal.
Rise in Russian-Iranian partnership
For Iranian leaders, the progress in nuclear talks can significantly increase their geopolitical and economic influence in the region through global trades that could bolster Tehran’s military and defense system.
For example, the S-300 surface-to-air missile system can provide the Islamic Republic with a powerful deterrent against attacks on its nuclear sites. Iranian leaders can utilize the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to further protect their nuclear facilities and deter any strikes (including ballistic missiles or cruise missiles) against their nuclear reactors. In addition, the arms sale will strengthen Iran’s geopolitical and strategic stance against other regional state actors as well as global powers such as the United States, as Iran will be more emboldened to scuttle other rivals’ foreign policy objectives in the region. For the Russian leaders though, it is crucial to be ahead of the game when a final nuclear deal is going to be reached between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic. Taking action will ensure that Moscow can reap a significant amount of trade profits (whether militarily or non-militarily) from Iran. For instance, Russia has long been negotiating to intensify its oil-for-goods barter deal with Tehran. Moscow can place its military deals with Tehran based on the oil-for-goods exchange program. This will provide Russian leaders with a leg up in Iran’s energy and financial market before the final nuclear is signed.
Iran would welcome any military deal that can further advance its regional hegemonic ambitions
As a framework for a final nuclear deal has been reached, and considering the prospects of the deal, several powers will sense the urge to immediately intensify their trades (including arms, goods, oil) with Iran. Before European countries tap into Iran’s market, Russia is attempting to secure its profits from its arms client (Iran), maintain its strategic alliance with it, reassert its military cooperation with Tehran, and enjoy a significant share in the country’s market. Russia’s Ministry of Defense stated that Moscow is ready to quickly strike an arms deal, worth approximately $800 million. In other words, the prospects of a nuclear deal have prompted a race for several countries to benefit from the easing of UNSC sanctions. A competition to secure trade with Iran has already been initiated. And Russia, a long-term strategic ally of the Islamic Republic would not desire to fall behind. As Andrei A. Klimov, the deputy chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Federation Council (Russia’s Senate), stated to the New York Times, “we need to think about the future of our trade partnership [with Iran]….We don’t want to wait for anybody else; it is a kind of competition, if you like.” Iran would welcome any military deal that can further advance its regional hegemonic ambitions. As Iran’s deputy defense minister, Reza Talaienik, responded immediately to Russia’s decision to lift the ban, by telling the Tasnim News Agency, “if Russia fulfills its commitment to deliver the S-300 missile system to Iran, it will be a step towards boosting the relations and collaborations between the two countries.” He added, “It will be a step forward…definitely helping to strengthen Iran’s ties and interactions with Russia.” In addition, as Tehran is considered a strategic ally of Moscow, bolstering Iran’s military power will also further advance Russia’s strategic and geopolitical objectives in the region. The heightened tensions between the Obama administration and President Putin pushed Moscow much closer to the Islamic Republic as well.
No Opposition from the West
Although some experts, policy analysts, and politicians might argue that Russia’s move would complicate the nuclear talks in the next two months, it is unlikely that any opposition from the Obama administration or Western allies would scuttle a final nuclear deal because of an Iran-Russia arms deal. The recent developments clearly reflect the fact that Iranian leaders will not moderate their objective for regional supremacy, or scale down their military rule in other regional countries. The easing of sanctions appears to be utilized by Iranian leaders to further invest in the country’s military and ratchet up Iran’s political, economic, and strategic influence in the Middle East. In closing, Russia and the Islamic Republic have utilized the international legitimacy, gained from the nuclear talks, in order to strengthen their arms, defense and strategic ties. This international legitimacy will not only bolster Iran’s military power, which would further destabilize the region and raise the security concerns of other regional state actors, but will also set a global race to increase trade with Iran, including in arms sale landscapes.

Iran finally admits to regional interference
Salman Aldossary/Al Arabiya
Friday, 17 Apr, 2015
On January 23, 2013 Yemen authorities seized the Jihan 1, an Iranian ship loaded with huge quantities of heavy and sophisticated weaponry, off the coast of Aden while en route from Iran. Following the incident, an official statement from the Ministry of Interior in Sana’a said that the weapons’ shipment was intended for the Houthis. The incident provided strong evidence for the involvement of the Iranian regime in supporting the Houthi rebel group both politically and militarily. This left no room for doubt among Yemenis from across the political spectrum about the truth of Iran’s involvement in their country.
After years of deception, plotting and denial, Iran has finally revealed the reality of its policy without prevaricating. It has admitted to having links to several “groups” rather than one group in the region. Not only this, Tehran also said that it can place pressures on those groups to achieve its aims. Iran said it was ready to use its influence on all groups in Yemen and the region to reach a peace deal. So, Iran has finally admitted, in the words of its Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, that it does have “influence” in the region and on “groups.” How can one understand the relationship between one state and the political parties and militias operating outside the framework of another state? After years of indirect dealings with its own clients, Iran now has clearly and frankly admitted to using proxies to extend its influence in the region, in flagrant breach of international laws in full view of the world.
What changed the Iranian stance, from denial to attempting to legitimize its illegal influence? It seems that Iran, following the defeat in Yemen, as well as opposition from a world that has united against its expansionist project, wants to play out in the open and send a message to regional countries that it is capable of reshuffling the cards and complicating the scene through its proxies. It may also be the case that Iran is yet to issue other messages through different means. This unprecedented, clear rhetoric, as well as its strenuous efforts to feed its hunger for power, indicate that the export of revolution has become the official policy of Iran and that Tehran is left with no option but to publicly reveal its cards and start bargaining with regional countries. Mr. Zarif’s confession about his country’s interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries is not a slip of the tongue as much as a new strategy to be carried out through its proxies in the entire region. Only a few weeks ago Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to the Iranian Supreme Guide, said: “Iran’s influence extends from Lebanon to Yemen,” a statement that was quickly dismissed by the government as unrepresentative of the regime. Zarif has admitted that his country is violating international laws. I am not sure where the US, a superpower, stands on this. The US Department of State’s spokesman said on Thursday that Iran is threatening the security and stability of regional countries.
Iran suffers from an ethnic crisis, deteriorating living standards, isolation, international economic sanctions, as well as facing regional rivalry. Iran is depleting its wealth by manufacturing weapons to support the militias it operates in several Arab states. Tehran’s blunt declaration of infiltrating the Arabian Peninsula is a serious escalation that indicates Iran’s violation of international laws.
Iran’s expansionist policy in the region has been destroyed by Operation Decisive Storm which in turn is on course to eradicate Iran’s agents and proxies in Yemen.

Has Obama made agreement with Iran more difficult?
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat
Friday, 17 Apr, 2015
Next Wednesday, Iran and the P5+1 group of nations resume talks in the hope of reaching an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue before the June 30 deadline.
The hype fomented over the “historic accord” in Lausanne may have made it harder to negotiate an agreement. One reason is that the issue has now become a theme of domestic politics both in Iran and the US.
In the US, Obama’s opponents are sure to do all they can to prevent him from cooking up a “diplomatic victory” to burnish his dismal legacy.
In Iran, radical Khomeinists will intensify efforts to prevent the Rafsanjani faction, which Rouhani and his entourage are a part of, from using “the greatest diplomatic victory in Islamic history” as a springboard for winning next year’s elections for the Islamic Majlis and the Assembly of Experts and, eventually, showing Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei the door.
In the meantime, the Iranian nuclear issue continues to cast a shadow over peace and security in a turbulent Middle East.
Even if Iran does not mean to build a bomb, the fact that it is building the capacity to do so is enough to destabilize an already shaky balance of power, trigger a nuclear arms race, and encourage dangerous miscalculations on all sides.
The bad news is that the P5+1 talks have transmuted into bilateral negotiations between Tehran and Washington.
Obama’s zeal to make a deal—any deal—may have rendered an agreement more difficult, if not impossible. His confusion and weakness have convinced the mullahs that with every new round, they can blur the baseline in their favor.
The saga started with the demand that Iran comply with six resolutions of the United Nations’ Security Council, especially Resolution 1929, that puts in place precise conditions for the lifting of sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.
Under Obama’s guidance, that baseline was blurred into a demand that Iran modify minor aspects of its nuclear program. When Iran rejected even that, Obama changed the baseline again by accepting Iran as a “threshold” nuclear power, only demanding that it stay one year away from making a bomb for a period of 10 years.
Now Iran says that even that baseline is not acceptable.
The best option may be to return to the original baseline, that is to say the UN resolutions which, unlike what Kerry is trying to spin, are precise in content and from.
That baseline has several advantages.
First, it would stop the issue from becoming a football in Iranian and US domestic politics. It would also end the Iranian illusion that they are dealing with a pushover like Obama who is prepared to sacrifice US national interests in pursuit of personal grandeur.
The de-Americanization of the issue would also deprive Khomeinists from taking risks with Iran’s national security in the hope of thumbing their nose at the “Great Satan.”
A nuclear-armed Islamic Republic under a sinister regime with millenarian illusions is not just a problem for America, it is a danger for regional and world peace.
This does not mean that the US should be excluded from diplomatic efforts.
An ad hoc contraption with no clear mandate from anybody, the P5+1 group has no legal existence, no clearly established leadership, and no precise authority to report to.
This could be corrected by demanding the Security Council pass a new resolution appointing the P5+1, or a variation thereof, to a precise mission to negotiate over Iran’s compliance with the UN resolutions.
Of course, if Obama wishes to pursue his dream of charming the mullahs out of their turbans he could do so by initiating a separate set of talks focusing on bilateral issues of which there are plenty.
The original UN baseline, effaced by Obama, had several promising features. It included an Iranian accord to freeze its program pending a comprehensive plan to enable Iran to build a nuclear industry for peaceful purposes.
Iran, however, suddenly decided to reject the freeze in the hope of getting something better from Obama.
Back to the original baseline, the new negotiating team, which would include the US, could start by demanding that the freeze be reinstated.
The original baseline also included legal and constitutional measures committing Iran not to build nuclear weapons. There were precedents with several countries, notably Germany, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Kazakhstan using legal and constitutional systems to forswear nuclear weapons.
In 2008, Iran had indicated it was prepared to consider similar measures. When Obama seized leadership of the P5+1 talks, Iran wiggled its way out of that suggestion.
Instead, it claimed that Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei had issued a fatwa forbidding nuclear weapons. An excitable Obama seized upon this fatwa as a ray of hope, enabling Iran to backtrack on promises of legal measures.
In the end, however, neither Obama nor anyone else saw the non-existent fatwa.
By returning to the pre-Obama baseline, talks could focus on constitutional measures promised by Iran.
Back to the pre-Obama baseline, the UN would demand that Iran honor its promise of adopting the additional protocols of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The UN would also be able to renew its offer of linking Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity to its needs.
The “need-oriented” formula means that if and when Iran builds a nuclear power station it would be allowed to domestically produce the fuel required. (Right now, Iran has no nuclear power station that requires domestic fuel production. The fuel for its only plant in Helliyeh, built by the Russians, is supplied by Russia for its lifespan of 37 years.)
Under Obama, talks have focused on how much uranium Iran could enrich—uranium which it does not require. It is like demanding that a bald man be allowed no more than a dozen combs, a luxury which, by default, he does not need.
The Obama method has caused confusion and delayed a solution. It has persuaded the mullahs that the cost-benefit calculation is in their favor. The best thing Obama can do is to try, at least, to do no more harm.

Arab world: Egypt’s dangerous stalemate
By ZVI MAZEL /04/17/2015/J.Post
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is fighting for his country’s survival – and his own.
Islamic terrorism is not abating, hampering vital efforts to bring a better life to the people through a revitalized economy and political stability. Sisi knows he has to show results soon to prevent Egypt from slipping back into anarchy and chaos.
Despite the army’s all-out effort to defeat Islamist insurgency in Sinai, there is no end in sight. F-16 fighter planes and Apache helicopters have joined the campaign, security forces have killed or wounded hundreds of terrorists, destroying their haunts and their training groups – but more keep coming.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis gunmen, who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, continue making daring raids against police stations and other security targets, leading to loss of life and heavy damage.
In one instance on April 14, the commander of the central police station of El-Arish was wounded in a raid; the assailants were able to escape.
For all intents and purposes the situation has reached a stalemate, though the army has managed to contain the terrorists in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, preventing them from extending their activities to the south and to the Suez Canal – where they could have inflicted untold damage to economic and security infrastructure, and severely undermined public morale.
However, there are still sporadic terrorist attacks in Cairo and other parts of the country.
Bombs explode, killing and maiming; power lines are blasted. A number of terrorist groups are involved, from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the so-called Soldiers of Egypt to the ever-present Muslim Brotherhood; many of their members have been arrested, their leaders sentenced to death – though no one has been executed yet – but they keep on demonstrating against the regime (though in diminishing numbers).
In Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi tribes are poised to take over the strategic Red Sea straits, threatening free passage to the Suez Canal – a reminder, if one was needed, of the fact that Islamic terrorism knows no border.
Vainly did the Egyptian president try to convince the US-led coalition against Islamic State to extend its activities to the whole Middle East. But US President Barack Obama is unwilling to acknowledge that there is a regional and international dimension to the movement.
The fact remains that Islamic State dispatches terrorists and weapons to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in the Sinai Peninsula from Libya, where there is an unlimited supply of both. No matter how many guerrillas are intercepted or killed by the Egyptian army, more are coming through the vast mountainous and desert region, along the 1,200-km.
border between the two countries.
Then there is Gaza, where terrorists can find refuge, regroup and train, and where new weapons can be tested.
Cairo is desperately trying to cut off the peninsula from the Strip. The Rafah crossing is closed most of the time, and when it opens it is under the strict supervision of Egyptian authorities. More than 2,000 contraband tunnels have been destroyed and a 1-km.-deep sanitized zone has been installed; thousands of families have been uprooted.
They have been compensated but resentment is high, and the move has prompted widespread condemnation by human rights associations.
Against this backdrop, the regime is weighing extending the zone to 5 km. and making the digging of contraband tunnels punishable by life imprisonment. A court in Cairo has forbidden Hamas activities in Egypt, and another has declared Hamas a terrorist organization; however, the central government is appealing that decision for the sake of its ongoing dialogue with Gaza’s leaders on the Palestinian issue.
The Iranian-Houthi threat has led Sisi to call for the creation of a rapid-response Arab unit, as Saudi Arabia has rallied neighboring states to form a coalition against the rebels in Yemen – who are threatening its border in the south, and were about to take control of the strategic port of Aden.
Though the creation of a united Arab unit was decided at a summit in Sharm e-Sheikh last month, implementation will not be easy. A number of states such as Lebanon and Iraq have warned they would not allow any infringement to their sovereignty; some Gulf states and Jordan have been more forthcoming, and meetings between army commanders are scheduled.
The problem is that these countries are not keen to risk their troops in a ground operation in neighboring states. Armies are the traditional bulwark of Arab regimes; a failed intervention outside their borders could cause their downfall. Nevertheless, since the West is largely indifferent to what is happening, Sisi and his Gulf allies have no choice but to unite against the common threat of Islamic terrorism, be it Sunni or Shi’ite.
On the home front, Sisi has launched a series of impressive projects – a new canal parallel to the old one to enable simultaneous crossing in both directions, thereby doubling receipts; an industrial, commercial and tourist zone between the two canals; 3,000 km.
of modern roads. Perhaps his most ambitious project is the creation of a new administrative capital city east of Cairo, at an estimated cost of $45 billion. Arab states have rallied to his side, pledging billions of dollars at a special economic summit last month; international groups have indicated their interest in some of the projects – a significant victory for the embattled president.
But Egypt’s endemic problems – population explosion, illiteracy leading to widespread unemployment and enduring poverty, as well as corruption on an epic scale – are not making Sisi’s task easier.
He is also calling to reform Islam by purging it of its extremist discourse, and has already instructed the Education Ministry to eliminate extremist content such as the call to jihad and attacks on other religions.
Meanwhile, the political situation is still unclear and elections are repeatedly postponed, allegedly because of ambiguities in the election law.
The fact is that the president has not been able to secure a large enough block to ensure his electoral victory, while the Muslim Brotherhood – though banned – and other Islamic parties can still muster a sizable vote.
Can Sisi win all his battles? How long will the Egyptian people wait for some much-needed economic results? Egypt is going it alone, still waiting for the West to understand that Cairo remains its best ally against the rising tide of terrorism now lapping at its shores.

Opportunity for Yemen
The Daily Star/Apr. 17, 2015
Nearly a month into the coalition air campaign in Yemen, a glimmer of hope has appeared with the passing of a U.N. Security Council resolution that demands a withdrawal by rebel groups and imposes an arms embargo on the insurgents. It has also been noteworthy to see several “peace initiatives” emerge of late, put forward by Iran, Russia and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied with the Houthi rebels fighting the Yemeni government. It would be encouraging to see such initiatives, based on items such as respecting a cease-fire, forming a unity government, and possibly holding talks in Saudi Arabia – if it weren’t for the fact that the same proposals have been around for several years. The U.N. envoy to Yemen announced Thursday that he was stepping down from his post after failing to bring rival sides together during the many previous rounds of diplomacy and negotiations. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states openly backed such negotiated solutions to the crisis, but the Houthis and Saleh misread the situation and believed the international community was busy with a host of crises and conflicts – they thought the world would look the other way and allow “the strongest” parties to win out by using violence against their rivals. The proponents of the various initiatives can spare Yemen a tremendous amount of hardship if they merely adhere to the Security Council resolution instead of trying to launch a completely new process whose success isn’t guaranteed. The Yemeni people and their country’s future are paying the price for the rebels’ earlier failure to read the situation correctly, and they can hardly tolerate seeing the same mistake made once again.

Assad says Turkish support 'main factor' in Idlib takeover
Reuters/Apr. 17, 2015
BEIRUT: Syrian President Bashar Assad has said Turkish support was the main factor that helped insurgents to seize the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib from his government's control last month.
Idlib, a short drive from the Turkish border, is only the second provincial capital to fall to insurgents in the four-year-old civil war. It was captured by an alliance of Islamist groups including Al-Qaeda's Syrian arm, the Nusra Front.
"Any war weakens any army, not matter how strong, no matter how modern," Assad said in an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen, published Friday.
In the fall of Idlib, "the main factor was the huge support that came through Turkey; logistic support, and military support, and of course financial support that came through Saudi Arabia and Qatar."
A Turkish government spokesman denied the claim. Turkey is one of the states most hostile to Assad.
The Syrian conflict is estimated to have killed around 220,000 people. Assad has lost control over much of the north and east while trying to shore up his control over the main population centers in the west, with the help of allies including Iran and Hezbollah.
Idlib has been targeted by heavy Syrian army airstrikes since it fell to the insurgents. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were at least 54 strikes Friday.
The activist group said these included 17 barrel bombs, packed with explosives and shrapnel and dropped from helicopters. Government officials could not be reached for comment.
The Observatory said government forces had killed two leading Al-Qaeda figures, both Gulf Arabs, south of Idlib city.
Starting next month, the U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura is planning to consult Syrian protagonists and interested states on a new round of peace talks. Past attempts have failed to make progress.
Asked about the initiative, Assad said the Syrian crisis had been complicated by external intervention.
Referring to states that are hostile to him, including Turkey, he said de Mistura was aware that if "he couldn't convince these countries to stop supporting the terrorists and let the Syrians solve their problem, he will not succeed."
The United States wants to see Assad gone from power and has rejected the idea of allying with him against ISIS, which has taken over large parts of Syria. In a series of interviews with Western media, he has repeatedly pressed his case that the jihadist groups in Syria pose a threat to Western states. "Syria is a fault line," Assad said. "When you mess with this fault line you will have the echoes and repercussions in different areas, not only in our area, even in Europe."

U.N. Chief Calls for Immediate Yemen Ceasefire
Naharnet/U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen and begun the hunt for a new peace envoy to the war-torn country, where Al-Qaida is expanding its territory. Ban's plea follows more than three weeks of air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition aimed at driving back Iran-backed rebels whose sweeping advance forced President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to Riyadh. Yemen "is in flames," Ban told the press in Washington on Thursday. "I am calling for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen by all parties."
His remarks followed the resignation of his envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, a Moroccan-born career diplomat who lost the confidence of Saudi Arabia and its allies. They accused him of being duped by the rebels. Saudi Arabia's regional rival, Iran, renewed its calls for dialogue on Friday and said its foreign minister had spoken to the U.N. chief overnight. Ban said he was in the process of finding a new envoy "who can be immediately deployed" to seek a political solution."The Saudis have assured me that they understand there must be a political process," he said. "I call on all Yemenis to participate, and in good faith."
Benomar had been instrumental in negotiating a deal that eased president Ali Abdullah Saleh from office in February 2012 after a year of bloody protests against his three-decade rule.Renegade army units loyal to Saleh allied with the Huthi rebels, providing vital support as they advanced out of their bastion in the northern mountains near the Saudi border into mainly Sunni areas.
On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the Huthi rebels and demanded they give up seized territory.The Yemen conflict has sent tensions soaring between Saudi Arabia and Iran -- the foremost Sunni and Shiite Muslim powers in the Middle East.
Tehran is a key ally of the Huthis but vehemently denies arming them.Yemen has sunk further into chaos since the start of the air raids the majority of which, according to Western diplomats, have been carried out by Saudi Arabia itself.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite who has offered a rare voice of opposition to the campaign among Arab leaders, called Thursday for a political solution to quickly end the conflict. "We are on the same boat in the region. If anybody makes a hole in that boat, we all will sink," he said, speaking at a Washington think-tank. "In our own belief we think an end to this war of Yemen must be very soon and the only way forward is a political solution by Yemenis themselves." Yemen is a front line in the U.S. war on Al-Qaida, which has exploited the growing turmoil to expand its control of areas in the southeast of the deeply tribal Arabian Peninsula country. For years, Yemen was a key U.S. ally in the fight against Al-Qaida, allowing Washington to carry out drone attacks on its territory. But the government's collapse forced the United States to close its embassy and withdraw special operations forces from Al-Anad air base from where they had been helping Yemen battle the jihadists.
Washington has vowed that it will carry on its campaign regardless and two suspected Al-Qaida militants were killed in an apparent U.S. drone strike in Shabwa province in the south overnight, a tribal source said.
Saudi-led air strikes meanwhile killed at least 20 rebels and destroyed two tanks and four armored vehicles in a convoy headed out of Al-Anad, a provincial official said. In the central city of Taez, at least 16 people were killed as pro-Hadi soldiers put up fierce resistance to a rebel attack on their camp.
Three civilians were among the dead when a stray shell hit their home, a military source and residents said. The World Health Organization says at least 736 people died in the conflict up to April 12 and more than 2,700 were wounded. The majority have been civilians. The United Nations launched an urgent appeal for $274 million (253 million euros) to provide emergency assistance for what was already the region's poorest country. "Ordinary families are struggling to access health care, water, food and fuel -- basic requirements for their survival," U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Johannes Van Der Klaauw said.
Agence France Presse