LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS
Bible Quotation For Today/ I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Luke 24/44-49: "Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Bible Quotation For Today/For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly
First Letter of Peter 02/18-25: "Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April
Why the Iran Deal Will Trigger a Nuclear Arms Race/John Bolton/The Pittsburgh Tribune Review/April 19-20/15
Iran’s outdated political ideals/Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi/Al Arabiya/April 19/15
The Middle East shows no signs of recovering soon/David Ignatius/The Daily Star/April 19/15
What challenges face the U.N. resolution on Yemen/Raghida Dergham/April 19/15
Saudi Arabia: accountability is the new buzzword/Khaled Almaeena/ April 19-20/15
Netanyahu's political persuasion/Yuval Karni/Ynetnews/April 19-20/15
Lebanese Related News published on April 19-20/15
Report: Rioters at Roumieh Prison Demanding to Return to Notorious Block B
Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji Hails Saudi Arabia's Staunch Support to Lebanon
Report: Authorities Investigating Links between Hizbullah Member, Flow of Illicit Money
Al-Rahi Reiterates Calls on MPs to End Prolonged Presidential Vacuum
Geagea Slams Parties Paralyzing State, Destabilizing Arab Countries
Qaouq: Saudi Money Can Buy Nations and Presidents but Not Hizbullah Silence
Jumblat Lashes Out at Nasrallah, Says Strongly Worded Speech to Harm Lebanon
Lebanese man killed in 'execution-style' murder in Australia
Jumblatt backs Saudi military action: ‘What’s with Nasrallah?
Bassil: Betting on foreign powers could ruin Lebanon
Fugitive escapes Army raid in east Lebanon
Airport passenger traffic rises by 10 percent
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 19-20/15
Israel gets a resounding slap in the face from Putin
Israel benefiting from Saudi‘dirty’ war on Houthi rebels,senior Iranian politician says
New ISIS video purportedly shows shooting, beheading of 28 Ethiopian Christians
UK archbishop Justin Welby on Egypt ‘visit of condolence’
Watch: Iran holds annual Army Day parade
Iran slams 'myth' of nukes as Revolutionary Guard rejects deal
Iran leader urges military to increase 'preparedness'
Iran, Afghanistan announce security cooperation against ISIS
Iran Guard rejects inspection of military sites
Putin warns Israel not to sell Ukraine arms in response to Iran arms deal
Blast targets UN office in Gaza Strip
Can Hillary secure US Jewish vote?
Israel PM to request extra time for forming govt
Palestinian court drops case against ex-Fatah strongman Dahlan
Egypt's Morsi faces possible death penalty
Arab army chiefs to meet on joint military force
Yemeni troops along Saudi border side with President Hadi
Yemen militia says it is besieging rebels at strategic base
Yemeni army units seize control of Houthi posts
Saudi defense minister, Pentagon chief discuss Yemen cooperation
Clashes, Saudi-led air strikes kill 44 in Yemen
More than 90,000 people fleeing Iraq's Anbar
Up to 700 feared dead after migrant boat sinks off Libya: UNHCR
Pope urges world action to stop more migrant disasters
Hollande says EU 'must act' after migrant boat tragedy
Jordan hosts international competition of anti-terror squads
U.N. envoy reveals extent of latest Libya violence
Jihad Watch Latest
Islamic State drives Christians from ruins of Nineveh
Pakistan: Muslim husband murders wife for visiting her sister without permission
Muslim rapper’s threat video features Qur’an verses such as “kill the polytheists wherever you find them”
Islamic State: “You will not have safety even in your dreams, until you accept Islam”
Bangladesh: Muslim mob attacks Christians, stabs priest during Easter Mass
Pakistan: Muslims on motorcycles open fire on Christian school
UK releases without charge 6 UK Muslims arrested at Turkey/Syria border
Islamic State in Libya murders Ethiopian Christians
Al-Rahi Reiterates Calls on MPs to End Prolonged
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi reiterated calls on Sunday on lawmakers to attend parliament sessions and elect a new head of state. “The people are suffering on all levels” due to the ongoing vacuum at the Baabda Palace, al-Rahi said during his Sunday sermon at Bkirki. He urged MPs to carry out their duties towards the Lebanese people. “The Lebanese people, who according to the Constitution is the source of all power carried out at state institutions, tasked you with these duties,” al-Rahi continued. Al-Rahi said that after “11-month vacuum at the presidential post, it is time for the parliament to carry out its most important and basic duty.”Vacuum striking the presidential post is having a tough impact on the cabinet and the parliament as the state is threatened with further crises over ongoing rows between the political arch-foes. MPs failed on several occasions to elect a new head of state over lack of quorum. President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May without the election of a successor. Hizbullah and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform bloc have been boycotting electoral sessions due to a disagreement with the March 14 camp over a compromise presidential candidate.
Report: Authorities Investigating Links between Hizbullah Member, Flow of Illicit Money
Naharnet /Lebanese authorities are reportedly investigating claims that a prominent member of Hizbullah is involved in transferring money from Lebanon to military groups affiliated with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen and other organizations. According to the Kuwaiti al-Seyassah published on Sunday, security sources are probing reports saying that M.A.S, who is also known as Abou Jaafar, is linked to carrying out Hizbullah's financial transactions to foreign groups. Security sources said that investigations are focusing on the financial activity of the prominent Hizbullah member. In March, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh downplayed Washington's concerns on the possibility of involving Lebanese banks in money laundering operations to finance terrorism, in particular the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji Hails Saudi Arabia's Staunch Support to Lebanon
Naharnet/Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji hailed on Sunday the efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia to safeguard Lebanon, stressing that the “time is not right to reply to the insults” made by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah against Riyadh and the Gulf states. “On behalf of myself and the Lebanese people I would like to thank the kingdom” for its grants to the Lebanese army,” Qahwaji said in comments published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat. “The aid will develop the capabilities of the Lebanese army and increase its readiness to combat terrorism and defend its border... which will improve the situation,” Qahwaji stressed. He confirmed that French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will deliver on Monday the first batch of arms to the Lebanese army under a Saudi financed deal. 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. Asked about Nasrallah's recent campaign against Saudi Arabia over its offensive against Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, Qahwaji refused to comment. “The time is not currently right to respond to the insults issued by Nasrallah against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries,” the military commander said. In a televised speech on Friday, Nasrallah launched his harshest criticism yet of Saudi Arabia, blaming the kingdom for the spread of extremist ideology in the Muslim world and the killing of civilians in Yemen. He told hundreds of supporters at a rally in Beirut southern suburbs organized in support of Huthis that Saudi-led airstrikes targeting them have not led to victory.
Since March 26, the Saudi-led coalition has been pounding the rebels and allied fighters loyal to Yemen's ousted President Saleh. Nasrallah said that the kingdom will soon realize that "the only choice left" is a ground operation in Yemen — a "ground invasion will be costly and will end with a defeat." Both the Huthis and Hizbullah are backed by Iran. Nasrallah called on the Muslim world to pressure the Saudis to end the airstrikes and work for a political solution in Yemen. However, he said no solution will restore Western-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi who fled the country as his government crumbled. Saudi officials and the international community say Hadi is the legitimate president of Yemen. "Time has come for Muslims, Arabs and the Muslim world to tell the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: 'Enough,'" said Nasrallah. The army issued a communique later on Sunday stressing that Qahwaji didn't tackle in his comments to Asharq al-Awsat daily any political affair, whether local or regional. “Qahwaji only made remarks about the Saudi grant for the Lebanese army and the French weapons,” the statement added.
Geagea Slams Parties Paralyzing State, Destabilizing Arab Countries
Naharnet./Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea lashed out at parties that consider Lebanon part of a broader empire thus prolonging the presidential vacuum because it serves its strategic goals. “The sides are not only paralyzing the Lebanese Republic, but also destabilizing the Arab and regional security by creating armed groups,” Geagea said. MPs failed on several occasions to elect a new head of state over lack of quorum. President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May without the election of a successor. Hizbullah and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform bloc have been boycotting electoral sessions due to a disagreement with the March 14 camp over a compromise presidential candidate. Geagea warned of attempts to undermine the stability, security and sovereignty of certain Arab countries. The Christian leader's statement apparently targets Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who has been locked in a war of words with Saudi Arabia. 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. The LF chief didn't name the sides he is targeting with his statement, however, he stressed his full support to the establishment of a joint military force that would be capable of defending the “righteous Arab causes and combating terrorism.” The agreement at an Arab summit in March to establish a joint military force has raised serious doubts about prospects of such a force becoming a reality on the ground. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the accord at the end of the summit he hosted in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, setting a four-month timeframe for the 22-member Arab League to decide on the composition and rules of engagement of the joint force.
Qaouq: Saudi Money Can Buy Nations and Presidents but Not Hizbullah Silence
Naharnet/Hizbullah lashed out anew at Saudi Arabia on Sunday over its Arab-backed airstrikes against Yemen's Huthi rebels. “Those who are waging an aggression against Yemen today have also mistaken their calculations and approach towards Hizbullah,” said Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, the deputy head of Hizbullah's Executive Council. “They were betting on our silence and on neutralizing us, but they failed to realize that we do not fear threats and that we cannot be sold or bought,” Qaouq added. He noted that “Saudi money” can buy “countries, the U.N. Security Council, presidents, princes and ministers” but “cannot purchase Hizbullah's silence.”Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and other party officials have been locked in a war of words with Saudi Arabia over the military operation in Yemen. The tensions flared up after Riyadh began airstrikes against Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels. The air campaign, launched in late March, is aimed at defeating the rebels and restoring power to President Abderabbo Mansour Hadi. “Saudi Arabia can threaten figures, dignitaries, scholars and Arab countries, but it cannot threaten the resistance,” Qaouq went on to say. “Their problem with us is that we cannot be bought or sold and we do not fear intimidation. It also lies in the growing role, status and influence of Hizbullah in the region's equations,” he added. “Another problem with us is that what they fear the most in the Arab world are the words, speeches and surprises of the Sayyed of the resistance -- Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah,” Qaouq noted.
Report: Rioters at Roumieh Prison Demanding to Return to Notorious Block B
Naharnet/Islamist inmates at Roumieh prison, who staged a riot two days ago at the facility's block D, were demanding to return to the notorious block B, An Nahar newspaper reported on Sunday. The daily said that the Internal Security Forces reestablished full control of Roumieh's block D over two phases. Interior Ministry sources told the daily that in the first stage ISF special panthers unit and anti-riot unit members, backed by the Lebanese army, deployed heavily near the facility. At the second stage negotiations with the offenders kicked off to discuss their demands. According to the sources, the inmates demanded to return to the facility's block B, which is currently under renovation. “The renovation work at block B ends in two weeks... the inmates have been temporarily transferred to block D,” the sources said. On Friday, the inmates took several guards hostage, including two medical officers, starting a riot at the facility. In January, security forces took full control of the prison's block B after storming the overcrowded facility and seizing illegal items from Islamist prisoners. Prisoners were all transferred to block D, which has been renovated and has better security. There were around 190 Fatah al-Islam prisoners at the notorious prison's block B, which was known as a virtual no-go zone for security forces, where prisoners had access to laptops, phones and money. The spokesman of the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Sheikh Sirajeddin Zureikat, hailed the Roumieh riot over Twitter. “The riot is a blessed gift from the Sunni prisoners who are suffering from the oppression of the Lebanese system that takes its orders from Iran's party,” he said in a tweet. He made his remark in reference to the Iranian-backed Hizbullah. Zureikat condemned the alleged discrimination against Sunnis in Lebanon, saying: “The slighted suspicion against a Sunni youth is enough to land him in jail without trial.”Roumieh, the oldest and largest of Lebanon's overcrowded prisons, has witnessed sporadic prison breaks in recent years and escalating riots in recent years as inmates living in poor conditions demand better treatment.
France Provides First Weapons to Lebanon for Islamic State Fight
Naharnet/19 April/15/The first French weapons from a $3 billion Saudi-funded program will arrive in Lebanon on Monday as allies seek to bolster the country's defenses against the Islamic State group and other jihadists pressing along its Syrian border.
Anti-tank guided missiles are set to arrive at an air force base in Beirut, overseen by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Lebanese counterpart, Samir Moqbel. France is expected to deliver 250 combat and transport vehicles, seven Cougar helicopters, three small corvette warships and a range of surveillance and communications equipment over four years as part of the $3 billion (2.8 billion-euro) modernization program. It is being entirely funded by Saudi Arabia, which is keen to see Lebanon's army defend its borders against jihadist groups, particularly the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked Al-Nusra, instead of leaving the job to Hizbullah, who are backed by its regional rival, Iran. The contract also promises seven years of training for the 70,000-strong Lebanese army and 10 years of equipment maintenance. "This project is to help us re-establish a Lebanese army capable of responding to new security realities," said a French defense official. Since the conflict in neighboring Syria broke out in 2011, Lebanon has faced mounting spill-over threats, first from the millions of refugees pouring across the border and increasingly from jihadists. "There are an estimated 3,000 armed militants based on our border, waiting for the moment to penetrate into the Bekaa valley," said Hisham Jaber, a former general now at the Middle East Center for the Study of Public Relations in Beirut."They haven't come for tourism or to go skiing."
- 'Good fortune' -
Former colonial power France is actually a late-comer to the conflict, with almost all Lebanon's international support coming from the United States and Britain in recent years. France only won the contract to supply the Lebanese army, argued analyst Aram Nerguizian, because Saudi Arabia had been frustrated by U.S. and British refusal to attack the Syrian regime in 2013. "It was good fortune for the French, but they have a lot to prove. The momentum of the U.S. and UK defense programs in Lebanon is far more consolidated," said Nerguizian, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. The challenge has been to find French military equipment that Lebanon actually needs, he said, and to ensure it can be integrated with their existing weapon systems. Nerguizian said Lebanon had turned down France's Gazelle attack helicopter, Leclerc tank and larger warships, either because they were too expensive to maintain or not suited to the combat environment. Instead, the focus is likely to be on radar capabilities, and command-and-control systems, which the Lebanese army currently lack, as well as transport aircraft. "We urgently need helicopters. We are currently trying to transport elite units by truck," said Jaber. The Cougar helicopters and corvette warships must first be built, and the first are not expected for at least 30 months.
- 'Night and day' -
A key problem has been France's unexplained reluctance to discuss the details of its modernization program with the U.S. and Britain, said Nerguizian. "They have perplexed their UK and U.S. partners by not being clear about what is on the list," he said. "They need to be complementary or it becomes a problem."Washington has provided around three-quarters of Lebanon's foreign military aid over the past decade -– some $700 million -– as well as Special Forces teams to train its elite units, according to IHS Jane's, a London-based think tank. Britain has provided training facilities as well as watch towers and forward operating bases along the border with Syria. This has led to a dramatic improvement in the Lebanese army's capabilities, said Nerguizian. "Compared with just three years ago, it's like night and day. They have gone from a constabulary police force to being the only military in the world that is defending its frontiers against ISIS," he said. But working with Lebanon is never simple. The sharp divisions between its religious and ethnic communities have been deepened by conflicting views on the Syrian war. Hizbullah, which is a powerful political force in Lebanon, sent its fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad, but many Lebanese still deeply resent the Assad regime which effectively colonized the country up to 2005. Meanwhile, Israel remains concerned about any military assistance that might bolster a regional rival or fall into the hands of Hizbullah, which fought a short and brutal war against Israel as recently as 2006. "The Lebanese army is already well-infiltrated by Hizbullah," said an Israeli official on condition of anonymity. "But we understand the necessity of reinforcing the capacity of the Lebanese army. Agence France Presse
Jumblat Lashes Out at Nasrallah, Says Strongly Worded Speech to Harm Lebanon
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat slammed on Sunday criticism by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah against Saudi Arabia, wondering what compelled him to deliver a tensed speech over the offensive in Yemen. “The strongly worded rhetoric by Nasrallah doesn't benefit anyone,” Jumblat said in comments published in al-Mustaqbal newspaper. He called for calm and the adoption of the Gulf Initiative that Saudi King Salman is holding onto as an only solution for the conflict in Yemen.
The Gulf Cooperation Council nations, sponsors of the Gulf initiative that provides a road map for a peaceful transition of power in Yemen, which have been rebuffed by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. “Yemen's security is part of the national security of Saudi Arabia and the Firmness Storm is a legitimate right for self-defense,” Jumblat said. “We back the offensive,” the Druze leader stressed. Jumblat pointed out that the Iranian support to Iraq... and Syria destroyed the two countries,” wondering if the purpose of Tehran's support to the Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen aims at repeating the same scenario.”The PSP leader questioned Nasrallah's intentions behind his tense speech against Saudi Arabia, wondering “if he took into consideration the massive repercussions of his statements on around 1.5 million Lebanese expats in Riyadh.” Jumblat also cited the kingdoms “generous” grants to Lebanon and the reaction of Hizbullah supporters to the criticism of the party's general secretary. “The king and his wise administration are wise and will not fall in Nasrallah's trap,” he noted, considering that Hizbullah and Iran were shocked by Saudi Arabia's reaction to the criticism. “Nasrallah cannot authorize to himself actions that he forbids others from carrying out.”In a televised speech on Friday, Nasrallah launched his harshest criticism yet of Saudi Arabia, blaming the kingdom for the spread of extremist ideology in the Muslim world and the killing of civilians in Yemen. He told hundreds of supporters at a rally in Beirut southern suburbs organized in support of Huthis that Saudi-led airstrikes targeting them have not led to victory. Since March 26, the Saudi-led coalition has been pounding the rebels and allied fighters loyal to Yemen's ousted President Saleh. Nasrallah said that the kingdom will soon realize that "the only choice left" is a ground operation in Yemen — a "ground invasion will be costly and will end with a defeat." Both the Huthis and Hizbullah are backed by Iran. Nasrallah called on the Muslim world to pressure the Saudis to end the airstrikes and work for a political solution in Yemen. However, he said no solution will restore Western-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi who fled the country as his government crumbled. Saudi officials and the international community say Hadi is the legitimate president of Yemen. "Time has come for Muslims, Arabs and the Muslim world to tell the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: 'Enough,'" said Nasrallah.
killed in 'execution-style' murder in Australia
The Daily Star/Apr. 19, 2015 /BEIRUT: A Lebanese father of six was killed in an "execution-style" shooting in the Australian city of Melbourne overnight, Lebanese state media reported. The National News Agency said that Khaled Yehya Abu Hasna, from the northern district of Akkar, was shot dead when he was heading back to his home around 2 a.m. in Melbourne. Meanwhile, The Age, an Australian newspaper based in the southeastern city, reported that a “father of six from Middle Eastern descent” was shot dead at 1.50 a.m. in the town of Altona Meadows. The 39-year-old man was inside his car in the driveway of his mother’s house when the murder happened, the report said. The mayor of Meshmesh, from which Abou Hasna hailed, confirmed in a phone call with The Daily Star that Abou Hasna had 6 children from two wives. He said the victim had been living in Australia since birth and only came on occasional visits to Lebanon. “His father took a plane to Australia last night after receiving the news,” Mayor Abdel-Rahman Ali al-Hajj said. Local police, who have yet to publish the man’s identity, described the shooting as “execution style killing” and "targeted attack,” The Age said. They said the man was shot “multiple times.” Although no eyewitnesses were at the scene at the time of the shooting, neighbors heard screeching tires as the getaway car sped away, Homicide Detective Sergeant Sol Solomon said. "At this stage, we have no suspects we've identified and the investigation will continue on throughout the day," he told The Age.
Bassil: Betting on foreign powers could ruin Lebanon
The Daily StarApr. 19, 2015/BEIRUT: Lebanon could plunge in chaos if political powers in Lebanon bet on competing foreign powers and bring regional conflicts into the country, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Sunday. “We can aspire as Lebanese, to play roles that are bigger than Lebanon in terms of final mission,” Bassil said. “But we do not have the right to bid on [foreign] powers and attract conflicts that are greater than Lebanon and which Lebanon cannot handle.”Speaking in Akkar as part of his tour on the northern Lebanese district, Bassil said any such attempts to import regional conflicts would spread chaos and ruin Lebanon. “If a group, party or sect still wants to try this after the failure of all past experiences, we would be subjecting our people and our country to an existential threat,” he said.
The Free Patriotic Movement official, speaking to a crowd of locals, said Christians in Lebanon have important role in connecting the world to all of Lebanon's religious communities. However, he highlighted the current threats posed by Islamic fundamentalism, which reduces Christian priorities to survival and security. “The human in our region is demanding the right to survive and to live free, even before talking about freedom of speech, belief or thought,” he added. “This is an indication that we are at a sensitive moment, in a wicked situation.” The minister, who is the the son-in law of FPM chief Michel Aoun, also emphasized on the need to elect a “genuine president.”“How can Lebanon be genuine without a genuine president?” he asked, in reference to Aoun, March 8’s official presidential candidate. “The people need a president today more than ever.”Lebanon has been without president for since May 25 2014, when former President Michel Sleiman left office at the end of his term.
backs Saudi military action: ‘What’s with Nasrallah?
The Daily Star/Apr. 19, 2015 /BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt criticized the “declamatory” remarks by Hezbollah’s chief Hasan Nasrallah against Saudi Arabia and reiterated his support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. “The declamatory tone of Sayyed Nasrallah is not beneficial,” Jumblatt said in comments published by Al-Mustaqbal newspaper Sunday. “We should rather return to calm and to the GCC initiative that King Salman bin Abdulaziz is insisting on as a political solution framework in Yemen. The PSP leader said both Iran and Hezbollah were shocked by the Saudi decision to launch the military campaign against the Houthis, which explained the reaction against it. “What’s with Nasrallah?” Jumblatt wondered, highlighting the possible negative consequences of Nasrallah’s speech. “Where does Sayyed Nasrallah wish to take Lebanon and the Lebanese through his tense speeches against Saudi Arabia?” Jumblatt asked. “Has he taken into consideration the consequences of his words for the lives of around 500,000 [Lebanese] in Saudi Arabia?” The Druze leader, who had announced support for the Saudi-led ‘decisive storm’ military action, expressed his suspicion over Hezbollah’s verbal attacks on Saudi Arabia. He suggested that the purpose could be to provoke Saudi authorities to commit an act against all Lebanese, in reference to the possible targeting of Lebanese expats in the Gulf country. “The Saudi King and the wise administration leading Saudi Arabi are too aware and astute to fall in the trap of Hezbollah, and Iran behind it.”Jumblatt reiterated his full support for the Saudi action, saying the war was first declared by Iran when it funded and supported the Houthi rebels against “elected legitimate authority” in Yemen. “Saudi Arabia found its national interest suddenly in the range of Ballistic missiles erected in Yemen with the ability to reach many Saudi cities,” he said. “Decisive storm is a legitimate right to self-defense, we support it."
New ISIS video purportedly shows
shooting, beheading of 28 Ethiopian Christians
By JPOST.COM STAFF/04/19/2015
The Islamic State terrorist group released a video on Sunday purporting to show its operatives shooting and beheading what it claims are 28 Ethiopian Christians in Libya. Addressed to the "nation of the cross," the 29-minute long video, uploaded on Sunday and produced by the Islamic State's media wing, al-Furqan, details the schisms that occurred in the Christian faith and which led to the formation of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, and shows the self-styled Caliphate's destruction of churches and Christian symbols throughout the regions under its control. Footage is then shown of two groups of dark-skinned captives led by armed militants. One group, numbering 12, is held by militants on Libya's northern coast and the other, numbering 16, held by a fighters in Libya's southern desert interior.
A fighter, speaking in American accented English then addresses Christians, whom he calls the "nation of the cross" and threatens perpetual conflict unless non-Muslims are prepared to live under Islamic law and pay the "jizya", or religious tax. The footage then shows the graphic decapitation of the first group on the beach, as well as the shooting deaths of the 16 men in the south. It is not immediately clear who the captives were, but a caption claims they are members of "the hostile Ethiopian Church."This is not the first time that the Islamic State's North African branch has specifically targeted Christians. In February, 21 Egyptian Copts were abducted and their beheading was filmed in a similar manner. A caption on that video read: "The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church."
Islamic State video purports to show
killing of captured Ethiopian Christians in Libya
The Canadian PressBy The Associated Press | The Canadian Press
April 19/15/CAIRO - A video released by the Islamic State group on Sunday appears to show the killing of two different groups of captured Ethiopian Christians by the extremist group's Libyan affiliates. The 29-minute online video purports to show militants holding two groups of captives. It says one group is held by an IS affiliate in eastern Libya known as Barka Province and the other by an affiliate in the south calling itself the Fazzan Province. A masked fighter brandishing a pistol delivers a long statement, saying Christians must convert to Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Qur’an. The video then switches between footage of the captives in the south being shot dead and the captives in the east being beheaded on a beach. It was not immediately clear who the captives were or when they were captured. It was also not clear how many captives were killed. The video bore the official logo of the IS media arm Al-Furqan and resembled previous videos released by the extremist group, including one in February in which IS militants in Libya beheaded 21 captured Egyptian Christians on a beach. The Islamic State group has been able to gain a foothold amid the chaos in Libya, where two governments backed by rival alliances of militias are battling each other as well as extremist groups. The Islamic State group is also advancing in Iraq, where the extremists captured three villages near the city of Ramadi in the western Anbar province and were locked in heavy clashes with Iraqi troops. More than 90,000 people have fled the Islamic State group's advance in Anbar, a United Nations humanitarian agency said Sunday. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement that civilians are fleeing Ramadi as well as the three nearby villages captured by the IS group a few days ago. It said humanitarian agencies have moved quickly to provide assistance, including food, water and shelter. "Our top priority is delivering life-saving assistance to people who are fleeing -- food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities," said Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq. Grande expressed concern over the safety of the displaced people, who are mainly heading to Baghdad and the IS-held city of Fallujah. "Seeing people carrying what little they can and rushing for safety is heart-breaking," she added. Iraqi officials in Anbar have described Ramadi as a ghost town, with empty streets and closed shops. Iraqi troops backed by Shiite militias and U.S.-led airstrikes managed to dislodge the IS group from the northern city of Tikrit earlier this month. But the troops have struggled against the militants in Anbar, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the eight-year U.S. military intervention that ended in 2011.
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Watch: Iran holds annual Army Day parade
By REUTERS/04/18/2015/J.Post/The Iranian Army held its annual parade on Saturday to mark the Army Day in capital Tehran on Saturday. The parade was held at the country's late leader Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini's mausoleum and was attended by President Hassan Rouhani as he reviewed the armed forces. The ceremony started with a procession of veterans fought in the Iran-Iraq War. Many new domestic weapons were unveiled during the ceremony including the Bavar 373 air defense missile system. The system had received much attention as it was called by the Iranian media as equivalent to Russia's S300 missile system. In his speech before the ceremony, Rouhani lashed out at Saudi Arabia for its military move amidst the Yemeni crisis, accusing it of killing innocent children and sowing hatred in the crisis-stricken area.
Putin warns Israel not to sell Ukraine
arms in response to Iran arms deal
Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews /Published: 04.19.15/ Israel News /Israel slams Russia's sale of advanced missile defense system S-300 to Iran; Russian president warns Israel not to arm Ukraine in retribution: 'It will be counterproductive.' Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel against selling arms to the Ukraine in response to Russia's decision to green-light the sale of an advanced missile defense system to Iran. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the deal, saying it would only bolster Iran's regional aggressions. “It’s the Israeli leadership’s choice. It’s their right to do what they think is appropriate. If (the arms they choose to sell) are lethal weapons, I think it will be counterproductive. It will only lead to another round of conflicts, to a rise in the number of victims, and the outcome will be the same,” Putin reportedly told state-run media Saturday. Netanyahu also addressed the issue Sunday, saying "Israel is seriously concerned by Russia's supplying Iran with S-300 missiles, while Iran is constantly increasing aggression in the region." "Israel also views with severity the fact that these aggressions were not noted in the framework nuclear agreement with Iran and that the (final) deal is not conditioned on their end," he continued. The two have already spoken on the issue, with Netanyahu's office saying he called Putin last Tuesday to protest Russia's planned delivery of the S-300 air defense missile systems to the Islamic republic. The Kremlin confirmed the call in a statement from the same day. A statement from Netanyahu's office said he "expressed Israel's dismay at the decision... (and) told President Putin that this step will only increase Iran's aggression in the region and will destabilize security in the Middle East."In response, "Vladimir Putin explained the rationale for the decision in the current context and highlighted the fact that due to their tactical and technical characteristics, S-300 have a purely defensive significance and pose no threat to Israel," the Kremlin said in a statement.Israeli military officials consider the Russian arming of Iran an additional obstacle before any potential military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Netanyahu's office said he told Putin the move would only increase Iran's aggression in the region and undermine security in the Middle East. Israel says the Russian announcement is a direct result of the international community's framework nuclear deal with Iran. Israel vehemently opposes any deal with Iran that does not dismantle the military capability of its nuclear program. US Secretary of State John Kerry also raised concerns with his Russian counterpart over Russia's decision, the White House said at the time. The US military echoed the statement, with Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren saying "Our opposition to these sales is long and public. We believe it's unhelpful," he told reporters. Iran for its part defended the move, with Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan saying the decision could lead to an expansion of cooperation and help stability in the region, Iranian state media said.
**Reuters, AP and Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
Iran slams 'myth' of nukes as Revolutionary Guard rejects deal
Roi Kais/Ynetnews /Published: 04.19.15 / Israel News /Khamenei says Iran's enemies 'created myth of nuclear weapons to threaten Islamic Republic'; Iranian elite Guard rejects nuclear deal's oversight. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday the United States had created the "myth" of nuclear weapons to portray Iran as a threat, hardening his rhetoric before nuclear negotiations resume this week. Khamenei has supported the talks but has continued to express deep mistrust of the United States. As the highest authority in Iran, the withdrawal of his support could cause the negotiations to collapse. "They created the myth of nuclear weapons so they could say the Islamic Republic is a source of threat. No, the source of threat is America itself," Khamenei said in comments cited by the semi-official Fars news agency. "The other side is methodically and shamelessly threatening us militarily ... even if they did not make these overt threats, we would have to be prepared," he said in an address to military commanders. A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Sunday that inspectors would be barred from military sites under any nuclear agreement with world powers. Gen. Hossein Salami, the Guard's deputy leader, said on state TV that allowing the foreign inspection of military sites is tantamount to "selling out." "We will respond with hot lead (bullets) to those who speak of it," Salami said. "Iran will not become a paradise for spies. We will not roll out the red carpet for the enemy." Iran and six world powers - the US, the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia - have reached a framework agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions, and hope to strike a final deal by June 30. A fact sheet on the framework accord issued by the State Department said Iran would be required to grant the UN nuclear agency access to any "suspicious sites." Iran has questioned that and other language in the fact sheet, notably that sanctions would only be lifted after the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Tehran's compliance. Iran's leaders have said the sanctions should be lifted on the first day of the implementation of the accord. The fact sheet said Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would grant the IAEA expanded access to both declared and undeclared nuclear facilities. But Salami said allowing foreign inspectors to visit a military base would amount to "occupation," and expose "military and defense secrets." "It means humiliating a nation," Salami said on state TV. "They will not even be permitted to inspect the most normal military site in their dreams." Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the Parchin military site in 2005 as a confidence-building measure, but denied further visits, fearing espionage. Western nations have long suspected Iran of secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program. Tehran denies such allegations, and insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. **Associated Press contributed to this report
Up to 700 feared dead after migrant
boat sinks off Libya: UNHCR
Antonio Denti| Reuters/Apr. 19, 2015 |
PALERMO, Italy: As many as 700 people were feared dead after a fishing boat packed with migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight, in what may be one of the worst disasters of the Mediterranean migrant crisis, officials said Sunday. Twenty eight people were rescued in the incident, which happened just off Libyan waters, south of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, Antonino Irato, a senior official from the Italian border police, told television station RaiNews24. He said 24 bodies had been recovered.
If confirmed, the death toll would bring the total number of dead since the beginning of the year to more than 1,500. The new deaths fuelled calls for a stronger response from Europe to the increasingly deadly migrant crisis playing out in the Mediterranean. International aid groups and Italian authorities have criticized Europe's so-called "Triton" border protection operation, which recently replaced a more comprehensive Italian search-and-rescue mission.
"A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean, and if the EU and the world continue to close their eyes, it will be judged in the harshest terms as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides when the comfortable did nothing," Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said foreign ministers would discuss urgent action on the migrant issue at a meeting in Luxembourg Monday. Italian officials said navy and coast guard vessels, as well as merchant ships in the area and a Maltese patrol boat, were involved in the search and rescue operation, which was being coordinated by the Italian coast guard in Rome. "They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water," he added. There was still no decision on where the survivors and the bodies that had been recovered would be taken. The boat is believed to have capsized when the migrants shifted to one side of the overcrowded vessel as a merchant ship approached.
"The first details came from one of the survivors who spoke English and who said that at least 700 people, if not more, were on board. The boat capsized because people moved to one side when another vessel that they hoped would rescue them approached," said Carlotta Sami, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Europe was witnessing "systematic slaughter in the Mediterranean.""How can we remain insensible when we're witnessing entire populations dying at a time when modern means of communications allow us to be aware of everything?" Renzi said at a political event in Mantua. On his way back to Rome, where he was expected to give a news conference later, Renzi spoke by telephone to French President Francois Hollande.
The leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, who has made migration one of the centerpieces of his political agenda, called for a an immediate naval blockade of the coast of Libya. The lawless state of Libya, following the toppling of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has left criminal gangs of migrant smugglers a free hand to send a stream of boats carrying desperate migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Around 20,000 migrants have reached the Italian coast this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates. That is fewer than in the first four months of last year, but the number of deaths has risen almost nine-fold. In 2013, the previous government initiated the search-and-rescue operation "Mare Nostrum" or "Our Sea" after hundreds drowned in an incident off the coast of Lampedusa. The operation was cancelled last year, because of the cost and because some politicians said it encouraged migrants to depart by raising their hopes of being rescued. That made way for the European Union's border control mission, Triton. However Triton, which has a much smaller budget and narrower remit, has been criticized by humanitarian groups and Italy as inadequate to tackle the scale of the problem.
Pope urges world action to stop more migrant disasters
Reuters/Apr. 19, 2015/VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis, speaking after some 700 migrants were feared dead in the Mediterranean, on Sunday appealed to the international community to take swift and decisive action to avoid more tragedies. "They are men and women like us, our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war. They were looking for a better life," he told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday noon address. "Faced with such a tragedy, I express my most heartfelt pain and promise to remember the victims and their families in prayer," he said, departing from his prepared text. "I make a heartfelt appeal to the international community to react decisively and quickly to see to it that such tragedies are not repeated," he said, before asking the crowd to pray "for these brothers and sisters."The latest disaster happened when a boat carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight, in one of the worst disasters seen in the Mediterranean migrant crisis, officials said Sunday.
Hollande says EU 'must act' after migrant boat tragedy
Agence France Presse/Apr. 19, 2015/PARIS: French President Francois Hollande called Sunday for a meeting of EU foreign and interior ministers after the feared drowning of some 700 illegal migrants highlighted a growing crisis in the Mediterranean.
Hollande, speaking during a wide-ranging interview on French television, said that if the death toll were confirmed "it would be the worst catastrophe in recent years" in the Mediterranean. He said Europe "must act" against the growing catalogue of mass drownings of migrants attempting to reach its shores, and called for closer surveillance of the routes used by smugglers. Hollande called for "more boats, more aerial surveillance and an intensified fight against trafficking.""Because those who put these people on boats are traffickers, terrorists even, because they know these boats are lousy... and put hundreds of people in danger."The latest boat to capsize went down near the Libyan coast, and the 28 survivors gave testimony indicating there may have been about 700 people on board, the U.N. refugee agency said.The latest disaster comes after a week in which two other shipwrecks left an estimated 450 people dead.
The Middle East shows no signs of recovering soon
David Ignatius| The Daily Star/Apr. 18, 2015
Will the Middle East be as unstable 10 years from now as it is today? I asked that question this week to a class of students at Harvard’s Kennedy School. About half answered yes – that things will be as bad or worse, no matter what America does.
These Harvard graduate students sense what many Middle East experts are beginning to vocalize: The region is caught in a turbulent vortex of change that’s likely to continue for many years, perhaps for decades. The drivers are political, social, economic and demographic forces over which the United States and other outside powers have little control. For the next generation, instability may be the rule in the Middle East, rather than the exception.
Predictions about the future based on current trends are always risky, because analysts can’t foresee the unexpected “black swan” events that produce radical change. Nobody could have anticipated that a Tunisian fruit vendor’s self-immolation in 2010 would begin a cascade of revolution and civil war in the Middle East. Similarly, we can’t forecast the process that may eventually restore balance.
Economic and demographic data show a region that is already stressed by slow growth and high youth unemployment. These problems are compounded by refugee flows from wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya – and worsened, further, by falling oil prices that hinder Saudi Arabia’s ability to provide a buffer.
The International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook, released this month, presents a grim picture. Unemployment will top 13 percent in Egypt and Tunisia this year, and reach nearly 12 percent in Algeria. Economies aren’t growing fast enough to provide enough jobs for young people: Growth this year is expected to be 1.3 percent in Iraq, 2.5 percent in Lebanon, 2.6 percent in Algeria, 3.8 percent in Jordan and 4 percent in Egypt.
Saudi Arabia’s growth forecast has been slashed more than 1.5 points to 3 percent this year and is projected to decline further next year because of falling oil prices. The Saudis are now waging a bloody air war in Yemen, apparently convinced that threats to their security are external. But the more intractable problems may be internal, with the Saudi budget falling into what the IMF warns will be “substantial deficit” this year and next.
“Tepid” growth and falling oil exports mean larger trade and budget deficits, predicts the IMF. The region will suffer a cumulative current-account deficit of 1.9 percent of GDP this year; even the oil-exporting countries will run a deficit of 1 percent. “Deepening conflicts and security disruptions in a number of oil-exporting countries could further undermine economic activity, delay reforms and dampen confidence,” the IMF warns.
The Middle East’s body politic, enfeebled by these disorders, has been ravaged by sectarian and civil wars. The International Rescue Committee estimated this month that 11.4 million Syrians, or about half the population, have fled their homes. The Syrian disaster has affected the whole region. To take just one example, poverty has more than doubled in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to a recent World Bank report.
As weak governance structures have buckled across the Middle East, extremist groups have become more powerful. The most potent is ISIS, which exploded out of the remnants of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. But many other groups across the region are fusing popular rage with sectarian and tribal bases of support. Even if ISIS can be “degraded” in Iraq and Syria over the next three years, as President Barack Obama hopes, the underlying disorder in the region could spawn ISIS 2.0, or even 3.0.
Observing the devastation in the Middle East is a bit like watching a hurricane pummel a vulnerable coastline. Outsiders can try to mitigate the destruction and provide humanitarian relief. They must also try to protect themselves from collateral damage. But they can’t stop the raging winds and surging tides from leveling fragile structures. As disaster-management experts have learned, a big storm has to blow itself out before rebuilding can begin.
Graham Allison, who heads the Belfer Center at Harvard University, argues that the U.S. government should be careful about trying to fix problems in the Middle East until it understands them better. He contrasts the deadly Ebola virus with the ideological contagion of ISIS. We know what causes Ebola and how to stop it, Allison wrote recently in Time magazine, but there is no such clarity about how the ISIS toxin spreads or how it can be cured.
What we do know is that this extremist virus has taken root in a body that is already severely weakened and showing no signs of recovering soon.
**David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.
Iran’s outdated political ideals
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 19 April 2015
When it comes to the region’s problems, Iran is always in the conversation with its questionable political affiliations and ambitions. There are the inevitable questions about what exactly its leaders want, and whether they truly believe their current policies will benefit their people. Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, summed up the situation quite succinctly recently by asking: “How can Iran invite us now to stop fighting? And where was Iran during the infighting in Yemen a year ago?” Judging from Tehran’s behavior, it can only be concluded that they are not interested in the war based on any humanitarian objectives but simply for selfish reasons.
When the Houthis kidnapped officials, killed civilians and terrorized people as they expanded operations across Yemen, Iran did not protest but directly supported the militias by sending 14 flights a week to Sanaa reportedly carrying massive amounts of weapons.
Not a Sunni-Shiite conflict
This is not a Sunni-Shiite conflict and will never be one. Shiites have always been part of Gulf societies. The main problem here is the ersatz revolutionary mindset that Iran is trying to create in the region because of its imperialist designs. No one is saying that Iran does not have the right to protect and develop its territory, and advance its interests abroad. But this cannot be done by interfering in the internal affairs of Arab nations. Post-revolution Iran has failed miserably because there are elements in the country that have prioritized regional expansion through proxy wars and supporting militias militarily and financially. “They are not interested in the war based on any humanitarian objectives but simply for selfish reasons”
So why would Iran adopt a policy that results in conflict and risks depleting its economy? The answer is simple: It has failed to transition its revolution into a viable and working state. The country’s leaders have clearly shown their immaturity in this regard. French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville stated: “In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end.”Iran has repeatedly attempted to promote and export its revolution abroad, resulting in political and military fallout with countries in the region. It is important to note that is has failed dismally in this quest. On the contrary, the country has had to face up to student revolutionary movements, which were subsequently suppressed, many individuals imprisoned and organizations banned. It has done everything it can to create the impression, patently false and quite opportunistic, that it inspired the 2011 revolutions in the Arab world.
At the start of the so-called Arab Spring, Head of Iranian State Radio and Television Sayyed Ezzatollah Zarghami claimed that the demands of people in North Africa and the Middle East were influenced by the Iranian revolution. However, he failed to apply the same argument to Syria, where Iran instead stood by the Assad regime and even fought against Syrian citizens. Iran continues to play the sectarian card in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. This can only lead to war. The country is playing a dangerous game by trying to mix the unchanging principles of religion with the constantly moving aims of political parties.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have rightly rejected this approach and have focused on restoring the legitimate government of Yemen, not a particular sect or movement. Operation Decisive Storm is therefore critical to the region’s future.
Iran’s other shortcoming is that it has failed to understand the deep and historic relations between the Yemeni and Saudi people. It has not given sufficient weight to the clear desire of the citizens in that country for peace and a negotiated settlement.
Iran’s leaders must start realizing that they cannot operate with reckless abandon in the region, based on outdated revolutionary ideals. They need to abide by international law so that their country can get back on track economically. This will no doubt bring much-needed stability to the region.
UK archbishop Justin Welby on Egypt
‘visit of condolence’
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Sunday, 19 April 2015 /Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby headed to Egypt on Saturday for a "visit of condolence" following the murders of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya last February. The kidnapped migrant workers were seen allegedly beheaded by ISIS in a propaganda video released by the militants. ISIS had claimed that the men had been captured to avenge what they say is the kidnapping of Muslim women by the Egyptian Coptic Church. “The archbishop will be meeting religious and political leaders leaders on his visit, including the Coptic Christian Pope and the Grand Imam,” according to the BBC, adding that Welby is also expecting to meet Egypt's president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Earlier this month, the archbishop spoke on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa during his Easter message, saying those living in peaceful societies should "stand as witness" to what was happening to Christians in other parts of the world.
Why the Iran Deal Will Trigger a Nuclear Arms Race
John Bolton/ The Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
April 19, 2015
Specifics of Barack Obama’s incipient deal legitimizing Iran’s nuclear-weapons program (and even whether a final understanding can be reached) will doubtless provoke debate for the next several months. The separate, often contradictory claims announced in Lausanne on April 2 hardly meet the dictionary definition of “agreement.”
But beyond the still-evolving accord’s evanescent terms are larger strategic implications. While Obama has hinted at his vision of U.S. relations with Iran, his real objective remains unknown. Most dramatically, some speculate that the White House dreams the nuclear deal will trigger sweeping changes in Tehran, which will evolve from the 1979 Islamic Revolution’s ideology and become a “normal” Middle Eastern state.
In reality, no other regional power believes evidence of such developments is even vaguely on the horizon.
Ironically, Obama has succeeded in creating a rare unity of analysis between Israel and almost the entire Arab world. And, without a radical shift in the ayatollahs’ philosophy (and, even more importantly, that of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who actually control the nuclear-weapons program), there is no chance of a “new Middle East” emerging.
More immediately, without an ideological revolution in Tehran, it is virtually certain Iran will cheat on whatever nuclear deal is signed before the ink is dry.
Since other Middle Eastern governments see no prospect of dramatic change in Tehran’s policy or behavior, the real question is how they will respond while both Iran’s leadership and its nuclear program are being legitimized and empowered by the United States. The answers are truly disturbing, far more dangerous than merely the prospect of a nuclear Iran.
The last two years of negotiations — and the universally accepted perception of American weakness thereby conveyed — have accelerated a regional nuclear-weapons race. Once only likely after Iran actually tested a nuclear device or otherwise demonstrated unequivocally it possessed such devices, the arms race already has started.
The logic is not difficult to follow. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and others realize that a nuclear-capable Iran — given its sizable conventional armed forces and its massive financial support for international terrorist groups — would be well on the road to regional hegemony. An Iran with nuclear weapons, surrounded by countries without that asset, would not actually have to use the atomic trump card but merely threaten it to extort whatever it desired from its neighbors.
Because the outcome of conflict between, say, Riyadh without nuclear weapons and Tehran with them is foreordained, regional actors see no option but going nuclear themselves.
That logic was clear before the last two years of U.S. concessions and retreat. But the negotiations have accelerated the likelihood of proliferation, not reduced it. Misguided negotiations like these do not reduce the chances for military action; they actually increase them.
The Saudis likely already have options on a sizeable number of existing nuclear warheads in Pakistan’s substantial stockpile. Moreover, the kingdom recently has ramped up its efforts to acquire nuclear technology that in due course will give it an indigenous nuclear infrastructure fully capable of sustaining a weapons program.
Egypt, Turkey and others will do the same and already are joining the race, looking to acquire both reactors and other broader nuclear capabilities across the nuclear-fuel cycle, especially uranium enrichment, so they will not be dependent on outside suppliers.
Egypt, the largest Sunni Arab state, also has moved, within the Arab League, to enhance cooperation against Iran’s threat in Yemen and radical Islam more broadly. But Cairo will not rely on Riyadh for a nuclear umbrella.
Turkey, also Sunni, is not Arab, and visions of the Ottoman Empire still fill the dreams of some Turkish political leaders. Whatever course Turkey ultimately pursues, it too will not remain on the sidelines while other states obtain nuclear weapons.
These are the already evident consequences of Obama acquiescing to Iran’s nuclear program. Moreover, as three or more Middle Eastern states move toward acquiring nuclear weapons, still others, alarmed at these first ripples of proliferation, will also launch efforts to obtain the necessary technology. That is the nature of proliferation, once unleashed.
That reality underlines the strategic dilemma facing Israel. Not only is Iran now virtually a nuclear-weapons state but relatively soon there could be half a dozen across the region. What Ariel Sharon feared as a “nuclear holocaust” has twice led Israel to attack nuclear-weapons programs in hostile states. If Israel were to strike Iran in the near future, it has the possibility of thwarting not only Tehran’s program but other nascent programs as well.
No one beyond a small circle of decision-makers really knows what Benjamin Netanyahu will do. But his concerns that Obama’s Iran policy constitutes an existential threat to Israel are already on the public record. Since no one truly believes Obama will use military force, we must now await Israel’s decision. And we must make it clear that America will support Israel if it acts where we have defaulted.
**John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and, previously, the undersecretary of State for arms control and international security. This article was originally published by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
Analysis: Israel gets a resounding
slap in the face from Putin
By YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post/04/20/2015
Israel’s policy of appeasement toward Russia was again rewarded with a resounding slap in the face. President Vladimir Putin warned Jerusalem against selling lethal weapons to Ukraine.
Selling weapons to Ukraine will not achieve its objective, will create more needless victims and “will not change the reality on the ground,” he said.
Putin’s comments came in response to reports in Israel that some were proposing to sell Ukraine advanced weapons systems as “a response and revenge” for Moscow’s decision to unfreeze the deal it made with Iran seven years ago and supply the regime in Tehran with the S-300 air defense system.
Israel was livid over the Russian decision, however there was no public display of Jerusalem’s outrage.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned Putin and protested the move.
The sale of the S-300, even if it is an older model that is less advanced, has always been considered by the defense establishment as a move that will severely hinder an Israel Air Force attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, if such an attack were ever decided on, something that is very unlikely.
US President Barack Obama has been surprising in his response to Putin’s move, saying that he had expected for a long time that Russia would go through with the sale, and that the only surprise was that the Russian president extended the freeze on the deal multiple times.
It should be noted that no UN Security Council resolutions forbid the sale of “defensive” weapons to Iran, which is how Putin has explained his decision to proceed with the deal.
For years, Israel has practiced a policy of appeasement toward the Kremlin, for two reasons: first, the hope that this would benefit Jerusalem in its effort to prevent the weapons deal with Iran. To the government’s embarrassment, this did not happen. The second reason was Israel’s fear of Russia. Thus, while Netanyahu is butting heads with Israel’s greatest ally, the United States, he acts like a leaf being blown by the wind versus Putin.
The policy has not worked, and on Saturday Putin voiced his warning to Israel. In the past, Israel back-stabbed Georgia and stopped selling Tbilisi equipment in the wake of Russia’s invasion of the former Soviet enclave in 2008. Israel has behaved similarly with Ukraine.
For example, Israel and Iran were among the only nations that did not condemn Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its subsequent annexation of the peninsula to the Russian Federation, much to the chagrin of the US and the European Union.
Israel has not sufficed solely with diplomacy. It has also taken action on the ground. Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, the Defense Ministry has refused to grant arms dealers and Israeli security consultants permits to sell equipment to Kiev. The only deals were for light military equipment, such as the webbing used to make belts, packs and pouches. This is despite the fact that Ukraine turned to Israel on several occasions, asking to buy advanced weapons systems, mainly in the intelligence and drone fields.
It has again become clear that Israeli kissing up to leaders like Putin does not pay, and does not lead such leaders to be grateful.
It is apparently easier to clash with an ally that is a democratic state than with a tyrant that knows how to take revenge.
Israel benefiting from Saudi‘dirty’
war on Houthi rebels,senior Iranian politician says
By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON/J.Post/04/20/2015
Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, said on Sunday that Israel is benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s “dirty” war on Yemen, the Iranian Tasnim News Agency reported. Iranian officials have been strongly criticizing the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen for bombing the Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran. Larijani said that Riyadh’s “bellicose policy” arouses feelings of hatred for the Saudi government. He went on to claim that the Saudis will never reach their objectives in their offensive, as the attacks only turn the Muslim people against it. President Hassan Rouhani, speaking on Saturday to mark Army Day, also criticized the Saudi bombings, saying, “Does the killing of children bring you power or might?” “Our strategy has always been the strategy of active deterrence. This deterrence is aimed at independence, peace and security in our country and the regional state,” said Rouhani, Fars News Agency reported. Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told military commanders on Sunday that US talk of all options being on the table is a “bluff,” Tasnim reported. “On the other hand they [the Americans] say the Islamic Republic of Iran should stop progress in the field of defense, which is a stupid remark,” Khamenei added. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will never accept such stupid remarks, and the Iranian nation has proved that if it comes under attack, it will defend itself quite powerfully, and will unitedly fight off the illogical attacker like a solid fist.” Yemen’s government rejected a four-point peace plan for the country that Iran submitted to the United Nations, a spokesman said on Saturday. Saudi Arabia and its Sunni coalition partners have been bombing Iranian-allied Houthi rebels for three weeks in order to halt advances that could give the rebels full control of the country.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Netanyahu's political persuasion
Published: 04.20.15/ Israel Opinion
Analysis: From the start of the election campaign and even beyond his victory, Netanyahu has had one message - a unity government is not on the agenda. But can this declaration withstand a reality check?
If one were to go back through the history of Israeli politics, one would be hard pressed to find a more militant campaign that was more strongly against the establishment of a unity government as in the elections of 2015. And the leader, strategist, formulator and thinker of this campaign was none other than the prime minister and leader of the ruling party, Benjamin Netanyahu. It began about a month and a half before going to the polls, and lasted well into Election Day with explicit statements, almost unprecedented political narrative between two parties. This was no slip of the tongue or idle saying, but the truth.
If Netanyahu had any one commitment, it was to make a clear promise: "I will not set up a unity government with Tzipi (Livni) and Buji (Isaac Herzog). It will not happen."Netanyahu disseminated his message via written and electronic communication, the Internet, social networks, Facebook and Twitter.
The first declaration came on Netanyahu's Twitter account on February 8. "The left-wing parties, primarily the Zionist Union, will stay out of the next government - if I am chosen to establish it," Netanyahu tweeted. "I will not form a government with left-wing parties, in view of the deep ideological gulf now existing between Likud and Buji and Tzipi." On February 24, Netanyahu published a detailed post against as unity government on his Facebook account. "There will not be a unity government between me and Tzipi and Buji," he reiterated. "It will not happen, because of the deep ideological chasm between us." He warned that Herzog and Livni would bring Islamic State to the outskirts of Jerusalem and said the Palestinian territories would be handed over to Hamas to use as terrorist bases. "I am in favor of a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, they are against it," Netanyahu went on. "I am against giving up the West Bank, because the whole area will become a terrorist base for radical Islam, and they are in favor. I stand firm against international pressure regarding Israel's security interests, and they are only willing to give up, give in, retreat, surrender."
Netanyahu promised that, "there will be no unity government. I want to build a broad national government, which will continue to stand firm and strong, with our natural partners, led by Bayit Yehudi. A government that will continue to stand firm on Israel's security interests against all our enemies, which will continue to grow Israel's economy, which will continue to lead - with courage and responsibility - the State of Israel. Therefore the upcoming election is a choice between a Likud government under my leadership, and the left-wing government headed by Tzipi and Buji. This is the choice, there is no other choice."
'Share this now'
Some of the Likud campaign was born as a response to the attacks from Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, who claimed that Netanyahu was plotting to set up a unity government after the elections - and keep his party out.
Bennett argued that Netanyahu was eyeing a unity government, and Netanyahu in response stepped up his rejection of a unity government, and appeared to be giving the nod to the ultra-Orthodox and the settlers.
"I will not sit in a unity government and will not form such a government after the elections," Netanyahu said in an interview to Orthodox news outlet Makor Rishon on March 11. "I do not intend to sit in a government headed by Yitzhak Herzog."
As the date of the elections approached, the anti-unity campaign became an irrevocable commitment. Five days before the elections, Netanyahu wrote on Twitter: "I will not set up a unity government, there will be no rotation government. Those who want me as prime minister must only vote for Likud."
On the same day, Netanyahu also published a personally signed piece on the Kipa Orthodox website, in which he wrote: "We are now facing a major global effort to oust the right-wing and Likud from power and replace me with Buji and Tzipi.
"We cannot allow a left-wing government led by Buji and Tzipi. This would be a government of concessions and withdrawal. A government of submission to external dictates and damage to settlement. Bayit Yehudi is our natural partner, and it will sit with us in any coalition. Nonetheless, there is a gaping chasm between us and the Labor Party. We will not sit with them any unity government. Period."
On March 13, Netanyahu told the media that he did not believe in the establishment of a national unity government: "A unity government with Tzipi and Buji would not last for even one minute." The height of the campaign against a unity government came hours before the polls opened. On March 16, at 23:29 – 30 minutes before Election Day officially got underway - Netanyahu announced the strongest post on the subject, urging his supporters to spread his message online. "There will be no a unity government. Share this now," was the headline on the late-night post. "This is a trick to widen the gap between Labor and Likud. "This is what is happening right now. If the gap is not closed, the 'Labor' Party will be able to set up a left-wing government with the support of the Arabs. There is only one way to avoid this - vote Likud and close the gap.
"There will be no a unity government. If the Likud forms the government, it will be a national government. Talk of a unity government is media spin designed to reduce the number of Likud seats and produce a victory for the left. Every vote that does not go to the Likud increases the chances of the 'Labor' party setting up a leftist government with the support of the Arabs. And therefore, to establish a national government – vote Likud."
And Netanyahu did not let up. On the afternoon of March 17, in the throes of voting, he again denied in an interview the possibility of a unity government. "If the formation of the next government falls on me – I will set up a government from the national camp," he pledged. "A leftist government would be reliant on the Arab List and would give in every step of the way. There will be no unity government with Labor, there is no way to bridge the gaps between us."But it was hard to find senior Likud ministers to parrot Netanyahu's mantra during the campaign. Perhaps because its DNA is so completely different to that of previous political discourse between Likud and Labor.
In fact, some Likud ministers are clinging even today to their support for a national unity government, ministers as Silvan Shalom, Moshe Ya'alon and Yuval Steinitz. One of the few who stood behind Netanyahu anti-unity campaign is Israel Katz, who a few days before the elections told the media: "We will not enter a unity government under any circumstances."
Netanyahu's behavior in the recent election was completely different from the way he worked in the two previous elections of 2009 and 2013. At that point, he was still an advocate of the unity government, and advocated its establishment with the exact same partner - Labor. Shortly before the 2009 elections, Netanyahu visited the office of then-defense minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv, for a one-on-one meeting to discuss Labor joining a unity government headed by Netanyahu. Barak received Netanyahu's pledge that he would once again be defense minister, and, despite a pledge after his electoral defeat that "we will serve the people from the opposition", Barak decided to join the Netanyahu government.
After the 2013 elections, Netanyahu held secret negotiations with Shelly Yacimovich, then chairman of the Labor Party. Netanyahu offered her a significant package of portfolios in an effort to persuade Labor to join a unity government, but Yacimovich rejected every one of his advances. Finally, he turned to the Hatnua chief Tzipi Livni, who became the first to sign a coalition agreement with Likud.
'It's all spin'
Netanyahu kept up his constant attacks on the very notion of a unity government even after the election was over. On March 22, he said that no unity government would be formed with the Zionist Union, while his spokesman claimed that, contrary to media reports, there had been no Likud overtures towards Isaac Herzog. "If Netanyahu wants to contact him, he would do it himself," the spokesman said.
And Herzog? During the election campaign, the Zionist Union leader was careful not to commit to or strongly oppose a unity government. His refusal to make a formal and explicit promise one way or the other sparked a wave of rumors in the political system and in his party itself. Senior Zionist Union members even claimed that, "Herzog will not close the door on the possibility of forming a unity or rotation government."
After the elections, the Zionist Union leader declared his party would serve the people from the ranks of the opposition: "This is the only realistic option - we will be a worthy substitute to this government with a limited lifespan."
Another week passed, and Herzog posted the same pledge on his Facebook page. "If anyone wants to know the intentions of me and our party is welcome to ask and hear to what I say. We will be an aggressive opposition. The rest is spin. I am saying clearly: The Zionist Union party is not a tool in the race to demolish the State of Israel that Bennett and Bibi are running."
This week Israel's Channel 1 television reported a secret meeting between Netanyahu and Herzog. They both denied it. I spoke with Herzog last week, and he again denied the report. If this is the case, shall the twain ever meet?