LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS
Bible Quotation For Today/They said to him, Sir, give us this bread always
John 06/28-34: "Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, "He gave them bread from heaven to eat." ’Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’"
Bible Quotation For
Today/Do not repay evil for evil or
abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this
that you were called that you might inherit a blessing.
First Letter of Peter 03/01-12: "Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you. Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honour to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life so that nothing may hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called that you might inherit a blessing. For ‘Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’"
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April
Executions Surge in Iran after Nuclear Talks, Iran off U.S. Terror List/Shadi Paveh/Gatestone Institute/April 20/15
The Sufist Izzat al-Douri and the extremist ISIS/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 20/15
How the jihadist seizure of Yarmouk benefits Assad/Sharif Nashashibi/Al Arabiya/April 20/15
Obama is risking it all on Iran and here’s why/Dr. John C. Hulsman/Al Arabiya/April 20/15
Israel's most important strategic interest still lies with US/Efraim Halevy/Ynetnews/April 20-21/15
Changing Iran Trends in the Worldwide Threat Assessment/Marina Shalabi and Ian Duff/The Washington Institute/April 20/15
Lebanese Related News published on April 20-21/15
Lebanese Politicians fear for Lebanese in Gulf after Nasrallah speech
Ex-minister Samaha admits to smuggling explosives: lawyer
French arms boost anti-terror fight
A welcome lifeline
Saniora Fears Presidential Vacuum to Submerge Lebanon in regional Conflicts
Mazloum Warns of Wider Gap between Rivals, Collapse of Cabinet
Roumieh Inmates Stage Riot Overnight as Mashnouq Vows Situation under Control
Fear for Lebanese in Gulf after Nasrallah speech
Western intelligence warns against swap
Aoun threatens Cabinet if security chiefs stay
Aoun to Meet Nasrallah as Extension Put on Front Burner
Berri Voices Support to Extension of Top Security Officers
Lebanon receives first shipment of French weapons
Gunmen free wounded detainee from hospital
Army arrests female terror suspect in north Lebanon
Report: Prominent Nusra Front Member in Lebanon to Lead New Wave of Attacks
Dog who mauled child trained to fight: Health Ministry
Qaouq: Saudi Money Can Buy Nations and Presidents but Not Hizbullah Silence
Parliamentary blocs agree on attending legislative session
Jumblat Urges Construction of Prison Meeting Human Rights Standards to Avoid New Riots
Hariri Meets Saudi King, Thanks Him for Supporting Lebanese Army
Abou Faour Refers Death of Child Kassouha to General Prosecution
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 20-21/15
US warship heads to Yemeni waters to block Iran arms shipment
After second incident of ISIS murdering Christians in Libya, Its foreign minister 'appalled'
Canada's Condemns ISIS's Persecution and Killing of Minorities in Libya
U.S. Anger over IS 'Atrocity' against Christians in Libya
Ethiopia says Christians killed in Libya were its citizens
Iran's Zarif: It's time for US to choose between cooperation and confrontation
Iran, Australia to share intelligence on ISIS
Saudi Arabia on alert over possible oil or mall attack
Massive explosion after airstrike on missile base in Sanaa
Coalition strikes Houthi missiles: spokesman
Yemeni FM reiterates Iran’s ‘unacceptable’ proposal
Top court frees leading Kuwait opposition figure on bail
Egypt sentences 22 members of Brotherhood to death
Draft security law raises concerns about rights in new Tunisia
UK police arrest boy over Australia ISIS attack 'plot
Migrant boat tragedy slammed as ‘genocide’
Washington Post reporter faces spy trial in Iran: lawyer
Lawyer: Charges dropped in UAE for 3 British plane spotter
German Parliament to label killings of Armenians as genocide
Assad: French, Syrian intelligence agents in contact
Jihad Watch Latest News
Raymond Ibrahim: Christians Prefer Death to Islam
Saudi thinker: Muslim institutions teach that Christians are ‘infidels’ and ‘enemies’
Egypt: Christians celebrated Easter outdoors because Muslims forbid church building
UK admits Nazis from Spain, Canada and US for rally calling Jews “the enemy” and “children of darkness”
UK cops arrest 14-year-old Muslim in connection with Australia Islamic State jihad plot
UK Muslim groomed friend to murder British soldiers
Christians are ‘infidels’ and ‘enemies’
April 20, 2015 9:00 /Raymond Ibrahim/According to Saudi novelist and writer, Hani Naqshabandi, “Our [Islamic] religious institutions do not give us room to exercise free thought.” By way of example, he pointed out that “They [Saudi institutions] said that the Christian is an infidel, a denizen of hell, an enemy to Allah and Islam. So we said, ‘Allah’s curse on them.’”The Saudi thinker made these assertions in an article he wrote for the Arabic language news site, Elaph. He also admitted the obvious but little known fact that “Christians are in need of protection … What happened to Christians in Iraq and Syria, and further regions like Algeria, does not receive Arabic media coverage that befits human beings, whatever their religion.”Nor, he may be surprised to learn, does Christian persecution receive Western media coverage that befits humans.
Ex-minister Samaha admits to smuggling explosives: lawyer
The Daily Star/Apr. 20, 2015/BEIRUT: Former Minister Michel Samaha Monday admitted to transporting explosives into Lebanon in a preliminary session before the military tribunal, his lawyer announced as he walked out of the court. "There are things that were clear in the pictures and recordings that Minister Samaha did not deny," lawyer Sakhr al-Hashem told MTV, while insisting that the explosives were not meant to hurt anyone. The trial was ajdourned to May 13 and Samaha's driver would be summoned by court to give his testimony, the TV channel reported. Samaha was arrested in 2012 and charged the next year over smuggling explosives into Lebanon in order to carry out bombings. Head of Syrian National Security Bureau Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk was indicted along with Samaha over the same charges. But after the Lebanese authorities failed to communicate with Mamlouk, Government Commissioner to the Military Tribunal Judge Saqr Saqr decided last month to separate the two trials. The decision implies that there will be no trial in absentia for Mamlouk.
In 2013, the Court of Cassation approved an indictment that recommends the death penalty against Samaha as well as Mamlouk and an aide to the Syrian official, who was identified as Col. Adnan. However, Samaha’s lawyer announced Monday that his defendant would not face death penalty. “Minister Samaha admitted to smuggling explosives but not to any plans that would shed a single drop of blood,” Hashem told MTV. “We cannot speak of the final punishment now, but according to what he admitted, it would be limited and not as harsh as what was mentioned in the indictment.”Issued by Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda, the indictment had charged Samaha and Mamlouk with plotting to assassinate political and religious figures in north Lebanon, as well as Syrian opposition figures and arms traffickers entering Syria from Lebanon. Samaha has been a close ally of Syria and served as a minister when the country was under Syrian occupation.
Mazloum Warns of Wider Gap between
Rivals, Collapse of Cabinet
Naharnet/Maronite bishop Samir Mazloum expressed regret on Monday over the verbal spat between political arch-foes over the situation in Yemen, hoping that dialogue would defuse tension and preserve the cabinet. “As long as there is a will to continue talks, then there is hope that we could reach progress,” Mazloum said in comments published in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah. He stressed the importance of carrying out a binding dialogue by all rivals. Tensions between al-Mustaqbal movement and Hizbullah soared 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. Both the Huthis and Hizbullah are backed by Iran. Mazloum warned of the collapse of the cabinet of Prime Minister Tamma Salam, considering it will have a “dangerous impact on the country amid the ongoing presidential vacuum.”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 rival parties. Concerning Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's expected visit to France, Mazloum expressed hope that Paris would have an initiative to end the presidential deadlock. He anticipated a “fruitful” meeting between al-Rahi and French President Francois Hollande, hoping it would end obstacles impeding the election of a new head of state.Al-Rahi will travel to France in the upcoming days for the inauguration of Europe's Maronite Diocese in the town of Meudon in the French capital's suburbs and will meet prominent officials.
Saniora Fears Presidential Vacuum to Submerge Lebanon in regional Conflicts
Naharnet /Al-Mustaqbal Movement bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora expressed concern on Monday that the prolonged presidential vacuum will drag Lebanon into the conflict in the region. Saniora said after talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki that the presidential vacuum is affecting the country on several levels. “Talks focused on several issues, at the forefront the presidential elections,” he told reporters. He called for the immediate election of a new head of state, warning that vacuum could “drag the country into the conflict in the region.” “The presidential elections is a matter that concerns all the Lebanese and Arab countries,” Saniora noted, urging the election of a “strong president.”He also voiced concern over the rift between the political arch-foes, warning that it would increase tension in Lebanon. “We are passing through difficult circumstances... only the legitimate authorities could safeguard the state and not the political settlement.” 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.
U.S. Anger over IS 'Atrocity' against Christians in Libya
Naharnet/The United States on Sunday condemned the "brutal mass murder" of 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya following a video released by Islamic State militants purportedly showing their execution. The 29-minute IS video appears to show militants holding two groups of captives, described in text captions as "followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church". National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan decried the killings and called for stability in Libya, which has been mired in political chaos and unrest since the 2011 uprising that toppled former strongman Moamer Kadhafi. "The United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal mass murder purportedly of Ethiopian Christians by ISIL-affiliated terrorists in Libya," she said, using another name for IS.
"This atrocity once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya to empower a unified Libyan rejection of terrorist groups." Ethiopia said its embassy in Egypt was trying to verify the video to ascertain if those murdered were indeed its nationals. "We strongly condemn such atrocities, whether they are Ethiopians or not," Communications Minister Redwan Hussein told AFP. The video portrays a masked fighter in black brandishing a pistol, who makes a statement threatening Christians if they do not convert to Islam. The video then switches between footage of one group of about 12 men being beheaded by masked militants on a beach, and another group of at least 16 being shot in the head in a desert area. It was not immediately clear who the captives were or how many were killed. Before the killings, the video shows purported footage of Christians in Syria, saying they had been given the choice of converting to Islam or paying a special tax, and had decided to pay. The video bore the logo of the IS media arm and was similar to past footage released by the jihadists, including of 21 Coptic Christians beheaded on a Libyan beach in February. Several Libyan jihadist groups have pledged allegiance to IS.Addis Ababa says IS, which has seized chunks of Syria and Iraq and won the support of jihadist groups across the region, has also gained a foothold in Ethiopia. "There are elements of IS around Ethiopia who are already carrying out operations, even though under a different name," said Redwan, referring to the Shebab group.
"We will keep on fighting them."
- Fears for Christians -
Since the 2011 revolt, Libya has been awash with weapons, has rival governments and parliaments, and is on the edge of all-out civil war as armed groups battle to control its cities and oil wealth. Officials have repeatedly warned that Libya could become a jihadist haven on Europe's doorstep unless the violence stops and a national unity government is formed. And waves of would-be immigrants including Ethiopians have been using Libya as a stepping stone to embark on perilous sea crossings to Europe. More than 700 people are feared drowned in the latest disaster. On Sunday, UN envoy Bernardino Leon said after weeks of brokering talks between rival Libyan factions that they had reached a draft accord which is "very close to a final agreement".Speaking to reporters in Morocco, Leon also said preparations were under way for armed groups to hold direct talks to end the conflict. Referring to the IS video and fighting in Libya, Leon said: "We know that the enemies of peace, the enemies of the agreement, will be active and be even more active in the coming days and weeks." The IS execution of Copts in February prompted retaliatory air strikes from Egypt, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pushing for the creation of a joint Arab military force to battle jihadists. Arab military chiefs will meet on Wednesday in Cairo to discuss how the force will be created, its role and financing, an Arab League official said. A U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab nations is already waging an air war against IS in Syria and Iraq. IS has carried out atrocities against minorities -- including Christians and Yazidis -- sparking fears for the fate of vulnerable communities in mostly Muslim nations. Agence France Presse
Lebanon receives first shipment of
The Daily Star/Apr. 20, 2015
BEIRUT: Lebanon Monday received its first shipment of French weapons financed by a $3 billion Saudi arms grant announced nearly a year and a half ago. In a ceremony marking the arrival of the long-anticipated and badly needed weapons, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel expressed confidence in the Army's ability to protect the country from extremists. “Lebanon's victory against terrorism is a victory for all countries threatened by this terrorism,” Moqbel said in a joint news conference at the Beirut airport air base with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian. The ceremony was also attended by Lebanese Army Commander Jean Kahwagi, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri, and many other officials.
Le Drian said France "has helped and will help Lebanon not to be dragged into chaos surrounding it," adding that French military assistance to Lebanon was a long-term process extending 10 years. He said the French shipments would include dozens of armored vehicles and modern artillery warfare such the “Caesar” 155mm truck-mounted artillery system as well as many other types of weapons. A senior Lebanese military official had told The Daily Star that the first arms shipment would be mainly anti-tank guided missiles.
Le Drian said France would also deploy 60 French officers in Lebanon to train soldiers on the use of the new weapons. Kahwagi has said the military aid Lebanon received Monday as part of the $3 billion Saudi grant will “[enhance] the Lebanese Army and increase its readiness and strength to confront terrorism and defend Lebanon’s borders.”He said the French weapons “will greatly improve [the Army’s] situation.” The Saudi grant was announced in December 2013 by then-president Michel Sleiman.
In a report from Paris, AFP said France is expected to deliver 250 combat and transport vehicles, seven Cougar attack helicopters, three small corvette warships and a range of surveillance and communication equipment over four years as part of the $3 billion modernization program. 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,” AFP quoted a French defense official as saying.The project is being entirely funded by Saudi Arabia. The arrival of the first shipment comes after an initial agreement was signed by French President François Hollande and Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz.
An additional protocol agreement for the Saudi-funded arms deal was signed Saturday between senior Lebanese Army officers and officials from the French company ODAS. The protocol agreement was signed in the presence of Kahwagi at his office in Yarze.
Acting on behalf of the French state, ODAS negotiates and signs government-to-government contracts for defense and security systems and services. The company monitors contract execution in close cooperation with the Defense Ministry while continuously liaising between customer and contractors to guarantee successful program delivery with the full backing of Paris.
In addition to the $3 billion military aid, Saudi Arabia has also promised an additional $1 billion grant to purchase arms and equipment to the Lebanese Army and security forces to help them in the ongoing battle against terrorism. The French arms delivery comes amid growing fears that ISIS and Nusra Front militants, entrenched in mountainous caves on the outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal, are preparing to launch a major offensive against Lebanon once the snow in the mountains has melted. The Army has frequently clashed with Syria-based militants from ISIS and the Nusra Front. The two groups, which fought Lebanese troops in Arsal last August, are still holding 25 soldiers and policemen hostage after killing four of their captives. In addition to France, the United States has also supplied the Lebanese Army with more than $1 billion in military aid over the last decade. Britain has provided training facilities as well as watch towers and forward operating bases along the border with Syria. Future Movement chief Saad Hariri thanked Saudi kind Salman Bin Abdel-Aziz Monday for the Saudi “keenness on Lebanon and its stability,” and for what the kingdom had offered the Lebanese Army in aid. According to a statement released by Hariri’s media office, the former Prime Minister’s visit to King Salman was in light of the arrival of the first shipment of French arms.
A welcome lifeline
The Daily Star/Apr. 20, 2015
As the first shipment of arms bought with Saudi Arabia’s $3 billion gift to Lebanon arrives Monday, it’s worth remembering how much the kingdom has done for this country. The arms shipment – the first of many – will be crucial, observers have noted, for the Lebanese Army and its fight against both jihadis and Israel. And it should silence those critics of the Saudi donation, who for months have been finding a whole host of ways to criticize it – labeling it as mythical, or as merely a political step. But unlike many foreign powers which have opinions about Lebanon, Saudi Arabia’s gift was real and tangible. It was not merely empty rhetoric or inflammatory words. It was a much-needed donation, and is just the latest in a series of moves by Saudi Arabia to help support Lebanon. For decades now, Riyadh has been there for Beirut, in times of security, political and financial crises. And the support it has given has been for all Lebanese, regardless of political affiliation or sect. And were this support to dry up – perhaps in response to attacks against it – this would negatively affect all Lebanese, again regardless of community. That is not to mention the some 200,000 Lebanese living and working in Saudi Arabia, many of whom have become millionaires, in work that has allowed them to employ more Lebanese workers, and send remittances home. This work could be in jeopardy if certain groups and individuals continue to seek to undermine the important relationship with Saudi Arabia. To belittle Saudi aid to and support for Lebanon is to willfully ignore the help of a true friend. Those seeking to do so are certainly not concerned with the good of the nation as a whole.
Lebanese Politicians fear for Lebanese
in Gulf after Nasrallah speech
The Daily Star/Apr. 20, 2015
BEIRUT: Criticism of Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s latest anti-Saudi Arabia tirade poured in over the weekend, with many saying his remarks put the interests of Lebanese living in the Gulf at risk.
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi launched a scathing attack against the party, saying Nasrallah should be “ashamed” of his attacks on Riyadh, “which has supported [Lebanon’s] state institutions and has not paid money to [any particular] side or sect and has not created militias.”
Rifi described Hezbollah as a “mere tool” of Iran that “sacrifices itself and its people for the sake of a failing project.”
“We are facing a regional plot that wrongly believes it can control the Arab world and unfortunately a Lebanese group is being used as the tool to that end,” Rifi said during a rally in Tripoli. “Hezbollah is turning Lebanon into an operations room to spread Iranian hegemony.”
Rifi said Lebanese-Saudi brotherhood ought to be safeguarded. “We reject any infraction of those ties.”
In a fiery speech Friday, Nasrallah blamed Saudi Arabia for the spread of extremist ideology in the Arab world and once again condemned Riyadh’s strikes on Yemen.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt also criticized the “foolish” remarks made by Nasrallah against Saudi Arabia and reiterated his support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.
“The foolish 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 Abdul-Aziz [al-Saud] 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 on 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 expatriates in the Gulf country.
“The Saudi king and the wise administration leading Saudi Arabia are too aware and astute to fall in the trap of Hezbollah, and Iran behind it,” Jumblatt asserted.
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 the “elected legitimate authority” in Yemen.
“Saudi Arabia found its national interests 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.”
Even Hezbollah’s close allies distanced themselves from Nasrallah’s remarks, with Free Patriotic Movement official Alain Aoun announcing that his group’s alliance with Hezbollah does not automatically entail that the FPM shares the party’s views on Yemen.
“We don’t have the same considerations as Hezbollah regarding Yemen that leads us to share the same views as the party,” Aoun told Al-Jadeed TV. “Our alliance with Hezbollah is a purely political one that does not extend beyond Lebanon’s borders.”
Aoun hoped that tensions between Hezbollah and Gulf states would not reflect on all the Lebanese communities there.
“We count on the wise reaction of Gulf officials,” the Baabda MP said. “Any tensions between Gulf states and a certain Lebanese group should reflect on ties with that group in particular and not on Lebanese communities as a whole who have nothing to do with those differences.”
Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan also highlighted the detrimental repercussions that Nasrallah’s words could generate on Lebanese communities living and working in the Gulf.
“Nasrallah’s remarks harm the interests of Lebanese working in the Gulf,” Adwan said in remarks to be published Monday.
In March, the UAE decided to deport 70 Lebanese individuals. It was the third time in six years that a Gulf nation has taken such a measure. In 2009, dozens of Lebanese Shiites who had lived in the UAE for years were expelled on suspicion of having links with Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Sunday Lebanon could plunge in chaos if political powers in Lebanon bet on competing foreign powers and bring regional conflicts into the country.
“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 of the northern Lebanese district, the FPM official warned that 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.
Conversely, Hezbollah officials and MPs reiterated over the weekend Nasrallah’s stance that divergence over the situation in Yemen ought not to impede internal dialogue.
MP Ali Fayyad said during a rally in the southern village of Mais al-Jabal that despite differences Hezbollah wants to preserve stability, backs pursuing dialogue with the Future Movement and was in favor of revitalizing state institutions.
“We want to preserve stability in Lebanon and we want dialogue to continue to serve the mutual interests of the Lebanese, and we want to revitalize state institutions and fight [takfiri] Islamists,” Fayyad said. “Despite deep differences and diametrically opposed stances there is a general interest to export rather than import disagreements.”
Canada's Condemns ISIS's Persecution and Killing of
Minorities in Libya
April 19, 2015 - Ottawa, Ontario - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:
"Canada condemns in the strongest terms the reported killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). "We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed in this barbaric act. Canada will not sit on the sidelines as the persecution of religious and ethnic communities continues at the hands of ISIS terrorists. "These cowardly acts further demonstrate the necessity to degrade the ISIS threat, both at home and abroad. Canada will continue to stand with its coalition partners to combat the growing threat of terrorism."
Iran's Zarif: It's time for US to choose between cooperation and confrontation
By JPOST.COM STAFF/04/20/2015/
It is time for the US and its allies to choose between cooperation and confrontation, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in reference to current nuclear negotiations with the West in a Monday New York Times op-ed he penned.
"We agreed on parameters to remove any doubt about the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program," Zarif wrote, claiming that the Iranian people had done their part to facilitate an agreement, and now the onus is on the US and its allies to follow suit.
"It is time for the United States and its Western allies to make the choice between cooperation and confrontation, between negotiations and grandstanding, and between agreement and coercion," he said.
Iran and the world powers reached a framework agreement earlier this month, aimed at setting the groundwork for a comprehensive agreement that will roll back Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief by a June 30 deadline. The sides have disagreed publicly about which parameters were agreed to in the deal, particularly whether sanctions will be removed immediately, as Iran has demanded, or gradually, as the world powers want.
Zarif poised the Iranian nuclear issue as a "manufactured crisis," a symptom of a larger problem, which is instability in the Persian Gulf region, particularly Yemen.
The Iranian foreign minister accused the US and its allies of enabling the growth of al-Qaida and its ideological siblings, such as Islamic State, in both Yemen and Syria.
The US has offered logistic and intelligence support to a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states that have bombed Yemen in the last three weeks in a push against Iranian-backed Shi'ite Houti rebels who are attempting to take over the country.
Zarif called for dialogue among relevant regional stakeholders with the help of the United Nations to solve the turmoil in the region.
"A regional dialogue could help promote understanding and interaction at the levels of government, the private sector and civil society, and lead to agreement on a broad spectrum of issues, including confidence- and security-building measures; combating terrorism, extremism and sectarianism; ensuring freedom of navigation and the free flow of oil and other resources; and protection of the environment. A regional dialogue could eventually include more formal nonaggression and security cooperation arrangements," Zarif said.
Shi'ite-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia have fought for influence in the region in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, helping to fuel the instability that has plagued the area since 2011's Arab Spring uprisings.
Executions Surge in Iran after Nuclear
Talks, Iran off U.S. Terror List
Shadi Paveh/Gatestone Institute
April 20, 2015
"Terrorism is not only achieved by bombs but also by terrorizing citizens for generations through executions. Is the hanging of 700 persons since the beginning of the 'moderate' Mr. Rouhani's presidency... not a form of terrorism?" — Mina Ahadi, Founder, ICAE.
"During the P5+1 nuclear talks there was absolute silence with regards to the high rate of executions and human rights violations in Iran. Because of this silence, this matter has taken a turn for the worse." — Mina Ahadi, Founder, ICAE.
"We would like to request that the Islamic Republic of Iran be held accountable by the International community and... sanctions to be placed on the regime for the high rate of executions." — Mina Ahadi, Founder, ICAE.
As this article was going to press five more people were hanged in the Central Prison of Karaj.
After Iran's "nuclear talks," and after it was comfortably removed as a terrorism threat from the "Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities," the International Committee Against Executions (ICAE) reported approximately 55 executions in fewer than three weeks across Iran.
According to Mina Ahadi, Founder of ICAE, various prisoners or their families had contacted her office weeks before the killings. Prison authorities, they said, had told the prisoners that they had received orders from "above" to "cleanse" a large of number of the prisoners rapidly after the P5+1 talks. The vast majority of these prisoners had been sentenced to death for non-lethal offences in trials that, according to activists, often fell dramatically short of international standards.
In an interview with Gatestone, Ms. Ahadi stated:
"Those of us who know the regime well speculate that the government feels as if it has somehow surrendered to the West during the nuclear agreements, and fears appearing weak domestically. As a result, it is flexing its muscles by increasing the number of killings— an escalation that is staggering even for the Islamic Republic, which already holds the record for the highest number of executions per capita throughout the world. The authorities also may want to create fear so that the unhappy population dare not revolt, or even speak out against the regime, during the regime's perceived time of weakness. It is important to note that this government has stayed in power for 36 years solely by systematically killing its opponents both inside Iran and abroad.
"We recently received a report that strongly disturbs even the most seasoned human rights activists; it came from Zabol prison in the Baluchistan Province of Iran. Reliable sources told us that prisoners condemned to death are tied to a pole, and are left without food or water the day before they are hanged. No one ever heard of this sort of treatment before. The regime is becoming more barbaric with each day that the world remains silent and refuses to hold them accountable for human rights violations. I am not sure how much more has to happen or be documented before the world starts to take notice. The question I would like to ask the P5+1 negotiators is: Can a country with such extensive, grotesque human rights violations be trusted in any way?"
Ms. Ahadi also wrote to Mr. Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary-General, and to Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, regarding this matter:
Your Excellencies Mr. Ban Ki Moon and Mr. Schulz:
A few days after Iran's nuclear agreement in Lausanne; a new and broader wave of executions began in Iran.
On April 11, 2015, in the Central Prison of Karaj, the Iranian authorities had planned to transfer 40 prisoners to solitary confinement to await execution at dawn the next morning. As a direct result, there was an uprising inside prison to protest these executions. The following day on April 12th, the families of the condemned prisoners gathered in a demonstration in front of the city of Karaj's courthouse; which was filmed. On April 13th, eight prisoners were executed at this prison.
On April 13, 2015, prisoners from another prison in Karaj, Raja-Shahr prison, contacted ICAE to inform us that 11 prisoners were taken to solitary confinement to be executed the next morning. A report the next day indicated that those prisoners along with some others, estimated to be 19 in total, were executed on April 14, 2015.
In Zabol prison [in Eastern Iran province of Baluchistan] one person was hanged and 3 are awaiting imminent execution. On April 10, 2015, two prisoners were tied to pillars without food and water while awaiting execution.
In the past the regime has been known to increase the number of executions in the aftermath of surrendering to a perceived enemy. For example, after the cease fire of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988; which the then Supreme Leader and the Leader of the revolution Ayatollah Khomeini saw as surrendering to then enemy Iraq; Khomeini ordered the mass cleansing of political prisoners, most of which did not have death sentences and were in fact near the end of serving their sentence. For a more in depth report of the 1988 massacres, please see attached 145 page report by Mr. Geoffrey Robertson QC in collaboration with the Boroumand Foundation. This method is being continued by the present leader Ali Khamenei after what the regime and the Iranian public may see as surrendering to Western influences with regards to the nuclear talks. As such, the regime avoids appearing weak internally by increasing executions, arrests and the like in order to keep an unsatisfied population in constant fear to avoid a revolt. Those who have studied this regime believe that this is the way the regime chooses to show strength and power inside Iran.
During the P5+1 nuclear talks there was absolute silence with regards to the high rate of executions and human rights violations in Iran. Because of this silence, this matter has taken a turn for the worse.
The International Committee Against Executions requests your immediate response to this urgent matter. We ask that you strongly object to these executions. Terrorism is not only achieved by bombs but also by terrorizing citizens for generations through executions. Is the hanging of 700 persons since the beginning of the 'moderate' Mr. Rouhani's presidency, which translates to 2 hangings per day, not a form of terrorism?
We would like to request that the Islamic Republic of Iran be held accountable by the International community and furthermore we ask for political sanctions to be placed on this regime for the high rate of executions. Your silence in this matter is not acceptable to those sentenced to death, their families and human rights organizations around the globe.
Please help us stop executions in Iran. History, as always, shall remain witness.
Tel: 0049 (0) 1775692413
After second incident of ISIS
murdering Christians in Libya, Its foreign minister 'appalled'
Libya's Foreign Minister Muhammad Dayri told reporters on Monday that he is "appalled" by the barbaric beheading of at least 28 Christians in Libya, after a video purportedly made by Islamic State was posted on social media sites.
"We are appalled at this barbaric killing of 28 Ethiopian nationals yesterday in Libya. This is not the first time that these hordes of ISIS do operate with this tragic and horrible actions in Libya," Dayri told reporters on the sidelines of the Asian-African Conference in Indonesia's capital Jakarta.
The video, in which militants call Christians "crusaders" who are out to kill Muslims, showed about 15 men being beheaded on a beach, and another group of the same size, in an area of shrubland, being shot in the head.
Both groups of men are referred to in a subtitle as "worshipers of the cross belonging to the hostile Ethiopian church".
Dayri said Libya has already asked for the United Nations to help equip the Libyan Army with the adequate weapons to combat terrorism in the country, but called out to the international community for further assistance.
Militants professing loyalty to Islamic State have claimed several attacks on foreigners in Libya this year, including an assault on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli and the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in February.
The killing of the Egyptians prompted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to order air strikes on Islamic State targets in Libya.
"We all know that before the 28 Christian Ethiopians, we were saddened to see that 21 Egyptian Christians were beheaded in Sirte on the 15th of February. This calls upon the international community to help Libya further," said Dayri.
Islamic State controls large parts of Iraq and Syria and wants to redraw the map of the Middle East. It is not clear how many fighters it has in Libya, an oil-producing nation.
Egyptian security officials estimate that thousands of militants who share Islamic State's ideology moved from the Sinai Peninsula to Libya after the army toppled President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
The Sufist Izzat al-Douri and the extremist ISIS
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Monday, 20 April 2015
Although DNA results have not yet publicly revealed whether the red-bearded man whose death in Iraq recently made headlines is really Izzat al-Douri, a marginal figure associated with Saddam Hussien, it must be said that the maelstrom this death whipped up was more than Douri actually deserved.
The struggle in Iraq is shrouded in mystery as a result of multiple shifting alliances. The Washington Post’s report that the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is led by Baathists from the dissolved army of Saddam Hussein has plenty of stock to it but this does not mean that ISIS is secretly a Baathist organization or that it’s run completely by former Baathist officers.
I believe that ISIS is not as Baathist as it’s been made out to be. It is instead a developed version of al-Qaeda
The al-Qaeda organization previously used different individuals and groups to enhance its capabilities. The organization even allied itself with the regime in Tehran which still hosts some al-Qaeda leaders in the country. Al-Qaeda, in the past, and ISIS must have used the help of the officers hailing from Saddam Hussein’s army – an army which was more experienced and competent due to its engagement in complicated wars.
ISIS and the Baathists
I believe that ISIS is not as Baathist as it’s been made out to be. It is instead a developed version of al-Qaeda and it shares the same principles and goals. Most Baathist leaders from the dissolved Iraqi army are elderly and are thus incapable of managing an organization that predominantly consists of youths driven by extremist religious principles.
What we do know is that members of the so-called “Saddam Martyrs Brigade,” a terror group infamous for its terrible crimes, have moved to Syria and have operated under the command of the Assad regime for years. It is also said that the Assad regime previously used members of the Fedayeen Saddam in its domestic wars and in its foreign wars.
Izzat al-Douri, who has been known to be one of the only remaining Saddam-era individuals to be active in recent years, has never appeared on television and only issued statements via audio recordings. Some people, whose narratives I trust, did in fact meet him, confirmed his identity and confirmed that although he was in hiding, he was still very much active in the Iraqi arena.
Those who met him said that he told them that he and his men are in charge of ISIS, however, I believe that such statements are pure exaggeration in a bid to garner attention.
This exaggeration was exposed when, in July, Douri appealed to ISIS to release men affiliated with his group who were being held by the extremist organization. Instead, ISIS executed the 12 men from the Naqshbandi Order, one of a number of underground Baathist and Sufist militant insurgency groups in Iraq.
Let’s not forget that the contradiction between Naqshbandi and ISIS’ intellect is huge and it pits them against each other as two bitter rivals. ISIS, to this day, continues to destroy Naqshbandi mosques and fight against them. The Ottomans previously used the Naqshbandis to fight extremist Salafists as they describe one another as infidels. The Naqshbandi originated as a Sufist group from Central Asia which spread in Turkey and it therefore cannot be in the same basket as ISIS. This could only be the case in a temporary situation such as having to cooperate against a mutual enemy - this is what happened intermittently when the two clashed against Nouri al-Maliki’s forces which did not differentiate between those who opposed him.
I do not think Douri was an efficient figure, unlike what is being said about him. During the era of Saddam Hussein, who was known for sparking fear in those surrounding him, Douri was described as weak and as an embarrassment to the party. Few people were spared Saddam’s executions and this includes Saddam’s relatives and Douri, because he did not pose a credible threat, escaped this and managed to maintain the trust of the president. Saddam Hussein also hated and feared clergymen and perceived less danger when it came to the Naqshbandi as it was a Sufist minority within the Sunni community and it did not have the desire to gain power. The only real worth Douri had was his symbolism, considering he was one of the last free members of Saddam’s cohort to live.
The propaganda which accompanied reports and statements on Douri’s death a few days ago aimed to raise the morale of the Iraqi government-backed forces. However, Douri is not an important figure, regardless of whether he’s alive or dead. The more dangerous men remain far away from the army’s and popular mobilization militias’ gunfire and they are the ones who represent the real long-term threat. That is unless the prime minister and Iraq’s forces realize that the solution is not only a military one but must also include a reconciliation with Iraq’s other components.
How the jihadist seizure of Yarmouk
Sharif Nashashibi/Al Arabiya
Monday, 20 April 2015
The jihadist’s seizure of most of the Yarmouk refugee camp for Palestinians in Syria has been widely portrayed as a threat to the Syrian regime, owing to the camp’s proximity to President Bashar al-Assad’s seat of power in Damascus. In actuality, this development benefits him in several ways.
Prior to the advance last month of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Nusra Front, Yarmouk was largely controlled by Palestinian and Syrian rebels opposed to the regime. They, not the army, are the ones being targeted by the jihadists - this typifies ISIS’s general military strategy of mainly going after anti-Assad forces.
Indeed, despite suggestions that the seizure of Yarmouk could provide ISIS with a springboard into the capital, the group has largely withdrawn from the camp “after expelling their main rival,” the Hamas-linked Aknaf al-Maqdis, Reuters reported last week.
There is legitimate speculation about how ISIS managed to invade the camp when it is under tight regime siege. This whole episode has been beneficial to Assad on so many levels that it has led to accusations of direct collusion
The international focus on the jihadist advance into Yarmouk is very convenient for Assad, whose forces have besieged the camp since 2012. Much of the current coverage gives the impression that the humanitarian disaster in Yarmouk began with ISIS, rather than years of merciless regime bombardment and a crippling siege that has caused Palestinian refugees to starve to death.
The regime’s savagery in Yarmouk has never received adequate attention - now it is at best an afterthought, if not forgotten altogether. Grotesquely - with the United Nations, foreign officials and aid groups turning to the regime for a solution - Assad is positioning himself as the camp’s only potential saviour. This represents an extension of the trend of people advocating cooperation with the regime against ISIS, despite all the death and destruction wrought by Assad.
Similarly, with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) turning to the regime for help, and the latter expressing its willingness to do so, Assad is attempting to reclaim the mantle of defender of the Palestinians despite killing and starving them. This can be seen as a slap in the face for Hamas, which came out in support of the Syrian revolution in its early days, and thereby hindered Assad’s ability to portray himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause.
According to PLO official Ahmed Majdalani, 14 Palestinian factions have said they back a joint military operation with the regime to expel the jihadists from Yarmouk. This is music to Assad’s ears, if the claim is true - it is unclear which factions Majdalani is referring to, and the PLO distanced itself from his endorsement of a regime offensive on the camp.
The actions of both the jihadists and the regime have been mutually beneficial with regard to Yarmouk. The siege has severely weakened rebels in the camp, which enabled ISIS and the Nusra Front to quickly overrun it. This has led to increased regime bombardment of Yarmouk, including with dreaded barrel bombs.
“The use of barrel bombs against a besieged and starving civilian population is yet another demonstration of the Syrian government flouting international humanitarian law and its callousness towards civilians,” Amnesty International said this month, referring to Yarmouk. “Sparing civilian life does not appear to come into the equation when they decide to bomb an area... Shelling and dropping barrel bombs on a populated civilian area is a war crime.”
Syria’s ‘reconciliation’ minister said earlier this month that “a military solution is necessary” to “expel and defeat militants and terrorists in the camp.” The interpretation that this is simply aimed at ISIS and the Nusra Front is naive - they have provided a pretext for the regime to finally take over Yarmouk under the guise of liberating it from jihadists.
There is legitimate speculation about how ISIS managed to invade the camp when it is under tight regime siege. This whole episode has been beneficial to Assad on so many levels that it has led to accusations of direct collusion, spurred by the history of the relationship between the two.
“Local residents of Yarmouk were surprised to see a raid of hundreds of [ISIS] fighters from southern Damascus successfully enter their area... Assad’s forces have the area tightly monitored and controlled. Simply put, there is no way the attack... could have happened unless Assad wanted it to,” Syrian-Palestinian Kassem Eid, who was in Yarmouk at the start of the siege and had family members living there, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine.
“How did [ISIS] get such large quantities of resources into besieged areas?” he asked. “Believe me, infants would not be starving in my hometown if regime sieges could be evaded through tunnels or bribes. Those resources got in because the regime allowed them to enter.”
Indeed, the jihadist advance into Yarmouk seems to have done nothing to weaken the siege. In fact, develops have highlighted regime control over what happens inside and around the camp.
Some 2,000 people were reportedly evacuated from Yarmouk via two secure roads under the control of the army, which helped in the evacuation. The U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees said it had provided urgent supplies to around 500 evacuees “following facilitation and dialogue” with the regime.
Furthermore, the deputy to the U.N. envoy to Syria said the United Nations would work with the regime to ensure the safety of Palestinians and Syrians in Yarmouk. He said he left a meeting with the deputy foreign minister “quite satisfied and confident that there will be very good cooperation.”
Obama is risking it all on Iran and
Dr. John C. Hulsman/Al Arabiya
Monday, 20 April 2015
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II Scene II
One of the great failings of modern foreign policy analysis is to ascribe randomness to those one doesn’t agree with. This has certainly held true in most analyses of Barack Obama’s controversial Iran nuclear initiative; if I had a dollar for every skeptical analyst who believes that the president does not have a plan, I’d be rich. Yet however emotionally satisfying such a position may be - that one’s rivals are essentially clueless - it does little to actually explain what is going on in Washington.
For, to quote Shakespeare, there is a definite method to the president’s madness. Why has President Obama come to stake everything on the putative Iran deal? Why does it seem he is far less concerned with the details of an accord than with reaching one? The answer - despite his critic’s fantasies - is not because he is stupid, aimless, or does not understand what he is doing. Rather geopolitical grand strategy explains the seemingly inexplicable.
For despite the vast majority of the president’s many critics assuring us he has no idea what he is doing, this is far from the truth. The Iran deal has become the central make-or-break factor determining whether Obama will realize his carefully crafted overall foreign policy strategy, or whether his policy is doomed to failure.
America’s oft-stated “Pivot to Asia” remains the White House’s overall strategic goal. The president wants America to spend far more time and effort in a region where much of the world’s future growth will occur and where much of its political risk is bound to threaten to kill the goose that just might lay the golden egg. Or, as the American bank robber (and philosopher) Willie Sutton put it, when asked why he robbed banks: “That’s where they keep the money.” As Asia is where they keep the money now and increasingly in the future, it is entirely understandable that America wants to direct its time and attention to the region.
Further, tactical conditions there are promising for the United States. Due to Chinese bullying in the South China and East China Seas, many important countries in the region increasingly yearn for America to play a larger role there, if only to allow them to play Washington off Beijing. Nations such as Japan, Vietnam, India, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia are all calling for America to do more, a welcome change for a Washington unused to much popularity. The region’s other great power, China, lurks as the only possible peer competitor to America in the long-term; spending time in the region carefully monitoring Beijing’s progress makes eminent sense.
Just this past week the Pivot Strategy received a little commented upon boost, as the U.S. Congress indicated it would allow a simple up or down vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the ambitious region-wide trade deal that would economically link America’s present and future Asian allies to the U.S., all the while excluding Beijing from being a founding member. This huge economic gambit - if accompanied over time by increased military and diplomatic moves - would allow Obama to successfully implement his strategy.
But to pivot to Asia two other corresponding diminutions in America’s global presence are absolutely necessary. The U.S. has to do far less in Europe (witness America’s non-action over Russian President Putin’s move into Ukraine) and the Middle East (here is non-action in Syria and limited role in Libya are indicative). To successfully lessen America’s strategic footprint in these two (in America’s eyes) vexing regions means that Iran must be brought in from the cold.
Rather than sniping as a dangerous revolutionary power on the Middle East’s outskirts, a nuclear deal with the West would bring Iran into the regional concert of great powers, amounting to Washington viewing Tehran as just another important actor in line with Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. If Iran can be viewed as just another status quo power in the region, then and only then can America morph into an off shore balancer in the Middle East, still involved in tending to a regional balance of power but with a greatly reduced strategic footprint.
This is an absolute prerequisite for the Asia Pivot to be put into practice. Without a deal, the entire Asia Pivot strategy becomes impractical, as Iran remains a dangerous revolutionary power that America must deal with in a hands-on manner, not allowing the Americans to maintain a lesser role in the Middle East. For Obama, the merits of the nuclear deal matter far less than the accord’s supreme importance as the fulcrum for the White House’s overall global strategy of pivoting to Asia.
So there is method to Obama’s madness, as geopolitics explains why a nuclear deal at any cost is the administration’s default position.
Israel's most important strategic
interest still lies with US
Published: 04.20.15/Israel Opinion
Analysis: Russia's ambition is to put down roots in Damascus alongside Iran and to restore its image as a key power in the Middle East; Israel must remember that as it prepares to separate itself from Washington.
In the past week, the attention on the Iranian issue focused on the conduct of the United States and Western European countries: At first we followed the political drama in Washington, at the end of which Israeli government spokespeople announced their great success following the compromise imposing procedures which limit US President Barack Obama's authorities in regards to the nuclear agreement's approval, if such an agreement will indeed be reached.
This governmental approach did not change even after Russia declared that it had decided to lift the ban on the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran. The government's spokespeople stressed that this undesirable move was a direct outcome of the "bad agreement" presented by the US. From here on out, the battle against Obama continued in full swing, and the official announcements mentioned a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the Russian move was criticized.
The public statements arrived the next day. Netanyahu, who delivered the keynote address at the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance ceremony, dedicated many profound words to the Iranian threat, linked it to the West's conduct on the eve of World War II and prepared the public for a situation in which Israel will be forced to face its fate on its own.
Putin chose to say that his decision was an appropriate one, because the weapons Russia plans to supply Iran with are defensive and do not pose a threat to Israel. He also said, rightfully so, that his move does not violate the international sanctions imposed on Iran, but linked it to what he defined as the flexibility demonstrated by Iran in the negotiations with the world powers, and promised that Russia would continue to cooperate with the other countries in the negotiations with Iran.
Additionally, Putin implied that the supply of defensive weapons serves the intention to prevent a deterioration of the Middle East to a wide-scale military battle, and legitimized the Iranian regime.
Obama rushed to respond, saying he was surprised that Putin had held this long in approving the arms sale to Iran, and that it may be necessary to find wordings in the final agreement which would make it easier for the leadership in Tehran to sell the agreement to the public.
All this points to two overall issues requiring our attention. The first is a somewhat surprising attempt between Washington and Moscow to openly cooperate on the Iranian nuclear issue, as opposed to the serious conflicts between them on a variety of international issues – led by the Ukraine crisis. For more than 70 years now, there has been a difficult rivalry taking place in the Middle East between Russia and the US, which reached its climax in the Yom Kippur War when the two world powers toyed with mutual nuclear threats as well. The intra-bloc aspect and its implications on Israel require fundamental clarification in light of these initial signs.
The second overall issue has to do with the Israel-Russia relationship on the bilateral level. In the past few years, Israel has been careful not to offend Russia and its leaders, while Russia has delayed certain weapon shipments both to Iran and to Syria in light of heavy Israeli pressure, which was backed by similar moves from the US.
But this picture is changing before our eyes: The Russian interest to put down roots in Damascus alongside Iran and the Russian ambition to restore its image as a key power in our region – both in the Arabian Peninsula and in Iraq – require Israel not only to raise its alertness and use discretion vis-à-vis Russia, but also to remember that when it considers and implements moves which are interpreted as a preparation for separating itself from Washington.
Therefore, attacking the West, and the US in particular, contradicts Israel's most important strategic interest on the international level.
In the prime minister's historical review of the 1930s on Holocaust Day, he forgot to mention that there was another player in Europe, Russia, which addressed the growing Nazi threat that is compared today to the Iranian danger. Russia didn't try to appease – it signed a pact with Germany.
***Efraim Halevy is a former Mossad chief.
US warship heads to Yemeni waters to
block Iran arms shipment
Roi Kais/ Associated Press/Ynetnews
Published: 04.20.15, 21:45 / Israel News
US Navy confirms reports that aircraft carrier heading towards Yemen to intercept Iranian ships said to be carrying weapons for Houthi rebels.
US Navy officials confirmed reports according to which the US had sent warships to block an Iranian arms shipment to Yemen rebels currently fighting a proxy-war with US and Saudi backed regime forces.
The official, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, said that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt was steaming toward the waters off Yemen to join other American ships prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.
Reuters reported two warships were sent to conduct "maritime security operation". The Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of Iranian ships may be headed toward Yemen to arm the Houthis.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest would not comment specifically on any Navy movements in Yemeni waters, but said the US has concerns about Iran's "continued support for the Houthis.
"We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen. That support will only contribute to greater violence in that country. These are exactly the kind of destabilizing activities that we have in mind when we raise concerns about Iran's destabilizing activities in the Middle East."
He said "the Iranians are acutely aware of our concerns for their continued support of the Houthis by sending them large shipments of weapons."
The Houthis are battling government-backed fighters in an effort to take control of the country.
There are about nine US ships in the region, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels. This is not the first report of the US working to stop Iranian arms from reaching war-torn Yemen.
Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that US forces aboard the USS Sterett boarded a Panamanian freighter suspected of delivering Iranian weapons to Houthi rebels.
The search, conducted on April 1, came up empty and marked the first US Navy's boarding operation in a growing effort to ensure Iran does not supply the Houthi fighters with surface-to-air missiles that could be a game-changer in the fighting and threaten the Saudi-led airstrikes against the Houthis.
The US has been helping Saudi Arabia with intelligence information and recently announced it would expand its assistance to help optimize airstrikes in Yemen and reduce adverse impacts on civilians.
The airstrikes began two weeks ago after Houthi rebels forced US-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the country. The rebels have taken over the capitol of Yemen and flooded much of the country.
US and Saudi officials have said that Iran has been providing arms, weapons, funding and training for the Houthi rebels for years, according to the WSJ report. Iran has denied the claims.
Changing Iran Trends in the Worldwide
Marina Shalabi and Ian Duff/The Washington Institute
April 21, 2015
The past two editions of the annual intelligence report show a marked shift away from discussing Iran's hegemonic regional ambitions and terrorism sponsorship.
Each year, the director of national intelligence presents Congress with a "Worldwide Threat Assessment" detailing the range of security threats to the United States, with the latest edition released this February. Below is a list of quotes from past and present assessments discussing Iran's regional posture and the role of its proxies.
CALLING OUT IRAN'S HEGEMONIC GOALS
"In the Middle East, Iran and its neighbors see a strategic shift: Iran's influence is rising in ways that go beyond the menace of its nuclear program. The fall of the Taliban and Saddam, increased oil revenues, HAMAS's electoral victory, and Hizballah's perceived recent success in fighting against Israel all extend Iran's shadow in the region." (page 5, 2007 edition)
"Iran remains a threat to regional stability and US interests in the Middle East...Tehran's leadership seeks to preserve Iran's Islamic revolutionary government, sovereignty, stability, and territorial integrity while expanding Iran's influence and leadership in the region and the Islamic world." (p. 24, 2008)
"Iran's leaders perceive that regional developments...have given Tehran more opportunities and freedom to pursue its objectives of becoming a regional power. This perception has produced a more assertive Iranian foreign policy in which Tehran has focused on expanding ties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Levant to better influence and exploit regional political, economic, and security developments." (p. 9, 2009)
"Iran will seek to undermine US influence in the Middle East by sponsoring opposition to US initiatives, backing groups that oppose US and Israeli interests, working to undermine cooperation between Washington and moderate Arab allies, and strengthening its deterrent capability against threats from the United States and Israel." (p. 15, 2011)
"In its efforts to spread its influence externally, Iran continues to support proxies and surrogates abroad, and it has sought to exploit the Arab Spring but has reaped limited benefits thus far." (p. 17, 2012)
"In its efforts to spread influence abroad and undermine the United States and our allies, Iran is trying to exploit the fighting and unrest in the Arab world...Iran's efforts to secure regional hegemony, however, have achieved limited results, and the fall of the Asad regime in Syria would be a major strategic loss for Tehran." (p. 16, 2013)
SHIFTING TONE IN 2014-2015
Beginning last year, the assessment's focus shifted away from Tehran's efforts to expand its regional hegemony and toward describing Iran as a protector of oppressed Shiites that seeks to reduce sectarian violence:
"In the broader Middle East, Iran will continue to provide arms and other aid to Palestinian groups, Huthi rebels in Yemen, and Shia militants in Bahrain to expand Iranian influence and to counter perceived foreign threats. Tehran, which strives for a stable Shia-led, pro-Iran government in Baghdad, is concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. Tehran is probably struggling to find the balance between protecting Shia equities in Iraq and avoiding overt actions that would precipitate greater anti-Shia violence." (p. 14, 2014)
"Iran sees rising sectarianism as a dangerous regional development, but we assess that Iran's perceived responsibility to protect and empower Shia communities will increasingly trump its desire to avoid sectarian violence. Hence, Iran's actions will likely do more to fuel rather than dampen increasing sectarianism." (p. 14, 2014)
"Despite Iran's intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia, Iranian leaders -- particularly within the security services -- are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran. Iran's actions to protect and empower Shia communities are fueling growing fears and sectarian responses." (p. 14, 2015)
"In Iraq and Syria, Iran seeks to preserve friendly governments, protect Shia interests, defeat Sunni extremists, and marginalize US influence. The rise of ISIL has prompted Iran to devote more resources to blunting Sunni extremist advances that threaten Iran's regional allies and interests. Iran's security services have provided robust military support to Baghdad and Damascus, including arms, advisers, funding, and direct combat support." (p. 14, 2015)
"Lebanese Hizballah is Iran's main terrorist ally, which -- although focused on its agenda in Lebanon and supporting anti-Israeli Palestinian terrorists -- has a worldwide support network and is capable of attacks against US interests if it feels its Iranian patron is threatened." (p. 12, 2006)
"We assess that Iran regards its ability to conduct terrorist operations abroad as a key element of its national security strategy: it considers this capability as helping to safeguard the regime by deterring US or Israeli attacks, distracting and weakening Israel, enhancing Iran's regional influence through intimidation, and helping to drive the US from the region." (p. 7, 2007)
"Hizballah is the largest recipient of Iranian financial aid, training, and weaponry, and Iran's senior leadership has cited Hizballah as a model for other militant groups. We assess Tehran has continued to provide Hizballah with significant amounts of funding, training, and weapons since the 2006 conflict with Israel, increasing the group's capabilities to pressure other Lebanese factions and to threaten Israel." (p. 11, 2009)
"We judge Iran's influence and ability to intervene in the region will remain significant and that it will continue to support terrorist and militant groups to further its influence and undermine the interests of Western and moderate regional states." (p. 25, 2010)
"The 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States shows that some Iranian officials -- probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei -- have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived US actions that threaten the regime." (p. 5, 2012)
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is an ongoing threat to US national interests because of its support to the Asad regime in Syria, promulgation of anti-Israeli policies, development of advanced military capabilities, and pursuit of its nuclear program." (p. 14, 2015) (Note: Neither here nor anywhere else in the 2015 report is Iran described as a sponsor or supporter of terrorism.)
"Lebanese Hizballah continues to be a formidable terrorist adversary with an ability to attack the US Homeland and US interests abroad. Hizballah is a multifaceted, disciplined organization that combines political, social, paramilitary, and terrorist elements, and we assess that any decision by the group to resort to arms or terrorist tactics is carefully calibrated." (p. 8, 2009)
"Hizballah's overseas terrorist activity has been focused on Israel...We continue to assess that the group maintains a strong anti-US agenda but is reluctant to confront the United States directly outside the Middle East." (p. 5, 2013)
"Iran and Hizballah are committed to defending the Asad regime and have provided support toward this end, including sending billions of dollars in military and economic aid, training pro-regime and Iraqi Shia militants, and deploying their own personnel into the country. Iran and Hizballah view the Asad regime as a key partner in the 'axis of resistance' against Israel and are prepared to take major risks to preserve the regime as well as their critical transshipment routes." (pp. 4-5, 2014)
"Hizballah has increased its global terrorist activity in recent years to a level that we have not seen since the 1990s." (p. 5, 2014)
"Lebanon in 2014 probably will continue to experience sectarian violence among Lebanese and terrorist attacks by Sunni extremists and Hizballah, which are targeting each other's interests." (p. 15, 2014)
"Lebanon faces growing threats from terrorist groups, including the al-Nusrah Front and ISIL. Sunni extremists are trying to establish networks in Lebanon and have increased attacks against Lebanese army and Hizballah positions along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Lebanon potentially faces a protracted conflict in northern and eastern parts of the country from extremist groups seeking to seize Lebanese territory, supplies, and hostages." (p. 15, 2015) (Note: This is the only mention of Hizballah in the entire 2015 assessment.)
As these quotes illustrate, the newest assessments show a marked shift in tone regarding Iran and its proxies. While past editions portrayed Tehran as a malign influence and state sponsor of terrorism that was actively seeking to undermine the United States and its allies, the most recent assessments cast a different light.
**Marina Shalabi and Ian Duff are research assistants at The Washington Institute.