February 09/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees
Isaiah 10/01-34: "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. God’s Judgment on Assyria. “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets. But this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind; his purpose is to destroy, to put an end to many nations. ‘Are not my commanders all kings?’ he says. ‘Has not Kalno fared like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad, and Samaria like Damascus? As my hand seized the kingdoms of the idols, kingdoms whose images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria— shall I not deal with Jerusalem and her images as I dealt with Samaria and her idols?’”  When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. For he says: “‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures; like a mighty one I subdued their kings. As one reaches into a nest, so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations; as people gather abandoned eggs, so I gathered all the countries; not one flapped a wing, or opened its mouth to chirp.’”  Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
or the saw boast against the one who uses it? As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up, or a club brandish the one who is not wood! Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors; under his pomp a fire will be kindled
like a blazing flame. The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers.  The splendor of his forests and fertile fields it will completely destroy, as when a sick person wastes away. And the remaining trees of his forests will be so few that a child could write them down.
In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous. The Lord, the Lord Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land. Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says: “My people who live in Zion,
do not be afraid of the Assyrians, who beat you with a rod and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did. Very soon my anger against you will end and my wrath will be directed to their destruction.” The Lord Almighty will lash them with a whip, as when he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb; and he will raise his staff over the waters, as he did in Egypt. In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders, their yoke from your neck; the yoke will be broken because you have grown so fat.  They enter Aiath; they pass through Migron; they store supplies at Mikmash. They go over the pass, and say,“We will camp overnight at Geba.” Ramah trembles; Gibeah of Saul flees. Cry out, Daughter Gallim! Listen, Laishah! Poor Anathoth! Madmenah is in flight; the people of Gebim take cover. This day they will halt at Nob;
they will shake their fist at the mount of Daughter Zion, at the hill of Jerusalem. See, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will lop off the boughs with great power. The lofty trees will be felled, the tall ones will be brought low. He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax;
Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 08-09/15
The United States just sent a strong message to Hezbollah/By NADAV POLLACK/J.Post/February 08/15
To Defeat ISIS, Check Iran and Israel/
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat/February 08/15
ISIS has Jordan in its sights/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/February 08/15
Netanyahu, do the right thing: Don’t go to Washington/Ben-Dror Yemini /Ynetnews/February 08-09/15

Lebanese Related News published on February 08-09/15
Inter-Christian divides blamed for presidential standoff
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Salam meets with Lavrov, Zarif, Abadi in Munich
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Amal Clooney wants to meet Egypt's Sisi over jailed journalist
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Governor, Health Minister in dust-up over fish
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France to deliver weapons to Lebanon in April: FM
Israel Gravely Concerned by Developments along Border with Lebanon
Girault Pessimistic over Regional Breakthrough for Presidential Deadlock, to Meet al-Rahi Monday
Abou Faour Hopes Health Ministry Campaigns become 'Reformist Approach
Bekaa Fugitives Flee Area ahead of Implementation of Security Plan

Fabius Expresses France's Staunch Support to Lebanon during Meeting with Salam

Jumblat Urges Reviving 'National Aspect' of Presidential Vote instead of 'Limiting it to Christians'
Lebanon Braces for Another Monster Storm
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St. Maroun’s Day, History & Lessons
By: Elias Bejjani
February 09/15
On the ninth of February for the past 1600 years, Maronites in Lebanon and all over the world have been celebrating the annual commemoration of St. Maroun, the founder of their Catholic denomination.
Every year, on the ninth of February, more than ten million Maronites from all over the world celebrate St. Maroun’s day. On this day, they pay their respect to the great founder of the Maronite Church, Maroun the priest, the hermit, the father, the leader and the Saint. They remember what they have been exposed to, since the 4th century, both good and bad times. They reminisce through the past, examine the present and contemplate the future. They pray for peace, democracy and freedom in Lebanon, their homeland, and all over the world.
Who was this Saint, how did he establish his church, where did he live, and who are his people, the Maronites?
St. Maroun, according to the late great Lebanese philosopher and historian, Fouad Afram Al-Bustani, was raised in the city of Kouroch. This city is located northeast of Antioch (presently in Turkey), and to the northwest of Herapolos (Manbieg), the capital of the third Syria (Al-Furatia). Kouroch is still presently in existence in Turkey, it is located 15 kilometers to the northwest of Kalas city, and about 70 kilometers to the north of the Syrian city, Aleppo.
As stated by the historians, Father Boutrous Daou and Fouad Fram Bustani, Maroun chose a very high location at the Semaan Mountain (called in the past, Nabo Mountain, after the pagan god, Nabo). Geographically, the Semaan Mountain is located between Antioch and Aleppo. People had abandoned the mountain for years, and the area was completely deserted.
The ruins of a historic pagan temple that existed on the mountain attracted Maroun. Boustan stated that St. Maroun moved to this mountain and decided to follow the life of a hermit. He made the ruined temple his residence after excoriating it from devils, but used it only for masses and offerings of the holy Eucharist. He used to spend all his time in the open air, praying, fasting and depriving his body from all means of comfort. He became very famous in the whole area for his faith, holiness and power of curing. Thousands of believers came to him seeking help and advice.
St. Maroun, was an excellent knowledgeable preacher and a very stubborn believer in Christ and in Christianity. He was a mystic who started a new ascetic-spiritual method that attracted many people from all over the Antiochian Empire. He was a zealous missionary with a passion to spread the message of Christ by preaching it to others. He sought not only to cure the physical ailments that people suffered, but had a great quest for nurturing and healing the “lost souls” of both pagans and Christians of his time. Maroun’s holiness and countless miracles drew attention throughout the Antiochian Empire. St. John of Chrysostom sent him a letter around 405 AD expressing his great love and respect asking St. Maroun to pray for him.
St. Maroun’s way was deeply monastic with emphasis on the spiritual and ascetic aspects of living. For him, all was connected to God and God was connected to all. He did not separate the physical and spiritual world and actually used the physical world to deepen his faith and spiritual experience with God. St. Maroun embraced the quiet solitude of the Semaan Mountain life. He lived in the open air exposed to the forces of nature such as sun, rain, hail and snow. His extraordinary desire to come to know God’s presence in all things allowed him to transcend such forces, and discover an intimate union with God. He was able to free himself from the physical world by his passion and eagerness for prayer and enter into a mystical relationship of love with the creator.
St. Maroun attracted hundreds of monks and priests who came to live with him and become his disciples and loyal Christian followers. Maroun’s disciples preached the Bible in the Antiochan Empire (known at the present time as Syria), Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel, They built hundreds of Churches and abbeys as well as schools and were known for their faith, devotion and perseverance.
At the age of seventy, in the year 410 AD, and after completing his holy mission, St. Maroun died peacefully while surrounded by his disciples and followers. His will was to be buried in the same grave with his beloved teacher, the great monk, Zabena, in the town of Kena, next to Kouroch city, where a temple was built in Zabena’s name. St. Maroun’s will was not fulfilled, because the residents of a nearby town were able to take his body and bury him in their town and build a huge church on his grave. This church was a shrine for Christians for hundreds of years, and its ruins are still apparent in that town.
After Maroun’s death, his disciples built a huge monastery in honor of his name, adjacent to the ornate spring, (Naher Al-Assi, located at the Syrian-Lebanese border). The monastery served for hundreds of years as a pillar for faith, education, martyrhood and holiness. It was destroyed at the beginning of the tenth century that witnessed the worst Christian persecution era. During the savage attack on the monastery more than 300 Maronite priests were killed. The surviving priests moved to the mountains of Lebanon where with the Marada people and the native Lebanese were successful in establishing the Maronite nation. They converted the Lebanese mountains to a fortress of faith and a symbol for martyrhood, endurance and perseverance.
Initially the Maronite movement reached Lebanon when St. Maroun’s first disciple Abraham of Cyrrhus, who was called the Apostle of Lebanon, realized that paganism was thriving in Lebanon, so he set out to convert the pagans to Christianity by introducing them to the way of St. Maroun. St. Maroun is considered to be the Father of the spiritual and monastic movement now called the Maronite Church. This movement had a profound influence on northern Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and on many other countries all over the world where the Maronites currently live. The biggest Maronite community at the present time lives in Brazil. More than six million Lebanese descendents made Brazil their home after the massive emigration that took place from Lebanon in the beginning of this century.
The Maronites made Lebanon their homeland since the 4th century after converting its native inhabitants to Christianity. They were identified by it, and it was identified by them, they were and still are one entity. The Maronite people were always hopeful, faithful and strong believers in the Christian Catholic doctrine. They made victories of defeats, joy of sorrow and hope of despair. The Maronites successfully created with hard work and a great deal of faith and sacrifices, the Maronite nation by fulfilling its four basic pillars, a land, a people, a civilization and a politically independent entity. They constantly fight for what was theirs, and never ever surrendered to despair.
Fouad Afram Boustani described the Maronite denomination as, a faith of intelligence, an identification of life, a solid belief in Catholicism, a love for others, an ongoing struggle for righteousness, a mentality of openness on the whole world, and on its different civilizations, and a vehicle for martyrdom. The Maronites established the state of Lebanon and made it an oasis for the persecuted in the area. They believed and practiced multiculturalism and pluralism. They created with the help of other minorities in the Middle East the unique nation of Lebanon.
God Bless Lebanon!

Maronite Bishop Antoine Nabil Andari : We Can't Confine Maronism to Those Who Bowed Their Heads for Personal, Foreign Interests
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarchal Vicar of Jounieh Bishop Antoine Nabil Andari lamented Sunday that “no one can understand why a new president has not been elected until the moment,” stressing that Maronism cannot be “confined” to the ambitions of “those who bowed their heads and knees for the sake of personal and foreign interests.” “After all what happened, we wonder where is the Christian spirit – the spirit of tolerance, forgiveness and love – and where is Saint Maroun and the example he gave us in terms of self-sacrifice for the sake of others,” Andari said in a sermon marking Saint Maroun's Day, which will be celebrated Monday in Lebanon and the world.
“When we're asked why don't Maronites in Lebanon agree on a president, what should we say? We shy away from mentioning the reason and we prefer to say, 'We don't know' … in order to cover up for the greedy ambitions that are being pursued at the expense of the people and the country,” the bishop added. He wondered if the time has come for Maronites to “crucify themselves on the cross of history” while being subjected to “the mockery of both allies and enemies.”
“Nowadays, we have erred a lot by straying away from our Maronite heritage, because the lack of religiosity and faith and the negligence of the founding fathers' spiritual, ideological and moral heritage have led us into the current situation,” Andari decried.
“Our resurrection can only happen through our faith and unity,” the bishop underlined. He called for “rising up from the valley of decadence and defeat,” emphasizing that “Maronism cannot be confined to the level of those who bowed their heads and knees for the sake of personal and foreign interests, but rather to the level of those who have raised heads and spread its name and message.” “Have we forgotten what (late) pope John Paul II had said in the Apostolic Exhortation when he described Lebanon as the cradle of a deep-rooted culture, one of the Mediterranean Sea's beacons and the land of unity and diversity?” Andari went on to say.

Inter-Christian divides blamed for presidential standoff
Antoine Ghattas Saab/The Daily Star/Feb. 09, 2015
The latest flurry of foreign diplomatic activity designed to break Lebanon’s 8-month-old presidential stalemate has failed to produce any tangible results, raising fears that the country’s top Christian post will remain vacant for quite some time, political sources said.
The most recent senior foreign official to visit Lebanon in an attempt to resolve the presidential crisis was French presidential envoy Jean-Francois Girault, who ended a two-day trip to Beirut Thursday, without making any progress in his talks with rival Lebanese leaders that would set the stage for the election of a new president. While the presidential standoff has defied local, regional and international initiatives, the foreign envoys that visited Lebanon recently and held talks with Lebanese leaders have blamed political disputes among the country’s main Christian parties for the deadlock, the sources said. “Every foreign envoy who visited Lebanon and met with officials here had prepared a report [to his government] by adding a clause saying: ‘The [presidential] obstacle lies in inter-Christian differences,’” according to the sources.The ambassador of an Arab country, which currently wields great influence in Lebanon, said during a social function a few days ago that the election of a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended May 25, should take place in the next three months “because the situation can no longer endure this vacancy in the state’s highest level post.”
The ambassador said he believed that Iran, which has a say in the presidential election, has mandated the presidential crisis to Hezbollah, an organization skillful in arranging its cards and bargaining over them. Since Hezbollah is adamant on its support for Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun for the presidency and “will not accept another candidate” as Mahmoud Qmati, a member of Hezbollah’s political bureau, declared after visiting Aoun at his residence in Rabieh Friday, this certainly signals that the presidential vote has been put on hold. According to the ambassador, international efforts have been intensified to try to resolve the presidential crisis, given the importance of the election of a president in this fateful period. Although the Americans agree with the Russians, Saudis, French and Iranians on this point in particular, the ambassador said that so far “the result is zero,” adding that all the diplomatic activity was merely exploratory to probe the parties’ intentions and sound out their views on how to break the deadlock.
For his part, a diplomat described the latest French activity over the presidential election as an attempt by Paris to reassert its presence in Lebanon, but this activity cannot be translated into the situation on the ground.
France has been trying to regain some of the role it has lost at the peak of American and Russian activity across the region, while America is mainly concerned with mobilizing the world in the fight against ISIS terrorism, and Iran is active in strengthening its influence in the Middle Eastern arena, the diplomat said. A Lebanese politician who had the chance to meet Girault told The Daily Star that the French activity over Lebanon focused chiefly on prodding the Lebanese factions to decide upon a president and that the decision-making countries have kicked the presidential ball into their court. Girault, according to the politician, voiced his concern over the considerable danger facing Lebanon in light of the Christians’ reluctance to play their main role in their country.
There is no doubt that the Lebanese presidency has become tied to international decisions that are fluctuating during the course of negotiations over both Iran’s nuclear program and the proposed solutions to the region’s crises, the politician said.
On the eve of a reported meeting between Girault and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai in Rome, sources close to Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite patriarchate, said that Pope Francis told Rai during their meeting Friday that the Vatican was continuing in its efforts to encourage the Big Powers to exert pressure on regional parties to facilitate the presidential election. The Holy See does not have any preference in the names of presidential candidates and the Vatican’s contacts are particularly focused on the American side, which currently has strong cards in its ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the sources said.

Israel Gravely Concerned by Developments along Border with Lebanon
Naharnet/Israel expressed fear over an escalation along its northern border with Lebanon as its Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon sounded the alarm over the upcoming developments after Hizbullah's attack against an military vehicle in the occupied Shebaa Farms, media reports said on Sunday. “The situation along the northern border with Lebanon and Syria is heading towards further escalation,” Yaalon said in comments to Israel's Channel 10. The Israeli official pointed out that he based his remarks on security reports and Hizbullah's political attitude. Yaalon accused Hizbullah, the Syrian regime and Iran are trying to “create a new equation along its border,” adding that Hizbullah “is seeking to establish a new frontier in the Golan Heights.”At the end of January, two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a Hizbullah attack on a military convoy in the occupied Shebaa Farms. The attack prompted Israel to shell areas in southern Lebanon in a significant escalation along the volatile border. Hizbullah said in its claim of responsibility that it targeted several vehicles transporting officers and soldiers with missiles to avenge the Israeli raid on Syria's Quneitra that killed six of its fighters and a top Iranian general. For his party, outgoing Israel's armed forces chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz expressed grave concern over the security situation in Israel, warning that a “war could erupt on several frontiers, including the Gaza strip and Lebanon.” “Israel almost slipped into a dangerous escalation with Hizbullah,” Gantz noted, pointing out that the Israeli retaliation would have been far more enormous if ten soldiers were killed in the Shebaa attack.

14 Dead in Egypt Police Clashes with Football Fans
Naharnet Newsdesk 7 hours ago/Fourteen people were killed Sunday in clashes between Egyptian police and football fans at a Cairo stadium, state media reported, in the country's deadliest sports violence since dozens died at a match in 2012. The agency quoted the state prosecution as saying 14 bodies of those killed in the clashes had been taken to a morgue. The health ministry had initially said that three people died in the violence, which was sparked when fans tried to force their way into the venue to watch a game. The match between Zamalek and Enbi was open to the public, unlike most other games between Egyptian football clubs since deadly stadium riots in Port Said in 2012. But the interior ministry had restricted to 10,000 the number of spectators allowed into the stadium, and tickets quickly ran out. Angry members of the Ultra White Knights, a group of hardcore Zamalek fans, tried to force their way into the stadium, police said. Police fired tear gas to disperse them, before the Zamalek supporters let off fireworks, police and witnesses said.In February 2012, more than 70 people were killed and hundreds injured in post-match violence following a game in Port Said between Cairo's al-Ahly and al-Masry. The riots were considered the deadliest in Egypt's sports history. Agence France Presse

Bekaa Fugitives Flee Area ahead of Implementation of Security Plan
Naharnet/Outlaws in the eastern Bekaa Valley have reportedly fled the area to evade a much-anticipated security plan expected to be implemented soon, media reports said on Sunday. Sources said in comments published in the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa newspaper that dangerous fugitives left their homes in the eastern Bekaa and headed to the Syrian town of Qusayr and other neighboring towns. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced recently the Central Security Council discussed the measures that will be implemented in the Bekaa to maintain stability. The plan seeks to clamp down on criminals in the Bekaa where certain areas, such as the town of Brital, are known to be a safe haven for car-theft gangs and drug dealers, as well as networks that kidnap people in return for ransom. The army had launched a crackdown on assailants in Beirut's southern suburbs and several other areas in an attempt to halt security chaos across the country. Security sources told An Nahar newspaper that the security plan is not linked to any of the security measures that the army has taken along Lebanon's border with Syria. The sources added that the army is exerting efforts to strike with an iron fist in the Bekaa to reduce the security violations. Speaker Nabih Berri has warned recently offenders in the Bekaa Valley that they will eventually have no choice but to hand themselves over to security forces, flee the country or face death ahead of the implementation of a security plan in the area. “The Bekaa will not remain a safe haven for fugitives,” Berri was quoted as saying.

Fabius Expresses France's Staunch Support to Lebanon during Meeting with Salam

Naharnet/French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius informed Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Sunday that the first shipment of French weapons, part of a $3 billion Saudi deal, is expected to arrive in Lebanon in April. Fabius's statement was made during a meeting with Salam on the sidelines of the 51st Munich Security Conference. “France is keen to support Lebanon and safeguards its security, stability and unity and fortify its state institutions,” Fabius told the Lebanese PM. Saudi Arabia last year announced it would give the Lebanese army $3 billion to purchase weapons and equipment from France, but that deal has yet to be fully implemented. In August, the kingdom offered another $1 billion in funds to allow the army to purchase supplies immediately. For his part, Salam expressed gratitude to Fabius on the efforts carried out by France to facilitate the election of a new president in Lebanon as the FM stressed that Paris “will continue its endeavors to reach a positive result in this regard.” The two officials also tackled the Syrian refugees crisis. U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has registered 1.5 million arrivals, but many more are thought to be in the country unregistered, and thousands have entered Lebanon through illegal crossings. The influx has tested the country's limited resources, as well as the patience of its citizens, particularly as security has deteriorated. Salam had also discussed on Saturday in Munich with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif and several other officials the latest developments in Lebanon and the region. The PM held talks with Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, UAE FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin al-Nahyan, Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi and Norway's FM Borge Brende. The event's organizer, veteran German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, said the conference focuses what he called an unprecedented upsurge in global crises over the past year, and the inability of the international community to tackle them. Salam stressed in his speech during the conference that the presence of refugees in a country of such fragile economic and political scenes as Lebanon is a “ticking time bomb”. He said: “The large number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has led to an increase in crime due to unemployment and poverty.” The PM had kicked off his trip to Germany with talks with Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa.

Jumblat Urges Reviving 'National Aspect' of Presidential Vote instead of 'Limiting it to Christians'

Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Sunday called for “thinking of new solutions to overcome the current situation” in the presidential crisis, calling for “reviving the national aspect of this juncture instead of limiting it to the Christian parties.”“In the face of the procrastination and obstinacy in the stances of the political forces towards the issue of the presidential election, after long months of presidential void, and given the rise in the intensity of the regional conflicts around Lebanon, it has become necessary to think of new solutions to overcome the current situation,” said Jumblat in his weekly editorial in the PSP's al-Anbaa electronic magazine. “Perhaps the first idea to reach a new stage in this regard should be reviving the national aspect of this juncture instead of limiting it to the Christian parties, because this would detract from the president's role as a unifier of all Lebanese,” Jumblat added. Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps have torpedoed the elections. Dialogue got underway recently between two key Christian parties – the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces – and the stalled presidential vote is one of the main topics.
“A long time has passed amid the absence of serious agreements over the characteristics of the new president, and this requires the cooperation of the rest of parties on the basis of consultation instead of monopolizing the decision,” Jumblat went on to say.
He warned that the continued vacuum could “gradually lead to usurping some presidential powers by disregarding the previous norms and producing new ones through successive mechanisms that might be approved by the council of ministers.”“This may give the impression that the country is moving forward normally without the need to elect a new president,” Jumblat cautioned. He also called on all political parties to “admit that a presidential settlement is inevitable” instead of “awaiting the outcome of foreign agreements that might require a long time.”“Amid the accumulation of the foreign challenges, we need to immunize internal stability and activate the work of institutions,” Jumblat added.

Lebanon gets U.S. arms, vehicles to fight militants
Agence France Presse, Beirut/Sunday, 8 February 2015
The Lebanese army received a shipment of U.S. weapons on Sunday, an embassy official told AFP, to help in the fight against Islamist militants who have staged incursions from Syria. “The Lebanese military received 72 M198 power supply [howitzers], and more than 25 million rounds of artillery, mortar and rifle ammunition,” the official said on condition of anonymity. In a statement, the U.S. Embassy said the aid was worth $25 million, adding that the 26 million rounds of ammunition included small, medium and heavy artillery rounds. “Support for the [Lebanese military] remains a top priority for the United States. Recent attacks against Lebanon’s army only strengthen America’s resolve to stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon to confront these threats,” said the embassy. It added: “The United States is providing top of the line weapons to the [Lebanese army] to help Lebanon’s brave soldiers in their confrontation with the terrorists.” In recent months, Lebanon’s army has fought several battles against jihadists streaming in from across the restive border with Syria. The deadliest battle took place last August in the border town of Arsal. The jihadists withdrew after a deal brokered by Lebanese Sunni clerics, but they took with them more than two dozen army and police hostages. Four of the hostages have since been executed, and efforts to release the remaining 25 appear completely stalled. A Lebanese army soldier stands next to artillery pieces that were unloaded from a ship at Beirut’s port in Lebanon on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. (AP) In 2014, Lebanon was the fifth largest recipient of U.S. foreign military aid, the embassy said. “In 2014 alone, the United States provided over $100 million to the [Lebanese military], adding to the $1 billion in assistance provided … since 2006,” said the statement. The civil war raging in Syria, which in nearly four years has killed more than 210,000 people, has had a major security, economic and humanitarian impact on Lebanon. The tiny Mediterranean country was dominated militarily and politically by Syria for nearly 30 years until 2005. It remains divided over the conflict in Syria, with Shiite Hezbollah and its allies backing President Bashar al-Assad, and the Sunni-led opposition supporting the revolt.

The United States just sent a strong message to Hezbollah
By NADAV POLLACK/J.Post 02/07/2015
The latest revelations about US role in Mughniyeh’s assassination are aimed to demonstrate to Hezbollah that the US is still willing and able to meet Hezbollah’s operatives on this battlefield.
The latest Washington Post article about US involvement in Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination sheds light on one of the most complicated and successful operations the CIA and the Mossad have jointly executed. Starting with the specific intelligence about Mughniyeh’s daily routine, to the CIA spotter team in Syria, and the highly sophisticated explosive that was used to kill Hezbollah’s top commander, it is apparent that much planning was involved in this operation.
According to the article the CIA helped to build the bomb that killed Mughniyeh and played an integral part in the intelligence-gathering aspect of the operation.
Moreover, as a former US official stated, the Americans were the ones that first suggested killing Mughniyeh. However, as in many other ground-breaking stories about daring CIA operations, there’s more to this story. Intelligence agencies don’t just volunteer confidential information. They have an objective in mind in coming forward with this type of information.
According to some reporters, in this particular instance the motive was to show Israel, and more specifically Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that Israel needs the US to execute such complicated operations.
However, the US has better channels to pass Israel messages about security cooperation, and it seems that revealing such confidential information just to convey this message is a little bit over the top.
No, the declassification of the information about Mughniyeh’s assassination is about something else.
The message is not addressed to Israel, but rather to Hezbollah, and it goes something like this: when you decide to target our forces and citizens, we will take action. If the US wanted to show that it is still willing and able to target Hezbollah operatives, this revelation nailed it.
To be clear, Hezbollah probably knew even before this story broke that the US had something to do with Mughniyeh’s death, as it believes that every Israeli covert operation in the region is probably coordinated with the Americans. In the case of Mughniyeh, a man with much American blood on his hands, its belief that the US was involved was probably even stronger.
However, now that it is clear that the US was highly involved, not just supporting the operation but contributing valuable assets and willing to put its people in danger, Hezbollah’s perception of the extent to which the US is willing to meet Hezbollah in the field will change.
But why now? In recent years Hezbollah along with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force targeted mainly Israelis, including high-level officials, but also Americans, in multiple locations. These attempts were managed by Hezbollah’s External Security Organization (ESO) and Unit 400 of the Quds Force, and their motive was retaliation both for Mughniyeh’s assassination and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. As counter-terrorism expert Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute wrote, these efforts were not successful (excluding the attack on a group of Israelis in Bulgaria) mainly because “targets were poorly chosen and assaults carried out with gross incompetence.”
Some of these plots involved laying the groundwork for quick retaliatory strikes in the event that Israel or the US, or both, attacked Iran’s nuclear sites. The US focused its intelligence efforts on countering these attempts, but did not take extensive measures against the Hezbollah operatives that were behind them.
Another theater in which the US has faced Hezbollah was Iraq. During the Iraq war Hezbollah operatives were training and aiding Shi’ite militias which targeted coalition forces, on multiple occasions resulting in the loss of American lives. Hezbollah’s operations in Iraq were overseen by Unit 3800, which is responsible for training Shi’ite militias and helping them with logistics; the unit is still very much active in Iraq today.
Currently, Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies are still fighting in Iraq, mainly against Islamic State (IS), but if Iran or Hezbollah feel they can extract a price from the US over its presence in the country, they could suddenly change their aim.
Moreover, as the US is becoming more and more involved in Syria, it’s possible that the friction points between American forces and Hezbollah fighters will increase. Hezbollah’s fighters are engaging in Syria by the thousands, and if the US decides to get more involved, whether it’s increasing the training of the rebels or putting boots on the ground, it’s possible that Hezbollah will want to make this involvement pricy for the Americans.
In this scenario Hezbollah will need to take into consideration US willingness to challenge it on the battlefield.
This battlefield does not have to be a standard one in which American forces are fighting directly against Hezbollah, but could be more similar to the shadow war Hezbollah and Israel have been fighting. This behind-the-scenes struggle could mean the targeting of American bases in the surrounding countries (Turkey, Iraq, Jordan), or of Americans in countries where Hezbollah has already a logistics infrastructure.
The latest revelations about US role in Mughniyeh’s assassination are aimed to demonstrate to Hezbollah that the US is still willing and able to meet Hezbollah’s operatives on this battlefield. Whether it was someone in the White House or someone in the CIA that sent this message, it was loud and clear – when the US feels Hezbollah has crossed a red line, it will find the individual that is responsible and retaliate, Mughniyeh-style.
**The author is currently a masters student at Princeton focusing on the Middle East and American foreign policy.

Netanyahu: US, Iran galloping towards deal which threatens Israel
Ynetnews/Published: 02.08.15/ Israel News
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says US, Iranian commitment to reach nuclear deal with Iran by March a danger to Israel, vows Israel 'will do everything, take any action to foil this bad deal.'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated once again his promise to stop at nothing to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capabilities, or maintain the ability to do so quickly through a deal with the west.
His comments came US Secretary of State Kerry met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif Friday and again Sunday in Munich, where the top US diplomat stressed Washington's commitment to seeing the deadline met.
"The major powers and Iran are galloping toward an agreement that will enable Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons, which will endanger the existence of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said at Israeli government's weekly cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu took aim at Kerry and Zarif, saying that their intention to complete a framework agreement by the end of March, forces Israel to take action. "From this (commitment stems the urgency of our efforts to try and block this bad and dangerous agreement.
"We will continue to take action and to lead the international effort against Iran's arming itself with nuclear weapons. We will do everything and will take any action to foil this bad and dangerous agreement that will place a heavy cloud over the future of the State of Israel and its security," Netanyahu said.
Kerry ruled out extending a March 31 deadline for Iran nuclear talks unless the basic framework of an agreement is hammered out, speaking in an interview aired Sunday.
"The only chance I can see of an extension at this point in time would be that you really have the outlines of the agreement," Kerry said in the interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" taped Saturday in Munich.
Global powers have been struggling for more than a year to pin down a comprehensive deal to rein in Iran's suspected nuclear program, after an interim accord was struck in November 2013.
After their meeting Sunday, Zarif appeared to rule out any new extension to tough negotiations with world powers.
Kerry said outlining the basics of the agreement was crucial before a possible extension could be considered, but reiterated his preference for sticking to the target date.
"But if we're not able to make the fundamental decisions that have to be made over the course of the next weeks, literally, I think it would be impossible to extend," he told NBC.
"I don't think we would want to extend at that point. Either you make the decisions to prove your program is a peaceful one, or if you're unable to do that, it may tell a story that none of us want to hear."
After missing two previous deadlines, the group known as the P5+1 - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States - set a March 31 deadline for a political agreement.
That would be followed by a final deal setting out all the technical points of what would be a complex accord by June 30.
But the atmosphere has been complicated by hardliners both in Iran and the United States, with US lawmakers threatening to impose new sanctions on Iran if the March deadline is missed.
AFP contributed to this report

Jordan conducts 56 air raids against ISIS in 3 days: 'We will wipe them off the face of the Earth'
By REUTERS/ 02/08/2015
Jordan's air force chief said on Sunday his country's jet fighters had conducted 56 bombing raids in three days against Islamic State militants in northeast Syria, targeting key bases and arms depots. Jordan stepped up its bombing of the jihadist group on Thursday in response to the brutal killing by Islamic State of a captured Jordanian pilot, and continued until Saturday. No new strikes were announced for Sunday. "We achieved what we aimed for. We destroyed logistics centers, arms depots and targeted hideouts of their fighters," General Mansour al-Jbour, head of the Jordanian airforce, told a news conference. Jordan has carried out nearly a fifth of the sorties of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria to date, Jbour said. US aircraft joined the mission to provide intelligence, surveillance, a U.S. official told Reuters earlier on Sunday. The raids had "degraded" nearly 20 percent of the militants' capabilities, he said. Jbour said the main aims of the bombing would continue to be to try to hit IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to stop the group's illicit oil trade, and to destroy their training bases, garrisons and command centers. "We are determined to wipe them from the face of the Earth," the general said. At least 7,000 militants had been killed in the last few weeks of coalition bombing, he said.
Jordan's King Abdullah has vowed to avenge the killing of pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh and has ordered his commanders to prepare for a bigger military role in the international coalition fighting Islamic State. Many Jordanians fear greater involvement could trigger a backlash by hardline militants inside the kingdom. Jordanian military experts say the kingdom could soon struggle to sustain the intensity of the past few days of air strikes, given the air force only has 40 mid-life F16 jets at its disposal. A squadron of F16 jet fighters from the United Arab Emirates was expected in Jordan in the coming days. It will conduct joint air strikes with Jordanian colleagues against the Islamic militants, Jordanian officials said on Saturday. Jbour said the frequency of future sorties would vary. "This does not mean in any way that we will continue at the same momentum with the same number of flights but will increase one day and drop one day according to the nature of the operations," he said Jordan's monarch has been lobbying Washington, the kingdom's main backer, to provide it with more spare parts, night vision equipment and other weapons to help it expand its operations.

ISIS has Jordan in its sights
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat
Sunday, 8 Feb, 2015
The Syrian crisis is even more protracted and dangerous for Jordan than the burning to death of Jordanian pilot Moaz Al-Kasasbeh would suggest. This hideous crime was designed to stir Arab and international uproar in general, and provoke the Jordanians in particular. The crime reflects the intentions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) towards Jordan, which has been dealing with the fallout from the crisis of its northern neighbor Syria since the very beginning of the uprising there.
I think Jordan has an important role to play in Syria, one that it hasn’t yet taken. Although it has avoided engaging in the struggle directly, Jordan has not been allowed to remain distant from the crisis by the Syrians themselves. While the Syrian regime is aware that its borders with Jordan are a regional red line and will therefore never dare cross them, ISIS sees Jordan as the best candidate for its next target.
Jordan is a country with a wholly Arab Sunni environment. It neighbors Israel and, geographically speaking, complements the southern part of ISIS’s territory in southwest Iraq, where ISIS’ presence directly threatens Saudi Arabia. ISIS does not care about attacking areas where Sunnis are a minority, like Iraqi Shi’ite provinces or Syrian Alawite ones. It wants to take over areas which it thinks it can subjugate and turn into a reservoir of support for its sectarian policies, even if the population opposes its political system. One can follow the path taken by ISIS from Iraq to Syria to see how the organization thinks. I don’t want to expend much time on understanding the group’s motives, but what is certain is that it considers Jordan an enemy more serious than the Syrian regime, which opened conduits for it to strike at the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA)—an enemy to both sides.
Jordan has not been able to play a direct role during the past four years of the Syrian conflict because of its clear stance against getting involved in that conflict. However, getting involved is not an option when the people in your country can actually hear the Syrian regime’s shelling of Syrian towns like Dera’a, and when your country hosts more than half a million Syrian refugees—a significant population that is posing serious financial, political and security challenges for Jordan. At a later point, Jordanian forces may end up getting unwillingly dragged into Syria and having to choose a side. It’s no secret the FSA operates in northern Jordan, and inside the southern Syrian borders which it almost completely controls. But it is not yet an armed force with enough advanced weapons to enable it to take over Damascus, which is only 60 miles (100 kilometers) away from Dera’a—or an hour’s drive.
If Jordan and the other countries backing the FSA had taken the risk and enabled the FSA to enter and control Damascus, we may not have arrived at this complicated and dangerous phase in which terrorist organizations have emerged to become the biggest threat confronting the world. Can Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the rest of the region’s countries tolerate the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, along with all these terrorist organizations and the Syrian regime’s criminality, for another 10 years? Can anyone allow the situation on the northern front near Turkey, which the Al-Nusra Front dominates, to continue? We saw how it was difficult to liberate a town like Kobani from ISIS fighters, and how ISIS threatened the security of the entire Kurdistan region, which had been fortified for two decades. ISIS continues to occupy two big Iraqi cites—Mosul and Kirkuk—and all Iraqi, American and Iranian attempts to liberate them so far have failed. Bearing this in mind, we cannot underestimate the threat of ISIS and categorize its acts as mere terrorist operations—on the contrary, it is capable of invading, dominating, settling and expanding in more territory. The hideous manner in which ISIS murdered the Jordanian pilot aimed to intimidate Jordanians and others. The video of his murder has been viewed just enough to instill fear and deliver the message that the arrival of the organization’s fighters alone is enough to terrify civilians—and this is exactly what happened in the Iraqi cities which ISIS attacked and invaded.

To Defeat ISIS, Check Iran and Israel
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat/Sunday, 8 Feb, 2015 
The latest crime committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—and I do not expect it to be the last—barely adds anything new to the criminal record of this kind of terrorism, which brings together the worst manifestations of the crimes committed by the Crusaders under the pretext of Christianity and the zest felt by sadists for killing and torture. After their acts of mass and individual slaughter, and their broadcast around the world, we now see ISIS executing people by burning them alive. Who knows, perhaps these killers will think up even more inventive and disgusting crimes in the future.
The perpetrators seem to be keen to associate this “carnival” of savagery exclusively with Islam, although most religions have experience at one point or another in their history with bloody violence and internal strife, before accepting and valuing differences of opinion. There is no need to revisit all the religious wars and atrocities that have been committed throughout human history—not to mention the sectarian conflicts that have broken out between followers of the same religion. However, the eyes of the world, thanks to the finest media and social networking outlets, are now firmly focused on Islam, while Muslims stand idly by, incapable of coming up with a new logic to confront those who are putting forward a false image of their religion in the name of their own exclusionary faith.
But this shortfall is not limited to Muslims. World leaders are also acting as if they prefer to treat superficial symptoms, rather than deal with root causes.
Execution by burning alive, as it was carried out by ISIS, was a commonplace punishment in the West for centuries, and for a number of offenses, including religious dogma and heresy. Those burned at the stake in the West include the great Christian reformer Jan Hus (1415), French nationalist hero and Catholic Saint Joan of Arc (1431), Italian monk Savonarola (1498), and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer (1556), among others.
This method of execution took place in the West before the establishment of modern states based on open, rational and accountable institutions and authorities. It also took place before, of course, the so-called “communications revolution” that ISIS and its ilk are exploiting today in the worst manner imaginable. Our problem, as Muslims, is that generally speaking we did not succeed in building such “modern states” whose institutions are more advanced than the technical knowhow currently available to those perpetrating the most heinous crimes against Islam, in the name of Islam.
There can be no doubt today that the Arab world is being targeted and weakened. There is no doubt either that Israeli occupation and the Iranian expansion in the Arab Mashreq have played a major role in increasing religious and sectarian extremism across the region. However, it would be incorrect to portray this phenomenon solely as a “conspiracy” exploiting the difficult regional situation—the emergence of groups outside the region like Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in Mali proves this is not the case. Groups such as this are utilizing precisely the same extremist and terrorist approach—but outside the region.
Despite this, the Arab Mashreq is clearly moving towards the unknown, and will continue to do so as long as international counter-terrorism strategy favors a limited military approach over a comprehensive political one. The priorities of the current US administration in the Arab Mashreq over the past two years have become increasingly clear: the one constant of Barack Obama’s policy in the region has been normalization—and subsequently alliance—with Iran.
Even the so-called “Israel lobby,” which for a long time viewed Washington as its “home ground,” is now finding itself in a situation unprecedented since 1948. For the first time in decades, the Israel lobby has found itself competing for influence in the US capital, which has led some of its members to embark on petty actions that do not enjoy the unanimous backing of pro-Israeli Americans, such as inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.
Here we find ourselves facing a paradox: while ISIS’s crimes are encouraging the world to answer Washington’s call to combat this form of terrorism, we also see that the deliberate absence of political rapprochement is serving the interests of the terrorists, weakening the arguments of the moderates, increasing the suffering of innocents, and hastening the fragmentation of the region. In the meantime, Iran is benefiting from Washington’s tacit support through creating a new fait accompli everywhere it has succeeded in imposing its control, namely—and according to its own leadership—in four Arab states: Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.
It is no secret that when the Syrian regime began responding to the popular uprising with violent, armed oppression, Washington had plenty of time, as well as the capability, to impose no-fly zones in northern and southern Syria. However, the Obama administration failed, time and again, to take a firm position. This served to encourage the regime to escalate its oppressive tactics and discourage would-be defectors from the Syrian army and state apparatus. It has also prolonged the crisis long enough to allow foreign extremists and terrorists to flock to Syria and take over the uprising. Lebanese and Iraqi militias also got involved in the fighting after receiving their orders from Iran, leaving Tehran in actual control of the Syrian regime’s territory.
Today, as part of the struggle taking place between Iran and Israel over who occupies the role of “regional policeman,” the Lebanese theater of operations has been extended to include the Golan Heights. The latest Israeli operation inside Syria’s Quneitra governorate resulted in the death of an Iranian general, while Tehran responded with a lethal operation in Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms area. This reveals not just the extent to which Iran is directly embroiled in the war to gain hegemony over the Arab Mashreq, but also the level of US backing for the so-called “balance of influence” in the region between Tehran and Tel Aviv.
In addition to imposing a “ceiling” on the Iranian–Israeli skirmishes on the Golan Front, Washington, according to well-informed sources, is also backing the superficial dialogue that is currently taking place in Lebanon between the Future bloc and Hezbollah, as well as the mission that has been undertaken by UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar. However, both countries are under de facto Iranian military occupation by Hezbollah and the Houthis respectively. This means that Washington’s real goal is negotiations that secure a sham compromise that in reality means nothing and changes nothing. Rather, what it is doing is granting this occupation the cover of political legitimacy.
The retreat of moderation in the Sunni street serves no one in the Arab Mashreq, particularly the non-Sunni and non-Muslim minorities. However, this is precisely where we are heading.
The first step in destroying ISIS must be to deter Israeli settlement-building and stop Iranian expansionism—any other option will most likely fail.

Netanyahu, do the right thing: Don’t go to Washington
Ben-Dror Yemini /Ynetnews/
Published: 02.08.15 / Israel Opinion
Op-ed: Agreement with Iran will be determined by US administration, not by Congress. That’s who Israel’s prime minister should address, warn and maintain a good relationship with. Instead, he is turning our most important and strategic friend into a rival.
Don’t go, Netanyahu, don’t go, precisely because the Iranian threat is so important, precisely because you are right, precisely because the things you are planning to say at the US Congress are important – don’t go. Because this trip will impair the exact issue that you are traveling on behalf of. You know that, Mr. Netanyahu. So if you are really concerned, you should do the right thing.
The intention was good. It turns out that the House of Representative speaker had even informed the White House, and that the White House hadn’t bothered answering. But now it turns out that there was also some deception. The invitation wasn’t made with both parties’ consent. It was a one-party invitation. It was the opposition’s invitation. It was an invitation which was aimed more at censuring the White House and President Barack Obama than warning against the Iranian threat.
With all due respect to the Republican majority in the Congress, the clauses of the agreement with Iran will be determined by the administration, not by the Congress. That’s who you should address. That’s who you should warn. That’s where you need to have a good, direct and real relationship. Because that’s where the decisions are made.
We know that Obama is wrong and that you are right. But if there is still a chance to get him to change his mind, you are making every possible mistake in order to turn him into a rival. Vice President Joe Biden has already announced that he will not attend your address. What other hint do you need in order to realize that you should change direction?
Mr. Prime Minister, there is a problem with your body language. You, the best speaker of all with the excellent PR skills, the man who knows so much, is succeeding in turning our most important friend, our strategic friend, into a rival. This isn’t happening because you’re wrong; it’s happening because you convey constant anger. Look at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He represents a dark country, which stones women and executes homosexuals. But unlike you, he smiles. He just smiles. And at the end of the day, he is portrayed as moderate, while you are portrayed as Slobodan Milošević, the notorious leader of an aggressive entity.
So what good does it do that you are right? All you have succeeded in doing is deteriorating our relations with an American administration and an American president who we need so much right now, as we face a strategic threat. These things, Mr. Netanyahu, are being written by a person who supported you on the Iranian issue throughout the way. There are things you can take credit for. While it isn’t clear that the sanctions were imposed on Iran thanks to you, it is clear that you made a serious and important contribution. Precisely because of that, Mr. Prime Minister, you must do the thing which you too, deep inside, know is the right thing to do.
If you go back on your decision, we will all know that the national interest is more important to you than the illusion that the trip will help your party in any way. So please, do it. We will all benefit – both Israel and you.