February 13/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Taunt Against The King Of Babylon
Isaiah 14/01-32" The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Foreigners will join them and unite with the descendants of Jacob. Nations will take them and bring them to their own place. And Israel will take possession of the nations and make them male and female servants in the Lord’s land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors.  On the day the Lord gives you relief from your suffering and turmoil and from the harsh labor forced on you,  you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended! The Lord has broken the rod of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers, which in anger struck down peoples with unceasing blows, and in fury subdued nations
with relentless aggression. All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing. Even the junipers and the cedars of Lebanon gloat over you and say, “Now that you have been laid low, no one comes to cut us down.”  The realm of the dead below is all astir
to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you— all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones—all those who were kings over the nations. They will all respond, they will say to you, “You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us.” All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you. How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a wilderness, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?”  All the kings of the nations lie in state, each in his own tomb. But you are cast out of your tomb like a rejected branch; you are covered with the slain, with those pierced by the sword, those who descend to the stones of the pit. Like a corpse trampled underfoot, you will not join them in burial, for you have destroyed your land and killed your people. Let the offspring of the wicked never be mentioned again. Prepare a place to slaughter his children for the sins of their ancestors; they are not to rise to inherit the land and cover the earth with their cities. “I will rise up against them,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will wipe out Babylon’s name and survivors, her offspring and descendants,” declares the Lord. “I will turn her into a place for owls
and into swampland; I will sweep her with the broom of destruction,” declares the Lord Almighty. The Lord Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen. I will crush the Assyrian in my land; on my mountains I will trample him down. His yoke will be taken from my people, and his burden removed from their shoulders.”This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back? A Prophecy Against the Philistines This prophecy came in the year King Ahaz died: Do not rejoice, all you Philistines, that the rod that struck you is broken; from the root of that snake will spring up a viper, its fruit will be a darting, venomous serpent. The poorest of the poor will find pasture, and the needy will lie down in safety. But your root I will destroy by famine; it will slay your survivors. Wail, you gate! Howl, you city! Melt away, all you Philistines! A cloud of smoke comes from the north, and there is not a straggler in its ranks. What answer shall be given to the envoys of that nation? “The Lord has established Zion, and in her his afflicted people will find refuge.”".

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 12-13/15
All Earthly Riches Remain On Earth/Elias Bejjani/February 12/15
The Left and Islam Apologetics/Stephen Schwartz/First Things/February 12-13/15
Ten years since Assad’s assassination of Hariri/Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya/February 12/15
Militias are winning the ‘Arab Spring’/Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya/February 12/15
Assad is no better than Saddam/Hussein Shobokshi/Asharq Al Awsat/February 12/15

Lebanese Related News published on February 12-13/15
Salam cuts short Cabinet meet over disagreements
Snowstorm Slows Hizbullah-led Advance in South Syria
Syrian rebel leader vows guerrilla war in south against Hezbollah, govt
MP Saad Hariri: Only Rafik Hariri Project Will Prevail despite Arms, Terror, Assassinations

Lebanese Cabinet Fails to Address Mechanism during 'Heated Session'
Justice Elusive 10 Years after Killing of Hariri
Telecoms Ministry to unfreeze municipal revenues
Army Dismantles Bomb on Outskirts of Arsal
Fugitives flee as Lebanon launches Bekaa Valley security plan
Report: Hariri Will Not Make Personal Appearance at Feb. 14 Ceremony over Security Fears
Lebanon charges 17 in hospital fuel fraud case
Lebanon struggles to reopen snow-blocked roads

Gunman makes off with $20,000 from Beirut bank
One Killed, Four Injured in Horrific Tripoli Traffic Accident
Khalil: Corruption at Customs Costing State 1.2 Billion Dollars
BankMed Branch in Musharrafiyeh Robbed at Gunpoint
Jordanian King Ready to Aid, Train Lebanese Army
Bkirki-Hizbullah Dialogue Committee Meets

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on  February 12-13/15
Israel Warns Anew of Unilateral Action against Iran
UNSC adopts resolution to choke off ISIS financing
Jordan's air force resumes raids against Islamic State
Dragged into conflict
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Qaida Seizes South Yemen Army Camp, 7 Dead
Kurdish Peshmerga surround Mosul from three sides: official
Iraq, Gulf states close to full rapprochement: Iraqi president
GCC will not take military steps in Yemen: Gulf official
UN leader: 'Yemen is collapsing before our eyes'
UN threatens sanctions against Sudan government and rebels
France says Rafale deal with Egypt could be signed in next few days
Ukraine says rebels strengthened by tanks, missiles from Russia
S.African president's address to parliament interrupted by uproar
Saudi beheads Pakistani heroin trafficker
Al-Azhar condemns killing of three Muslims in US
Explosion kills many at crowded market in Nigeria
Observatory hacked by Syrian Electronic Army
Sex and power, an age-old heady combination
Canada Says Journalist Fahmy Retrial in Egypt 'Unacceptable'

Egypt court orders release of Al-Jazeera English journalists

Jihad Watch Site Latest Reports
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Breitbart: “$10,000 Muhammad Art and Cartoon Contest to be Held at Site of ‘Stand With the Prophet’ Conference in Texas”
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Obama: Media Overstates Terror Threat
Christians burned alive: The story of Sidhom Bishay
Raymond Ibrahim: Islam Banned for Blasphemy?
UK: Islington scraps pork from menus in all primary schools
Video: Robert Spencer on Sun TV on the Houthi takeover in Yemen
NYT: Houthis scream “Death to America” but “don’t mean it literally”
Libya: 40 severed heads found at Islamic militia training camp in Benghazi
UK: Someone arrested for something in Liverpool
Jordanian columnist: The Islamic State “did not invent a new Islam”

All Earthly Riches Remain On Earth
Elias Bejjani/February 11/15
In a bid for us to live in peace, harmony, love, actual faith and true transparency, we are always strongly required to keep remembering seriously, with great gratitude and sincerity, that all what we have and own, including our lives, are generous gifts from Almighty God.
At the same time, we are ought to keep in mind that we have a holy and Godly obligation to share these gifts with others, especially those who are in need of what we have.
If every one of us commits himself to this great concept of love and sharing and frees himself from selfishness, hatred and grudges, then there will be no wars and no one shall be left hungry, isolated, persecuted, sad, abandoned or downtrodden.
We need to be always fully aware that our life on this mortal earth is so short, so transient, and so unpredictable.
Due to the solid fact that we do not know when Almighty God will decide to reclaim back our soul, we are supposed to be ready to face Him on the Day Of Judgment with our deeds and our deeply rooted faith.
Not even one individual, no matter rich or poor, strong or weak, sick or healthy, righteous or evil, educated or illiterate, white or black, young or elderly that has left this mortal world was able to carry with him any earthly riches.
When we pass away, we can only and only carry with us our deeds. Based on these deeds, be good or bad, and not the earthly riches we will face the Day of Judgment.
Definitely it is our choice to either hold on to the earthly riches or to the good deeds and accordingly carry the consequences.
Accordingly the choice for the eternity fate, be in Hell or Heaven is in our hands. Let us be wise and take the right choice before it is too late. In conclusion all earthly riches remain on the earth and we only carry with us our deeds.

MP Saad Hariri: Only Rafik Hariri Project Will Prevail despite Arms, Terror, Assassinations
Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal movement leader MP Saad Hariri stressed Thursday that the political and economic project of his slain father, former premier Rafik Hariri, will eventually “prevail” despite attempts to stop it through “arms, terrorism and assassination attempts.”
“Ten years ago, Lebanon was being built and someone tried to stop the process of Lebanon's reconstruction … and after 10 years, we're witnessing recurrent attempts to stop this project, but we shall continue,” Hariri told LBCI TV, two days before the tenth anniversary of his father's assassination in a massive bombing in Beirut. Emphasizing that Rafik Hariri's project is a project of “construction, development and economy,” al-Mustaqbal's chief noted that those who murdered his father “assassinated the body, not the project.”
“Sooner or later, only Rafik Hariri's project will prevail in this country,” Hariri underlined, adding that “only the Lebanese can continue it.” “The Lebanese people are stubborn and they will continue this journey, no matter how much they try through arms, terrorism or assassination attempts,” Hariri added, describing his father's project as a “force of moderation.”Addressing the young men and women who “believe in Rafik Hariri's project,” Hariri underscored that “it is prohibited to lose hope.”
“Rafik Hariri never lost hope throughout his life and he was building as people were destroying and killing each other,” the ex-PM added.Hariri is expected to deliver a long speech during a rally commemorating his slain father on Saturday.

Bkirki-Hizbullah Dialogue Committee Meets
Naharnet/The members of the committee tasked with following up on the dialogue between Bkirki and Hizbullah met for the first time since Hizbullah politburo Hajj Mahmoud Qmati assumed the tasks of his predecessor Ghaleb Abou Zaynab. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper, the committee's meeting, which was held on Wednesday night at the seat of the Maronite church in Bkirki, aims at activating the dialogue between Bkirki and Hizbullah. The committee's members Bishop Samir Mazloum, Hizbullah official Hareth Shehab, Qmati, Abou Zainab and Hajj Moustapha al-Hajj Ali attended the talks. The talks come in light of an ongoing presidential vacuum at the Baabda Palace. Lebanon has been without a head state since May when the term of President Michel Suleiman ended without the election of his successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps have thwarted the elections. Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal recently kicked off dialogue at Ain el-Tineh under the sponsorship of Speaker Nabih Berri as representatives of the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement began preparing for a similar dialogue to take part between LF chief Samir Geagea and FPM leader Michel Aoun.

Justice Elusive 10 Years after Killing of Hariri
Naharnet /The public gallery at a court in the Netherlands was as deserted as the defendant's dock on a recent day at the trial of five Hizbullah suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, one of the most prominent Sunni politicians in the Middle East.
The massive explosion that tore through his convoy on the Beirut seaside 10 years ago sent a tremor across the region and unleashed a popular uprising that briefly united the Lebanese and ejected Syrian troops from the country. But a decade later, and despite millions of dollars spent, justice remains elusive in a case that has been overshadowed by more recent turmoil. "The tribunal harks back to another era, and the latest developments have regrettably overtaken it," said Hilal Khashan, professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. And yet despite its failings, the tribunal is still widely seen as a small but necessary step toward ending a culture of impunity in an increasingly violent region.
The February 14, 2005 assassination of Hariri, referred to by some as Lebanon's September 11, killed the former premier and 22 others, and wounded more than 200 people, stunning a nation long used to violence and political assassinations. Hariri, a charismatic billionaire businessman, was the most prominent Sunni politician in Lebanon. Although a divisive figure, he was credited with rebuilding downtown Beirut from the ravages of the 1975-1990 civil war.
Anti-Syrian groups, then in the opposition, blamed the Syrian government for Hariri's assassination, a charge denied by Damascus. Crowds of Lebanese flooded Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut in scenes that, in retrospect, resemble the Arab Spring uprisings that broke out six years later. Syria, which kept about 15,000 troops in Lebanon, was forced to withdraw under pressure, ending the 30-year military domination of its smaller neighbor.
But Hariri's killing and the subsequent investigation, which focused on Syria and its powerful Shiite Lebanese ally Hizbullah, sharpened the country's sectarian divisions and heightened other intractable debates, including over the role of Hizbullah and its vast arsenal, which opponents want dismantled. The country today is beset by a militant threat to its border and frequent violence that spills over from neighboring Syria's civil war. Hariri's son, Saad, who assumed his father's political mantle, resides in Paris and Saudi Arabia, worried he would also be killed if he returned to Lebanon. Hizbullah's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who has cast the assassination and tribunal as an Israeli plot, has warned he would "cut off the hand" of anyone who tries to arrest the five Hizbullah suspects, saying the tribunal will never get its hands on them, not "even in 300 years." A U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, set up in the Dutch town of Leidschendam, started the trial of the five suspects in absentia in January 2014. Many Lebanese politicians and witnesses have traveled to the Netherlands-based court to give their testimonies over the past year. Marwan Hamadeh, a leading legislator and former cabinet minister who was close to Hariri, is one of them. He himself was severely wounded in an assassination attempt four months before Hariri was killed. He believes the Syrian government was behind the killing.
"We never sought revenge," he told The Associated Press in his office in downtown Beirut. "But by revealing who executed the crime, we are also gradually uncovering those who incited and took the decision for the crime," he said. Hamadeh said he expected verdicts to be issued within a year, without the killers in the courtroom. Banners hung along on the streets of Beirut in honor of the 10th anniversary show the late Hariri with the Arabic words: "Ten, one hundred, one thousand years: We will continue."
In the court last Wednesday, the public gallery — dozens of light gray chairs separated from the courtroom below by a wall of glass — was empty apart from one reporter and two security guards.
In the courtroom itself, just over 20 people — judges, lawyers, court staff and security guards — listened as prosecution lawyers read out brief written statements of witnesses whose identities were used to buy mobile phones allegedly used in the bombing. Once prosecutors are done laying out their evidence, lawyers for the defendants will have their turn. Lebanese politicians allied with Hizbullah say the tribunal has no value and some have even demanded that Lebanon stop paying its share of 49 percent of the tribunal's budget, adding that oil-rich Gulf states should pay instead. The late Hariri was a dual Lebanese and Saudi citizen. Wiam Wahhab, a politician allied with Hizbullah, said the tribunal has done "nothing that gives it credibility."In a televised interview, he added that the tribunal "will not be able to even touch the nail of any members of the resistance," referring to Hizbullah members. Court spokeswoman Marianne El Hajj said the tribunal is delivering justice, even without the defendants in court, and said she hopes it will have a positive impact across the Middle East and North Africa. "The region is changing and its people are demanding justice and accountability," she said. A Western diplomat based in the Middle East said the tribunal "is showing that there is no place for impunity, although it's hard to see anybody going to jail." "It has a symbolic value," the diplomat said.Associated Press

Report: Hariri Will Not Make Personal Appearance at Feb. 14 Ceremony over Security Fears

Naharnet /Head of the Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri will not appear in person at Saturday's ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri over security concerns, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Thursday.
Mustaqbal sources told the daily: “Security fears will thwart his personal participation at the event.”“All claims to the contrary are speculation,” they added. Furthermore, they said that a Mustaqbal delegation and Hariri's advisors had traveled to the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh on Tuesday for consultations with the MP over his speech. The delegation includes deputy Speaker Farid Makari, former MP Ghattas Khoury, Hariri's media advisor Hani Hammoud, and head of his office Nader al-Hariri. The sources remarked that the speech may hold a vision over the upcoming phase in Lebanon, as well as take into consideration the movement's political views in the wake of its ongoing dialogue with Hizbullah. It will stress the Mustaqbal Movement's principles in light of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon's international ties, and the importance of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, they revealed. The March 14 forces are scheduled to commemorate the tenth anniversary of former Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination at a ceremony in Beirut's BIEL exhibition center. Hariri was assassinated in a massive bombing in Beirut on February 14, 2005. The STL, which kicked off its proceedings in 2014, is investigating his murder. It has so far indicted five Hizbullah members of being involved in the attack. The party has condemned the claims and the tribunal, vowing that it will not cooperate with it.

Lebanese Cabinet Fails to Address Mechanism during 'Heated Session'

Naharnet /A cabinet session held at the Grand Serail on Thursday failed to address the mechanism of its functioning following tensions between ministers, reported MTV. It said that tensions between Education Minister Elias Bou Saab and Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb caused tensions at the meeting, forcing Prime Minister Tammam Salam to end the session. Information Minister Ramzi Jreij said after the cabinet session: “Salam is holding consultations in order to alter the mechanism.”“This requires consensus,” he explained. The premier had earlier told An Nahar daily Thursday that he will not bring up this issue because he has not yet completed his consultations with various factions on the matter. He is still holding talks with various government groups to reach an agreement over the new mechanism.
The premier is also seeking to avoid any ministerial veto that has in the past led to the obstruction of cabinet decisions, said An Nahar. Salam told the daily that he has so far not yet received any opposition to the ideas he had proposed. He added however that a comprehensive mechanism has not yet been devised. Al-Joumhouria newspaper meanwhile reported Thursday that Salam had proposed that the cabinet mechanism of approving articles should be based on the vote of “two thirds plus one of the ministers.” The debate over the cabinet mechanism arose in light of the ongoing vacuum in the presidency. Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May. In line with the constitution, the cabinet began exercising the president’s prerogatives after the parliament failed to elect a successor for Suleiman. Salam has adopted the collective vote formula that requires the approval of the 23 ministers on major decisions. Such a process is hindering the government's work over the veto right that certain cabinet members are exercising. The majority of the cabinet ministers have reportedly backed a change in the mechanism.

Lebanon charges 17 in hospital fuel fraud case
The Daily Star/Feb. 12, 2015/BEIRUT: Beirut’s Investigative Judge Sami Sedki Thursday filed indictments against 17 people, including public employees, on charges of embezzlement of public funds, fraud and bribery in the case of manipulating diesel quantities provided to public hospitals. Judicial sources told The Daily Star that Sedki requested prison sentences ranging between three and 10 years with hard labor for 13 suspects, including the owner of the petroleum company which was contracted by the government to supply the hospitals and the company’s two accountants. The judge also demanded prison sentences ranging between three months and two years to four of the defendants for allegedly defrauding the state and accepting bribes, the sources said. The defendants were accused of direct involvement or complicity in manipulating the quantity of petroleum products and issuing fraudulent invoices. Several employees at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital were among the defendants. In the indictment, Sedki charged that the medical facility’s chief purchaser, identified as Soad M., received bribes ranging between $2,000 and $3,000 from the company’s owner once every two months, and facilitated the fraudulent invoicing. According to the indictment, the petroleum company manipulated its tankers’ meters to show that 20,000 liters of diesel had been supplied, while only 5,000 liters were actually pumped. The Internal Security Forces said two months ago that they had arrested the owner of Desert Petroleum, a company providing government institutions, including the ISF, with fuel oil, accusing the firm of defrauding the state. Police also said it confiscated several fuel-transporting tankers which contained secret storage areas and manipulated meters.

Fugitives flee as Lebanon launches Bekaa Valley security plan
The Daily Star/Feb. 12, 2015/BEIRUT: Security forces raided towns in the eastern Bekaa Valley before dawn Thursday, but hours into the operation, not a single arrest was made as most suspects were believed to have fled towards Syria, sources said. Security sources told The Daily Star about 1,000 Army soldiers, 500 police and 500 General Security officers were involved in a joint operation that started at 6:00 a.m. Thursday and saw raids against Hor Taala, Brital and surrounding villages to search for wanted drug suspects. As the operation went on, troops cordoned off the two villages, preventing anyone from going inside, including journalists. The sources said all the suspects have fled after the operation’s launch was divulged by the interior minister a few days ago. Many of the suspects, who are also accused of involvement in theft and kidnappings, are believed to have fled to the outskirts close to the Syrian border or even crossed into Syria, the sources said. They dismantled their illicit businesses, including Captagon drug factories, leaving little behind for the security forces to seize, the sources added. The long-anticipated campaign is seen as an extension of a security plan launched last year in northern Lebanon to clamp down on crime and round up militants suspected of involvement in clashes and attacks on the Army.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk announced on Tuesday that the plan for the Baalbek-Hermel area was "ready and would be implemented" within a few days. Machnouk pointed out that a security plan for Beirut and its southern suburbs, where Hezbollah enjoys wide support, will follow, stressing that “there will be no (safe) place for those who meddle with the country’s security and stability.”The Future Movement minister said the situation in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in Sidon will be the next main security issue on the security agenda.

Lebanon PM cuts short Cabinet meet over disagreements
The Daily Star/Feb. 12, 2015 /BEIRUT: Sharp disagreements between rival ministers over an internal decision making system prompted Prime Minister Tammam Salam to cut short the Cabinet’s weekly meeting Thursday. Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said Salam will sound out political groups represented in the government before placing the subject on the table for discussion. “Salam is carrying out consultations on amending the decision making mechanism in the council of ministers, a matter that necessitates an (anticipated) agreement,” Joreige said during a press conference before reading out the meeting’s resolutions. Reports said disagreement first emerged over the structure of the proposed board of directors for Lebanon’s offshore oil and gas Exclusive Economic Zone, ensued by a sharp argument that pitted Education Minister Elias Bou Saab and Telecommunication Minister Boutros Harb over the voting system. Consequently, the Cabinet postponed discussion of the competition for the appointment of contracted secondary school teachers which figured on the agenda.
The Cabinet, which in addition to its executive powers is also exercising the president’s prerogatives during the vacuum in the presidency, has agreed on a system that requires the approval of all 24 of its members on any key decision or decree.
However, this system has largely hindered the government’s work in view of differences among the ministers. In previous sessions, Salam had opted to avoid the topic until he could sound out the views of all ministers and obtain their approval of the voting procedure, as not to cause a new split within the Cabinet. Ahead of the meeting, Minister of State Mohammad Fneish, representing Hezbollah, said that the voting system would not be raised, as it needs to be discussed first between the prime minister and leaders of political groups.
Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan commented that “the problem lies in the mentality (of the ministers) not in the mechanism.” Bou Saab said member of his Free Patriotic Movement have repeatedly asked Salam to change the system to facilitate decision making and avert disruptions. Joreige said Salam commemorated, at the beginning of the session, the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri who was slain 10 years ago on Saturday February 14. Salam requested ministries to conduct a survey of the damage inflicted by the storm that hit Lebanon this week, and applauded the launch of the security plan in the Bekaa, hoping it would be firm and decisive, Joreige said. After the meeting, Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil commented on a Future bloc statement released earlier this week that called for the preparation of the 2015 budget plan, asserting that "the ministry had already completed the preparation of the draft budget and forwarded it Cabinet ahead of the constitutional deadline.”In a statement released by his media office, the finance minister urged the Cabinet to approve the budget and forward it to Parliament for approval. “Future bloc ministers know this very well, which emphasizes the need for the budget to be adopted as soon as possible,” he said in the statement.

Telecoms Ministry to unfreeze municipal revenues
The Daily Star/Feb. 12, 2015 /BEIRUT: Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb announced Thursday that Lebanon’s municipalities will finally get their share of tax revenues for the first time since 2009. In a news conference Thursday, Harb said that municipalities should receive a 10 percent share of Lebanon’s telecom revenues, pursuant to Article 55 of the country’s tax law. A “political party, however,” started blocking the transfer of municipalities' shares of these revenues back in 2009, when “one of their members” became telecoms minister, Harb said in reference to the Free Patriotic Movement and the party's current foreign minister and former telecoms minister Gebran Bassil. “Today, ... [the FPM] is still blocking the delivery of the municipalities' share of funds,” Harb charged, drawing a sharp response from FPM lawmaker Ibrahim Kanaan. Harb said that the freezing of the funds in a ministerial account prompted him to take action.  “Due to my commitment and respect for the law, I was urged to transfer all frozen funds... to the Finance Ministry for them to be distributed to municipalities,” he said. After the establishment of the mobile phone telecom industry in 1994, a bill was drafted that required 10 percent of revenues to be transferred to municipal governments. But Harb and the FPM disagree over who holds the authority to distribute the funds. Harb maintains that the funds should be transferred to the municipalities via the Finance Ministry. But the FPM in 2009 began holding the funds because the party believed the law was clear in that the Telecoms Ministry should directly transfer revenues to the municipalities. The amount of funds frozen since 2009, according to Harb, has surpassed LL6 billion ($3.9 million). Kanaan responded later Thursday by disputing Harb’s legal argument. The MP cited paragraph 2 of Article 55 of Lebanon’s tax law, which he said makes clear the right of the Telecommunications Ministry to forward telecom revenues directly to the municipalities without interference from the Finance Ministry. Kanaan also said that the municipalities’ shares of revenues surpassed the figure given by Harb.
“The full proceeds that go to municipalities should be paid to the beneficiaries without delay or deduction,” he said.  Kanaan added that the FPM opposed using the Finance Ministry as an intermediary to prevent the funds from becoming frozen in bureaucracy.

Gunman makes off with $20,000 from Beirut bank
The Daily Star/Feb. 12, 2015/BEIRUT: A gunman made off with about $20,000 in cash after sticking up a Beirut area bank Thursday, a security source said. The source said a man with a machine gun robbed the Msharafieh branch of BankMed in the southern outskirts of Beirut. A getaway rider on a scooter was waiting for him about 10 meters from the bank, the source said. Both were wearing masks. The robbery occurred around 11 a.m. Security footage captured the robbery, but the source said identifying the thieves would be difficult.

Lebanon struggles to reopen snow-blocked roads
The Daily Star/Feb. 12, 2015 /BEIRUT: Snow-covered mountain roads remained closed for a second day Thursday amid a violent storm that ravaged the coast and caused power outages across Lebanon one day earlier. The National News Agency said overnight snowfall in the northern district of Akkar made mountain roads completely impassable at an altitude above 1,200 meters. Bulldozers in the morning worked to reopen some critical roads linking major towns, the report added. The mountains east of the coastal city of Jbeil, north of Beirut, were buried under thick layers of snow. Lakouk recorded about 60 cm of snow, Aqoura witnessed 50 cm, and Qortaba reported 40 cm, according to the NNA. By the afternoon, public works ministry bulldozers were still trying to reopen roads in the region.
In the eastern town of Zahle, civil defense forces reopened roads leading to hospitals, nursing homes and places of worship, the NNA said. Police meanwhile said that the Dahr al-Baidar road linking Beirut to the Bekaa Valley is impassable by all vehicles, including 4-wheel-drive trucks and cars with chains on their tires. On the nearby Tarshish road, rescuers freed two trucks that were trapped in snow, which reached a thickness of 70 cm.
In the southeastern region of Marjayoun, the NNA said that most schools were closed because of snow piling up as high as 50 cm. Roads were also shut across villages in the region as bulldozers worked to reopen them. The NNA said snow fell in southeastern regions as low as 500 meters above sea level. Blowing over from Europe, Storm Yohan intensified Tuesday night and into Wednesday. Wind speeds reached 100 kilometers per hour, forming 8-meter-high waves that battered corniches in coastal cities. Accompanied by heavy rain and hail, the storm destroyed restaurants, damaged crops, brought down trees and caused widespread blackouts. Coastal areas suffered catastrophic damage from the huge waves whipped up by the high winds. Beirut’s Ain al-Mreisseh Corniche was severely damaged, its metal barriers ripped out of the pavement by the ferocity of the storm. The Beirut Fire Department cautioned citizens to stay away from the coast due to the dangerous waves. Restaurant Chez Zakhia, in the northern coastal town of Amchit, was completely devastated, according to the NNA, as powerful waves damaged the venue’s external foundations and flooded it with water. A Civil Defense rescue center stationed in Jounieh’s port was also heavily damaged, and four boats sank in the city’s port as a result of the crashing waves.
To the south, strong winds uprooted trees, tore down advertisements, and caused power outages in Tyre and across the region. With waves reaching 3 meters, fishermen tied up their boats out of fear they would swallowed by the sea. Sidon’s port was forced to close, as its facilities were ravaged by strong winds and 7-meter waves. Huge breakers swamped bulldozers at the city’s commercial seaport, dragging one into the sea.

Snowstorm Slows Hizbullah-led Advance in South Syria
Naharnet /Regime troops shelled rebel-held villages in southern Syria Thursday, as a snowstorm slowed an advance led by Hizbullah near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a monitor said. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the army shelled Jizeh and the west of Atman village in the southern province of Daraa. Battles raged on in several parts of Daraa, pitting rebels and a local al-Qaida affiliate against Hizbullah and their Iranian and Syrian allies, said the Observatory. "Despite the fighting, the Hizbullah-led advance was forced to slow down by heavy snow in the area," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman. The reports come on the fifth day of a major Hizbullah-led offensive in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, as well as the west of Damascus province. The area is important because of its proximity to Jordan, Damascus and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. In recent days, pro-regime troops have seized a string of villages and strategic hilltops that rebels and the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front had been holding for around a year. This week, for the first time in Syria's war, state television acknowledged that President Bashar Assad's army is fighting alongside Hizbullah and Iranian officers in its bid to crush a nearly four-year rebellion. The Observatory's Abdel Rahman told Agence France-Presse on Thursday that 300 elite Hizbullah fighters are deployed on Syria's southern front. "This really is Hizbullah's battle," he said. On January 18, six Hizbullah fighters, including a senior commander, and an Iranian general were killed in an Israeli air strike in Quneitra. Agence France Presse

Dragged into conflict
The Daily Star/Feb. 12, 2015/As fierce clashes take place in southern Syria, some media outlets are highlighting the possible gains for the Syrian army against rebels. But, more importantly, the developments are a stark reminder to Lebanese officials that the repercussions from the Syrian war go far beyond refugee camps and skirmishes on Lebanon’s eastern borders. It’s no secret that Iranian forces and their Lebanese allies from Hezbollah are playing a huge role in the offensive that’s underway, and comes in the wake of Israel’s targeting of a what was apparently a Lebanese-Iranian reconnaissance mission in Qunaitra province. The current offensive, while focused on Deraa province, could also see Iran and its ally lay the groundwork for opening a new front against Israel, if they can establish a presence in the Golan Heights.Israel has already sent one message, namely that such a move will be answered with deadly force. Searching for Syria’s next move is useless, since the military and political initiative appears to be firmly in the hands of Tehran and Hezbollah.
This leaves us with the stance of Lebanon, which continues to suffer from political paralysis. Do officials have a plan in the event that Hezbollah’s front in south Lebanon is extended to Syria’s Golan? Have top officials received assurances, from any party that things will not spiral out of control? If the southern Lebanese and Golan fronts become one, do Lebanese politicians expect that the international community will remain silent? Over the course of the Syrian war Israel has acted militarily on various occasions. Do Lebanon’s leaders have guarantees that the entirety of Lebanon won’t become, once again, a “target bank” because of decisions taken by lebanese and non-Lebanese actors?

Israel Warns Anew of Unilateral Action against Iran
Naharnet/Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz warned Thursday that Israel could act unilaterally against Iran over its nuclear drive, saying Tehran has failed to make concessions in talks with world powers. "I won't be too specific but all options are still on the table," Steinitz told reporters. "We never limited Israel's right of self-defense because of some diplomatic constraints," he said. Significant gaps remain between Iran and the P5+1 world powers on specific measures to end a 12-year standoff on Tehran's nuclear program. Two deadlines for a permanent agreement have already been missed, since an interim accord was struck in November 2013. The P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- have now set a March 31 deadline for a political agreement.
It would be followed by a final deal setting out all the technical points of what would be a complex accord by June 30 Iran denies seeking an atomic bomb and says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.
Steinitz said Iran has so far shown little or no flexibility on key issues such as uranium enrichment, destruction of related infrastructure and the fate of its Arak nuclear reactor and Fordow secret underground enrichment facility.
"Its a gloomy picture," said Steinitz, adding that he discussed it at last week's security conference in Munich with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano. "The Iranians didn’t move much... therefore we are so disturbed," he said. Steinitz said the agreement being thrashed out was "full of loopholes.""If there is no agreement there is not agreement, but since we hear some optimism on both sides it seems to us that if there is an agreement by the end of March this means an agreement without Iran moving to significant progress.""If this is the picture, how much can it change in one month?"U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Munich conference and stressed Washington's commitment to seeing the deadline met.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted he has a "profound disagreement" with U.S. President Barack Obama over the Iranian nuclear issue. Washington and Iran are now seen as the key players of any potential deal. Agence France Presse

Qaida Seizes South Yemen Army Camp, 7 Dead
Naharnet/Al-Qaida militants overran an army camp in southern Yemen Thursday following clashes that killed at least seven people, a local government official said. The militants seized the camp of the 19th Infantry Brigade in Baihan, a town in southern Shabwa province, the official said, adding that three soldiers were among those killed. Ansar al-Sharia, the main arm of Al-Qaida in Yemen, claimed the attack in a statement on Twitter, accusing troops at the camp of links to the Shiite Huthi militia controlling the capital. It published pictures of its militants raising the black and white flag of Al-Qaida at the camp entrance, as well as pictures of soldiers it claimed to have captured. Tribal sources said the militants seized "dozens" of soldiers and took their weapons, but freed them following tribal mediation. The tribes are demanding Al-Qaida hands over the arms. The attack came a day after the United States, Britain and France announced the closure of their embassies in Sanaa, citing security fears after the Huthis took power in the capital. Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is seen by the United States as the deadliest branch of the global extremist network. AQAP claimed responsibility for last month's attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.
Yemen, a deeply tribal country, has been shaken by growing unrest since the Huthis seized control of Sanaa in September before pushing farther south. They have met deadly resistance from Al-Qaida as well as Sunni tribes. The Huthis dissolved parliament and declared a "presidential council" last week after Western-backed president Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi tendered his resignation saying he could no longer govern. Yemeni authorities have for years allowed the United States to carry out drone strikes against AQAP on their soil, and Hadi had been a key U.S. ally in fighting Al-Qaida. Agence France Presse

The Left and Islam Apologetics
Stephen Schwartz/First Things
February 11, 2015
Originally published under the title, "Famous Communists and Islam."
Leftist sympathy for despotic Islamic forces challenging the West dates back to Papa Bear.
For some time, an argument has been made that the liberal left, in refusing to examine the problems of Islam, has betrayed its Enlightenment roots. That is, while secular, feminist, and protective of free speech in dealing with its Western peers, the liberal left has been accused of abandoning its heritage in its quest for political correctness regarding Muslims. In truth, however, the left has a distinguished background of courting Islam as a weapon against Western capitalism. Its most representative figures from the past did so frankly, as the following rehearsal of their statements demonstrates. Karl Marx supported the Ottoman empire, then accused of atrocities against Christians and non-Turkish Muslims. In 1853, as the Crimean War pitting Russia against Turkey began, Marx wrote,
It is not to be denied that Turkey, the weak state, has shown more true courage, as well as more wise statesmanship, than either of her powerful allies [Britain and France] . . . we may justly attribute the delays and hesitation shown in the manoeuvres of Omer Pasha [Latas] to the paralyzing and temporizing influence of Lord Redcliffe and M. [Edmond] de la Cour, [British and French ambassadors to Turkey] over the Divan [the Ottoman court]. At the moment when [Omer Pasha Latas] was opening the campaign, they procured orders to be sent to him to delay the beginning of hostilities. . . . If there be a general war, it will not be the fault of Turkey, but next to Russia, of France and England. They might have prevented it infallibly, but they did not.
Omer Pasha Latas was a brutal and corrupt Ottoman functionary hated especially by Balkan Muslims.
Thus was a pattern established: defend Muslim autocrats, blame the West.
Lenin was so excited by the defeat of Russia by Japan in 1904, the failed Russian revolution of 1905, the 1906 constitutional revolution in Persia, and the 1908 Young Turk revolution in the Ottoman empire, that he wrote,
In Persia, Russian counter revolution played and continues to play what amounts to a decisive role, while in Turkey the revolution was at once confronted with a counter-revolutionary coalition of the powers, Russia at their head. True, the general tone of the European press and of the diplomatic statements would appear to contradict this. If we are to believe these statements and the semi-official press, there is universal 'sympathy' with regenerated Turkey, a universal desire to see her constitutional regime strengthened and developed, general praise for the 'moderation' of the bourgeois Young Turks. All these fine words, however, are typical of the base bourgeois hypocrisy of Europe's 'present-day' reactionary governments and present-day reactionary bourgeoisie.
Once again: Muslims as manipulated victims, the West at fault, and repudiation of Western sympathy for modernization of Muslim societies.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, Muslims under Russian rule were granted a special status. The Communist International held the 1920 Baku Congress of Peoples of the East in which Muslim delegates called for struggle against the West with Russian support. There, a Bolshevik intellectual, Karl Radek, declared,
We appeal, comrades, to the warlike feelings which once inspired the peoples of the East when these peoples, led by their great conquerors, advanced upon Europe. We know, comrades, that our enemies will say that we are appealing to the memory of Genghis Khan and to the memory of the great conquering Caliphs of Islam . . . when the capitalists of Europe say that a new wave of barbarism threatens . . . we answer them: Long live the Red East, which together with the workers of Europe will create a new civilization under the banner of Communism! These declarations shouldn't surprise us. When anti-imperialism is the concept and purpose that defines a movement, it will naturally find allies in radical Islam, which presents itself precisely as a creation of colonial oppression.
**Stephen Schwartz, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC.

Ten years since Assad’s assassination of Hariri
Abdulrahman al-Rashed /Al Arabiya
Thursday, 12 February 2015
What if we were to ask Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, would he commit the crime of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri if he were to go back in time?
Hariri was killed around this time 10 years ago. It was a politically-motivated crime which shocked the region and it was a historic milestone which has changed the political equation. Following his assassination, and also as a direct result of it lots of blood has been shed, staining both Lebanon and Syria.
I don’t know what the Syrian president is thinking, but his power and governance changed a lot. Was the assassination of Hariri the mere whim of a young man who had just ascended to power and who refused to take “no” for an answer? Or was it an Iranian-Syrian scheme orchestrated with Hezbollah to get rid of rival leaders and curb opponents?
“To remind ourselves of the question at hand, would Assad have done it if he could have read the future?”
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
I cannot confirm whether it was a whim or if it was driven by the desire to dominate. But the series of assassinations which followed the murder of Hariri implied that Assad, along with Hezbollah, were working to eliminate the opposing camp and perhaps rule Lebanon. It must be said, though, that when it comes to Lebanese affairs, it’s not possible to place the issues of sectarianism and conflicting forces - with shifting loyalties and alliances – on the back burner. The murderous elimination of political, security and media leaders only increased the Lebanese people’s resolve to stick to their positions and pushed them toward further entrenchment, especially with regard to what later came to be known as the March 14 coalition.
Would Assad have done it?
To remind ourselves of the question at hand, would Assad have done it if he could have read the future?
Of course we don’t know what is going on in his mind, but what we can infer from his recent interview with the BBC is that he is incapable of uttering the words “I admit” and “I’m sorry.” Despite killing a quarter of a million Syrians and displacing nine million others, he refused to admit to any of the mistakes he has committed. This is true even when he responded to questions on the beginning of the revolution. He insisted on repeating that he is responsible for protecting his people from terrorists! It’s been 10 years since the assassination of Hariri and he is still incapable of admitting his mistakes when handling Lebanese affairs. It’s been four years since the Syrian uprising and he still refuses to admit any wrongdoing. Thus, it is fair to say he hasn’t changed at all.
His crime of assassinating Hariri is the most important event of his life. Ever since that dark day when Hariri was murdered, Assad has been confined to a dark box. Following the crime, the U.N. Security Council forced him to withdraw his forces from Lebanon. He was also directly accused of orchestrating the crime and was politically besieged for four years. Furthermore, governments who were once friendly with him, such as Gulf and European governments, boycotted him and his foreign affairs ministry became focused on denying accusations. At the beginning of 2009 – five years after the murder of Hariri – his isolation receded slightly at the Kuwait economic summit after a reconciliation was announced. However, assassinations continued, implying that the president hadn’t changed his ways, perhaps indicating that he saw the summit outcome as a win rather than a reconciliation. This superior attitude towards others and lack of value for human life as well as regional and international powers led him to face revolt in Daraa and other Syrian cities. He has now ended up besieged in Damascus. Today, Assad is just a president on paper and is shored up by Iranian leaders and Iraqi and Hezbollah militias who fight his battles for him. Who would have thought that assassinating a peaceful man like Hariri, who had no militia or tribe to defend him, would lead to all these wars and suffering?

Militias are winning the ‘Arab Spring’
Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya
Thursday, 12 February 2015 
The images from Yemen where the Houthis ransacked the U.S. embassy in Sanaa yesterday, paralleled with those of Hezbollah fighting the Syrian rebels as Kurdish and Shiite militias take on ISIS in Iraq, confirm a somber reality that militias have gained the most from the Arab Spring upheavals in the Middle East.
The rise of militias in the majority of Arab Spring capitals is unchecked and in some cases has benefitted from the Obama administration hands-off policy towards those countries. This is evident in the latest resolution that Obama sent to Congress to authorize the war against ISIS, which turns a blind eye to new armed groups mushrooming regionally and is only focused on ISIS. This tells us that Washington is increasingly adjusting to a more chaotic and militarized status-quo in the Middle East, and subsequently limiting its goals to counterterrorism and defeating ISIS.
Transition to militias
Evacuating and closing U.S. embassies has become a hallmark of the “Arab Spring” since the street demonstrations broke out in 2011. It started with Syria as the American embassy shut down in Damascus in early 2012, and then Libya following the Benghazi attack and later the photos of militiamen turning the U.S. embassy in Tripoli into a swim club. In Yemen, the closing of the embassy marks the lowest point for U.S. policy in that country since 2011, and puts an end to a “successfully pursued” model that Obama touted last September.
“The new militia structure in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya is here to stay given the decay of the central state structure”
Washington had hoped that the Arab Spring would prompt democratic transitions and more inclusive governance in societies wrecked by authoritarian regimes for decades. But with the exception of the Tunisia, the Arab Spring transitions and the Iraq war unleashed a Pandora’s box of extremism and military strife across the broader Middle East. Perhaps the societies were not ready or the international community’s response fell short, but a new political reality is settling in, giving the upper hand to militias over central governments and institutions.
Today in Syria, while the President Bashar al-Assad is parading his country’s sovereignty in the Western media, Hezbollah and Israel are engaging in a tit-for-tat in Quneitra while Kurdish forces and the Free Syrian Army are taking on ISIS in Kobane. In Yemen, all the state institutions have surrendered in countering the Houthis and their allies. This new dynamic is also materializing in Shiite and Kurdish militias taking a bigger role in Iraq and the proliferation of all kinds of armed groups, from tribal to ISIS, based in Libya. The new drawing board makes the central authorities in Baghdad, Tripoli, Damascus and Sanaa almost irrelevant as the self-governing capabilities of these militias gain more strength and momentum.
The West adjusts
Against this reality and a strong inclination on the part of both the Obama administration and the European capitals to keep distance from the intra-Arab conflicts, Washington and its European allies are slowly adjusting themselves to the new militia-driven status quo.
While the U.S. has started equipping and training a Syrian rebel force, Obama praised Germany for following suit in Iraq. In his press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week, Obama pointed to a “significant milestone” in Germany’s foreign policy in “equipping Kurdish forces in Iraq” and “ preparing to lead the training mission of local forces in Arbil.” The day before Obama and Merkel met, French President Francois Hollande hosted in the Elysee a group of Kurdish fighters including the Co-Chair of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) commander Nasrin Abdullah.
Both Obama’s new national security strategy and the authorization sent to Congress don’t address the armed militias quandary but rather use it to fight ISIS or al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The U.S. will attempt to institute some of the armed groups either in the Iraqi army or under the umbrella of the moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, while continuing to support Kurdish rebels and ignoring the Shiite militias sponsored by Iran. Counterterrorism has climbed up to the top of U.S. priorities in the Arab Spring capitals, including Cairo where security and military cooperation continues with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.. Even if ISIS is defeated or if al-Nusra or Asaib Ahl al-Haq change their names and affiliations, the new militia structure in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya is here to stay given the decay of the central state structure and the degree of chaos and deepening conflict in those countries. Adaptation and containment while dismantling threats to U.S. national security define Washington’s approach to the post-Arab Spring tumult as another U.S. embassy goes on lock down.

Assad is no better than Saddam
Hussein Shobokshi/Asharq Al Awsat
on : Thursday, 12 Feb, 2015
The Syrian people are being oppressed, humiliated and killed by a criminal and tyrannical regime. This is the only view that any rational, objective and just person can have of the Syrian revolution, and this is the right view.
Syria is being ruled by a criminal gang that has stripped the Syrian people of their dignity, and their very lives. This is a regime that is practicing the worst crimes against freedom and justice, and more closely resembles the Sicilian mafia than a legitimate government.
It was precisely these practices that sparked the Syrian revolution, with hundreds of thousands of Syrians taking to the streets to protest against the regime. They raised pictures and chanted slogans, calling for Bashar Al-Assad to step down. This was the scene in Syria just a few short years ago; the people carrying out peaceful protests and rallies against the regime every Friday after prayers. While the criminal Assad regime responded to this with bullets and death, and carrying out a campaign of mass arrests targeting anyone who dared to protest, sending them straight to the regime’s brutal prisons.
Sectarianism runs in the blood of Arabs, and so they could not support the Syrian people without the specter of sectarianism rearing its ugly head. So the issue of rescuing the Syrian people, or alternatively defending the criminal regime, became ideological and sectarian issues between the region’s Sunnis and Shi’ites. We saw the emergence of the terrorist–takfirist ideology on the scene on both sides. We saw groups like Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, the Al-Nusra Front and the Al-Abbas Brigades emerge on the Syrian scene, among others. Each arrived with false claims that they had come to support the Syrian revolution or defend the people of Syria. But the fact of the matter is that they each came to defend their own views and beliefs against their own perceived enemies—far from what is in the interests of Syria, the Syrian people, or Islam in general. So they would say it is a “duty” to kill this group or that, because they are kuffar (apostates) or Nasibi (a derogatory term used by Shi’ites against Sunnis). Based on historical disagreements, they sowed discord and chaos wherever they went, completely transforming the situation in Syria. The Syrian revolution was the biggest victim of this transformation, while the Assad regime has benefited from it and may ultimately now be looking at long-term survival thanks to this saddening state of affairs.
These Sunni takfirists—let us simply call them terrorists—are unable to respect the pluralism, moderation, coexistence and tolerance that Syria enjoyed since its inception. How could they when they are all foreigners who come from countries that do not enjoy the same level of religious diversity and tolerance? So when such groups say they have come to show Syrians “the right path,” we can only denounce such views and beliefs as being illegitimate and those who espouse them as terrorists.
On the other hand, the views of the Shi’ite groups that have come to defend the Assad regime from as far afield as Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and elsewhere are similarly dangerous and alien to Syria. Sectarian hatred has blinded them to the oppression that is being carried out by the Assad regime against its own people, and they are only concerned with fighting the jihadist groups that are threatening their shrines while ignoring the bigger issues.
The presence of such groups has slowly transformed the situation in Syria, where mercenary forces and sectarian militias defending a criminal regime currently rule the scene. These forces have been blinded by sectarian hatred and they have completely forgotten that they cheered and danced in the streets when Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled, while in reality his regime is no different from the criminal Assad government. They are both Ba’athists, and while Saddam massacred Halabja, the Assad regime has carried out numerous massacres over the years, not least the Hama massacre. Both regimes invaded a neighboring country; Saddam’s Iraq occupied Kuwait, while Assad’s Syria took over Lebanon. So, these two regimes are identical, but those in Syria have been blinded by sectarianism.