February 17/15

Bible Quotation for Today/Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites
Matthew 06/05-15/"Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. ‘Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Letter to the Romans 15/01-13.

"We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name’; and again he says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’; and again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him’; and again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.’"

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 16-17/15
A Revolution Decayed/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/February 16/15
Adding injury to insult/Michael Young/Now Lebanon/February 16/15
Obama's Iran Policy and Israel's Elections/Efraim Inbar/BESA Center Perspectives/February 16/15

Lebanese Related News published on February 16-17/15
Nasrallah: Lebanon's fate entwined with region
Chaldean diocese pleads for more aid as Iraqi refugee needs grow
Aoun turns 80, and still determined to run for president
Salam Calls for Centrist President, Says he is 'Suffering' over Cabinet Paralysis

March 14 needs 'revival': Harb after Hariri meet
Ministry vows crackdown on companies exploiting oil prices
Lebanon hosting more than 1,500 street children
Security Forces Thwart Alleged Plot to Kill Michel Samaha
MEA slashes ticket surcharge after oil price drop
Rifi praises Nasrallah, Hariri rejection of celebratory gunfire
Veteran journalist Arafat Hijazi dead at 68
Report: Moqbel Signs Decree to Extend Term of Khair
Haririri's Message: Lebanon comes first

Israel watches Hezbollah Golan push with unease
Yazigi Says Only Dialogue is in Nation's Interest
Jumblat Praises Hariri for Defending Hizbullah-Mustaqbal Dialogue but March 8 Slams his Speech
Syrian Refugees Swell Ranks of Lebanon Street Children
Judiciary Vows 15-Year Imprisonment to Food-Safety Violators
Beirut to host Arab food safety conference

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 16-17/15
U.N. Security Council Slams 'Heinous, Cowardly' Beheadings of Copts
Egypt bombs ISIS targets in Libya after 21 Egyptians beheaded
Egypt says it bombed Islamic State targets in Libya: state television
Denmark sees possible Charlie Hebdo motive behind Copenhagen attacks
Danish PM says gunman not part of cell
New EU Sanctions Hit Two Russian Deputy Defense Ministers
Iraq: Sunni parties seek talks with Shi’ite militia groups
Rights Groups in New Campaign to Free Syria Activists
Bahrain Deploys Warplanes to Jordan for War against IS
Boko Haram issues new threat against Niger, Chad
Israel's new military chief sworn in
Danish Jews reject Netanyahu's call to move to Israel
Nine dead in rebel fire on Syria's Aleppo
Ukraine battles rage as rebels reject cease-fire
Iran Denies Khamenei Letter to Obama on IS
Iran bans paper for criticizing nuclear talk
UN demands Houthis surrender power in Yemen

Jihad Watch Site Latest Reports
Egypt bombs Islamic State targets in Libya after jihadis behead 21 Egyptian Christians
UK: “A man from Liverpool” charged with attempting to obtain a chemical weapon
Denmark: Muslim youths screaming “Allahu akbar” say they’re “brothers” to jihad murderer
Geert Wilders to keynote AFDI’s Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest in Texas
US ambassador to Denmark: Jihadi was “a Dane, born and bred in Denmark”
Joe Scarborough: Islamic jihadis like “ultrafundamentalist Christians”
Yemen’s last Jews may leave: Houthis’ motto “curse Jews, victory to Islam”

Salam Calls for Centrist President, Says he is 'Suffering' over Cabinet Paralysis
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam has said the region's conditions compel the Lebanese to elect a centrist president and stressed that the cabinet sessions would remain suspended pending an agreement on a productive work mechanism. Salam told two local dailies in interviews published on Monday that the international community had given up on its mission to resolve Lebanon's president crisis. Such a reason, in addition to the rivalry between the country's March 8 and 18 alliances, should compel lawmakers to elect a centrist head of state, he said. “There are several neutral candidates who can help us cross this difficult stage,” he added. Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May. Salam told the newspapers that he would not allow the government to collapse over its failure to make achievements in managing the country and carrying out projects. “My responsibility lies in stopping its collapse,” he said. But Salam hoped that all the other factions would cooperate with him to change the decision-making mechanism adopted by the cabinet. 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. Despite his frustration, Salam said he would not resign so that he does not cause another vacuum at a top institution. “I am suffering but at the same time I am working on managing the state's affairs and overcoming the obstacle,” he said. The PM warned however that the country's democratic system would be under threat if the cabinet ministers did not agree on a new mechanism. Such a new formula “requires leniency from all sides,” he said.

March 14 needs 'revival': Harb after Hariri meet
The Daily Star/Feb. 16, 2015 |
BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition needs to restore it dynamism to help it realize its goals for Lebanon, Telecoms Minister Boutros Harb said after meeting Future Movement chief Saad Hariri Monday. In a statement after the meeting, Harb said "there was complete agreement" on the need to revive and reorganize March 14 to realize its goals of "achieving Lebanese sovereignty, preserving its democratic system and providing prosperity to the Lebanese people.” Talks also put forth new ideas that would allow the movement to play a leading role in the country despite the difficult domestic circumstances, Harb added in a statement after the meeting at Hariri's Downtown Beirut residence.  Harb also said he informed the ex-premier of the need to replace the Cabinet’s decision-making system.
“The meeting today was an opportunity to discuss the atmosphere in Cabinet and the problems facing the decisions of the executive power,” Harb said. The telecoms minister noted that he informed Hariri of difficulties in the Cabinet in adopting a unified position over a formula to replace the current decision-making system pending the election of a president. The Cabinet adopted a system that requires unanimous backing among all 24 ministers to pass laws after President Michel Sleiman's term ended last May, leaving a presidential void.
The president was until then responsible for signing bills into law. The current system, which allows any minister to veto any decision, has significantly hindered the work of the government. On Monday, Hariri also met with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale and Moroccan Ambassador Ali Oumlil. Hariri arrived in Beirut late last week to participate in a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of his father’s killing.  Hariri’s last visit to Lebanon was in August following deadly clashes between the Lebanese Army and Islamist militants in the northeast town of Arsal. He has been living in self-imposed exile between France and Saudi Arabia since January 2011 over security concerns.

Jumblat Praises Hariri for Defending Hizbullah-Mustaqbal Dialogue but March 8 Slams his Speech
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat has said it was important for Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement to stick to their dialogue to resolve several issues. “What's important is for the dialogue between al-Mustaqbal and Hizbullah to continue,” said Jumblat in remarks published in As Safir daily on Monday. He praised al-Mustaqbal movement chief ex-PM Saad Hariri for holding onto the talks that the two parties launched in December. Hariri spoke on Saturday during a rally commemorating the 10th anniversary of the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He said the talks with Hizbullah were “a national necessity” to defuse sectarian tensions. Hariri also stressed that the Lebanese state should have jurisdiction over decisions of war and peace and criticized Hizbullah over its presence in Syria which he described as an act of madness. The party has sent its fighters to the neighboring country to help the forces loyal to President Bashar Assad against the rebels seeking to topple him. In his remarks to As Safir, Jumblat called for adopting a pragmatic approach to resolving controversial issues, including the filling of the fourth basin at Beirut Port, the security plan in the eastern Bekaa Valley, limiting tension and building dams. He stressed that “bigger policies are not made by us.”Jumblat was referring to regional and world powers. As Safir also quoted March 8 alliance leaders as saying that Hariri's speech was aimed at stressing his loyalty to the new Saudi leadership. “If he is accusing the party of shoving Lebanon into an axis against another, then what right he has to push Lebanon into Riyadh's axis,” the leaders, who were not identified, wondered. Saudi King Salman acceded to the throne in January after the death of King Abdullah

Security Forces Thwart Alleged Plot to Kill Michel Samaha
Naharnet /Police have thwarted a plot to kill former pro-Syrian Information Minister Michel Samaha who has been indicted in a series of terrorist plots, security sources said Monday. The sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper that the military prosecutor had recently granted Samaha the right to be transferred to hospital for medical reasons. But the prosecutor later lifted his decision under the orders of General Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud and Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi. Both Hammoud and Rifi interfered in the case after security forces received information that Samaha could be killed during the transfer for having dangerous information on the Syrian regime, the sources said.The officials agreed that Samaha would be hospitalized only if his medical condition has deteriorated and if the agency tasked with the transfer has provided ultimate security to the convoy. The former minister and two Syrian officials have been indicted for transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon in an attempt to assassinate Lebanese political and religious leaders.
But his trial has been adjourned on several occasions over the failure to summon Syrian security chief General Ali Mamlouk.

Lebanon hosting more than 1,500 street children

The Daily Star/Feb. 16, 2015
BEIRUT: Hundreds of children live and work on Lebanon’s streets, a long-standing problem which was largely aggravated by the influx of Syrian refugees fleeing the war next door, a study published Monday showed. At least 1,500 children, nearly three-quarters of them Syrian, beg on the street and work as roadside vendors, with a some involved in illicit activities, according to the joint study, the first of its kind in Lebanon, conducted by the International Labour Organisation, the U.N. Children's Fund UNICEF and charity Save the Children International. “More than 70 percent of the children on the streets are Syrians, mostly concentrated in urban centers like Beirut and Tripoli,” a spokesperson at the Ministry of Labor told The Daily Star. He said the phenomenon has become increasingly widespread and obvious following the influx of some 1.5 million Syrian refugees, the highest refugee population in the world per capita. The study found that two-thirds of street-based children in Lebanon are boys, with over half aged between 10 and 14. They earned an average of less than $12 per day. It cited social exclusion, vulnerability of households, the influx of Syrian refugees and organized crime and exploitation of children, as the main factors causing children to live and work on the streets in Lebanon. "The recent influx of refugees from Syria, many of whom are children, has certainly exacerbated this problem, but is by no means the core cause or consequence of children living or working on the streets," the study said. “The prevalence of children living or working in the streets is a long-standing issue that poses a persistent challenge that straddles larger socioeconomic issues in Lebanon.” The study, which was supported by the Labor Ministry, said 43 percent of the children who worked were begging, while street vending accounted for 37 percent. Most children entered the market between seven and 14 years of age and 42 percent were illiterate, it said. The majority worked more than six days a week and an average of eight and a half hours a day. Lebanon is seeking to withdraw children from the street within the framework of its National Action Plan for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Labour, launched in 2013. -With Agencies

MEA slashes ticket surcharge after oil price drop
The Daily Star/Feb. 16, 2015/BEIRUT: Middle East Airlines has reduced surcharge costs to reflect the recent drop in oil prices, company chairman Mohammad al-Hout announced Monday. “Middle East Airlines has reduced by 50 percent the charge on travel tickets that had been imposed due to the surge in oil prices,” Hout said after meeting Prime Minister Tammam Salam, according to a statement released by the premier's office. MEA had imposed a surcharge of about 15 percent of the price of a ticket after oil prices began to spike over the past few years. The surcharge has now been reduced to about 7.5 percent of the price of a ticket. Tickets from Lebanon to Africa were reduced by around $100 and tickets from Beirut to London or Paris by $85, Hout said. “We have started implementing this price reduction starting today,” he added. The two also discussed the airline's ongoing projects, including the arrival of a flight simulator to the MEA flight training academy, the statement added.

Lebanon justice minister praises Nasrallah, Hariri rejection of celebratory gunfire
The Daily Star/Feb. 16, 2015/BEIRUT: Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi praised Monday the stances by the heads of Hezbollah and the Future Movement against celebratory gunfire by their supporters during speeches.Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, who is scheduled to give a speech later Monday, urged his supporters in a message Sunday to avoid firing in the air. Celebratory gunfire by Hezbollah supporters in Beirut's southern suburbs is a staple of Nasrallah speeches. Future head and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has repeatedly called for all non-state weapons to be handed over to official security forces. In a statement released by his media office, Rifi expressed appreciation for Nasrallah's move and to Hariri's rejection of "gunfire outside the framework of official forces."“The judiciary is fulfilling its duties by prosecuting all shooters,” Rifi said. “Random gunfire is condemned even if it is for me personally.”Rifi pledged not to be lenient with the matter. The move comes two days after Hariri's supporters fired their weapons in the air in Beirut during a speech by the former premier.
Rifi, who is affiliated with the Future Movement, urged the state prosecutor to go after those shooters. He made a similar call after a Jan. 30 Nasrallah speech. The developments come in light of the ongoing dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement, who have been discussing steps to defuse Sunni-Shiite tensions in Lebanon. The two parties had agreed to remove all political and religious banners for the same purpose. Banners have been removed from Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon.

Veteran journalist Arafat Hijazi dead at 68
The Daily Star/Feb. 16, 2015/BEIRUT: Veteran journalist and well-known TV news anchor Arafat Hijazi died of sudden cardiac arrest late Sunday. He was 68. Hijazi began his career in the early 1970s as an anchor at the state-run Tele Liban and soon became the channel’s news editor. He was a well-known face to television audiences well through the 1980s. He was also known for his strong support of the leftist camp during the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War. He teared up when the late commander of the right-wing Lebanese Forces militia Bashir Gemayel was elected president in August 1982. He became distressed when Gemayel was assassinated less than a month later. Hijazi was also a former media advisor to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Hijazi held degrees in political science, philosophy and sociology, and was elected several times as a member of the Lebanese Editors' Association. Hijazi taught Arabic before he began his career at Tele Liban. Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi was among his students at the military academy. “Lebanon, that you loved and fought for with your pen and word, is sad for your loss,” head of the Lebanese Editors’ Association Elias Aoun said in a statement announcing Hijazi’s death. Hijazai is survived by his wife, Khadija Saad, and three children: Yasser, Rania and Nadia. A funeral service will be held for Hijazi Monday at his hometown Aita al-Jabal in south Lebanon.

Haririri's Message: Lebanon comes first

The Daily Star/Feb. 16, 2015
In marking the passing of a decade since the assassination of his father, Saad Hariri laid down an important set of messages in Beirut Saturday. He cited the legacy of Rafik Hariri in highlighting how the national interest should govern policies and actions of all sides as Lebanon faces formidable challenges. Saad Hariri also voiced the rejection of the notion of a middle ground between moderation and extremism. Hariri’s rivals have been fond of making all sorts of accusations against him but the former premier’s unequivocal stance on two key issues – electing a president and keeping Lebanon out of the larger regional conflagration – are proof of the importance he assigns to moderation and national interest. Hariri’s decision to engage in dialogue with Hezbollah is a policy that earns him little support among the extremists in his community, but it demonstrates his dedication to openness. His call to Hezbollah to exit the war in Syria is based on the notion that Lebanese, no matter what their affiliation, should not be fighting in that conflict. And as the crisis’ fourth anniversary approaches, the policy is being shown to be a wise one with every passing day. Moreover, the launch of dialogue is having a positive impact on Sunni-Shiite relations in Lebanon and on other divided communities, which have moved in the same direction – political rivals should be encouraged to talk and agree on what will serve Lebanon best. Hariri’s rivals should pay careful attention to Saturday’s speech for a number of reasons – but most importantly, they should respond with actions and not just rhetoric.

New EU Sanctions Hit Two Russian Deputy Defense Ministers
Naharnet/The European Union included two Russian deputy defense ministers in its latest Ukraine sanctions list Monday, hitting them with travel bans and asset freezes for their role in the conflict. The EU's Official Journal named Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov and first Deputy Minister of Defense Arkady Bakhin for supporting Russian troop deployments in Ukraine. Among three other Russians named were Joseph Kobzon and Valery Rashkin, members of the Duma (parliament). The EU listed 14 Ukrainians, all military or political figures in the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, alongside nine entities. EU foreign ministers agreed the sanctions late last month after deadly attacks on the key port city of Mariupol killed more than 30 civilians but suspended their application as France and German led last ditch efforts to secure a Ukraine ceasefire. EU leaders then decided at a summit Thursday to go ahead with the sanctions because, irregardless of the new peace effort, they were meant to punish those implicated in the Mariupol attacks.
Publication of the names in the Official Journal puts the sanctions into effect. The latest additions bring the total to 151 individuals and 37 entities. Brussels first imposed targeted sanctions on individuals after Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014 but adopted tougher economic measures after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July. Moscow said on Monday it would respond to the sanctions, condemning them as "inconsistent and illogical". "Such decisions... will be followed by an appropriate response," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "We note how inconsistent and illogical it is that every time that a hope appears of a solution to the crisis inside Ukraine, the European Union rushes to bring in new anti-Russian restrictions."The foreign ministry complained that the sanctions "go against common sense" and "look particularly ridiculous" after the European-mediated ceasefire agreement reached last week. It said the decision to impose the travel bans and asset freezes, which were agreed last month after deadly attacks by rebels on the port city of Mariupol, was "not beneficial" to efforts to resolve the conflict. Moscow accused Brussels of not bothering to understand the situation in east Ukraine and "doing the bidding of the party of war in Kiev."Agence France Presse.

Egypt bombs ISIS targets in Libya after 21 Egyptians beheaded
Omar Fahmy/Yara Bayoumy| Reuters/Feb. 16, 2015
CAIRO: Egypt's air force bombed ISIS targets inside Libya Monday, a day after the group released a video showed the beheading of 21 Egyptians there, marking an escalation in Cairo's battle against militants.
It was the first time Egypt confirmed launching airstrikes against the group in neighboring Libya, showing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is ready to expand his fight against Islamist militancy beyond Egypt's borders.
Egypt said the dawn strike, in which Libya's air force also participated, hit ISIS camps, training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya, where civil conflict has plunged the country into near anarchy and created havens for militia.
A Libyan air force commander said between 40 to 50 militants were killed in the attack. "There are casualties among individuals, ammunition and the [ISIS] communication centers," Saqer al-Joroushi told Egyptian state television.
"More airstrikes will be carried out today and tomorrow in coordination with Egypt," he said.
The 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, who had gone to Libya in search of work, were marched to a beach, forced to kneel and then beheaded on video, which was broadcast via a website that supports ISIS.
Before the killings, one of the militants stood with a knife in his hand and said: "Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for."
Egypt's Coptic Christian pope was one of the public figures who backed Sisi when he, as army chief, ousted president Mohammad Morsi in 2013 after mass protests against him.
The beheadings could pile pressure on Sisi to show he is in control of Egypt's security, even though he has already made progress against Islamist militant insurgents in the Sinai.
Egypt has been trying to project an image of stability ahead of an investment conference in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh in March designed to lure billions of dollars into an economy battered by turmoil since the 2011 uprising.
"This allows Sisi to come up looking very strong, showing Egyptians that Egypt is projecting power in the region. It helps sort of mitigate other issues," said Kamran Bokhari, a Middle East analyst at Stratfor.
"He may not be looking strong on the economic front or domestic security front, and there's the question of political legitimacy that still hangs there, but he is saying that Egypt will become like Libya without him."
Sisi, who has called for a global effort to eradicate militancy, which he says is harming Islam, sees radical groups in Libya as a major threat to Egypt's security.
Fears that the crisis could spill across the border have prompted Egypt to upgrade its military hardware.
France has said Egypt will order 24 Rafale fighter jets, a naval frigate and other equipment in a deal to be signed in Cairo Monday worth more than $5.7 billion.
French President Francois Hollande said Monday that he and Sisi wanted the United Nations Security Council to discuss Libya and take new measures against ISIS, whose influence has spread rapidly from its original Syrian base.
Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, has not taken part directly in the U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, focusing instead on the increasingly complex insurgency at home.
The United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Sisi, said it "would put all its capabilities to support ... Egypt's efforts to eradicate terrorism and the violence against its citizens," according to the UAE foreign minister who was cited on the WAM state news agency.
A number of Arab states are now directly attacking ISIS, with Egypt following on the heels of Jordan, which has launched repeated airstrikes against militants in Syria this month following the killing of a Jordanian pilot.
The Libyan air force commander, Joroushi, said Egyptian and Libyan planes had combined to strike targets in the eastern town of Derna. Libyan war planes then attacked the central cities of Sirte and Ben Jawad, he told Reuters.
Security officials say militants in Libya have established ties with Sinai Province, a group operating from Egypt's vast Sinai Peninsula that has pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Sinai Province has killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police since the army toppled Morsi.
The upheavals in Egypt have pummelled the local economy and thousands of Egyptians desperate for work have traveled to oil-rich Libya, despite the government's advice not to go to a state sliding into chaos.
A number of Islamist militant groups have been active in Libya since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 left the country without a strong central government. A few have declared ties to ISIS and claimed high-profile attacks over recent weeks in what appears to be an intensifying campaign.

Egypt says it bombed Islamic State targets in Libya: state television
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's military said in a statement on state television it had carried out an air strike against Islamic State targets in Libya at dawn on Monday, a day after the group released a video appearing to show the beheading of 21 Egyptians there.
The attack focused on Islamic State camps, training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya, where Islamist militants have thrived amid chaos. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly said militants based in Libya pose a serious security threat to Egypt, a strategic U.S. ally that is fighting insurgents in the Sinai who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State. The 21 Egyptian Christians, who had gone to Libya in search of jobs, were marched to a beach, forced to kneel and then beheaded, the video showed.

Denmark sees possible Charlie Hebdo motive behind Copenhagen attacks
By Sabina Zawadzki and Ole Mikkelsen
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Police shot dead a 22-year-old Danish-born gunman on Sunday after he killed two people at a Copenhagen synagogue and an event promoting free speech in actions possibly inspired by an attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, authorities said.
Spy chief Jens Madsen said the gunman was known to intelligence services prior to the shooting and had probably acted alone. Police said he had a record of violence, gang-related activities and weapons possession.
Two civilians - a synagogue guard and a film-maker - were killed and five police were wounded in the two separate attacks in the Danish capital on Saturday and Sunday.
Witnesses said the gunman had fired up to 40 shots at a cafe hosting a free speech event with Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has received death threats for depicting the head of the Prophet Mohammad on a dog.
The gunman then moved on to a nearby synagogue where the guard, protecting a young girl's confirmation, was gunned down.
On Sunday, thousands of Danes left a sea of flowers by the city's ornate 180-year-old synagogue.
"We are a small nation and such things don't happen here," 28-year-old student Frederikke Baastrup said, reflecting a widespread sense of shock in a country that prides itself on its reputation for safety and social tolerance.
Police cordoned off several sections of a predominantly immigrant neighbourhood and took away several people for questioning, witnesses said.
Danish media widely reported the gunman to be Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein. Reuters could not confirm his identity and police declined to comment.
Danish media said El-Hussein had been jailed for stabbing a 19-year-old man in the leg on a Copenhagen train in 2013, and was freed a few weeks ago.
Danish authorities have been on alert since Islamist gunmen killed 17 people in three days of violence in Paris in January that began with an attack on weekly Charlie Hebdo, long known for its acerbic cartoons on Islam, other religions and politicians.
"Denmark and France are the same nations, feeling the same sadness but also the same will to resist, fight and defeat terrorism," French President Francois Hollande said.
"They hit the same targets, they hit what we are, what we represent, the values of freedom, the rule of law, that all citizens, whatever their religion, should be able to enjoy."
Madsen said the attacks appeared to have been inspired by the Paris attacks.
But police said they did not believe the suspect had received training in jihadist camps in the Middle East.
The man had two handguns on him when he was killed and the police search later found an automatic weapon that may have been used in Saturday's attacks.
The gunman's primary target was likely to have been the free speech event with Vilks.
Dozens of bullets were fired in quick succession, probably from an automatic weapon, according to a recording of the event obtained by Danish TV2.
Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said the attacks were terrorism but said this was not the start of a war between the West and Islam.
"When you mercilessly fire deadly bullets at innocent people taking part in a debate, when you attack the Jewish community, you attack our democracy," Thorning-Schmidt said outside the synagogue. "We will do everything possible to protect our Jewish community."
Denmark became a target of violent Islamists 10 years ago after the publication of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad, images that led to sometimes fatal protests in the Muslim world. Many Muslims consider any representation of the Prophet blasphemous.
Vilks stirred controversy himself in 2007 with drawings depicting Mohammad's head on a dog, triggering death threats.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said such attacks were likely to continue, and that Israel would welcome European Jews who chose to move to there.
Witnesses said French ambassador Francois Zimeray had just finished introducing the cafe event, entitled "Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression", when the assailant opened fire.
The venue was heavily guarded by police, who fired back, but the attacker nevertheless escaped.
Vilks sheltered on the floor of a cold room at the back of the cafe with one of the event's organisers.
He has lived under Swedish police protection since 2010 and two years ago an American woman was jailed for 10 years in the United States for plotting to kill him.
Like other European governments, Scandinavian leaders have been increasingly concerned about the radicalisation of young Muslims travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside violent jihadist groups such as Islamic State.
Authorities have also been worried about possible lone gunmen like Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-immigrant Norwegian who killed 77 people in 2011, most of them at a youth camp run by Norway's ruling centre-left Labour Party.
(Additional reporting by the Copenhagen bureau, Niklas Pollard in Stockholm and Michel Rose in Paris; Writing by Alistair Scrutton and Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Jon Boyle and Stephen Powell)

A Revolution Decayed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat
Monday, 16 Feb, 2015
Every year since 1980, Iranians have held an annual celebration of Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution. However, with the passage of time the number of Iranians who reject the revolution and believe it was the worst historical setback in the history of their country has increased. Year after year, more politicians and intellectuals who were involved in the revolution or supported it are re-evaluating the experience within the context of restoring consciousness—an act which usually follows revolutions or failed changes.
Today, as the Iranian Islamic Republic celebrates the 36th anniversary of toppling the Shah, another prominent Iranian figure has joined the ranks of those who speak out against the revolution: Mohsen Sazegara, who participated in establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which were and still are the military elite of the revolution and remain the most powerful and influential force in the country. Sazegara said, regretfully, that if he had the chance go back in time he would not have participated in the revolution, adding that toppling the Shah’s regime was a mistake which Iranians have paid too high a price for. Most of those who have changed their minds about the revolution are like Sazegara—retirees no longer seeking high-ranking posts and who are not part of the current political struggle. They are simply mature individuals who can observe the entire scene and evaluate it based on their experience and according to the end result of Iran’s current situation.
Any fair-minded historian will certainly agree that there were many defects and failures during the Shah’s rule. But the Shah—until the collapse of his regime in the 1970s—managed to turn Iran into one of the most developed and successful countries in the Middle East—compared to the Gulf, Egypt, and Turkey, for example. He transformed the country into an industrial and military power and a top regional scientific hub, making other countries in the Middle East regard Tehran with both envy and admiration. However, revolutionary zealots, from the leftist movement to extremist Islamists, deleted most of this history and rewrote it like Chairman Mao did in China and the Bolsheviks in Russia.
To confront this growing nostalgia for the Shah’s era, those who believe in the revolution and seek to defend it no longer try to forge recent history. This no longer works, because people’s memories of have been revived and millions of people who lived through the Shah’s era are actually still alive.
Their only option is thus to concoct excuses for the failures of the past 36 years in numerous areas including development, living conditions and individual freedoms. The remaining revolutionaries blame the West and the “hypocrites”—that is, the opposition—for their own failure.
But these excuses are no longer convincing. At the same time the regime seeks to reassure its audience at home of its negotiations with the West and that it is about to reconcile with some of its longtime rivals, many in the country will remember how a more secure livelihood and independence from the West—alongside calls for freedom and democracy—were the main slogans chanted by protesters calling for the downfall of the Shah in Tehran and its public squares.
Today, three and a half decades on, none of these demands have been met. The circumstances of Iranians today are actually worse than they were during the Shah’s reign. The margin of political freedom has decreased and social restrictions predominate. Parliamentary and presidential elections have been limited to Islamists, rivals have been jailed, and the only parties active are those affiliated with the regime. The situation is thus worse than it was when the Shah was around. Living standards have declined, misery reigns, and Tehran and the rest of Iran’s major cities have deteriorated into mere shadows of their former resplendent selves during the time of the Shah. After a long time on the revolutionary path, the political regime of the velayat-e faqih (Rule by an Islamic jurist) has turned its back on all its revolutionary slogans by seeking relations with its main enemy the United States. Not only that, the regime wants the US Treasury to allow it to exchange Iranian rials for US dollars, to allow people to remit money to Iran, and for the US Congress to allow Iran to acquire new technology for oil exploration and production.
Practically speaking, the revolution no longer exists in Iran. In its place we have just another repressive regime, with a political system and security services much crueler than the Shah’s. The only hope which the government and the Iranians have left is to achieve reconciliation with the West and become open to the world, just like Vietnam, Cuba, China and Russia did before them

Adding injury to insult
Michael Young/Now Lebanon
The dangerous repercussions of Khalid Daher’s remarks
Daher, responding to the removal of Islamic flags from Tripoli’s Al-Nour roundabout, said: “If they want to remove religious symbols, let them start in Beirut. Let them start with the Christ the King Statue.” (via
The controversy surrounding the remarks of Khaled Daher, a Jamaa Islamiyya parliamentarian who until Wednesday was also a member of the Future Bloc, has had a profound impact, one which the Sunni community must address carefully.
On Sunday, Daher led a protest against the removal of Islamic flags around Nour Square, part of a campaign to remove political posters, flags and banners from the streets of Beirut, Tripoli and Saida. Inexplicably, he then turned his wrath on the Christians, who had nothing to do with the decision, remarking: “If they want to remove religious symbols, let them start in Beirut. Let them start with the Christ the King statue. Let them start with the pictures of some saints ‘who are opening their arms wide’ in Jounieh.”
Not surprisingly, this provoked an angry counter-reaction, especially from Future’s Christian constituency. Daher then “suspended” his participation in the Future Bloc. It was a typical Lebanese compromise, one sought by both Daher and Future. Future did not want to sever its relationship with the electorally potent Jamaa Islamiyya, but also could not cover for Daher’s statements without alienating its Christian supporters. Daher, in turn, benefited by depicting himself as a maverick in defense of Islam, without isolating himself from the Future network.
But the danger in such an otherwise petty episode was that it reinforced growing Christian wariness of Sunnis in general, a process that began last summer when ISIS captured large swathes of land in Iraq and expropriated and expelled Christians in the north of the country. This has been exploited by Hezbollah, which has used it to advance its agenda in Syria, and has portrayed itself as a barrier defending Shiites and Christians from the depravity of Sunni jihadist groups in the Qalamoun area.
Though a majority of Lebanese Sunnis are moderate, the Christians’ existential fears have often made many abandon all nuance in this regard. Daher’s foolish remarks will not have persuaded them otherwise. Yet growing Christian worries are also a reflection of a broader sentiment of decline, one that both Sunnis and Shiites have an interest in alleviating, since what happens to Christians will impact upon Sunni-Shiite relations.
The Future-Hezbollah dialogue notwithstanding, what is required is more than that. Christians must be brought into a broader dialogue with the Muslim communities, and their anxieties attended to. Until that happens Christians may remain a pawn in the Sunni-Shiite sectarian rivalry, to everyone’s detriment.
Admittedly, the Christians are their own worse enemies. The presidency, constitutionally, is the political post that allows Christians to position themselves at an equal distance between Sunnis and Shiites. Yet caught up in their internecine contests for power, Christian leaders have been unwilling to fill the presidency with a compromise candidate. Even as they lament their growing marginalization, they have heartily and shortsightedly contributed to this very outcome.
But while blaming the Christians is always easy, today moderate Sunni leaders also bear responsibility for how their community is perceived; in particular the growing, if simple-minded, tendency of Christians to assume the Sunni community is a wellspring of extremism. Sunni moderates can only benefit by showing that it is they who have sway over the larger part of their communities, otherwise they will continue to be tarred by the extremists’ brush.
It has been four years since Saad Hariri left Lebanon, and it is unfortunate that few are asking anymore when he will return. However, on the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the question of the future of Lebanon’s Sunni leadership is more relevant than ever. The community is in flux, watching daily the fate of its brethren in Syria and Iraq. It seems self-evident that a moderate leadership is needed to ensure the community is not pulled in every direction, toward greater fragmentation.
Statements like Daher’s are signs of a larger problem. As the vacuum has persisted at the head of the Sunni community, others have tried to take advantage of this, playing on sectarian solidarity and political frustrations to gain popularity. Daher is no Ahmad al-Assir, but the symbolism he employs and the populist message off of which he feeds are not so very different.
Neither the Future Movement nor the Future parliamentary bloc can substitute for a Sunni leader. Saad Hariri’s presence is needed, and it is no longer credible to suggest he cannot return for security reasons — not when his movement is engaged in discussions with Hezbollah to lower sectarian tensions, despite the fact that party members have been indicted for Rafik Hariri’s murder.
Hariri’s return would not only help calm growing Christian worries about Sunni militancy, it would also revive a much-needed anchor to the Sunni community itself, and fill a vacuum that, in the last four years, has done Sunnis harm. The consequence would be a re-equilibration of communal relations in the country — essential at a moment when the repercussions of the conflict in Syria threaten Lebanese stability.
Michael Young is opinion editor of The Daily Star newspaper. He tweets @BeirutCalling

Aoun turns 80, and still determined to run for president
Feb. 17, 2015
Hasan Lakkis/The Daily Star
Although MP Michel Aoun will celebrate his 80th birthday Tuesday, the Free Patriotic Movement leader is as determined as ever to stay in the presidential race despite his age, dismissing repeated March 14 calls to withdraw in favor of a consensus candidate to fill the country’s top Christian post.
Aoun, according to many observers, staunchly refuses to quit the presidential race because he is fighting what he views as the last battle in his long political career.
In explaining Aoun’s unyielding stance on the nine-month presidential election deadlock, sources close to him said that the FPM leader still considers himself the most qualified Christian political figure to assume the country’s presidency in these circumstances through which the region is passing and their repercussions on Lebanon in general, and on the Christians in particular.
“Aoun still considers himself to be at the peak of his presidential battle as long as there is no president in Baabda [the seat of the presidential palace] and there are no serious signals so far about the possibility of electing a president,” the sources said.
“Also, Aoun has not yet pondered Plan B, under which he will become the top voter [in the presidential election] instead of being the sole candidate.”
The sources added that the FPM leader would remain adamanton his position for as long as Hezbollah stood firm on its support for Aoun for the presidency – a stance that would not change unless Aoun decided to retreat from the presidential race.
However, the same sources raised questions about the expected results of Aoun’s stubborn stance and whether his assessment of developments was based on wishful thinking or a mix of wishes and facts.
The sources recalled Aoun’s dialogue with the head of the Future Movement, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, when the FPM leader misread the latter’s attitudes toward the presidential crisis and developed misplaced hopes.
During the FPM’s dialogue with the Future Movement last year, Aoun sought to win Hariri’s support for his candidacy, even though the March 14 coalition, including the Future Movement, is backing Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, Aoun’s political opponent, as their presidential candidate.
Although officials from the two rival Christian parties, the FPM and the Lebanese Forces, are still engaged in a dialogue to set the stage for a meeting between Aoun and Geagea, some in the FPM have voiced pessimism about the possibility of success in breaking the presidential impasse through these talks.
Sources familiar with those preparing a memorandum of intent between the two parties have expressed excessive optimism to the extent that they are close to be convinced that Geagea will announce his support for Aoun’s candidacy to the presidency.
Those in the FPM who have doubt that the dialogue with the LF will result in success said that whether Geagea is maneuvering or being serious in his talks with the FPM, it is difficult for him to decide anything on the presidential election before returning to his March 14 allies, namely Hariri. So far, available information does not indicate that the March 14 coalition will accept Aoun’s nomination to the presidency, the sources said.
According to the same sources in the FPM, what has so far been achieved from the FPM-LF dialogue would be good and important if the dialogue had been held in normal circumstances.
But the results and strength of this dialogue, given the primary concern with the presidency, become secondary and could vanish if the two sides fail to agree on the presidential election, the sources said.
They added that the ongoing contacts between the FPM and the LF would not cause any loss for Aoun.
But the prolongation of the presidential vacuum, especially amid an atmosphere that does not underline the need for the presence of a president, would help weaken the Christians’ top post in Lebanon, the sources said.
Meanwhile, diplomatic sources close to the Vatican said that French presidential envoy Jean-Francois Girault told Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai when he met him in Rome last week that his talks with rival Lebanese leaders in Beirut did not lead to any positive results that would help hold the election.
The Holy See is mulling the possibility of sending a special envoy to Lebanon in the near future to discuss the presidential crisis with Lebanese officials and political parties, the sources said.

Summary of Nasrallah's derailed, anti Lebanese, Anti Arab, Iranian, Hostile, Terrorist & Conceited Speech

Sayyed Nasrallah to those Who Criticize Hezbollah on Syria Fight: Join Us
Hezbollah Manar Web Site
Batoul Wehbe /February 16/15
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called on Monday for those who urge Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria to join the party in its fight against Takfiri terrorists in Syria, Iraq and everywhere as the terrorists set Mecca and Medina their main target.
Sayyed Nasrallah“I call for those who are urging us to withdraw from Syria to join us in our fight in Syria. Let's go to Iraq and everywhere to face off this threat because this is the right way to defend Lebanon,” His eminence said.
In a televised speech during a ceremony commemorating the martyrdom of Leaders Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Sayyed Abbas Al-Mousawi and Haj Imad Moughniyeh, Sayyed Nasrallah warned the so-called ISIL terrorist group’s main target was Saudi Arabia, Mecca and Medina specifically and not only Baghdad, noting that its ‘caliphate’ would not attain its goal without enforcing dominance on Islam’s two holiest sites. He said the Takfiri danger was threatening Islam as a whole and not only several regimes.
Balloons instead of bulletsAs soon as the S.G. began his speech, yellow and white balloons were launched in the air from Al-Qaem Mosque in Beirut's southern suburb, Dahiyeh, in a civilized move called for by Hezbollah to substitute the bad habit of firing bullets in the air. “I call upon you, insisting that everybody has to categorically refrain from shooting in the air in view of the religious and the legal considerations,” His eminence said in a statement released on Sunday. In his Monday speech, Sayyed Nasrallah saluted supporters for their obedience which marked a precedent in the history of Lebanese leaders’ speeches.
The secretary general used the bulk of his speech to talk about the Takfiri threat that was increasing day after another. “Confronting ISIL militarily and politically amounts to defending Islam. We consider ourselves, in Hezbollah, that we are defending Islam as a whole. The origin of the brutality and violence of ISIL Takfiris is Hollywood. Any behavior by he who pretends to be a Muslim but contradicts the rules of humanity is not a Muslim at all.”
He said that Yemen’s Houthis were also standing against ISIL and preventing their expansion praising the movement as “rightful”, “brave” and “wise.”
“All world countries consider ISIL a huge threat, except Israel. ISIL agenda had immensely served the Israeli one,” Sayyed Nasrallah assure, adding that we should search for the Israeli, CIA, KGB hands in ISIL actions and terrorism. "Jordan cannot fight ISIL in Iraq and support Al-Nusra in Syria, terrorist groups are all faces of the same coin."“People in the region must not wait for an international strategy to fight the Takfiri threat. Everybody should have the initiative to face this threat as we are doing,” he said.
From here, Sayyed Nasrallah saluted the resistance who are fighting this threat in difficult circumstances. “We must renew the salutation to the young men who are deployed on the heights of mountains, the officers and soldiers of the army and security forces and the men of the resistance. We also salute the officers and soldiers of the Syrian army who are preventing the dispatch of bomb-laden cars. They have all our salutations and appreciation amid this snow and cold.”
“Italy's defense minister has said that her country is willing to join an international anti-terror coalition because terrorism was now only 350 kilometers away from the Italian border. Terrorism is on our border in the mountains and some parties are speaking of right and wrong!” Sayyed Nasrallah wondered.
His eminence threw his weight behind calls for a national counter-terrorism strategy to confront the Takfiri threat. “In front of the Takfiri threat, we support the call for placing a national strategy for counter-terrorism. We support the Bekaa security plan, which was launched last week, and call for more efforts to be exerted in developing the Bekaa region. Alongside the security plan there are two issues -- the development plan in Baalbek and Hermel as well as in Akkar, and resolving the problem of tens of thousands of people who are wanted over minor or old offenses.” Unfortunately, he said, We agree on the enemy that is terrorism and disagree over another enemy, which is ‘Israel’.
Addressing Bekaa residents, Sayyed Nasrallah said that it is the responsibility of the state, and not Hezbollah or Amal Movement, to enforce security in the area.
His eminence urged for coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian armies before the snow melts on eastern border and called on the government to coordinate with Damascus over the issues of refugees and security.
Concerning the relations between Hezbollah and the Free Ptriotic Movement, Sayyed Nasrallah called for deepening and consolidating the relation and urged for similar agreements on the national level.
Region’s Fate Interrelated
His eminence extended his condolences to the former premier Rafik Hariri family and the families of other people who were killed during the 2005 Beirut blast. He said Hezbollah still supports the dialogue with Al-Mustaqbal movement saying it yielded positive atmosphere. “We support the dialogue with Al-Mustaqbal movement and we'll continue hoping to reach a happy ending.”
The secretary general criticized the logic of isolating Lebanon from regional changes as “unrealistic.” “The storm is coming and carrying snow. As Lebanese we can't tell the snow to hold on and wait. Lebanon has always been affected by regional changes,” Sayyed Nasrallah said as he assured that the fate of the whole world is being cooked in the Middle East region. Lebanon cannot disassociate itself from this fate, he said, adding the fate of Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Libya...etc are all interrelated.
Sayyed Nasrallah dismissed criticism against Hezbollah for supporting the Bahraini revolution, saying: those who criticize our stance from Bahrain should not interfere in other countries affairs, especially Syria. “We did not call for toppling the regime in Bahrain, we only supported those who were calling for dialogue. There is a terrified and weak government in Bahrain that fears any word of right, it even threatens to expel the Lebanese.”
On the ISIL crime against Egyptian Copts, Sayyed Nasrallah strongly condemned the brutally execution of the 21 Coptic Christians who were decapitated by ISIL, and offered condolences to their families and country.“We extend our condolences to the Egyptian people and the Coptic Church, this crime has affected both Islam and Christianity.”
Israel Haunted by Moughniyeh's Blood
Hezbollah leader threatened Israel would always be ‘haunted’ by the blood of Martyr Leader Imad Moughniyeh, who was assassinated in 2008. He also spoke of Moughniyeh’s son, Jihad, who was also martyred in an Israeli strike on Syria’s Quneitra.
“The blood of the martyr Jihad has revived the memory of the commander Hajj Imad Moughniyeh and returned this brilliant and historic leader to the forefront of events once again, confirming that his presence is still strong in the minds of friends and in the mind of the enemy, which will always be haunted by Imad Moughniyeh's blood,” he said.
He also praised Jihad for following the footstep of his father rather than choosing the materialistic life, “from this platform Jihad pledged allegiance to the resistance way and went to Golan where he was martyred,” drawing a path in which past remains connected to the present and future as well.
His eminence also said that when the Zionist entity was occupying our land, Sayyed Abbas, Sheikh Ragheb and Hajj Imad predicted that 'Israel' will leave our land. "It is important to learn loyalty and honesty from them and to learn the responsibility of making a decent and dignified future for our people and nation."

Nasrallah backs Hariri’s anti-terror stance
Hussein Dakroub/Hashem Osseiran/The Daily Star/Feb. 17, 2015
BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah voiced support Monday for former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s call for a national strategy to fight terrorism, while exhorting the Lebanese Army to get ready to face threats from Islamist militants near the border with Syria when winter ends.
He also prodded the rival Lebanese factions to resume talks to break the 9-month-old presidential deadlock and not to bet on regional changes to elect a new president.
Speaking at an annual rally to commemorate the Israeli assassinations of ex-Hezbollah chief Sayyed Abbas Musawi, commander Imad Mughniyeh and Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Nasrallah devoted most of his speech to highlighting the danger posed to the entire world by ISIS and the Nusra Front, Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, after they committed atrocities that tarnished the image of Islam. He called for combined global action to confront the two militant groups, which have beheaded and burned to death some of their captives.
“We in Hezbollah, in the face of the danger of terrorism, support the call for drawing up a national strategy to fight terrorism. The political parties can agree on this,” Nasrallah said, speaking through a huge screen via a video link at the rally held at a Hezbollah complex in Beirut’s southern suburbs. The rally was attended by hundreds of Hezbollah’s supporters waving the party’s yellow flags, a number of Hezbollah lawmakers and political and religious figures.
Nasrallah was responding to Hariri, who called for such a plan in a speech Saturday, noting that terrorism is a common enemy.
The Hezbollah chief warned of attacks by ISIS and the Nusra Front when the snow melts along Lebanon’s border with Syria where the two groups are entrenched. He called on the Lebanese Army to prepare to face jihadi threats.
“There are Daesh [ISIS] and the Nusra Front at the opposite eastern mountains [in Syria]. When the snow melts, the state must make up its mind on how to deal with this danger that exists on hills and mountains,” Nasrallah said. He renewed his support for the Army and security forces in their battle against terrorism.
Nasrallah called for coordination between the Syrian and Lebanese governments and their armies to face the jihadi threats and the Syrian refugee crisis, saying Lebanon should not be wary of a re-emergence of Syrian tutelage over the country, describing it as a thing of the past.
Referring to the presidential vacuum after Parliament’s failure to choose a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, Nasrallah called on the March 8 and March 14 parties to resume talks to break the deadlock and not to wait for the outcome of the U.S.-Iran negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program or a Saudi-Iranian dialogue. “I say to all those who are keen on preventing the [presidential] vacuum, do not wait for changes in the region and abroad because the region is headed for further confrontations and crises,” he said. “Let’s resume internal efforts to end this issue.”
Nasrallah said Hezbollah would continue dialogue with the Future Movement, which he said had produced “positive results within our expectations.”
“We hope to reach a positive and good conclusion,” he said. He reiterated his support for talks between any rival parties in Lebanon.
Responding to Hariri’s fresh call Saturday on Hezbollah to withdraw from the war in Syria, Nasrallah invited his rivals to join the party’s battle against extremists that he said had their sights set on taking over as much territory as possible.
“To those who call for Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria, I invite you to come with us to Syria ... and I invite you to come with us to Iraq,” he said.
Nasrallah said that ISIS’ main target was Saudi Arabia, and Mecca and Medina specifically, noting that its self-declared caliphate would not be complete without enforcing dominance on Islam’s two holiest sites.
Nasrallah warned that the takfiri movement represented by ISIS posed a threat to all governments, regimes, peoples and armies in the world. “Daesh poses a threat to Islam as a religion and as a message,” he said. “Today, the entire world has conceded that this takfiri movement, Daesh, is posing a threat to the world and the region. Only Israel does not consider it to be a threat.”
He claimed that the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, the Central Intelligence Agency and the British Intelligence were behind the creation of ISIS.
Nasrallah offered support for the Bekaa Valley security plan launched last week, saying that its implementation came late. Addressing Bekaa Valley residents, Nasrallah said that it is the responsibility of the state, and not Hezbollah or the Amal Movement, to enforce security in the area.
Security forces last week began raiding towns across the northern Bekaa to crack down on theft and the illicit drug trade. At least 137 suspects have been rounded up since the raids began, according to official figures.
The security plan requires a development plan to go along with it, Nasrallah said, such as the construction of hospitals and schools.
Speaking two days after Lebanon marked the 10th anniversary of the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, Nasrallah extended his sympathies to the Hariri family and the families of the 21 others who were killed during the Feb. 14, 2005, car bomb explosion in Beirut.

Nasrallah: Lebanon's fate entwined with region
The Hezbollah chief argued against Lebanese neutrality.
BEIRUT –Agencies 16.02.15/ Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called on Lebanon to pro-actively involve itself in regional developments to protect itself and called for security coordination between Damascus and Beirut. “We must not wait for anyone, we must take the initiative,” the Hezbollah chief said Monday in a televised address during a ceremony commemorating the assassinations of top party leaders. He slammed the 2012 Baabda Declaration agreed upon by Lebanon’s leaders calling for the country to avoid regional entanglements, describing the policy as mere “pretty words and poetry.” “The Lebanese people cannot tell a hurricane to stop at our border because we have our own weather,” Nasrallah said, stressing that the “region has been shaken upside down.” “The fate of Lebanon is being decided in the region… and he who wants to decide Lebanon’s fate must have a regional presence.” “I tell those asking us to get out of Syria; let’s go together to Syria and Iraq.”
In a speech focused on the regional threats posed by Islamist militants, Nasrallah argued that his party was not just protecting the Shiite sect. “Fighting takfiris is a defense of Islam, and not the defense of an axis, government or sect.”Nasrallah warned Saudi Arabia that the Islamic State (ISIS) group was threatening to move in on the country in a bid to seize Islam’s two holiest cities of Mecca and Medina. He further reiterated his party’s claims that ISIS and Al-Nusra “are one and the same” and served Israel’s interests.
“Everything that serves Israel’s and the US’ hegemony is being done by ISIS.”
“Spring War”
Nasrallah also called on Lebanon to start preparing for a confrontation with Islamist militants in the eastern Beqaa. “We have ISIS and Al-Nusra Front on the other side of the [Ante-Lebanon] mountains… storms and snows have prevented confrontation, but when the snow melts something must be done.”“The state must make a decision, as do the Lebanese people.”The Hezbollah chief also called for coordination between Lebanese and Syrian authorities to tackle the issue of Syrian refugees as well as security concerns."I call for coordination between the Lebanese army and the Syrian army on the terror threat."Pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper reported last week that 5,000 Lebanese army soldiers have been deployed in the Arsal region facing 2,000 Islamist fighters ahead of an “inevitable” spring war when weather conditions in the desolate region improve.ISIS and Al-Nusra Front fighters have clashes repeatedly with the Lebanese army and Hezbollah in the eastern Beqaa, most dramatically in August of last year when militants swept through Arsal and took over 20 Lebanese security force members hostage in five days of fighting before withdrawing. The Al-Nusra Front in early October attacked Hezbollah positions in Brital, and in January militants killed eight LAF soldiers in fighting outside Ras Baalbek.
The anniversary of Rafik Hariri’s assassination would be an apt occasion to make this happen. Daher’s comments should be a glitch in Sunni-Christian relations, but they will only seem that way to Christians if a credible Sunni leadership is on hand to affirm it. For now, Sunnis, and many Lebanese, are still waiting.

Obama's Iran Policy and Israel's Elections
by Efraim Inbar/BESA Center Perspectives
February 16, 2015
President Obama sees Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as standing in the way of of a much-needed foreign policy success for his administration.
Unfortunately, there are many sources of tension between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. The main issue of discord is, of course Iran. Obama seeks an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear program that will allow President Obama to claim that he prevented Tehran from building the bomb. The fact that Iran will maintain the capability to enrich uranium, and will not dismantle any of its nuclear installations, is simply swept under the rug as insignificant. Strange as it sounds, it seems that Obama is prepared to brand Iran as a US strategic partner in the attempt to bring stability to a region beleaguered by chaos.
Part of this realignment involves American capitulation on the nuclear issue, and an apparent carte blanche for stepped up Iranian activity and influence in the region. Iran is taking over Yemen (and throwing American diplomats out of the country); carving a sphere of influence in Iraq; continuing to support the brutal Assad regime in Damascus; strengthening Hizballah's grip over Lebanon; engaging in subversion in Central Asia; and developing its terrorist apparatus. In the context of Obama's "Grand Bargain" with Iran, all this seems to be okay. Tehran gets all it wants, while Washington gets an Iranian promise not to go nuclear as long as Obama is in the White House. Having made no foreign policy achievements throughout his presidency, Obama, perhaps obsessively, now wants the relationship with Iran to serve as his foreign policy legacy.
This foolish behavior negatively affects America's own position in the Middle East, as well as the national interests of its closest ally, Israel. Obama does not care about American international stature. He has advocated a retrenched position in world affairs. Israel, as well, has never been close to his heart, but Obama understands that Israeli concerns strike a sensitive chord with the American public.
As long as there is a chance that an address to Congress will obstruct Obama's attempt to sign a bad deal, Netanyahu feels compelled to make a stand.
This is precisely why he does not want Netanyahu to speak in the US Congress. Obama fears that Netanyahu's planned March 3 speech could become a catalyst for a public debate about his own dangerous policy toward Iran. He does not want undue publicity for his dangerous foreign policy gambit. The last thing he needs is a gifted orator such as Netanyahu pointing out the glaring deficiencies in the American approach toward Iran.
And this is precisely why Netanyahu is determined to defy Obama's wishes. The gravity of the Iranian threat is understood by Israelis of all political hues. As long as there is a chance, however slight, that an address to Congress will reinvigorate the public debate in the US on Iran, and obstruct the administration's attempt to sign a deal, Netanyahu feels compelled to make a stand against all odds to halt a bad deal with Iran. Paradoxically, Obama's efforts to prevent Netanyahu from visiting Washington, and to convince Congress members to boycott the session, only increase the interest in what Israel's prime minister has to say.
Among the candidates for prime minister, only Netanyahu would consider attacking Iranian nuclear installations in defiance of the US.
Beyond the personal animosity and the vast difference in worldviews, Obama does not want Netanyahu around because he considers Israel's prime minister a serious spoiler of his most important foreign policy initiative. But it is not only in Washington that Obama considers Netanyahu to be unwelcome. Obama wishes to be rid of Netanyahu in Jerusalem as well. This is not the first time we have been witness to American intervention in Israeli elections; with the White House showing displeasure with Likud candidates, and enlisting Jewish activists and donors for the anti-Netanyahu campaign.
Obama does not want Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel even after a deal is signed with Iran. He has no desire to be exposed to Netanyahu's continued criticism, based on the realization that the proposed deal has many loopholes, or based upon probable Iranian violations of the agreement. He also takes seriously Netanyahu's statement that Israel is not bound by America's unilateral agreements. In Obama's view, a paranoid Netanyahu may still revert to the military option, and thereby destroy his only foreign policy "success."
Obama is probably right on this point. Among the candidates for prime minister in the Israeli elections, only Netanyahu is passionate about Iran, and only Netanyahu would consider ordering the IDF to attack Iranian nuclear installations in defiance of the United States. While the campaign in Israel is focused more on personalities than on issues, the underlying theme of the elections is the Iranian threat and who is best placed and most experienced to tackle this challenge.
**Efraim Inbar is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Chaldean diocese pleads for more aid as Iraqi refugee needs grow
Sarah Weatherbee/The Daily Star/Feb. 17, 2015
BEIRUT: On a cold morning, a small group of Iraqi refugees cluster together at the Chaldean diocese in Baabda. It’s a typical Friday, and there are some new faces among them. The refugee experience is one of asking, hoping and waiting. For years, they have been confined to spaces of waiting: in the host countries they for now reluctantly call home, and in rooms like these.
One among them, Evelyn Polis, paces nervously. “I just have the money for one more month’s rent,” said Polis, a Chaldean, who first fled from Baghdad to Syria four years ago. The unrest in Syria recently brought her to Lebanon.
The Chaldean Diocese of Beirut sent out a call for more help last week. Bishop Michel Kassarji, whose announcement went public across Lebanese media channels, said that the church desperately needs funds to help aid the rising numbers of refugees at his doorstep. It’s the beginning of Lent, and Kassarji hoped that donations would increase as people remember the poor and needy. Funds are dwindling at the worst possible time, as an increasing number of Christians are fleeing Iraq.
“The situation of Iraqi [refugees] in Lebanon is pitiful,” Kassarji said, explaining that the Lebanese government doesn’t give them the benefit of refugee status. He added that they are “prevented from working and, where they can work, they’re doing it through very difficult conditions and in return of low salaries.”
The Chaldean Diocese of Beirut has provided aid in the form of food, home necessities and cash assistance to needy refugees over the past seven months. Through a health and social center in Sad al-Boushrieh, it has also provided medical care. Kassarji estimated that around 2,000 Chaldean Iraqi families receive monthly support.
Considered an order of Catholics under authority of the Vatican, the Chaldeans are the largest of Iraq’s Christian denominations. Christian roots in Mesopotamia reach back 2,000 years. They are among the millions of refugees and internally displaced Iraqis who began to flee after the 1990 and 2003 U.S.-led invasions, as well as the more recent expansion of ISIS control over large parts of the country.
Iraqis, regardless of religious affiliation, have fled the grip and bloodshed of the extremist group’s militant rule. The fall of Mosul to ISIS in June of last year resulted in a sharp rise of Christians seeking refuge outside their homeland.
Multiple reports have documented the dwindling numbers of Christians in Iraq. Twenty years ago, there were 1.4 million. Today, estimates fall closer to 300,000. The U.N. planning figures for 2015 cite the number of Iraqis in Lebanon at 6,100, while Lebanon’s social affairs minister, Rashid Derbas, said the number was around 8,000, as of August. With more than 1 million Syrian refugees in the country, the needs of Iraqis have been forgotten, say community leaders and aid organizations.
Kassarji opened the church doors seven months ago, to help fill the gap. He said that Iraqi refugees were typically getting just 50 percent of their needs met through the U.N. and NGOs. He has tried to provide additional help with the church’s money, but he said that’s becoming unsustainable with the drop in funding levels and the high amount he’s already spent. At first, church staff were able to help everyone who came, regardless of religion, but Kassarji said they have recently had to prioritize Chaldeans, as money has run low.
“In six months, I’ve spent around $400,000, and this is only on food,” he said.
Kassarji added that around 120 people come daily to the health center he funds in Sad al-Boushrieh, a Beirut neighborhood heavily populated with Iraqi refugees. He wants to open an additional center in the area in the coming months, to address the rising number of those in need.
Tensions have simmered between Lebanon’s Iraqi and Syrian refugee communities. Local laws don’t classify Iraqis as refugees, resulting in barriers to finding employment and earning income.
By virtue of a previously established economic and social agreement between Syria and Lebanon, Syrians have typically been able to work in the country and enter just with an ID card. Iraqis, by contrast, need a passport to enter the country, and they face greater difficulties obtaining a work permit. Funding for Iraqi refugees from international NGOs and U.N. agencies has been squeezed as the number of Syrian refugees has grown.
An October 2014 report from Caritas, one of the leading aid organizations addressing Iraqi refugee needs, said that nearly a quarter of those surveyed had entered Lebanon illegally, due to strict visa restrictions. The report found that nearly 40 percent of Iraqi refugees currently reside in Lebanon under an “irregular status,” resulting from staying beyond the expiration date of their tourist visas issued upon entering the country.
Resettlement to a third country is a long process, with low success for the majority of cases. Due to compounded stressors, several studies on the refugee population have revealed high prevalence rates of psychological problems such as anxiety and depression, as well as physical health consequences and susceptibility to exploitation from employers.
Rita Saky works for the Chaldean Church, handling requests for food and cash assistance. She hears the stories of refugees on a weekly basis.
“They come as tourists but in fact they are refugees. They are homeless and need a big amount of money for rent. Because they are tourists, they are not allowed to work here.”
She said that cash assistance is one of the most frequently requested needs, as the cost of rent has sharply risen in the past several years. The church has distributed food staples such as rice, sugar and cooking oil, but Saky said that the reserve is shrinking as she showed the sparse number of food items on the shelves of the diocese’s basement pantry.
Previously, The Daily Star reported on an AUB study that found food insecurity among Iraqi refugees to be “alarmingly high.” Meeting adequate nutrition needs is particularly challenging for families with children, and among families lacking strong social networks.
Gladis Khamees was among the cluster of refugees at the Baabda diocese. An Assyrian Christian, she said she has asked for help from local NGOs and the U.N. in Lebanon, but lamented that receiving enough help is a challenge.
For Khamees and her children, life in Lebanon carries chronic uncertainty. “We don’t know what our fate will be here,” she said.
Originally from Baghdad, she fled to Syria nearly four years ago. Last fall, the violence in the outskirts of Damascus had her fleeing across the Lebanese border. Family members have helped her where they can with rent and food expenses, and she is actively seeking resettlement outside of Lebanon.
“When we were in Syria, we were the No. 1 priority, but here [in Lebanon] the top priority is the Syrians,” she said.
Acknowledging the needs of Syrian refugee influx, she added, “We understand this, but we are like them. The suffering is the same.”
To learn more about how to donate, call the Chaldean diocese at: +961-5-457-732 and +961-5-459-088. To donate directly: Credit Bank S.A.L., Shiyah branch, Beirut, Lebanon, Swift Code: CBCBLBBE, No: 803845, IBAN: LB65010300081010570803845003