February 21/15

Bible Quotation For Today/All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Luke 18/09-14. :" Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income." But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’"

Letter to the Hebrews 03/14-19/04/01-04/Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion
We have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. ’Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? But with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, ‘As in my anger I swore, "They shall not enter my rest" ’, though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 20-21/15
A fake Iranian “defector” assassinated Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman/DEBKAfile/February 20/15
Friend and Foe in Syria/ The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy/Lee Smith/February 20/15
Sisi’s “If Only” Moment/Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat/February 20/15
The region crumbles and Lebanon trembles/Michael Young/The Daily Star/February 20/15
Like Father, Like Son/Amir Taheri/Asharq AlAwsat/February 20/15
Israel Threatened by Iranian Ground Forces on Northern Border/ Abraham Rabinovich/The Washington Free Beacon/February 20/15
Has Israel been cut out of Iran’s nuclear negotiations/Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/February 20/15
The Trap Set for Egypt/Osman Mirghan/Asharq Al Awsat/ February 21/15

Lebanese Related News published on February 20-21/15
Lebanon Shivers but Storm to Taper Off over the Weekend
Hezbollah buries two party members slain in Syria
Maronite Bishops Hope Dialogue Resolves Presidential Crisis, Urge Backing for the State
Because of Nasrallah's calls for involvement in regional wars/Prepare for the worst
Hariri: Cabinet crisis close to being resolved
Relaxation of smoking ban draws fire
Security forces corral criminals in north Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
Hariri: We Hope Dialogue with Aoun Would Continue Positively
Kanaan Discusses Document of Principles in Maarab as Aoun-Geagea 'Presidential Bargain' Ruled Out
Security forces corral criminals in north Lebanon
New think tank takes aim at most pressing issues
Aoun still fancies his chances
Qatar blasts Hezbollah for 'killing Syrians'
Unified prescription form clears final hurdle
Three children die in fire caused by storm
Hrdlickova succeeds Baragwanath as STL head
Hizbullah Refutes Claims of Syrian Plot to Assassinate Samaha
Jumblat Warns: We Must Share Responsibility to Avert Chaos

Hariri’s legacy of leadership

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 20-21/15
Netanyahu throws cold water on IAEA report claiming Iran restraining its nuclear program
Obama: Airstrikes not enough to defeat terror
US takes swipe at Netanyahu: Sounds like he knows more about Iran deal than negotiators
Fighting rages in east Ukraine despite truce bid
Syria sees foreign foes as key to Aleppo truce
Turkey, U.S. sign deal to train, arm Syrian rebels
Report: ISIS militants in Turkey, plotting
Denmark to beef up fight against terrorism
Gulf states voice support for Egypt’s fight against terrorism
At least 30 dead in Boko Haram raids near Chibok, Nigeria: residents
 Kobane: The clean-up begins
Exclusive: ISIS chief Baghdadi in new pictures
Bombs kill 40 in Libya in apparent revenge for Egyptian air strikes
Libyan army in need of training in fight against ISIS: Saudi diplomat
Canada Condemns Multiple Bombings in Libya

Jihad Watch Site Latest Reports
DHS intel report warns of domestic right-wing terror threat.
500 Muslims attend funeral of Copenhagen jihad murderer.
Islamic State in Libya burns musical instruments as un-Islamic.
UK: 3 teen Muslimas travel to Syria to join the Islamic State.
Islamic State’s new hashtag: #We_Are_Coming_O_Rome.
Nearly all Muslims who left Australia to join jihad were on the dole.
Detroit: Muslim who stabbed non-Muslims after asking if they were Muslim not charged with hate crime.
Boston Muslim leader fumes that DoJ anti-terror efforts are “exclusively targeting the American Muslim community”.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution claims Detroit Muslim who targeted non-Muslims “targeted Muslims”.
CBS: “Is this a failure to properly identify the enemy?”.

Question: "What is the meaning of Lent?"
Answer: Lent is a period of fasting, moderation, and self-denial traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 46 days (40 days, not counting Sundays). During Lent, participants eat sparingly or give up a particular food or habit. It’s not uncommon for people to give up smoking during Lent, or to swear off watching television or eating candy or telling lies. It’s six weeks of self-discipline.
Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves of the value of repentance. The austerity of the Lenten season was seen as similar to how people in the Old Testament fasted and repented in sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3).
However, over the centuries Lenten observances have developed a much more "sacramental" value. Many Catholics believe that giving something up for Lent is a way to attain God’s blessing. But the Bible teaches that grace cannot be earned; grace is “the gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17). Also, Jesus taught that fasting should be done discreetly: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus’ command to “wash your face” seems to conflict with the practice of rubbing ashes on one’s face on Ash Wednesday.
Fasting can be a good thing, and God is pleased when we repent of sinful habits. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside some time to focus on Jesus' death and resurrection. However, repenting of sin is something we should be doing every day of the year, not just for the 46 days of Lent. If a Christian wishes to observe Lent, he is free to do so. The key is to focus on repenting of sin and consecrating oneself to God. Lent should not be a time of boasting of one’s sacrifice or trying to earn God's favor or increasing His love. God’s love for us could not be any greater than it already is.

Lebanon Shivers but Storm to Taper Off over the Weekend
Naharnet /Much of Lebanon continued to shiver and suffer in bitter cold Friday as a fierce storm dumped more snow across the country. The blizzard has closed schools and stranded people in their homes. But meteorologists predicted storm “Windy” to subside over the weekend. The Meteorology Department said snow fell in areas 300 meters above sea level a day after it reached Lebanon's shores. Temperatures reached 5 degrees Celsius on the coast and -9 degrees Celsius in mountainous areas. “Windy” is expected to dump more snow on Saturday morning but at 600 meter elevations and mainly in southern Lebanon. The Meteorology Department said the dark clouds will give way for a sunnier weather starting Saturday afternoon despite relatively low temperatures. Sunday is expected to be mostly sunny although icy roads will continue to pose a hazard to drivers, it said. The Civil Defense Department said it rescued on Friday ten residents who were stranded on Dahr al-Baidar road and were traveling on foot. The Red Cross also announced that it was ready to assist people with special medical cases and those who do dialysis. In the Bekaa region of Zahle, municipality bulldozers rescued six citizens who were trapped in snow on the road of the Jesus the Redeemer Monastery as other bulldozers towed seven SUVs that were trapped in Ksara's heights. Meanwhile in Rashaya, snow covered low and high areas alike, reaching a one-meter thickness, a level unseen since tens of years. The heavy snow cut off the towns of Ain Ata, Yanta, Deir al-Ashayer, Bakka, Halwa, Aiha, Kfarqouq, Rashaya, Ain Arab, Sultan Yaacoub, Libbaya, Mayzoun and Ain al-Tineh. The storm has so far killed around 100 goats and sheep as thousands of cattle remained trapped in the Malek, Mraymes, al-Faqiaa and al-Safineh farms. Several cows also died in farms in Kamed al-Louz, Gaza, al-Mansoura, al-Khyara and Hawsh al-Harimeh. In Keserwan, snow cut off the mountainous roads at the Ashqout roundabout all the way upwards to Faraya and Oyoun al-Siman. In Northern Metn, the illegal dumping of construction debris in the stream of the Fawwar Antelias River led to a water overflow that invaded the public road. Meanwhile, a rockslide struck the house of Marwan Ibrahim al-Abdullah in the Akkar town of Bebnin, causing extensive material damage but no casualties. The storm also led to a power outage in the Dinniyeh district for a second consecutive day. Education Minister Elias Bou Saab has announced the closure of schools on Friday and Saturday. A similar decision was taken by Health Minister Wael Abou Faour for nurseries. This has been one of Lebanon’s coldest and snowiest winters in years.

Prepare for the worst
The Daily Star/Feb. 20, 2015 |/Speaking earlier this week, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah warned of a renewed period of violence in Lebanon after the winter recedes. He spoke explicitly of new jihadi attacks in Lebanon, and of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, where we have seen heavy losses among pro-regime groups in recent days. At least one foreign diplomat has also spoken of intelligence which points to fresh militant attacks in Lebanon this spring, with possible perpetrators coming in from Syria. Certainly it seems that external powers are increasingly worried about the situation here, more so than Lebanon’s own authorities and institutions seem to be. It appears that the Army and partners are taking more of an observer role – listening to the various warnings coming and nodding their heads.
There is little evidence to suggest that security measures are being increased, that new steps are being implemented to reduce the likelihood of future threats, or that people are being made aware of likely threats. If we were to assume that just 50 percent of the threats coming in were accurate, then that is cause enough to be very worried. After a spate of bombings that destabilized the country between late 2013 and early 2014, security branches worked hard to ensure the threat was minimized. New measures are now essential to maintain peace. With threats on every border and political chaos, the last thing the country needs is more attacks. The Lebanese people deserve, at the least, immunity from violence on their streets. Now that intelligence is available, the authorities must do all they can to confront the threat.

Maronite Bishops Hope Dialogue Resolves Presidential Crisis, Urge Backing for the State
Naharnet/The Council of Maronite bishops welcomed on Friday the dialogue among the country's different factions, hoping that it would lead to the election of a new president, and urged the Lebanese to back the state at this critical stage. The bishops hoped in a statement following their monthly meeting in Bkirki that “talks among the Lebanese political parties would be aimed at electing a head of state.”They said dialogue should take the country out of its crisis. Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal representatives have been holding talks since December to limit sectarian tension. Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, who are both presidential candidates, are also expected to meet. Despite welcoming dialogue, the bishops regretted that the country is without a president since Michel Suleiman's term expired in May last year. “The election of a head of state has become more than a necessity because Lebanon entered a new stage in the government crisis,” said their statement. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi chaired the meeting which is usually held on the first Wednesday of each month. But the bishops met this Friday because the patriarch had been in Rome for several weeks. The Council lamented that social and economic conditions have worsened and security threats have increased in Lebanon.
The bishops also lauded the army and security forces for confronting terrorists and urged everyone to support them through all means. The statement reiterated that linking Lebanon to regional axes contradicts the National Pact. The bishops called on the Lebanese to “back the state” and drop “limited factional interests” to help the country come out of the crises engulfing the region. They also “condemned the terrorist attack” carried out by the Islamic State extremist group against Coptic Christians in Libya. They said “Christians are seeing the worst type of prosecution in the Orient.”Last week, 21 Copts wearing orange jumpsuits were marched onto a Libyan beach, forced to kneel with a masked, knife-wielding militant standing behind each, and then beheaded.

Hariri: We Hope Dialogue with Aoun Would Continue Positively
Naharnet/Head of the Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri emphasized on Friday the importance of dialogue in Lebanon as a means to reach solutions to pending issues, while describing as “positive” his talks with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Wednesday. He said: “The fact that dialogue with the MP took place is positive and our dialogue with him had started over a year ago.”“We hope that it will continue positively,” he added. “The election of a president is a priority and we hope that our ties with Aoun, our allies, and our dialogue with Hizbullah and the AMAL Movement would pave the way for achieving this goal,” he remarked. Moreover, Hariri stated: “Terrorism can be combated by the army and security forces, but this mission cannot be complete without a new head of state.”“The presence of a president is necessary because he can hold dialogue with all sides without exception,” said the former premier. “Failure to elect a head of state is shameful,” he noted. Hariri had held talks on Friday with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan and a number of muftis from regions throughout Lebanon. Hariri and Aoun had not met in public in more than five years. They however held talks that were kept under wraps in 2014 in Rome. Their talks on Wednesday tackled the latest local and regional developments, but media reports said that they did not address the presidential polls. Lebanon has been without a head of state since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps have thwarted the polls.

Hariri: Cabinet crisis close to being resolved
Hasan Lakkis| The Daily Star/Feb. 20, 2015
BEIRUT: The government will soon resume its sessions, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Thursday, adding that the swift election of a new Lebanese president was a necessary prelude to the implementation of a national strategy to combat terrorism.
Speaking to a delegation of Arab ambassadors at his residence in Downtown Beirut, Hariri stated that he expected the government to resume its work shortly, and that he had spoken with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and other relevant officials regarding the matter.
The government did not hold its weekly meeting Thursday, and Salam, who flew to Rome on a private trip, has stressed that the Cabinet will only resume its meetings after a new decision-making mechanism can be agreed upon.
The government began exercising the powers of the presidency on May 25 of last year, when the post became vacant. Since then, members of the 24-member body have insisted on the unanimous approval of decisions and decrees, significantly reducing its productivity.
The Constitution stipulates that if unanimous approval cannot be achieved, standard decisions can be passed by a simple majority, and major decisions, specified by Article 65, with the approval of two-thirds of the Cabinet’s members.
In his remarks to the Arab delegation, Hariri also stressed that any national strategy to combat terrorism must be implemented by legitimate security forces. “Any strategy to confront terrorism can only take place through the Lebanese Army and legitimate security forces, who are already shouldering this responsibility across the country,” he said. “But the proper prelude to the implementation of a national strategy is the swift election of a president.”
Earlier, Hariri had discussed the security situation in the country with Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, head of General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous, and head of the ISF’s Information Branch Brig. Imad Othman. The Future Movement leader later met separately with Maj. Gen. Mohammad Khair, secretary-general of the Higher Defense Council.
The meetings came one day after Hariri had dinner with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.
“The meeting was good, and was part of the efforts to strengthen understanding. We will not turn away any assistance in our work to defuse tensions in the country,” Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil told reporters at Rafik Hariri International Airport, before departing on an official visit to Latin America. “God willing, we can provide further help in future for larger agreements.”FPM parliamentary sources also described the Hariri-Aoun meeting as “friendly.”Speaking to The Daily Star, sources said the talks addressed a number of issues, among them the presidential election, a controversy over the retirement age of Army and police officers, the situation on Lebanon’s borders, and the war on terrorism. According to sources, Hariri stressed to Aoun that he had no issues with his candidacy, but that an agreement with Christian leaders, particularly Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, was necessary. As for the current governmental paralysis, both leaders agreed there was a need to facilitate the Cabinet’s work, and that Salam and his ministers should look to new formulas, but they did not discuss an alternative decision-making mechanism. Other political figures have also weighed in on the stalled government sessions. Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said MP Walid Jumblatt and Speaker Nabih Berri were in agreement regarding the controversy.
“[Berri’s] position, and Jumblatt’s, is that we should facilitate the Cabinet’s affairs, but we should not engage in a constitutional precedent,” Abu Faour told reporters after visiting the speaker at his Ain al-Tineh residence.
“Political discussion is allowed, political agreement is allowed, but violating the Constitution is unacceptable,” Abu Faour said. “Even if a presidential vacuum exists, and has become unbearable, this should not lead us to create a new precedent.”

Hizbullah Refutes Claims of Syrian Plot to Assassinate Samaha
Naharnet /Hizbullah rejected on Friday media reports that said Syria was seeking to assassinate detained former minister Michel Samaha. It said in a statement: “Such claims are baseless accusations that do not rely on facts.”It added that it reserves the right to take legal action in the matter. Saudi Arabia's al-Watan daily had reported on Tuesday that “Damascus had emphasized to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah the need to eliminate Samaha, who was indicted with attempting to transport explosives from Syria to use them in criminal acts in Lebanon.”Police had thwarted a plot to kill the former pro-Syrian information minister. The military prosecutor had recently granted Samaha the right to be transferred to hospital for medical reasons, but he 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. Rifi had confirmed the assassination plot on Tuesday. Samaha and two Syrian officials have been indicted for transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon in an attempt to assassinate Lebanese political and religious leaders. His trial has been adjourned on several occasions over the failure to summon Syrian security chief General Ali Mamlouk.

Kanaan Discusses Document of Principles in Maarab as Aoun-Geagea 'Presidential Bargain' Ruled Out
Naharnet/Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan met on Friday with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at his Maarab residence as part of preparations for the document of principles between the two sides, as sources close to the conferees denied reports of a possible “bargain” between Geagea and Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun.
OTV revealed that Kanaan and Geagea held talks for two hours aimed at “reducing obstacles” hindering the document.MP Sethrida Geagea and LF media officer Melhem Riachi were present at the Maarab meeting. Riachi and Kanaan had launched in recent weeks a series of meetings, at the behest of Aoun and Geagea, aimed at easing tensions between the two rival leaders. Some media outlets saw in MP Geagea's presence a proof that the two parties have turned the page on the controversy stirred by a report on the FPM-affiliated OTV that took out of context remarks voiced by the lawmaker in parliament. In the evening, OTV said Kanaan “returned relieved from Maarab, where a joint review of the phases of dialogue was conducted and a unified vision for the next steps was reached.”
MTV for its part said the meeting was “positive,” revealing that the document of principles has become ready, “after Geagea introduced his amendments.” “Discussions are currently focused on the final draft before the LF-FPM dialogue gets underway,” MTV added.
Meanwhile, LBCI television said the document includes 17 clauses, “most of which have been agreed on.”“The debate is currently focused on the dialogue's objectives and the steps that must be taken to reach the goals at two levels,” LBCI added.
“The first level is the relation between the two parties in terms of general and national principles in addition to the current political issues, while the second level is resolving the system crisis starting by the presidency,” the TV network said.
Separately, sources described as baseless media reports about an alleged “bargain” between the FPM and the LF over “the presidency, the army command and the interior ministry.”“This scenario exists only in the minds of those who fabricated it and it was not discussed between Kanaan and Riachi,” the sources told LBCI. In its Friday issue, Kuwaiti daily An Nahar had quoted a “political source close to March 14” as saying that Geagea was trying to convince Aoun of a deal in which the FPM chief would be elected president and the LF leader would be named interior minister. The alleged source did not rule out that an officer close to Geagea might be appointed army commander under such a deal. The dispute between the two sides is among the main causes of the ongoing failure to stage the presidential elections. Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended.

Aoun still fancies his chances
Antoine Ghattas Saab| The Daily Star/Feb. 20, 2015
Nearly 10 months have passed and Lebanon’s top Christian post remains vacant, but Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is still betting he can become president.
The latest parliamentary election session was doomed to fail, as were previous attempts, as the body was unable to reach a quorum due to a boycott by the March 8 coalition and the lack of agreement on a consensus candidate.
But Aoun’s optimism isn’t unsubstantiated, according to a high-ranking FPM source. It’s based on objective criteria as well as local, regional and international considerations. One encouraging sign for Aoun is the active communications between the March 8 and March 14 political alliances, most notably the Future movement and the FPM. After an initial summit between Aoun and Future movement leader Saad Hariri in Paris, a second meeting was held in Beirut Wednesday, at which Hariri reiterated his support for any Christian efforts, dialogue, or agreements that could produce a settlement to end the presidential vacuum, according to information provided by both parties. Hariri also reportedly stated that Saudi Arabia would support a candidate resulting from such an understanding.
Another dialogue, between the FPM and its Christian rival, the Lebanese Forces party, is currently being conducted by MP Ibrahim Kanaan and LF media officer Melhem Riachi. The talks should culminate in a meeting between Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea.
Both sides have agreed on a list of 17 issues to be discussed, and the preliminary talks are currently focused on finding common ground on the final six.
FPM members have also reached out to deputies of the Progressive Socialist Party led by MP Walid Jumblatt, an FPM source stated. Last week, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour, acting as Jumblatt’s representative, visited Aoun at his residence in Rabieh, where he also met with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Abu Faour’s visit was intended to clarify Jumblatt’s stance, according to the source, as just days earlier Jumblatt had remarked that the issue of the presidential election should not be monopolized by Christian parties. Abu Faour communicated to Aoun that the statement was not intended to target him, and that Jumblatt supports the ongoing Christian dialogues. The FPM is keeping its Christian political ally, the Marada Movement, informed of all its talks. Aoun’s candidacy is supported by the movement’s leader, Sleiman Frangieh. On a regional level, Aoun’s optimism has been kept grounded by the slow pace of nuclear talks between the United States and Iran. But the two sides are expected to make significant progress on the issue by March, which could lead to a larger conciliation on regional crises, especially regarding Syria.
U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura remarked last week that Syrian President Bashar Assad should be considered “part of the solution” to the crisis, which Aoun views as being only a good sign for his candidacy. The source stated the accession of King Salman in Saudi Arabia was also a source of optimism for Aoun, especially given the appointments the new king has made to a number of key government posts. According to the source, Aoun believes that the war on terrorism, both in the region and in Lebanon, will push powerful countries to support his bid, due to his past as an army commander. Aoun’s optimism may be well founded, as Christian parties, frustrated by the ongoing vacuum in the post, appear ready to compromise and elect him president.

Hezbollah buries two party members slain in Syria
Daily Star/Feb. 20, 2015 /BEIRUT/NABATIEH, Lebanon: Hezbollah Thursday buried two of its members who died carrying out duties in Syria. Al-Manar director Hasan Abdullah, who was killed while filming the raging battles in the Syrian city of Aleppo, was laid to rest in the Beirut southern suburbs cemetery of Rawdat al-Shahidain. His coffin roamed the streets of the suburb of Ghobeiri before he was buried. Dozens of Abdullah’s relatives and his supports marched in the funeral. In the south Lebanon village of Kfour in the district of Nabatieh, the 3-year-old Qassem Qaoum would touch the coffin of his father Hussein Qaoun, kissing it every once in a while, as members of Hezbollah chanted “Labayki ya Zeinab” (All hail oh Zeinab), in reference to the daughter of Imam Ali. The crowd braved the snow and high winds to take part in the funeral procession of Qaoun, who died while fighting in Syria. His coffin was draped in Hezbollah’s yellow flag and despite the cold weather children took part by carrying yellow Hezbollah flags. Kfour’s women threw rice and flowers at the fighter’s coffin.
Many spoke of Qaoun’s fight against Israeli forces during the summer 2006 war. “Hussein Qaoun was martyred in Syria while defending all of Lebanon and all its sects,” Zeinab Bakri told The Daily Star. “Sooner or later, everyone will realize that Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria is aimed at safeguarding Lebanon from the threat of ISIS and its ilk.” MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc, and other party officials took part in the funeral. Earlier this week, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah rejected calls by rivals for the party to withdraw its forces from Syria. Lebanon’s fate is tied to the fate of Syria, Iraq, Egypt and all other states in the region, he said. “Whoever wants to decide the fate of Lebanon must be ready to confront the fate of the region.”

Security forces corral criminals in north Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
The Daily Star/Feb. 20, 2015/BAALBEK, Lebanon: Lebanese security forces carried out more raids across the eastern Bekaa Valley Thursday, detaining at least eight people, security sources and the Army said. Meanwhile, a Palestinian man wanted over terror-related activity died Thursday of wounds he sustained during a shootout with police in north Lebanon. In the town of Arsal, the Army arrested a Syrian national for possessing a fake identification document and driving an unregistered car, the military said in a statement. A Lebanese was also detained for attempting to smuggle food to the town’s outskirts, where jihadi militants are hiding out. The statement added that a Lebanese fugitive as well as four citizens driving unregistered cars were arrested in Baalbek and the nearby villages of Telya and Douris. In Bar Elias, the Army arrested Syrian national Walid Hussein over suspected links to terrorist groups, the statement added. General Security and Army forces entered the village of Nabi Sheet on the Syrian border, where they erected checkpoints and performed raids without making any arrests or seizures. The raids came one day after security forces arrested 23 suspects in two villages of the Baalbek district and a West Bekaa village. Wednesday’s Army raids also led to the confiscation of weapons and ammunition but failed to prevent the murder of Lebanese national Fouad Hajj Hasan, who was shot dead by gunmen facing his house 20 kilometers north of Baalbek.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Wednesday evening that the number of arrests made in the Bekaa since the launch of the security plan had reached 156. He stressed that any illegal weapons found would be immediately confiscated.
Separately, a man accused of belonging to ISIS was arrested in the Zghorta neighborhood of Airounieh Thursday, a security source told The Daily Star. The source identified the detainee as Ali Mohammad Tarek Safsouf. He was arrested by judicial officers from Lebanon’s counterterrorism bureau. Also in north Lebanon, Palestinian man Wael Kamel Youssef, wanted over terror-related activity and a series of killings, died Thursday of wounds he sustained during a shootout with police in Tripoli.
A police officer was also slightly wounded in the late-Wednesday confrontation during the raid on the home of Youssef in the area of Jabal Badawi in the northern city of Tripoli, a security source said. The source told The Daily Star Maj. Nazih Saleh was wounded when Youssef tossed a grenade at police following the shootout.
The suspect, who goes by the nickname “Abu al-Madariss,” was wounded in the shootout that preceded the grenade attack. He was captured and taken to Mulla hospital in Tripoli, but died a few hours later. Gunfire could be heard in the Tripoli neighborhood of Mankoubeen after news emerged that Youssef succumbed to his wounds. An ISF statement said 35-year-old Youssef – who is wanted on 109 warrants for murder, drug trafficking, theft, forgery and throwing grenades – was nicknamed Abu al-Madariss because he would “distribute drugs to schoolchildren.” “Abu al-Madariss” translates to “the father of schools.”
“During the raid, [Youssef] opened fire on the [police] force and then tossed a hand grenade that wounded a police officer, prompting police to respond to the source of fire,” the statement said. It said Youssef was wounded in the shootout and taken to a hospital for treatment but that he later died of his wounds. A security source said Youssef’s relatives fired their weapons and threw a grenade at a Lebanese Army patrol in the Jabal Badawi-Mankoubeen area when Abu al-Madariss’ body arrived in the town. No casualties were reported from the early afternoon attack.

Hrdlickova succeeds Baragwanath as STL head
The Daily Star/Feb. 20, 2015/BEIRUT: Judge Ivana Hrdlickova of the Czech Republic has been elected president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, succeeding Judge Sir David Baragwanath of New Zealand, the STL announced in a statement Thursday. Judge Ralph Riachi of Lebanon has also been re-elected as vice president. The Judges of the Appeals Chamber, who met Thursday, elected Judge Hrdlickova and Judge Riachy for a period of 18 months, starting from March 1, 2015, the statement said. The election of the president and the vice president is in accordance with Article 8(2) of the Tribunal’s Statute and Rule 31 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Judge Hrdlickova began her career as a Judge in 1990 and has presided over both civil and criminal cases. Judge Hrdlickova holds a Ph.D. from the law faculty of Charles University in Prague in Shariah law and speaks Arabic. She was appointed an Appeals Chamber Judge in November 2012. The president of the Tribunal has a wide range of responsibilities, including oversight of the effective functioning of the Tribunal and the good administration of justice, as well as representing the STL in relations with states, the United Nations and other entities. Judge Sir David Baragwanath, who remains an Appeals Chamber Judge, has served as President of the Tribunal since October 2011. “For more than three years it has been my privilege to be able to serve Lebanon and its people as President of the Tribunal,” Judge Baragwanath said. “As a judge of the Appeals Chamber I now look forward to supporting my very able and competent successor, Judge Hrdlickova, as she assumes her new role and responsibilities at the beginning of a new mandate for the STL.”

The region crumbles and Lebanon trembles
Michael Young/The Daily Star/Feb. 19, 2015
As prospects for the emergence of new sectarian and ethnic entities rise in the Middle East to replace illegitimate, authoritarian states, it is necessary to ask what will happen to Lebanon, the only Arab state that has sought to build its political system around a formula for sectarian compromise.
Lebanon’s most pressing danger is the presence of some 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country, most of them Sunnis from areas the Assad regime considers vital for its political survival. Many have fled Homs and Qalamoun, which sit on vital communication lines between Damascus and the coast. These are both places the regime intends to retain, even as it has given up on far-flung districts that it has no real hope of controlling, such as Syria’s north, northeast and east.
Bringing back hundreds of thousands of Sunnis to Homs and its environs, the vulnerable neck of Bashar Assad’s “useful Syria,” is not something the regime in Damascus intends to do, amid rumors that the Iranians have resettled friendlier Shiite populations there from outside Syria and even the region. So, what happens to most of the refugees now in Lebanon?
Developments don’t offer much of an answer, let alone provoke optimism. Barring a major victory by the regime to retake all of Syria, which seems highly unlikely, the country will continue to fragment. Illustrating this, Syria’s Kurds last Friday declared their intention of pursuing the “geographic and political unity” of Kurdish areas in the context of a “federal state.” Under the circumstances, however, that is less than what they hope to achieve – indeed what is achievable – namely a virtually independent Kurdish entity in a very loose state structure.
Is the permanent settlement of Syrian refugees in Lebanon a possibility, as some Lebanese have warned? Certainly it is, and what is more worrisome is that there are those Lebanese willing to go along with such a project, seeing that it will boost Sunni demographics at the expense of Shiites. International humanitarian organizations have insisted that Lebanon is obliged to care for the refugees, but have given scant attention to the long-term, political implications of their presence.
That is not to justify the disgraceful calls to expel the refugees, itself an utterly unrealistic option in light of the vast numbers involved. However, Lebanon must start raising international awareness of the lasting repercussions of the Syrian refugee presence, particularly in light of the problems accompanying the Palestinian refugee presence in Lebanon after 1948.
It took nearly two decades for the Palestinian refugees to be mobilized politically, and the consequences were devastating for the Lebanese. The possibility of this happening again with Syrians is infinitely more worrisome. If the refugees come to form the core of a new insurgency operating from outside Syria, Lebanon would very quickly be caught up in the maelstrom.
However, one factor alone plays in Lebanon’s favor. Iran has helped provoke Syria’s fragmentation – no less than Iraq’s – believing that its influence is much easier to exercise in an Arab world broken up into countless ministates. But those who could be expected to lose most from the massive rise in the Sunni population in Lebanon are Shiites, and it is doubtful that the Iranians or Hezbollah would welcome this.
So what are the options for Assad, Tehran and Hezbollah? To eventually allow a return of Sunnis to Syria, but then to ensure that they will not resettle in the strategic Homs and Qalamoun areas from where they originate? Perhaps, but how easy is that? After engaging in ethnic cleansing in those areas in recent years, the regime would have to do so again, this time pushing the population into parts of Syria where Sunnis are a majority and over which today only ISIS has some control. This would not only be complicated, it would be no solution at all.
Populations are not sacks of potatoes. As the regime’s intent becomes clearer, the refugees will understandably resist it and many will refuse to leave Lebanon. Ultimately, the thinking may be that if a Sunni ministate emerges in Iraq, a broader Sunni state between Iraq and Syria may attract rural Syrian Sunnis. However, such a view smacks of wishful thinking and hubris, and may well perpetuate sectarian conflict in Syria indefinitely. Worse, from Lebanon’s perspective it may heighten domestic sectarian hostility, damaging communal relations.
The simple fact is that there is no good solution to the Iranian and Syrian regimes’ efforts to engage in durable sectarian cleansing in Syria. All scenarios are either unrealistic, flawed or damaging to those most closely allied with Tehran.
Beyond that, the millions of Syrians in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are a potential reservoir of difficulties not only for the region but also for the international community. A consequence of Sunni alienation in Iraq was ISIS; the Syrian refugees present risks far more perilous, as millions of people without a future, a territory, an anchor are circulating among fragile countries already at their limits in coping with the present situation.
That the international community – starting with Europe, the United States, the Arab countries, and Russia – has been less than useless with regard to the Syrian refugees is self-evident. Nor have they taken any measures against those exacerbating the refugees’ terrible predicament, namely the Syrian regime and Iran. But the problem will not go away; it will only get worse for everyone. It’s past time for the world to wake up.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

Sisi’s “If Only” Moment
Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat
Friday, 20 Feb, 2015
Egypt has every right to defend itself and its citizens, and it is incumbent upon us in the region to stand by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Egypt during this time, after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) executed 21 Egyptian workers in Libya.
Despite this, I do wish Sisi had taken a different route before deciding to hit ISIS and other extremists in Libya with full force. One would have hoped that following news of the killing of the 21 Egyptians, Sisi would have immediately called for an emergency Arab summit in Egypt to garner support for an open military campaign in Libya. During this summit Sisi could have called on Arab countries to support Egypt militarily, thereby striking a crucial blow to the extremists in Libya and helping the country resume its course toward stability.
The importance of such a move can be seen in a number of points, which don’t just concern Egypt but the region as a whole.
The whole point of such a summit would have been to gain Arab blessing for a more central Egyptian role in supporting the transition in Libya and fighting extremism there. This way, all those countries concerned about Libya’s future could also have participated in the process and helped bring much-needed and long-awaited stability to the country.
The summit would also have paved the way for the Arab League to become involved in this fight. The organization needs to play a more effective, reforming role than it has in previous crises—especially considering that the Arab League is in reality a failure, and in need of drastic reforms. Egypt’s going to the Arab League in this instance would have played an essential role in bringing about this new stage in the organization’s history, which would have seen it give authorization to countries in the region to take more forceful stances on a number of crisis areas, such as Yemen, Iraq and Syria. This new phase for the Arab League is vital not only today, but also in the future; the danger posed by ISIS, the Al-Nusra Front, Hezbollah and their partner in crime, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, shows why this is necessary.
The move would also have had the added advantage of showing up those Arab countries whose roles in these crises have been less than genuine, to say the least. Such countries may say they are fighting terrorism and extremism in the region, but they might then go and praise a group like ISIS in the media. The reactions by some Arab countries, first to ISIS killing Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz Al-Kasasbeh, and then its killing of 21 Egyptians, are a case in point here. Sisi’s going to the Arab League would have helped name and shame those countries who offer to help fight terrorism one minute while giving terror groups a leg-up in the media the next. If these countries had refused to authorize Egypt’s taking military action in Libya—and in such an open forum like the Arab League—they would have been shown up in front of the entire region, and the world; for how can these countries have accepted NATO’s involvement in Libya in 2011, but reject Egypt’s legitimate involvement today?
If only the Egyptian president had gone to the Arab League. Such a move would have been even more important than going to the UN Security Council; it would have helped usher in a new Arab moment, reining in and exposing all those who play dicey games with the region’s destiny in order to fulfill their own narrow interests.

Like Father, Like Son
Amir Taheri/Asharq AlAwsat
Friday, 20 Feb, 2015
In the past few days I have been bombarded with messages drawing my attention to the emergence of a new chorus on Syria. The new song is sung by all sorts of people: British and American journalists, Israeli pundits and former officials, Russian and Iranian government mouthpieces, United Nations emissaries, and TV “experts” from east and west.
The new song is about Syria and it has this refrain: “Assad is part of the solution!” The narrative behind the new song is equally simple: the choice left in Syria is between bad (the Assad regime) and worse (the self-styled Caliph Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi).
One pro-Israel commentator asks: Why should we ditch the Assad family, who guaranteed the security of Israel’s borders for four decades, and risk having the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) massed close to Golan?
Assad is also cast as a lesser of the two evils when it comes to the future of Iraq. Since ISIS is seeking to dismember Iraq, wouldn’t it be wiser to help Assad, who would be happy to remain in his own neck of the woods even if that means massacring his own people? Even if Assad is succeeded by the Muslim Brotherhood and not ISIS, shouldn’t we be concerned about the threat that such a regime in Damascus might pose to others, notably Jordan and Egypt?
For his part Bashar Al-Assad, the man “re-elected” president of Syria with 99.9 percent of the vote in June last year, misses no opportunity to apply for his father’s old job as a pawn of big powers engaged in the deadly chess game that is the Middle East today. That was the tune that Hafez Al-Assad played when I first met him in 1973. At the time Tehran regarded him as an enemy. However, he used our interview to propose the idea of him switching sides and counter-balancing Iraq under Saddam Hussein, who was an enemy of Iran at the time. Once diplomatic channels moved into high gear, Assad succeeded in selling his new narrative to the Shah’s government.
A year after our interview I ran into Assad again during the Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore, Pakistan. Foreign Minister Abbas Ali Khalatbari—who headed the Iranian delegation—was reluctant to meet Assad, partly because he had no instructions on the subject from the Shah. The Pakistani hosts, however, were keen for Khalatbari to receive Assad. At the time, Pakistan was an ally of Iran and a member of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and its Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whom I had known since 1971, believed that Assad could be “more useful inside the tent than outside.”
Bhutto was trying to prevent what he saw as a Soviet-India axis from dominating the region. In 1971, India backed by the USSR, had invaded and divided Pakistan into two halves, the eastern half becoming Bangladesh. In that context Bhutto had midwifed the US-China rapprochement and had also succeeded in wooing Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi away from the Soviets. So, it was no surprise that the Pakistani leader was keen to bring Hafez Al-Assad “on board.”
In the end, I believe the Pakistanis tried to force an “accidental” meeting between Khalatbari and Assad. This came one evening as Khalatbari was dining with four or five of us, when the Pakistanis suddenly informed him that Assad had left his villa and was heading for the villa reserved for the Iranian delegation. The dinner table was quickly cleared and the dessert postponed, and Assad arrived about 20 minutes later. During a meeting that lasted more than two hours, most of it devoted to mini-speeches by the Syrian despot, it became clear that Assad wanted to assure the Iranians on two points.
The first was that all his talk of socialism and Arab nationalism was nothing more than ideological pose. He was neither a pan-Arabist nor a leftist; he was Assadist.
The second point was that he was ready to work for anybody who paid. As a starter he was asking for an aid package of over 150 million US dollars, including cut-price oil and cash handouts. Having no instructions, all that Khalatbari could say was that he would report the request to the Shah. Later, the Shah approved Assad’s application, and the Ba’athist regime in Damascus was transferred from the list of enemies to that of “friends.”
A couple of days later, Bhutto, in a private conversation, asked me what I thought of his efforts “to bring Assad into the fold,” which meant weaning him away from the Soviets. Assad, of course, was embarking on his favorite sport of swimming with the tide. He had seen that Egypt’s Anwar Sadat had switched sides while Saddam Hussein in Iraq was deeply engaged in negotiations with Iran. The Chinese were also moving closer to the so-called Free World led by the US, strengthening a trend to isolate the USSR.
When I asked Bhutto what he thought of Assad, he described the Syrian leader as “The Levanter.” Knowing that, like himself, I was a keen reader of thrillers, the Pakistani Prime Minister knew that I would get the message. However, it was only months later when, having read Eric Ambler’s 1972 novel The Levanter that I understood Bhutto’s one-word pen portrayal of Hafez Al-Assad.
In The Levanter the hero, or anti-hero if you prefer, is a British businessman who, having lived in Syria for years, has almost “gone native” and become a man of uncertain identity. He is a bit of this and a bit of that, and a bit of everything else, in a region that is a mosaic of minorities. He doesn’t believe in anything and is loyal to no one. He could be your friend in the morning but betray you in the evening. He has only two goals in life: to survive and to make money.
President Bill Clinton described Hafez Al-Assad as “a man we could work with.” A few years ago, when he was rather chummy with the Assad clan, the then-Senator John Kerry believed that Bashar Al-Assad could be “useful like his father.” Former Israeli Foreign Minister Itamar Rabinovich echoed that sentiment.
Today, Bashar Al-Assad is playing the role of the son of the Levanter, offering his services to any would-be buyer through interviews with whoever passes through the corner of Damascus where he is hiding. At first glance, the Levanter may appear attractive to those engaged in sordid games. In the end, however, the Levanter must betray his existing paymaster in order to begin serving a new one. Four years ago, Bashar switched to the Tehran-Moscow axis and is now trying to switch back to the Tel-Aviv-Washington one that he and his father served for decades. However, if the story has one lesson to teach, it is that the Levanter is always the source of the problem, rather than part of the solution. ISIS is there because almost half a century of repression by the Assads produced the conditions for its emergence. What is needed is a policy based on the truth of the situation in which both Assad and ISIS are parts of the same problem.

US takes swipe at Netanyahu: Sounds like he knows more about Iran deal than negotiators
By JPOST.COM STAFF/02/19/2015
A nuclear deal with Iran does not yet exist, and therefore Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot know what is in it, US State Department Jen Psaki said on Thursday. "We've seen this movie before," Psaki said of skepticism from leadership in Israel over the nuclear talks.
Earlier this week Netanyahu said that the current proposal to Iran would endanger Israel. "It would enable Iran to breakout to its first nuclear device within an unacceptably short time," Netanyahu told a gathering of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.
​​Netanyahu also said he knows the contents of a framework proposal, offered to Iran by the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany last month. But the Obama administration is skeptical. "It sounds like he knows more than the negotiators," Psaki said, responding to claims that Netanyahu knows the details of the deal. ​
Netanyahu's scheduled speech before Congress continues to be a contentious issue in both Washington and Jerusalem. Leading Democratic Senator Charles Schumer called on his fellow Democrats on Thursday to attend the address next month, saying the Israel-US relationship should “transcend” any political differences.“It’s always been a bipartisan policy,” Schumer said of the US-Israel relationship. “Democrats and Republicans have always worked together on it, we ought to keep it that way.”
Some Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, have said they will not attend the speech.
Schumer, a ranking member of his party, was instrumental in altering the strident tone of the US-Israel relationship in the summer of 2010, after Biden’s disastrous visit during which Israel announced the building of homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem. At that point, Israeli-US ties hit a nadir. After he went on the radio in New York criticizing US President Barack Obama for pushing Israel too hard, the president’s tone changed dramatically. On Tuesday, when asked whether he thought Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner “blindsided” Obama with his invitation to Netanyahu, the senator said on WAMC Northeast Public Radio that he thought it was a “bad idea” because “our policy toward Israel should always be bipartisan.”
**Michael Wilner and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

Friend and Foe in Syria/ The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy.
 By LEE SMITH/The Weekly Standard
 Mar 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 24 •
Last week, outgoing chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz told an American audience that it’s important the international community defeat both camps of regional extremists. The way Gantz sees it, on one side there are Sunni radicals, like the Islamic State, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate. On the Shiite side are Iran and the Revolutionary Guards expeditionary unit, the Quds Force, as well as Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias.
In urging European, Arab, and, of course, American officials to band together to defeat Middle Eastern extremism of all varieties, Gantz was nominally tapping into a consensus position. After all, the White House convened a summit last week to “combat violent extremism,” so surely the United States and its allies can agree that all types of radical violent actors—Shiite or Sunni, secular or otherwise—are equally bad.
The reality, however, is that the government Gantz recently served has made clear distinctions between extremist groups in the Middle East, and has backed its preferences on the ground for certain actors in the Sunni camp. The Obama White House has also signaled its priorities, acquiescing to, if not actively supporting, the Iranian-backed Shiite axis. Thus the United States and its longtime ally Israel have reached yet another point of strategic divergence over Iran, one that may soon widen.
The January 18 Israeli strike on a three-vehicle convoy in the Golan Heights carrying six Hezbollah fighters, a senior officer of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and as many as five other Iranian officials was the clearest indication yet of Jerusalem’s top priority—Iran. It’s possible that the IRGC/Hezbollah delegation was plotting an attack that Israeli officials deemed urgent. But the key point the strike showed is that Jerusalem will not allow Iran to open up a second front on the borders of Israel from the Golan, in addition to its Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon.
The evidence that the Israelis have no such immediate concerns regarding the Sunni rebels fighting against the Assad regime is that this was the first time Israel targeted the region around Quneitra, Syrian territory that the rebels have controlled for a year. Presumably, for the present at least, the Israelis have turned a blind eye to rebel activities—even though those units surely include fighters from Nusra, one of the groups that Gantz says should be defeated.
“Israel has been reportedly working with rebel brigades in southern Syria for a while,” says Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Israel has provided medical treatment not just to Syrian civilians but also fighters. It’s a channel of communication, then, they’re talking to them, and likely sharing intelligence, in the full knowledge that these rebel units cooperate with Nusra against the Assad regime, Hezbollah, and the IRGC.”
The issue, as Badran notes, is that Israel perceives the Iranian axis not just as the strategic threat, but also as the immediate threat. There may come a day that the anti-Assad rebels, especially Nusra, will be a serious problem for Israel, but at present Jerusalem’s chief concern isn’t nonstate Sunni militants with rocket-propelled grenades, but a state sponsor of violent extremism that is seeking a nuclear weapon. Moreover, as the regional press has reported, the IRGC campaign to retake Quneitra, with Iranian officers not simply advising Assad’s forces and its Hezbollah allies but actually fighting, is apt to force a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran for the first time. It’s hardly surprising then that Jerusalem sees a vital interest in keeping IRGC troops off its border, even if that involves coordination with rebel groups that include Nusra forces.
The Obama administration has a different set of regional priorities. First is to cut a deal with Tehran over its nuclear weapons program. Second is to prevent a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland, with a watchful eye especially on the foreign fighters in the Syrian war who may be dispatched to an American city to conduct a Charlie Hebdo-style operation.
Both of these goals have brought the administration into alignment with Tehran. The White House believes that if it accommodates Iranian interests, from Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq to Yemen, then Iran will be more willing to forsake, or at least postpone, its nuclear ambitions. As for the second, the administration believes that Iran shares an interest in halting the spread of Sunni jihadism. Accordingly, the White House has partnered with Iran and its allies in Iraq to fight ISIS, shared intelligence with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and promised Iran not to attack Assad’s dwindling forces in Syria.
The upshot is that the Obama White House has a very different picture of the region from Israel, and sees it almost exactly as Iran and its allies do. Where Israel’s security needs require it to hold its nose and work with Nusra-affiliated groups to keep the Iranian axis at bay, the White House makes no distinction between the Islamic State and Nusra, which it designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2012. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has the same picture of the world as former administration envoy to Syria Robert Ford. “Nusra Front is just as dangerous” as the Islamic State, Ford said last week. “And yet they keep pretending they’re nice guys, they’re Syrians.” From Nasrallah’s perspective, Nusra Front and the Islamic State “are essentially one and the same .  .  . [and] must be fought, without distinction.”
One obvious question, which wasn’t lost on Ford, was whether an active White House policy to bring down Assad, as Obama stipulated in August 2011, might have prevented the appearance of Nusra and other jihadist groups in Syria. As many analysts warned at the time, if the White House stood by idly while the war raged, the conflict might destabilize every U.S. ally on Syria’s borders, including Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. Thus, it is largely the White House’s negligence that has compelled U.S. allies, including Israel, to partner with potential enemies against what they perceive as an even greater threat.
Further, there’s a possibility that some of those allies may be drawn into the Syrian war in order to defend themselves against the Iranian axis. For instance, if the anti-Assad rebels fail to hold what has become for Jerusalem a buffer zone on the Golan, that will put Iranian troops on Israel’s border and make confrontation likely.
And there’s an even more worrisome possibility. According to a Wall Street Journal report last week, White House officials are concerned that a U.S. attack on Assad’s forces in Syria might lead Iranian-backed militias to begin targeting U.S. forces in Iraq. After repeated American assurances over the last few months that Assad won’t be touched in the campaign against Islamic State, it’s unlikely that the White House is about to call Iran’s bluff. But Israel can’t possibly give the IRGC carte blanche on its border. Obama’s regional policy has made American allies as well as American soldiers hostages of Iran—and pushed us ever further from our chief regional ally.
**Lee Smith is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

Israel Threatened by Iranian Ground Forces on Northern Border
BY: Abraham Rabinovich/The Washington Free Beacon
February 19, 2015 10:50 am
JERUSALEM—The strategic threat posed to Israel by Iran’s nuclear program is being augmented by a new and no less ominous threat: the presence of Iranian ground forces adjacent to Israel’s northern border.
The Arabic-digital news site, Rai-al-Youm, reported this week that Iranian troops have been participating, together with Hezbollah and the Syrian army, in an attempt to drive rebel and jihadi forces from southern Syria, where they dominate a triangle of territory between the Golan Heights, the province of Daraa on the Jordanian border, and the outskirts of Damascus.
“This is the first time we have a public operational intervention by IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps] forces in the conflict,” the report said. Several media outlets have reported the presence in the battle area of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the IRGC al-Quds force, which is responsible for operations outside Iran’s borders.
Iran, which has been attempting to build its sphere of influence from Somalia to Afghanistan, has been particularly successful in Syria, where it has become a major prop for President Bashar al-Assad, and in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has become a formidable proxy. Iranian military advisers have been active in both areas for years, but the presence of Iranian troops on the ground–even in small numbers–is little known.
In a recent bulletin, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors media throughout the region, reported that the Iranian military presence in the region has hitherto been in the form of command posts and a limited number of special forces. It notes that according to a plan outlined by a senior IRGC official on an Iranian website last year the command posts are intended to operate “130,000 trained Iranian Basij (a volunteer militia) fighters waiting to enter Syria.” The authors of the MEMRI report, Yigal Carmon and Y. Yehoshua, said the statement was immediately removed from the site after publication.
Syria’s Al-Hadath website, which is close to the regime, recently revealed Iran’s active involvement on the regime’s side in the civil war.
“Iran, which had been taking part in the fighting in Syria by means of military advisers, recently decided to join the military conflict officially and openly,” it declared.
The presence of Iranian military personnel near the Golan border was revealed last month when an Israeli aircraft, in a targeted strike, interdicted two SUVs apparently reconnoitering the border area from the Syrian side. Twelve were killed in the strike, six of them Hezbollah fighters and six of them Iranian military personnel.
Although Iranian leaders frequently call for Israel’s demise, the authors note that fomenting action against Israel by proxies such as Hezbollah stems from Iranian strategy, not just ideology, since it is believed to create deterrence against an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. This presumed deterrence would be reinforced by the creation of another point of conflict on Israel’s Syrian border.
The MEMRI authors say Teheran also has domestic considerations in its operations beyond its borders.
“Mobilization of Iranian national forces and Iranian youth in the ideological framework of struggle outside Iran inoculates Iran’s dictatorial regime against internal uprising and rebellion,” according to the authors. The authors add that Iran’s involvement on Israel’s northern front together with its deep involvement in Syria and elsewhere “creates tremendous pressure on its dwindling resources and exhausts it, intensifying its dependence on regional forces.”
Hezbollah leaders recently declared their intention of creating another front inside Syria, presumably with President Assad’s assent, opposite the Golan. After last month’s air strike, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon indicated that the strike was intended as a statement that Israel would not permit Hezbollah and its Iranian mentors to open a new front. Israel has established a working relationship with rebels and even, reportedly, with jihadi militias who have been operating near the Golan border—treating wounded and providing humanitarian aid in return for keeping the border quiet.

A fake Iranian “defector” assassinated Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 19, 2015,
A special investigation conducted by debkafile’s intelligence, Iranian and counter-terror sources has discovered that the Argentine-Jewish prosecutor Natalio Alerto Nisman, 51, was murdered on Jan. 18 by an Iranian agent, who had won his trust by posing as a defector under the assumed name of Abbas Haqiqat-Ju. His killer struck hours before Nisman showed the Argentine parliament evidence that President Cristina Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had covered up Iran’s complicity in the country’s worst ever terrorist attack, the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center in which 85 people died, two years after 29 people were killed by a blast at the Israeli embassy.
Nisman’s evidence had it been presented would have ultimately proved Iran's culpability in the two terrorist attacks.
According to our investigation, two Iranian Intelligence Ministers, the incumbent Mahmoud Alavi and his predecessor Hojjat-ol-Eslam Heydar Moslehi, had for nine years wracked their brains for a way to silence the Jewish prosecutor, ever since he began probing the two attacks. They worked hand in glove with senior Argentinean government and intelligence agencies.
(In Iran, intelligence ministers take their orders directly from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei although they attend cabinet meetings.)
Tehran's clandestine hand deep in the Americas
Nisman had made the powers-that-be in Tehran jittery, because a) he was ambitious, honest and a courageous searcher after the truth; b) he was Jewish and had active connections with Israel; and c) in pursuit of his inquiry, he spread his net wide to include contacts with the Israeli Mossad and the American CIA.
Furthermore, in 2006, after three years on the job, the prosecutor had put together an intelligence file on the unbelievable scope of Iranian intelligence penetration, using Lebanese Hizballah agents, deep into the government and intelligence establishments of many Latin American countries - not only Argentina, but also Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Surinam, Trinidad-Tobago and Guyana.
No sooner was this file put before the government in Buenos Aires when it was locked away to prevent its publication.
Undeterred, Nisman went to New York in 2007 and put the contents of his file orally before senior CIA officials and UN Secretariat bureaucrats. His briefing also uncovered scores of Iranian diplomats and agents operating in the United States under cover out the Pakistani embassy in Washington.
It is hardly surprising that in no time, the information leaked from the UN Secretariat to Tehran, adding to the urgency of getting rid of this thorn in the side of the Islamic Revolution’s clandestine operations against the West.
Bribery wouldn’t work on Nisman
Iran’s security organs are no strangers to political assassination at home and among its exile communities, in such places as France, Austria and Germany.
But at first, they tried to win the Argentinean round by bribery, which had always worked before in Buenos Aires. For $10 million, Carlos Saul Menem (Argentine president from 1989 to 1999) and his minions agreed to close the investigation of the two terrorist bombings in its tracks.
Tehran handled President Kirchner differently. She was promised economic and trade benefits for Argentina, along with financial perks for government and intelligence heads.
debkafile’s Buenos Aires sources report that, at first, Kirchner feared that Nisman’s sudden demise would bring her under suspicion at the cost of her presidency. But Tehran assured her through their private channels of communication that the deed would be accomplished cleanly without leaving the slightest trace. Some of the heads of Argentine intelligence eagerly adopted the assassination plan and offered their assistance.
The first step was taken in 2010 when an Iranian contacted prosecutor Nisman to request a secret meeting. He presented himself as a former high Iranian intelligence official who had defected, fled to Denmark and was willing to fly to Buenos Aires with a valuable cache of confidential documents relating to the Jewish Center bombing.
Fake defector spent 4 years to build trust
He claimed that those documents exposed in detail the complicity in the crime of Mohsen Rabbani, then senior intelligence official at the Iranian embassy in the Argentine capital.
According to debkafile’s inquiry, Rabbani was the senior plotter of the operation.
The agreed rendezvous took place in Buenos Aires. The phony “defector,” who introduced himself as “Abbas Haqiqat-Ju,” handed Nisman genuine documents containing evidence of Iran’s involvement in the bombings. This consolidated his role as an enemy of the regime who was ready to betray its secrets.
In a relationship lasting four years, the phony defector convinced the prosecutor of his good faith. The Argentinean called on the help of colleagues in friendly agencies to check some of the confidential material he was given and found them to be the real article. Ergo, their donor was a genuine Iranian dissident.
By December 2014, Nissen was ready to submit a finished 300-page report documenting his findings on Kirchner’s role in covering up the investigation of Iran’s terrorist crimes two decades after the event.
Tehran decided that the bird was ready for plucking and it was time for Haqiqat-Ju to cash in on his long investment in trust-building.
In a secret call to Nisman, the fake defector reported that a fellow high-ranking Iranian intelligence officer had managed to flee Tehran with a suitcase full of very important papers that shed valuable light on the criminal collaboration between Argentinean security agencies and Iranian operatives in the bombing attack on the Jewish center.
Three knocks on the door to murder
He explained that the second defector required a sterile location for their meeting. Haqiqat-Ju warned the prosecutor that he must keep mum about the rendezvous. Argentine intelligence was riddled with Iranian agents and the slightest hint of the meeting would give the game away to Tehran. Above all, if he wanted to see the new documents, he must get rid of the 10 bodyguards assigned him and be alone when the guest arrived at his home on the 13th floor of the Le Parc tower in the Buenos Aires district of Puerto Madero.
That guest would signal his arrival with three knocks on the door. Nisman must not let the Iranian wait but admit him at once.
Before setting the scene for the assassination, Haqiqat-Ju had secretly rented an apartment next door. It was he who knocked on the door three times on Jan. 18. The prosecutor opened the door to his murderer. As his confidant, he knew exactly where the small gun Nisman had borrowed from a friend was to be found and used it to shoot him dead. The Iranian assassin then escaped through the central heating system connecting the two flats and assumed a disguise. His Argentinean confederates had earlier disarmed the security cameras in the building and so he was able to walk out, reach the airport and fly out on a false passport to Montevideo, thence to Dubai and finally to Tehran. His murderer was long gone when the prosecutor was found lifeless in a pool of blood in his bathroom, killed by a single bullet to the head from a small .22-caliber gun. On Feb. 18, hundreds of thousands of people marched in his honor in Buenos Aires and called for justice.

Netanyahu throws cold water on IAEA report claiming Iran restraining its nuclear program
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday accused Iran of concealing its plans to develop nuclear weapons, citing a report by the UN nuclear watchdog which credited Tehran with being in compliance with an agreement it struck with the Western powers.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran has refrained from expanding tests of more efficient models of a machine used to refine uranium under a nuclear agreement with six world powers, allaying concerns it might be violating the accord.
Netanyahu, however, released a statement insisting that the report indicates Iran continues to be engaged in obfuscation.
"The IAEA report again notes that Iran is refusing to reveal to the world its preparations for the production of nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “Iran insists on hiding this from the international community at a time when the major powers are continuing to try and allow Iran to produce the core of such weapons, enriched uranium. These do not go together.”
“The major powers do not need to court Iran to agree to accept the possibility of producing nuclear weapons even as the latter refuses to divulge the details of the preparations for its nuclear weapons," the prime minister said.
Tehran's development of advanced centrifuges is sensitive because, if successful, it could enable it to produce potential nuclear bomb material at a rate several times that of the decades-old version of the machine now in use.
An interim accord in 2013 between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia stipulated Tehran could continue its "current enrichment R&D (research and development) practices," implying they should not be stepped up.
But a UN nuclear agency report in November said Iran had been feeding one of several new models under development, the so-called IR-5 centrifuge, with uranium gas, prompting a debate among analysts on whether this may have been a violation.
A confidential document by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), distributed among its member states on Thursday and obtained by Reuters, showed the IR-5 had been disconnected.
"The disconnection reflects Iran addressing concerns about its enrichment (of uranium)," said the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which closely tracks Iran's nuclear program.
"The disconnection provides additional confidence that Iran is abiding by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action," it said, referring to the 2013 agreement. Still, Iran has stalled the UN inquiry in other areas.
International talks are resuming in Geneva on Friday with the aim of narrowing remaining gaps in negotiations to end Iran's 12-year standoff with the six powers.
The deal sought by the powers would have Iran accept limits to its uranium enrichment capacity and open up to unfettered IAEA inspections to help ensure it could not put its nuclear program to developing bombs. They also want Iran to resolve all IAEA questions to build trust in its nuclear aspirations. In return, Iran would see a lifting of international trade and financial sanctions that hobbled its oil-based economy.
The IAEA document about the UN inquiry, which has run parallel to the big power talks, was issued to IAEA member states only weeks before a deadline in late March for a framework agreement between Iran and the powers. They have set themselves a deadline for a final deal at the end of June.

Has Israel been cut out of Iran’s nuclear negotiations?
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
Friday, 20 February 2015
In recent days, the tension, deep disagreements and mistrust between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama have further stepped up, particularly over the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six world powers (known as the P5+1; the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China).
As the nuclear talks inch forward towards the March deadline, Iranian and American negotiators appear to be the major players in shaping the general principles of a final nuclear deal.
While the disagreement between the American administration and Netanyahu persist, the Israeli prime minister is planning to deliver a speech to the U.S. congress on March 3rd (three weeks before the first phase of agreement on general principles). The speech further reflects the rift and mistrust between the two leaders.
The Israeli prime minister has been critical of the Obama administration due to the White House’s tilt towards the Rowhani administration and the compromises being made
The backbone of the speech will likely revolve around Iran’s nuclear and ideological threat, as well as Tehran’s recent advancement and dominance in Iraq and Syria. The speech will provide the Israeli prime minister with a high level platform in order to influence the nuclear negotiations and potentially make his case as to why the current nuclear talks are flawed and misleading. Although the speech may be viewed as a blow to the Obama administration, nevertheless, it is less likely to cause severe damages to U.S.-Israeli ties.
The widened mistrust: Leaked information
The Israeli prime minister has been critical of the Obama administration due to the White House’s tilt towards the Rowhani administration and the compromises being made. In order to alleviate the security and geopolitical concerns of the Israeli administration, the White House had likely been updating Tel Aviv on the nuclear talks. However, this trend appears to have been partially altered.
The Obama administration’s suspicion and mistrust came at a time when the White House is concerned that Netanyahu had given the authorization to officials to leak some nuances of the nuclear talks to Israeli journalists, such as the details that President Obama accepted to allow the Islamic Republic to maintain ”6,500 or more centrifuges as part of a final deal.”
Several reasons can be behind the leak of information, including concerted efforts to reveal the Obama administration’s unprecedented compromises to Iran, to show Tehran’s leverage over Washington in the nuclear talks and to reflect on the White House’s tilt towards Tehran rather than Israel. The leaked information has prompted speculations that the Obama administration is cutting the Israeli government out of the nuclear talks. The White House’s efforts are to prevent any attempt that might scuttle the potentiality of striking a final nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration is less likely to halt updating Israel on the nuclear talks due to the security concerns. But, this does not necessarily mean that the White House will give in to the demands of Netanyahu on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear file.
Netanyahu VS Obama over Iran
Netanyahu’s position on curbing Iran’s nuclear program differs substantially with that of the Obama administration.
From the Israeli prime minister’s perspective, any final nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1, which does not urge the Islamic Republic to dismantle its nuclear program completely, is a defective deal. Such a nuclear pact, from Netanyahu’s point of view, would jeopardize Israel’s regional security and tip the balance of power in favor of the Islamic Republic.
The Obama administration, on the other hand, will be satisfied with a final nuclear pact that keeps Tehran only one year away from break-out capacity or developing nuclear weapons.
This follows that the administration will accept a deal that permits Tehran to enrich uranium at some level, maintain some of its centrifuges, and continue nuclear research and development within a specified framework. Netanyahu, however, contends that the Islamic Republic should not be allowed to enrich uranium or spin centrifuges.
President Obama echoed his deep disagreement with Netanyahu in the recent Joint Press Conference stating: “I don’t want to be coy, the prime minister and I have a very different idea of Iran sanctions.” He insisted on embracing a final deal, saying: “I have been very clear and Angela agrees with me and David Cameron agrees with me, and the other members of the organizations agree that it does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they are about to be completed. And we should play that out, if in fact we can get a deal we should embrace that.”
Finally, for Netanyahu, the 10-15 years final nuclear agreement will allow Iran to resume enrichment after the end of this period. In addition, there is suspicion that the International Atomic Energy Agency will not be capable of effectively monitoring all dimensions of Iran’s nuclear activities. The accumulated economic sanctions were mainly due to the IAEA’s failure to detect Iran’s secret nuclear activities.
The major rift between Netanyahu and Obama comes from the fact that the White House believes there is no other effective alternative than pursuing the nuclear talks and ultimately working out a final nuclear pact with Iran in the next few months. Netanyahu views other alternatives- such as ratcheting up sanctions on the Islamic Republic or striking Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in case Iran continues to enrich uranium- as effective methods.
Finally, the mistrust between Obama and Netanyahu over Iran is unlikely to cause a lethal blow to U.S.-Israel relations. But, it is also unlikely to influence the direction of the nuclear talks and the Obama administration’s stance on the nuclear negotiations.

Canada Condemns Multiple Bombings in Libya
February 20, 2015 – The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement condemning the multiple bombings in Libya, which killed at least 30 people and injured dozens of others:
“Canada strongly condemns the terrorist bombings in Al Qubbah in eastern Libya, which resulted in many deaths and injuries. This cowardly act of terrorism, coming soon after the savage and ghastly beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, underscores once again the barbaric nature of terrorism and its intrinsic threat to stability and freedom in the region.
“Canada believes that the best response to terrorism and violence is for all Libyans to unite against extremists, reject terrorism and engage constructively with the efforts of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.
“On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my condolences to the families and friends of those killed in this attack and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.”

The Trap Set for Egypt
Osman Mirghan/Asharq Al Awsat
Saturday, 21 Feb, 2015
Egypt launched airstrikes on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets in Libya this week after the group abducted and killed 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians in utterly barbaric fashion, just weeks after ISIS released a video of its horrific immolation and killing of Jordanian pilot Moaz Al-Kasasbeh. But how far will Egypt be able to extend its current offensive against the group and its affiliates in Libya?
Following the commencement of the airstrikes, which were carried out in coordination with the Libyan Air Force loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized parliament in Tobruk, a clear split has emerged in terms of people’s stances on the strikes. Some see that an even stronger and more wide-ranging response is required against ISIS and other extremist groups in Libya, while others have taken a more cautious position, warning against the deployment of Egyptian ground troops in the country, which would pull Egypt into a lengthy conflict whose final results are by no means certain. There are even those who say that the strikes are actually what ISIS wants, because the groups thrives on creating and escalating tensions in the region, and benefits from any intervention against it, which has the effect of drawing in more fighters into the group’s ranks, as happened following the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
The reality, though, is that Egypt, like Jordan before it, could not simply stand idly by with its hands tied and not retaliate against the barbaric killing of its citizens by ISIS’s butchers. But anyone who has ever engaged in confrontations with terror groups knows how costly such conflicts are, as well as the large amount of patience, resources, and outside regional and international assistance that is required to successfully curtail terrorist groups. Without all this, no country would ever be able to achieve any tangible results against these groups on the ground, and any military efforts launched would come to waste.
The current airstrikes therefore count as a partial, short-term solution, they will never be enough to erase the threat of ISIS and other militant groups in Libya. However, if Egypt were to step up its current offensive and put Egyptian boots on the ground in Libya, it would allow itself to fall victim to a trap set for it by ISIS and the other extremists allied to it: a war on two fronts; one front to its east against militant groups in the Sinai, and another across its western border, a situation any standing army would find difficult and costly.
It is of course no secret that there are many in the region and beyond who would like nothing more than to bring down the regime of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Egypt. It is also no secret that there have been recent meetings between members of the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist militias operating in Libya aimed at taking over power in the country by use of force. There have been similar meetings with respect to Egypt, whose capture, as the traditional political and cultural center of the Arab world and its largest and most populous country, would represent a major success for these groups. From here we can see the connection between the rise of ISIS in Libya and the abduction and killing of the 21 Egyptians. There is a thread linking the two, with the aim here being the destabilization of Egypt, pulling it into a lengthy conflict that would sap the strength of the Egyptian army, which stood so valiantly against Brotherhood efforts to take over the centers of power in Egypt following the organization’s meteoric rise to power after the events of January 2011.
The rationale behind the killing of the 21 Egyptian Copts was that it would provoke Egypt into taking military action and stir up sectarian tensions in the country. When the group first announced it had abducted the men it made reference to a 2010 massacre of 58 Iraqi Christians at a Baghdad church carried out by its predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq. That group had previously forced out Christians from Mosul and other places in Iraq, part of its efforts to target minorities and sow the seeds of sectarian discord in the country. It is also worth mentioning that those who carried out the attacks on the Baghdad church were also behind an attack on a Coptic church in Egypt, when they demanded the freeing of Muslim women they believed were being held hostage in a Christian monastery.
Stoking sectarian tensions was the motivation behind the Baghdad church attacks of 2010, as it was with the recent killing of the 21 Egyptian Copts. ISIS is looking for a repeat of its experience in Syria and Iraq, this time in Egypt and Libya. After all, the so-called Islamic “state” or “emirate” declared by jihadist groups in Tripoli differs little from the one declared in the Sinai by militants there, who like their counterparts in Libya, have declared their allegiance to ISIS and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s thoroughly un-Islamic and so-called “caliphate.”
What Egypt needs to do now is use its weight in the region to form a new coalition of willing and able Arab countries, in order to defeat the terrorist scourge and prevent Libya from becoming another Syria, Iraq or Yemen. For if the African countries are making joint efforts to fight Boko Haram and other terror groups in their area of the world, why can’t the Arabs do the same for such groups in theirs? After all, it is the Arabs who face the greater threat to their region and their collective security.
It could be said, however, that the current divisions among Arab countries and the conventions adopted by the Arab League will together prevent such a pan-Arab force from coming together. This is, unfortunately, a bitter reality we must confront. But another reality is that the current situation, with this ongoing soap opera we are witnessing of Arab armies dismantling and Arab countries fragmenting, cannot be allowed to continue. The formation of such a “coalition of the willing” could usher in a new beginning and new phase for Arab countries. More importantly, it would help us prevent Libya from becoming just another ISIS state—and keep the fires away from Egypt.