January 16/15

Bible Quotation for today/The Narrow and Wide Gates
Matthew 07/01-24: "“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.Ask, Seek, Knock “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 15-16/15
A New Name for ISIS/Prince Turki al-Faisal /Asharq Al Awsat/January 15/15
Paris as the Capital of the World/Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat/January 15/15  

Lebanese Related News published on January 15-16/15
U.S. threat spurred Syria’s Lebanon bid: STL
Ex-MP Ghattas Khoury Testifies to STL on Extension of Lahoud's Term, Syrian Threats against him
Lebanon says three arrested for planning suicide attacks
Nasrallah praises Hariri for pushing talks
LebanonIsrael's Ex-National Security Adviser: Hizbullah's Arsenal Exceeds Firepower of EU Armies
Nasrallah confirms Israeli spy, threatens Israel over Syria strikes
Arab League condemns Nasrallah remarks on Bahrain
 Army thwarts more suicide bomb plots
Siniora: Only moderates can defeat extremists
Mustaqbal Urges Govt. to Take 'Clear Decision' on Hizbullah 'Violations' Abroad
Lebanon: New security procedures at Roumieh prison
Army Arrests Wanted Criminal, Seizes Arms during Raids
Syrian Refugee Freezes to Death in the Bekaa
Relatives of Captive Servicemen Halt Escalation as 'Serious' Negotiations Ongoing
World Bank sees Lebanon economy improving by 2017
Mankoubeen deals with shock of bombings
Cold claims new victim as icy weather returns
Car sales hardly hit by down payment circular
World Bank sees Lebanon economy improving by 2017
Bluster can backfire
Soldier Wounded after Coming under Fire from Syrian Side of Border
Beauty, Blood Centers Shut as 4 Held in Expired Sugar Case

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 15-16/15
Iran could resume nuclear enrichment if sanctions hiked
Two dead in anti-terrorism raid in Belgium
Belgium cracks down on jihadi cells home from Syria to avert Paris-style terror
Muslim who saved Jews in attack on kosher deli to get French nationality
Lieberman 'tells it how it is': Eliminate Hamas and get rid of Abbas
Morocco Slams new Charlie Hebdo Cartoons of Prophet
Kuwaitis Protest Against Charlie Hebdo Cartoon
Hollande Says Muslims 'Main Victims of Fanaticism'
Duke University cancels plan for Muslim call to prayer from tower
Boko Haram ‘killed woman in labor’ during attack
U.N. alarmed by ‘downward spiral’ of Israelis, Palestinians
More Muslim converts worry Ottawa imam
ISIS losing ground in symbolic Kobani battle
Charlie Hebdo co-founder blames slain editor for attack
Libyan peace talks will fail: minister
Baghdad and Erbil to meet “soon” to resolve outstanding disputes: sources
Syrian opposition groups wavering on Moscow talks
Assad lowers expectations for Moscow meeting

Jihad Watch Site Latest Posts
We’ve averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo”: Muslims fire on police.
Duke cancels plan for Muslim call to prayer from chapel tower.
Father of Muslim who plotted to bomb US Capitol says son is “peace-loving momma’s boy” set up by FBI.
Pakistan: Muslims demand murder of Charlie Hebdo staff for committing “worst act of terrorism” by drawing Muhammad.
Belgian public TV says three dead in police counter-terrorism raid in Verviers.
Oregon: Muslim repeatedly threatens deli owner: “You Israeli … I’ll blow up your store in the name of Allah!”.
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: French PM Declares War on ‘Radical Islam’.
Duke University: Muslim Brotherhood group to chant Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers weekly.

It is Time For the Saudi Arabia to Join the Rest of the Free World
Elias Bejjani
January 15/15

في القرن الواحد والعشرين لم يعد مقبولا لا فرض الصلاة بالقوة ولا احكام الجلد وبتر الأطراف. المطلوب من السعودية اطلاق سراح الكاتب رئيف بدوي ووقف جلده. هذا عمل همجي وغير مقبول ويتعارض مع شرعة حقوق الإنسان
We strongly believe that it is time for the Saudi rulers, on all levels to join the rest of the free world and democratic countries. They are ought to live to the judicial and human rights standards of the 21 century and start with no hesitation or camouflage honoring the rights of their own citizens. Sadly Saudi Arabia has been fully responsible for all the Jihad movements in the world including the notorious Ben Laden and all his likes that procreated and bred Isis, Al Nora and Bako Haram among many other offsprings.
The whole world is aware that initially and for tens of years all the Jihad movements were financed by either the Saudi rulers or by Saudi and Arabian Gulf private resources till these movements became a dire threat to the Saudi and all Arabian Gulf kingdoms and Emirates themselves. Since then they all joined the global war against terrorism and terrorists.
Joining militarily the fight is not alone enough without domastic actual shift towards freedom, democracy with basic modifications and modernization in all educational and religious teachings curriculums.
The internal changes needed have many requirements among which putting an end to all stone age rules that do not honor the International Charter of Human Rights including forced and obligatory praying, hanging, beheading flogging-lashing etc.
In this context we fully adopt our Canadian Government’s stance issued yesterday that condemned the flogging and imprisonment harsh and oppressive sentence of a Saudi Blogger, Raif Badawi, whose wife with her three children sought asylum in Canada after his arrest.
Below is Canada’s FM, John Baird statement that we fully adopt.

Canada Concerned by Punishment of Saudi Blogger
January 14, 2015 – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement regarding the punishment of 1,000 lashes and a 10-year prison sentence for a Saudi blogger:
“Canada is deeply concerned by the public flogging of Raif Badawi. This punishment is a violation of human dignity and freedom of expression, and we call for clemency in this case.
“The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy. While Mr. Badawi is not a Canadian citizen, we will continue to make our position known, both publicly and through diplomatic channels.
“Canada has an active partnership and candid relationship with Saudi Arabia, and believes it can play a positive role in many of the region’s security challenges. We will maintain an ongoing, respectful dialogue with Saudi Arabia on a number of issues, including human rights.”
Canada has made representations to Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador in Ottawa, and Canada’s Ambassador in Riyadh has met with the Chair of the Human Rights Commission and has sought a meeting with the Government of Saudi Arabia. Minister Baird has also discussed this issue with concerned parties, including Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s Minister of International Relations.

Wife of lashed Saudi blogger calls for his release

Agence France Presse/Jan. 13, 2015/Montreal: The wife of a Saudi blogger who was publicly flogged for “insulting Islam” called for his release Tuesday. “My husband, Raef Badawi, is imprisoned for simply expressing liberal ideas,” Ensaf Haidar, who sought asylum in Canada with her three children after Badawi was arrested, told a news conference in Montreal. In September, a Saudi court upheld a sentence of 10 years in prison as well as the 1,000 lashes for Badawi, who has been behind bars since June 2012. The 31-year-old received a first instalment of 50 lashes last Friday and is expected to have 20 weekly whipping sessions until his punishment is complete. “We’re here so that he won’t have to endure another 50 lashes next Friday,” said Beatrice Vaugrante of Amnesty International. “We talk a lot about freedom of speech nowadays: I am Charlie, I am Raef Badawi,” she said. “This concerns Canada, it concerns all Western nations that advocate freedom of expression.” The Canadian government has called the public lashing “inhumane” but said it was limited in what it could do for Badawi beyond expressions of outrage as the blogger is not Canadian

Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
Web sites & http://www.10452lccc.comm &
Tweets on
Face Book LCCC group

“After Paris attacks, Pope speaks out against insulting religions,
Philip Pullella, Reuters, January 15, 2015:
(Reuters) – Pope Francis, speaking of last week’s deadly attacks by Islamist militants in Paris, has defended freedom of expression, but said it was wrong to provoke others by insulting their religion and that one could “expect” a reaction to such abuse. “You can’t provoke, you can’t insult the faith of others, you can’t make fun of faith,” he told reporters on Thursday, aboard a plane taking him from Sri Lanka to the Philippines to start the second leg off his Asian tour. Francis, who has condemned the Paris attacks, was asked about the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of expression. “I think both freedom of religion and freedom of expression are both fundamental human rights,” he said, adding that he was talking specifically about the Paris killings. “Everyone has not only the freedom and the right but the obligation to say what he thinks for the common good … we have the right to have this freedom openly without offending,” he said. To illustrate his point, he turned to an aide and said: “It is true that you must not react violently, but although we are good friends if (he) says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch, it’s normal. “You can’t make a toy out of the religions of others,” he added. “These people provoke and then (something can happen). In freedom of expression there are limits.” Seventeen people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence that began with a shooting attack on the political weekly Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions. Referring to past religious wars, such as the Crusades sanctioned by the Catholic Church against Islam, the Pope said: “Let’s consider our own history. How many wars of religion have we had? Even we were sinners but you can’t kill in the name of God. That is an aberration.”…

Lebanon says three arrested for planning suicide attacks
Mariam Karouny, Beirut, Reuters/Friday, 16 January 2015
The Lebanese army said it had arrested three people suspected of planning suicide attacks in the country, days after two suicide bombers killed at least eight people in a cafe in the northern city of Tripoli. The army said in a statement on Thursday that an investigation showed the three suspects, two Lebanese and a Syrian, had been trained in neighboring Syria. It said they had pledged loyalty to terrorist groups, a term Lebanon uses to describe Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's wing in Syria, and Islamic State. “They were preparing to carry out terrorist attacks targeting army centers and residential areas,” the statement said. Lebanon's security has been jolted repeatedly by the civil war in Syria, which has also helped paralyze its government: the country has been without a head of state since May. Militants linked to Islamic State and the Nusra Front mounted an attack on the Lebanese border town of Arsal last August. They are still holding around two dozen members of the security forces taken captive in that incursion. In a separate statement the army said it had discovered a car loaded with 120 kg (265 lb) of explosives in the outskirts of Arsal and that an army expert was working on dismantling it.

World Bank sees Lebanon economy improving by 2017
The Daily Star/Jan. 16, 2015
BEIRUT: The World Bank said that Lebanon is among the non-oil-producing countries in the region expected to see reasonable growth from 2015 to 2017.In a report on the Global Economic Prospects which was released Thursday, the World Bank projected GDP growth in Lebanon in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to be 2 percent, 3.4 percent and 3.6 percent respectively.It added that the projected growth in Lebanon and other regional states would be due to the expected rebound in oil production among oil exporters.“Growth in the developing countries of the region is projected to pick up gradually to 3.5 percent in 2017, helped by a rebound in oil production among oil exporters and a modest recovery among oil importing economies. Egypt, Jordan and, to a lesser extent, Lebanon and Tunisia, appear to be entering a steady recovery from a period of heightened volatility and uncertainty,” it said.But the World Bank said that the Syrian war could still spill over into other neighboring countries and Lebanon was one of them.“Violence in Syria could escalate and spill over to other countries [mainly Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon]. More than 3 million Syrian refugees are hosted in the neighboring countries, with officially registered refugees in Lebanon and Jordan amounting to about 25 percent and 10 percent of local populations,” the report warned.
The presence of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees has further exacerbated the economic slowdown in Lebanon, with unemployment reaching a record high.The donor states have pledged billions of dollars to Lebanon to help the government cope with the huge influx of Syrian refugees.However, the government claimed that the financial assistance pledged to Lebanon had failed to reduce the negative effects of the presence of the Syrian refugees.Most economic indicators such as balance of payment, balance of trade and cement delivery were all in the negative side in 2014.“Despite some acceleration, activity, exports, and sentiment remain depressed, reflecting spillovers from the conflict in Syria, and political uncertainty. Lebanon’s PMI pointed to a contraction in business activity for the 16th consecutive month, with security issues weighing heavily on tourist arrivals, and harming domestic wholesale and hospitality industries,” the World Bank said.The World Bank also highlighted the efforts of some Arab states to roll over the public debt.
“Debt rollover and refinancing risks are rising. Countries in political transition have benefited from large official financing from the Gulf economies. While these are expected to continue, the associated debt will become increasingly burdensome and presents a rollover risk for recipient countries. Public debt levels have increased in oil-importing countries from 73 to 88 percent of GDP during 2011-14. They may be approaching unsustainable levels as debt servicing costs account for an ever larger share of the expenditures,” the report said.
The World Bank said only Tunisia and Egypt have experienced relative security and political stability following the 2011 Arab Spring.“Since 2011, many developing countries of the region have been in political turmoil, in some cases associated with conflict, which has disrupted economic activity. Economies have stagnated, with growth averaging a mere 0.8 percent per year, a sharp slowdown compared to the average of 4.4 percent during the previous decade. Measures to address long-standing structural challenges, which predate the Arab Spring uprisings, have been repeatedly delayed. There has been progress on the political transition in Tunisia and greater stability in Egypt; however, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the Republic of Yemen remain mired in internal strife,” the report said.The World Bank stressed that the Arab countries need to create millions of jobs each year to check the rise of unemployment.“The region needs to create 4 million jobs per year to keep the unemployment rate from rising. Historically, the region created jobs near this rate only when growth was in excess of 5 percent,” the report said.

Nasrallah confirms Israeli spy, threatens Israel over Syria strikes
Roi Kais/Ynetnews/Published: 1.15.15/ Israel News
Hezbollah says terror group has missiles that can reach deep into Israel, confirms Israeli spy infiltrated group.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened in an interview Thursday to retaliate against Israel for repeated strikes on Syria and said he has missiles that can hit the Jewish state. He also confirmed that a senior operative in the organization has been apprehended for spying for Israel. “He was responsible for one department inside one of the security units of Hezbollah,” Nasrallah said, adding that the man in question held a senior position in a "sensitive" Hezbollah security unit and was detained five months ago.
"We consider this to be a very dangerous thing, and we are dealing with it with extreme sensitivity," he said, adding that the man “confessed to everything and to what extent he collaborated with Israel,” -Nasrallah told Al-Mayadeen television that his powerful Shiite movement has had Iranian Fateh-110 missiles that can hit the whole of Israel since 2006, adding that it is always ready to fight Israel. A key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Nasrallah, who has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to help defend the regime, said that Israeli strikes on Syria "target the whole of the resistance axis", which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran. "The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria," he told the Beirut-based Arab news television. "The axis is capable of responding. This can happen any time."  Asked about Hezbollah's arsenal, Nasrallah said the group had "all (the weapons) you can imagine... and in great quantities". He added: "We are now stronger than we ever were as a resistance movement."Nasrallah revealed that Hezbollah has Fateh-110 missiles, which have a minimum range of 200 kilometres (125 mile), that can hit the whole of Israel. Asked by his interviewer about this type of missile, Nasrallah said: "We have had this kind of missile since 2006" - when Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating war. According to Pentagon officials, Hezbollah has 50,000 missiles, including some capable of reaching Tel Aviv. The Israeli air force has allegedly carried out several raids against targets in Syria, including depots storing weapons meant for Hezbollah, since the conflict there started nearly four years ago. The most recent strike was in December, when Israeli warplanes reportedly struck weapons warehouses near Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Israel has never confirmed it carried out the strikes, but it says it has a policy of preventing arms transfers to militant groups including Hezbollah. Israeli media said, however, after the December strikes that the air force had targeted arms convoys or depots of Iranian-made rockets. Nasrallah said in the interview that Hezbollah was ready to fight a new war against Israel in Lebanon and renewed a threat to invade the Galilee region of northern Israel. Hezbollah fighters "must be prepared", he said. "When the resistance (Hezbollah) leadership... asks you (fighters)... to enter into Galilee, that means the resistance must be ready to enter into Galilee and to go even beyond the Galilee."The 2006 summer war Hezbollah and Israel fought killed some 1,200 Lebanese - most of them civilians - and 160 Israelis - most of them soldiers. AFP and AP contributed to this report

Belgium cracks down on jihadi cells home from Syria to avert Paris-style terror
DEBKAfile Special Report January 15, 2015/Belgian security and special operations units raided a string of apartments in the eastern town of Verviers and Brussels Thursday, Jan. 15. They searched for native jihadis who had returned from Syria and formed cells to carry out what federal prosecutors called terrorist attacks “on a grand scale” across the country similar to the terrorist violence that swept Paris last week. In Verviers, two jihadis described by police as linked to ISIS, were killed and one arrested, after they opened fire on the forces. Explosions and gunshots were heard from the clash. One police source said that the raids of 10 apartments, where the cells were actively plotting those attacks, had “averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo.”Still, the terror alert in Belgium has been elevated from three to four. The raids took place the day after the French satirical magazine, which lost its top editorial staff in last week’s Islamist terror violence, came out in 16 languages and millions of copies, with a weeping Prophet Mohammed on its cover.
Belgian officials Thursday night declined to release details of the country-wide crackdown on Islamist terrorists, but promised more information Friday. However, French and British official sources report a Europe-wide terror alert in force. Since it became known that Amedy Coulibaly, the Jewish supermarket killer, had supplied arms to the Paris cells, a wide net has been cast across the continent to turn up links among terrorist cells. Furthermore, European security services are apparently united in a campaign to black out most of their counter-terror operations. They are also striving to keep dark the terrorist or jihadist motives behind certain violent attacks. Britain and France appeared to be resorting to this strategy in an effort to damp down frictions between the general populations and their Muslim communities.

Two dead in anti-terrorism raid in Belgium
Ynetnews/News Agencies/01.15.15 / Israel News,7340,L-4615645,00.html
Anti-terror police operation in Verviers leaves two dead, day after Belgium man with ties to Paris kosher supermarket terrorist turns himself in to authorities; 'We've averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo', police officer says. Belgian authorities say two people have been killed and one has been arrested during a shootout in an anti-terrorist operation in the eastern city of Verviers. Magistrate Eric Van der Sypt told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that the suspects were on the verge of committing a major terrorist attack, and that they immediately opened fire on security forces. In a report that could not be immediately confirmed, the Web site of La Meuse newspaper quoted an unidentified police officer saying: "We've averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo."
Explosions sounded in Verviers, Belgium
Sypt said at emergency news conference that anti-terrorist raids are under way in the Brussels region and Verviers. A third man was arrested during the operation in the eastern town of Verviers, Sypt added, saying there was, for the time being, no direct connection to last week's attacks in Paris. No police were injured in the operation, he said. "The searches were carried out as part of an investigation into an operational cell some of whose members had returned from Syria," he said. "For the time being, there is no connection with the attacks in Paris.""The suspects immediately and for several minutes opened fire with military weaponry and handguns on the special units of the federal police before they were neutralised," he said. "We still expect a number of arrests," he said. No police were wounded or killed in the firefight, which occurred at the height of rush hour in a crowded neighborhood. The magistrate said more anti-terrorist raids were underway in the Brussels region and Verviers, adding that Belgium's terror alert level was raised to its second-highest level. The operation was part of an investigation into extremists returning from Syria, authorities said. Local channel RTBF said it was an operation intended to check on suspected radicals – one of several being conducted against people believed to have returned to Belgium after taking part in the Syrian civil war.Local media said gunshots and several explosions were heard on a residential street in Verviers near the railway station and one photo posted by a witness on Twitter showed police vehicles and ambulances blocking the street.
Belgium has seen significant radical Islamist activity among its Muslim population. RTBF said police raids were also under way in Brussels. Belga news agency said police were hunting a man who witnesses said had brandished a weapon and shouted religious slogans in Arabic at a Brussels metro station. The event followed a new developments in the investigation into Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist behind the kosher supermarket attack and the killing of a French policewoman, after a Belgium man turned himself in to authorities, saying he had been in touch with Coulibaly. Belgian authorities have detained a man for arms dealing and are investigating whether he supplied Coulibaly weapons for the attacks, prosecutors said Thursday. Belgian media reported that a man had handed himself in to police in the southern city of Charleroi on Tuesday, saying he had been in touch with Coulibaly. According to the reports, the man said that he swindled Coulibaly in a car sale, but police later found evidence that the two were negotiating about the sale of ammunition for a 7.62 mm caliber firearm. Bullets of this caliber are needed for the Tokarev pistol that Coulibaly used in his attack on the supermarket in Paris, where he killed four hostages, and possibly in the shooting and injuring of a jogger two days earlier. "The man is being held by the judge in Charleroi on suspicion of arms dealing," a spokesman for Belgium's federal prosecution said. "Further investigations will have to show whether there is a link with the events in Paris," he added. Coulibaly was killed on January 9 in an assault conducted by an elite French unit after he took hostages and killed four Jewish-Frenchman at a Kosher supermarket in a Paris suburb. He acted in coordination, he said, with Cherif and Said Kouachi who killed twelve people in the attack against the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Reuters, AP and AFP contributed to this report

Nasrallah: Senior Hezbollah operative apprehended for spying for Israel
The leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group confirmed on Thursday that a senior operative in the organization has been apprehended for spying for Israel. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the man in question held a senior position in a "sensitive" Hezbollah security unit and was detained five months ago. "We consider this to be a very dangerous thing, and we are dealing with it with extreme sensitivity," Nasrallah said during a three-hour interview with the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV station. The confirmation comes weeks after local newspapers published unconfirmed reports that a high-level Hezbollah member had been spying for Israel, identifying the suspect as Mohammad Shorba. Nasrallah did not name the alleged spy. (AP)

Nasrallah praises Hariri for pushing talks
Nizar Hassan/The Daily Star/Jan. 16, 2015
BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah hailed Future Movement leader Saad Hariri for pushing for dialogue Thursday, confirming that one of the party’s officials detained five months ago was working with Israeli and U.S. intelligence. “There is no doubt that the man is the one who makes decisions in the end, and he was the one who pushed in this direction [dialogue],” Nasrallah told Al-Mayadeen TV director Ghassan Bin Jeddo in a three-hour interview when asked whether it was due to Hariri that talks were taking place, despite opposition from within the Future Movement.
Nasrallah said Future officials who opposed dialogue were “well known to the Lebanese,” and added that a personal meeting with Hariri was “possible.”He also hailed Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt for working to make the dialogue possible. He said he was very optimist about talks with the Future Movement, but stressed that the bar could not be set very high and an agreement in Lebanon was not contingent on resolving the dispute in Syria.

“Our experience with the Progressive Socialist Party is not bad and it succeeds; we cooperate in Lebanon but disagree on Syria,” he said, hinting the same could be done with the Future Movement. The dialogue between the rival parties holds promise to ease sectarian tensions in the country, the outcome of which is already apparent, Nasrallah said.
“Imagine if the two aggressive suicide bombings against our people in Jabal Mohsen happened during a different climate,” he said.
“Tripoli and the region would have been set ablaze.”Nasrallah reiterated support for the much anticipated talks between the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, saying internal Christian dialogue would help end the 7-month-old presidential vacuum. Separately, he confirmed that one of the party’s officials busted five months ago was found to be working with Israeli and U.S. intelligence.
“He was responsible for one department inside one of the security units of Hezbollah,” he said, explaining that the unit was responsible for work of a “sensitive nature.” However, Nasrallah said the official’s importance and status had been exaggerated by the media, adding that he did not hold a very high rank. “He confessed to everything and to what extent he collaborated with Israel,” Nasrallah said. The collaborator’s family was responsible for informing the party about their son’s actions, he revealed.
“After 32 years of resistance ... and with the expansion of Hezbollah’s structure horizontally and vertically, this is normal,” he said.
“We should not treat it as normal, but it is.”He also stressed that his party’s military wing was as ready as ever to fight Israel, saying it was stronger now than ever despite “being busy in Syria and probably elsewhere.”Nasrallah said the resistance’s military capabilities grow by the year, adding that Hezbollah possesses “everything the enemy expects and doesn’t expect,” including “weapons of all types.”
“We are busy in Lebanon, in Syria and probably in other places, but our utmost priority remains to stay ready to confront Israel,” he said.
“If the Israelis believe that the resistance is exhausted or that its determination and military power have been weakened, they will learn that they are delusional.”Nasrallah revealed that an attack on the Galilee in northern Israel was possible in the event of a new war. “The resistance is ready to enter Galilee and move the battle into the land of the enemy if there is ever an attack against Lebanon,” he said. Nasrallah said his party’s military wing had learned much from fighting in Syria about how to enter villages, liberate them and establish control, warning that such action could also be applied in Galilee and extend to other Israeli towns. Nasrallah confirmed Iranian reports that said some Arab intelligence agencies had informed Israel about Hezbollah during the summer 2006 War. The resistance leader said he did not expect 2015 to be much different from last year in terms of military standoffs with Israel.
Nasrallah also touched on relations with Hamas, saying the Palestinian party had demonstrated a will to strengthen its bonds with Iran and Hezbollah, after the relations had deteriorated over the past four years due to the events in Syria. He acknowledged problems remained with Hamas’ stance toward the Syrian regime. “Even if Hamas chooses to mend its relationship with the Syrian regime, Syria might have some difficulty accepting this due to past events and developments,” he said.
Nasrallah highlighted that his party seeks to build a strategic alliance with Hamas and other resistance groups in Palestine. During the interview, which dedicated much time to the situation in Syria, Nasrallah made a definite statement about the destiny of President Bashar Assad’s regime.
“The notion of overthrowing the regime or controlling Syria is gone, I am talking field-wise, it’s over,” he said. “We should [only] speak of a political solution to end the violence.” Nasrallah said the Free Syrian Army and other moderate Syrian rebels had lost much of their territory in Syria, either to the regime or to ISIS and the Nusra Front.
He predicted that the future would bring a tripartite partition of Syria, between the regime and the two fundamentalist groups. Saudi Arabia’s role in Syria has dwarfed with the rise of ISIS and the Nusra Front, Nasrallah added, saying that the two factions became too strong to handle and now threaten the kingdom. However, Nasrallah acknowledged that Saudi Arabia would be greatly influential in any potential negotiations to reach a political solution in Syria, but the strongest cards remain in Turkey’s hands. He said Turkey had strong military bonds with ISIS, and if it decides to take the political solution route, the conflict would be easier to resolve. “Any solution at the expense of President [Bashar] Assad is not a solution,” Nasrallah said.

Siniora: Only moderates can defeat extremists
The Daily Star/Jan. 16, 2015 /BEIRUT: The head of the Future parliamentary bloc and former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora took part in the sixth Gulf Intelligence UAE Energy Forum Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. “Here is one important lesson that I have learned, and a principle that I have always applied: at times of high volatility, go back to the basics,” Siniora said. “In order to unlock the potential of the Arab world,” he added, it is imperative “to find a just and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict through the establishment of a viable, unified and sovereign Palestinian state along [the lines of] the Arab peace initiative.” During the event, he delivered a keynote speech themed “Outlook for the Middle East four years on from the Arab Spring.”
Held at the Rosewood Hotel in Abu Dhabi under the patronage of UAE Energy Minister Suhail Mohammad al-Mazrouei, the forum brought together national and international energy officials and world leaders to debate issues impacting the global energy industry.
“Only moderate Arabs and Muslims can ultimately defeat the forces of extremism in the region,” he said. “And only the democratic civil state can be the real guarantor of minorities’ existence and rights.”“As much as ISIS falsely claims to be championing Sunnis, it does not in any way represent Islam, and Muslims are the biggest losers of its atrocities,” he said. The only way to guarantee Arab security at all levels in the long run, according to Siniora, is to develop a “vision of Arab economic integration that is based on shared interests and objectives, and not on empty slogans.” “We should not shy away from planning and achieving our long-term interests as Arabs,” he said, “and we should never lose faith that better days are yet to come.”

Hezbollah's Nasrallah says Assad and his allies have right to respond to Israel's attacks inside Syria
Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday that Israeli strikes inside Syria were also an aggression against Syria's regional allies and they have the right to retaliate. "The frequent attacks on different sites in Syria is a major breach. We consider (them) hostilities against all the resistance axis," he told the Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV broadcast. "(Retaliation) is an open issue ... It is not only Syria's right to respond but also it is the right of the axis of resistance to respond. When this right will be executed is subject to certain criteria ... it could happen any time." (Reuters)

Two Italian hostages held in Syria have been released
Two Italian aid workers taken hostage in Syria more than four months ago have been released and will soon return home, Italy's government said on Thursday. "Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli are free and will soon return to Italy," read a Tweet from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's office. Renzi's spokesman also confirmed the news. The two young women were taken hostage while working on humanitarian projects in the embattled northern city of Aleppo, Italy's Foreign Ministry said in August. (Reuters)

Iranian FM urges West to accept deal on nuclear program
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged Western nations Thursday to accept a complex deal to end the stand-off over Tehran's nuclear program, saying it was the best that could be achieved. "We've lost 11 years," Zarif said after meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "The conditions haven't got any better. That's why we have to use this chance." Steinmeier said the talks had got to their "decisive phase" and urged both sides to work their hardest to nail down a deal. "We mustn't leave anything untried to get to a resolution," he told reporters after the meeting. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Zarif met in Geneva on Wednesday to work out an exact roadmap for the remainder of the talks, which Iran and six world powers want to conclude by the end of June. Senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany are to join the talks in Geneva on Sunday, making the six-power group complete. The countries aim to come up with the outlines of a deal by March that would scale back Iran's nuclear program and diminish the risk that it can be used to make nuclear weapons. In return, international economic sanctions would be lifted. (DPA)

Lebanon arrests three men suspected of plotting suicide attacks
The Lebanese army says it has arrested three men suspected of plotting a series of suicide attacks meant to target military outposts and residential areas. The army said in a statement on Thursday that the suspects — two Lebanese and one Syrian — were arrested while carrying forged identification papers. It also accused the men of having fought in the civil war in neighboring Syria and of having pledged allegiance to unspecified terrorist organizations. The army says the attacks allegedly planned by the suspects were to follow the double suicide bombing in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Saturday that killed nine people. Over the past four years, Lebanon has been shaken by a series of bombings and gunbattles linked to Syria's conflict. (AP)

U.S. threat spurred Syria bid to control Lebanon, STL told
Kareem Shaheen| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A close ally of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said Thursday that Syria tried to impose political control over Lebanon, including dictating its choice of new president, in an attempt to secure the “home front” out of alarm at the American invasion of Iraq.
The episode, in which Syrian President Bashar Assad forced Hariri to back the renewal of the mandate of the unpopular pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud in 2004, is believed by prosecutors at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to be a key event after which the conspiracy to assassinate the former premier was launched.
Former MP Ghattas Khoury, an ally of Hariri and his envoy to the anti-Syrian opposition in late 2004, said the Syrians felt the American presence in Iraq was a major threat and they wanted to “secure the home front” by dominating Lebanon.
“[Hariri said] that they feel they are threatened,” Khoury said in his first day of testimony at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. “He was talking about the Syrian regime, [saying] they want to form a new government that can deal with the new situation arising from the Iraq invasion.”
Hariri resigned from government shortly after Lahoud’s re-election, a mark of the deterioration of his relationship with the Assad regime in the runup to his assassination.
Khoury’s testimony is part of the “political evidence” being presented before the STL, the U.N.-backed tribunal tasked with prosecuting those responsible for the devastating 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others, and led to street protests that ended Syria’s tutelage over Lebanon, a relic of the latter’s Civil War.
The evidence details the breakdown of relations between Hariri and Syria in the runup to the assassination, in an attempt to understand the political motive that lay behind the killing. Khoury’s statements laid bare once again Syria’s profound contempt toward Lebanon’s politicians and legal norms.
One example given by the former MP was a phone call he received from Syria’s director of military intelligence, Rustom Ghazaleh, after he criticized on television a Cabinet dictated to Hariri by the Syrians before the Lahoud extension.
“He told me, ‘Who do you think you are going on TV? We made you and we can make you leave,’” Khoury said, adding that Ghazaleh directed profanities and insults toward him, Hariri and his political bloc. According to Khoury, when he reported the conversation to Hariri, the former premier said “they are all crazy.”
Khoury described how Syria forced Hariri to accept Lahoud’s extension, using a “heavy hand” to force his compliance.
He described the aftermath of a notorious meeting between Hariri and Assad in August 2004 in which the former was forced to agree to the measure, saying Hariri was “heartbroken” three days after the conference when he met with Khoury.
“He told me, ‘I am not the one threatened, it is the whole country that is threatened,’” Khoury said, adding that Hariri repeated to him that Assad threatened to “break Lebanon” over the former premier’s head and the head of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a Hariri ally.
“I asked, ‘What will he do?’ He told me, ‘He would blow up the country, and blow up Solidere,’” Khoury added. “He took these threats seriously and he believed the country could be blown up.”
Khoury said he received threats to his life after he voted against the Syrian-ordered Lahoud extension, through phone calls to his wife.
He said the security institutions dominated by Syrian intelligence and its Lebanese allies failed to investigate the threats.

 Syrian rebels, government reach truce in besieged area
Syrian rebels and government forces began observing a 10-day truce Thursday in the last rebel-held area of the central city of Homs, marking another setback for opposition fighters, activists said. Government forces had blockaded al-Waar for some 20 months, only sporadically allowing in food. It is not clear how many civilians remain in the sprawling area separated from the rest of the city by the Orontes river. Activist Beibars al-Tilawi said officials promised to allow the UN to deliver more food while the two sides discussed how to end the standoff. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the truce. Al-Tilawi, who spoke from al-Waar via Skype, said the rebels were outgunned, and that the experience of fighters once holed up Homs' Old City was instructive: the area was destroyed, thousands of civilians were killed or forced to flee, and ultimately rebels negotiated their surrender in May 2014. "They want to prevent the al-Waar area from military action, so it won't be like the old city of Homs, where in the end, negotiations and diplomacy solved the problem," al-Tilawi said. He said the rebels may end up surrendering the area over to government forces or remain there under a more lasting deal. Both approaches have been employed in other parts of Syria in the past. (AP)

 U.S.-led forces launch 22 air strikes against militants in Syria, Iraq
U.S.-led forces launched 11 air strikes each in Syria and Iraq since Wednesday, targeting Islamic State fighters, equipment and buildings, the U.S. military said. Five of the strikes in Syria were in the contested city of Kobani near the Turkish border, where they destroyed four fighting positions, a building and a tactical unit, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement on Thursday. U.S. and partner nations launched strikes near seven Iraqi cities including Mosul, Baiji and al Qaim, destroying a shipping container, tactical units, buildings, boats and land vehicles, it said. (Reuters)

Syria's Assad 'realistic' about Moscow peace effort
Syrian President Bashar Assad says a Russian initiative to bring together Syria's warring sides later this month does not aim to launch peace talks but rather to discuss the basis of future negotiations. "We should be realistic," Assad said in an interview with the Czech Literarni Noviny newspaper published Thursday. The talks between the Syrian government and its opponents are scheduled to start Jan. 26 in Moscow. Prominent opposition groups, however, have said they will not attend and the talks have little chance of success.
Assad said he supports the Russian initiative, adding his government does not want to miss any opportunity to end the four-year-old conflict, which has killed more than 200,000 people. (AP)

U.S. frees five Guantanamo prisoners, sends them to Oman, Estonia
Five men from Yemen have been released from the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after more than a dozen years of captivity. The Pentagon announced Wednesday that one man has been sent to Estonia and four to Oman. This is the first time either nation has agreed to accept former Guantanamo prisoners for resettlement. All five were captured in Pakistan and detained by the U.S. as suspected Al-Qaida fighters. U.S. officials determined it was no longer necessary to detain them but decided they couldn't be sent to Yemen because of instability there. The U.S. has been trying to find other countries to accept the Yemeni prisoners amid an effort to close the detention center on the base in Cuba. There are now 122 men held at Guantanamo. (AP)

21-year-old Florida man sentenced to 20 years for conspiring to aid Al-Qaida, travel to Middle East
A 21-year-old Florida man accused of conspiring to aid Al-Qaida and traveling to the Middle East to join terrorist groups has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Jacksonville reports that Shelton Thomas Bell was sentenced Wednesday. He pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support to terrorists.
Authorities say Bell planned to join Ansar Al-Sharia, which is an alias for al-Qaida. The group has taken responsibility for attacks on Yemeni forces, including a suicide bombing during a parade in May 2012. That attack killed more than 100 Yemeni soldiers.
Investigators say Bell participated in physical, firearms and other training in Florida to prepare for armed conflict.
In September 2012, Bell and a juvenile went to Amman, Jordan, and made contact with someone who investigators said could help them travel to Yemen to participate in violent jihad, according to the indictment. The indictment does not say whether Bell ever entered Yemen.
Bell and the juvenile were eventually deported from Jordan to the United States in November 2012, authorities said. (AP)

 EU won't send full mission to monitor Egypt's parliamentary elections
The European Union will not send a full mission to monitor Egypt's parliamentary elections, the bloc's top diplomat said Wednesday, while criticizing the country's human rights record. The elections, beginning in March, are seen as the final stage in the country's transition to democracy, following the overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013. "I have decided not to send a fully fledged observation mission this time but instead deploy a smaller expert mission," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told EU lawmakers in the French city of Strasbourg. The purpose of the mission will be to report on the polls, "including on the political environment and the electoral campaign," she said. An EU observation mission into last year's presidential election ran into difficulties, due to problems delivering monitoring equipment into the country. (DPA)

 ISIS loses grip on Kobani amid U.S.-led air strikes, Kurdish resistance
With more than a thousand militants killed and territory slipping away, the Islamic State group is losing its grip on the Syrian border town of Kobani under intense U.S.-led airstrikes and astonishingly stiff resistance by Kurdish fighters.
It is a stunning reversal for the Islamic State group, which just months ago stood poised to conquer the entire town — and could pierce a carefully crafted image of military strength that helped attract foreign fighters and spread horror across the Middle East.
"An IS defeat in Kobani would quite visibly undermine the perception of unstoppable momentum and inevitable victory that IS managed to project, particularly after it captured Mosul," said Faysal Itani, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, referring to the militants' seizure of Iraq's second-largest city during its blitz into Iraq from Syria last summer. It would also rob the group of a "psychological edge that both facilitated recruitment and intimidated actual and potential rivals, as well as the populations IS controlled," Itani said. (AP)

Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Soleimani seriously injured in Iraq by ISIS suicide squad
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 14, 2015
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander-in-chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Al Qods Brigades, and senior officer of Iranian forces in Iraq, was seriously injured in a targeted attack by an ISIS suicide squad, debkafile reports from military and intelligence sources in the Gulf. The attack took place near Samarra in central Iraq, after agents of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant managed to infiltrate his command staff and get close enough to their target before blowing themselves up. The date of the assassination attempt has not been revealed. Soleimani, 58, who is a member of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s closest circle and a pivotal figure in Iranian military and intelligence, was rushed to hospital in Tehran. In an exclusive report Tuesday, Jan. 13, debkafile first revealed that ISIS had adopted a new tactic of systematically targeting top officers fighting them in Iraq, especially the Iranians, in order to sow confusion and panic among the men under their command. Soleimani won the epithet in the West as Iran’s Shadow Commander for pulling the strings of his country’s clandestine espionage and terrorist operations outside its borders. For nine years, he has masterminded Iran’s military and political involvement in three conflicts, starting with the Hizballah-Israel war of 2006, the nearly four years of Syria’s bloody conflict and the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Gen. Soleimani it was who laid down the strategy Iran adopted in all these military interventions. His latest project was a major effort to weld all of Iraq’s Shiite militias into a single popular army, after coming to the conclusion that the national Iraqi army was past rebuilding as a regular military fit for combat operations after its elite division fell apart in its first confrontation with ISIS. The US had invested $25 billion in rebuilding the Iraqi army. Tuesday, debkafile reported that ISIS had managed to wipe out the forward command group of an Al Qods Brigades commando force early Monday, Jan. 12, killing its commander, Gen. Mehdi Norouzi. His chief is now in bad shape after a jihadist attack using the same modus operandi.

Nuclear talks resume with warnings to Congress over Iran sanctions
WASHINGTON -- Diplomats held yet another round of high-level talks over Iran's nuclear program on Wednesday in Geneva, including over five hours of negotiations between the top diplomats from Iran and the United States. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif engaged in "substantive meetings," the State Department said, and took one break for a fifteen-minute walk along the Rhone River. US officials on the ground told journalists to expect Kerry's departure at the end of the day. But instead, Kerry unexpectedly returned to his hotel for yet more conversation with his Iranian counterpart. "Secretary Kerry is returning to Mandarin Hotel for another meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif," a senior State Department official said.
The talks, pressured by a deadline twice delayed, now center around a political agreement the parties hope to reach by the end of March. The US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany seek to end international concerns over the nature of Iran's nuclear program, which many suspect is military in nature. In Washington, however, aides on Capitol Hill continue to work on the final touches of a bill that would "trigger" new sanctions on Iran should talks ultimately fail, or should Tehran violate terms of an interim deal that laid the groundwork for negotiations, formally known as the Joint Plan of Action.
Leadership in Congress, now under full Republican control, plans to introduce the bill by the president's State of the Union address. But any bill from Congress regarding new, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran during international talks over its nuclear program will be vetoed by US President Barack Obama, the State Department said this week. "Even with a trigger, if there's a bill that's signed into law, and it is US law, in our mind it is a violation of the Joint Plan of Action— which, as we've said, could encourage Iran to violate it," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Tuesday. "A sanctions bill, trigger or not, that is passed and signed into law by the president, which we've said we will not do... would be a violation of the JPOA," she continued. If a deal does not come to pass, Harf said, "we could put initial sanctions on Iran in 24 hours." Harf added on Wednesday that a bill from Congress could "very well lead to a breakdown in these negotiations."
Obama briefed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Monday on "recent developments" in the negotiations. Diplomats at the table have given themselves until June to reach a final, comprehensive agreement. Speaking ahead of the Geneva round, a source in the Prime Minister's Office said that Israel believes pressure on Iran should remain, and even be beefed up "until we see Iran dismantle the military elements" of its nuclear program. The issue of the negotiations is one that comes up in every high-level discussion between Israeli and US officials, he said. Israel has been critical of the US position in negotiations from the start, calling for an increase in pressure."Sanctions alone do not stop Iran's nuclear program. It was through negotiations that we got to the Joint Plan of Action," Harf added.
*Herb Keinon contributed to this report from Jerusalem.

A Moment of Decision on Egypt
David Schenker/Washington Institute
January 14, 2015
Washington is all but certain to resume its military financing to Egypt at some point, but there is little to be gained and potentially much to be lost by waiting for Cairo's Federal Reserve accounts to zero out in the meantime.
Although Egypt is an important strategic asset for the United States -- granting priority Suez Canal access to American warships and unrestricted overflights to American military aircraft -- the new government led by former military commander Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is increasingly repressive. Accordingly, the Obama administration has been reluctant to resume full military and economic assistance to the longtime U.S. aid recipient. If Washington does not deliver in the coming weeks, U.S. foreign military financing (FMF) to Egypt -- a constant since Cairo's 1979 peace treaty with Israel -- will run out, damaging the already tenuous bilateral relationship.
Over the past three decades, Washington has given Egypt over $40 billion in military assistance, a program that today accounts for 80 percent of the country's total annual military procurement budget. Cairo receives $1.3 billion per year in FMF under a program that allows it to purchase U.S.-produced military hardware and technical assistance in coordination with the State and Defense Departments, as well as $250 million in annual economic support funds (ESF). While not an "earmark" per se, U.S. assistance has underpinned Israeli-Egyptian peace since 1981. To be sure, the funds have declined in significance to Egypt over the years: in the early 1980s, they were equivalent to 10 percent of Egypt's GDP, but today the figure is less than 1 percent. Nevertheless, the money remains an important symbol of U.S. commitment and locks Cairo, at least nominally, into a pro-West orbit.
For the past three years, Egypt has been battling a burgeoning insurgency in the Sinai. The revolt -- which has killed over 500 military and security personnel to date -- is led by U.S.-designated terrorist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which recently declared allegiance to the "Islamic State"/ISIS. Worse, the violence is proliferating into the Nile Valley, as the latest series of attacks that killed six police officers in Cairo suggest.
Despite this threat, last year a congressional hold greatly delayed the transfer of ten Apache attack helicopters for use in Egypt's counterinsurgency. Meanwhile, the administration continues to delay the transfer of previously purchased M1A1 tank kits, F-16 fighter jets, and Harpoon missiles.
Alarmed by the toppling of Egypt's previous elected government and creeping authoritarianism under Sisi, Congress legislated conditions in the fiscal year 2014 budget limiting the disbursement of funds. To release the first half of FY 2014 funding, the administration had to certify that Egypt was sustaining the strategic relationship and meeting its peace treaty obligations with Israel. For the remainder of the assistance to be transferred, the secretary of state must certify that Egypt: (1) held a constitutional referendum, (2) is supporting a democratic transition, (3) has held presidential and parliamentary elections, and (4) is taking steps to govern democratically. Alternatively, the secretary can waive these conditions if the assistance is allocated to counterterrorism, border security, counterproliferation, and development efforts in the Sinai.
While the FY 2015 budget passed in December added a general national security waiver to the Sinai waiver provision-- something not present in the FY 2014 legislation -- it was even more restrictive in other ways. Among other things, it compelled the secretary to certify that parliamentary elections were free and fair, and that Egypt was implementing reforms to protect freedom of expression and association, providing detainees with due process, and releasing American political prisoners. At present, Cairo has met none of these conditions, and the FY 2015 funds normally designated for Egypt are yet to be allocated.
Traditionally, U.S. military financing for Egypt was deposited at the beginning of the year in an interest-bearing account at the New York Federal Reserve. Since 2011, however, the funds have been released sporadically in tranches, after administration certifications. In April 2014, the administration certified that Egypt had met its obligations to Washington and Israel and deposited the first tranche of $572 million (half of the $1.3 billion minus the cost of the Apaches). Egypt has been steadily drawing down those funds to the point where both the interest-bearing and management-reserve accounts at the Federal Reserve will likely be exhausted in the coming weeks.
To transfer the remaining $650 million in committed FY 2014 assistance, Secretary Kerry will have to either certify that Egypt is "governing democratically" or invoke the security waiver, ostensibly by allocating the assistance to Sinai counterterror efforts. While the administration may consider these conditions onerous, both the White House and Cairo would likely view the counterterrorism allocation broadly; to wit, the Sisi government regards its imprisonment of Muslim Brotherhood members as "counterterrorism."
Any administration waiver would probably be issued via a letter from the State Department to Congress. This would be followed by briefings to key legislators, most prominently Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a member of the Appropriations Committee who placed the hold on the Apaches last year out of concern for human rights in Egypt.
Given the deterioration in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, as well as the growing ISIS threat in the Sinai, Washington is loath to decrease its security assistance to Egypt. But Cairo's policies are not making the decision any easier for Washington.
A week before the terrorist violence in Paris, President Sisi issued a statement calling for reformation in Islam, generating some rare positive buzz in Washington; his conciliatory Christmas Eve visit to a Coptic church had a similar effect. Unfortunately, the vast majority of recent headlines are not as encouraging. For example, Egypt continues to incarcerate homosexuals and atheists, and it has the second-largest contingent of jailed journalists in the world, according to Journalists Without Borders. Meanwhile, Cairo has announced that no Western organizations will be permitted to monitor the spring 2015 parliamentary elections. And just last week, as part of its strategy to defeat the ISIS insurgency, the government declared that it would raze the Sinai city of Rafah and forcibly remove its 75,000 residents.
Repressive and otherwise ill-advised Egyptian policies have no doubt fueled some of the Obama administration's reticence to issue waivers and provide military support. Indeed, Cairo's behavior is problematic and perhaps even counterproductive to the state's long-term stability, and many in Washington would prefer to withhold military funding as leverage for improvements in human rights. But a full cutoff in U.S. assistance -- especially in the midst of the Sinai insurgency -- would neither improve Cairo's conduct nor enhance the already fraught U.S.-Egyptian relationship. Indeed, precedent suggests that withholding assistance would aggravate -- not moderate -- the worst tendencies in Egyptian governance. For example, between October 2013 and December 2014, when U.S. funding was conditioned on democratic progress, Cairo passed a draconian new anti-protest law, implemented a more restrictive NGO law, and witnessed Sisi win the presidential election with 97 percent of the popular vote.
At this point, the ball is firmly in the administration's court: although Congress conditioned U.S. assistance to Egypt in the first place, it is unlikely to resist if the secretary invokes the waiver and releases the remaining funding. To wit, when the months-long hold on the Apaches was finally lifted in April 2014, there was little if any grumbling on the Hill, and the helicopters were delivered without fanfare or protest in December.
Ultimately, the administration is all but certain to relent and release the remainder of the FY 2014 funding, even if only designated for Sinai-related and counterterrorism activities. Through its hesitancy to issue the waiver, Washington has already signaled its distaste for some of Cairo's policies. It can further demonstrate its aversion to repression in Egypt by taking steps to end the courtesy of "cash flow financing," which allows Cairo to commit to purchasing expensive weapons systems from American defense contractors and cover them with projected future FMF grants. For the time being, though, there is little to be gained and potentially much to be lost by waiting for Egypt's FMF accounts at the Federal Reserve to zero out.
**David Schenker is the Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute.

Lieberman 'tells it how it is': Eliminate Hamas and get rid of Abbas
Gilad Morag/Ynetnews
Published: 01.15.15/ Israel News
Yisrael Beytenu launches new campaign slogan which includes the slogan 'Ariel for Israel, Umm al-Fahm for Palestine.'
Yisrael Beytenu chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman promised his voters to "tell it like it is" on Thursday morning, once again calling to oust both Hamas in Gaza and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.
Lieberman's 2015 campaign slogan, revealed on Thursday, is: "Tachles Lieberman! Telling it how it is." Tachles is a yiddish variation of the Hebrew word tachlit, which means "essence" and is widely used in Israeli slang as meaning "give it to me straight" or "to tell the truth/be honest.""We must eliminate Hamas and get ride of Abu Mazen (Abbas). To tell it like it is, without stuttering. I saw reports that the Likud and Bennett have committed to the Orthodox and will cancel the Burden Equality Law and change the decision on conversion. If these are the guidelines, we will not join the government," Lieberman said. The new slogan will be accompanied by the sentence: "Ariel for Israel, Umm al-Fahm for Palestine." The sentence reflects Lieberman's view that Israel should keep the settlement in any future accord with the Palestinians and, in turn, hand over the Arab populated city located in the Haifa district.
Lieberman said on that 65 people had offered to run for the Yisrael Beytenu list and that he aspires the party to receive 16 mandates. "I don’t reject any faction. The time has come for us to reject one another as little as possible. I never committed myself to anyone. I want to see the guidelines for the next government. If (the government) conducts negotiations with Abu Mazen – (Yisrael Beytenu) has nothing to look for, we will not be there. On the other hand, political fixation is not conductive for us; we are in favor of initiative," he said.
Lieberman said that what determined the underlying principle of the campaign was the video made by Mohammad Zoabi, a relative of MK Hanin Zoabi, that was posted during Operation Protective Edge in which he expresses his support of Israel. Mohammad was forced to run away from Israel because of the threats he received following the publication of the video, including from angry family members, but has since returned. "People often speak of the Jews who are scared in Europe, and what bothered me was that we have gotten to the same situation in Israel," said Lieberman. "The very Arab teenager who supports Israel was forced to run away and does not receive protection – this is what we want to change. When Hanin Zoabi goes around with her head held high, the country protects here, but the boy must hide. This anomaly must end. There is no reason that inciters such as Zoabi, Tibi, and Raed Salah should be citizens of Israel," said Lieberman. Lieberman added that his initiative was pragmatic. "We have reached a crossroads, and decisions must be made and we present a new diplomatic approach against a anarchistic approach that is being offered by others," said Lieberman. Lieberman, whose party is under investigation and whose list for the Knesset faced turmoil after the resignation of senior members and ministers within the party, spoke of the new formation of Yisrael Beytenu. "Half of the emerging list will be (composed of) new people. It will be based off those who developed within the party. It is clear that the list will be very young, especially the first ten," said Lieberman.
"I would ask those who left to stay, but the process of renewal is natural and it is important that it continues. The time has come for us to try to pass on the reins to the generation that grew up in the party. Yair Shamir is abroad, and when he returns we will sit together and make a decision," said Lieberman. The foreign minister also addressed the recent investigation into Yisrael Beytenu and said that he has no problem with the investigation – only with the timing. "The police has the right to investigate, and whoever is found guilty will have to pay the price. My objections are regarding the timing and attempts to convict through the media," said Lieberman. "As far as I'm concerned, this is the most political investigation in Israel – there is smoke with no fire. I'm sure that it is only a storm in a teacup, but who will it interest after the elections?" said Lieberman.

Muslim who saved Jews in attack on kosher deli to get French nationality
Reuters/Ynetnews /Published: 01.15.15, 18:53 / Israel News
Lassana Bathily to get French passport after French interior ministry accepts petition to fast-track his request for citizenship. A Malian Muslim who hid shoppers from an Islamist gunman during an attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris will be given French nationality, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday. After the gunman had already killed people during a hostage taking in the store on Friday, 24-year old shop attendant Lassana Bathily hid several people. Bathily saved the lives of six people whom he took to the supermarket's freezer – sparing them from the scarring scene that was underway. Four people were killed in the attack on the kosher supermarket before police were finally able to raid the store and kill the attacker – Amedy Coulibaly. Among the six lives that Bathily saved was a one-month-old baby. "When they ran downstairs I opened the door to the freezer and I went inside with them," said Bathily. "I turned off the light and I turned off the freezer. I left the freezer and told them to stay calm." He then escaped to look for help. After initially being suspected of being an accomplice, he was able to tell police what was happening inside the store, where four Jewish hostages were killed before police shot gunman Amedy Coulibaly, a Frenchman of Malian origin. "I am a devout Muslim, I even pray in the store. We get on excellently, the Jews and I, and the terror attack has hurt me," Bathily said in an exclusive interview with Ynet's sister publication, Yedioth Ahronoth. "I have been in shock since it happened." "I helped Jews. We're all brothers," Bathily told BFM TV. It's not a question of Jews, Christians or Muslims, we're all in the same boat," he said. A petition had been going around France over the last week to give Bathily citizenship. Following the acts of bravery by Mr Bathily during the hostage taking in the Hyper Casher market on Jan. 9, the Interior Ministry has fast-tracked (his) request for citizenship," the Interior Ministry said in a statement. An official ceremony will be held on Jan 20. Last week, 17 people were killed in three days of violence that began with an attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly and ended with dual sieges at a print works outside Paris and the kosher supermarket.

Iran could resume nuclear enrichment if sanctions hiked
Ynetnews /AFP/Published: 01.15.15 / Israel News
Republican-controlled US Congress is considering a fresh sanctions bill to force concessions from Tehran in nuclear talks. Some Iranian lawmakers are considering a push toward resuming unlimited uranium enrichment if the United States imposes new sanctions on Tehran amid negotiations on the country's nuclear program, speaker Ali Larijani said Thursday. Iran and major world powers have given themselves until June to reach a comprehensive agreement that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of iron-clad global sanctions. The United States and Iran were seeking this week to break a stalemate that has seen two earlier deadlines pass without an accord. Among issues complicating negotiations, the new Republican-controlled US Congress is considering a fresh sanctions bill to force concessions from Iran at the multilateral talks that resume this week in Geneva. The United States, along with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia are pressing Iran for a deal. Washington's UN ambassador, Samantha Power, warned Congress on Monday that ratcheting up sanctions against Iran would likely torpedo the negotiations. In a speech Thursday in the Iranian city of Qom, Larijani warned the world powers they "cannot haggle with us," saying they must "make correct use of the opportunities offered to them." "Recently some deputies have been considering a bill stipulating that Iran will pursue its activities at whatever level of enrichment... if the West decides to impose new sanctions," he warned. On Wednesday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said "any new sanction would mean a halt to the (negotiation) process underway" with the world powers. Past talks with the so-called P5+1 group have stumbled over Iran's insistence that it retain the right to enrich some uranium - which can be used to make an atomic bomb - for what it says is a peaceful civilian nuclear program. There is also disagreement over the world powers wanting Iran to freeze its nuclear program for 10 to 15 years, while Iran insists on no more than 10 years, and over global sanctions. Tehran wants an immediate end to the measures while Washington has insisted on a temporary, gradual suspension. Under an interim deal reached in 2013, Iran's stock of fissile material has been diluted from 20 percent enriched uranium to five percent in exchange for limited sanctions relief. This would push back the "breakout capacity" to make an atomic weapon, which Iran denies pursuing.

A New Name for ISIS
Prince Turki al-Faisal /Asharq Al Awsat
 Thursday, 15 Jan, 2015
When the international community decided to punish Al-Qaeda and the Taliban for the 9/11 attacks, a number of Al-Qaeda members fled to Iran. The Iranian authorities then sheltered these militants under the supervision of the intelligence service. Some of them included members of Osama Bin Laden’s family, as well as Saif Al-Adl, one of Al-Qaeda’s most senior military commanders and the man responsible for planning the attacks on Riyadh in May 2003, and Salih Al-Qar’awi, the leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Qar’awi later relocated to Waziristan in Pakistan where he was eventually killed by an American drone attack and his body flown back to Saudi Arabia from Pakistan.
Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the destruction of the Iraqi government, military and security institutions, Tehran allowed many of these individuals to enter neighboring Iraq, where they found fertile ground to carry out their schemes. Here, they re-grouped and rebranded under the new name, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and were also joined by militants coming from other countries, such as Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and Muhsin Al-Fadhli, the leader of the Khorasan Brigades. Fadhli, who comes from a prominent Shi’ite family in Kuwait, is believed to be responsible for the attack in Najaf that killed the senior Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir Al-Hakim. The Iranian government also allowed Fadhli to enter Syria shortly after the uprising there began.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad actually allowed the entry of many of these individuals through his country and its borders, where they eventually made their way into Iraq. In fact, and in what is the first twist in this story, former Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki sought during his first term in office to submit an official complaint to the UN Security Council accusing Assad of supporting terrorist groups and allowing the passage of their members into Iraq. But Maliki never followed through on the accusation, leaving space for Al-Qaeda in Iraq to form in the country, where it eventually found strong resistance in the form of US forces and armed Sunni tribal coalitions. Many members of the group and its leadership were killed during these fierce battles, among them Zarqawi. Those who survived were thrown into American-run prisons in Iraq; but as soon as the US started pulling troops out of the country during Maliki’s first term, the men were released. Among them was Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, along with some of his close aides.
From there the seeds of a new terror organization were sown, one that would soon begin to carry out abominable terror campaigns. The group started recruiting disgruntled former soldiers from Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army and played on the grievances of the Iraqi Sunni population, which was angered by Maliki’s sectarian policies and his giving free rein to armed Shi’ite militias to persecute Sunnis. This eventually led to popular uprisings in some of the country’s Sunni-dominated areas, where the people called for Maliki’s resignation and their full civil rights as Iraqi citizens. Maliki duly responded by violently quashing the uprisings, which led to thousands of Iraqis from Sunni tribes either being killed or driven from their homes, especially in the western Anbar province, which forms the main entry point into Syria. And here comes the next twist in the story: due to the lack of any international pressure on Maliki, this new group, now calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq, gained a safe haven in Anbar province, whose residents had fought its precursor, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, so fiercely. The organization then began to form sleeper cells in Sunni-dominated areas, especially in Mosul, and to recruit former members of Saddam Hussein’s army and fighters from the Naqshbandi Army, whose senior members include former Saddam aide Izzat Al-Douri.
After the start of the uprising in Syria against the Assad regime, which witnessed mainly peaceful demonstrations, Assad was unable to contain the protests using his shabiha militias or the Syrian army. He then took the malicious decision to turn the Syrian people’s peaceful uprising into a sectarian–terrorist conflict. Assad set free a number of prisoners in Syrian jails, all of whom were incarcerated on terror-related charges. The most infamous of them included Al-Qaeda leader Abu Khaled Al-Souri, who founded another terror group, Ahrar Al-Sham. Assad also called on other individuals belonging to terror groups outside Syria—whom he had previously allowed to leave the country and enter Iraq—to return to Syria. Among them were founding members of both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Al-Nusra Front, in addition to other groups. He also called on members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Lebanese Hezbollah, and members of Iraqi Shi’ite militias. All of these groups would assist him in murdering his own people.
As the conflict intensified, Assad continued to pound the Syrian population. When the terror groups began to become bolder and take the fight to the opposition’s Free Syrian Army (FSA)—mainly due to Western reluctance to arm and support the FSA—and impose their bloody will on some of the cities and towns they had captured, Assad began to use barrel bombs and even chemical weapons on the Syrian people, who were now, alongside the FSA, fighting a war on two fronts: one against Assad, and another against the terrorists.
It was during this time that the Islamic State of Iraq became “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” or “ISIS.” And with both the Syrian and Iraqi governments losing control of the borders between the two countries, the group was now able to make its lightening advance across Iraq, taking Mosul with the help of the sleeper cells it had planted in the city, as well as the former soldiers in Saddam’s army, some members of the Sunni tribes, and supporters of the Naqshbandi Army. And, in what was an embarrassing episode for the government of Nuri Al-Maliki, 3,000 members of this group were able to effortlessly roll past the 40,000-strong Iraqi army. Shortly after, ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi announced the new Islamic “caliphate” and gave the group its latest name, “Islamic State,” though it continued to be referred to in the region as “Da’esh,” the Arabic acronym of its previous name, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
I have given the group a different name, however: “Fahesh.” I believe it is the more appropriate one, as the word derives from an Arabic root meaning, “obscene.” When we refer to someone using this word it means they commit obscenities, whether through words or deeds. For what could be more obscene than killing innocent people, enslaving women, declaring countless Muslims as infidels, driving people from their homes, brazenly exhibiting the heads of those you have decapitated, legitimizing the killing of those who say “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet,” plundering banks, selling captives like chattel, and extorting those in areas under your control?
Moreover, the group’s styling itself as “Islamic State” shows it is completely out of touch with reality and ignorant of international laws, since the dictionary definition of the word “state” is: “a politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite sovereign territory, overseen by a group of permanent institutions.” The essential components of any state are, therefore, a government, a people, a defined physical territory, and sovereignty, as well as the international and legal recognition of its statehood. Neither Iraq nor Syria totally fall under the control of this group, neither does it practice its authority via permanent institutions—and, of course, there is no international recognition of any kind for this so-called state. As for its “Islamic” credentials, these are completely bogus. The members of this group are indeed the new Kharijites of the Muslim world (a 7th-century group that left the fold of Islam and was notorious for its barbarity and cruelty). ISIS’s crimes testify to the appropriateness of this particular appellation.
“Whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind.” (Qur’an, Surat Al-Ma’ida 5. 32)

Paris as the Capital of the World
Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat
Thursday, 15 Jan, 2015
“Paris is the capital of the world,” French President François Hollande said recently after the Paris terror attacks, expressing the international support his country has received in the form of a million-strong march in Paris led by him and some 40 world leaders and officials of different levels. The march aimed to demonstrate French unity and the world’s support for France against the terrorist crime that took place there.
The significance of Hollande’s words does not lie in their emotional dimension, but rather indicates how the world is now a different place after these attacks—in the same way the world also changed after the September 11, 2001 attacks. It also demonstrates that France will come to the forefront of the international efforts in the war on terrorism. What France has recently suffered from, and the international support it has received, means the French will have the last word in determining the course of future events in terms of the fight on terror. This is neither perplexing nor uncomfortable, particularly since France is among the West’s most capable countries in terms of realizing the nature of the developments and all terror-related issues in our region.
France has a clear position against terrorism and terrorists, particularly in Mali where it fought Al-Qaeda. It holds a clear and strict position on the situation in Syria and Bashar Al-Assad’s role in fueling the sectarian conflict there, and ensuring that Syria turns into a magnet for terrorists from all over the world, including France. By doing so, Assad wants to say that he is fighting terrorism and that the world needs to stand with him despite his crimes. France has also formulated a clear and strict position on the Iranian nuclear program and realizes the dangers of Tehran’s behavior and the risks of the leniency that the Barack Obama administration has shown on the issue. Paris realizes well the seriousness of What the Houthi movement is doing in Yemen as well as the role Iran is playing in Iraq.
All of this tells us that creating channels of communication with the French, immediately and on all levels, is as significant as showing solidarity with them against these attacks. In other words, establishing an operations room for cooperation with Paris on the new anti-terrorism agenda, to be put forward at the security conference organized by Washington, where France will certainly have the greatest influence. Therefore, communication with France should be stepped up more than ever, particularly since that the Gulf, Iraq, Yemen, and, of course, Syria—squeezed between Assad and Iran on one side and Al-Qaeda, the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on the other—are all victims of terrorism.
It is true that Paris is not going to send troops to the region, as George W. Bush did after the 9/11 attacks, but it will map out, or make a major contribution to, a new anti-terrorism plan. Therefore, there should be communication and coordination with France, particularly since its positions are identical to the wise in our region, whether in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon. Such steps should be taken immediately because, indeed, “Paris is the capital of the world.”

Bluster can backfire
The Daily Star/Jan. 16, 2015
Amid a flurry of recent Israeli threats against Lebanon, it is understandable that Hezbollah, as the Resistance party, should want to project an image of itself as strong and capable of protecting the southern border. This is important not just for the morale of its own members and fighters, but for the population, and the people who rely on the party to protect them. But it has always been renowned as a humble party. In fact Israel was forced to admit – following its defeat in the 2006 war – that it had underestimated Hezbollah’s arsenal and capabilities. Its silence regarding its own strengths no doubt in part helped Hezbollah win the war. Hezbollah’s pronouncements of its arsenal are undoubtedly accurate, but that does not mean it should be shared with the world. In a way, an element of strategy can be seen behind such statements. Hezbollah does not want a new war with Israel, whatever the latter might state. Letting Israel know just how prepared the party is for any attack could be an attempt to dissuade the Jewish state from starting one. But if these announcements are too loud, they could ultimately have the opposite effect, and could be seen by the enemy as tempting fate. For if the party is so strong, so undefeatable, why can it not take over northern Israel, and then eventually liberate Palestine, some may begin to ask?
It is well within Hezbollah’s rights to act as a resistance party, and do what it can – alongside the Army – to help protect Lebanon against external threats, but it should not start sounding as if it believes itself to be a superpower, or even a state. This will do the party no favors.