January 28/15

Bible Quotation for today/Jonah Flees From the Lord
Jonah 01/01-17:"The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:  Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.  The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.  At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 27-28/15
Who is lurking in the shadows of Iran’s nuclear talks/Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabiya/January 27/15
Netanyahu's gift to Iran/Nahum Barnea/Ynetnews/January 27/15
Riyadh Rendezvous: Obama to Meet with New Saudi King/Simon Henderson/Wasington Institute/January 27/15
Uncoordinated Deconfliction' in Syria: A Recipe to Contain, Not Defeat, ISIS/Andrew J. Tabler/Washington Institute/January 27/15
Israeli Druze former soldier beaten by Jewish gang: We are all the same race/Roei Eisenberg/Ynetnews/January 27/15
Iran nuclear debate takes partisan shape, as Democrats resist/MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/January 27/15
Only Muslims can change the world’s view of Islam/MOHAMMED WATTAD/Jpost/January 27/15
Idiocy and Islamophobia/Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat/January 27/15

Lebanese Related News published on January 27-28/15
Report: France, U.S. Competing to Deliver Arms to Lebanon
Lebanese Army Continues to Target Militants in Ras Baalbek Outskirts
Orient Patriarchs Call for 'Halting Support' of Terror Groups in Syria
Al-Rahi Calls for Uprooting Terrorists, Hopes Dialogue Would Resolve Baabda Impasse
Orient Patriarchs Call for 'Halting Support' of Terror Groups in Syria
MEA Cancels Tuesday's Flights to and from Baghdad after Shooting
U.S. Sends New Batch of Aid to Lebanese Army
Future, Hezbollah vow full support for Army
Change and Reform Calls for Cooperation with Syrian Army to Win Border Battles
FAO Experts Assess Beirut Slaughterhouse as Security Forces Arrest 3 for Selling Spoiled Chicken
10 Real Estate Registry Employees Charged with Abuse of Authority
Portolano Voices Fear over Regional Developments, Says Situation in South under Control
Labor Minister Urges Anti-IS Coalition Pledge to Protect Lebanon
Unions denounce 'backwards' maid protection law
Employees protest Casino du Liban mass layoffs
3 arrested for selling spoiled chicken
UN health inspectors survey Beirut slaughterhouse
Casino du Liban in Crisis after 191 Contract Employees Fired

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 27-28/15
Iran relays warning to Israel through Washington, backing it with four-rocket volley from Syrian Golan
Iran sends warning to Israel via US officials
US Democrats hold support for Iran sanctions bill
ISIS message threatens Japan, Jordan hostages
Three more Beheaded under New Saudi King
Obama in Saudi Arabia for Talks with New King
At Least Five Arrested in 'Anti-Jihadist' Raid in France
Israeli jets strike in Syria after rockets hit Golan Heights
Rockets Fired from Syria Hit Israeli-Held Golan
Nine Dead Including Five Foreigners in Tripoli Hotel Assault
Kurds Expand Fight Against IS after Retaking Syria's Kobane
Iraqi forces claim victory over ISIS in Diyala
IS Threatens to Kill Japan, Jordan Hostages in 24 Hours
Muslims First Victims of 'Terrorism' Says French FM
Oil Price 'Too Low': Saudi Aramco Chief
Egypt Rejects Activists' Last Appeal over Illegal Protest
U.N. Rights Chief Deplores Killing of Protesters in Egypt
U.N. Warns Crisis Looms for Families in Southern Iraq
Fidel Castro Breaks Silence on U.S.-Cuba Rapprochement
Turkey's Rights Record Under Fire at U.N.
Drone kills three Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen
Turkey’s Erdogan says no to Syrian Kurdistan
Argentine president to shutdown spy agency after prosecutor’s death

Jehad Watch Site Latest Posts
French police arrest five Muslims in town that is jihad recruiting center
Vote early and often: Robert Spencer’s Arab Winter Comes to America as Islamophobic Book of the Year!
Islamic Republic of Iran: “The leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act.”
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Islamic State Makes New Demand on Japan
Two days before Holocaust Memorial Day, BBC asks: “Is the time coming to lay the Holocaust to rest?”
Sharia-compliant Daily Beast worries: “Are Russia’s Troops Vandalizing Korans In Dagestan?”
Pat Condell: “Jews are being driven out of Europe by Muslim anti-Semitism”
Swedish soldier: I’ll get less help when back from Afghanistan than jihadis returning from Islamic State
Two rockets from Syria strike Israeli Golan
Libya: Islamic State jihadists storm hotel, kill three, take hostages

Report: France, U.S. Competing to Deliver Arms to Lebanon
Naharnet /France and the United States are reportedly competing to arm the Lebanese military and benefit from the Saudi grants as it desperately needs weapons to confront the increasing threats by militants, in particular along Lebanon's eastern border.
A source following up the army deals under two Saudi financial grants told al-Akhbar newspaper published on Tuesday that the U.S. arms are very different from the French arms that ODAS company is in charge of delivering to Lebanon. “The U.S. was in a hurry to deliver (arms) to prove that its weapons are the best to combat terror groups,” the source told the daily. However, the source said newspaper that the U.S. is facing a dilemma due to strict measures by the Congress that prevent the delivery of arms directly to other countries.
The Congress argues that the delivery of arms directly to the Lebanese state poses the risk of “handing over the weapons to terror groups,” the source added. The move prompted the U.S. administration to “ship arms to Jordan in order to deliver them to Lebanon,” and the same technique will be used through the United Arab Emirates, al-Akhbar said. Saudi Arabia last year announced it would give the Lebanese army $3 billion to purchase weapons and equipment from France, but that deal has yet to be fully implemented. In August, the kingdom offered another $1 billion in funds to allow the army to purchase supplies immediately. Washington has also sought to bolster Lebanon's military, and recently announced it had delivered a new shipment of Hellfire missiles and would also supply light aircraft. The pledges and arms deliveries come as several allies of Lebanon step up efforts to bolster its armed forces as the threat from jihadists in the region grows.

Lebanese Army Continues to Target Militants in Ras Baalbek Outskirts
Naharnet/The Lebanese army targeted militant posts and movements on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek in the eastern Bekaa, media reports said on Tuesday. The army heavily shelled the outskirts of the area where gunmen are entrenched. For the past two days, the military has been targeting militants taking positions along Lebanon's eastern border with heavy artillery after bloody clashes with jihadists killed eight Lebanese troops and wounded several others in the Tallat al-Hamra area in Ras Baalbek “when terrorists attacked a military surveillance post.”The mountainous area has long been a smuggling haven, with multiple routes into Syria that have been used since the conflict began in March 2011 to transport weapons and fighters. Syria's civil war has regularly spilled into Lebanon, with jihadists briefly overrunning the eastern Lebanese town of Arsal in August after running gun battles with the army. The jihadists withdrew after a ceasefire, but took with them several dozen hostages from the Lebanese army and police, four of whom have since been executed.

MEA Cancels Tuesday's Flights to and from Baghdad after Shooting
Naharnet /Middle East Airlines joined on Tuesday other carriers in the region to cancel flights to Baghdad after a plane from Dubai came under fire as it landed in the Iraqi capital a day earlier. A short statement said MEA canceled the flights to and from the Iraqi capital for Tuesday given the circumstances at Baghdad International Airport. MEA had only one scheduled flight to Baghdad at noon and another flight from there to Beirut in the afternoon. MEA chief executive officer Mohammad al-Hout told Agence France Presse that flights to other Iraqi cities were continuing as normal. "As far as tomorrow's (flight) is concerned, we are waiting to assess the situation and see what steps are going to be taken before deciding," he said. MEA's statement came after Dubai government-backed discount carrier FlyDubai confirmed that it was the airline involved in the shooting on Monday night. It said small-arms fire damaged the plane's fuselage and that no passengers needed medical attention at the airport. It canceled its only flight to Baghdad on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Emirates and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways separately said they are suspending flights to Iraq until further notice. Budget carrier Air Arabia, based in the emirate of Sharjah, near Dubai, also confirmed it was suspending flights. Gulf Air, the national carrier of the island kingdom of Bahrain, followed suit. It was unclear who was behind the shooting on Monday and whether the FlyDubai plane was deliberately targeted. Baghdad International Airport is surrounded by a vast and heavily guarded security perimeter lined with concrete blast walls, making it difficult for insurgents to fire on incoming planes.

Orient Patriarchs Call for 'Halting Support' of Terror Groups in Syria
Naharnet /The Christian patriarchs of the Orient on Tuesday urged the international community and humanitarian organizations to offer aid to the refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as they called for ending all support to terrorist organizations. “The fathers expressed grief over the martyrdom of eight more Lebanese Army soldiers as they were performing the duty of defending the border in the face of the terrorist groups,” said a statement issued after a meeting in Bkirki for the Council of Patriarchs of the Orient. “We reiterate support for the Lebanese army and call on everyone to stand by it, provide it with the full political cover and supply it with the necessary weapons,” the statement added. It was referring to fierce weekend clashes between the army and Syria-based jihadist militants in the outskirts of the Bekaa border town of Ras Baalbek. Eight troops were killed and over 20 wounded in the fighting. Addressing Lebanon's presidential crisis, the patriarchs called on the political and parliamentary blocs to “shoulder their responsibilities and elect a president,” hoping the ongoing dialogue among some political forces “will lead to resolving this crisis, in cooperation with the friendly countries.”Turning to the regional conflicts, the conferees thanked all the organizations that have offered aid to “the refugees who are living in dire conditions.” “We call for providing the needed aid for the refugees and helping them to return to their land and reconstruct their homes. We urge the liberation of the captive civilians and clergymen and an end to the war and to the financing and arming of terrorist groups,” the patriarchs said. Commenting on the situations of Christians in the Middle East, the Christian leaders added: “Our youths are finding no other choice but to emigrate, and even if the churches double their services, they won't manage to resolve these crises.”
They also called on the followers of Levantine churches to “unite their stances and work with all those who have good intentions, in order to halt wars and acts of terror and revive just and comprehensive peace in this suffering region of the world.”

Al-Rahi Calls for Uprooting Terrorists, Hopes Dialogue Would Resolve Baabda Impasse
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi called on Tuesday for ending support to terrorist organizations and the closure of the border to stop the infiltration of gunmen. During a meeting for Catholic Patriarchs in Bkirki, al-Rahi urged the eradication of terrorists, and called on their backers to stop arming them and halt their financial support. “Nothing justifies terrorist attacks against humanity,” he said. He also hoped that the dialogue among rival parties would lead to a solution to the presidential deadlock. Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal representatives have been holding talks under the sponsorship of Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain el-Tineh since December. Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, both presidential candidates, are also expected to meet soon.
The rivalry between Aoun and Geagea and their alliances has left Baabda Palace vacant since the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's six-year term in May last year. Al-Rahi said the vacuum at the Baabda Palace led to the paralysis of the parliament and the lack of productivity in the cabinet. He also lamented vacancies in several top diplomatic posts, including Lebanese embassies, as a result of the absence of a head of state. Al-Rahi said that during their meeting, the patriarchs would study the situation of Christian refugees in Syria and Iraq, their needs, ways to find them jobs and provide education to their children so that they stay in their home countries. “Another objective is to unify our voices for the international community to provide the necessary assistance to the refugees and help them return to their homes … and rebuild them,” said al-Rahi. The patriarch urged the Arab world and the West to resolve the Syrian crisis politically and called for the return of the Palestinians to their lands.

Change and Reform Calls for Cooperation with Syrian Army to Win Border Battles
Naharnet /The Change and Reform bloc urged the army on Tuesday to finish its battle with extremist groups along the eastern border, saying it should bolster its positions and put an end to the infiltrations of terrorists. Former Minister Salim Jreissati said at the end of the bloc's weekly meeting: “We call for cooperation between the Lebanese and Syrian armies to achieve this goal.”“The army should not just request political cover, but it should finish the border battles,” he declared.
Moreover, Jreissati said that the army is still awaiting weapons shipments from foreign countries that will enable it to properly confront terrorists. “It should request arms from whichever side is willing to offer it,” he added. Commenting on the death of Saudi King Abdullah last week, Jreissati stated: “The bloc hopes that the kingdom will continue to unite the Arab world, starting with confronting Israeli and extremist terrorism.” Eight soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in clashes with terrorists in the Tallet al-Hamra region in Ras Baalbek on Friday.
The army on Tuesday continued to shell militant posts and movements on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek The mountainous area has long been a smuggling haven, with multiple routes into Syria that have been used since the conflict began in March 2011 to transport weapons and fighters. Syria's civil war has regularly spilled into Lebanon, with jihadists briefly overrunning the northeastern town of Arsal in August after gun battles with the army. The jihadists withdrew after a ceasefire, but took with them several dozen hostages from the Lebanese army and police, four of whom have since been executed.

Casino du Liban in Crisis after 191 Contract Employees Fired
Naharnet/Casino du Liban was plunged into a major crisis on Tuesday after the board of directors sacked 191 contract employees in a step it described as a “salvation” move, which prompted the laid off workers to shut down the vital tourist attraction.
“Due to your lack of discipline and your irregular attendance at work, hence your lack of productivity at the Casino du Liban company, it has been decided to consider you dismissed from work at your full responsibility as of the evening of Friday, January 30, 2015,” the company said in a dismissal letter sent to the employees. According to those laid off, the decision was taken by the central bank in coordination with the Intra Investment Company which owns 52% of the casino's shares. The decision “received the approval of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and a full ministerial cover,” OTV reported. “Some employees' lack of productivity and attendance has led to a deterioration in operations and revenues, which puts at stake the company's future and existence,” the Casino du Liban company said in a statement. “Radical salvation measures have been taken, under which the contracts of … unproductive employees were terminated,” the company added.
It also stressed that it “will not back down from these necessary measures, regardless of any considerations and mediations inside and outside the company.”“The integrity of the institution and its continuity are an ethical and legal responsibility that cannot be compromised or neglected under any circumstances,” the company added. In this regard, LBCI television revealed that “a large of number of laid-off employees had enjoyed major political cover.” “Some of them were being paid salaries as high as $11,000 without any attendance … while others were residing outside Lebanon,” the TV network said. Several employees, however, stressed to LBCI that they “did not skip work for a single moment.” “I have been working here for the past 40 years and I was not absent for one second,” one of them said.
The decision prompted the laid-off employees to stage a sit-in outside the casino and block the main road leading to it.
What happened was “a massacre against 200 families, because reform must begin from the top,” Jacques Khoueiry, head of the union of gaming employees, told LBCI, in a jab against the board of directors. Politicians swiftly jumped into the controversy, with Change and Reform bloc MP Simon Abi Ramia holding a press conference in the evening outside the casino, whose doors were blocked by the sacked employees. “We were demanding a reform plan because the casino's situation was deteriorating and we were with the reform plans, but we were surprised by an arbitrary decision that was planned in dark rooms and led to firing 191 employees, without whom Casino du Liban would not have existed,” Abi Ramia said.
He called on Central Bank governor Salameh to “reverse the arbitrary measures and deem all dismissal letters null and void.”“Reform should start through sacking the casino's board of directors, because reform must begin from the top,” the MP added. “At the personal level, I will file a lawsuit because I own two shares in the casino. I will open the file of corruption and fund squandering in the casino as of October 11, which is the day the current board of directors assumed its duties,” the lawmaker went on to say. The press conference was also attended by Change and Reform bloc MP Ziad Aswad and Hadi Chehwan, the head of the union of Casino du Liban employees, who emphasized that “any reform process not based on the rules of justice would be an incomplete and arbitrary move that would create a major problem for the company instead of serving its interest.”The news conference was also attended by a brother of ex-MP Farid Haykal al-Khazen. “This is a social massacre,” the man said of the decision. “Reform cannot be achieved through ruining people's lives and displacing them from their homes … and it cannot be achieved through sacking without any probe or scrutiny,” he added.
Meanwhile, sources close to Speaker Nabih Berri denied media reports about a role for him in the dismissal of employees, noting that he “has not interfered in the issue of Casino du Liban and he has left it to the Intra company and the central bank to take the appropriate measures.”And as the Casino du Liban company underlined that its decision does not reflect any politicization or hidden agendas, OTV reported that the company was preparing to fire a new group of employees.
According to the TV network, the casino's employees had numbered 2,206 until Tuesday morning.

Rockets Fired from Syria Hit Israeli-Held Golan
Naharnet/At least two rockets fired from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday prompting Israeli forces to return fire, the army said.There were no immediate reports of casualties on the Israeli side. Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner said in a text message the Syrian fire was "intentional, not spillover from the Syrian civil war" as has sometimes been the case in the past. In September the army fired at a Syrian military position in response to what it said was stray fire from fighting between soldiers and Islamist rebels close to the armistice line on the Golan. There has been repeated fire across the ceasefire line since the uprising in Syria erupted in March 2011, not all of it stray. In August, five rockets fired from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights and, in July, Israel shelled Syrian army positions when a rocket struck its territory. Tensions have soared along the ceasefire line since a January 18 air strike attributed to Israel killed six Hizbullah fighters and an Iranian general near Quneitra on the Syrian-held side of the strategic plateau.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Friday that Israel was prepared for any retaliation by Lebanon's Hizbullah, which is operating in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad. "Israel will hold responsible governments, regimes and organizations on the other side of our northern borders over any violation of Israel's sovereignty, or an attack on soldiers or civilians," he said during a tour of the Golan and the nearby border with Lebanon. Israel has deployed its Iron Dome missile defense system in the north, where local media say it is amassing tanks and infantry reinforcements. The army said that after Tuesday's rocket attack it evacuated visitors from the Mount Hermon ski resort near the armistice line and security sources said farmers were told to leave their fields and go into bomb shelters. Police said they had set up roadblocks to stop civilians entering the area. Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community. Syria and Israel are still officially in a state of war.
Agence France Presse

Nine Dead Including Five Foreigners in Tripoli Hotel Assault
Naharnet/Gunmen stormed a hotel in Tripoli popular with diplomats and officials Tuesday in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group, killing at least nine people including five foreigners before blowing themselves up. After setting off a car bomb outside the luxury Corinthia Hotel in Libya's capital, three armed militants rushed inside and opened fire, Issam al-Naass, a spokesman for the security services, told AFP. They made it to the 24th floor of the hotel, which is a major hub for diplomatic and government activity in Tripoli, before being surrounded by security forces and blowing themselves up, he said. The dead included three security guards killed in the initial attack, five foreigners shot dead by the gunmen and a hostage who died when the attackers blew themselves up, he said.
At least five people were also wounded during the assault, including two Filipina employees hurt by broken glass from the car bomb explosion, he said. The nationalities of the foreigners killed and the person taken hostage were not immediately known, but Naass said two of the foreigners were women. The hotel's 24th floor is normally used by Qatar's mission to Libya but no diplomats or officials were present during the assault, a security source said. The head of Libya's self-declared government, Omar al-Hassi, was also inside the hotel at the time of the attack but was evacuated safely, Naass said.
In a brief statement on Twitter, the Tripoli branch of the Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group said. It said it was carrying out the attack in honor of Abu Anas al-Libi, an al-Qaida suspect who died in the United States earlier this month, days before facing a trial for bombing U.S. embassies. Several militant groups in Libya have pledged allegiance to IS, the Sunni extremist organization that has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic "caliphate".
Security forces loyal to Hassi's government, which is jostling for power with the internationally backed authority of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, surrounded the building during the assault. Ambulances, armored vehicles and pick-up trucks with mounted artillery could be seen around the hotel during the assault. Security forces prevented journalists from entering the hotel after the assault, saying work was needed inside to ensure the assailants had not left behind booby traps. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini condemned the attack, calling it "another reprehensible act of terrorism which deals a blow to efforts to bring peace and stability to Libya." She expressed "solidarity with the victims and their families" but made no mention of the nationalities of the dead. "Such attacks should not be allowed to undermine the political process," Mogherini said in a statement. A new round of UN-mediated peace talks between Libya's rival factions kicked off in Geneva on Monday as they seek to implement a roadmap on forming a unity government.
The North African nation has been wracked by conflict since the overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 uprising, with rival governments and powerful militias battling for control of key cities and the country's oil riches. The Islamist-backed Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia alliance took control of Tripoli last summer, forcing Thani's government to flee to the remote east. The luxurious Corinthia was long considered a haven in a city beset by unrest, with officials, diplomats and foreign businessmen crossing paths in its lavish reception area.
In October 2013, then prime minister Ali Zeidan was seized by gunmen from the hotel, where he was residing. He was released after several hours. British Prime Minister David Cameron and then French president Nicolas Sarkozy held talks with top officials at the hotel in September 2011, when they where the first foreign leaders to visit Libya after Kadhafi's ouster. Agence France Presse

At Least Five Arrested in 'Anti-Jihadist' Raid in France
Naharnet/At least five people were arrested during an anti-jihadist operation in southern France that was still ongoing early Tuesday, a security source said. The operation took place in the small town of Lunel east of Montpellier in southern France, from where around 20 young people have left for Syria. Six of them, aged 18 to 30, have been killed since October. Crack French security forces launched the operation at 6:00 am local time in a building in the center of the town, according to witnesses that spoke to Agene Frane Presse.
"Several unmarked cars drew up. Masked men got out and smashed in the doors to the apartments in the building," said one resident of the block, who said they had threatened him. "They put a gun to my head ... in the end, they arrested my neighbour above me, Said," said this witness. Another witness said authorities had taken away his brother. "They flattened me, got me on the floor, hit me. Then they took away my brother," this man said. French security sources have pointed to the small town of Lunel as a "recruitment network" for jihadists.
Some 1,400 people living in France have either joined the jihadist cause in Syria and Iraq or are planning to do so, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said earlier this month. France has launched several raids targeting alleged jihadists after a trio of Islamist gunmen left 17 people dead in and around Paris in a three-day rampage earlier in January. Agence France Presse
Oil Price 'Too Low': Saudi Aramco Chief
Naharnet /World oil prices have fallen too far, the president of state-owned energy giant Saudi Aramco said Tuesday, stressing it was for the market not OPEC producers to shore them up. "It's too low for everybody," Khalid al-Falih told a conference. "I think even consumers start to suffer in the long term."Falih also said American shale oil production is important for the world's long-term energy future and Saudi Aramco has marked an additional $7 billion for its own shale projects. Saudi Aramco is the world's largest oil company in terms of crude production and exports. The kingdom is the leading exporter and top producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). In November, the cartel decided to maintain its output ceiling at 30 million barrels per day, deepening the global price drop which began in June. Oil was then trading at more than $100 a barrel but on Tuesday international benchmark Brent crude for March delivery was fetching just $48.28 in Asian trade. Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi has been quoted as saying it is unfair to expect the cartel to reduce output if non-members, who account for most of the world's crude production, do not. Falih reiterated that policy, saying: "Saudi Arabia will not singlehandedly balance the market on a downturn." The company's production has been steady over the past few years, while domestic demand rose and exports gradually declined, he said. "So the reason for the imbalance in the market absolutely has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia," Falih told the Global Competitiveness Forum.
- 'The next frontier' - The annual event, organised by the kingdom, brings together senior Saudi officials and world business leaders. Falih said "it will take time" for the current excess supply to be removed. He declined to speculate on the price at which the market will ultimately settle. "It will be the price that will balance supply and demand. I think we're going to just wait for the forces of supply and demand," he said. Saudi Arabia, the only producer with significant spare capacity, had traditionally acted to stabilise the market by adjusting output.
Technological innovations have unlocked shale resources in North America and raised U.S. oil output by more than 40 percent since 2006, but at a production cost which can be three or four times that of extracting Middle Eastern oil. In an increasingly competitive market, analysts have said the kingdom is content to see shale oil producers suffer from low prices. But Falih said: "U.S. shale is needed, is welcome, on the global scene," because the world will require more energy resources for a growing population. The economy is still going to be driven by oil and gas for generations, he said. Falih added that U.S. shale innovation had led the way for Saudi Arabia to pursue similar techniques. "Saudi Aramco has invested already $3 billion in developing our unconventional gas. We just earmarked an additional seven (billion). This is the first time I share this publicly," he told the forum. "Saudi Arabia will be the next frontier after the U.S. where shale and unconventional will make a contribution to our energy mix, especially gas."Agence France Presse.

Only Muslims can change the world’s view of Islam
01/26/2015 21:0
Terrorism today stems primarily from Muslims in the name of Islam, and we cannot brush off accusations about our faith just by saying that the terrorists do not act in our name.  The recent massacre of journalists from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris recalls the 2006 Danish cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammad as a terrorist. Meant to further debate about criticism of Islam and self-censorship, the caricatures were met with violent protests by Muslims worldwide. The Danish flag was desecrated and embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran were attacked. Behind the scenes, Muslim religious and political leaders fanned the flames, inciting the violence and issuing death threats against those affiliated with the publication. In both cases, the outrage stemmed from the depiction of Islam as a religion that promotes violence. While Muslims found these cartoons offensive, the cartoons were drawn by Western journalists for Western audiences in a society grounded in democratic rights and freedoms, tantamount among these the right to free speech. And what is the essence of free speech if not the right to express disputed and even offensive views? Western courts have created important principles and a body of rich jurisprudence aimed at enlarging the right to freedom of expression that are applicable to benign speech as well as to that which offends, shocks or disturbs. As a result, governments can rarely, and only for the most compelling reasons, invoke the power to regulate public discourse.
Muslims are well aware of the rights and freedoms afforded to them in democratic societies, and this is precisely the reason many of them leave their Islamic homelands for the West. It is therefore with the utmost hypocrisy, audacity and impertinence that Muslims living in democratic countries react to criticism of their faith with threats, vandalism and violence. Simply put, what is good for them as immigrants is not good for indigenous populations.
For 1,400 years, Muslims have believed that God revealed the Koran to Mohammed, the final prophet.
As such, Mohammed did not found a new religion, but rather restored the original, monotheistic faith of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. Islamic tradition holds that Jews and Christians distorted the revelations God gave to their prophets by altering text, through false interpretations, or both. Muslims therefore believe that they are the only right and true religious people, and that all others must follow their faith. Failure to do so is blasphemy. This is why Muslims are sensitive to criticism.
Their sensitivities notwithstanding, if Muslims are to live among Westerners, it is they who must conform to the norms of the land, not vice versa. I can see no reason why the West should be expected to grant them license to enter or extend to them the rights and freedoms that apply to their citizens if they think they can live by a separate set of laws in their adopted countries.
Muslims are not the only target of religious criticism.
Examples abound of the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other faiths being the subject of gross insult. Yet while these expressions have sparked outrage and anger, they are met with objection and denouncement: words are met with words in the marketplace of ideas. Only among Muslims are words of criticism met by the sword.
This predictable cycle proves exactly what the Dutch and French cartoonists sought to depict: the moral, educational and cultural bankruptcy of those who act barbarically in the name of Islam. The cartoons are not concerned with Islam, but with the way some Muslims exercise Islam. Nor did they create a perception. They merely reflected existing images created by extremists themselves, and those who tacitly support them, of Muslims as irrational, impulsive, logically incompetent, rationally illiterate and mentally handicapped.
While we may not want to admit it, these images are based on the stark truth as many see it today.
If this image is wrong, then we Muslims bear the burden to show otherwise. Terrorism today stems primarily from Muslims in the name of Islam, and we cannot brush off accusations about our faith just by saying that the terrorists do not act in our name. Nor can we resort to crying “Islamophobia” when the perception of violent, rights-abusing Muslims arises. For these images to change, Muslims must be at the forefront of countering Islamic radicalization in the Middle East and in our adopted countries. It is only then that the images of Muslims in satirical magazines will reflect a different reality.
**The author is a visiting assistant professor at the University of California at Irvine, Department of Political Science.

Iran nuclear debate takes partisan shape, as Democrats resist
By MICHAEL WILNER/01/26/2015/J.Post
Democrats introduce "alternative" to Iran sanctions bill; State Department official reacts to Dermer address.
United States Capitol building in Washington, DC
WASHINGTON -- Democrats on Capitol Hill have introduced a plan that would endorse international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program while vowing to sanction Iran if the effort fails.
The resolution, introduced by ten Democratic senators, is non-binding and does not formally codify new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, in the event of a breakdown in the talks or a violation of negotiating terms.
That makes all the difference, according to Obama administration officials, who say a bill that "triggers" new sanctions would be interpreted by Iran and the international community as a subterfuge in the diplomatic effort.
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) introduced the resolution with eight additional co-sponsors but with no Republican support. The bill they cast as a "counterproductive" alternative, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, was authored by Senators Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois).
"Enacting new sanctions before the end of the negotiating period would gravely undermine our efforts to reach an agreement with Iran," Feinstein said in a statement. "For those who agree that the sanctions bill in the Banking Committee is detrimental, this resolution provides an option in support of diplomacy."
Her resolution states that future new sanctions may target Iran's energy and financial sectors, similar to what is already written into the Menendez-Kirk legislation.
In recent months, the Israeli government has expressed dismay over the negotiating position of the US-led team in the talks. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has said he favors more pressure on Iran over less, suggesting support for new sanctions legislation in the US Congress.
Western diplomats have granted Iran the right to retain an enrichment program, Israel says, and have soften demands that Tehran dismantle large swaths of its infrastructure.
Israel fears that a deal will be generous; that inspections will be weak; and that an agreement will sunset in a decade, allowing Iran to walk into the nuclear club shortly thereafter.
"Today, the international community stands at the precipice of forging an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program," Dermer told a Florida crowd on Sunday night. "The agreement that is being discussed today is not an agreement that would dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, but rather one that could leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state."
"That is an agreement that could endanger the very existence of the state of Israel," he said.
But any comprehensive deal reached by world powers and Iran over its nuclear program will show the world "with clarity" that Iran cannot obtain the bomb, according to one State Department official, responding to Dermer's speech.
"The key to our negotiations is to make certain that whatever is agreed upon will show people with clarity that Iran's pathways to a nuclear weapon are cut off," the official told The Jerusalem Post, reiterating the administration's "unshakeable" commitment to Israeli security.
Dermer defended Netanyahu's decision to accept an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to address a joint session of Congress next month. The nature of the speech – expected to be a repudiation of President Barack Obama's approach to Iran – and its timing, so close to an Israeli election, have been controversial in Washington and Jerusalem.
The US official, speaking on background, said that Israel's leaders have been kept abreast of the talks through consultations in Washington and Israel "at the highest levels."
"The P5+1‎ talks offer the best hope for a diplomatic solution that ensures Israel, and others in the region, will not be faced with an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon," he said. "And at every step of the way through these talks, we have closely consulted with our partners, including Israel."

Israeli Druze former soldier beaten by Jewish gang: We are all the same race
Roei Eisenberg/Ynetnews/Published: 01.26.15/Israel News
Tommy Houssan calls for tolerance after being hit with glass, bottles in hate attack; president phones father to show support.
A Druze former IDF soldier who was beaten by Jews in Jerusalem called on Israelis to forward a Facebook post on Sunday preaching a message of peace and tolerance, mere days after his attack. “Many people who have never met me asked forgiveness," wrote Tommy Hassoun. “I am in a lot of pain, but my head is held high." His family was recruited to the task, and his brother even turned to the English-speaking community of Tel Aviv in an inspiring post, urging the immigrants to Israel to “love more and cry more; after all, we all belong to the same race, the human race, and with love and by being better people we can thrive. We all can do more.”Houssan's post in Hebrew said that the attack showed him "the ugly side of people in this country… and from now I am going to see the good side.
"It is important for me that those specific people are caught and punished harshly and that such things do not happen again," he continued. "My family and I are not looking for vengeance. We only want to root out these people… where are their parents? They should come to my house or call like the rest of the people…Houssan was attacked on Thursday by ten Jewish men, reportedly after he was heard speaking Arabic. The men, who were wearing skullcaps, hit the 21-year-old Druze student and broke a glass bottle on him.
His attackers did not know they were assaulting a man who had completed his IDF service just three months ago and recently moved to Jerusalem to study music.
Houssan said the attackers hit him with glass and bottles, and he was hospitalized with bruises on his face and on the back of his head. He said described blood running down his head and shirt.
President Reuven Rivlin, who knew Hassoun from his days in the IDF, called the young man's father to show his support for the family.
On a personal level I believed up until now that this is one nation – I never saw a difference between a Jew and a Druze," said Hassoun's father. "I believed and I will continue to believe in the future that this is the land of the Jewish nation – it has a right to live here."
Tommy's brother, Julian, said: "A month ago two Druze police officers were murdered during terror attacks and now a Druze gets hit by Jews."
**Roi Yanovsky contributed to this report

Netanyahu's gift to Iran
Nahum Barnea/ Ynetnews/Published: 01.27.15,
Op-ed: Decision to concoct US trip behind administration's back has put prime minister up against Democrats in both houses of Congress and some of Republicans, reducing chances of stepping up sanctions through legislation. And how has Naftali Bennett turned into Israel's acting prime minister?
Over the weekend, my inbox was flooded with questions from American friends: Is he really planning on going? Yes, I replied. In spite of all the horrible reactions here? Yes, I replied, in spite of that. And in spite of the fact that he knows his trip is the biggest gift the Iranian nuclear program could get? In spite of that, I replied. Unbelievable, they concluded.
The Americans – in the White House, in the political system, in the media – have spoken. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found himself in the situation of that poor man who ate the stinking fish and got beaten up, but was still not banished from the city.
Its 's a classical dilemma: If he gives up the trip, he will be considered a loser; if he insists, he will be hit for the third time. Netanyahu has chosen, at least for now, to insist.
"I will go anywhere to make the State of Israel's case," he declared Sunday at the beginning of the cabinet meeting. Netanyahu has a lot of faith in his rhetoric power. If you speak – you do, if you don't speak – it's as if you didn't do anything. That's the motto.
But even he doesn’t believe that a speech, as successful as it may be, can force the president of the United States to act against what he sees as a vital interest of his country. All the more so when the speeches Netanyahu is slated to deliver there, and his actual visit, are aimed at sabotaging, humiliating and belittling the only person Netanyahu has to convince. Convincing through insult? There must be better ways to soften the president's heart.
The embarrassment is mainly there, in the US. I'll get back to it soon. In the meantime, a few words about Netanyahu's trip and the elections in Israel.
I am travelling in order to rescue the State of Israel from the Iranian nukes, not in order to steal the elections, Netanyahu says. I believe him, of course. Unfortunately, not everyone does. And so, in order to remove any doubt, Netanyahu should send a letter today to Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran, chairman of the Central Elections Committee, and ask him, imploringly, to ban the coverage of his speeches in Washington two weeks before the elections.
Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon filed a similar request with the judge this week, but with all due respect, Netanyahu is closer to the matter. Without cameras, Netanyahu should demand from his hosts. Without applause. Without billionaires in the gallery. I am here to convince, not to be photographed.
Back to the entanglement on the American side. At the end of the negotiations, Iran is expected to become a nuclear threshold state. This is bad news for Israel and a total failure for our foreign policy, but the die is cast. Not because there is an Israel hater sitting in the White House, but because most Americans refuse to enter a war with Iran at this point in history. The Republicans jump at every opportunity to provoke Obama, but they don’t want a war either.
Netanyahu knows that there is no purpose for his trip, apart from its theoretic contribution to the elections in Israel. The decision to concoct the trip behind the administration's back has put Netanyahu up against not only President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, but also the Democrats in both houses of Congress and some of the Republicans.
That says a few things. First of all, the chances for legislation which will step up the sanctions have been reduced (even if a majority is reached, the president will veto the legislation and it will be cancelled). Second, the AIPAC organization, the pro-Israel lobby, has suffered a blow. AIPAC gained a lot of influence in Washington thanks to its reliance on the majority in both parties. It must lose the Democrats.
AIPAC got caught in another embarrassing situation in this affair: So as not to make it seem as it if it intervening in the elections in Israel, its leaders must invite Netanyahu's rivals, led by Isaac Herzog, and give them the exact same stage Netanyahu will be given. Herzog has already been invited (so has Tzipi Livni, who will likely decline). Herzog should turn down the invitation: His arrival will provide fake legitimacy to Netanyahu's visit. But Herzog is Herzog: He is thinking it over.
Third, the Jews. The overwhelming majority is loyal to the Democratic Party and will remain loyal to it. They can take a conflict between the Israeli government and the White House (and enjoy the mediation efforts). They will not support an Israel which turns into a tool in the hands of the rival party.
The fourth and perhaps most serious thing is that Netanyahu has hurt the American pride, the feeling of patriotism, the huge respect towards the presidency. There is no wonder that the pro-Republican Fox News anchors are joining the attack on the Netanyahu. They are really upset by this matter. In front of the cameras, they prefer to attack him rather than John Boehner, their man in the House of Representative, who cooked this stew together with Netanyahu and his American patrons.
In Israel, people think that Netanyahu is the boss and that the billionaires work for him. That's a mistake. Now that we know how difficult things are for those who work for the Netanyahu family, we can understand just how unfounded this idea is. When it comes to the relationship with America, Netanyahu works for them – only for them.
It may be time to allow him to turn the part-time job into a full-time job and let others restore the relations with America. Quite a few people in Israel, Jews and non-Jews, Israel's friends and lovers, will gladly accept this change.
The first Bennett government
A Kuwaiti newspaper claimed this week that Israel, and no one else, attacked the Hezbollah convoy which was patrolling the Syrian Golan Heights early last week. Three Hezbollah commanders and – most importantly – an Iranian general were killed in the air strike.
Let's assume for a moment, just for a moment, that the Kuwaiti newspaper made the right guess. It isn't hard to imagine how to discussion was conducted between the cabinet ministers.
The officers presented the ministers with a complicated picture. There is an opportunity; there are advantages; there will be a price to pay. According to past experience, Iran and Hezbollah will respond, and the retaliation will be serious. Had the assassination been planned without any identifying signs, they may have restrained themselves. But here the plan is for an almost public assassination, and the revenge will come.
Among the army representatives, there were those who felt that the price is high and the benefit is insignificant. There were those, on the other hand, who estimates that the price is far and the benefit is close: It's worth taking a risk. And there were those who shrugged: Whatever the cabinet ministers decide, it's their problem.
Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon, who is usually an introverted person, glanced from behind his glasses at Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, the Bayit Yehudi party's representative in the cabinet. Bennett was bursting with enthusiasm. In fact, Bennett has been bursting since the day Netanyahu decided to move up the elections. In every appearance, his hands wave to and fro, as if they are trying to disconnect from his body. His head turns right and left, his eyes roll. He is either on something, or has something on him.
And this clown wants to be defense minister, Ya'alon says to himself, bitterly compressing his lips. I know what he's up to. He will go out of this room and leak that the frightened generals, the coward Bogie and the weak Bibi have screwed up another victory for the people of Israel. Why that's what he did in the summer, in Operation Protective Edge. He is belittling me now in order to take the defense portfolio from me after the elections, Ya'alon will say to himself. No, I won't let him do that this time. The hell with the Iranians and their revenges. I will push for this operation with all my might.
Netanyahu stared into space. He hasn't been looking people in the eyes for years. He only directs his gaze forward for the television cameras' lenses, and only if he has make up on. If Bennett supports the operation and Bogie supports it, he thinks to himself, what can I do? Bogie may want me to stop this nonsense. He will come out looking okay, an Israel hero, and I will come out looking like the nerd.
No, I won't give him the pleasure; not during elections. And anyway, a dead Iranian has never hurt any politician in Israel. If there is revenge, it will be in a few weeks or months, and in the meantime we will have put the security issue back on the agenda, and Iran. Security is good. So is insecurity: When the voters feel insecure, they come back home.
The false messiah from Ra'anana
And so, unintentionally, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the most loony faction in the Knesset, has turned into the acting prime minister. Every lawless decision he supports will pass, because Netanyahu can't afford to stand on his left side.
They are competing over the same electorate: Netanyahu needs Knesset seats in order to get the appointment from President Reuven Rivlin; Bennett needs Knesset seats in order to prevent Netanyahu from creating a joint government with the leftist-centrist camp and leaving Bennett outside. The battle is asymmetric, but it has one direction: As lawless as possible, as low as possible.
Netanyahu is following Bennett in the election campaign as well. Bennett launched a demagogic, McCarthyist campaign questioning the patriotism of female candidates on Herzog's list (it appears that homosexuals are not the only ones who irritate them; so do women). Netanyahu copied the quotes, regardless of whether they are true or not, into his own election campaign.
They are also in sync in their alleged violations of the election laws. Each of them raised more than NIS 1 million (about $250,000) to fund their race for party chairman. These were fictitious competitions, which were decided in advance: Netanyahu against Danny Danon in the Likud, and Bennett against Rabbi Shimon Or in the Bayit Yehudi party. Bennett admits that he did not invest the money in the primary elections, but in the creation of an Internet infrastructure for his party ahead of the Knesset elections. It's unclear what Netanyahu did with his million, a gift from his patrons in the US. In the good-case scenario, there is some sophistry here. In the worst-case scenario, it's a legal offense.
What distinguishes Bennett from the others in this election campaign is not the opinions he voices, but the conduct. His aggression is unusual. He responds to every word of criticism by wildly tongue-lashing the critic and making sweeping accusations against the profession or the public that person comes from. He, who apologized more than any other politician here (to Netanyahu, to Netanyahu's wife Sara, to the LGBT community, to the Gaza vicinity residents), has turned the refusal to apologize into a value. A refusal to apologize is vulgar, it's not an ideology.
His hooligan behavior on Saturday evening, during a Channel 10 interview, is considered illegitimate even here. For a moment I thought about Sara Netanyahu, who expelled him from his husband's bureau. Thanks to her profession, or thanks to her experience in life, she realized what other people failed to realize.
Tzipi Livni, who watched him in dozens of cabinet meetings, has a slightly different opinion of him. He is childish, she says. He is dangerous because he believes in what he says.
Maybe. I tend to think that it's all an act. Bennett is a walking act, from the skullcap swinging on his head – proof for those who doubt that he is truly religious – to the crazy incitement campaign on the social networks. He is a complete cynic.
On March 18, when he asks for the defense or finance portfolio for himself, you may meet a different Bennett: Levelheaded, soft, pragmatic. A Bennett who will knows how to laugh with us, the journalists, the enemies of the nation, about his unusual behavior during the election campaign. He is marketing two slogans at the moment, and they both show just how full of himself he is. One says: It's either Livni or Bennett, as if Netanyahu has evaporated and the only question is which one of these two will lead us on the day after the elections.
The second says: It's time for Bennett. Such a slogan from the leader of a religious party is appropriate for welcoming the Messiah, son of David, not the false messiah from Ra'anana.

Riyadh Rendezvous: Obama to Meet with New Saudi King
Simon Henderson/Wasington Institute
January 26, 2015
The length of the meeting and the names of the Saudi officials in attendance will reveal as much as any government communique or briefing on what subjects were discussed.
Tomorrow, January 27, President Obama will cut short his visit to India in order to meet with the new Saudi king in Riyadh and offer his condolences on the death last week of King Abdullah. Since Obama already congratulated King Salman on his accession via telephone on January 24, this meeting could be more substantive.
It is not the first time the two men have met. Salman was at King Abdullah's desert camp outside Riyadh when Obama visited in March 2014 and also held talks in the Oval Office when he visited Washington in April 2012, before his appointment as crown prince later that year. The U.S. readout on the latter meeting was a model of brevity and generalities: the two men affirmed the strong and enduring partnership between their countries and discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues. Given the many reports that the seventy-eight-year-old Salman is no longer up to the job mentally, it will be interesting to see how long Tuesday's meeting lasts and how engaged the monarch appears to be in media images.
President Obama will doubtless meet with other top officials as well, including Salman's half-brother Crown Prince Muqrin and their nephew Muhammad bin Nayef (a.k.a. MbN), the new deputy crown prince. But the more interesting prospective attendee will be the king's son Muhammad bin Salman, newly promoted to defense minister and head of the royal court. Still in his early thirties, MbS -- as he will doubtless become known -- has emerged out of nowhere in the past two years to become his father's closest advisor. Apparently a bureaucratic infighter par excellence, he is credited with forcing the removal of four deputy defense ministers in fifteen months (see "Surprise Rotation of Saudi Defense Officials"). The last to go was Prince Khaled bin Bandar, who resigned in June 2014 after just six weeks on the job (see "Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Change Deepens Kingdom's Leadership Crisis"). Khaled, who is yet to be replaced, was subsequently made head of intelligence by the late king. Despite the importance of this role to the U.S.-Saudi relationship, it is by no means certain that Khaled will be at tomorrow's summit.
One certain absentee will be veteran foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who is recovering from recent back surgery in the United States. It is unclear whether his place will be taken at the meeting by the deputy foreign minister and late king's son Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, given his closeness to the former monarch. Also uncertain is whether another son -- Prince Mitab, minister of the national guard, the kingdom's largest military force -- will be there.
The meeting will likely be an opportunity for King Salman to raise the profile of some of his other sons, a well-established prerogative of being monarch. Prince Khaled bin Salman is an F-15 pilot who took part in coalition raids on "Islamic State"/ISIS targets in Syria last September. Prince Sultan, head of the antiquities and tourism commission, was the first Saudi astronaut. Prince Abdulaziz is the long-serving assistant oil minister. Prince Faisal, who has a doctorate in international relations from Oxford, is the governor of Medina, the holiest city in Islam after Mecca.
One test of the meeting's success could be the presence or absence of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to Washington who served as head of intelligence until U.S. officials forced his removal last April because of differences over tactics against the Assad regime (see "Bandar Resigns as Head of Saudi Intelligence"). King Abdullah retained him as a special advisor, and he was a fixture of many top-level Saudi meetings, but his presence tomorrow would be anathema to the U.S. side.
Whatever the final communique says, the subjects most likely to be discussed tomorrow are Syria, Iran, ISIS, and oil prices. The most interesting question for President Obama will be whether King Salman and his team of advisors have an order of priority that differs from King Abdullah's. The answer is unlikely to be shared publicly but could be reflected in U.S. policy in the coming months.
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute.

Uncoordinated Deconfliction' in Syria: A Recipe to Contain, Not Defeat, ISIS
Andrew J. Tabler/Washington Institute
January 26, 2015
If Washington continues to bomb ISIS while sidestepping the question of Assad's future, Syria may wind up partitioned between jihadist and Iranian-backed forces.
Washington's nascent policy of "uncoordinated deconfliction" with Bashar al-Assad's regime in the fight against the "Islamic State"/ISIS may not be a formal alliance, but it does have the potential to foster serious problems. The regime's tacit agreement to avoid firing on coalition strike aircraft -- juxtaposed with long delays in the Obama administration's train-and-equip program for the Syrian opposition and the president's October 2014 letter to Iran's Supreme Leader on cooperation against ISIS -- is creating widespread perceptions that the United States is heading into a de facto alliance with Assad and Tehran regarding the jihadists. If Washington continues this policy as is, it will merely contain ISIS, not "defeat" or "destroy" the group as called for by President Obama. Worse, it could lead to a deadly extremist stalemate in Syria between Iranian-backed/Hezbollah forces and jihadists, amplifying threats to U.S. national security interests.
Following the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in 2011, the United States discarded its policy of "constructive engagement" with the regime and called on Assad to "step aside." Yet as the conflict progressed and President Obama decided not to decisively arm the rebels or enforce his "redline" on regime chemical attacks, jihadists such as ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra quickly filled opposition-controlled areas of Syria, providing strategic depth for offensives back into Iraq. The dramatic ISIS campaign against Mosul, the collapse of the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, and the execution of U.S. hostages led President Obama to call for the group's destruction. To reach this goal, the U.S.-led coalition launched a two-pronged approach: a bombing campaign and the arming of selected anti-ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.
To carry out the first part of the strategy, Washington orchestrated a policy via Baghdad that one unnamed U.S. official referred to in a December 1 Washington Post story as "uncoordinated deconfliction." Last September, right before U.S. airstrikes expanded into Syria, Iraq's Shiite-led, Iranian-allied government sent National Security Advisor Faleh al-Fayyad to see Assad. While the meeting's exact details were not made public, the understanding forged was clear -- since then, over 900 coalition sorties have flown over Syria without regime forces firing a shot at them.
The second part of the strategy involves arming substate actors, most notably the Peshmerga in Iraq and Syria's moderate opposition. U.S. assistance to the Peshmerga is carried out with the permission of the Iraqi government, but the situation is much more complicated in Syria, where the opposition must be trained and equipped without the consent of the "legal" host government. This is something the U.S. military does not like to do but has pulled off in the past, as seen with the Peshmerga during Operation Northern Watch in the 1990s. A complicating factor is that Syrian rebels have shown less political cohesion than their Kurdish counterparts, raising the question of what entity a U.S.-trained force would report to.
While implementing the strategy has worked thus far in Iraq, its two prongs have been at cross-purposes in Syria. When striking ISIS targets, U.S. forces prefer to fly over Syrian territory without the Assad regime shooting at them. In order to truly defeat ISIS, however, the United States and its allies need to train and equip an opposition force to take over Sunni-dominated areas now controlled by ISIS, much to Assad's chagrin.
Unfortunately the optics of the first part of the strategy have seriously hindered the second. When U.S. bombing raids targeting ISIS unexpectedly expanded in September to include Jabhat al-Nusra in western Idlib province, the latter turned on the Western-backed Free Syrian Army groups in their area, dramatically overrunning the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) and Harakat Hazm. The decimated groups had been armed with U.S. TOW missiles and were therefore widely reported to be part of the American covert support program. While some of these forces have since regrouped, the U.S. bombing campaign -- combined with President Obama's November statements that Washington was not actively discussing ways to remove Assad -- has nearly collapsed the long-fraying rebel support for the United States. Meanwhile, the jihadist vs. Assad fight has been escalating.
Flipping back to support the Assad regime against ISIS will not solve Washington's problems, however. Beyond the terrible optics of assisting a president who has used chemical weapons and Scud missiles against his own people, the Assad regime is financially and militarily crippled and therefore unable to retake and hold areas currently controlled by ISIS. Its capture of territory over the past year has been the product of controversial "ceasefires" essentially imposed on besieged populations, as well as military operations carried out by Iranian-trained, Alawite-dominated irregulars from the National Defense Forces as much as army regulars. This means that whatever areas the regime attempts to retake in the coming months will see an influx of increasingly minority-dominated, Iranian-directed forces. In short, Bashar's comeback is not a legitimate ruler returning order to his country, but substantially a product of Iran's foreign legion of substate actors. This fight -- part of Tehran's effort to radically transform the Fertile Crescent -- is something that the region's Sunni powers will continue to oppose, most notably Turkey and the Gulf Arab countries.
Iran's deep and direct involvement in Assad's attempt to shoot his way out of the Syria crisis has implicated Tehran in the mass slaughter of Sunnis and set off a sectarian war that has engulfed Iraq and threatens to spread beyond. Iran's Syria campaign would make more sense if sectarian demographics were not so firmly against it. Syria is 75 percent Sunni Arab, roughly the same percentage as the overall Middle East minus Iran. And the rural areas that ISIS dominates in Syria and Iraq are upwards of 95 percent Sunni Arab. Such figures indicate that Iran will not be able to shoot Sunnis into submission; rather, it could end up in a grinding conflict that many have already described as "Iran's Vietnam."
Although this trend is unlikely to produce a "regime victory," it could spur Assad and his Iranian sponsors to focus on their parts of lesser Syria and commit to a de facto nonaggression pact with the jihadists. This might help avoid Iran's Vietnam scenario, but it would lead to the worst of both worlds for the United States and its allies: Assad and ISIS both holding on, perhaps permanently. To avoid this scenario and better pursue U.S. security interests in Syria, Washington should adopt the following approach:
Accept that Syria will be a divided, failed state as long as Assad is permitted to remain in power -- something akin to Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, when the regime's policies cost it control over the Kurdish north. Unlike that scenario, however, Assad's continued presence would be a powerful magnet for jihadists and a major driver of Sunni-Shiite tension.
Do not lessen the pressure on Assad. Instead of allowing the regime's strength to grow, Washington should weaken both Assad and ISIS by encouraging the fight between them, weakening Iran's foreign legions and the jihadists at the same time. Assad often brags about fighting terrorism, so the United States should let him do it on his own dime, hanging responsibility for ISIS around his neck and weakening him and Iran's forces in the process. Key issues for Washington to consider include when to ramp up or scale back airstrikes against not only ISIS, but also regime forces -- especially if Assad follows through with the threat he issued on January 20, when he told Foreign Affairs that the regime would attack any U.S.-trained moderate forces entering Syria. Only then would Damascus and Tehran be pressured to make substantial concessions.
Focus on helping the moderate opposition consolidate their lines of control against the jihadists and regime alike, in addition to sharply increasing humanitarian assistance for displaced persons and efforts to protect civilians. The United States cannot organize and regiment the entire opposition, but it can back any faction that retakes areas from ISIS. The only way to motivate the rebels to do so is to openly support their justified stance against Assad remaining in power.
Develop a strategy to remove Assad via diplomacy, information messaging, and military/economic power. The longer he is in place, the longer Syria will be divided. Once Assad goes, it will be possible to put the pieces of Syria back together again.
**Andrew Tabler is a senior fellow in The Washington Institute's Program on Arab Politics. His publications include "Syria's Collapse and How Washington Can Stop It" (Foreign Affairs, July-August 2013) and the 2011 book In the Lion's Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria.

Iran sends warning to Israel via US officials
Associated Press/Jan. 27, 2015/TEHRAN: Iran said Tuesday it has sent a warning to Israel through the United States over the recent killing of an Iranian general in an alleged Israeli airstrike, the official IRNA news agency reported. The report quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian as saying, "We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act." He added, "The Zionist regime has crossed our red lines." Iranian Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guard, was killed along with six Hezbollah fighters in a Jan. 18 airstrike in the Syrian-controlled part of the disputed Golan Heights. Both Iran and Hezbollah blamed Israel for the strike; the Israeli government refused to comment. Amir Abdollahian says Iran delivered the message to U.S. officials via diplomatic channels. He did not elaborate. Iran and the U.S. cut diplomatic ties after militant Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran during the 1979 revolution and held a group of American diplomats for 444 days. The two nations normally exchange diplomatic messages through the Swiss embassy, which looks after U.S. interests in Iran. But diplomats from both countries also meet directly on other occasions - such as the current negotiations to limit the scope of the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for easing harsh international sanctions against Tehran. Amir Abdollahian's remarks came during a commemoration ceremony in Tehran for the slain general and the Hezbollah fighters. In the same ceremony, Gen. Hossein Salami, acting commander of the Guard, said Iran will retaliate soon. "We tell [Israel] to await retaliation, but we will decide about its timing, place and the strength," he said, according to the IRNA report. Allahdadi is one of the highest ranking Iranian officers known to have been killed abroad in decades. Another senior Guard commander, Brig. Gen. Hamid Taqavi, was killed during a battle against ISIS in Samarra, Iraq last month. Majority Shiite Iran acknowledges it has sent military advisers to both Iraq and to Syria, where they are aiding embattled President Bashar Assad. But Tehran denies the presence of Iranian combat forces.

Idiocy and Islamophobia
Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat
on : Tuesday, 27 Jan, 2015
A friend of mine recently told me a story about how her husband once asked her if, during her time as a student in London, she had ever suffered Islamophobia. Yes, she said, she did experience Islamophobia a few times, especially when seeing a Muslim woman with a niqab (full face veil) or a Muslim man with a beard on the London Underground. “No,” he answered, laughing, “I meant you. Did you ever experience Islamophobia toward you as a Muslim?”
My friend repeated the story on her Facebook page in light of the debates going on around Islamophobia in the West in the wake of the recent Paris attacks. Of course, it took the form of our usual humor and self-ridicule as Muslims and Arabs, but it also pointed to the heightened atmosphere of fear and suspicion directed towards us in the West—to the extent that we have even begun to doubt ourselves and at times become even more right-wing than the European far right when it comes to condemnation and over-generalizations.
It is true that through her joke my friend sought to highlight that state of schizophrenia we sometimes experience as Muslims living in the West, but I also feel the story brings us to another phenomenon: there are currently children of immigrants in the West who have totally outdone their indigenous counterparts in spreading feelings of hatred and enmity toward Muslims and Arabs.
When it comes to hatred, of course, no one can scale the dizzy heights which the US channel Fox News is able to reach. This right-wing channel had a clear agenda, almost a fully-fledged media campaign, when it came time to apportion the blame for the Paris attacks: the channel promptly held the world’s entire 1.5 billion Muslims responsible. The mantle was then taken up by the channel’s owner, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, on Twitter, where he basically repeated the same sentiment.
You’d be forgiven if you thought this represented the apex of the hatred Fox News has toward Muslims. But the news channel was recently outdone by one of its very own anchors, now one of the rising stars in the Islamophobia league tables. Jeanine Pirro, a former judge and prosecutor, lapped up considerable headline space and column inches last week when at the end of a long anti-Muslim rant on her show—which basically repeated Murdoch and the channel’s sentiments about Muslim responsibility for the Paris attacks—she shouted repeatedly to her audience that the West needed to “kill them all—the radical Muslim terrorists hell-bent on killing us” in order to be free of the threat of terrorism.
But what is truly amazing about this incident is that Jeanine Pirro is herself of Arab origin, being the daughter of immigrants who came to the United States from Lebanon. A few strokes of the keyboard on Google will even allow you to find photographs of her at events honoring Americans of Lebanese origin (with the idea here being that she represents an “American dream”-style success story from the tiny Levantine country).
But Pirro is not alone. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana who repeated a claim made on Fox that there were “no-go zones” for non-Muslims in some British cities—and whom the British press promptly lampooned afterwards—is of Indian origin.
Both Pirro and Jindal, respectively the children of Lebanese and Indian immigrants to the United States, have clearly mastered the art of hateful, chauvinistic rhetoric toward Muslims in particular and immigrants in general. Of course they are not alone here, but the fact that the two Americans who made these comments actually know better than most of their fellow citizens what it is like to be an immigrant in a new land should be something we pause to consider.
The first response to both Pirro and Jindal’s comments came from within the West itself. British Prime Minister David Cameron ridiculed the assertion made by Jindal about some British cities, describing a Fox News pundit who had stated them as “a complete idiot.” As for Fox News itself, it now awaits a lawsuit from none other than the city of Paris, whose mayor announced this week would sue the channel for making similar claims about no-go zones in the French capital. All this has made Fox News and the heavily polarized right-wing position it takes a laughing stock.
Pirro hasn’t escaped the ire either. She too faced heavy criticism and ridicule following her comments, especially after a video of her making them quickly went viral worldwide, spawning along with it, as is usually the case on the Internet, a series of humorous responses, not least among them a video made by the famous British actor and comedian Russell Brand, now one of many strong messages and stances against those spreading Islamophobia in the West today. And despite their recent tragedy the French also made fun of the comments about these supposed no-go zones in Paris. One comedian did a live skit about a Frenchman strolling unwittingly into one of these areas. The man, who is looking for a place to eat, eventually walks up to a restaurant to read the menu posted outside the door . . . only to flee in panic when he sees the words “Kebab” and “Couscous” written on it.

Iran relays warning to Israel through Washington, backing it with four-rocket volley from Syrian Golan
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis January 27, 2015
Tehran Tuesday, Jan. 27 adopted two synchronous courses for getting back at Israel for the Jan. 18 air strike near Quneitra which killed an Iranian general and six Hizballah officers: Iraqi Shiite militiamen posted on the Syrian Golan along with Hizballah fighters sent four rockets winging towards Mt. Hermon while some 1,600 people were skiing on its slopes: Two landed and exploded on the Israel side of the demarcation line - one near the skiers and the other outside Kibbutz Merom Hagolan. None caused casualties or damage.
Israeli forces stationed along the Syrian and Lebanese borders went on top readiness, a level still in force. Overhead, Israeli planes and other aerial vehicles are on 24-hour patrol.
In Tehran, two high Iranian officials Tuesday warned Israel to await retaliation.
Dep. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said: "We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act," adding, "Israel crossed our red lines."
He spoke at a commemoration ceremony for the Iranian general Mohammad Ali Allah Dadi who was slain on the Syrian Golan a week ago. In this warning, the Iranian official introduced two new features: Tehran has never before set red lines for Israeli military action; neither have the Iranians ever admitted to relaying a warning to Israel through Washington – at least not in public.
The Islamic Republic was saying in effect that it is not only acting in concert with the Obama administration over a nuclear accord, but the two powers will also be aligned against any potential Israel military action against Iran that is intended to upset the nuclear accord unfolding between Washington and Tehran.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on “private diplomatic contacts with Iran” beyond saying that no threat was delivered to Israel in the latest round of nuclear talks.
"We absolutely condemn any such threats that come in any form," Psaki told reporters.
Then, Tuesday night, The Revolutionary Guards’ acting commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, vowed that Iran would “retaliate soon.”
debkafile’s military sources do not rule out Iranian and Iraqi Shiite militias posted to Syria, together with Hizballah, possibly escalating attacks on Israel from the Syrian Golan in the days to come. Such attacks are unlikely at this stage to form a continuous campaign but would rather be sporadic, their purpose being to maintain a high level of military tension and keep Israel on constant alert and on edge.
On the diplomatic front, Tehran will continue the effort disclosed Tuesday to drag the US and the Obama administration into involvement in the ongoing crisis, to make sure Israel’s hands are tied against major responses to its harassments.
So Jen Psaki had every reason to express great concern about the future of the ceasefire along Israel’s borders with Syria.

Who is lurking in the shadows of Iran’s nuclear talks?
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Debating whether to support or undermine the diplomatic channel opened with Iran over the nuclear talks is currently a hot topic for U.S. senators amid the freezing temperatures that are sweeping the country.
“For those who agree that the sanctions bill in the Banking Committee is detrimental, this resolution provides an option in support of diplomacy,” Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, a leading co-sponsor of the resolution with Senator Chris Murphy, said in a statement on Monday January 26.
Eleven Democrat members of the U.S. Senate introduced a resolution on Monday opposing more sanctions on Iran unless nuclear talks fail or Tehran breaks the agreement.
“The political struggle is not only between the Democrats and Republicans in the U.S., Iran is also facing an internal struggle”
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
This new resolution countering a push for tougher sanctions backed by Republicans that President Barack Obama threated to veto if it comes across his desk.
President Obama told the Congress members on January 20 to hold back the new sanctions while the talks with Iran make progress. “Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran,” he said, “where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.
“Between now and this spring,” the president continued, “we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies – including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict.”
Thinking differently
Apparently the majority of Congress’ members were thinking differently. While the president asked Congress to halt any action against Iran at least until the deadline of July 1, when the interim agreement expires, the Congress seemed to be following a different agenda.
Backing Obama, a group of Democrats in the Senate decide to undermine Republican efforts as the it seems Congress wants to pass a new round of sanctions on Iran quickly before the interim nuclear deal expires
In reality what the majority of Congress is pushing for is that Iran dismantle all its nuclear activity and this is the core of their differences with the president.
President Obama threatens Congress with a veto if they approve the new sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program while the diplomatic channel is active and the talks are ongoing.
This political struggle is not only between the Democrats and Republicans in the U.S., Iran is also facing an internal struggle. President Hassan Rowhani is under pressure and certain parties and powers are working hard to break up the talks.
Drawing closer together
Opponents to the talks in the U.S. and Iran are not necessarily against the talks as such, more the idea that the two countries could be drawing closer together.
Within two weeks, Iran will be celebrating 36-years of its revolution and at this stage nothing is more important than ending the country’s international isolation.
That need was expressed by the public when it astonishingly elected Hassan Rowhani as president. The message was clear for Iran’s ruling elite and they know the importance of fixing the problem before anger and frustration rise in public.
For President Obama it is also important to curb Iran’s nuclear program before leaving office in 2017. Forging a relationship with Iran is key to fighting terrorism in the region as Iran can act as a partner is curbing ISIS.
In light of this, there has been evidence that all parties are making concerted efforts to speed up the talks. In the past two weeks, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the chief nuclear negotiator, held countless bilateral meetings with the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Europe. Also, P5+1 political directors are set to meet in Istanbul while Zarif holds a ministerial level meeting in Munich on the sidelines of the Security Conference.
President Obama and President Rowhani both showed some optimism with regard to reaching an agreement by the end of March and then regarding discussing the technical aspects of the agreement to be tackled by the end of June.
It may be that this March President Obama greets Iranians for their New Year’s celebration of Nowrouz with good news of an agreement.