March 06/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Parable of the Rich Man & his abundant Crops
Luke 12/16-21: "Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, "What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?" Then he said, "I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry." But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?"
So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’"

Bible Quotation For Today/let God be proved true, as it is written, ‘So that you may be justified in your words
"Letter to the Romans 03/01-07: "What advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, ‘So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.’ But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?"

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 05-06/15
From Iraq to Syria: the Genocidal Ordeal of the Assyrians/By Joseph Yacoub/March 05/15
The Saudi king gave a prize to an Islamic scholar who says 9/11 was an ‘inside job/The Washington Post/March 05/15
On Iran, Arabs deeply mistrust Obama/Michael Young/The Daily Star/March 05/15
Netanyahu has created a zero-sum game with the U.S/David Ignatius/The Daily Star/March 05/15
Syria's Iranization becoming real strategic threat for Israel/Israel Ziv/Ynetnews/March 05/15

Lebanese Related News published on March 05-06/15
Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon: Hezbollah’s Shebaa raid violated Resolution 1701
Salam Stresses Consensus Best Option in Decision-Making
Salam takes tough line with Cabine
Hezbollah: Netanyahu a fox in sheep’s clothing
Hezbollah brands Netanyahu a fox in sheep’s clothing
Lebanon heading for all-inclusive package deal
Lebanese Cabinet agrees to consensual decision making
Lebanese Cabinet back on course
Kahwagi denies personal political ambitions
Row erupts over jihadi arrested in Bekaa hospital
Hezbollah urges tighter state control in suburbs: report
Jumblat Snaps Back after Threat, Says PSP Backs Revolution against 'Terrorist' Syrian Regime
Lebanese Army chief Jean Kahwagi denies personal political ambitions
N. Lebanon governor shuts down factory over emissions
ISF Arrests Top Fugitive Linked to ISIL
Report: Beirut Port Official to Visit Bkirki over Controversial Basin
Gemayel Lauds Salam's Role in Safeguarding Country, Criticizes Ongoing Presidential Vacuum
Oil Exploration Awaits Political Consensus on Two Petroleum Decrees
Mashnouq Urges Aoun to become Consensual Candidate, Slams Lack of Responsibility
France to Deliver Weapons to Lebanon Soon under Controversial Arms Deal
Mazloum Says No Maronite Summit, Dialogue Should Only Serve Presidential Polls
Russian, Chinese 'Veto' Stopping Refugees from Returning to Safe Areas in Syria

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 05-06/15
IS 'Bulldozes' Ancient Assyrian City of Nimrud in Iraq
Knife-wielding attacker slashes face of US ambassador in South Korea
U.S. Ambassador Recovers from Knife Attack Praised by N. Korea
Military pressure may be needed to oust Assad: Kerry
U.S. sees positive Iran role in Tikrit battle
Saudi FM urges coalition to face ISIS challenge on the ground
Faisal Urges Anti-IS Ground Fight as Kerry Says 'Military Pressure May be Needed' to Oust Assad
Regime strike kills 18 civilians in Aleppo clashes
An American administration with a grudge
Nusra Front’s top military brass killed in Idlib
France Says Assad 'Not Credible' Partner in Fight against IS
Rebels attack regime intel HQ in Aleppo
US and Iran reach “special understanding” over Tikrit offensive: sources
Rebels attack Aleppo security building, monitor says dozens killed
Tikrit operations cause 28,000 to flee: UN
Yemen: Hadi seeks transfer of international aid to Aden
Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria may split from organization, fight ISIS: senior opposition member
Egypt replaces interior minister in Cabinet
Libyan government to halt airstrikes for peace talks
Why Turkish pipeline project may harm Putin
Another Saudi Beheading Adds to 'Unprecedented' Pace

Jihad Watch Site Latest Reports
Islamic State bulldozed ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud
Robert Spencer in PJM: How The Western Intelligentsia Denies Islam’s History of War and Crime
Muslim beheader invokes Quran 8:12 and 47:4 to justify beheading
Canada: Parliament Hill gunman invoked jihad in video minutes before attack
DoJ hires imam who said Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserved death for leaving Islam
Main U.S.-backed Syrian rebel group disbanding, joining jihadists
Boston Marathon jihad trial: defense attorney admits “It was him”
New York City public schools to have Muslim holidays off
Canada: Police arrest three Muslims over mall threat
California Muslim charged with trying to join the Islamic State
UK: Muslims arrested for conning elderly into funding jihadis’ trips to Syria

Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon: Hezbollah’s Shebaa raid violated Resolution 1701
Elise Knutsen/The Daily Star/Mar. 06, 2015
BEIRUT: Contrary to the Lebanese government’s position, the United Nations believes that Hezbollah violated Security Council Resolution 1701 when it attacked an Israeli convoy in the Shebaa Farms last month, a high-ranking U.N. official told The Daily Star.
Hezbollah’s launching of anti-tank missiles from Lebanon, which resulted in the death of two Israeli soldiers, “constitutes a serious violation of the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel,” said Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon.
But Lebanese officials from both political coalitions insist Hezbollah did not in fact breach the resolution. Kaag spoke with Hezbollah during and after the crisis in January and the party told her that the attack on the Israeli convoy was “a carefully calibrated operation” that did not violate Resolution 1701. She added that the most recent Security Council report on the implementation of 1701 which has not yet been made fully public addresses violations by both Hezbollah and Israel of the resolution. The report states that an investigation by UNIFIL found that the Israeli army had fired 20 white phosphorous mortar shells into Lebanon. Despite repeatedly claiming that the Israeli army will discontinue the use of white phosphorus, which is restricted by international law, the toxic gas is apparently still in use.
There is mounting concern that hostile language, “posturing, incidents or accidents” may inadvertently lead to a renewed conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, Kaag said. The international community has taken a “renewed interest” in Resolution 1701 and will “look at opportunities where progress may be possible or rather should happen,” Kaag said. She refused to specify, however, whether she would lobby for an official designation of the Shebaa Farms, which the U.N. claims is a disputed territory. When asked whether she would push for Israel’s withdrawal from the Lebanese village of Ghajar, Kaag replied that “stability” is valued by the parties involved. Israel has occupied the entire village, half of which lies in Lebanese territory, since 2000. The United Nations has repeatedly urged the Israeli government to withdraw its troops from the village. But Kaag suggested that liberation was unlikely, at least for now, in order to maintain calm along the border. Kaag, who assumed the position of special coordinator in mid-January, said that the situation along Lebanon’s southern border figured among the topics she discussed with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby on a trip to Cairo earlier this week. “Obviously I wanted to have Dr. Nabil Elaraby’s take on the situation both on the south [and] eastern borders, a broader perspective so to speak,” Kaag told The Daily Star. The international community must continue to play an important role in helping Lebanon maintain stability, Kaag stressed.
At the Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which will be held in Kuwait at the end of this month, Kaag will seek to “put Lebanon on the map again.”As the crisis enters its fifth year, “donor fatigue” is a serious concern, Kaag said, but Lebanon urgently needs international support to help manage the refugee crisis, which has had an adverse effect on the country’s economy and stability. Moreover, if Syrian refugees are pushed to desperation some may follow “the path to radicalization and extremism.”International institutions are looking into new ways to keep Lebanon afloat financially, Kaag added. As a middle-income country with generally high social and development indicators but struggling with a refugee influx, the “financial architecture” of institutions like the World Bank needs to be flexible, she said. Echoing statements made by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, Kaag condemned the participation of Lebanese citizens in the Syrian conflict. There is “tremendous concern” that the Syrian conflict might further spill over into Lebanon, she added.
The presidential vacuum, she said “normalizes an erosion of the institutions as forseen by the Constitution and also by [the] Taif [Accord] ... [which] cannot be good for Lebanon’s interests in the mid term or long term.”

Hezbollah brands Netanyahu a fox in sheep’s clothing
The Daily Star/Mar. 06, 2015/BEIRUT: Hezbollah denounced Thursday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress as “disgusting” and “hostile” and warned against advancing Israeli interests at the expense of the American people. “What is disgusting is that Netanyahu stood there like a fox in sheep’s clothing, calling on Iran to stop its aggressions in the Middle East,” Hezbollah MP Hussein Musawi said in a statement released by the party’s media office. Musawi described Netanyahu’s speech as “rich in its hostility toward the Islamic Republic of Iran,” saying that it reflected the positions of “American Zionist lobby groups.” Addressing the American people, the MP questioned how they could accept a Congress that clearly served Zionist interests and turned a blind eye to crimes against humanity committed by Israel. “More importantly, how can this population accept the fact that Israel’s interests are secured at the expense of the interests of American people?” he added. The MP also criticized some Arab rulers, especially those in the Gulf, whom he claimed had made “a friend” out of Netanyahu due to their shared hostility toward Iran.

Lebanese Cabinet agrees to consensual decision making
The Daily Star/Mar. 05, 2015/BEIRUT: The first Cabinet session in over two weeks ended Thursday, with Prime Minister Tammam Salam declaring that a consensus formula would replace the body's current decision-making mechanism. “Given the exceptional circumstances resulting from the 9-month long presidential vacuum, the consensus formula is given a priority in the constitution,” Salam said at the start of the session, according to Information Minister Ramzi Joreige. Salam stressed that a consensus-based decision making system remains as the “best option” as long as it doesn't lead to disruption in Cabinet, Joreige added. The information minister did not reveal any amendments to the current mechanism, which requires unanimous support from all 24 ministers on Cabinet decisions, but said that Salam would no longer “tolerate” disruptions resulting from a lack of quorum. The prime minister also expressed hopes that Cabinet’s one year anniversary would serve as an occasion for the government to reevaluate its work in light of the presidential void, and reiterated the urgent need to elect a presdient, Joreige said. Cabinet then proceeded to study delayed agenda items that had been postponed due to the two-week pause in Cabinet’s work. The three-hour long session ended with ministers agreeing on five regular agenda items.
According to ministerial sources, the consensus formula, which was agreed upon during Salam’s consultations with all blocs represented in the Cabinet, calls for consensus to be the basis of the government’s work. If any minister objects to a Cabinet decision relating to a non-exceptional matter and on which the majority of political blocs agree, it will not be postponed but will be approved, the sources said. They added that ministers who oppose any decision can register their reservations, something that was not applied in previous sessions before Salam suspended Cabinet sessions last month. In addition, the deal calls for all items on the agenda to obtain prior consent from all major political blocs so that they can be approved with the required speed, the sources said. The agreement also calls on ministers to avoid using Cabinet sessions as a platform for political duels, as was often the case in the past. With regard to Cabinet decrees that need the president’s signature after they have been signed by the prime minister, the relevant minister and the finance minister, they would be presented to the ministers to sign them, the sources said. If one or more ministers refused to sign, the Constitution would be applied in this case, which means that the decrees would become effective after 15 days, the sources added.

IS 'Bulldozes' Ancient Assyrian City of Nimrud in Iraq
Naharnet/The Islamic State group began bulldozing the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq on Thursday, the government said, in the jihadists' latest attack on the country's historical heritage. IS "assaulted the historic city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy vehicles," the tourism and antiquities ministry said on an official Facebook page. An Iraqi antiquities official confirmed the news, saying the destruction began after noon prayers on Thursday and that trucks that may have been used to haul away artifacts had also been spotted at the site.
"Until now, we do not know to what extent it was destroyed," the official said on condition of anonymity. Nimrud, which was founded in the 13th century BC, lies on the Tigris around 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Mosul, Iraq's second city and the main hub of IS in the country. The destruction at Nimrud, one of the jewels of the Assyrian era, came a week after the jihadist group released a video showing militants armed with sledgehammers and jackhammers smashing priceless ancient artifacts at the Mosul museum.
That attack sparked widespread consternation and alarm, with some archaeologists and heritage experts comparing it to the 2001 demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban. In the jihadists' extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a corruption of the purity of the early Muslim faith and amount to recognizing other objects of worship than God. The group spearheaded a sweeping offensive last June that overran Nineveh province, where Mosul and Nimrud are located, and swept through much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland. Iraqi security forces and allied fighters are battling to regain ground from the jihadists with backing from an international anti-IS coalition as well as neighboring Iran. But major operations to drive IS out of Nineveh are likely months away, leaving the province's irreplaceable historical sites at the mercy of militants who have no regard for Iraq's past. SourceAgence France Presse

Lebanese Army chief Jean Kahwagi denies personal political ambitions
The Daily Star/Mar. 05, 2015/BEIRUT: Army Commander Jean Kahwagi said Thursday that the military does not engage in political games, stressing that his actions are not related to any personal interests or ambitions. “The Army is for all the Lebanese, it will not be part of the political struggle or a tool for anyone,” Kahwagi told Al-Mayadeen TV. “The Army is an institution of fighting and discipline without political ambitions, and its leadership does not make secret deals under the table.”Kahwaji played down rumors about his alleged “personal demand for political and official posts in the government,” saying such accusations are “nonsensical.”Kahwagi has often been touted as a potential presidential candidate. Many army commanders have been elected to the presidency in the past, most recently former presidents Emile Lahoud and Michel Sleiman. Kahwagi also stressed that the Army has been forced into the battle with terrorists and that it will be fought without any “political calculations.” He highlighted the Army’s capabilities, saying its troops have the required military skills to fight terrorism. “The central mission in this phase is protecting Lebanon against any strife and confronting terrorism,” he said. Kahwagi also said Arab and international actors were “serious” in their intentions to confront terrorism, and thanked the United States and Jordan for recent military aid packages to the Lebanese Army.

Lebanese Cabinet back on course
The Daily Star/Mar. 05, 2015 /Lebanon’s Cabinet appears poised to turn the corner after months of internal bickering produced a state of paralysis. Ministers from the various political factions are scheduled to convene Thursday for what is hoped is a productive session, after leading political factions and figures agreed that enough is enough. Yes, Baabda Palace has been without a president for nearly a year, but this vacancy shouldn’t mean that the crucially important executive body of the Cabinet should also disappear from the scene. After a long series of meetings and discussions, the country’s politicians appear to have realized that the standoff over the Cabinet should come to an end, but they should remember how the conflict started – if they return to attending meetings with the same mindset, the only prospect is further paralysis and drift. The failure to elect a president is a huge blow to Lebanon’s political system, but it’s the second such long spell of having no head of state in less than a decade. The agenda of the Cabinet, where business touches on a whole host of people’s “daily” issues and concerns, is more directly tied to the welfare of the public. Every minister has the duty and the right to object to, or express reservations about, the actions taken by the Cabinet, but this doesn’t give them the right to paralyze the executive branch. In such cases, the majority simply must carry the day, because obtaining the consent of 24 out of 24 ministers is a monumentally difficult task. With the Cabinet’s backlog of business growing longer by the day, politicians simply must end the standoff as soon as possible.

N. Lebanon governor shuts down factory over emissions
Antoine Amrieh/The Daily Star/Mar. 05, 2015/BEIRUT: North Lebanon’s Governor ordered Thursday the closure of a peat-processing plant in the Koura district after residents complained about its emissions and impact on agriculture. Governor Ramzi Nohra, accompanied by security forces, raided the factory overnight in the Koura village of Bziza. “The factory operated continuously during the night to hide the great harm that it causes,” Nohra told The Daily Star. “The factory violates health standards.” The governor explained that factory, which extracts oil from peat, created emissions and odors that had caused anger among the area’s residents. “This is why we observed closely how this factory was being operated, and we saw that it lacks any health standards,” he said. “It will be immediately closed.”
A bishop from the village expressed his gratitude for the decision, saying the factory was originally erected against the will of the area’s residents. He explained that the factory had also been causing health problems and agricultural losses for the village’s farmers.
A municipality board member of Bziza told The Daily Star that the factory was not licensed by the municipality when it was created in 2008. “The factory received the license from former Industry Minister Ghazi Zeaiter directly, without us knowing how it happened,” board member Sleiman Qassas said. “The municipality was only notified about it [after].”Ghazi Zeaiter is the current Minister of Public Works and Transportation. He is affiliated with the Amal Movement, headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

ISF Arrests Top Fugitive Linked to ISIL
Naharnet/Police in the Bekaa Valley detained on Thursday an allegedly dangerous terrorist linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The state-run National News Agency reported that Syrian national Hussein Ghurelli, who is linked to ISIL in the Syrian Qalamoun, was detained in a hospital in the Bekaa. The name of the hospital was not revealed. Ghurelli, according to NNA, was being treated for an injury he sustained in his head during last week's clashes in the northeastern border town of Ras Baalbek.
He also reportedly took part in the battles against the army in town of Arsal. Last week, the army targeted militant posts on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek, seizing two hilltop positions. The army frequently clashed with the militants in their hideouts near the Syria border, targeting gunmen to prevent them from advancing. The jihadists remain entrenched on the outskirts of Arsal on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border. The mountainous area along the Lebanese-Syrian border has long been a smuggling haven, with multiple routes into Syria that have been used to transport weapons and fighters.

Mazloum Says No Maronite Summit, Dialogue Should Only Serve Presidential Polls
Naharnet/Maronite bishop Samir Mazloum has denied that Bkirki was seeking to hold a summit for the rival Christian political leaders but he called for dialogue among different factions to focus on the election of a new president. “There is no such thing at this current stage,” Mazloum told al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Thursday about a possible summit among Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, the head of Kataeb Party, former President Amin Gemayel, and MP Suleiman Franjieh, who is the leader of Marada Movement. Mazloum reiterated Bkirki's call for the swift election of a new head of state, blaming the vacuum at Baabda Palace on several obstacles in state institutions. “A president should be elected as soon as possible to rectify the state's affairs,” he stressed. Asked about the resumption of cabinet sessions, the bishop said: “It is natural for the government to resume its meetings and to do all it can to serve the people.” Prime Minister Tammam Salam had suspended sessions, warning that he would not invite the ministers for a meeting if they did not heed his call to amend the controversial working mechanism that was adopted after the rival MPs failed to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman last year. Earlier this week, he decided to call for a session on Thursday after the different factions agreed for consensus to be the basis of the government’s work rather than the unanimous support from all the ministers on cabinet decisions. But Mazloum said “nothing has practically changed” after the deal among the ministers.
Asked about the dialogue among different factions, the bishop told al-Joumhouria that Bkirki encourages talks. “But any dialogue or activity … would be short of reaching its objectives if it is not in favor of electing a president.” He expressed hope that the conferees would deal with the presidential elections as the most essential issue on the agenda of their talks. Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal officials have been holding talks under Speaker Nabih Berri's sponsorship since December. Christian rivals the FPM and the LF are also engaging in dialogue to set the stage for a meeting between Aoun and Geagea. Both are presidential candidates and their rivalry is among the reasons that has left the country's top Christian post vacant.

Report: Beirut Port Official to Visit Bkirki over Controversial Basin
Naharnet /The head of the Beirut Port Authority Hassan Qoraytem is expected to visit Bkirki on Thursday to defend his decision to fill the controversial fourth basin at the port, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported. The daily said Qoraytem will hold talks with Bishop Boulos Sayyah, who is expected to reiterate to the port official that Christian parties reject the filling of the basin. The plan to fill it sparked controversy in December when the truckers syndicate went on strike over fears that the project would cause hundreds of Beirut Port employees, mostly truckers, to lose their jobs. The syndicate claims that the filling of the basin would end the role of Beirut Port and would harm the economy. The project will give more space to store containers. But there are fears that transforming the Port of Beirut into a transshipment hub would direct large vessels to the Port of Tripoli because the fourth basin will no longer be able to accept big cargo ships. The truckers later ended their strike after Prime Minister Tammam Salam said the work to fill the basin would freeze until the issue was resolved. Bkirki has again hosted a meeting for the Christian parties that reject the filling of the basin. The representatives of the Free Patriotic Movement, Kataeb Party, the Lebanese Forces, Marada Movement and the Tashnag said in a statement that their stance from the issue has not changed. According to al-Joumhouria, their statement was aimed at refuting claims that some of them had backed down from their position. The objective of the meeting was also aimed at stressing that the work stoppage at the basin did not mean the issue has been resolved, said the daily.

Gemayel Lauds Salam's Role in Safeguarding Country, Criticizes Ongoing Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet /Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel expressed relief over Prime Minister Tammam Salam's role in safeguarding the cabinet and the country's interests, reiterating the importance of electing a new head of state. The Christian chief described a meeting with Salam on Wednesday as relieving, noting that they discussed all matters that concern the Lebanese. “We are in agreement,” Gemayel said in comments published in al-Joumhouria newspaper on Thursday. Salam called on the cabinet to resume meetings on Thursday after differences between the ministers on the amendment of the mechanism prompted the premier to suspend sessions in the past two weeks giving way for the cabinet members to reach an agreement on the formula, which he wants it to be based on article 65 of the constitution.
The current mechanism, which was adopted after the cabinet assumed the prerogative of the president in accordance with the constitution, states that ministers should give unanimous support to the government's decisions. But it proved to be troublesome after some ministers resorted to veto power. Gemayel remarked that he underlined during the meeting the importance of electing a new head of state, who is the key to stability in Lebanon and the unity of institutions. “In the absence of the president article 65 of the constitution has no grounds and shouldn't be adopted,” Gemayel lamented. The article's clause five says: “The legal quorum for a council meeting shall be a two-thirds majority of its members. It shall make its decisions by consensus. If that is not possible, it makes its decisions by vote of the majority of attending members. Basic issues shall require the approval of two thirds of the members of the government named in the decree of its formation.” The Kataeb chief criticized the parliament, noting that it should only convene to elect a new president, saying: “Some officials shouldn't act as if the presence or absence of a head of state is the same.”“Priority is for electing a new president,” Gemayel stressed, warning that adapting to the presidential vacuum is a “serious and dangerous crime.”

Hezbollah urges tighter state control in suburbs: report
The Daily StarظMar. 05, 2015/BEIRUT: Hezbollah has pleaded for the government to stop the spread of weapons in Beirut’s southern suburbs following a number of armed clashes between local clans, local daily Al-Liwaa said Thursday. Citing well-informed sources, the report said Hezbollah has informed concerned parties that it can no longer bear the consequences of the proliferation of weapons in the southern suburbs in the wake of clashes between the Jaafar and Zeaiter clans in Burj al-Barajneh. Hezbollah, the report added, stressed that the government was the only authority that could put an end to the spread of crimes and contraband in the area. Al-Liwaa has also learned that Hezbollah participants in the dialogue with the Future Movement have called for the implementation of a speedy security plan for the Hezbollah-controlled suburbs, similar to the crackdown on outlaws in north and east Lebanon. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk reportedly informed Beirut MPs who visited him Wednesday that his ministry has begun examining the logistics to put the southern suburbs’ security plan into action. Security forces deployed for the first time in the Hezbollah stronghold in September 2013 as part of a plan to replace checkpoints set up by Hezbollah following a series of deadly car bombings that targeted the southern suburbs.

Military pressure may be needed to oust Assad: Kerry
Agence France Presse/Mar. 05, 2015/RIYADH: Military pressure may be needed to oust Syria's President Bashar Assad, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Saudi Arabia Thursday. "He's lost any semblance of legitimacy, but we have no higher priority than disrupting and defeating Daesh ... Ultimately a combination of diplomacy and pressure will be needed to bring about a political transition," he told reporters, adding that "military pressure may be needed."
Daesh is an Arabic acronym for ISIS, which has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Jumblat Snaps Back after Threat, Says PSP Backs Revolution against 'Terrorist' Syrian Regime
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat reiterated on Thursday that his party backs the Syrian revolution against the terrorist regime of President Bashar Assad after receiving threats from a Jordanian writer. “The PSP holds onto its stable stance in support of the Syrian revolution against the regime of terror, murder and threat against the Syrian people,” Jumblat said in a statement, which he issued a day after al-Akhbar newspaper said the writer had threatened the lawmaker. The unnamed journalist had reportedly said the mainly Druze city of al-Swaida, which is located in southwestern Syria close to the Jordanian border, “would be safeguarded politically and militarily by breaking Walid Jumblat, the central connection in the plot.” The PSP chief described the writer as one of the mouthpieces of the terrorist regime in Syria, which he said is taking the country towards destruction. Jumblat stated that his party has not interfered in Syria's war and was keen on having a comprehensive confrontation by the people against the regime to protect the country's unity.
He said he reserved the right to take legal action against the writer “through Lebanon's state institutions that were and will remain our only choice.” Jumblat also urged Lebanon's different political factions “to reject all sorts of instigation and accusations which Lebanon has played a high price for.”

Saudi FM urges coalition to face ISIS challenge on the ground
Agence France Presse/Mar. 05, 2015/RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal called Thursday on the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq to fight the jihadis on the ground. The kingdom, part of the coalition, "stresses the need to provide the military means needed to face this challenge on the ground," Faisal said during a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Several Arab countries have joined the air campaign against ISIS. President Barack Obama, anxious to avoid a drawn-out ground war, has backed an air campaign but ruled out deploying boots on the ground. Meanwhile, Faisal warned of Iran's growing role in Iraq, accusing the Shiite-dominated Islamic republic of "taking over" its Arab neighbor through its aid in the fight against ISIS.
"Tikrit is a prime example of what we are worried about. Iran is taking over the country," Faisal said of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown. The U.S. military's top officer, General Martin Dempsey, said Tuesday that Iran's help in an Iraqi offensive to recapture Tikrit could be "a positive thing" providing it did not fuel added sectarianism. Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia is wary of the ambitions of its arch rival across the Gulf.

The Saudi king gave a prize to an Islamic scholar who says 9/11 was an ‘inside job’
By Ishaan Tharoor March 4 /15/The Washington Post
Saudi King Salman, left, presented Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in India, with the 2015 King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam in Riyadh. (King Faisal Foundation via AFP)
Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia's King Salman awarded a prestigious prize to Zakir Naik, a televangelist and religious scholar from India, heralding him as "one of the most renowned non-Arabic-speaking promulgators of Islam." Naik, a trained doctor, founded the Peace TV channel, which supposedly reaches an audience of 100 million English-speaking Muslims. His popular YouTube stream includes videos titled "Who is deceived by the Satan, Christians or Muslims?" and "Does eating non-vegetarian food have any effect on the mind?"
Naik's creed is an expansive one. "Islam is the only religion that can bring peace to the whole of humanity," he said in a video biography aired at the ceremony.
The preacher is not short of controversy. His orthodox, Wahhabist views — affiliated closely with the Saudi state — are polarizing in India, which is home to a diverse set of Muslim traditions and sects. His conservatism has led him to make statements endorsing the use of female sex slaves and allegedly expressing sympathy for terrorists.
[Read: The facts, and a few myths, about Saudi Arabia's human rights record]
Earlier this year, hundreds of Sufi Muslims picketed a New Delhi event where Naik was speaking, demanding his arrest and accusing him of propagating a divisive, dangerous brand of Islam.
In a 2008 video, he claimed President George W. Bush was behind the Sept. 11 attacks. "Even a fool will know that this was an inside job," Naik said. Years before, he appeared to offer tacit backing to terrorist masterminds such as Osama bin Laden.
"If [Bin Laden] is terrorizing America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him," he said in one video. "Every Muslim should be a terrorist."
In a video in 2007, he talked about how "Jews are controlling America."
In 2010, Britain's government barred his entry into the country on grounds of "unacceptable behavior."
Naik's supporters argue that his comments are taken out of context, and point to the religious diversity of those in attendance at his mass public events.
Speaking to the New York Times earlier this week, he condemned the violence of militants like those from the Islamic State, but not without a caveat. "I am absolutely against Muslims who kill, but what is the U.S. doing?” Naik said, citing civilian casualties amid U.S. campaigns in the Muslim world. "Is the U.S. really bothered about human rights? No!"
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia late Wednesday to consult with Salman on the status of negotiations with Iran, a Saudi foe. The United States' close relationship with Saudi Arabia endures despite the kingdom's horrific human rights record and its conspicuous role in helping spread the views preached by Islamic supremacists such as Naik.
Naik, who has also been feted in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, reportedly received a 24-karat gold medal from the Saudi king and a check for $200,000.

From Iraq to Syria: the Genocidal Ordeal of the Assyrians
By Joseph Yacoub
Posted 2015-03-05
Assyrians fleeing from Urmia, Iran in 1918 to escape the genocide by Turks.
(AINA) — The Assyrian-Chaldean community is facing dark times and a distressing situation. These criminal attacks, these innocent kidnappings (more than 250 people, young people, women and older people are taken into captivity), the forced exile of thousands of people (more than 3000 refugees in Hassake and Qamishli) those martyred (more than 10 already) are a terrible shock to a community that has endured in the past much suffering.A new tragedy and collective extermination against the Assyrian-Chaldeans is once more unfolding before our eyes in pain and blood in Syria, since Monday February 23rd, following that of Iraq where the Nineveh province is still in mourning since its invasion by the terrorist groups of the so-called “Islamic State”, one June the 10th and July the 17th of 2014.
With the destruction of historical monuments that date back more than 3000 years of history and the demolition of churches and sanctuaries by a band of nihilist obscurantists, the memory of a people and traces of a civilization, Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of humanity, that holds a tangible and intangible world heritage, is being erased.
These acts of vandalism have been vigorously denounced by the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.
Early on the morning of Monday February 23rd, the ISIS terror befell the Assyrian villages of Khabur, with the first persecutions having begun in September, with the summing of removal of crosses from churches.
See attacks on Assyrians in Syria
See Timeline of ISIS in North Iraq
The irony is that these new victims, these worthy son of Hakkari, their ancestral home, are precisely the children of the deported from Iraq massacres of 1933, themselves survivors of the 1915 genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Syria was the third country of refuge
They live in the northeast of Syria, since 1933, on the 2 banks of the Khabur River in 35 villages between the towns of Hassake (which is my hometown) and Ras al-Ain. It is with joy that I spent my childhood and youth between Hassake and the Assyrian villages where I fed on the love of the Assyrian country and learned the pride of belonging to this people.
Who are the Assyrians?
The documents of the League of Nations (SDN), which is the UN between the wars, claim that the Assyrians were “driven from their mountains by Turkish forces” in 1915 and “took refuge in Urmia, Persia, that was, at the time, in the hands of Russian troops.”
After 1915, a new tragedy occurred, the exodus of the Assyrian-Chaldeans of Persia to Iraq on the 31st of July 1918. This terrible exodus is described in these terms: “After traveling in the stampede 300 miles (480 km) towards the south-east, with their families, their livestock and their property, the Assyrians finally reached Hamadan, decimated by perpetual attacks of the Turks, Kurds and Persians on all sides. Burned by the heat of the summer, ravaged by typhus, dysentery, smallpox and cholera, the old and young, exhausted by fatigue and fever, were abandoned on the roadside, and the dead and dying marked the path to retreat. In the end, after losing 20,000 of them, the survivors reached Hamadan and made contact with the British troops.”
Fifteen years after arriving in Iraq (1918-1933), they were again victims of massacres that were at the time largely reflected by the international press, namely French.
Yet when Iraq gained independence and was admitted to the League of Nations on October 30th 1932, commitments were made to establish the Assyrians, who originated in Hakkari, as a homogeneous ethnic unity and compact group. However, the word “unit” was in the plural, thus maintaining the dispersion of the people. At the time, three key ideas summarized their demands homogeneous institution, administrative autonomy and right to collect taxes.
All efforts to establish the Assyrian unity had failed due to the resistance of the Iraqi authorities. Therefore, it was before such a state of dispersion, disunity and sloshing that the situation was becoming more and more critical.
Massacres took place in the village of Simmele and other localities in northern Iraq in August of 1933, committed by the now independent Iraqi state.
They made state of 3000 victims killed in atrocious conditions. It was then that a number of Assyrian mountaineers once again took the road on a forced exile to Syria, where they were greeted and seated in the Khabur region by the French authorities who then had the Mandate of Syria, entrusted by the League.
Villages cited as model
They built villages and developed agricultural land that lay fallow. They were cited as a model of success and loyalty to Syria.
We can mention with pride the list of major Assyrian villages built with their labor, estimated at 35, which is a microcosm and a reproduction that reminded them of the Hakkari:
Um Gargan Arbouch Tal Tal Hormuz Damshesh Tal Tal Tal Tal Maghada, Kharita, Alkeif Um, Um Waqfa Abu Tina, Qabr Shamiyeh, Baloaa Tal Tal Goran Shamiram Tal Tal Jazirah, Talaa Tal Tal Najme, Hefian Tal Tal Nasri, Baz Tal Tal Jumaa, Maghas Tal Tal Masas, Jadaya Tal Tal Tawil, Tamer Tal Tal Kepchi, Faidat Tal Tal Ahmar Tal Ruman Tahtani Tal Ruman Fokani, Brej Tal Tal Sakra, Wardiate Tal Tal Shamyeh.
The Khabur, a miniature of the Hakkari
What is extraordinary, from an anthropological and sociological point of view, is that when they arrived in the Khabur, Assyrians reproduced the structures of tribal organization, clan, family and religion prevailing since ancient times in Hakkari.
Thus, Tal Damshesh was occupied by the people of Konak, called Qotchesnaye, a village which was until 1915 the Patriarchal Headquarter of March Shimoun , the Baznaye inTal Baz and Tal Ruman Tahtani, the Talnaye in Tal Tal, the Djeloaye in Qabr Shamiye, the Tchalnaye in Tal Brej, the Gounouknaye in Tal Sakra and Qabr Shamyeh, the Mazernaye in Tal Wardiate, the Deznaye in Tal Baloaa, the Gavarnaye in Tal Goran and Tal Maghas, the Marbouchnaye in Tal Shamiram, the Halemnaye in Tal Jumaa, the Barwarnaye in Tal Masas, the Ilynnaye in Tal Jadaya, the Tiaraye in Tal Tamer, the Akernaye in Tal Kepchi the Mazernaye in Tal Ruman Fokani ….
The defense of their identity, ethnic, cultural and religious
This story is transmitted, since, as an intangible heritage through songs, illustrated by folklore, perpetuated by many poems and literary productions.
Belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East, formerly called Nestorian, grouped around their Patriarch (who lived in exile) and their leaders (the Maleks), they built churches whose names recall their saints, those they worshiped the country, as Saint Shalita, Saint Zaya, Saint Petion, Saint Guiwarguis, Saint Sarguis, Saint Bichou …and every village is composed mainly of the tribe and clan to which they belonged.
A knowingly planned strategy and a crime against humanity
Since the 23rd of February the situation has been extremely worrying, with several villages like Tal Tamer, Tal Shamiram, Tal Tawil and Tal Hormuz attacked by ultra radical Islamists, equipped with heavy artillery.
Misfortune has befallen this peaceful community that asks for nothing more than its share of life and the right to dignity and respect. Fed by a political ideology of hate, this is a strategy concerted and carefully prepared for the goal of emptying the region of its Christian population, destabilizing, sowing fear and spreading terror. Faced with these cruel and barbaric acts, it is urgent to respond by taking concrete measures to break this passivity and inconsistency in which the international community delights.
How did we reach this situation? What contempt of the human being and what decline of civilization. This address was delivered at the event for the Assyrians Khabur (Syria), in Sarcelles, Sunday 1 March 2015. Translated from French by Maguy Chiha. Joseph Yacoub is Honorary Professor (Political Science) from the Catholic University of Lyon. Views and opinions expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AINA.

On Iran, Arabs deeply mistrust Obama
Michael Young/The Daily Star/Mar. 05, 2015
What was striking in Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday was how the Israeli prime minister exploited the Obama administration’s ambiguities on the broader implications of a nuclear deal with Iran.
While Netanyahu’s proposals for how to strengthen the nuclear accord are not likely to be implemented, two issues he raised cannot be readily ignored by President Barack Obama: How a deal might enhance Iran’s regional influence; and whether regional wariness with a deal could spur nuclear proliferation. Iran’s regional role is an issue that the U.S. has strenuously, and foolishly, sought to separate from the nuclear discussions. This has alarmed the Gulf states – and now Israel – who fear that a lifting of sanctions on Iran and a rapprochement with the U.S. would facilitate Iranian expansionism. The Arab states understand that the implications of a nuclear accord are mainly political. Having signed a long-awaited arrangement with Tehran, the U.S. is unlikely to turn around and enter into new conflicts to prevent it from widening its reach in the Arab world.
Indeed, there are signs that the Obama administration would do precisely the contrary. Obama, in a letter last October to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, effectively recognized Iran’s role in Syria by reassuring him that coalition airstrikes against ISIS would not target Bashar Assad’s forces. Moreover, by affirming the parallel interests of the U.S. and Iran in combating ISIS, Obama defined a basis for regional cooperation with Tehran. It is understandable that Netanyahu’s warning fell on deaf ears at the White House. The relationship between Obama and the Israeli prime minister has been poor, and Netanyahu’s refusal to advance in negotiations with the Palestinians suggests to the Americans that relations with his government are a one-way street. For Netanyahu to then personally lobby in Washington against a major Obama initiative was the last straw. No wonder House Democrats were so withering in their criticism of him.
But whatever Netanyahu’s duplicity, the questions he raised are the same ones that many Arab states have, and to which Obama has offered no answers. Iranian influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories and now Yemen, is very real, and Tehran has spent years building it up, patiently and deliberately.
Obama has explained his Iran policy poorly, and there is a growing sense that this has been intentional. Why? Because Obama’s true ambition is to reduce America’s role in the Middle East, and, to quote analyst Tony Badran, leave in its place “a new security structure, of which Iran is a principal pillar.” Because such a scheme is bound to anger U.S. allies in the region, Obama has concealed his true intentions.
From the start the administration made it a primary goal to reorient American attentions away from the Middle East, toward Asia. When the so-called “Arab Spring” began, Obama ignored its potential benefits and sought to pursue American disengagement. At every stage the administration worked to reduce the American footprint, and where that was not possible, as in Libya and Iraq, to define limited goals and share the burden with others. In absolute terms this approach is defensible. But as Badran suggests the outcome may well be an enhanced role for Iran, and this is something Arab states, not to mention Israel, will have great trouble accepting. If Obama imagines that the best way to advance his project is to keep mum about the outcome, he will see many more reactions like Netanyahu’s before long.
The Israeli prime minister is correct about one thing: If the Arabs feel threatened by an Iran that, ultimately, has the means of going nuclear, they will respond in kind by trying to develop their own nuclear capability. This would generate considerable instability and defeat the purpose of a nuclear agreement now.
In many passages Netanyahu’s speech was over the top. His credibility has been damaged by revelations that Israeli intelligence did not share his assessment of Iran’s nuclear program. There are few leaders as shameless, as annoying, as fraudulent. But that should not detract from the validity of some of his points. While many in the region might accept Obama’s choice to avert war with Iran by agreeing a nuclear deal, they see nothing reassuring in America’s vision of the aftermath.
The reality is that Obama is deeply distrusted in the Arab world. He is not a man who communicates much with Arab leaders or societies. His aversion to the region’s problems is palpable. Nor is Obama a president who immerses himself in the Middle East’s details. The extent of this was best illustrated by the fact that he never considered appointing an envoy to coordinate with regional allies over America’s position in the nuclear talks. Obama may get his deal with Iran, but he has prepared the terrain so carelessly that the consequences may be quite damaging. Iran is a rising power in a region where Arab states are disintegrating. Agreeing with Iran, if that happens, will be the easy part. Much tougher will be leaving in place a stable regional order. And given Obama’s performance until now, no one is wagering much that the U.S. will succeed in that.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

Netanyahu has created a zero-sum game with the U.S.
David Ignatius/The Daily Star/Mar. 05, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lobbied powerfully against a nuclear agreement with Iran in a well-crafted speech to Congress Tuesday. The problem is that he has now created a zero-sum game with the Obama administration, in which either the president or the prime minister seems likely to come out a loser.
Playing for huge stakes two weeks ahead of the Israeli elections, Netanyahu gave what may prove to be the defining speech of his career. He opened graciously with praise for President Barack Obama, which made his critique of the administration’s diplomacy all the stronger. He warned that the planned agreement would create a “nuclear tinderbox” in the Mideast and “inevitably lead to war.”
Netanyahu’s speech deepened his divide with the White House, where the boisterous cheers for the Israeli prime minister on the floor of the House of Representatives must have sounded like a rebuke. The speech has also created a new dynamic that may put the Middle East even closer to the knife’s edge.
Consider the possible outcomes as the Iran negotiations head toward a March 24 deadline: Netanyahu could “win,” and convince Congress to derail the biggest foreign policy initiative of Obama’s presidency. Or Obama could “win,” and push ahead to conclude what Netanyahu characterized as “a very bad deal.” Either outcome would traumatize U.S.-Israel relations and portend a poisonous final two years for Obama’s presidency.
Two other hard landings are possible after Netanyahu’s high-wire performance. Iran could balk at further concessions, walk away from negotiations and accelerate its nuclear program – forcing the U.S. and Israel to consider military action. Or Netanyahu, having bet his political future on the visit to Washington, could lose in the Israeli elections on March 17. That defeat may be less likely after Netanyahu’s deft presentation.
What’s least likely is that Tehran will bend enough to agree to Netanyahu’s formula.
Netanyahu’s speech didn’t offer many new ideas, but a White House senior official’s dismissal of it as “all rhetoric, no action” was overstated. Although the Israeli leader clearly rejects the deal Obama is contemplating, he argued that if the U.S. is determined to proceed, it should insist that the agreement not terminate until Iran has abandoned its aggression in the region, halted its terrorism and accepted Israel’s existence.
Obama hopes for just such an evolution toward postrevolutionary sanity in Tehran over the decadelong duration of the planned agreement, and Netanyahu is right that it would be good to put this in writing. But that would almost certainly be a deal-breaker for Tehran.
Netanyahu invoked the poet Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” in arguing that at the approaching fork, there is one safe route. But both paths appear likely to have dangerous obstructions.
The most obvious problem with an Iran deal is that it would create a new breach with Israel. Washington and its allies would worry that Israel might take unilateral military action against what Netanyahu has described as an existential threat. A deal would also bring inevitable allegations that Iran was cheating. This could trigger new rounds of sanctions legislation by the U.S. Congress that could, in turn, lead Iran to argue that Washington was reneging – and result in the pact unraveling.
An agreement would also, as Netanyahu warned, mean a new era of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey sought to achieve the same “nuclear threshold” status the pact would give Iran. When the sunset of the agreement approaches roughly 10 years hence, and Iran is freed from limits, the race toward nuclear capability would accelerate across the region. As bad as the Mideast is now, it could get much worse.
The other path is the one where U.S. diplomacy fails. This could result from a hardening of the U.S. or Iranian positions, from new sanctions legislated by Congress, or simply the inability to bridge existing gaps. Here, again, greater tension is likely – with U.S. and Iranian forces at dangerously close quarters in the fight against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.
What Netanyahu did Tuesday was to raise the bar for Obama. Any deal that the administration signs will have to address the concerns Netanyahu voiced. Given what’s at stake in the Middle East, that’s probably a good thing. As administration officials said at the outset of negotiations, no deal is better than a bad one.
The Israeli prime minister’s speech, for all its divisive political consequences, served to sharpen the focus on what a good deal would look like.
**David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

Syria's Iranization becoming real strategic threat for Israel
Israel Ziv/Ynetnews
Published: 03.05.15/Israel Opinion
Analysis: If Iran succeeds in its plan to nationalize Golan Heights and gain control of Damascus basin, Israel will wake up to a much more complicated regional reality; tense relationship with US administration is making things even more difficult.
As the nuclear agreement between Washington and Tehran takes shape, and as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempts to thwart it, we should not underestimate the importance of the situation in Syria, which is not only exacting a bloody toll at a rate of more than 100 people a day, but is also becoming a strategic threat to Israel which is just as serious as the Iranian threat. Iran is fully taking the reins over the situation in Syria. The Iranians are working closely with President Bashar Assad, citing the "need to protect him." In practice, not a single military decision is implemented without them. Iran no longer trusts Hezbollah, whose performance so far has produced insufficient achievements.
The Revolutionary Guards commanders have taken command of the Golan Heights front down to the southern city of Daraa. Over 10,000 Shiite volunteers from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan have been sent to Syria to fill the ranks and curb the rebels' major Sunni offensive towards Damascus.
This is all happening of course over the dissolving Syrian army's head and over Assad himself, who is turning into a puppet counting down its days and watching its lost country.
Israel is watching the Iranization taking place about 10 kilometers from its border with great concern. Iran is in fact taking the place of the enemy from Damascus, which has been Israel's "most convenient" enemy for four decades.
Washington, which wants to reach a nuclear agreement at almost all costs, is turning a blind eye. Moscow, which has already given up on Assad and has come to terms with the fact that it will likely never see the money for the weapons it supplied him with, is completely shutting its eyes.
Iran is implementing an extremely realistic strategy and taking advantage of the American disorientation in the area. It's already clear that the Western coalition's response is too little, too late. The United States is sticking to a tactic of dismantling the Islamic State by adding more and more force, but is completely blind to the changes in the balance of power in the region. The US is in fact supporting the transfer of control over Damascus to the Iranians for a shaky nuclear agreement, for a bargain price: Two (Damascus plus Yemen) for the price of one.
The Islamic State is only expanding its wingspan. While the Americans are striking in northern Iraq, ISIS has already expanded its activity to 10 other countries in the world, including north and east Africa, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, etc.
US President Barack Obama refuses to acknowledge the existence of radical Islamic terror ("there is Islam, and there is terrorism…") and chooses to ignore the fact that the Sunnis' Islamic war against the Shiites is an established fact. But ISIS is gaining power and influence and growing stronger in a geometric series as a fanatic religious and viral phenomenon. Even the attempt to prevent ISIS from gaining control of Libya is being led by Egypt today, not by any of the Western countries.
While Israel is concerned about the Iranian expansion to its northern border, the tense relationship with the White House is making things very difficult. Will the prime minister's Congress speech, over Obama's head, really stop the agreement or only encourage it? That's unclear. But it will definitely not advance the strategic understandings with the administration in Washington, which Israel must reach at this time. And this is a much urgent matter than the extent of the supervision over the nuclear program in 10 years from now.
Israel must carefully monitor the developments. On the one hand, we should avoid getting entangled in a war we're not part of. But on the other hand, if Iran succeeds in its plan to nationalize the Golan and gain control of the Damascus basin, Israel will wake up to a new regional reality which will be much more complicated than Hezbollah – a direct and broad Iranian front which Israel has yet to experience.
Major-General (res.) Israel Ziv served as head of the Operations Directorate branch in the IDF's General Staff.

Netanyahu Has Reasons To Be Worried
Dennis Ross/USA Today
March 4, 2015
Washington has left too many questions unanswered in a possible nuclear deal with Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a strong case to the Congress about why he thinks the potential agreement with Iran on its nuclear program is a "very bad deal." Leaving aside his fears that lifting sanctions will provide Iran more resources to pursue trouble-making in the Middle East, the prime minister worries that a deal that permits Iran to be a threshold nuclear state will not prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons but actually pave the way for it to do so.
Netanyahu believes that the break-out time for producing weapons-grade uranium will inevitably be too short -- indeed, less than the year President Obama speaks about -- and that inspections of the Iranian program will necessarily be too limited and, in any case, promise no action in the face of violations. Worse, Iran will be treated like Japan or the Netherlands after the agreement expires in 10-15 years, permitting it to build tens of thousands of centrifuges and enabling it to produce a weapon at a time of its choosing.
Accepting the mantra that "no deal is better than a bad deal," Netanyahu offers the alternative of insisting on better terms and increasing the pressure on the Iranians until a more credible agreement is reached. He does not fear the Iranians walking away from the negotiating table because, in his words, they need the deal more than the U.S. and its partners.
While the Obama administration is unlikely to accept his argument that it should simply negotiate better and harder, it should not dismiss the concerns he raises about the emerging deal. Indeed, the administration argument that there is no better alternative than the deal it is negotiating begs the question of whether the prospective agreement is acceptable.
And, here, the administration needs to explain why the deal it is trying to conclude actually will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons for the life-time of the agreement and afterwards. It needs to explain why the combination of the number and quality of centrifuges, their output, and the ship-out from Iran of enriched uranium will, in fact, ensure that the break-out time for the Iranians will not be less than one year. Either this combination adds up or it does not, but there should be an explicit answer to Netanyahu's charge that Iran will be able to break-out much more quickly.
Similarly, there should be an answer on how the verification regime is going to work to ensure that we can detect, even in a larger nuclear program, any Iranian violation of the agreement. The issue of verification is critical not just because Iran's past clandestine nuclear efforts prove it cannot be trusted but also because the administration has made a one year break-out time the key measure of success of the agreement. But we can only be certain that Iran will be one year away from being able to produce a bomb's supply of weapons-grade uranium if we can detect what they are doing when they do it.
Obviously, detection is only part of the equation. We cannot wait to determine what we will do about violations when they happen. Iran must know in advance what the consequences are for violations, particularly if we want to deter them in the first place. And this clearly goes to the heart of Netanyahu's concerns: if he had high confidence that we would impose harsh consequences in response to Iranian violations, including the use of force if we caught Iran dashing toward a weapon, he would be less fearful of the agreement he believes is going to emerge.
But he does not see that, and he fears as with past arms control agreements that we will seek to discuss violations and not respond to them until it is too late. So the administration should address this fear and prove it means what it says by spelling out different categories of violations and the consequences for each -- and then seek congressional authorization to empower this president and his successors to act on these consequences.
If applied also to Iranian moves toward a nuclear weapon after the expiration of the deal, the administration would truly be answering the most significant of the concerns that Netanyahu raised. Maybe then, this episode of U.S.-Israeli tension would be overcome.
**Dennis Ross, the counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute, served as a senior Middle East advisor to President Obama from 2009 to 2011. This article was made possible in part by support from the Irwin Levy Family Program on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Relationship.