LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation For Today/Curing the
Demoniac Man Possessed by a
Legion Unclean Spirits
Mark 05/01-20: "They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them. ’So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake. The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him.But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed."
Bible Quotation For Today/ No fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God
Letter to the Ephesians 05/03-13: "But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them. For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,"
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March
Future-Hezbollah dialogue up in the air following diatribes/The Daily Star/March 16/15
New Form of Terror – Toy Drones – Has No Counter Measures/DEBKAfile/March 15/15
Middle Eastern Christians; death, exodus, betrayal and silence/Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/March 15/15
The day Egyptians forgot about the Muslim Brotherhood/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 15/15
Black holes and black flags mark Syria’s fourth anniversary/Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya/March 15/15
Lebanese Related News published on March
Future-Hezbollah talks in limbo after diatribes
More Deported Lebanese Arrive from UAE
Families of martyred troops decry state incompete
Deported from UAE arrive back home
Relatives of Military Victims Reject Settlement over Shaker, Urge Death Penalty for Assailants against Army
Report: Relative of Arsal Captives Says New Phase of Negotiations Kicked Off On
Israeli Troops Briefly Cross Blue Line overnight
Report: Lebanese Had Received Dozens of Warnings ahead of Their Deportation from UAE
Aoun Urges 'Dissociating' Lebanon by 'Strong President who Can Gather All Parties, Equipping Army'
March 14 Forms National Council: Hizbullah Prolonging Vacuum, Persian Scheme Dragging Region to War
Politicians blamed for delayed Jezzine election
New UAE ambassador amid Three year vacancy
Tripoli festival to showcase real city
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
Kerry Concedes U.S. Must Talk to Assad to End Syria War
Twin blasts at churches in Pakistan kill 10, wound 55
Taliban Attacks on Pakistan Churches Kill 14, Spark Riots
Expert: If Netanyahu Loses, Expect War
Iranization’ of Syria: Why has the conflict lasted so long?
More than 215,000 dead in four years of Syria war
Kerry concedes U.S. must talk to Assad to end Syria war
Jewish supermarket in Paris attacked by jihadist re-opens
Netanyahu offers finance ministry to rival days before election
Deadly bomb blast hits Cairo neighborhood
In Saudi Arabia, workers may now get fired over workplace harassment
Hamas: PA behind recent Gaza violence
Feared Iran general tops Iranian person of year poll
West hopes for Iran concessions in talks
Jihad Watch Site Latest Reports
Pope Francis: Christians “are persecuted, and the world tries to hide it”
Pakistan: Muslims murder 15 Christians, injure 70 with blasts at churches
Kerry says U.S. must negotiate with Assad
Iran’s President: Iran and Indonesia can present “true and moderate Islam”
UK police told not to investigate Muslim rape gangs
UK Muslim doctor who became Taliban commander killed in drone strike
Germany: Muslims plotted jihad terror attack on cathedral, synagogue
Toronto Star: Mainstream Islam must do more to prevent extremist violence
India: Muslim clerics’ fatwa forces cancellation of women’s soccer match
US State Dept posts photo touting Sharia over “man made law”
Pope: Christians are persecuted and
the world tries to hide it,”
Asia News, March 15, 2015 (thanks to C. Cantoni):
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Christians “are persecuted, and the world tries to hide it. I ask the Lord, implore the Lord for peace in Pakistan,” said Pope Francis after the midday Angelus. He had mentioned as much when he introduced the midday Angelus in which he stressed that God “loves us, really love us, and loves us very much! This is simplest expression that sums up the whole Gospel, faith, and theology. God loves us freely and boundlessly. This is how God loves us.”…
Right after the Angelus, the pope gave an unscripted address to the crowd. “Dear brothers and sisters,” he said, “it is with sorrow, a lot of sorrow that I learnt of today’s terrorist attacks against two churches in the city of Lahore, in Pakistan, which have resulted in many dead and wounded. “They are Christian churches. Christians are persecuted. Our brothers shed blood only because they are Christian. As I assure you of my prayers for the victims and their families, I call upon the Lord, I beseech the Lord, source of all good, [to deliver] the gift of peace, and harmony to that country. May the persecution against Christians, which the world is trying to hide, come to an end, and may there be peace.”…
Future-Hezbollah dialogue up in the
air following diatribes
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/Mar. 16, 2015
BEIRUT: The fate of the 3-month-old dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah hung up in the air Sunday as the two sides engaged in fresh diatribes, putting a new round of talks set for this week in jeopardy.
MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s bloc in Parliament, Sunday implicitly struck back at former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a day after the head of the parliamentary Future bloc warned that the Lebanese state was no longer able to ensure the continuity of its institutions as a result of Hezbollah’s intervention in the 4-year-old war in Syria. “We cannot understand the meaning of entering into a dialogue [with the Future Movement] while evil tongues continue to attack the resistance and its project,” Raad told a memorial ceremony in the southern town of Houla. “Either we engage in a dialogue in a calm and controlled atmosphere, or we must know with whom we are talking and what is their size, influence and impact even inside their organization and their political and parliamentary bloc,” he said. “This situation cannot go on.”“We have entered a dialogue to talk frankly and reach understanding on points that can be agreed on. Why do you insult outside? This is unacceptable,” Raad said.
Addressing the Future officials, he said: “Either you commit yourself to the dialogue, or let us part ways.”
The two rival influential parties have so far held seven rounds of talks focusing mainly on defusing Sunni-Shiite tensions exacerbated by the 4-year-old war in Syria. Future and Hezbollah have begun discussing a joint national strategy to fight terrorism as well as the 9-month-old presidential stalemate. Raad also scoffed at the March 14 formation of a National Council. “There are in Lebanon those who form national councils when it’s too late. It is inevitable for those to extend their hands and review their commitments because they are unable to take the country to the axis to which they belong,” he said. Raad’s remarks came a day after the March 14 coalition marked the 10th anniversary of its founding with the creation of a National Council designed to reassert its multisectarian nature and a warning that the Lebanese state was no longer able to ensure the continuity of its institutions due to Hezbollah’s involvement in the war in Syria.
A political blueprint, announced by Siniora at the end of the coalition’s conference held at the BIEL complex in Beirut Saturday, also warned of Iran’s expanding role in the region, accusing Tehran of inciting a Sunni-Shiite conflict in order to serve its interests.
The conference drew around 400 key March 14 figures, including Nader Hariri, chief of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s staff, Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel, the coalition’s lawmakers and former ministers and MPs.
“The March 14 parties have decided to establish a March 14 National Council as a framework comprising parties, independents and the civil society with all its bodies and form a preparatory committee tasked with proposing the March 14 action program for the next stage,” Siniora said after announcing the coalition’s political manifesto.
He said the preparatory committee would draft the council’s bylaws and call for a general conference to approve them within a two-month deadline.
Referring to the National Council, Siniora said: “We are today launching new dynamism which, if it cannot stop violence in this stage, can at least reduce its effects and pave the way for ‘a peace intifada’ that has become today essential for our presence in a country and a state.”
Fares Soueid, the coordinator of March 14 Secretariat General, said after the conference that every person who attended would be automatically assigned as a member of the council’s general assembly. The creation of the National Council is seen as an attempt by the March 14 coalition to re-emphasize its multisectarian nature amid a wave of religious extremism sweeping across the turbulent region. “We meet to tell the Lebanese, Arab and international public opinion that we have stood fast and preserved a multisectarian, diversified and modern civil movement. We have made achievements in some fields and made mistakes in others. But we stood firm in our resolve and faith in a united Lebanon as a country of common coexistence, freedom and justice,” the March 14 leaders said.
Reiterating the coalition’s struggle for freedom and sovereignty, the statement said: “We want to decide Lebanon’s future with our hands, rather than leave this future as a hostage of an empire here or a dictatorship there, or a negotiation card in the hands of others.”
Taking an indirect swipe at Hezbollah’s arsenal, it added: “The future of Lebanon belongs to the Lebanese. We will not abandon the trust of defending it and defending our freedom, our Constitution and our independent state which must have sole monopoly over the use of force and arms according to the law.”
“We in March 14 do not want to defeat anyone, but we will not allow anyone to defeat us,” the blueprint said. “What we want is for all the Lebanese to return to Lebanon’s state, not under the conditions of a sect, party or a specific regional power, but in implementation of the Constitution, starting with the election of a president.” The March 14 leaders accused the Syrian regime of being at the root of terrorism exercised by Islamist militant groups which are threatening Lebanon, the Arab region and the entire world.
The blueprint blasted both Iran’s role in the region Hezbollah’s military involvement in the war in Syria. “Everyone knows the role of Iran and its regional arms across the Arab world, at the forefront of which is Hezbollah which is starting wars here and there,” they said. “Because of this intervention, Lebanon is no longer safe from this swelling violence. The state is no longer able to ensure the continuity of its institutions and stands incapable of finding solutions.”“The Persian project is seeking to plunge the region into a war by fomenting a clash between Sunnis and Shiites in order to serve its interests and put the card of the region’s stability on the international negotiation table,” they said, referring to the ongoing negotiations between Iran and Western powers over its nuclear program.
Report: Lebanese Had Received Dozens
of Warnings ahead of Their Deportation from UAE
Naharnet /Authorities in the United Arab Emirates took the decision to deport a number of Lebanese from the country due to the suspicious activity they were involved in, said the Kuwaiti daily al-Seyassah on Sunday. Parliamentary sources from the March 14 camp told the daily that the authorities had issued dozens of warnings to the deported people over the years to cease their suspicious actions. These warnings fell on deaf ears and the authorities had no choice but to deport them, they added. The suspicious activity includes money transfers to Hizbullah under the guise of collecting donations to the party and money laundering. Others were involved in political propaganda for the party and attempts to recruit new members to it, adding that some of the deported people are not Shiites, but offer cover for them. Seventy Lebanese were deported from the UAE earlier this week over their links to the Shiite party. The parliamentary sources added that the deportation measures only targeted these 70 people while there are thousands of Lebanese living in the UAE. Meanwhile, Arab diplomatic sources to al-Seyassah that there are fears that other Gulf states would follow the example of the UAE and deport Lebanese families “linked to Hizbullah and Iran's expansionist ambitions in the region.”The daily revealed that Lebanese authorities have held a series of “preemptive contacts” with Gulf countries to avoid deportations. Prime Minister Tammam Salam had held talks with vice president of the UAE and Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum in Egypt on Saturday to discuss the deportation of 90 Lebanese from the country. Sheikh Mohammed vowed to follow up the matter with his country's authorities, stressing that there is no official decision to target the Lebanese living in the UAE.He pointed out that all measures taken against some Lebanese expats are merely linked to security concerns.
More Deported Lebanese Arrive from UAE
Naharnet/Several Lebanese deported from the United Arab Emirates arrived in Beirut on Sunday for the second day in a row, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said the Lebanese nationals residing in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman arrived at Rafik Hariri International Airport but refused to talk to the press. At least four of the expelled Lebanese had returned on Saturday. On Friday, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said the UAE expelled 70 Lebanese nationals, mostly Shiites. It gave them 24 hours to leave, he said. Hundreds of Lebanese, mostly Shiites, have been quietly deported from the UAE since 2009. Deportations of Shiites from oil-rich Gulf states rose in 2013 after Hizbullah joined Syrian government forces in Syria's civil war. Prime Minister Tammam Salam raised the matter on Saturday with his UAE counterpart Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also Dubai ruler, on the sidelines of an economic conference in Sharm el-Sheikh
Maktoum stressed that the UAE has neither a policy nor an intention to target Lebanese residents, according to a statement issued by Salam's press office.
He pointed out that the measures taken against some Lebanese expats are merely linked to security concerns and don't exceed this limit.
Relatives of Military Victims Reject Settlement over Shaker, Urge Death Penalty for Assailants against Army
Naharnet/The relatives of the victims of the army, who were killed in various clashes against extremists over the past two years, rejected on Sunday a possible settlement that would pardon fugitive Fadel Shaker. They demanded during a rally in downtown Beirut the death penalty against “all who assaulted the army and created incitement against it.” “We reject putting the assailants on trial, but they should be hanged. We refuse any other alternative,” he added. “We are here to pay our respects to the martyrs and reject any settlement at their expense,” they added. “The blood of our sons is not for sale. The families of the victims decide about giving a pardon,” continued the demonstrators. “Officials should not even think about striking a settlement over the lives of our martyrs,” they stressed. “Shame on every Lebanese who does not value the blood of our martyrs,” they stated angrily. “We salute the military and those who gave their lives for Lebanon,” they declared. They urged Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji to “strike with an iron fist” terrorism in the northern city of Tripoli, northeastern border town of Arsal, the North and Bekaa. Media reports had in recent days speculated that a settlement would be reached to issue a pardon to former singer Shaker, who had joined the Salafist movement in recent years and supported cleric Ahmed al-Asir. Asir's supporters were involved in 2013 in clashes with the army in the area of Abra in the southern city of Sidon. At least 18 soldiers and dozens of gunmen were killed in the fighting. In an interview recently, Shaker -- who has been on the run for nearly two years -- said he wants to return to his "normal, natural life" with his friends and family. He denied that he took part in the clashes. He is currently residing in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh and is wanted, along with some 50 others, for crimes against the army. Though he grew to become one of the Arab world's most famous singers, Shaker suffered through a miserable childhood of poverty, which a onetime musician friend says helped lead him down a dark path later in life. Now in his mid-forties, Shaker was born to a Palestinian mother and Lebanese father in the country's biggest Palestinian refugee camp, Ain el-Hilweh. Born Fadel Shmandur, he began his career as a popular wedding singer who performed from the rooftops of the camp, an over-crowded and hopeless place. In his prime, Shaker sang love songs that were instant region-wide hits. He released his first album in the late nineties, and continued to perform until 2011. Shaker's brother had long been a strict Muslim, and he tried for years to convince him to leave music.
But it wasn't until after the outbreak of an uprising in Syria against President Bashar Assad that Shaker became convinced that singing is haram, or forbidden in Islam. Shaker soon became the best-known face of Asir's small movement of openly sectarian, Sunni radicals and praised the cleric as "the lion of the Sunnis."
Israeli Troops Briefly Cross Blue Line overnight
Naharnet/Israeli soldiers violated on Saturday night the Blue Line that demarcates the border between Lebanon and Israel, announced the army in a statement on Sunday. It said that three soldiers crossed overnight the border line near the southern town of Kfarkila. Nearby Lebanese troops took up defense positions in the area. Fifteen minutes later, the Israeli unit retreated from the region after entering ten meters into it. The issue is being discussed with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, added the army communique. On Tuesday, an Israeli unit crossed the Blue Line near al-Bastra farm in the occupied Shebaa Farms. It entered 20 meters and tossed a smoke bomb in the area. Israeli troops regularly cross the electronic border fence and sometimes enter Lebanese territory through the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line, which was drawn up following Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation. The fence runs parallel to the Blue Line.
Feared Iran general tops Iranian
person of year poll
AFP/ Ynetnews/Published: 03.15.15/ Israel News /General Qassem Suleimani, commander of Quds Force recently spotted in Iraq, beats out FM Zarif, chosen as top Iranian in Persian New Year poll. An Iranian general who has been a key adviser in Iraq's counter offensive against ISIS was voted Iran's person of the year in an annual poll released Sunday. General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, won 37 percent of the votes cast in the survey to mark the Persian New Year, Nowruz. Once rarely seen, Suleimani is now frequently pictured in social media near the front line in Iraq and has been spotted close to this week's battles in Tikrit. He has become the public, if unofficial, face of Iran's support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments against ISIS jihadis, reportedly landing in Baghdad hours after ISIS overran Iraq's second city Mosul last June.
Expert: If Netanyahu Loses, Expect War
Sunday, March 15, 2015 | Israel Today Staff/A leading Israeli expert on Middle East affairs warned on Friday that if Isaac Herzog wins Tuesday’s elections and becomes the next prime minister, Israel’s enemies will certainly take the opportunity to test the Jewish state’s new leadership militarily. “If a government headed by Herzog is established, I will not be surprised if there is an attempt by the Iranian-Hezbollah-Hamas side to test it, very early on,” said Channel 2 analyst Ehud Ya’ari. Channel 2’s security affairs reporter Ronny Daniel countered that the defense establishment, and not the prime minister, determines Israel’s military policies. Of course, Israel’s enemies are not necessarily intimately familiar with the inner workings of its government. And it has been proved in the past that different prime ministers will approve different types of actions depending on the scenario. In the course of his reelection campaign, Netanyahu has repeated warned that a victory for Herzog would pose a severe threat to Israel’s security as enemies around the region would view the new and untested government as vulnerable and weak.
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed
By: Elias Bejjani
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11/28-30).
The habit of praying for others in any manner or pattern is a desirable religious practice, especially when the prayers are for the sake of those who are sick, persecuted, oppressed, poor, lonely and distressed, or have fallen prey to evil temptations. Praying for others whether they are parents, relatives, strangers, acquaintances, enemies, or friends, and for countries, is an act that exhibits the faith, caring, love, and hope of those who offer the prayers. Almighty God, Who is a loving, forgiving, passionate, and merciful Father listens to these prayers and always answers them in His own wisdom and mercy that mostly we are unable to grasp because of our limited human understanding. "All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21/22)
On the fifth Lenten Sunday the Catholic Maronites cite and recall with great reverence the Gospel of Saint Mark( 02/01-12): "The Healing Miracle of the Paralytic": "When he entered again into Capernaum after some days, it was heard that he was in the house. Immediately many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even around the door; and he spoke the word to them. Four people came, carrying a paralytic to him. When they could not come near to him for the crowd, they removed the roof where he was. When they had broken it up, they let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak blasphemies like that? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you reason these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your bed, and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”— He said to the paralytic— “I tell you, arise, take up your mat, and go to your house.” He arose, and immediately took up the mat, and went out in front of them all; so that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
This great miracle in its theological essence and core demonstrates beyond doubt that intercessions, prayers and supplications for the benefit of others are acceptable faith rituals that Almighty God attentively hears and definitely answers.
It is interesting to learn that the paralytic man as stated in the Gospel of St. Mark, didn't personally call on Jesus to cure him, nor he asked Him for forgiveness, mercy or help, although as many theologians believe Jesus used to visit Capernaum, where the man lives, and preach in its Synagogue frequently. Apparently this crippled man was lacking faith, hope, distancing himself from God and total ignoring the Gospel's teaching. He did not believe that the Lord can cure him.
What also makes this miracle remarkable and distinguishable lies in the fact that the paralytic's relatives and friends, or perhaps some of Jesus' disciples were adamant that the Lord is able to heal this sick man who has been totally crippled for 38 years if He just touches him. This strong faith and hope made four of them carry the paralytic on his mat and rush to the house where Jesus was preaching. When they could not break through the crowd to inter the house they climbed with the paralytic to the roof, made a hole in it and let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on in front of Jesus and begged for his cure. Jesus was taken by their strong faith and fulfilled their request.
Jesus forgave the paralytic his sins first (“Son, your sins are forgiven you) and after that cured his body: "Arise, and take up your bed, and walk". Like the scribes many nowadays still question the reason and rationale that made Jesus give priority to the man's sins. Jesus' wisdom illustrates that sin is the actual death and the cause for eternal anguish in Hell. He absolved his sins first because sin cripples those who fall in its traps, annihilates their hopes, faith, morals and values, kills their human feelings, inflicts numbness on their consciences and keeps them far away from Almighty God. Jesus wanted to save the man's soul before He cures his earthy body. "For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?" (Mark 08:/36 & 37).
Our Gracious God does not disappoint any person when he seek His help with faith and confidence. With great interest and parental love, He listens to worshipers' prayers and requests and definitely respond to them in His own way, wisdom, time and manner. "Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened". (Matthew 07/07 &08)
In this loving and forgiving context, prayers for others, alive or dead, loved ones or enemies, relatives or strangers, are religiously desirable. God hears and responds because He never abandons His children no matter what they do or say, provided that they turn to Him with faith, repentant, and ask for His mercy and forgiveness either for themselves or for others.
"Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up". (James Letter).
There are numerous biblical parables and miracles in which Almighty God shows clearly that He accepts and responds to prayers for the sake of others, e.g.:
Jesus cured the centurion's servant on the request of the Centurion and not the servant himself. (Matthew 08/05-13)
Jesus revived and brought back to life Lazarus on the request of his sisters Mary and Martha. (John 11/01-44)
In conclusion: Almighty God is always waiting for us, we, His Children to come to Him and ask for His help and mercy either for ourselves or for others. He never leaves us alone. Meanwhile it is a Godly faith obligation to extend our hand and pull up those who are falling and unable to pray for themselves especially the mentally sick, the unconscious, and the paralyzed. In this realm of faith, love and care for others comes our prayers to Virgin Mary and to all Saints whom we do not worship, but ask for their intercessions and blessings.
O, Lord, endow us with graces of faith, hope, wisdom, and patience. Help us to be loving, caring, humble and meek. Show us the just paths. Help us to be on your right with the righteous on the Judgment Day. God sees and hears us all the time, let us all fear Him in all what we think, do and say..
More than 215,000 dead in four years of Syria war
The fate of many thousands more civilians and fighters from all sides who have been kidnapped also remains unknown. (Reuters)
AFP, Beirut/Sunday, 15 March 2015/More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria in four years of conflict, a monitoring group said on Sunday as the brutal civil war entered its fifth year. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had documented the deaths of 215,518 people in Syria since March 2011, among them more than 66,000 civilians. Some 5,000 people have been killed in the past five weeks alone. The civilian death toll includes 10,808 children, and nearly 7,000 women, according to the group. While civilians accounted for nearly a third of the deaths, the majority of those killed in the conflict have been combatants. On the government side, 46,138 soldiers have been killed, along with more than 30,000 Syrian pro-regime militiamen, the Observatory said. In addition, 3,401 Shiite fighters from abroad have been killed in battle alongside regime forces, among them hundreds from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. On the rebel side, the Observatory gives separate death tolls for fighters from jihadist and non-jihadist groups. It reported the deaths of nearly 27,000 jihadists, from ISIS and the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front. It said more than 39,000 other rebel fighters had been killed, but included in that figure Kurdish militia killed battling jihadists in the north and east. It reported the deaths of a further 3,147 people who had not been identified. Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the figures were almost certainly not complete. The death toll "is certainly higher than the more than 215,000 we have recorded because of the large number of missing people whose fate is unknown." He said some 20,000 people had disappeared in regime custody. The fate of many thousands more civilians and fighters from all sides who have been kidnapped also remains unknown. "More than 215,000 people have been killed and the international community remains silent and not a single crime has been punished by an international court," Abdel Rahman said."This impunity only encourages the murderers to continue their crimes."
Black holes and black flags mark Syria’s fourth anniversary
Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 15 March 2015
It’s been four years ago the Syrian Spring began. Yet it’s been over for a while in Syria and if such an uprising trying to unhinge Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from leadership will be attempted again, it must come from within the Alawite community - which is as about to close to zero as one can get. In the meantime, lessons have been learned: the region still needs to be led by a strongman.
So the Syrian anniversary is as black as the flags of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) occupying a large part of the former Syrian state.
“Arab Spring” is the popular name given to the democratic wave of civil unrest in the Arab world that began in Dec. 2010 and lasted through mid-2012. At first the “Arab Spring” seemed to be a very interesting moniker for what is going on in the region because many analysts, at that time, compared the then current events to what spread through Eastern European countries working against Communist domination.
However, what we’re discovered is that: yes it’s true it did happen in the Spring, yes, Arabs were involved, but actually it’s more than just Arabs, and it’s more than just in the Spring: It is now a perennial anti-thesis of the origins of the Arab Spring’s rationale, an evil historical blot on the modern history of the Levant. The lofty ideas of upward mobility, equality, and superb education is just a dream for the bulk of today’s Syrian refugees.
Clearly, the world is growing numb to suffering from Syria’s civil war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven nearly 12 million, half the population, from their homes over the past four years. 83 percent of the country is in darkness with no electricity and life expectancy is down to 55.7 years. Reports to up to half of the Syria’s doctors are now dead or have fled. Millions are in refugee camps in one of the largest humanitarian disasters in modern history with almost 50 percent of these refugees being children.
Syria’s black anniversary is a huge geo-political and geo-economic black hole where gravity is more powerful than light
What happened in Syria, springing, if you will, from Daraa, specifically was a modern form of Arab Revolt that brought the periphery of the country crashing down only to be filled with opposition groups, terrorists, and extremists who truly rule with impunity. The country has literally been turned inside-out.
That terrorists realized they could exploit the vacuum in power created by the uprisings is not in doubt. Not only after the upheaval began did terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front emerge in Jan. 2012 and forward, but other extremists begin to fill the void as the rump Syrian state took shape. The lawlessness and ungovernability spread like a pox. Later, of course came ISIS and the rest of the trend line is unfolding. The fabric of once a historic and vibrant country is in tatters.
The Western international community can take much the blame for what is occurring on this black anniversary. Policy confusion, inaction, indifference, not up to the challenge, failure to enact redlines—are all themes and keywords that most rational, regional actors can see as plain as day as abandonment, ignorance, and outright perfidy. Adding insult to injury, from the point of view of those who launched the Syrian Spring in the first place, is that the U.S.-led coalition air strikes against ISIS is coordinating with President Assad behind the scenes.
One can really sense the frustration best illustrated in the ruined urban cities and neighborhood like in Daraa that are divided between pro- and anti-government forces. All the hoopla and effort, including an armed rebellion, was for naught.
That Russia, Iran, Hezbollah are supporting the government of the Syrian president is also noteworthy four years out. Together they have been able to organize, train, and equip the Syrian military to carry out the carnage necessary to keep the rump Assad-led state intact. For Assad, he is able to maintain safety and control of armaments despite reports of pilfering, keep relatively stable its military forces, and has been able to keep, for the most part, militants and extremists away from the rump Syrian state in order to inspire Assad as a fighter against terrorism and perhaps to his supporters, a more robust folk hero.
The Russia-supported Iran-Hezbollah activity does not make Arab neighbors happy despite the “strong-man” requirement. An Arab official told me that there needs to be a new Syrian strongman, and he can’t be Shiite or Alawite.
But on this fourth anniversary, there is still is a requirement to have the Syrian president in power to fight al-Qaeda and ISIS. With what appears to be a nuclear agreement in the near term with Iran, the fact that Assad may stay even longer in power is a real possibility since Tehran is clearly a victor across the Levant. Unmistakably, there is no alternative to Assad four years later.
The fourth anniversary of the Syrian Spring can be marked by a key statistic: war is the major employer of what is left of Syria.That fact is nothing to celebrate about. Syria’s black anniversary is a huge geo-political and geo-economic black hole where gravity is more powerful than light. That’s a fitting analogy for Syria’s future: It’s a tragedy that will affect several generations of Syrians and their neighbors by sucking into a vortex any rays of hope.
The day Egyptians forgot about the
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 15 March 2015
It’s been decades since optimism reigned as it did yesterday, when giant developmental and constructional plans declaring a 'new Egypt' were announced. Amid the positivity, the words “Muslim Brotherhood” were not mentioned and there was no talk of the absurd audio leaks which rivals had resorted to as a means of pitting people against the government. Indeed, the 'Egypt The Future' economic summit has been a smart move; its sole focus was on developing Egypt - at a time when Brotherhood-affiliated media outlets are full of explosive tales.
With these tales, the Egyptian people were confronted with two choices: to build the future or destroy the present. The conference held at Sharm el-Sheikh did not present a particular message, but several commitments. States like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Britain and Singapore announced they would participate in constructing cities and power plants, work with projects to reclaim land for agricultural purposes and to increase oil and gas production.
The most surprising announcement was the establishment of a new administrative capital, neighboring Cairo. President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi decided that this is his future project, dubbed by some as “Sisi’s Cairo” - after 11 centuries of the Fatimids’ establishment of “al-Muizz’s Cairo.”
The Egyptian people were confronted with two choices: to build the future or destroy the present
All of Egypt’s historic leaders, from the pharaohs to sultans to mamluks to ottomans to pashas and kings, sought to leave their fingerprints on the capital. The Brits built beautiful bridges and neighborhoods that are still present today, marked by their elegant European style and layout. Late President Gamal Abdelnasser suggested the Nasr city project in 1956 and finished it nine years later after building 15,000 condominiums.
However, the wave of migration from the countryside into the city, along with the increase in birth rates, made Nasr city one of the most crowded and polluted cities in the region.
Thus, it became a difficult challenge for urban planners and engineers and developing it has become an almost hopeless case. The Egyptian government tried to reform it in 1992 but it failed. It particularly tried to rehabilitate slums which later proved to be a security and political threat to the state.
To be fulfilled
We must salute he who organized the successful conference as it included governments from across the world and global corporations. The ideas and projects addressed in the summit were the first of their kind in the Middle East region.
There’s no doubt that if these great promises are fulfilled, there will be another Egypt emerging - a great country that deserves its status and place in history - and one which will be an aid to the region instead of a burden.
The success of these projects will help the regime gain popular support. This support will in turn guarantee the regime’s stability for a long time after developmental failure was a majir reason leading to unrest in Egypt.
Previous Egyptian governments only succeeded at postponing developmental plans to expand security apparatuses instead of thinking of changing Egypt for the best.
With this determination, enthusiasm, and optimism of Egyptians, and that of their allies, we expect the Egyptian government to protect the promised projects from administrative bureaucracy and corruption, which in the past succeeded at intimidating Egyptian and foreign supporters and investors.
Now, President Sisi’s task is to be the guarantor of his developmental aims, because those who attended the conference did so upon his call and on the basis of his promises.
Middle Eastern Christians; death,
exodus, betrayal and silence
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 14 March 2015
“The victims are ‘too Christian’ to excite the Left, and ‘too foreign’ to excite the Right.” - Regis Debray
In the multiple wars and conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, a particularly vicious war is intensifying against the descendants of the first Christian communities that made the Fertile Crescent and Egypt their homes. The world is watching helplessly and silently the disappearance of the oldest living churches - as if their long history of enduring wars, conquests, schisms, peaceful co-existence and conflicts with Muslims is about to expire. The ancient communities of believers, some of whom still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus, are withering away along with their once glorious civilizations in a genocidal cultural war of eradication. If only the stones of the churches and monasteries could speak.
Christian communities in Iraq and Egypt were subjected to violence, intimidation and legal discrimination long before the onset of the devastating season of Arab uprisings. Egyptian authorities invariably were accomplices in the crimes of extremist Islamists against Copts and other Christian churches. The American occupation of Iraq unleashed a vicious Islamist war on the Christians who were accused of supporting the occupation.
In America’s decade in Iraq Christians almost became extinct. By blessing a sectarian based polity, and acquiescing in the long sectarian era of Nouri al-Maliki (by Presidents Bush and Obama) the United States, ensured that Jeffersonian democracy will not grow on the banks of the Tigris. President Obama’s ambivalence about Syria’s war, his dithering and contradictory policies and his inability or unwillingness to deliver on his promises and threats contributed to turning Syria into the most savaged and tormented country in the twenty first century, including dealing the Christians of that country their worst calamity since the massacre of the Christian community in Damascus in 1860.
Apathy and helplessness
Those of us who have been sounding the alarm about the death of cosmopolitanism, pluralism, inclusiveness and the imperative of maintaining what is left of the once rich human mosaic that was at the heart of what made some of the great cities of the region beacons of culture, are stunned at the general silence, and yes the betrayal of Western societies - particularly the United States - of these communities. The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq contributed significantly to the unraveling of that country, just as the continuing support of Egyptian autocracy over recent decades has made a bad situation worse.
It is almost too late to stem the tide against the Christians of the region, particularly in the Fertile Crescent
The horrors of the sound and the fury of the war on the Christians of the Middle East have been fully documented and yet the reaction of western political classes, public opinions and even Christian churches has been mostly and scandalously muted. A recent report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) titled “The Plight of Christians in the Middle East” describes the grim agony and challenges facing these “disappearing” communities “in the very lands where their faith was born and first took root” then notes correctly that “the reactions from the United States, Europe, and other key powers to this new wave of destruction have been marginal.”
The reasons are complex and varied. Brian Katulis, the principal author of the report, told me that there is an “entrenched apathy” and “helplessness, regarding what can be done effectively and without any cost” to mitigate the predicament of Middle Eastern Christians. The apathy extends to society and academia, and the attitude of the secular media towards organized religions has been one of ambivalence, sometimes bordering on distrust. Also, many Christians in the West know very little about the descendants of the first Christians in the East.
It is true that statistically, more Christians in the world in recent years (before the wars in the Arab world) have been persecuted and suppressed than members of other faiths, yet very few “comfortable” Christians in the West fully understand that, that kind of persecution is still practiced in the twenty first century. To many of them the “moral” fights of Christians in the West are mainly over abortion, birth control and same sex marriage, where your beliefs rarely - if ever - subject you to political and physical persecution.
Is there a way out?
CAP’s thoughtful report is welcome, because it does not limit itself to detailing the various levels of persecution and challenges the different Christian communities face in their respective societies, thus avoiding simplistic generalizations, but because it includes a number of recommendations to address the Plight of the Christians in the Middle East. Mainstream American think tanks rarely publish such reports. The recommendations are not too ambitious and measured, reflecting the realization of the authors of the report of the limits of American influence and the reluctance of the Obama administration to get deeply involved in such sensitive issues.
The report urges the U.S. government “to elevate freedom of religion and conscience as a priority in U.S. engagement in the region.” It does envision a role for “partnerships with the private sector and nongovernmental institutions,” and “advancing diplomatic approaches to conflict resolution in the region.” The report calls on the government to prioritize assistance to Christian refugees, and to “weigh carefully the benefits and costs of special visa programs for Christians that may be seen as encouraging emigration, aiding in the exodus, or providing special treatment.” Other recommendations includes promoting religious freedom, and pluralism, economic development and reform efforts, investment in education, and working with international organizations and leading churches to preserve Christian heritage in the region. The report cautions the government to “use U.S. military force and security assistance cautiously and beware of potential pitfalls.”
Moral relativism and selective outrage
The U.S can and should do more. President Obama should start by shedding his ambiguity regarding issues of religious extremism. The embarrassing initial reluctance of the White House to admit that the 21 Egyptians beheaded recently by ISIS affiliated group in Libya because they were Copts is a case in point. Addressing Arab states solely through the administration’s “Muslim world” framework is flawed. Arab states, particularly Egypt and the states of the Fertile Crescent are homes to Arabs and non-Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslim, where Christians, and before them the Jews have planted their deep roots before the advent of Islam. A better approach would be to address the violence against Christians as taking place in the context of deteriorating economic conditions, the collapse of brittle political regimes bereft of legitimacy, and in the context of unprecedented Sunni-Shiite sectarian bloodletting.
When ethnic or religious groups are subjected to systematic violence and persecution because of who they are, their plight should be addressed urgently, because this is how genocide starts. In this context, addressing the plight of the Christians of the Middle East should not be seen as a special treatment just because they are Christians with long cultural and religious links with the West.
And it is commendable that the Obama administration move quickly last summer to save the Yezidis of Iraq from the mass killers of ISIS. Ideally, the Christians in the Arab states, even though they live in societies that are not democratic, with the partial exception of Lebanon, should struggle for their political and civil rights as full citizens, in modern civil states governed by constitutions and legal systems that guarantee their rights as equal citizens. If the Christians are unique in the Arab world specifically, it is because of their outstanding over all contributions to the development of their societies in the last two millennia, culturally, artistically scientifically, economically and politically, before and during the Muslim era.
The evolution of Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Alexandria and Beirut cannot be fully appreciated without realizing the pivotal roles of the various Christian communities in these cities.
The U.S. can promote this vision in a variety of ways. The president and other senior officials should speak publicly and forcefully against persecution of Christians and other minorities and use their influence particularly in countries where they have clout. The U.S. was muted when Copts were subjected to government discrimination and the violence of radical Islamists in the last few decades during which the U.S. provided Egypt with generous financial and military support.
The U.S. did not fight this good fight in Iraq, during its decade long special privileged position in Mesopotamia, when undemocratic rules where incorporated in the Iraqi constitution. The argument that U.S. official cannot publicly criticize discriminatory practices without harming bilateral relations is bogus. No one can deny that Russia is an important country, but that did not prevent the Obama administration last year during the run up to the Sochi Winter Olympics from criticizing Russia’s laws against the gay community.
Onward Christian soldiers
The war being waged against the Christians by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra and other extremist Islamists and the fracturing of Syria and Iraq, have forced local communities of Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriac Christians in both countries to form armed militias to defend their villages.
According to recent press reports U.S. authorities are aware of these activities and some of the Christian militias in Iraq may benefit from U.S. funds to train and equip local forces to protect civilians exposed to ISIS in the plains of Nineveh. And while international attention has been focused correctly on ISIS’ foreign legionnaires, given their relatively large number and viciousness, there is a small trickle of Christian volunteers coming to Syria and Iraq to do battle with ISIS and to defend the Christians. These modern would be Crusaders are not significant militarily or numerically, but the prospects of even a low number of Christian volunteers posing as the great grandchildren of Richard the Lion heart doing battle with the descendants of the famed Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi is enough to give one the shivers.
It is difficult morally and politically to deny these local communities of Christians under siege the rights to defend themselves, but these desperate acts demonstrate the extent of the unraveling of Syria and Iraq into hundreds of warring factions engaged in a war of all against all. While these small armed Christian militias will never exert a dominant military influence, it is important to remember the tragic outcome when other much more powerful “ruling” Christian militias in recent history from Lebanon to Serbia abused their powers and committed atrocities against unarmed civilians.
The Serb militias committed the worst mass killings on European soil since the Holocaust, when they killed thousands of Muslim civilians and when Lebanese Christian militias went beyond self-defense and either killed Muslim civilians or turned their guns on fellow Christians. The lingering memories of the Lebanese civil war and the actions of some of Lebanon’s Christian militias remain one of the reasons there is not much sympathy inside the U.S. government with the political leaders of the Lebanese Christian communities.
One is reluctant to criticize the Christians in the Middle East when they are down. But precisely because they are down one should remind them that they still have human agency and that their blunders and occasional parochialism can be their own worst enemies. Even in the face of historic challenges, Christians in the region are still notoriously fragmented and short sighted. In Lebanon, the political leaders of the Maronite Christians in particular are infamous for their bickering, vindictiveness and their outrageous readiness to enter into alliances with the devil just to spite their co-religionist rivals.
Former General Michel Aoun, a reckless and shallow Christian leader of something called the Free Patriotic Movement, has been driven by a blind ambition to be the President of Lebanon, a position that is shrinking with each passing day, to the point that he allied himself with his old enemies Hezbollah and Syria believing that through them he can realize his dream. In the process, he allowed Hezbollah to hijack the brittle Lebanese state, divided the Maronites more than ever, and allowed the Syrian regime - even when exhausted - to share control of Lebanon with Hezbollah.
In the past, some Christian leaders, in the political and religious domains, allowed Arab tyrants to use them. Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Assads, both father and son in Syria, did that. That closeness to the hated regimes was used as an excuse by the killers of Al Qaeda, al-Nusra and ISIS to justify their brutalities against innocent Christians.
The terror visited on the Coptic Church in Egypt in the last few years was historically painful, and can in a tiny part explain the public support of Pope Tawadros II the leader of the largest Church in the Middle East for the “savior” of Egypt Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi before his election as President. Some Copts, cognizant of their sensitive dilemma were extremely uncomfortable, watching their Pope sharing the stage with the Field Marshal following the bloody ouster of former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi.
Last September, a large delegation of various Eastern Churches visited Washington to highlight the plight of their churches with members of congress and government. Their notorious divisions and their inability to frame their challenges or to propose practical options were on display during a meeting with President Obama. The President was strongly advised by some to work with President Assad of Syria, while others urged him forcefully never to collaborate with Assad.
The lack of agreement about fundamentals among the leading Eastern churches is usually used as an excuse by those in Washington who are, to begin with inclined not to get America involved deeply in the problems of the region. It is almost too late to stem the tide against the Christians of the region, particularly in the Fertile Crescent. But Middle Eastern Christians owe themselves, their ancestors, and hopefully future generations, if they defeat extinction, to rise once again to save themselves and maybe their dying world.
New Form of Terror – Toy Drones – Has
No Counter Measures
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 15, 2015
This report inaugurates debkafile’s new column which, under the heading The Cyber Dimension, will appear regularly and keep our readers abreast of novel events in this fast-developing field. The least appreciated cyber threat today comes from the potential of toy drones reaching terrorist hands. Unidentified UAVs over the White House and Elysée triggered the first alarm. As yet, no counter-measures have been developed capable of diverting or aborting a small drone with a 400-gram explosive payload, after its flight plan, fatal mission and target have been installed in its program.
The American Secret Service is planning a novel kind of exercise for keeping the White House and Capitol Hill safe from intrusive drones. Squadrons of UAVs will swarm over the two sites between 1:00 and 4:00 a.m. for several nights, to test optional methods of protecting sensitive buildings in the country from what has been treated until now as no more than a nuisance.
It was a two-foot long “quadcopter” drone, essentially a sophisticated toy, which crashed onto the White House grounds on Jan. 25, that alerted the Secret Service to the possible dangers those playthings may present their charges, the president of the United States and other symbols of government.
A string of mysterious drones over historical and national sites in Paris has made French police and security agencies jittery.
The US army and navy field the most advanced drones in the world for intelligence, patrol, surveillance and assault missions. These UAVs can stay aloft scores of hours, thousands of kilometers from their home base, while able to navigate independently by instruments programmed before they takeoff. Those instruments lead them to target and then switch them onto performance mode for assault on photography. After completing their mission, the drones are automatically steered back along a different route up until their landing at home base. All these functions are performed without human intervention or remote control.
It is hard to explain how the developers of this highly sophisticated tool neglected to develop parallel means of defense and interception against drones when turned to hostile use. The broad communities of intelligence and security agencies in the US and worldwide, including Israel, appear to have missed out on the most important step, which is to list drones under dual headings: threat as well as a novel strategic tool.
This threat is easily available commercially. Costing between $1,500 and 5,000, depending on the model, anyone can buy a “toy” drone, with a whole range of capabilities, including one that can carry a payload of more than one kilo, has a flight range of up to one kilometer and is able to stay aloft for half an hour.
In the hands of a terrorist, the “toy” drone can take the place of a suicide bomber. Loaded with 400 grams of explosives, an HD video camera and a miniature transmitter, it can broadcast live up until it blows up its pre-assigned target.
To develop counter-measures for a suicide-drone, coordination is necessary among the various arms of government - the army, navy, security and intelligence agencies, the customs department – to exercise a ban on their import, law enforcement agencies, the police and the civilian aviation authority. They would need to push together for new laws and regulations to restrict and oversee the production, import and use of unmanned drones with dangerous capabilities.
The administration will furthermore need to invest whatever sums are necessary for developing the technology to counter a weapon which has almost unlimited potential for wreaking death and destruction of unimaginable proportions, if allowed to get out of control.
The drone that landed in the White House compound and the rash of mystery drones sighted over the historic sites of Paris, including the presidential palace and Eiffel Tower, ought to be wake-up calls. In Washington and Paris, law enforcement and security agencies were helpless to intercept the buzzing intruders and found their operators highly elusive.
Until this danger is seriously addressed, no single remedy exists for stopping destructive drones.
An electronic fence capable of jamming the frequencies of one type of drone will not work for another. None of these electronic devices can divert or abort an unmanned drone, which is bent on a fatal mission after its flight plan and target were previously installed in its program.
None of the most advanced electronic devices, including laser-guided instruments, are designed to knock out plastic toys weighing a few grams. They are programmed to counter large aerial vehicles with certain heat levels and dimensions.
Until a better solution is found, the only way to guard the White House against one of these unmanned invaders may prove to be a vast nylon net canopy thrown over the buildings to be safeguarded.
Kerry: US will have to negotiate with
Published: 03.15.15/Israel News
Secretary of State seeks to pressure Syrian regime into talks to end 4-year conflict; US line appears to soften after years of insisting that Assad be replaced.
The United States will have to negotiate with Syrian President Bashar Assad for a political transition in Syria and is exploring ways to pressure him into agreeing to talks, US Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS News in an interview to be aired on Sunday.
Washington has long insisted that Assad must be replaced through a negotiated, political transition, but the rise of a common enemy, hardline militant group Islamic State, appears to have slightly softened the West's stance towards him.
In the interview, Kerry did not repeat the standard US line that Assad had lost all legitimacy and had to go. Syria's civil war is now into its fifth year, with hundreds of thousands killed and millions of Syrians displaced.
"We have to negotiate in the end," Kerry said. "We've always been willing to negotiate in the context of the Geneva I process," he added, referring to a 2012 conference which called for a negotiated transition to end the conflict.
Kerry said the United States and other countries, which he did not name, were exploring ways to reignite the diplomatic process to end the conflict in Syria.
"What we're pushing for is to get him (Assad) to come and do that, and it may require that there be increased pressure on him of various kinds in order to do that," the secretary of state said.
"We've made it very clear to people that we are looking at increased steps that can help bring about that pressure," he added.
The United States led efforts to convene a UN-backed peace talks in Geneva last year between Western-backed Syrian opposition representatives and a government delegation. The talks collapsed after two rounds and no fresh talks have been scheduled.
Russia convened some opposition and government figures in January for talks on the crisis but they yielded little progress and the main opposition coalition boycotted them.
"To get the Assad regime to negotiate, we're going to have to make it clear to him that there is a determination by everybody to seek that political outcome and change his calculation about negotiating," Kerry said.
"That's under way right now. And I am convinced that, with the efforts of our allies and others, there will be increased pressure on Assad."
Kerry said negotiations are important "because everybody agrees there is no military solution; there's only a political solution."
He spoke with CBS before leaving Egypt for Lausanne, where he was to resume negotiations with Iran on that country's nuclear program.
Syria sank into civil war after a peaceful street uprising against four decades of Assad family rule began in March 2011. The revolt spiraled into an armed insurgency, which has deepened with the rise of Islamic State and other hardliners.
Assad seems more likely to survive the Syrian crisis than at any point since it began. Iran's support for Assad is as solid as ever, with Russia showing no sign of abandoning him.
US-led forces started air strikes against Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq in the summer. Washington has said the campaign in Syria is not coordinated with the Syrian military, which also views the group as its enemy.
The war has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced close to half the population, according to the United Nations.
Damascus accuses its Western and Gulf Arab opponents of seeking to destroy the country by providing aid to an insurgency now dominated by jihadists, who also pose a threat to the West.
Assad appears to be betting that the US-led campaign against Islamic State will force Washington to engage with him.