March 17/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid
Mark 06/47-56: "When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by.
But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed."

Bible Quotation For Today/Instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith.
First Letter to Timothy 01/01-08: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 16-17/15
Hillary’s Hezbollah-Friendly Donor, Issam Fares/Joe Schoffstall/Washington Free Beacon/March 16/15
They Kill Like Men, They Die Like Boys/Diana Moukalled /Asharq Al Awsat/March17/15

Lebanese Related News published on  March 16-17/15
Report: More Lebanese to be Deported from UAE
Lebanese Army Kills Infiltrators near Asral after Foiling Similar Bid in Ras Baalbek
Mustaqbal to Hizbullah: Our Stance on Intervention in Syria Hasn't Changed
U.S. Omits Iran and Hezbollah From Terror Threat List
Controversy over Lebanon security officers’ tenure
Al-Rahi Urges State to Grant Expats Right to Regain Citizenship
Hezbollah, Future talks on track despite tensions 
Sleiman’s political group set to meet next month 
Aoun set against security chiefs term extension 
Lebanon cuts funds to Akkar hospitals after death 
Nusra Front Vows to Target Hizbullah Stronghold, Staunch Supporters
Hizbullah, March 14 Accusations Put Dialogue in Jeopardy
Berri Accuses 'Political' IS of Targeting State Institutions
Rifi Says Hizbullah Members Linked to Global Corruption, Money Laundry Cases
Arms Smuggling Ring Led by Defected Syrian Officer Busted in Bekaa
Kataeb Calls for Addressing Reasons Threatening Jobs of Lebanese in Gulf
Abou Faour Raises Financial Aid to Halba's Public Hospital after Death of Infant
Judge Charges Four Human Traffickers
Rifi Says Hizbullah Members Linked to Global Corruption, Money Laundry Cases
Nusra Front Vows to Target Hizbullah Stronghold, Staunch Supporters

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on  March 16-17/15
Kerry comments mark lack of policy 
Syria's Assad Awaits U.S. 'Actions' after Kerry
Iran, US meet for four hours before talks move to Brussels
Assyrian Pastor and Two Converts Released From Iranian Prison
Niqab controversy: Judge struck down ban without referring to charter
U.S. Says Assad Will 'Never' be Part of Syria Peace Talks
Saudi Says It Ensures 'Justice for All' after Sweden Criticism
Canada Denies Asylum for ex-Tunisian President's Brother-in-Law
EU Names New Middle East Special Envoy
French Experts Say No Foul Play in Arafat Death
Egypt Condemns to Death Brotherhood Chief, 13 Others
France Says Assad Talks would be 'Scandalous Gift' to IS
Syria Media Outlets Say Kerry Remarks 'Acknowledge Assad Legitimacy'

Jihad Watch Site Latest Reports
U.S. omits Iran and Hizballah from terror threat list

Even Democrats won’t back Obama’s Iran nuclear deal
Robert Spencer in PJM: How & Why Islam Wages War Against ‘Idolatry’
New Islamic State video praises Charlie Hebdo Motoon massacre
Uganda: Convert from Islam who fled beating by Muslim uncle mysteriously dies
Robert Spencer in the Daily Caller: Is The Islamic State Islamic? Of Course It Is
South Africa: Muslim students demand that Jewish students be expelled from university
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Glenn Beck to NRA: It’s Norquist or Me
Islamic State quotes Qur’an in vow to blow up White House, conquer Rome and Spain
UK: Three Muslim teens arrested on way to join Islamic State

Some of my tweets for today
Hezbollah is a terrorist, as well as those who are allied with it

Elias Bejjani/ 16.03.15/Micheal Aoun's party is a supporter of the terrorist Hezbollah. Accordingly he who deals with this party in Lebanon or Diaspora in any form or at any level is a terrorist too. In this realm the March 14th parties in Diaspora are committing a sin in receiving MP, Alain Aoun in Canada and playing a very dangerous stupid game.
Verbal diarrhea of Hezbollah's puppet leaders in Lebanon today shows how much the new March 14th political collective national council is crucial and how much Hezbollah is threatened.
What Obama wants? This president practically is a full partner to Iran Mullahs, the butcher Assad, the Terrorist Hezbollah and the Hawthies in Yemen

“U.S. Omits Iran and Hezbollah From Terror Threat List,”
by Jack Moore, Newsweek, March 16, 2015/An annual security assessment presented to the U.S. Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, has excluded Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah from its list of terror threats to U.S. interests, despite both being consistently included as threats in previous years. The unclassified report, issued by Clapper on February 26 and entitled the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Communities, was published by the Times of Israel amid Israeli concerns that Iran was omitted simply because of Tehran’s efforts to combat ISIS. In a previous report from January 2014, Clapper included Iran and Hezbollah in the ‘Terrorism’ section, writing that both “continue to directly threaten the interests of U.S. allies. Hizballah [sic] has increased its global terrorist activity in recent years to a level that we have not seen since the 1990s”. Iran was also given its own sub-heading in the ‘Terrorism’ section of such assessments in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Yet in the latest report, Clapper omits both Iran and Hezbollah from this section, only mentioning the Shiite Muslim militant group once in reference to the threat it faces from radical Sunni groups – such as ISIS and the al-Nusra Front – on Lebanon’s borders. In regard to Iran, the report names it as both a cyber and regional threat to the U.S. because of its support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
However, the report speaks of Tehran’s assistance in preventing “ISIL [another term for ISIS] from gaining large swaths of additional territory” in Iraq. It adds that the Islamic Republic has “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia”.The report fails to mention that Hezbollah is labelled as a terrorist organisation by both the U.S. and the European Union, while it receives the majority of its funding from Tehran. The omission comes as Washington and other world powers continue to negotiate with Iran to strike a deal over its nuclear program and capabilities. The assessment adds that Iran has “overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige, and regional influence [that] have led it to pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so.” The Israeli thinktank Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has claimed that the removal of both actors from the U.S. terror assessment comes amid Iranian support in the fight against ISIS, where Tehran’s shadowy former spymaster Qasem Soleimani is directing the offensive on the Sunni-majority city of Tikrit.
“We believe that this results from a combination of diplomatic interests (the United States’ talks with Iran about a nuclear deal) with the idea that Iran could assist in the battle against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and maybe even in the battle against jihadist terrorism in other countries,” the NGO’s assessment of the report said….

Mustaqbal to Hizbullah: Our Stance on Intervention in Syria Hasn't Changed
Naharnet /Al-Mustaqbal movement responded Monday to Hizbullah's fierce criticism of the March 14 camp over its declaration of the formation of a National Council. “We hope MP Mohammed Raad's remarks on dialogue were hasty or a slip of the tongue,” Mustaqbal bloc MP Samir al-Jisr said in remarks to MTV. Raad and several Hizbullah officials hinted over the weekend that March 14's announcement might derail the ongoing talks between the party and al-Mustaqbal. “There are firm stances that we said inside and outside dialogue and our stances on the (military) intervention (by Hizbullah) in Syria and the region and the axis of resistance have not changed,” al-Jisr added. Asked whether al-Mustaqbal's stance was ambiguous following the March 14 statement that was recited by al-Mustaqbal bloc chief MP Fouad Saniora, al-Jisr said: “We are part of March 14 and we had no reservations over the remarks voiced at the BIEL rally, in which we participated.”On Sunday, Raad wondered if there is a need to engage in dialogue “while the malicious tongues are insulting the resistance and its project.”“We either engage in dialogue amid a calm atmosphere and know whom we're talking with … or else this issue cannot continue,” Raad added. His remarks came after the March 14 forces strongly criticized Saturday “the role of Iran and its proxies, topped by Hizbullah, which is implicating Lebanon and seeking to prolong the presidential vacuum.”They also slammed Hizbullah's military intervention in Syria.

Al-Rahi Urges State to Grant Expats Right to Regain Citizenship
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi demanded on Monday authorities to grant Lebanese expatriates the nationality, describing it as an “urgent” matter. “Despite the difficulties that the country is passing through, granting the Lebanese expats the nationality is an important and urgent matter,” al-Rahi said during a meeting with the representatives of the Maronite Foundation in the World. He demanded Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, who was present at the Bkirki meeting, to give the case the required attention by increasing the number of Lebanese diplomatic missions. Al-Rahi wondered about the fate of the draft-law for people of Lebanese origin to regain nationality. For his part, Bassil vowed to prioritize the issue and tackle it during talks with Speaker Nabih Berri. Lebanese law prevents giving the citizenship to the children of a Lebanese mother if the father was a foreigner. However, the cabinet of former Prime Minister Najib Miqati approved in 2011 a draft-law to regain the Lebanese nationality by applying to the citizenship. The draft-law was referred to the parliament for discussion but it's still waiting for lawmakers to endorse it. The cabinet’s green light to give the citizenship to Lebanese expatriates would pave way for their participation in the parliamentary elections if a new law adopted by the government Okays the voting at Lebanese embassies abroad.

Arms Smuggling Ring Led by Defected Syrian Officer Busted in Bekaa
Naharnet/Armed forces have arrested a defected Syrian army officer for running a weapons smuggling network in the eastern Bekaa Valley. Media reports said Ahmed Ibrahim Kabbar was apprehended five days ago in the town of Fekha. A Lebanese accomplice was also arrested, they said. The network led by Kabbar includes Lebanese and Syrian nationals.

Lebanese Army Kills Infiltrators near Asral after Foiling Similar Bid in Ras Baalbek
Naharnet /Several militants were killed Monday evening as the Lebanese army foiled an infiltration attempt into the Bekaa border town of Arsal, following clashes at noon in the outskirts of the border town of Ras Baalbek. “The Lebanese army thwarted an infiltration attempt in at Wadi Hmeid's checkpoint in Arsal, killing and wounded several militants,” state-run National News Agency reported. Earlier in the day, the army targeted gunmen on Ras Baalbek's outskirts as they were trying to infiltrate Lebanon, NNA said. The agency said that the army detected movements by armed men trying to infiltrate through the outskirts of Ras Baalbek, targeting them with the appropriate artillery weapons. The sounds of shelling and mortars could be heard in nearby areas, the news agency said. The Syrian army's jets simultaneously shelled gunmen posts in Syria along the outskirts of Ras Baalbek. Syrian warplanes continuously target areas along Lebanon's border since the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted in 2011. Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) reported earlier that gunmen targeted army positions in the area, which prompted troops to retaliate. A rocket also landed between the outskirts of Brital and Hawr Taala, the radio station said, adding that no casualties were reported. The army frequently clashes with the militants in their hideouts near the Syria border. The Islamic State, which controls several areas in Syria and Iraq, aims to spread to Lebanon as its fighters position in the outskirts of Bekaa towns bordering Syria and the Lebanese army is in adamant efforts to stop their efforts to infiltrate the country.

Rifi Says Hizbullah Members Linked to Global Corruption, Money Laundry Cases
Naharnet/Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi revealed on Monday that a number of Hizbullah members around the world are involved in corruption and money laundering cases, pointing out that several were detained in Lebanon on the same charges.“A number of cases have been unveiled related to Hizbullah's illegal activity and evading custom fees and taxes in Beirut's port and airport,” Rifi said in an interview with the Saudi newspaper al-Watan. The minister expressed fear over the uncontrolled activity of Hizbullah in Lebanon, citing judicial cases against the party's members around the world, which are linked to corruption crimes and money laundering. Asked about the cooperation between Riyadh and Lebanon to extradite Hizbullah members in Saudi Arabia, who are suspected of carrying out illegal activity on behalf of the party, Rifi described it as “firm.” “Today, cooperation is close with the Saudi judicial authorities and the country's mission in Beirut... our hands will always be extended to the Saudis just like their hands have always been extended to us,” the minister, who is affiliated to al-Mustaqbal Movement, remarked. Hundreds of Lebanese, mostly Shiite Muslims, have been quietly deported from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in 2013 after Hizbullah joined Syrian government forces in Syria's civil war. The Gulf Cooperation Council — which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE — has said the bloc would crack down on Hizbullah members as part of a joint effort to limit the group's "financial and business transactions."Hizbullah says the group has no business interests in the Gulf. However, there are more than half a million Lebanese working in the Gulf states, including tens of thousands in Saudi Arabia. Many are Shiites. Shiite-Sunni tensions have been on the rise in the Middle East with increasing sectarian violence in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Gulf states are also worried about the rise of Shiite Iran's influence throughout the Arab world.

Hillary’s Hezbollah-Friendly Donor
Pro-Syrian Lebanese billionaire donates to Clintons, decries 'Zionist Lobby'
BY: Joe Schoffstall/Washington Free Beacon
March 16, 2015
The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from a former deputy prime minister of Lebanon known for defending Hezbollah, according to a Washington Free Beacon analysis.
Issam Fares, a Lebanese billionaire who has established himself in the United States as a prominent philanthropist, has given between $1 and $5 million in donations to the Clintons’ foundation with donations coming as recently as last year, according to a public donor disclosure list on the foundation’s website.
Fares was a part of the pro-Syria government of Prime Minister Omar Karami during his tenure as deputy prime minister between 2000 and 2005.
“It seems the Zionist lobby in the United States and its agents in the region were displeased and worried that certain Lebanese and Arab personalities have a friendly relationship with some senior officials of the new American administration,” Fares was quoted as saying in a 2001 statement after questions were raised about his relationship with incoming U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Fares decried comparisons drawn between the terrorist organization al Qaeda and Hezbollah after the September 11 terror attacks.
“It is a mistake to make a comparison between the [Al Qaeda] network … which Lebanon has condemned, and Hezbollah, which Lebanon considers a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation,” Fares told Agence France-Presse. “Hezbollah did not carry out any resistance operation against American interests in Lebanon or abroad and did not target civilians in its resistance activities as happened on Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center.”
Fares expanded upon his defense of Hezbollah during a 2004 speech to the United Nations. Fares also acknowledged that Syrian forces were in their territory at the request of the government—despite calling for all non-Lebanese forces to leave Lebanon.
“It is also the policy of Lebanon to support the National Resistance Movement [Hezbollah] which has played an important role in forcing Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon,” Fares said during his address.
One year later, Fares would leave the Lebanese government.
Fares, now a U.S. citizen, picked an old Clinton hand to lead a U.S.-based company that he founded while he was still in Lebanon.
Fares founded the Wedge Group, a Houston-based investment firm, while serving in the Lebanese parliament. He accrued a majority of his wealth through international business deals, preferring to focus on hotels and resorts, engineering and construction, and oil and gas services.
Shortly after the formation of the Wedge Group, Fares tapped a Texan named Bill White to lead the company. At the time, White was just two years removed as President Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of energy. Six years later, in late 2003, White stepped down from the position after being elected mayor of Houston.
Fares has founded dozens of corporations, sits on multiple boards of businesses and universities, and has cultivated many close relationships with prominent political leaders around the world including Republicans.
Tufts University in Massachusetts holds an annual multi-day lecture series focused on United States policy towards the Middle East. The series is supported by an endowment from the Fares Foundation and was implemented by Fares I. Fares, a graduate of Tufts and the son of Issam, who named the lecture after his father. Issam also sits on the university’s Board of Trustees.
Fares has not shown open support for Hezbollah at these lectures. Many world leaders and government officials holding various political ideologies have joined Fares for his annual event—including Bill and Hillary Clinton, both of whom spoken at the forum.
Bill Clinton was also present at the Fares Center for Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies inauguration ceremony in 2002 and once again in 2010, as he was honored alongside the former deputy prime minister and President George H.W. Bush.
The Clinton Foundation kept its donor list secret until 2008, after it was announced that Barack Obama wanted Hillary Clinton to serve as secretary of state and an agreement was made between the Obama transition team and the Clintons to unveil a list of donors.
The list provided a first look into the many foreign governments and overseas donors pumping money into the foundation. At the time, a total of between $20 and $65 million had been donated by foreign governments since 1997, including $10 to $25 million from Saudi Arabia, $5 to $10 million from Norway, and $1-5 million each from Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Brunei. Qatar is the foremost international sponsor of Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.
Also on the list was Issam Fares. Requests for comment from Fares and the Clinton Foundation were not returned.

Controversy over Lebanon security officers’ tenure
Terms of both the heads of armed forces and internal security agency are set to end soon
By Joseph A. Kechichian, Senior Writer/Published: March 16, 2015/Gulf News
Beirut: In a country where military officers are “politicians-in-waiting,” the Free Patriotic Movement leader, General Michel Aoun — who famously led the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) between 1984 and 1989 and was humiliated by the Syrian Arab Army that forced him to seek refuge at the French Embassy — perceives the incumbent, General Jean Qahwaji, as a rival for the presidency.
As the latter is slated to retire in September 2015, and because of a concerted effort to extend the LAF Commander’s term of office to prevent a vacuum in the remaining independent institution, Aoun let it be known that he rejected any and all extensions for security officers.
On Monday, Aoun told the pro-Hezbollah Al Safir daily that it was imperative to appoint two new generals to lead the army as well as the Internal Security Forces (ISF) because, he affirmed: “Any further extension of their terms is a clear violation of the law.”
The FPM leader declared that local norms required that “two [new] officers should be appointed to the army and ISF leadership [positions] when the terms of those leading them expired. He denied that he had proposed his son-in-law, Special Forces chief Brigadier General Chamel Roukoz, to replace Qahwaji. It was worth noting that Roukoz’s own tenure was slated to end in October 2015, or about a month after that of General Qahwaji. ISF chief Major General Ebrahim Basbous was slated to retire in June 2015.
Interestingly, Aoun stressed that the decision to extend the terms of top security officers was not solely the jurisdiction of the defence and interior ministers, which contradicted what Defence Samir Mokbel affirmed a few weeks ago.
In fact, Mokbel cited article 50 of the defence law to brush off criticism over his decision to keep the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Defence, Major General Mohammad Khair, and LAF Intelligence Chief Edmond Fadel in their posts, even if both reached their retirement ages.
Aoun believed that the Minister of Defense was not entitled to make such changes because, he underlined, “this is an issue that concerns the [whole] government, which is the only party entitled to extend or not.” He warned that he was ready to “confront any attempt to impose the extension” on the rest of the “factions,” adding: “As long as we are in the cabinet, the irregular will not become a rule.”
What irritated Aoun was Moqbel’s draft law that proposed to raise the retirement age of senior army and police officers, from 60 to 63 for the LAF commander, from 59 to 62 for major-generals, from 58 to 61 for brigadiers, and from 56 to 59 for colonels.
In addition to Qahwaji, Roukoz, Khair, Basbous and Fadel, the head of the gendarmerie, Brigadier Elias Saade was slated to end his term of office on May 22, and Army Chief of Staff Major General Walid Salman on August 7. In the event, and as the Kheir appointment illustrated, there was a degree of urgency to ensure that unfilled, or soon to be vacant, positions were quickly made to avoid a leadership calamity.
What was even more pronounced in 2015 was the very nature of the Aoun-Qahwaji confrontation, as both men vied for the position of head-of-state, anxious to consummate customary behind-the-scenes deals. Given Aoun’s delicate position to appear as a strong unifying presidential candidate, Qahwaji played the game far more astutely, giving credence to the notion that he would consent to Roukoz taking command of the LAF provided that he, Qahwaji, moves to the presidential palace in Baabda.

Syrian president appears dismissive of Kerry's remarks on possible talks with Assad
The Canadian PressBy Albert Aji, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press –
DAMASCUS, Syria - Syrian President Bashar Assad said Monday that only Syrians can decide his future — apparently dismissing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's remark that Washington would be willing to talk with Assad to help broker a political resolution to the country's civil war. Asked about Kerry's statement regarding potential talks with the Syrian government, Assad said, "We are still hearing statements and have to wait for actions. Then we will decide." He added that any "talk about the future of the Syrian president is for Syrian people alone." Assad said Damascus is not concerned about comments made from abroad, describing them as "bubbles that disappear after some time." The Syrian leader spoke to Iranian TV after a meeting with visiting Iranian Economy Minister Ali Tayebnia. Tehran is one of Assad's closest allies and strongest backers in his battle against rebels trying to remove him from power. Kerry said in an interview with CBS News that the U.S. is pushing for Assad to seriously discuss a transition strategy to help end Syria's four-year conflict, which has killed more than 220,000 people since it started four years ago. Some in the Middle East saw Kerry's statement as a shift in America's policy on Syria after President Barack Obama's repeated calls for Assad to step down. Damascus has long accused Washington and its allies of militarizing Syria's conflict. Last year, the U.S. joined talks in Switzerland with Assad's foreign minister and members of the U.S.-backed moderate Syrian opposition, but those talks failed when Assad's representatives refused to discuss how to create a transition government.
Asked about Kerry's statement regarding potential talks with the Syrian government, the French Foreign Ministry said Paris' position opposing talks with Assad remained unchanged.
The foreign minister of Turkey, another U.S. ally, also reacted sharply to Kerry's comments, and reiterated Ankara's position that Assad must go.
"What can you negotiate with a regime that has killed more than 200,000 people and used chemical weapons," Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a visit Monday to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. "What result have you achieved from past negotiations?"
The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said in a statement Monday that "bringing down the head of the regime and all officials responsible for crimes against the Syrian people are a main goal of the coalition."
Assad said that international overtures are positive "if they are sincere." He added that such a move should start with "ceasing political support to terrorists, stop financing them and stop sending weapons."
He said that pressure should be exerted on European countries and regional states who give "logistical, financial and military support to terrorists and then we can say that the change has become real."
Also Monday, Syria's Minister of National Reconciliation, Ali Haidar said the Americans "are searching behind the scene" for some way to re-open a direct line of communication with the Syrian leadership to negotiate a political compromise.
"The change has come as a result of a failure in the U.S. policies after a four-year-long crisis," Haidar said in an interview with The Associated Press. He added that all states have "agreed that a political solution doesn't absolutely mean a prior condition that President Assad should step down.""All have figured out that this condition is non-objective and unachievable and there is no power to implement it on ground," Haidar said. Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

Niqab controversy: Judge struck down ban without referring to charter
CBCCBC – /Radio Canada -
When Federal Court Judge Keith Boswell ruled last month that a woman could wear a niqab while taking her oath of Canadian citizenship, supporters may have thought the decision was another victory for charter rights.
During the controversy over the niqab ban, the charter was certainly cited, in particular regarding religious freedom and freedom of expression rights.
But in his ruling, Boswell avoided any charter issues, focusing not on whether the woman's rights had been violated, but rather the legality of the ban.
The case itself involves ZuneraIshaq, a Pakistani woman and devout Sunni Muslim who is seeking Canadian citizenship. Based on her religious beliefs, Ishaq wears a niqab, or veil, to cover most of her face when out in public.
In 2011, then immigration minister Jason Kenney issued a new policy manual stating that candidates for citizenship must remove any kind of face covering when taking the public citizenship oath.
'Must be taken freely and openly'
It's a "public declaration that you are joining the Canadian family and it must be taken freely and openly," Kenney told CBC News at the time.
While applying for citizenship in 2013, Ishaq had agreed to unveil herself to an official before taking the citizenship test. But she objected to removing her niqab at the public swearing-in ceremony.
Ishaq, a permanent resident, later sued the government, arguing, in part, that the ban against her wearing the niqab during the ceremony was an infringement of her charter rights.
Boswell, however, in rendering his decision, thought it "imprudent to decide the charter issues that arose” in this case, instead saying the "evidentiary record was adequate to decide the matter."
"A court will look at whether a law violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a kind of last resort," said Audrey Macklin, a professor and chair of human rights law at the University of Toronto. "Courts don’t tend to go to the charter first, they tend to go to the charter last."
So Boswell focused on whether the government had violated its own law — the Citizenship Act — by imposing such a ban.
Under the section "Ceremonial Procedures of Citizenship Judges," the act states that a citizenship judge shall “administer the oath of citizenship with dignity and solemnity, allowing the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization" of taking the oath.
In his ruling, Boswell said that Kenney's policy manual that banned the wearing of the niqab while taking the oath contradicted the act. A judge couldn't comply with both the policy manual, which said one thing, and the act, which said another, Boswell suggested.
"How can a citizenship judge afford the greatest possible freedom in respect of the religious solemnization or solemn affirmation in taking the oath if the policy requires candidates to violate or renounce a basic tenet of their religion?" Boswell asked.
Boswell offered two hypothetical examples: a monk who had taken a vow of silence and a person who is mute. Would a judge be affording a monk the "greatest possible freedom" by forcing him to betray his vow? And what if a person is physically incapable of saying the oath and cannot be heard taking it?
As the Citizenship Act is a law passed by Parliament and the policy manual is a directive from a cabinet minister, the act naturally trumps the policy manual, Boswell reasoned.
Minister 'doesn't have that power'
"The minister is not authorized to make law. He doesn’t have that power," said Macklin. "And if he purports to make law or make a rule or command a citizenship judge to do something that takes away from the citizenship judge's discretion, and even more, commands the judge to do something that is directly contradictory [to what] the law says, then the minister himself is acting unlawfully."
Government lawyers had argued there was no contradiction between the act and minister's policy manual. They said the manual did not attempt to trump the act because the policy of banning veils was not mandatory — instead more of a suggestion or guideline — that could be disregarded by citizenship judges.
However Boswell, in his ruling, said the policy manual makes it perfectly clear that the veil ban is not a suggestion or optional, and that it clearly states that candidates "are required" to remove their face coverings for the oath-taking portion of the ceremony. If they do not, the manual says that the certificate "is NOT to be presented."Taking all that into consideration, Boswell ruled that the ban on wearing a niqab was unlawful.

Syndicated News
Assyrian Pastor and Two Converts Released From Iranian Prison
Posted 2015-03-16
Assyrian pastor, Victor Bet-Tamarz and two Christian converts had been arrested as they were celebrating Christmas, on December 26, 2014 in a residential house in northwestern Tehran. All three were eventually released on bail from Evin prison.
Of the three detainees, Amin Afshar Naderi was first released on February 10, 2015 after posting a heavy bail of 100 million Tomans (Approx. 40,000 USD). Mr. Naderi spent 36 days in jail, of which he spent 30 days in solitary confinement. After his release, intelligence officers summoned him once to an unofficial building for additional interrogation. Mr. Naderi is 26 years old and is an employee of the private sector.
The other Christian convert arrested with Pastor Victor is Kavian Fallah Mohammadi. He was released one week after Mr. Naderi on a bail equal to Mr. Naderi's. Iranian authorities explained that the reason for this one week delay between these releases is that Mr. Mohammadi is a resident of a northern province and submission of a title deed to the Revolutionary Court from those provinces takes some time. Only during this one week he was transferred out of solitary confinement and into the general ward of Evin prison.
Pastor Victor Ben-Tamarz was released several days later on March 1, 2015, after enduring 65 days in prison. His release was also made possible by posting an expensive property title deed. All these individuals are only free until the day of their trial. Despite Pastor Victor's old age, he spent most of his jail time in solitary confinement and suffered from numerous health problems. He is still suffering from health problems caused during his imprisonment in Evin prison.
All three Christian men should wait to be summoned to court for their trial and are banned from all Christian activities until that time.
Pastor Victor Bet-Tamarz is the former pastor of the Shahr-Ara Pentecostal Church in Tehran. He served God at that church for more than three decades. In addition to his ministry among Assyrians, he was active among Farsi-speaking Iranians as well. He held Farsi services at his church until security authorities shut them down and dismissed him as the pastor of the church on March 31, 2009. The Assyrian member of Iranian Parliament (Majles), played a key role in the cancellation of Farsi services and dismissal of Pastor Victor.
Pastor Victor, his wife, their son, as well as 12 Christian converts had gathered on December 26, 2014 to celebrate Christmas, when plain-clothed security authorities raided their gathering. The authorities disrupted the celebration and put them all in custody.
All detainees, but three, were released after a written interrogation and signing a disclaimer on the spot. The three who weren't released, namely Pastor Victor and two Christian converts Amin Afshar Naderi and Kavian Fallah Mohammadi, were transferred to Evin prison immediately.
Reports indicate that after their transfer to Evin prison, their heads were shaved in the same way as convicted criminals, and they were taken to solitary cells. They were subjected to several interrogation sessions and held under custody for a long period before being officially charged. Even their families did not have a clear understanding of their situation for a lengthy period.
After Pastor Victor Bet-Tamarz's case was publicized, in a statement, the British Foreign Office expressed its concern over the continuation of Pastor Bet-Tamarz and two Christian converts' imprisonment. The statement expressed deep concerns of the British government over the continuing oppression and harassment of Iranian religious minorities, including Christians, by the Iranian government. It also mentioned that the British government and international community expect the Iranian regime to adhere to international conventions with regards to freedom of religion and freedom of speech of which it is a signatory.

They Kill Like Men, They Die Like Boys
Diana Moukalled /Asharq Al Awsat
Tuesday, 17 Mar, 2015
His face was smooth, the signs of imminent manhood yet to appear on his unblemished features, just like any other boy of his age. Even his eyes, which he had tried to empty of any sign of feeling, betrayed a childlike innocence, one squarely at odds with the barbaric act he was about to commit. Then he raised his hands—hands smaller than the gun he was holding—pointed them at the head of the victim—19-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Musallam, bound and on his knees—and pulled the trigger.
Yes, it was an execution of a teenager—carried out by a boy.
Truly horrific scenes. They were of course broadcast by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which recruited the boy and ordered him to execute the young Palestinian teenager accused by the group of spying for Israel. But the truth is that throughout the footage of the execution the boy’s face does not change, it doesn’t suddenly take on any features you would associate with a cold-blooded killer. At the end of the execution, he still looks exactly like what he is: a little boy, not a monster.
We still do not know the nationality of the boy whom ISIS presented to us as one of its “cubs of the caliphate.” ISIS paraded another of these “cubs” weeks ago in yet another horrific video, with the boy identifying himself as a Kazakhstani. But this new boy remains unknown—though the authorities in France are linking him to Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old who killed seven people in the country back in 2012, while claiming allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
This latest video is the culmination of an ISIS propaganda initiative that began weeks ago with the release of a video showing the group training young boys at a jihadist camp in Syria. In the video the boys are shown being trained to use weapons, and in what can only be described as unbelievable scenes, carry out mock executions on blond, blue-eyed dolls dressed in the orange jumpsuits that have become the trademark attire for the victims appearing in the group’s numerous execution videos. The eventuality we dreaded when we saw these children pretend to execute the dolls has now reached its grisly apotheosis with this latest video: this time the execution was real, and the victim, Muhammad Musallam, was certainly not a lifeless doll.
Of course ISIS is not the first to make use of child soldiers, for history is full of horrific accounts of the use of children as instruments of war and the methodical and highly studied methods used to rob them of whatever vestiges of their humanity still remain—turning them into obedient and highly efficient killing machines. Unfortunately, it is not just the past that is full of these accounts; in our present day the UN has identified 20 conflict spots around the world where children are being recruited as soldiers from a very young age, a tactic used not only to ensure their obedience and loyalty, but one which also makes them from very early on view violence as a way of life. A recent international report on children in Syria found that almost all fighting groups involved in the Syrian conflict were recruiting children as soldiers, while also detailing how the Syrian regime has killed and tortured children throughout the now four-year conflict—a deeply tragic state of affairs where children are both the victims of acts of violence and also the perpetrators of such acts. A doctor speaking to Human Rights Watch recently told the organization children had also been used in Syria to torture prisoners of war. What kind of inconceivable war is this where children are taught how to torture others?
In the 1970s, Cambodian dictator Pol Pot used similar methods to ISIS in his own recruitment of child soldiers for the Khmer Rouge. His main concern in those days, as it is to ISIS today, was to create a society impervious to the outside values he deemed inimical to the way of life he wished to impose. ISIS, of course, is no different in this department.
But I believe this satanic organization has sown the seeds of its own destruction; it will not last for long, and there will come a day when it will meet its sorry end. But what of the long-term repercussions of its actions, particularly when it comes to the children affected by them? What about the long-term effects of this psychology of violence which these children have inherited, and how will these acts of brutality—whether witnessed by the children, or committed by them, or both—affect the wider society in which these children will grow up and live? Indeed, one of the most well-documented dangers associated with the repeated viewing of acts of violence is that the viewer gradually becomes desensitized to what they are witnessing—perhaps a kind of unconscious defense-mechanism to shield one’s mind from the horrors being seen but which also has the unwanted side-effect of slowly transforming the horrific and shocking into the quotidian and banal, engendering a loss of feeling in the viewer in the process. But even this is not the end of the matter; being desensitized to violence is one thing, taking pleasure from it is another matter entirely, one that poses a much more terrifying danger for the future.
Is ISIS trying to create a society that has a distinct taste for conflict and killing, tastes which may even outlast the group itself? It is impossible to know ISIS’s intentions here, but what we do know for sure is that we are now faced with an entire generation of children in Syria who have been utterly shell-shocked and traumatized—and in the case of ISIS’s soldiers, entirely lost to us.
In his book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers, Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire, the former commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda in the 1990s, wrote that children are the most effective weapons of war: they learn fast, are easily coerced into loyalty, and are relatively cheap to maintain. Once again we are thrown between those two equally unpalatable opposites of children as victims of violence on the one hand, and as perpetrators of it on the other.
Some have described ISIS’s child recruitment push as a new form of child abuse. Abuse this most certainly is, but it is not haphazard or random; no, this is the systematic process of slowly removing a child’s innocence and replacing it with cruelty and savageness, all carried out with an almost scientific precision, and broadcast in promotional videos for the whole world to see. It is clear that we are facing a problem that will last with us for generations.
Even if the smooth-faced child executioner in the latest video is ever able to break free of ISIS and perhaps undergo treatment to rid him of whatever demons they have placed there, will he ever be able to break free of his image as a cold-blooded killer, one which the whole world has now witnessed and which will be immortalized forever on cyberspace?