March 28/15

Saturday of Lazarus

Bible Quotation For Today/You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me
John 11/55-57//12-01-11: "Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus."

Bible Quotation For Today/ I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour had been in vain
First Letter to the Thessalonians 02/17-20//03-01-05: "As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you in person, not in heart we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy! Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour had been in vain."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 27-28/15
Iran is seeking hegemony via a nuclear deal/YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post/March 27/15
A salute to our heroes liberating Yemen/Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor/Al Arabiya/
March 27/15

Intervention in Yemen prevented a catastrophe/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 27/15
Supporting ‘Operation Decisive Storm’/Andrew Bowen/Al Arabiya/March 27/15
The Obama administration’s citation of this fatwa is utterly wrongheaded on many levels/Raymond Ibrahim/March 27/15

Breaking free in the great Syrian prison/Michael Young/The Daily Star/March 27/15

Lebanese Related News published on March 27-28/15
Lebanon Army seizes militant 'infiltration points' on Syria border
Israeli cluster bomb wounds 6 children in south Lebanon
Hezbollah would join Saudi coalition if aimed at Israel: Nasrallah
3 injured in factory fire north of Beirut
Gas Tanker Explodes at Adonis Industrial Zone, Triggering Blaze
Machnouk meets US Homeland Security chief 
Canadian firm to upgrade Beirut airport radars 
FPM hands LF 'declaration of intent' draft 
Lebanese economists push for PPP 
8 Children Hurt in Explosion of Cluster Bomb in Zebqin
U.N. Says $18 Million Allocated for Lebanon to Meet Needs of Vulnerable
Army Detains Two Lebanese Linked to Policemen Abduction Ordeal
Geagea Backs Saudi Offensive against Huthi Rebels, Considers it Legitimate
Mountain Says International Support Group for Lebanon Could Meet in Beirut

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 27-28/15
Saudi street backs Yemen intervention
Saudi-led campaign strikes Yemen's Sanaa, Morocco joins alliance
Ex-president Saleh calls for Yemen ceasefire: statement
‘Decisive Storm’ besieges Houthis
Warships move in key strait as airstrikes widen in Yemen
Experts: Saudi Ground Troops Would Face Yemen 'Quagmire'
Yemen’s Saleh sends forces to cut road outside of Aden
Obama, Merkel discuss ongoing nuclear talks with Iran: White House
Kerry calls Lavrov on Iran nuclear talks: US
Next days to test if Iran ready for hard nuclear decisions: US
Iran agreement looks difficult unless Tehran flexible: Western diplomat
Canada Condemns Syria’s Continued Use of Chemical Weapons
Canada supports military action in support of the recognized government of Yemen
Israel to stop withholding Palestinian tax revenues
Kerry orders probe of U.S. State Dept. examine email procedures
Shopping centers near Pentagon evacuated over bomb threat: local media
13 dead as militants storm Mogadishu hotel
Saudi U.N. envoy: ISIS, Al Qaeda taint Islam’s image
EU keeps Hamas on terror list despite ruling

Jihad Watch Latest News
Steven Salaita Brings His War on Civility (and His Pity Party) to Stanford
Middle East Quarterly: Robert Spencer reviews Kecia Ali’s “The Lives of Muhammad”
Obama “blowing up our alliances to secure a deal that paves Iran’s way to a bomb”
Obama’s revenge: US declassifies report on Israel’s nuclear program
Raymond Ibrahim: Obama Cites Ayatollah’s Fatwa on Road to Nuclear War
US Muslim soldier: “We would love to do something like the brother in Paris did”
Australia foils 230 Muslims trying to leave the country to join the jihad
FB page hails pilot who deliberately crashed plane as Islamic State hero
A Varied and Inextricable Tangle
Raymond Ibrahim on NewsMax: Christians on way to extinction in Mideast 
Sunni-Shi’ite jihad escalates as Saudis bomb Iran-backed Shi’ite jihadis in Yemen
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Bowe Bergdahl, Deserter
Convicted jihad terrorist whines that his mother and the FBI violated his rights
Illinois: Muslim soldier arrested for jihad plot on military base for Islamic State
Sharia in action: Islamic State stones couple to death for adultery

A Big Yes to the Decisive Storm & A Big No To the Iranian Empire Scheme
Elias Bejjani/March 27/15
There is no doubt that the "Decisive Storm In Yemen", the military Arabic operation that started yesterday is late and too small, but as the saying goes, better to come late and small, than not to come at all.
In reality and practically, Iran went too far in humiliating and marginalizing all the Arab countries and its people through countless kinds of bold, intrusive and terrorist meddling in their own internal affairs.
The Iranian Mullahs and millitary leaders deluded themselves that actually they will be easily able and without any Arabic fiery resistance to topple all the Arab regimes and erect the Persian Empire and then rule happily.
This Iranian vulgar, stupid, and aggressive approach of humiliation towards the Arab would not have happened if the Arab rulers had stood firmly from day one and stopped by force the Iran invasion.
The Arab regimes' stances of reluctance, hesitation, fear and unwillingness to fight back enabled the Iranian Mullahs to infiltrate with their own local denominational militias and trojans most of the Arab countries including Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza etc.
Now with the "Decisive Storm" in place and action, the Arab countries are lawfully, legitimately, and patriotically defending their own countries and peoples.
The whole free world will support them especially that Iran has become a threat for peace not only in the Middle East, but in the whole world.
Hopefully the Arab rulers will not dwell in compromises, or back up, until Iran is only in Iran and all its militias in all the Arab countries are dismantled and disarmed.
A big Yes to the "Decisive Storm" in Yemen.

Some Of My Tweets for todayخواطر على التويتر
Elias Bejjani
*Only in whole world the Butcher Assad, the terrorist Nasrallah and the Iranian Mullahs are against the Decisive Storm’ in Yemen. No wonder!!
*The terrorist Nasrallah is scheduled to deliver a fiery speech tomorrow and as always his empty rhetoric threats will be hailed by his supporters while rediculed by all others.
*The Axis of Evil mercenaries, Trojans, and trumpets have called for demonstrations in Beirut tomorrow in front of the Saudi Arabia embassy.. They love peace and worship freedom!ا.

Canada Condemns Syria’s Continued Use of Chemical Weapons
March 26, 2015 - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:
“Canada calls on Syria to immediately allow and provide security to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Fact-Finding Mission in Syria to undertake an urgent investigation in order to establish the facts surrounding Syria’s apparent use of toxic chemicals for hostile purposes.
“President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal actions against his own citizens have resulted in a downward spiral of violence and extremism and a humanitarian crisis of appalling dimensions—and created the fertile conditions for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to grow. Canada condemns in the strongest terms the Assad regime’s continued assaults on citizens. As we work with allies to degrade and destroy ISIL’s capacity to threaten the region, we remain determined that the Assad regime will also be held to account for its crimes against the people of Syria.
“Canada recently co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2209, which not only condemned in the strongest possible terms any use of any toxic chemical as a weapon but also recalled that non-compliance would lead to measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The latest attacks, if confirmed, would constitute a serious violation that merits consideration.”

Canada supports military action in support of the recognized government of Yemen
March 27, 2015 - Ottawa, Ontario - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued a statement on the situation in Yemen:
“Canada is concerned by the deteriorating situation in Yemen resulting from the ongoing military actions taken by Houthi rebels against the elected government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah. These actions are fueling the widespread instability and chaos that is exacerbating Yemen’s growing humanitarian crisis and threatening regional stability.
“Canada supports the military action by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] partners and others to defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s recognized government at the request of the Yemeni president.
“Canada has a strong and diverse relationship with GCC members and stands behind the recognized government of Yemen. We are monitoring developments closely and are in close contact with our partners and allies in the region.
“We strongly urge the Houthis to immediately halt their provocative military actions, and we urge all parties to return to negotiations.
“Canada continues to stand by the Yemeni people during this difficult and uncertain time.”

Saudi-led campaign strikes Yemen's Sanaa, Morocco joins alliance
Mohammed Mukhashef| Reuters/Daily Star/Mar. 27, 2015 |
ADEN: Yemen's beleaguered government said Saudi-led airstrikes against its Houthi militia opponents would not last long on the second day of a Gulf Arab-led campaign against the Iranian-allied militia that could escalate a proxy conflict spreading through the region.
Warplanes targeted Houthi forces controlling Yemen's capital and their northern heartland on Friday and, in a boost for Riyadh, fellow monarchy Morocco said it would join the rapidly-assembled Sunni Muslim coalition against the Shi'ite Muslim group. Tribes in Yemen's oil producing Marib region said they supported the air campaign, but Houthi forces advanced south despite the airstrikes and Pakistan, named by Saudi Arabia on Thursday as a partner, said it had made no decision on whether to contribute. Riyadh's move is the latest front in a growing regional contest for power with Iran that is also playing out in Syria, where Tehran backs Assad's government against mainly Sunni rebels, and Iraq, where Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias are playing a major role in fighting.
Sunni monarchies in the Gulf are backing embattled Yemeni President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi and his fellow Sunnis in the country's south against the Shi'ite advance. Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen, asked if the campaign would last days, weeks or more, told Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television: "I expect that this operation will not go on for long, I think it will be days." He said the door was still open for dialogue with the Houthis, while in a Facebook posting, Hadi urged Yemenis to be patient, saying the "rebels", a reference to Houthis, would soon be gone. But Houthi fighters and forces allied to Saleh entered the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa on Friday through the central province of Bayda, extending their reach into the south, according to tribal sources. The fighters entered the city of Lodar in Abyan after clashes with tribal forces loyal to Hadi, and also took over Bayhan in Shabwa, where they faced less resistance. Mosques in Riyadh on Friday preached fiery sermons against the Houthis and their Iranian allies, describing the fight as a religious duty. Saudi Arabia's top clerical council issued a fatwa on Thursday giving its blessing to the campaign. In the Iranian capital Tehran, Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Kazem Sadeghi described the attacks as "an aggression and interference in Yemen's internal affairs".
Residents said aircraft targeted bases around Sanaa of Republican Guards allied to the Houthis, including one near the presidential compound in a southern district, around dawn and also struck near a military installation that houses missiles.
The Republican Guards are loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Houthi's main ally who retains wide power despite having stepped down in 2011 after Arab Spring protests. Earlier air strikes south of the city and in the oil-producing Marib region appeared to target military installations also affiliated with Saleh. Yemeni oil flows through the Marib pipeline, its main export route, at a rate of around 70,000 barrels per day (bpd). The well-armed tribes are the de facto authority in the central province so their support for the air strikes was significant. Warplanes also hit two districts in the Houthis' northerly home province of Saada, tribal sources said. The strikes hit a market in Kataf al-Bokaa in the north of Saada, killing or wounding 15 people, they said. Shada district was also struck.
The coalition began air strikes on Thursday to try to roll back Houthi gains in the Arabian Peninsula country and to shore up the authority of embattled President Hadi, who has been holed up in Aden after fleeing Sanaa in February. Hadi left Aden on Thursday and is due to attend an Arab summit meeting in Egypt on Saturday, where he aims to build Arab support for the air strikes. He arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday by way of Oman, where a foreign ministry official said he had had a medical check up before heading on to the kingdom.
The Saudi campaign raised morale among some Gulf Arabs who view Tehran's growing influence in the region with suspicion. One of the region's top businessman, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor of the United Arab Emirates, wrote on al Arabiya website in unusually frank terms that he was cheered by the Saudi move. "There can be no meaningful dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation with ambitions of reinstating the Persian Empire and quashing Arabs under its boot, just as it has stamped upon Sunnis and ethnic/religious minorities in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq," he wrote. In his first reaction to the attacks, Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi on Thursday called Saudi Arabia a bad neighbour and "Satan's horn", saying in a televised speech Yemenis would confront the "criminal, unjust and unjustified aggression".
Iran denounced the surprise assault on the Houthis and demanded an immediate halt to Saudi-led military operations and, on Friday, accused Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday of fomenting strife in the Middle East, rebuffing his accusation that Iran was trying to dominate the region. While U.S. officials have downplayed the scope of the ties between Iran and the Houthis, Saudi ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir said members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Iranian-backed Hezbollah are on the ground advising the Houthis.
Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, spokesman for the operation, told a news conference there were no plans at this stage for ground force operations, but if the need arose, Saudi and allied ground forces would repel "any aggression." (With additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, Sami Aboudi, Maha El Dahan, Writing by William Maclean; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Iran: The Only "Good Deal" - And How to Work for It
Malcolm Lowe / March 27, 2015
Gatestone Institute
Even if, as the US Administration ceaselessly assures us, Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons can be frustrated for a while, any relaxation of the current economic sanctions will be used to finance Iran's other drive: its quest for regional hegemony.
To begin with, the P5+1 could adopt the very successful style of negotiation practiced by Palestinians as well as Iranians. This is to whittle away at the position of the other side by extracting one little concession after another, but then to delay the negotiations indefinitely when the deal seems to be imminent. The result is that when negotiations do resume, it is not from zero, but from an inferior initial position of the other side.
Whenever a deal seems near, one of the P5+1 should come up with a further demand or demands. What they could do is adopt that role in succession, so that Iran is the party that needs to keep starting afresh from a worse position.
Just one more little concession...
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif speaks to the media during the Iran nuclear negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland. November 24, 2013. (Image source: United States Mission Geneva)
In his celebrated address to both houses of the US Congress on March 3, 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu castigated the looming agreement on Iran's nuclear program in these words: "Now we're being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That's just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal." Given Netanyahu's clear analysis of Iran's aims and methods, however, one might conclude that even better would be no deal, but just to continue pressure on Iran until it abandons its nuclear program, its long-range missile programs and its designs on other Middle East countries.
To draw such a conclusion openly would not have suited an occasion on which the Israeli Prime Minister was seeking maximum consensus and minimum controversy. But that conclusion is demanded by two considerations. Both featured in a warning issued by none other than Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal in an interview with the BBC on March 16.
Even if, as the US Administration ceaselessly assures us, Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons can be frustrated for a while, any relaxation of the current economic sanctions will be used to finance Iran's other drive: its quest for regional hegemony.
To begin with, the P5+1 could adopt the very successful style of negotiation practiced by Palestinians as well as Iranians. This is to whittle away at the position of the other side by extracting one little concession after another, but then to delay the negotiations indefinitely when the deal seems to be imminent. The result is that when negotiations do resume, it is not from zero, but from an inferior initial position of the other side.
Whenever a deal seems near, one of the P5+1 should come up with a further demand or demands. What they could do is adopt that role in succession, so that Iran is the party that needs to keep starting afresh from a worse position.
In his celebrated address to both houses of the US Congress on March 3, 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu castigated the looming agreement on Iran's nuclear program in these words: "Now we're being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That's just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal." Given Netanyahu's clear analysis of Iran's aims and methods, however, one might conclude that even better would be no deal, but just to continue pressure on Iran until it abandons its nuclear program, its long-range missile programs and its designs on other Middle East countries.
To draw such a conclusion openly would not have suited an occasion on which the Israeli Prime Minister was seeking maximum consensus and minimum controversy. But that conclusion is demanded by two considerations. Both featured in a warning issued by none other than Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal in an interview with the BBC on March 16.
First of all, insisted the prince, "I've always said whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same. So if Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to whatever level, it's not just Saudi Arabia that's going to ask for that. The whole world will be an open door to go that route without any inhibition, and that's my main objection to this P5+1 process."
But also, he added, "Iran is already a disruptive player in various scenes in the Arab world, whether it's Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, or Bahrain. So ending fear of developing weapons of mass destruction is not going to be the end of the troubles we're having with Iran."
The crucial point is that even if the P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, the UK and France, plus Germany) succeed in overcoming the prince's "main objection," the current negotiations do not address his second complaint at all. Even if, as the US Administration ceaselessly assures us, Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons can be frustrated for a while, any relaxation of the current economic sanctions will be used to finance Iran's other drive: its quest for regional hegemony.
That quest currently has a lot going for it. Moreover, the P5+1 governments do not grasp the dimensions of the quest because they are unaware of the fundamentals of Iranian national consciousness.
Every proud Farsi-speaking Iranian grows up conscious of being the heir to two great empires. One of them, the Persian Empire of Cyrus, is known to whoever still read their Bibles. It stretched to the Aegean coast and included modern Israel. Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, added Egypt; thus it remained until overthrown by Alexander the Great.
The second, the Sasanian Empire, is probably unknown to the P5+1 negotiators, but its map more closely corresponds to the dreams of the ayatollahs. It lasted for 400 years before falling victim to the early Muslim conquests. To the east, it incorporated parts of modern Pakistan; to the north, parts of Afghanistan as well as Azerbaijan and Armenia; to the west, Iraq and much of Syria. It further included the entire coast of the (appropriately named) Persian Gulf, all the way to Oman. Oh yes, and in the 570's it also acquired Yemen, which Iran is currently taking over via its sponsorship of the Houthis.
Those were its typical boundaries. Its collapse was due to a late attempt to recreate the empire of Cyrus by seizing territory from the Byzantine Empire (the striped area shown here). The Byzantines drove them back, but the massive losses in battle made both sides into easy targets for the unexpected attack of Muhammad's heirs. Byzantium barely survived, while the Sasanian Empire vanished. The ayatollahs may be prudent enough not to repeat that mistake by taking on Turkey, but their obsessive hostility to Israel is imprudent indeed.
The Sasanians, unknown to themselves, thus ruled over all the oilfields of the Middle East. In another convenient coincidence, the inhabitants of the oilfields are preponderantly Shia Arabs, whether in Iran itself or in Iraq, Kuwait (over a third Shia), Saudi Arabia (about a fifth, but located precisely in the oil-rich areas), Bahrain (two-thirds Shia) and some of the Emirates.
Indeed, modern Iran has a long-standing claim to Bahrain. Iranian nationalists have expanded that claim to encompass all the Emirates. Each of these sheikhdoms has a small native population and a vast majority of foreign workers. The only military obstacles to an Iranian takeover are American bases and the Saudi armed forces. How the Saudis, despite billions spent on American weapons, would fare in a conflict is unknown; they have none of the battle experience of the Iranians. Remember how easily ISIS dispersed the Iraqi army at Mosul. Prince Turki has much to worry about.
This, then, is the danger. Any supply of finance acquired by Iran through a relaxation of sanctions will hardly be used to ease the living conditions of average Iranians, who are inured to sacrifices on behalf of national ideals. Rather, it will be spent first on consolidating Iran's domination of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, then on subverting the Gulf States via their Shia populations.
Netanyahu's address showed consciousness of the broader issue where he said: "We can insist that restrictions on Iran's nuclear program not be lifted for as long as Iran continues its aggression in the region and in the world. Before lifting those restrictions, the world should demand that Iran do three things. First, stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East. Second, stop supporting terrorism around the world. And third, stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state."
Those three demands are correct, but Netanyahu spoke only of insisting "that restrictions on Iran's nuclear program not be lifted," whereas also Iran's sources of income need to be restricted for as long as Iran fails to meet those demands. This is why no deal will be better than any deal, provided that responsibility for the failure to reach a deal can be pinned upon the Iranian regime.
How to achieve this? To begin with, the P5+1 could adopt the very successful style of negotiation practiced by Palestinians as well as Iranians. This is to whittle away at the position of the other side by extracting one little concession after another, but then to delay the negotiations indefinitely just when a deal seems to be imminent. The result is that when negotiations do resume, it is not from zero but from an inferior initial position of the other side.
Just one more little concession...
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif speaks to the media during the Iran nuclear negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland. November 24, 2013. (Image source: United States Mission Geneva)
Precisely because there are six of them, the P5+1 have a natural advantage in this style of negotiations, if they are capable of learning it and discarding the respectable rules that govern negotiations among themselves. Whenever a deal seems near, then one of them should come up with a further demand or demands. Indeed, France has just assumed that role. What they could do is adopt that role in succession, so that Iran is the party that needs to keep starting afresh from a worse position. In the meantime, the economic sanctions continue to do their work. Should Iran violate the current restrictions on its nuclear program, there will be evident grounds for intensifying the economic sanctions further.
Even if an initial agreement is achieved in March, such tactics could be used to put off the final agreement from June to September, then from September to December, then from December forever until Iran fundamentally changes its ways. In the meantime, even economic sanctions that had been relaxed can be reinstated by alleging Iranian demonstrations of bad faith.

Nasrallah Slams Saudi over Yemen Op, Says It Did Nothing for Arabs Other than 'Sending Daesh'
Naharnet/Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah lashed out Friday at Saudi Arabia over its military intervention in Yemen, accusing the Gulf kingdom of turning a blind eye to the Palestinian people's plight and of financing the Islamic State extremist group.
And as he called for returning to dialogue and political initiatives in war-torn Yemen, Nasrallah stressed that any ground invasion will end up in failure.
“For decades, the people of Palestine and the countries neighboring Israel did not feel any 'Firmness Storm', not even a 'firmness breeze',” said Nasrallah in a televised address, mocking the Saudi-led “Firmness Storm” campaign against Yemen's Huthi rebels.
“The Palestinian people are still pleading to you and the houses of thousands of Gazans were destroyed. They are Sunni Muslims and they urged the Arab leaders who did not bat an eye. Where did you bring this resolve, nobility and firmness from?” he added.
Riyadh began its airstrikes in Yemen overnight Wednesday, announcing that it has put together a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies, for the military operation to defend Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansur Hadi's government.
The military move against the Shiite Huthi rebels triggered fury from Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, Hizbullah's main regional ally, with officials in Tehran warning that the military action threatened to spill over into other countries.
“If the objective is to rescue the Yemeni people, why did you abandon the Palestinian people for decades? Why did you betray them? If the objective is to restore legitimacy in Yemen, why didn't you seek that for Palestine?” Nasrallah added.
Dismissing Saudi justifications that a Huhti-controlled Yemen poses a threat to the kingdom, Hizbullah's leader went to say: “You did not sense any threat coming from Israel, which has one of the biggest armies in the world. Israel borders your seas and oceans, but it was never an enemy for you or a threat.”
“Sanctions and calls for dialogue could have preceded the decision to resort to the military option, so why did you rush to war, which should have been kept as the last remedy?” Nasrallah wondered.
He noted that the Huthis had been engaged in dialogue with the Saudis prior to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz's death in January.
“On the eve of King Abdullah's death there was a delegation holding negotiations and they went to political dialogue in Riyadh, but everything changed with the new Saudi rulers,” Nasrallah lamented.
“What did the Huthis do for you to accuse them of threatening your security?” he added, addressing Riyadh.
Turning to accusations that Tehran was behind the Huthis' dramatic power grab in Yemen, Nasrallah described the allegation that Yemen has become “occupied by Iran” as “one of the biggest lies that are being circulated.”
“Where is your proof that Yemen is under Iran's occupation? Where are the Iranian military bases and armies in Yemen?” he said.
“Saudi Arabia has been interfering in everything in Yemen, but where is security and where is prosperity in Yemen? Why did you refuse Yemen's membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council? Didn't you deal with the Yemeni people in an arrogant and insulting manner? Didn't you voice support for the eradication of Huthis?” Nasrallah charged.
Noting that Tehran is “not imposing anything or interfering” in Yemen, Hizbullah's secretary general said Riyadh is “pushing entire Yemen to embrace Iran, the same as it did with Iraq, Palestine and Syria.”
“The real reason (behind the military operation) is that Saudi Arabia has lost its hegemony and bets in Yemen and lost hope in its takfiri groups. It has sensed that Yemen is now for its people and this war aims to regain hegemony over Yemen,” he pointed out.
“We condemn the oppressive Saudi aggression against Yemen and we call for an immediate end to this aggression. We call for reviving the political initiatives in Yemen,” said Nasrallah.
He underlined that the Yemeni people “has the right to resist and will emerge victorious.”
Warning Riyadh against any ground operation, Nasrallah added: “Is the Saudi army stronger than the American army? Where is the American army in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon? Is the Saudi army stronger than the Israeli army? Where is the Israeli army in the region?”
“Any occupier army will be eventually defeated and an air campaign cannot achieve victory,” he stressed.
Nasrallah also criticized Saudi Arabia over alleged roles in Iraq and Syria.
“What have you done for Iraq? ... When it appeared that the Iraqi people wanted to regain their position and confront (American) occupation, you unleashed al-Qaida and all the takfiri groups against them,” said Nasrallah.
“The Saudi intelligence was behind sending the suicide bombers to Iraq and your latest crime against Iraq was Daesh (IS group), which you and your allies sent to topple (Syrian President) Bashar Assad and al-Maliki's regime” in Iraq, Nasrallah added.
“Your Bandar (Prince Bandar bin Sultan) is the one who financed Daesh,” he said, addressing Saudi Arabia.
As for the domestic situations in Lebanon, Nasrallah commented on the ongoing dialogue between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement and the latest sessions of the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
“From the very beginning we chose dialogue for the sake of the country and its people. Strength is to sit together, engage in dialogue, defuse tensions and prevent the collapse of the country,” he said.
“From the very beginning, there were political forces inside and outside al-Mustaqbal movement who rejected dialogue and tried to sabotage it, including the testimonies that were given before the tribunal. We do not care about these stances and we will carry on with this dialogue as long as it serves the national interest,” said Nasrallah.
Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora testified this week before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which has accused five Hizbullah members of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.
On Tuesday, Saniora revealed that Hariri had informed him that he had discovered “several assassination attempts by Hizbullah” against him prior to the year 2005.
“Our stance on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is irreversible, that's why we won't comment on anything emanating from it,” Nasrallah said.
He has dismissed the STL as an Israeli-American scheme aimed at harming his party, rejecting any cooperation and vowing that the five accused will never be found.
As for the stalled presidential election, Nasrallah stressed that “Iran will not and has not interfered in the presidential elections.”
“It has nothing do with this issue and the party obstructing the elections is Saudi Arabia, specifically Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal,” he added.

Hezbollah would join Saudi coalition if aimed at Israel: Nasrallah
The Daily Star/Mar. 27, 2015
BEIRUT: If the Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen dircted its its warplanes towards Israel, Hezbollah would join it, party chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah declared Friday night, accusing Riyadh of abandoning Palestine. Nasrallah, speaking a day after the Saudi Arabia launched a suprise military operation against rebel Houthis in Yemen, also rejected claims that Iran posed a threat to the Gulf. “If the war was against Israel we would have been partners in the war but not if its against an Arab peoples,” Nasrallah said during a televised speech.
Nasrallah denounced Saudi Arabia for leading a campaign against Yemen, but failing to take action against Israel over the decades-long conflict. “The Palestinian people are still calling on you,” he said, noting that a large portion of the population are Sunnis and yet their calls for assistance were not met by unified force likes of the coalition organized against the Houthis. He dismissed arguments supporting the coalition that it was reclaiming the legitimacy of Yemen's President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi and protecting the Yemeni people, saying that these arguments should be used instead to justify action in Palestine. He also rejected the claim that Iran was threatening to intervene and control the region. “They consider that we should reclaim the land from Iran, and this is the biggest lie,” he said.
“Where is the evidence that Yemen is occupied by Iran,” saying that claims of Iranian bases and armies in Yemen is a lie.
Even claims that Iran is controlling Yemen through political infleunce and not through military force, is a lie. There is a problem in Saudi Arabia's mentality in that it doesn't respect the will of free peoples. They regard everyone as followers and they can't have an independent will, Nasrallah added. “This mentality leads to wrong policies... and accumulating failures.”Saudi Arabias “faulty policies” are opening up the region to Iranian influence. “You are pushing the people of the region to Iran,” he said. He expressed hopes that “this new political division in the Gulf” doesn’t lead to negative repercussions in Lebanon, especially with regards to the Lebanese government. The ongoing dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah will remain on track despite sharp differences over the conflict in Yemen, since it served national interests and seeks to decrease sectarian tensions, he added. He said that figures in the Future Movement have opposed dialogue since the start and continue to undermine talks through negative positions and statements. He called on the resistance to employ “patience” and not respond to accusations by the Future Movement since they serve to increase sectarian tensions, saying Hezbollah doesn’t want to assist them in achieving this goal. With regards to Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Nasrallah said that he isn’t concerned with developments at the U.N.-backed court since the party doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the tribunal. “We will not comment on anything said in the court... since our opposition to the court is clear,” he said, after former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora earlier this week accused Hezbollah of plotting assassination attempts against Rafik Hariri. Nasrallah dismissed accusations that Iran was blocking the election of a president that doesn’t express support to Tehran. “Those responsible for disruption... is Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The problem in Lebanon, is Saudi Arabia has vetoed the election of FPM chief Michel Aoun, “so why are you putting the blame on Iran.”

Israeli cluster bomb wounds 6 children in south Lebanon

Mohammed Zaatari| The Daily Star/Mar. 27, 2015 /TYRE, Lebanon: Six children were wounded in a blast believed to be caused by an Israeli cluster bomb when they were playing in a field in the south Lebanon village of Zibqin Friday, medical and security sources told The Daily Star.The sources suggested that the explosive device was a cluster bomb dropped by Israeli warplanes during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon.Two children are being treated at the Lebanese-Italian Hospital in Tyre, one of whom is in "very critical condition," medical sources said. The four others received non-severe wounds and were not hospitalized, they added. The field is located in a valley between the villages of Zibqin and Ezziyyeh, a few kilometers from the border with Israel. Eleven-year-old Hussein Mohammad Bzeih said he felt as though his “heart cried tears of blood” when the cluster bomb exploded as he was playing with his friends and relatives. He told The Daily Star that they were eight boys in total, and had set up a picnic basket and spent the day swimming in a spring in a valley near their village.
“It was not our first time in the area, we always go swimming there,” he said. On their way back to the village, the boy was walking alongside one of his relatives, while six of their friends were roughly four meters behind them. “Suddenly I heard a loud blast and the sound of my friend yelling,” Bzeih said. “I turned around and all I could see was a cloud of dust and blood splattering around.” Bzeih described feeling his heart drop when he looked back at the other boys. He then sprinted back to his village to inform residents of the blast. Bzeih said one of his cousins, Hasan Bzeih, was the most seriously wounded among the casualties. Israel dropped roughly 4 million cluster bombs on Lebanon during the July-August 2006 war, most during the last 48 hours of the conflict, according to the United Nations. When cluster bombs explode they eject small munitions designed to kill or maim people in the area. Unexploded cluster bombs still litter much of the south, with the Army’s Lebanon Mine Action Center, the U.N. and other international organizations working to remove the deadly ordinances.

Lebanon Army seizes militant 'infiltration points' on Syria border
The Daily Star/Mar. 27, 2015/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army seized positions used by militants to infiltrate Lebanon’s northeastern border at dawn Friday, the military said. The Army carried out the “lightening fast” operation on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal, where it seized positions used by militants to infiltrate Lebanon and wage attacks against Lebanese troops, the statement read. The Army established a military presence in the area and has linked the position to other Army posts stationed along the eastern border. According to the statement, the move is a part of a military campaign aimed at securing Army posts and Lebanese villages that lie in proximity of the eastern border, in order to “prevent the infiltration of terrorist groups and [thwart] attacks on the citizens.”
The statement came a day after the Army confronted a group of seven men trying to sneak into the country from Syria near the Masnaa border crossing in the area of Soweiri. One of the men was shot dead and two others were wounded. The remaining four fled.

3 injured in factory fire north of Beirut
The Daily Star/Mar. 27, 2015 /BEIRUT: A gas tank explosion at a cosmetics factory 40 km north of Beirut sparked a major fire Friday that spread to two nearby buildings and injured at least three people, security sources said. A factory owned by Elie Antoine Maalouf in an industrial neighborhood in Adonis caught fire around 5 p.m. Friday, the sources said. They explained that the factory produced shampoo, soap and cosmetics, including hairspray. Flammable chemicals used to make some of the products may explain the rapid speed at which the fire spread. All three floors of the building were engulfed in flames. Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said that preliminary information indicated that the fire erupted after a truck carrying a gas cylinder crashed into the factory. Gas began to leak from the cylinder tank until something ignited it, causing an explosion. Civil Defense confirmed that the fire resulted from a gas tank explosion inside the factory. Lebanese Red Cross chief Georges Kettaneh told MTV that three people inside the factory were injured in the fire, and that it had spread to two neighboring buildings. The nearby buildings were evacuated, Kettaneh added.

Machnouk meets US Homeland Security chief
The Daily Star/Mar. 27, 2015/BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk has met with U.S. homeland security chief Jey Johnson and other officials during his trip to Washington aimed at shoring up support for Lebanese security forces. A statement released by Machnouk’s media office Friday said a meeting with Johnson and Francis Taylor, Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, reaffirmed the importance of coordination between Lebanese and U.S. security officials to confront terrorism. “Terrorism has become globalized, and this is why we need to strengthen international cooperation to counter it,” the statement quoted Machnouk as saying. During the meeting, Johnson touched on the anti-ISIS and Nusra Front U.N. Security Council Resolution 2178 passed last year. He also discussed proposals for an international U.N. conference aimed at activating and implementing the resolution, which calls on governments to actively work to prevent terrorist acts. The statement said Johnson was pleased with Machnouk and Lebanese security forces for their response to terrorist groups, their crackdown on Islamist inmates in Roumieh Prison and for security plans implemented in the border town of Arsal, the northern city of Tripoli and most recently, the eastern Bekaa Valley. Machnouk also met with the Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. In a meeting that lasted almost an hour, the two discussed the security situation in the Middle East with a focus on the developments in Yemen, which has been subject to airstrikes by a Saudi-led force against the country’s Houthi rebels since early Thursday.

Breaking free in the great Syrian prison
Michael Young| The Daily Star/Mar. 27, 2015
In an interview in 2004, the Syrian intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh described the last of his 16 years spent in Hafez Assad’s prisons for being a member of the Communist Party-Political Bureau.
“After I completed my 15-year sentence they sent me to [Palmyra] prison, a place that literally eats men, that was worse than the ‘house of the dead’ described by Dostoyevsky,” Haj Saleh recalled. “Fear is a way of life in [Palmyra], where every day primitive and vengeful torture is carried out at the hands of heartless people. That was in 1996. They released me at the end of the year. I was 35.”
A French translation of Haj Saleh’s writings on his prison experiences has just been published, titled “Récits d’Une Syrie Oubliée: Sortir la Memoire des Prisons” (Accounts of a Forgotten Syria: Bringing Memory Out of the Prisons). I read it the same week I watched “Our Terrible Country,” a film by Mohammad Ali Atassi and Ziad Homsi. It describes Haj Saleh’s departure in 2013 from Douma, near Damascus, for his hometown of Raqqa, before he went into exile in Turkey because the city had fallen to ISIS.
Haj Saleh’s book, by deconstructing the life of political prisoners in Syria, provides a commentary on the repressive, suffocating order put in place by the Assad family, marked by omnipresent and subtle informal institutions of domination and cruelty. Atassi and Homsi’s film takes us to the heart of the devastating war the Assads have declared on their own people, showing their willingness to annihilate Syria rather than allow their authority to be contested.
The parallels between Syria’s security state and the conflict today are many. Just as the regime devised a vast system to perpetuate its absolute power, it has used the war to defend the vile edifice it put in place. In a passage from his book, Haj Saleh describes the regime’s strategy before the uprising against Bashar Assad: “By burning the social ground so that no party, no independent organization, could emerge, Hafez Assad’s regime managed to confiscate political life and banish Syrians from the public domain.” That describes well the reasoning behind the regime’s murderous suppression of the revolt.
“Our Terrible Country” is a stunning documentary, which shows how war is a monster overturning life in traumatic, prodigious ways. The film begins with images of Haj Saleh and his wife Samira Khalil in a Douma devastated by regime bombardment. Both had fled there from Damascus to escape the security services. As conditions in Douma worsen, Haj Saleh decides to head toward Raqqa, on the understanding that Samira would join him later by taking a less dangerous route. Homsi accompanies him on the trip through the desert, filming as they go along. Once in Raqqa, where two of his brothers have been abducted by ISIS, Haj Saleh concludes that he has no option but to move on to Turkey. His exile begins, and we later learn that Samira, trapped in Douma by the deteriorating situation, has been abducted, along with the human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouni and two others. To this day their fate is unknown.
This is a microcosm of Syrian society caught in war. On the one side is the brutality of the Assad regime, on the other that of ISIS. In the middle is a valiant population whose fate has provoked desperately little outrage in the world. The Syrian uprising has indeed been an “orphaned revolution,” to borrow from the title of Ziad Majed’s book on the subject. It is a horrific stain on the international community and on any aspiration for a rules-based global order.
Someone should offer Haj Saleh’s book and the Atassi-Homsi film to those leaders in the West who, by action or omission, continue to tolerate the Assads and their Iranian backers. Haj Saleh sensed their perniciousness long ago, stating that liberty was not possible in the Middle East, partly because “regimes are exempted from the human and political obligations faced by the modern state because they satisfy what the world hegemon, the United States, wants of them.”
But it’s also true that had Haj Saleh been completely persuaded of the impossibility of freedom, he would not have become active in the Syrian uprising. Yet what do we have today? An infinite horizon of sorrow and ruin, a shattered society, over 200,000 dead in just four years, millions of refugees both inside and outside the country, and all for what? So that the malignant Assads and their sordid clique can remain in power? So that Iran can build up a satrapy on Israel’s border to advance its project of regional hegemony?
How can one fail to admire a people that has been through such desolation? Haj Saleh himself has faced unspeakable hardship: the abduction of his wife and brothers, 16 years in regime prisons, the denial of his youth. That is why it is strange to read him describing his prison years as “an experience of change and emancipation. A second childhood. We suffer, and we struggle against suffering.”
As many who have lived through war know, such reactions are, oddly, common. When we are engulfed by monumental events, no matter how horrifying, sentiments of euphoria can accompany those of revulsion. One has a feeling of having lived an overpowering, grand experience, an exhilarating wave of hyperreality.
This force, allowing psychological rebirth, will harden the spirits of Syrians against the depravities of Assad rule. It is why Assad’s enemies refuse to surrender, even as their conflict takes myriad turns into darkness. And it is why Iran will likely never triumph in Syria. In their search for emancipation, for a second childhood, Syrians will suffer, but they will also struggle against suffering.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

The Obama administration’s citation of this fatwa is utterly wrongheaded on many levels.
Raymond Ibrahim/27.03.15

First, the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya permits Muslims to deceive non-Muslims. Islamic prophet Muhammad himself regularly lied to his infidel enemies, often resulting in their murder (such as the case of Ka‘b ibn Ashraf). He also proclaimed that lying was permissible in three contexts, one being war. Moreover, throughout the centuries and due to historic circumstances (discussed here), taqiyya became second nature to the Shia—the sect currently ruling Iran.
Then there is the fact that Islamic law takes circumstance into account. When Muhammad was weak and outnumbered in Mecca, he preached peace and tolerance (hence why Meccan Suras appear peaceful); when he became strong in Medina, he preached war and went on the offensive (hence why Medinan Suras are violent and intolerant). This dichotomy—preach peace when weak, wage war when strong—has been Islamic modus operandi for centuries.
Speaking of fatwas, Dr. Yusuf Burhami, a prominent Islamic cleric in Egypt, recently said that destroying churches in Egypt is permissible if not advisable—but not if doing so prompts Western infidels to intervene and occupy Egypt, which they could do “because the condition of Muslims in the current era is well known to the nations of the world—they are weak.” Burhami further added that circumstance is everything, “just as the prophet allowed the Jews to remain in Khaibar after he opened [conquered] it, once Muslims grew in strength and number, [second caliph] Omar al-Khattab drove them out according to the prophet’s command, ‘Drive out the Jews and Christians from the Peninsula.’”
And who can forget Yasser Arafat’s reference to Muhammad’s Hudaybiya pact? In 1994, soon after negotiating a peace treaty criticized as conceding too much to Israel, Arafat addressed an assembly of Muslims and said: “I see this agreement as being no more than the agreement signed between our Prophet Muhammad and the [infidel] Quraysh in Mecca.” In other words, like Muhammad, Arafat gave his word only to annul it once his ranks became strong enough to go on the offensive.
In short, it’s all very standard for Islamic leaders to say they are pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes while they are weaker than their infidel foes—as Iran is today—but once they acquire nukes the jihad can resume in earnest.
Then there is the fact that Shia theology is rife with apocalyptic aspirations. An August 2007 report compiled by the Congressional Research Service said: “Ahmadinejad [previous president of Iran] believes his mission is to prepare for the return of the 12th ‘Hidden’ Imam, whose return from occultation [i.e., “hiding”] would, according to Twelver Shi’ite doctrine, be accompanied by the establishment of Islam as the global religion.”
Like other Iranians, Ahmadinejad cited the eschatological (and canonical) hadith wherein Muhammad said: “The Hour [Judgment Day] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and until the Jews hide behind the trees and rocks and the trees and rocks will say, ‘O Muslim, O Servant of God! Here are the Jews! Come and kill them!”
Indeed, during a recent speech, supreme leader Khamenei—whose fatwa Obama is now citing—boasted about Iran’s uranium enrichment, even as his military commanders shouted, “Allah Akbar. Khamenei is the leader. Death to the enemies of the leadership. Death to America. Death to England. Death to hypocrites. Death to Israel.”
Yet despite all this—despite the fact that Islamic doctrine mandates lying to infidels; despite the fact that the Shia—Iran’s leadership—have perfected taqiyya into an art; despite the fact that Islamic law holds that Muslims should preach peace when weak, war when strong; despite the fact that Iranian leadership openly boasts that its nuclear negotiations are a “jihad” against the infidel; despite the fact that Iran has previously been exposed developing uranium enrichments suitable for nuclear warheads—here is Obama and his administration relying on the “word” of the ayatollah of Iran.

Intervention in Yemen prevented a catastrophe
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Friday, 27 March 2015
I had written an article for today stating that Yemen’s fate will certainly be divisions and a long-term civil war; however, luckily for me and for the Yemenis, the Saudi-led coalition launched its attack before yesterday and surprised us all. There’s now great hope that everyone, including the Houthi rebels and those in support of the isolated president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, will accept a peaceful solution.
The rebels have reached the very bad conclusion that they can impose a new reality and govern Yemen whilst violating and ignoring all agreements and deals they’ve signed. They’ve put the president, the prime minister and the rest of the legitimate government members under house arrest. After the president and some government officials escaped to Aden, the Houthis decided to pursue them and murder them.
These last few kilometers of the temporary capital were specifying the fate and legitimacy of the Yemeni regime. Yemenis were so desperate that they felt certain this will be the end of Yemen. However when the Saudi-led coalition launched the airstrikes, hope was revived that there will be a Yemen in which everyone participates as the coalition agrees to everyone’s participation in managing the state within the context of an arrangement which the United Nations sponsored.
What was awaiting us was a map of a divided Yemen with two capitals and two governments - a Yemen where armed groups, like the Iranian Houthis, al-Qaeda, terrorists, armed rebels affiliated with Saleh, southern separatist powers and tribal fighters, wreak havoc. Amidst this chaos, the Houthis in particular sought to dominate as much as possible of Yemeni lands and to impose the fait accompli that they are the most united and expansive power.
Their militias’ act of heading towards the strategic Strait of Bab al-Mandab and their attempt to seize it will mean halting Saudi oil shipments and those of the rest of Gulf countries.
Open wars
Before the Saudi-regional intervention, Yemen was taking a turn for the worse towards a deepened and long-term civil war among different parties. It’s by resorting to terrifying chaos that Houthis were intending to manage Yemen. They wanted to have the upper hand by launching a series of open wars. Chaos is a policy which benefits them considering the absence of enough resources to manage the country. They lack enough resources even if they succeed at controlling the oil sector. Due to their previous experience in the north, Houthis only care about military control.
Therefore, they never addressed the needs of the areas they seized considering that residents there are either peasants or governmental employees and the capital, Sanaa, was in charge of paying their wages. The situation in their areas and in other areas suffers from a humanitarian tragedy which the media does not cover. The U.N. has several times warned that famine threatens many Yemeni areas as resources diminish and the government’s work gets obstructed.
Before the Saudi-regional intervention, Yemen was taking a turn for the worse towards a deepened and long-term civil war among different parties.
Saudi intervention halted the Houthis’ and their allies’ expansion towards the east and the south and there’s now a new chance for Yemen. If the region’s countries and the international community do not benefit from this intervention and from putting an end to the collapse of Yemen, it will not be easy to prevent chaos which will make Yemen the fourth country, after Syria, Libya and Somalia, where wars flare up and where extremist groups revive.
What makes Yemen different from Syria, Libya and Somalia is that the international community agrees to its political regime. What’s happening now is the destruction of the regime which the U.N. and the region’s countries sponsored and which was established in a flexible manner that comprehends all political parties, including the Houthis, the general people’s congress and the southern powers. The war which the rebels launched aimed to sabotage the regime and impose a new reality. However this time, Saudi Arabia announced the end of negative neutrality and of keeping silent over the actions of Iran, declaring it’s time to empower a central government and a new state of Yemen.

Supporting ‘Operation Decisive Storm’
Andrew Bowen/Al Arabiya
Thursday, 26 March 2015
As President Hadi’s government in Aden was increasingly under onslaught from the murky marriage between former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Iranian-backed Houthi movement in northern Yemen, President Hadi made an urgent call for international assistance to support his fledging government, which had already been forced to flee to the southern port of Aden from Sana’a earlier this year.
Riyadh’s attempts to find a political solution to the civil war were repeatedly stymied by the Houthi leadership’s uncompromising rejections to meaningfully negotiate on terms other than their own. Seeking to avoid military escalation, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Naif warned Ali Abdullah Saleh’s son, Ahmed Saleh, that if his alliance moved on Aden that the GCC couldn’t stand back.
Rebuffing such warnings, the Houthi leadership, with the assistance of Saleh-backed Yemeni air force units, began to bombard Hadi’s remaining positions in southern Yemen. With the impending fall of Aden, Saudi King Salman took decisive action, along with a global coalition of states from Morocco to Pakistan, to support Hadi’s government. Critically, the Royal Saudi Air Force, along with Emirati, Qatari, and Bahraini planes made over night strikes, which both have neutralized the ability of Saleh’s aligned air force units to launch further strikes against Hadi’s position in the South and have targeted senior members of the Houthi leadership.
Main critic
While this Operation has unsurprisingly received criticism from the Houthi’s main foreign sponsor, Iran, who likened the GCC action as equivalent to that of Al Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Riyadh’s operation is a defensive operation to ensure the security of Saudi Arabia (who shares a long porous border with Yemen) and other GCC states who could be directly impacted by the Houthis’ seizure of power in Yemen and their willingness to potentially allow Tehran to use the Kingdom’s southern neighbor as launching base to try to destabilize the Arabian Peninsula.
President Obama should take robust action to support his allies in the Gulf in defending the sovereignty of Yemen’s government and ensuring the security of the GCC.
Importantly, Saudi Arabia has kept the aims of this operation very limited, focused on shoring up Hadi’s position in the state, so that there can be a better environment for negotiations to reach a political solution that preserves the territorial integrity of the state and also creates a stable government that is legitimately representative of the Yemeni people. At present, neither the Houthi leadership nor Saleh believe they need to reach a political solution through negotiations. Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif’s recent comments in Lausanne underscore as well Tehran’s disinterest in a equitable political solution at present.
These opening hours of this Operation are crucially then only the beginning of a sustained air and naval campaign, with an expected ground campaign to follow, if these current operations aren’t sufficient. The Egyptian Navy is expected to help secure the Bab el Mandeb strait which the Houthis may attempt to exploit to disrupt naval traffic in the Red Sea, which could critically hamper GCC oil exports. Any ground campaign, which could be quite costly and logistically challenging, will likely fall on President Sisi or the Pakistani government.
President Obama’s decision to support “Operation: Decisive Storm” to shore up Hadi’s government through intelligence sharing and logistic support is an important first step, but one that will require further U.S. support in the coming days and weeks. As senior members of Congress have acutely warned in the past 24 hours about the risks of the collapse of Hadi’s government both to the security of the GCC but to further empowering Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Daesh, Washington should immediately back a UN Security Council resolution authorizing international assistance to support Hadi’s government. In the U.S.’s meetings with Zarif in Lausanne, Kerry should consider using this an opportunity to also urge Iran to support a political settlement in Yemen.
Considered increase
Washington should also increase its military aid to Saudi Arabia and the GCC as they sustain a potentially long campaign. If there is indeed an Egyptian ground operation, Obama should lift the block on the remainder of committed military aid to the Egyptian military. In this context, the U.S. Central Command could play a critical role both in providing advisory support in this longer air campaign and in naval operations to secure the Red Sea. The U.S., along with Britain, could also reassess direct ways that they can militarily support Hadi’s government after their withdrawal of personnel last week from Yemen. While it has been much reported that a number of the arms provided to the Yemeni military since 2007 have fallen into the hands of former President Saleh and the Houthis, it would be a mistake to not provide arms and support to Yemen’s legitimately recognized government in Aden.
It is in the U.S.’s clear national interests to ensure then both the security and stability of its allies in the Gulf and to prevent the state from becoming a further launching point for terrorism. Failing to take such robust action and allowing an internationally recognized government to fall at this critical hour would only deepen distrust amongst the U.S.’ partners in the Gulf about Washington’s security commitments. As the Obama administrations gets closer to reaching a nuclear deal with Iran, President Obama should use this an opportunity to show that beyond his rhetoric that the U.S. in terms of actions is as much committed to the GCC’s security as it is to a nuclear entente with Iran.

A salute to our heroes liberating Yemen
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor/Al Arabiya
Friday, 27 March 2015
On Thursday, I awoke to news that brought peace of mind and filled my heart with pride, feelings I’m certain are shared by my Emirati compatriots and nationals of GCC states, and all dignified Arabs. Finally, we have taken command of our own destiny and control of our own security. For many decades, I’ve been longing for this very moment. Just when Yemen was going the way of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq – all Arab countries under Iranian domination via proxies – the tide is turning in our favour as I write.
It goes without saying that conflict should always be a last option, but there can be no meaningful dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation with ambitions of reinstating the Persian Empire and quashing Arabs under its boot, just as it has stamped upon Sunnis and ethnic/religious minorities in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq as well as the long-suffering Ahwazi Arabs.
Perhaps Iran can succeed in pulling the wool over the eyes of the P5 +1 whose representatives are negotiating over Tehran’s uranium enrichment program, but it cannot con its Gulf neighbours, who’ve fallen foul of Iran’s tricks time and time again.
There should be no stopping until Yemen is cleansed of pro-Iranian traitors and the legitimate government is reinstated in the capital, Sana’a. There should be no concessions made to the Shiite Houthi militias; those Iranian operatives have forfeited the right to call themselves ‘Arab’. They are betrayers deserving of the severest of punishments.
Ultimate betrayal
Fighters who choose to surrender do not merit trials; they should be shipped to their ideological motherland, Iran. Their actions - dissolving parliament, ejecting the democratically-elected president, taking over government buildings and terrorising Yemenis from north to south - constitute the ultimate betrayal.
I’ve observed Iran’s ideological and geopolitical expansion with great sorrow - and have long feared that without strong actions to thwart Iran’s aims, Gulf States risk being targeted next. But now that Saudi Arabia has launched “Operation Decisive Storm” together with its Gulf allies in Yemen’s defence at the request of the internationally-recognised government led by Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, I feel that a positive new page has been turned. This is what we have been hoping-for; this is what our people want.
Militias who make obeisance to the ayatollahs and have made armed incursions into Saudi Arabia cannot be permitted control over Yemen’s airplanes, missiles, tanks and other military equipment. And neither can they be trusted not to hold siege to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that not only connects the Red sea with the Indian Ocean but is also a link to the Suez Canal.
We don’t require a green light from anyone to defend our land
Kudos to those GCC leaders who were courageous enough to take the right decisions! History will record this brave stance you have taken to defend Yemen’s sovereignty and our region’s security. Today, we have leaders willing to lead rather than follow diktats from big powers. Your names will be engraved on monuments and will remain in the hearts of our children and grandchildren. Bravo! May God help you always to do what is best for our Arab nation!
Defensive military intervention
‘Decisive Storm’ is the perfect name for this defensive military intervention taken by the descendants of some of the greatest Arab leaders beginning with the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), whose victorious mantel was adopted by the second Muslim Caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattab, commander of the Muslim armies who defeated Khosrau, King of Persia and Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor.
We are showing Iran and the world that we will no longer bury our heads in the sand while keeping up the pretence that all is well. We are displaying our strength with a massive show of military might thanks also to staunch backing from our allies – Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Morocco and Pakistan, which have all pledged to contribute to this righteous battle. Thank you to all our friends who didn’t hesitate to stand with their Yemeni brothers in their hour of need.
It is my hope that the Arab League Summit to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh on March 28-29 will be just as decisive in its backing of a Joint Arab Force able to tackle any emergency in our part of the world. We can no longer rely on our western allies to do the job for us, especially when their foreign policies are muddled and incoherent. The U.S. is courting Iran in Switzerland and sharing intelligence with the Iranian military supposedly ‘advising’ the Iraqi Army in its campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), even as it supports the Syrian opposition battling Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah defending the criminal Assad regime.
I must admit that I’ve been irritated watching Western and Arab analysts discuss Yemen on various television networks. Invariably, presenters all ask the same question: Was ‘Decisive Storm’ launched with approval from the Obama administration? What kind of question is that?
Treated like underage children
We don’t require a green light from anyone to defend our land, the safety of our peoples or our collective dignity. As a nation of 367 million, acknowledged as the birthplace of civilisation, we resent being treated like underage children. We neither need nor should seek permission from anyone.
It is my fervent hope that once Yemen is delivered from the Houthi epidemic, this Saudi-led coalition made-up of ten likeminded countries will be preserved and will turn its attention of freeing Iraq from Persian occupation. Iraq must be ruled by loyal Arabs, whether Sunni or Shiite, not those on bended knee to a foreign state working against Arab interests.
And, God willing, the day will come when our beloved Lebanon and Syria will no more be enslaved to Iran’s bullying proxies, provided our leaders keep up this historic patriotic impetus. If we don’t free our Arab territories from the silent diseases tearing them apart, the peoples of the Gulf and those of our allies will remain in constant danger.
Lastly, I must congratulate our GCC leaders. You have made us proud. Your firm action permits us to hold our heads high; I pray that you will continue to defend our nation, our independence and our dignity. And to our armed forces, especially our pilots that risk their lives during every mission, I wish you every success. Keep safe and may God strengthen you in your task of protecting our Arab soil, our Yemeni brothers and sisters and our honour.

'Time for Iran to make tough decisions in nuclear talks,' US says
By REUTERS/J.Post/03/27/2015
Negotiations between six world powers and Iran over its nuclear program have been "tough and very serious" and the next few days will show whether Tehran is ready to make the necessary hard decisions, a senior US official said on Friday.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's move to reach out to the leaders of the six powers on Thursday is "hopefully a sign that Iran is ready to make some of the tough decisions," the senior State Department official added on condition of anonymity.
The official said that other foreign ministers from the six-power group, which includes Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia as well as the United States, will arrive in the coming days to join the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland ahead of an end-March deadline for a political framework agreement.
Tehran and the powers are struggling to hammer out a political framework accord by the end of this month that would lay the foundations for a full settlement by June 30.
"The difficulty is that the Iranians are not moving enough. They like to negotiate right up to the precipice and they're very good at that," a Western diplomat said.
Under a final accord, Tehran would halt sensitive nuclear work for at least a decade and in exchange, international financial and oil and some UN sanctions on Iran would be lifted. This would aim to end Iran's 12-year nuclear standoff with the West and reduce the risk of war in the Middle East.
Initial easing of UN Security Council sanctions could include "gestures" such as removal of individuals and entities from a travel-ban and asset-freeze blacklist and little more, a Western diplomat said, adding Tehran needed to move much further to allow a deal to be made in the coming days.
He said the UN arms embargo on Iran would not be lifted in the initial phase after any Iran deal, adding that such a move would be unwise given the volatile situation in the region.
While all sides agree they are moving closer to a deal, there are major disagreements.
Tehran insists on the freedom to continue research on advanced centrifuges, machines that purify uranium for use in nuclear power plants or, if very highly enriched, in weapons, at the underground Fordo site, and immediate lifting of all UN sanctions and the most severe US and European Union sanctions.
"There has been massive progress on all the issues," a senior Iranian official told Reuters. "There are still disputes over two issues - R&D (research and development) and UN sanctions."
A Western official close to the talks confirmed that centrifuge research and enrichment in general remained the most difficult unresolved issue.
The foreign minister of France, which negotiators say has demanded the most stringent limits on future Iranian nuclear activity if it is to support a deal, made clear there was more work to do while playing down the importance of the deadline.
"The important thing is the content not the deadline," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters at the United Nations in New York. "There has been some progress, but there are things which are not yet solved."
Fabius is due to arrive in Lausanne on Saturday. His British and Russian counterparts will join the talks over the weekend. The Republican-led US Congress has threatened to impose new US sanctions on Iran if there is no March deal, although President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any such moves.
The United States and European partners are reluctant to allow Iran to operate centrifuges at the Fordo site, Western officials said, adding that the issue was unresolved.
An Iranian government website said in November that Washington could let Iran keep some 6,000 early-generation centrifuges, down from nearly 10,000 now in operation.
After meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters that it was unclear if there would be a deal in the coming days.
"We think an agreement is still possible but when is another story," Zarif said.
Rouhani spoke with his French, Russian, British and Chinese counterparts on Thursday in an attempt to break the impasse. He also sent a letter to the leaders of all six powers, including Obama, though officials said the letter did not suggest Tehran was ready to compromise.
When asked about French President Francois Hollande's conversation with Rouhani, Fabius said the Iranian president was "not very precise" regarding the nuclear negotiations.
Western officials said the main problem remains Tehran's refusal to offer serious concessions. Iranians say the same thing about the six.
If there is a political framework agreement in the coming days, the US and European delegations want it to be as specific as possible, including figures for permissible numbers of centrifuges Tehran could operate, uranium stockpiles and other sensitive technical issues.
Further technical details would be included in annexes to be agreed before July 1.
The six powers want limits on the most sensitive aspects of Iran's nuclear program to be in place for at least a decade followed by years of intrusive UN inspections.
They also want to be certain Tehran would need at least one year to produce enough high enriched uranium for a weapon should the Iranians decide to produce one. Iran denies having any nuclear weapons ambitions.

Analysis: Iran is seeking hegemony via a nuclear deal
By YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post/03/27/2015
In a perfect world, in view of the dramatic events in Yemen, the US and its EU allies would have suspended the nuclear talks with Iran or at least presented a tougher position. The fall of Yemen’s major cities into the hands of the Houti (Shi’ite) rebels – directed, supported, and equipped by Iran – is not unrelated to the nuclear talks.
Iran strives to have hegemony in the Middle East. It already either partially dominates or fully controls Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and now has made inroads in Yemen on the Red Sea. No wonder that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates for the first time yesterday translated their concerns into action and carried out air strikes on Houti positions.
If this new and most crucial round of nuclear talks in Switzerland results in a framework agreement among the word powers (US, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany) and Iran, it will further consolidate Iran’s hegemony. No wonder the Arab world, led by Saudi Arabia, now shares with Israel the same interests and fears of the deal in the making.
They claim that the pending deal is a “bad deal” that will further enhance Iran as a nuclear threshold state and recognize its right to keep enriching uranium, despite its long history of deceptions and violations of its international obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The negotiation focuses on reaching by the end of this month a framework agreement that would state the major principles of the final deal. They include the reduction of Iran’s operational centrifuges for uranium enrichment from 10,000 to roughly 6,000, intrusive inspection of all its nuclear sites for 10 years, limitations of its enriched uranium stockpiles, and some other important points.
If a deal is reached, this leads to further talks – technical by nature – which have to be concluded in the format of a comprehensive agreement by the end of June 2015. Thus, it will replace the interim agreement reached nearly a year and half ago between the two sides.
Still – and despite the long way both sides have walked so far – reaching an agreement is not a sure thing. There are still major differences which have to be overcome. Iran, as declared by its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, demands that international sanctions be lifted once the agreement is signed. This is most probably supported by Russia and China, but opposed by the EU with France leading the charge.
Another major hurdle is Iran’s insistence on continuing to research and develop, though not to operate, new versions of centrifuges which spin faster and are more efficient.
But even if these two major obstacles are settled, the agreement will most probably leave loopholes and unresolved issues. These include the demands by the IAEA that Iran show transparency in regard to its past activities in the area of weaponization and allow IAEA inspectors to visit suspected sites like Parchin and interview key nuclear scientists; especially Muhsein Fakirzhada, considered to be the future “father” of Iran’s nuclear bomb. One more important issue is the future of the heavily fortified Fordow uranium enrichment facility.
On Wednesday the Associated Press reported that the US was ready to allow Fordow to be partially operational. If true it would be a setback for the efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Resolving these issues will enable the world to have a better understanding of how advanced Iran is in its efforts to master the knowledge of building a nuclear bomb.
So far Iran has rejected the demands.
The US argues that if a deal is clinched this month and finally sealed in June, Iran will be pushed back up to a year from the ability to assemble a bomb in case it breaches the agreement and tries to dash to be a nuclear weapons state. But Israeli and some American experts disagree. They tend to estimate that making all the concessions will enable the Islamic Republic to “break out” and rush to a bomb within a few months.
With or without a bomb, the dramatic developments in Yemen and the soft and insufficient response of the US and the EU pave the way for Iran to become a regional superpower.

Gas Tanker Explodes at Adonis Industrial Zone, Triggering Blaze
Naharnet/A gas tanker truck exploded Friday at the industrial zone in Adonis in the Zouk Mosbeh area, sparking a huge blaze. The Lebanese Red Cross said three people were injured in the incident. Plumes of black smoke could be see billowing from the area as ambulances and firefighting vehicles were scrambled to the area. TV networks broadcast footage showing flames engulfing a number of buildings and vehicles. A witness told LBCI television that the tanker exploded after colliding into the edge of a building. “The flames reached the nearby buildings and security forces closed the roads,” the witness added.“The blast occurred after a pipe of the gas tanker bursted as it was entering a factory,” he said.
Experts: Saudi Ground Troops Would Face Yemen 'Quagmire'
Naharnet/Saudi-led airstrikes alone are unlikely to crush Iranian-backed Yemeni rebels but a ground incursion would risk a bloody "quagmire" and escalating tensions with Tehran, experts say. Saudi Arabia pledged to do "whatever it takes" to defend its ally President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after launching aerial raids against the Huthi Shiite fighters and their allies. Despite the kingdom's formidable firepower, analysts say dropping bombs alone is of limited effectiveness. "History shows that airstrikes without corresponding ground forces do not produce a decisive victory," said Frederic Wehrey of the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He said this week's raids appeared to be aimed at fixed, pre-identified targets like airbases and command centers, rather than mobile Huthi units, urban fighters or supply lines. The coalition said that anti-aircraft defense systems, missiles and artillery positions "were completely destroyed" on the first day of strikes.
But the raids risk provoking a backlash among the civilian population if the death toll rises. Officials at the rebel-controlled health ministry said Friday that dozens of civilians had been killed in more than 24 hours of Saudi-led raids. "If Saudi Arabia relies only on airstrikes and civilian casualties start mounting they will lose support very, very quickly," said Sultan Barakat, research director at the Doha-based Brookings Institution. - 'No clear exit' - Sending in ground troops is seen as a last resort given the risks.
"It is hard for me to see the Saudis deploying ground forces to eject the Huthis, given the likelihood of a quagmire without a clear exit," said Wehrey. A possible exception would be a buffer zone on the Saudi-Yemeni border, he added.
A Saudi spokesman for the Arab coalition carrying out operation "Decisive Storm" told reporters on the first day of strikes Thursday that there were no immediate plans to put boots on the ground.
A protracted conflict in Yemen could also empower Sunni extremists in the impoverished and deeply tribal country. "Just crushing the Huthis will change the factional dynamics, which could help ultra-radical Sunni groups," said Jon Marks, a Middle East expert at London-based think-tank Chatham House. Yemen is home to what the United States considers the deadliest branch of al-Qaida, which claimed the Islamist attacks in Paris in January and has repeatedly clashed with the Huthis. The rival Islamic State jihadist group has also surfaced in Yemen, claiming responsibility for attacks on Huthi mosque that killed 171 people in one week. The Huthis, whose influence had long been confined to the mountainous north, belong to the Zaidi sect of Shiite Islam -- a minority in Yemen where almost 70 percent of the population is Sunni. In their push towards central and southern regions, the Huthis received support from powerful military units loyal to former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, himself a Zaidi who was forced to resign in 2012 following a year-long uprising.
The wealthy ex-president has remained influential, enjoying the loyalty of commanders of many army units that he built during his three-decade rule.Yemen has long been the scene of clashes between rival factions and tribes, and experts agree that the Saudi-led intervention is unlikely to restore stability. "The prospect of Saudi Arabia or other Arab states putting regular troops on ground in Yemen will remain remote," said Britain-based consultancy group Verisk Maplecroft.  Saudi Arabia "will not want to get bogged down in a conflict which could morph into a protracted counter-insurgency -- and risk a more direct confrontation with Iran," it said. The White House has voiced concern about "reports of Iranian flow of arms into Yemen". And Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, accused Iran of "aggression" across the region and backing the Huthi power grab. Saudi Arabia has reportedly mobilized 150,000 troops near the border but said Thursday it has no plans yet for a ground operation. A ground assault would be a "significant climb up the escalatory ladder toward Iran," Wehrey said. The Saudis "may use the air operation to have greater leverage in negotiations for some sort of power-sharing agreement," he added. Agence France Presse.

Geagea Backs Saudi Offensive against Huthi Rebels, Considers it Legitimate
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea hailed the Saudi-led offensive against the Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, describing it as a “move to protect legitimacy.”“No one would have preferred a military intervention in Yemen, but without it chaos would have spread, which will lead to further proliferation of al-Qaida basis in the region,” Geagea said in comments published in al-Mustaqbal newspaper on Friday. He stressed that without “Firmness Storm” military operation Huthis would have advanced further in Yemen and controlled it.
He pointed out that the “Saudi intervention in Yemen doesn't have any hidden intentions but came at the right time and place to salvage the people of Sanaa and their interests,” which falls in favor of the Arab and Gulf countries.
Yemen has been gripped by turmoil since the Shiite rebels launched a power takeover in Sanaa in February. Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition kept up raids against Huthi rebels Friday as President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi headed to an Arab summit to garner support as Shiite majority Iran warned the intervention was "dangerous".Powerful explosions rocked Sanaa soon after rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi criticized the intervention as "unjustified" and called for supporters to confront the "criminal oppressive aggression".
Their advance raised Saudi fears the Shiite rebels would seize control of the whole of its Sunni-majority neighbor and take it into the orbit of Shiite Iran.Saudi Arabia launched the air campaign with pre-dawn strikes Thursday, saying it had assembled a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies.