May 02/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 14/22-33: "Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’"

Bible Quotation For Today/We appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you
First Letter to the Thessalonians 05/12-28: "But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. Beloved, pray for us. Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 01-02/15
Israel is up to its neck in Syria/
Alex Fishman/Ynetnews/May 01-02/15
Beware of Iran/Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya/May 01/15
Why Obama is wrong on Iran/Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/May 01/15
Correctional approach /Daily Star/ May 01/15 

Lebanese Related News published on May 01-02/15
Geagea Says Only Army Can Protect Lebanon, Slams 'Interference in Syria, Iraq, Yemen'
Waiting for justice for a 30-year occupation
U.S., allies stage 18 air strikes against ISIS: coalition
Lebanon launches ‘tech hub’ to boost startups 
Lebanon May Day marchers denounce sectarianism
Church aid recipient robs church worker

Iran swings behind escalated Syrian-Hizballah anti-Israel terror offensive on the Golan
Arida fishermen risk bullets for meager catch 
Lebanon Army steps up hunt for fugitive preacher 
Army Proceeds with Security Plan, Apprehends Wanted Individuals in al-Ouzai
IS Hands Over Bodies of Soldier, Civilian Killed in 2014 after 'Jumblat Initiative'
Nasrallah, Aoun Met Thursday, Discuss Latest Local, Regional Developments
Berri: I Will Call for Legislative Session if FPM Agrees to Attend
Report: Hizbullah, Syrian Army's Battle for Qalamun Seeks to Fortify Border Towns
Rifi Meets Syria's National Coalition Chief over Arsal Captives
Jumblat Kicks Off STL Testimony on Monday

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 01-02/15
Are Assad's military forces on the verge of collapse
Islamist rebels battle Syrian army near Assad heartland
UN Security Council to hold urgent meeting on Yemen

Jihadists at the border: Operatives loyal to ISIS seen near the Golan Heights
Netanyahu's Congress trip cost NIS 6 million

National security adviser: US expects next Israeli government to recommit to two states

Islamist rebels battle Syrian army near Assad heartland
Captured ISIS militant still longs for death

Report: Freedom Flotilla III expected to set sail for Gaza
U.S. Navy ships to accompany U.S.-flagged ships in Gulf
Rebels fight army near Assad hometown
Endgame or new phase in Syria 
Syrian regime pounds Idlib as troops besieged
UN warns on Yemen aid as 47 killed in Aden
Kuwait arrests ex-lawmaker over Iran tweet
U.S., allies stage 18 air strikes against ISIS: coalition
More women and children freed in Nigeria
Saudi forces repel attack by Yemen rebels

 EU Says 1,000 Europeans Unaccounted for after Nepal Quake
Saudi Beheads Pakistani for Drug Trafficking
Iran's Zarif Congratulates New Saudi FM despite Tensions
Syrian Opposition figure, Louay Hussein: Assad incapable of negotiating for peace

Jihad Watch Latest News
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Minnesota mosques, Muslim orgs complain about anti-terror program
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Ex-Muslim: Qur’an revealed a religion I did not like
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Robert Spencer’s Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 5, “The Table”

Geagea Says Only Army Can Protect Lebanon, Slams 'Interference in Syria, Iraq, Yemen'
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed Friday that only the Lebanese army can protect Lebanon from the terrorist groups that are entrenched on its border, as he criticized “interference in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.” “Recently, we heard some parties trying to reassure us by saying that they would protect us from Daesh (Islamic State group) and al-Nusra Front ... Haven't they read any newspapers in the past 40 years?” said Geagea at a rally organized by the LF student department in Maarab under the slogan “Hands Off Lebanon”.“We have only asked you to end your harm against us!” Geagea added. Apparently addressing the Hizbullah-led camp, the LF leader went on to say: “Who told you that we are scared? Who asked you to protect us? ... Who said that we are abandoned? Can't you see this whole army and its artillery, tanks, aircraft, soldiers and heroism?” “If at a certain time the army loses its ability (to defend Lebanon), we will be the ones to stand up and fight, not you,” he noted. According to media reports, a battle for Syria's border region of al-Qalamun is imminent and Hizbullah and the Syrian army are making the final preparations for the fight against the rebels and jihadists who are entrenched there. “Hizbullah's preparations with the Syrian army are focused on a battle that will fortify al-Qalamun's villages and those on the Lebanese side of the border,” a high-ranking March 8 camp official told al-Joumhouria newspaper in remarks published Friday.
Hizbullah has sent fighters across the border to aid Syrian regime troops in Qalamun and in several regions across Syria. The Lebanese army for its part has been battling Syria-based militants from al-Nusra and the IS who are deployed on the porous border between Lebanon and Syria. In his speech on Friday, Geagea pointed out that “the Syrian regime harmed Lebanon the most and everyday we're observing its acts against its own people.”“March 14 is not a partisan movement ... but rather a national necessity. Imagine what would have been left of Lebanon without March 14,” Geagea added. Slamming Hizbullah for alleged interference in “Syria, Iraq and Yemen,” the LF leader underlined that his March 14 coalition has preserved “what is left of the Lebanese state.”
“I call on all Lebanese to support March 14, because this is the only project that can pull us out of our crisis and give us a strong state, a state of law that can preserve Lebanon's sovereignty and independence, a state that can maintain its neutrality, a state that works to secure the interests of the Lebanese rather than sacrificing them at the altar of causes that have nothing to do with Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Geagea added.

Army Proceeds with Security Plan, Apprehends Wanted Individuals in al-Ouzai
Naharnet/The Lebanese army raided the houses of three wanted individuals in the area of al-Ouzai suburb of Beirut and succeeded in detaining all three, an army statement said on Friday. At dawn, an army patrol raided the said area and arrested the captives on charges of arbitrarily shooting at houses. The military also detained another person for hostility against a military member. Investigations have been opened in the case. The army and Internal Security Forces kicked off on Tuesday a security plan in Beirut and its southern suburbs to apprehend outlaws. The security plan, which includes Hizbullah's stronghold of Dahiyeh, is reportedly widely supported by the party and its Shiite ally AMAL movement. However, the early announcement of the plan granted offenders time to evade security forces and flee to unknown whereabouts, similarly to the plan implemented in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

IS Hands Over Bodies of Soldier, Civilian Killed in 2014 after 'Jumblat Initiative'

Naharnet /The Islamic State handed to Lebanese authorities the corpse of a soldier, who was killed in last year's battle in Arsal, and one of a civilian who was killed in the northeastern border town's outskirts, reported the National News Agency on Friday.
It said that soldier Ali al-Ali was killed on August 2 during the clashes between the army and jihadists from the IS and al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front when they overran Arsal. He hails from the Bekaa town of al-Khraybeh. The civilian, identified as Mamdouh Younes, was killed by the IS on the outskirts of Arsal in August as well, added NNA. He hails from the eastern Bekaa town of Brital, reported Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5). The handover of the corpses is part of a deal to release the servicemen who were abducted by the extremist groups in the wake of the Arsal clashes, reported NNA. The corpses were transferred to a General Security mediator in Arsal, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said. NNA later on Friday said that the two bodies were handed over to the northern Bekaa army intelligence department. “The two corpses were transferred in two ambulances to the Military Hospital (in Beirut) for DNA testing,” the agency added.
It said the families of the two men were asked to head to Beirut to give DNA samples. LBCI television meanwhile said negotiations with the IS had started three days ago following an initiative by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat and in coordination with General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, Army chief Jean Qahwaji and army intelligence director Edmond Fadel. Health Minister Wael Abou Faour, at Jumblat's instructions, “began direct, intensive negotiations with the IS through local mediators, which resulted this morning in the handing over of the bodies,” LBCI said. “The two bodies were transferred in a Health Ministry ambulance and the martyr soldier's corpse was then moved to an army ambulance,” the TV network explained. It pointed out that “the handing over of the two bodies opened the door for positive negotiations with the IS over the hostage servicemen” who are in its custody. Ali's father had earlier told LBCI television: “General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim informed us four months ago of efforts to hand over his corpse.”“We believe he died for his nation,” he remarked. In August, the army engaged in clashes with the IS and al-Nusra Front in Arsal when the Syria-based jihadists overran the town. The groups abducted in the wake of the fighting a number of Lebanese servicemen. A few of them have since been released, four were executed, while the rest remain held. In April, al-Nusra Front handed over to Lebanon the body of Lebanese policeman Ali al-Bazzal, who was executed late last year.

Report: Hizbullah, Syrian Army's Battle for Qalamun Seeks to Fortify Border Towns
Naharnet/A battle for Syria's border region of al-Qalamun is imminent as Hizbullah and the Syrian army are making the final preparations for the fight, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Friday. A high-ranking March 8 camp official told the daily: “The battle of al-Qalamun is very, very imminent and it will be very big.” “Hizbullah's preparations with the Syrian army are focused on a battle that will fortify al-Qalamun's villages and those on the Lebanese side of the border,” he added. An Nahar daily meanwhile noted the “lack of any official, security, or military stance” on the upcoming battle. Media reports on Wednesday said that six Hizbullah members were killed in an ambush by the Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front in al-Qalamun region. They said that al-Nusra carried out a “major operation” against a Hizbullah “supply convoy” in the Syrian region. In early January, five Hizbullah members and six Nusra militants were reportedly killed when the group attacked posts controlled by the Lebanese party and the Syrian army in the Qalamun town of Flita.
Hizbullah has sent fighters across the border to aid Syrian regime troops in Qalamun and in several regions across Syria. Its involvement helped the Syrian army recapture most of Qalamun from rebel hands. The Lebanese army for its part has been battling Syria-based militants from al-Nusra and the Islamic State group who are entrenched on the porous border between Lebanon and Syria.

Berri: I Will Call for Legislative Session if FPM Agrees to Attend
Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri revealed that lawmakers from the Free Patriotic Movement had discussed with him on Wednesday the agenda of a legislative session and their aim to include a number of draft-laws to it, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Friday.
He stated that he would call for such a session if the FPM agrees to take part in it. Its participation will ensure its legality in spite of the boycott of the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb blocs, said he daily. In addition, the speaker explained that parliament can convene to elect a president without being in an ordinary or in an extraordinary session seeing as the country is witnessing a vacuum in the post. He remarked that he can call for such a session if there was an agreement over the political blocs over the election of a head of state.
Vacuum striking the presidential post is having a tough impact on the cabinet and the parliament as the state is threatened with further crises over ongoing rows between the rival parties. Berri is seeking to call for a session to approve urgent issues, including the wage scale for the public sector and the food safety draft-law, but Christian parliamentary blocs have announced their boycott of the meeting. Parliament convenes twice a year in two ordinary sessions -- the first starts mid-March until the end of May and the second from the middle of October through the end of December. MPs failed on several occasions to elect a new head of state over lack of quorum. President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May without the election of a successor.

Nasrallah, Aoun Met Thursday, Discuss Latest Local, Regional Developments
Naharnet/on Thursday with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun in a meeting aimed at discussing the latest local and regional developments, announced the two sides in a statement on Friday. The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Hizbullah Liaison and Coordination Officer Wafiq Safa, and Nasrallah's adviser Hussein Khalil. The statement added that they focused on “the threat of takfiri terrorism, which jeopardizes the whole region.”The gatherers stressed the need to “confront it through all possible means and to protect Lebanon and its stability.”On local affairs, the meeting addressed the stalled presidential elections and various other issues. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported earlier on Friday that the meeting was held on Thursday afternoon in Hizbullah's stronghold of Dahiyeh in Beirut's southern suburbs. Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the polls. Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance and Aoun's Change and Reform bloc have been boycotting the electoral sessions over the dispute.

Jumblat Kicks Off STL Testimony on Monday
Naharnet /Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat is expected to travel to The Hague in order to give his testimony before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that is examining the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, media reports said Friday.
Al-Mustaqbal daily stated that he is scheduled to travel to the Netherlands in 48 hours. He is set to appear before the tribunal on Monday. The testimony will focus on information he has over Hariri's murder and the circumstances that preceded and followed it, said al-Joumhouria newspaper. Hariri was killed in a massive bombing in Beirut on February 14, 2005. Five Hizbullah members have so far been indicted in the crime. The STL kicked off its proceedings in January 2014. A number of witnesses, including lawmakers and journalists, have so far given their testimonies.Among them were head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora and MP Marwan Hamadeh.

Rifi Meets Syria's National Coalition Chief over Arsal Captives
Naharnet /Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi held talks in Turkey earlier this week with head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces Khaled Khoja on the case of the Lebanese servicemen held hostage since August by jihadists, reported the daily An Nahar on Friday. The minister told the daily that he is seeking the support of the Syrian opposition to release the Lebanese captives. For his part, Khoja informed Rifi during their Istanbul meeting: “We will not spare any effort to release them and to prevent skirmishes on the Syrian-Lebanese border.” In addition, Rifi told the Syrian official that talks should focus on “establishing a new phase of ties after the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad.” “This phase should begin with releasing the Lebanese hostages as soon as possible and without any conditions,” he remarked to An Nahar. “Ties between Lebanon and Syria should be based on the mutual respect of each country’s sovereignty and Khoja was honest in supporting this position,” he stressed. In August, jihadists from the Islamic State and al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front from Syria overran the northeastern border town of Arsal and engaged in brief clashes with the army. They withdrew from the area at the end of the fighting, kidnapping with them a number of servicemen. A few of them have since been released, four were executed, while the rest remain held. The captors have been demanding the release of Islamist prisoners held in Lebanon as a condition to set them free. Media reports said recently that al-Nusra Front handed over to the Qatari appointed mediator a list of its demands in return for the release of the hostages. The families of the captives have repeatedly staged sit-ins in protest against the state's failure to resolve the case, accusing it of stalling in the matter.

Iran swings behind escalated Syrian-Hizballah anti-Israel terror offensive on the Golan
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 1, 2015
The Syrian and Hizballah military delegations visiting Tehran this week achieved their purpose: debkafile’s intelligence and military sources report that in three days of talks up until Friday April 30, Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Fahad Jassim al-Freij procured from his Iranian counterpart Hussein Dehghan, approval for a stepped up terror campaign against Israeli forces and civilians on the Golan, to be executed by terrorist surrogates. Iran pledged its support for this campaign and promised to make the Revolutionary Guards and Afghani Shiite forces present in Syria available, in the event of an Israeli counter-attack. A stamping ground, designated “the open area,” was to be provided for all terrorist militias willing to attack Israel. It would stretch from Damascus to the Golan – a distance of 60 km by road – and take in the Syrian Hermon and Lebanese Chebaa Farms. Syrian and Hizballah military intelligence services will take responsibility for coordinating their operations and providing them with arms and intelligence. According to the plan approved in Tehran, Syria and Hizballah will establish new militias for their campaign as well as deploying existing terrorist groups. One such framework, made up of Syrian Druzes, was set up in recent weeks. Its first attack last Sunday April 26 – an attempt to plant a bomb near an Israeli Golan border position - was a flop. All four bombers were killed in an Israeli air strike and the device did not detonate.The commander of the new Druze militia is Samir Kuntar, a name familiar to Israelis as the murderer of the Haran family of Nahariya and two police officers, who got out of prison in 2008 after serving 36 years of a life sentence. Kuntar is a rare Lebanese Druze who joined Hizballah in his youth. Our sources note that President Bashar Assad many times suggested setting up a special Syrian-Palestinian “resistance movement” for taking back the Golan, which Israel captured during Syria’s 1967 invasion and later annexed. However, the terrorist attacks on Israel were left until now mostly to Palestinian squads created ad hoc for single operations. They were often drawn from Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP-General Command group or recruited in the Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus. But now, Assad and his Hizballah ally are set on a serious escalation by different tactics, debkafile’s sources report. For a major terror offensive, they are building new frameworks with local recruits mustered in South Lebanon and the Syrian Golan. Some of those militiamen have been seen moving about in the Druze villages scattered over Jabal Druze and the Hermon up to the Chebaa farms.

Lebanon May Day marchers denounce sectarianism
The Daily Star/ May. 01, 2015/BEIRUT: The heads of the Lebanese Communist Party and workers' unions launched scathing attacks on the country's sectarian system and class inequality at an International Workers' Day rally in Downtown Beirut Friday. “The interest of the Christians is not served when a general or a self-described doctor speaks on their behalf,” LCP chief Khaled Hadadi said in a speech to hundreds of marchers, in reference to the head of the Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. “The interest of Christians lies in treating them as Lebanese citizens and nothing else.”"And the same for Shiites," Hadadi added. "The ones who guarantee their rights are not political representatives who came to power through the sectarian system and settled down through the bloody Taif accord."Hadadi said the country had been ruined by the actions of “corrupt politicians” supported by a “sectarian bourgeoisie.”He said none of the political parties could claim any credibility as long as they are not supported by the working class in Lebanon.Nehma Mahfoud, head of the private schools' union, lashed out at the “sectarian political class” over the failure to pass the long anticipated wage hike bill. “You are blaming the Union Coordination Committee for the excess in public sector employees and teachers? Isn’t it on your partisan and sectarian bases that teachers were contracted in the first place?” he asked. The UCC groups together unions representing Lebanon's public and private schools, and public sector workers. It has been fighting for a wage hike for public sector workers for about four years. Mahfoud said the UCC, as an “independent unionist movement,” is an opposition group and will always be. “Any unionist work that does not play the opposition role is a failure,” he said.
Mahfoud also addressed the Economic Committees, an interest group formed of bankers and businessmen who had lobbied against the pay hike bill. “The workers, unions and employees are part of this country, o economic committees,” Mahfoud shouted. “This country is yours and ours, and you cannot exist without us.” The demonstration was attended by hundreds of activists and families, mostly leftists, many of whom held the LCP flags or wore T-shirts with Che Guevara’s portrait.It was also attended by the former UCC chief Hanna Gharib and a group of other unionists and leftist political figures.

Are Assad's military forces on the verge of collapse?
By JPOST.COM STAFF/05/01/2015
The Syrian Army, faced with low morale, internal divisions and rapidly decreasing popularity, is facing its most serious challenges since the start of the four-year long Syrian Civil War that has claimed the lives of more 200,000 people. Multiple rebel offenses have seen strategically important cities fall under the auspices of rebel control, such as Idlib and Jisr al-Shegour in the North and a concerted rebel effort making its way towards Damascus in the South. “The trend lines for Assad are bad and getting worse,” said a senior United States official in Washington who spoke to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity. As a result, Assad is being forced to lean on greater foreign support for propping up his ailing government, especially Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group allied with Iran. In fact, Hezbollah now leads or even directs the fight in many places, angering some Syrian officers, according to Syrian soldiers, as well as the senior United States official and a Syrian with close ties to the security establishment, The Times added.
Since the beginning of The Syrian Civil War, Assad's forces have suffered devastating losses due to high casualty and desertion rates that have wiped out half of his military personnel. "Four years ago, Syria’s army had 250,000 soldiers; now, because of casualties and desertions, it has 125,000 regulars, alongside 125,000 pro-government militia members, including Iranian-trained Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghan Hazaras," The Times reported. This reliance on foreign aid has boosted Assad's firepower considerably, yet the patchwork of smaller foreign fighters coupled with irregular forces have hindered the regime's ability to control the military in an overarching force. With this lack of domestic fighters aiding Assad's campaign against rebel forces, the regime has prohibited military-aged males from exiting the country and has forced discharged soldiers back into service. This has fomented discontent with the regime and further eroded support among Assad's base. In another troubling sign for Assad, internal fissures have erupted within the regime, highlighting how dysfunctional internal mechanisms within the government have become. According to The Times, the government recently dismissed the heads of two of its four main intelligence agencies after they quarreled over the role of foreign fighters. One later died, reportedly after being beaten to death by the other’s guards. Years of civil war have also destroyed the Syrian economy, leaving the Assad regime nearly destitute. At the beginning of the war, Syria held $30 billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves. Four years later, those funds have dwindled down to a mere $1 billion. The Syrian pound has also taken a huge hit, decreasing in value steadily as the erosion of foreign capital continues to sink. This has led to further discontent with the Syrian military, as its forces continue to receive the same salary, but with increasingly worthless currency.

 Jihadists at the border: Operatives loyal to ISIS seen near the Golan Heights
Israel is tracking the events beyond the border, but IDF refuses to respond to foreign reports it has reinforced its presence in the area.
Islamist fighters
After foreign sources reported on Wednesday that the IDF began to increase its forces in the Golan Heights near the Syrian border, fears were rising on Thursday that Islamic State-linked fighters are nearing the area.
According to the reports, the reinforcements include Merkava tanks and armored personnel carriers. The defense establishment is following reports that one of the anti-Assad rebel groups has sworn allegiance to Islamic State and the same group is behind the "spillover" of mortar fire from the Syrian Golan into Israel in recent days.
The organization in question is Saraya al-Jihad (Jihad Brigades), who not only swore allegiance to Islamic State, but also succeeded in conquering the village of Qahtaniya near the border.
According to reports from Syria, the Sunni jihadist group has succeeded in establishing a base close to the border, just three kilometers from Kibbutz Ein Zivan in the Israeli Golan Heights. The possibility that light weapons fire that hit Israel on Wednesday came from the group's fighters is being investigated.
Israel is tracking the events beyond the border, but senior IDF officials claim that they have no intention of interfering in fighting between the various rebel groups and Assad's army. The belief is that no Syrian group or army is currently interested in acting against Israel, however in the defense establishment preparations have been made for the possibility that one of these groups openly turns their military efforts against Israel.
The IDF knows that the point recently conquered by Saraya al-Jihad was formerly in the hands of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, whose operatives did not attempt to challenge the IDF. The estimate is that the mortar shells that landed in Israel on Tuesday were part of the Free Syrian Army and Nusra Front's efforts to reconquer the area.
The IDF's official response to reports that it was adding reinforcements to the area was that the army "does not respond to foreign reports," however the farmers and workers of Ein Zivan's fields, where the mortar shells landed in recent days, were instructed by the army to be alert. The order was given after a number of shells from light firearms crossed into Israel as a result of fighting between Syrian rebels and the army. Nobody was injured in the incident. After several minutes of fire from the Syrian Golan, the farmers were instructed to abandon their work and leave the fields until the fighting ceased.
However, a defense source downplayed the danger in the area, saying that the Golan enjoys "a pastoral life, a prosperous tourism industry and fruitful agriculture. With the exception of a few small events that Israel has control over, the situation is considered very stable," he said.

Beware of Iran
Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya
Friday, 1 May 2015
Iran does not want Saudi Arabia to emerge victorious in Yemen, even if this leads to a civil war in Yemen and the destruction of the country as well as its Houthi allies. The kingdom must therefore be vigilant as it receives Iran’s messages and proposals via mediators to achieve peace in Yemen. We must not believe the Iranians, as everyone who has dealt with them has been harmed at some point.
Last Wednesday, the Yemenis and Saudis were the most shocked by the announcement of the end of Operation Decisive Storm and the launching of Operation Renewal of Hope. The Saudis want to stop Iranian regional expansion, while the Yemenis want to be liberated from the Houthi coup. Saudis and Yemenis thus felt there was danger when they heard the announcement of the end of Operation Decisive Storm.
They did not hear out military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmad Assiri as he confirmed that military operations would not stop but rather shift focus. They did not hear similar statements from analysts.
Iran will accept a divided Yemen as long as it has a foothold there
Iranian promises, and Omani and Egyptian mediations, have been circulated via media outlets but not officially announced. Most of these mediations’ points are based on Saudi demands for the return of legitimacy, the withdrawal of Houthi forces and those of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh from cities and military headquarters, the resumption of dialogue and holding elections, in addition to other measures aimed at achieving peace and a pluralistic Yemen.
So far, no Saudi source has confirmed or denied any of this. Perhaps this shows Riyadh’s lack of trust in Iranian promises. However, even if the kingdom no longer trusts Iran, its welcoming diplomacy does not completely cut ties with anyone, even with the Iranians, and it keeps the door half open for the other party to come to its senses. As usual, Iran has not disappointed Saudi Arabia’s expectations. On the same night, Houthi and Saleh forces resumed their aggression and heavily shelled the headquarters of two brigades that had switched allegiance to the legitimate government. Houthi and Saleh forces then stormed the headquarters, but the Saudi-led alliance responded with shelling and so the war resumed. Perhaps more airstrikes will occur by the time this article is published. This means that Operation Decisive Storm is still on even if it is now called Renewal of Hope, and it may even take a more ruthless turn.
Iran is in denial as it can hardly believe what is happening around it: a huge defeat in Yemen, and the beginning of defeat in Syria. Tehran has been achieving victories since Baghdad fell to the Americans in 2003, so it now seems to them that a divine spirit is directing them from Tikrit to Qusayr, Saada and then Aden. To move from denial to awareness and then acceptance, we must expect a lot of Iranian evil. Riyadh will not halt its gunfire because doing so would mean dividing Yemen. Saudi Arabia wants a united Yemen in which the people decide their own fate and make their own choices via peaceful means and national dialogue. However, Iran will accept a divided Yemen as long as it has a foothold there.
Even if Operation Decisive Storm expels the Houthis from Sanaa and destroys Saleh’s military capabilities, a civil war will still destroy Yemen and will be a victory to Iran because the latter wants Saudi Arabia to bleed via Yemen. Riyadh, however, says it does not want war in Yemen or with Yemen, and that its happiest days would be when the Houthis lay down their arms and negotiate over their demands, rights, a constitution and elections. There’s a huge difference between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the moral level. The latter attempts to conceal this difference by making false statements about peace and negotiations while its president brags about his fleets reaching Aden and the Mediterranean Sea. Iran’s follower, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, threatens that if Saudi Arabia “sends 1,000 fighters to Syria, we will send 2,000.” This is a dangerous Iranian escalation that may push the entire region to a crisis.
Wake-up call
It is clear that Iran needs a shock to wake up and smell the coffee. Yemen is the first of these shocks, and the Iranians may thus wake up and demand a public or secret meeting in which they suggest another major deal from last week’s proposals: Yemen in exchange for Syria, or Syria in exchange for Iraq, or some other policy from the middle ages. However, the Saudi negotiator will respond: “These are independent countries and their people are free. We can’t negotiate on their behalf. Go and speak with the Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis yourselves.”
The Saudi negotiator’s statement will be enhanced by a ground force that will make the Iranian politician realize the emptiness of his rhetoric, and of his allegation that he is fighting for the sake of the vulnerable as he sleeps and wakes between Saleh and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, two tyrants who reek of blood.
The Iranian will then promise the Saudi negotiator that Tehran will seriously think of withdrawing from Syria and let its people decide their fate. He will give reassurances that he will inform the Houthis of the importance of withdrawing from Sanaa and from military headquarters and ministries. Just hours later, the Saudi will receive an intelligence report, supported by footage, of an Iranian ship trying to sneak into a small Yemeni port to deliver arms, and of a jet arriving in Damascus carrying Al-Fil rockets, which are efficient in destroying cities and murdering civilians. The Saudi will thus be angry and swear to never negotiate with an Iranian again.
Decisiveness is a must for Iran to wake up. Operation Decisive Storm or Renewal of Hope must continue and expand, as most of the Islamic world has had enough of Tehran’s absurd adventures. If it resumes its diplomatic storm and decisiveness, Saudi Arabia will find that more parties support it.Tehran will change as there are faint voices that have had enough of war and myths, and want Iran to be another Turkey, a country with an industrial and economic renaissance that provides jobs for youths.
They can see how history has opened a door for their country to make a leap into the future and exit the past. Perhaps a rational Iranian is saying: “There’s no need for a lost battle in Syria, so let’s seal a deal with the Saudis entitled ‘peace in Yemen, peace in Iran and the entire region’.”

Why Obama is wrong on Iran
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya
Friday, 1 May 2015
President Obama has put all of his eggs in one basket, concentrating on Iran’s nuclear file and spending a considerable amount of political capital on this issue in the past two years.
His main view of the Islamic Republic can be primarily characterized as one-dimensional- that is analyzing Iran from solely the prism of its nuclear program. On the other hand, Iranian leaders have a more multi-faceted, subtle, complicated multi-dimensional view of their role in the Middle East and of their relationship with the U.S. and the West.
Spending too much political capital on Iran’s nuclear file and ignoring other threats imposed by Iran’s military will neither completely contain the Iranian nuclear threat, nor moderate Iran’s expansionist foreign policies
Obama’s key reasons behind his one-sided perspective are obvious. First and foremost, he would like to leave a historic record and lifetime legacy of being the first American president who reached a nuclear deal with longtime foe, the Islamic Republic. This is similar to the historic Nixon China agreement and Nixon-Mao handshake, which began a new period of Chinese-American relations.
But, President Obama is wrong on Iran from various landscapes.
Crucial issues that Obama is ignoring
While the nuclear threat of Iran is a serious matter for regional stability, nevertheless, spending too much political capital on Iran’s nuclear file and ignoring other threats imposed by Iran’s military will neither completely contain the Iranian nuclear threat, nor moderate Iran’s expansionist foreign policies in the region.
On the contrary, as the latest developments in the Middle East have revealed, viewing Tehran only from the prism of nuclear proliferation will assist Iranian leaders and senior officials of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to be more emboldened in extending their geopolitical and military influence in the Middle East.
Currently, Iranian leaders are attempting to push for an agenda that claims the world view of Tehran from the prism of nuclear negotiations rather than of its regional policies. This strategy falls right into the interest of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s army establishments.In order to achieve the aforementioned primary objective, while removing the pressure and concerns from other countries and allies, President Obama’s second argument appears to be that a focus on Iran’s nuclear file will open avenues to address and negotiate other crucial matters with the Iranian leaders which are linked to Middle Eastern geopolitics, the economy, American national interests and strategic landscapes.
Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East is complex
Notwithstanding, the other issue that President Obama has failed to recognize is that even if a nuclear deal is reached, the Islamic Republic’s regional hegemonic ambitions will not fundamentally be altered partially due to the ideological tenet of Iran’s foreign policy.
While many nation-states’ foreign policies operate on the three crucial realms of geopolitical, economic, and national interests, the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, the supreme leader and the IRGC cadres’ major objectives hold a fourth critical and indispensable landscape: ideological principles and ideals.
Over the last three decades, the Islamic Republic has cemented and ossified its complicated role in the region through its main foreign policy pillar: the ideological, sectarian, and revolutionary ideals.
For example, Iran’s support for the ruling Shiite coalition in Iraq, its backing of Hezbollah, the Syrian government, and the Houthis in Yemen, along with Tehran’s recruitment of foreign Shiite fighters to fight in Syria or other countries, are not solely for geopolitical or strategic reasons. These intricate alliance are entrenched in Islamic revolutionary ideals and values, such as promoting Shiism (the fundamental core of the Islamic Republic), opposing the Great Satan, and extending the Persian influence in the Middle East.
As long as these ideological ideals, principles, the concept of a supreme leader, Velayat-e-Faqih, and the underlying political establishment of the Islamic Republic exist, Tehran will not simply remove the ideological principle from its foreign policy objectives.
President Obama, and many others who believe resolving Iran’s nuclear threat will alter the Islamic Republic’s expansionist policies, view Iran through the prisms of geopolitical, economic, and national interests. As a result, they argue that if Iran is offered economic incentives (such as removal of the UNSC sanctions), Iranian leaders will moderate their regional policies and new venues will be found to make diplomatic headway with Tehran.
In other words, they believe an Iran without sanctions will definitely change its behavior for the better and act more rationally. Nevertheless, the economic incentives offered to the Islamic Republic will most likely be utilized to extend Tehran’s regional hegemonic ambitions.
In closing, as long as one crucial pillar of Iran’s foreign policy remains to be ideological, Iranian leaders will not change their regional ambitions, sectarian agenda, revolutionary principles, or be less assertive in extending their military influence in the region.

Lebanese Cabinet: Correctional approach
The Daily Star/May. 01, 2015
The momentous decision reached in Cabinet Wednesday to build a new prison is good news not just for inmates, but for the Lebanese society as a whole. In any country, the quality of its prison services reveals a lot. They are not merely places to hold prisoners, but they are microcosms of the society: its values, its respect for law, its attitudes to human rights, to justice, to reform. Recent events at Roumieh – prisoner riots, drug smuggling –are just the latest in a long line of shameful debacles at the prison. Corruption is endemic, the facility is overcrowded, and to say it is badly managed is an understatement. Suspects are held for months or even years without trial, and those who have been arrested for smoking marijuana are often held with murderers or even terrorists, with many inmates coming out hardened criminals, when perhaps they were merely juvenile delinquents. Imprisoning criminals is not just about the punishment aspect, it must also be about ultimately reintroducing them into society, as individuals with self-respect, with the skills and confidence to join the workforce, and not return to a life of crime. The current system denies them these things. Any new facility must be in the mold of a correctional facility that allows prisoners the rights to vocational training, education and exercise, among other things, while also differentiating between different categories of prisoners. The building of a new facility must also be accompanied with the creation of a committee responsible for oversight of the prison system, one that is not just staffed with security experts, but with psychiatrists, education experts and religious scholars, for this is an issue which ultimately effects all of society, and it needs all aspects of society behind it.

Israel is up to its neck in Syria
Alex Fishman/Ynetnews
Published: 05.01.15
Op-ed: The 'let them bleed' philosophy regarding the various parties fighting for control in Israel's northern neighbor has its exceptions.
"Let them bleed" – that's the official policy Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has dictated to the security establishment in light of the events in Syria. On a strategic level, in other words, we are not intervening on anyone's behalf. From Israel's perspective, this is a war Iran is waging against members of the global Jihad and Syrian Islamist groups with the purpose of safeguarding its most senior client in the Middle East – the regime of President Bashar Assad. Israel has yet to decide which of the protagonists it would prefer to see as its neighbor on the northern border. Until such a decision is made, therefore, let them continue killing one another. Israel may not be intervening in the civil war in Syria; but when it comes to Jerusalem's interests, so it's been said at least, Israel is up to its neck in the Syrian chaos. Nothing happens on the border with Syria by chance. It is extremely unlikely that the IAF jet that killed four terrorists trying to plant a bomb on the Golan Heights border last week was scrambled to the location purely by chance.
Druze Syrian nationalists, under the guidance of Hezbollah, carried out a similar attack some 18 months ago, seriously wounding an Israel Defense Forces officer. It's safe to assume that the members of that terror cell are no longer with us too – and that they did not die of natural causes.
The timing of the attack in January 2015 on the convoy carrying Jihad Mughniyeh, who was responsible for Hezbollah activity on the Golan, was not coincidental either; it took place just three days after a very belligerent interview by Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, in which he threatened to punish Israel for its alleged attacks in Syria. Someone in the Middle East took him seriously and decided to chop off that punitive arm Nasrallah was talking about. Ya'alon said a few days later that Hezbollah's infrastructure on the Golan Heights had been destroyed. He was right; but it didn’t remain that way for very long.
The war between the wars
In terms of intelligence gathering and operational input, Israel is making huge efforts along the border with Syria to prevent the fighting from spilling over into its territory. This daily struggle, which the IDF refers to as "the war between the wars," appears to be the reason why Unit 504 (Military Intelligence's human intelligence unit) was recently decorated for its work. The results of Unit 504's work are clearly evident along the border. It has created a viable deterrence factor and has prevented infiltrations. Indeed, ever since most of the Syrian Army was driven back from the border area and its positions were taken by radical Islamic organization such as Jabhat al-Nusra, there has not been a single incident of a Jihadi group attacking Israel. This seems to indicate that Israel has total control – intelligence and operational – over both sides of the border.
There are two exceptions to the "Let them bleed" strategy – when Israel's sovereignty is violated, and when certain weapons systems from Syria spill over into the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon. In most of the instances in which foreign media sources report that Israel has attacked targets inside Syria – apart from actions designed to deter or exact retribution – these are low-profile military operations, which do not leave behind fingerprints and for which Israel does not take responsibility.
Since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria some four years ago, this tactic has proved itself to be effective. In some cases, the party that is attacked assumes that Israel was responsible but refrains from carrying out revenge attacks, since opening up a new front against Israel is not high on its list of interests.
Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are well aware of Israel's red lines. As long as Israel sticks to its own rules and only carries out low-profile attacks that do not directly serve the interests of the anti-Assad rebel forces, they are prepared to swallow their pride. It's safe to assume that both the selection of targets and the way in which the military operations are carried out are designed to boost the deterrence factor, to send a message to the other side that it should not try to transport weapons that might restrict the IAF's freedom of operation in Lebanese airspace.
This calculated gamble has proved itself thus far – and therein lies the danger. The more time that passes, the more the operational arm and the decision-makers in Jerusalem tend to fall in love with the results, increase the stakes and take more risks. The selection of targets will become less and less strict; relying on the weakness of the enemy will up the ante, and Israel could find itself becoming an integral part of the conflict in Syria.
Yes, Hezbollah may end up with fewer advanced and accurate missiles in Lebanon, but the Golan Heights will become a battle zone. The defense minister and the prime minister have a key role to play in guiding the defense establishment to ensure that this does not happen.
The wave of foreign media reports about Israeli strikes in Syria began in January 2013, when Israel was alleged to have carried out an attack on a convoy carrying anti-aircraft missiles bound for Hezbollah. The convoy was attacked in the area of Damascus. There have been nine or 10 reports about similar strikes since then. Israel has not claimed responsibility for any of them. The frequency of these reports is increasing. A sequence of such incidents, even if Israel does not take responsibility for any of them, creates Israeli involvement in the situation in Syria – even if Israel does not mean to do so.

Syrian Opposition figure, Louay Hussein: Assad incapable of negotiating for peace
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Syrian domestic opposition mainstay Louay Hussein has said that he took the decision to leave Syria after becoming convinced that the Assad regime is nothing more than a “militia” and is incapable of negotiating to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis.Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat two weeks after fleeing Syria, Hussein, who heads the opposition Building the Syrian State (BSS) party, said: “The result of the regime’s militia-like mentality is that it is no longer able to enter negotiations or accept the opposition’s participation in power.”He confirmed that Damascus has increased pressure on him and his party recently, along with other domestic opposition groups, as part of the regime’s message that greater opposition activity would not be tolerated.
The BSS party is part of Syria’s domestic opposition, tolerated to a certain extent by the Syrian government but viewed with suspicion by Syrian rebel groups outside of the country who see the group as collaborators with the Assad regime.
Hussein was arrested in November last year on charges of “weakening national sentiment” but was released on bail in February.
Earlier this month he evaded a travel ban and fled to Spain, just days before he was due to appear in court to hear the verdict in his case. Speaking immediately on his arrival in Spain, Hussein told international media that he took the decision to flee out of fear for his life.
“We must work to ensure that Syria remains a unified state after the regime has collapsed and brought the state to the edge of the abyss,” Hussein told Asharq Al-Awsat, pointing to the growing presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Syrian opposition sources, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that Hussein, a member of Bashar Al-Assad’s Alawite sect, could not play a further role in the political process from outside Syria.
Syrian rebels who have actively taken up arms against Assad are unlikely to embrace the controversial opposition figure who, until this year, had remained an active participant in the internal Syrian political process.
Hussein refused to outright confirm or deny whether he is involved in the internationally-backed process to resolve the Syrian crisis. He said: “There is some contact with some of the relevant states, but there has yet to be any serious talk in this context.”
The opposition leader indicated that his party would not look to challenge the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. “We are not trying to be an addition to the Syrian opposition [abroad], nor will we seek to partner with the Coalition, but at the same time we will not seek to oppose it.”
“Our position is not one in opposition to the Syrian National Coalition, which we are continuing to communicate with. The situation requires active and effective understanding and coordination with the Coalition and some international states that are involved with the Syrian file,” he added.