May 03/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Peter, Feed and tend my lambs
John 21/15-19: "When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

Bible Quotation For Today/By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God not the result of works, so that no one may boast
Letter to the Ephesians 02/01-10: "You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 02-03/15
Panic on the streets of Riyadh/
Smadar Perry/Ynetnews/May 03/15
Professor of physics, Abed al-Rachman Mustapha, also known as Abu Alaa al-Afri, named new leader of ISIS/agencies/ May 02/15

Obama's fatal attraction to Iran/Shoula Romano Horing /Ynetnews/May 02/15
Israel’s moral duty in southern Syria/
Yakub Halabi, i24News/Ynetnews /May 02/15
Is America really indispensable/Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/May 02/15
Assad not finished yet/By JONATHAN SPYER/J.Post/May 02/15

Lebanese Related News published on May 02-03/15
Baalbek buries soldier killed in friendly fire
Report: Hizbullah Freezing Internal Affairs until Qalamun Battle Ends
French Patrol Boat Saves 217 Migrants Off Libya
Report: Berri Disapproves of Harsh Rhetoric Directed against Saudi Arabia
Teen Girl Dead in Tripoli Amusement Park Accident

Preserved Corpses of Newborns Found in Sidon

Local Lebanese TV Stations No Longer Free in Cable Subscriptions
Families of Arsal Servicemen Abandon Escalation as Captive Meets Loved Ones
Police Arrest 2 People Involved in Murders
Police raze Beirut fishermen homes 

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 02-03/15
Canada’s PM visits Iraq, pledges $139 million in aid

Canada PM Visits Iraq after Air War Extension

Report: ISIS leader sidelined by spinal injury, possibly spurring appointment of new caliph

Iran's FM denies Islamic Republic 'jails people for their opinions', incurs social media wrath
U.S. Navy Bolsters Presence in Gulf after Iran Seizure
US-led strikes kill 52 civilians in north Syria: activists
U.N. Warns of Imminent Yemen Infrastructure Collapse
Nigeria Rescues more Hostages, Fate of Chibok Girls Uncertain
Ex-U.S. President Carter Urges Palestinian Elections
Turkey, US to start training Syria rebels May 9: Ankara
Is the erosion of the Saudi middle class a threat to stability?
 Russia’s S-300 missiles: Let the games begin
Turkey FM says training of Syrian rebels to start in May
Palestinians seek to expel Israel from FIFA
Israel's non-representative new government
How al-Qaeda and ISIS want to turn heads in Yemen
Israel warns of terror attack threat against Jews in Tunisia
Syrian opposition leader meets with Saudi U.N. envoy
ISIS chief ‘incapacitated,’ may never lead again: report

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Micheal Aoun Has Never Honored Any of His political Promises
Elias Bejjani
May 01/15
Nine years passed since the selfish and derailed Micheal Aoun has willingly imprisoned himself and his politically blind supporters in Hezbollah's locked jails and bunkers. Today he sneaked with his son-in-law, Gobran Bassil to Iran's Lebanese Ministate, and met their Iranian Master, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's chief.
The aim of the visit was to explore where Aoun now stands with his delusional presidential ambitions, and to hear from Nasrallah if Iran really wants him to be Lebanon's president. He left Nasrallah's bunker more confused than he was before the meeting. Many knowledgeable politicians, clergymen and analysts in Lebanon as well as in Diaspora strongly belief that Hezbollah and Iran are only maneuvering rhetorically with Aoun's presidential support in a bid to keep Lebanon as long as possible without a Christian president.
Nine years ago Aoun decided to betray himself, his national record, his patriotic tags, his anti Syrian rhetoric, His Maronite Church historic convictions, His Holy Lebanon, His dignity,  his country and the martyr's blood and sacrifices. Nine years ago Aoun succumbed to the evil Iranian terrorist Hezbollah and signed with its leadership the Anti-Lebanon and notorious "Paper Of Understanding".
Exactly like Judas Iscariot Aoun sold Lebanon and its people for thirty pieces of silver. Since than, Aoun actually gained nothing and lost every thing because his gains were and still are mere transient false power and earthly benefits.
History will have no mercy for this politician or for his likes and shall baldy curse their acts.
The question is, who yet does not know 100% in Lebanon and Diaspora that Micheal Aoun is not fit by any means and according to any criteria to be Lebanon's coming president?
Really almost each and every sane politician in Lebanon is aware of this fact. But Aoun himself and against all odds still dreaming and Fantasizing that he will be elected president.
Even Hezbollah who used Aoun and is still using him as a sheer facade does not really trust him or actually support his presidential theatrical nomination.
Does Aoun grasp these solid facts? No not all because he is delusional, hallucinating and totally detached from reality.
Sadly, Aoun did not honor any of his national, patriotic and political vows or promises. Many patriotic Lebanese do not trust him at all and do not believe a word that he says.
Back home in our beloved Lebanon we have a very impressive popular proverb that simply shows how vital and how holy is for the righteous people who fear Almighty God and respect themselves in honoring their vows and promises: "Men are not tied by their necks, but by their tongues", which means that people are committed for the vows and promises that they utter and not by ropes tied around their neck to force them fulfill these commitments.
Obligation of dignity and honor are stressed clearly stressed in the Holy Bible: "Matthew 05/33-37: "“You have also heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’ But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by earth, for it is the resting place for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’—anything else you say comes from the Evil One."  
In conclusion, Aoun as a politician is history and can not be trusted to build Lebanon's future because trustworthy people respect, honor and fulfill their vows, and sadly he does not.
*Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
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Teen Girl Dead in Tripoli Amusement Park Accident
Naharnet/A 17-year-old girl died and several children were injured in an accident at an amusement park in the northern city of Tripoli, the state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said Mariam al-Tabbah was killed and five children were wounded when the ferris wheel at City Land toppled. Police launched an investigation into the incident, the agency added. It was not clear how many were on the ride at the time of the accident.

Report: Hizbullah Freezing Internal Affairs until Qalamun Battle Ends
Naharnet/Hizbullah will not tackle any internal Lebanese affair until it the end of the battle of Syria's al-Qalamun region, reported al-Jadeed television on Saturday. An informed source said that “it is out of the question for Hizbullah to address any issue before the battle is resolved.”A battle for Syria's border region of Qalamun is imminent as Hizbullah and the Syrian army are making the final preparations for the fight, media reports said Friday. Hizbullah's preparations with the Syrian army are focused on a battle that will fortify Qalamun's villages and those on the Lebanese side of the border, they added. Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti daily al-Seyassah reported Saturday that six Hizbullah fighters were killed in Syria's Reef Latakia region on Friday. They were killed when a residence housing ten party members was shelled. The wounded were transferred to hospitals in Syria. Some of the dead fighters were identified as Hussein Mohammed Nasrerddine, Bassem Tahmaz, Mortada Ali Youssef, and Hassan Jamal Taher. Hizbullah announced Friday that the date and time of their funerals will be determined once they are returned to Lebanon. 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.

Families of Arsal Servicemen Abandon Escalation as Captive Meets Loved Ones
Naharnet/The families of the servicemen kidnapped by jihadists in the northeastern border town of Arsal announced that they will not escalate their actions in the wake of the positive developments in the file over the past 24 hours. They said, according to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3): “We will back down from our decision to escalate our actions and remain silent instead, in a hope to resolve this humanitarian file.” Meanwhile, the family of a Internal Security Forces member held captive by the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front was to meet with its loved one, reported MTV. It said that the extremist group granted Mohammed Taleb's family permission to meet with him. They met him on the outskirts of Arsal later on Saturday. The soldier is one of several servicemen who were kidnapped by the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups in the wake of battles between the army and the jihadists in Arsal in August. A number of the servicemen have since been released, four were executed, while the rest remain held. On Friday, Lebanese authorities were handed the corpse of civilian Mamdouh Younes and soldier Ali Qassem Ali, who were killed in Arsal. Media reports had said that negotiations with the IS had started earlier this week 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.” In April, al-Nusra Front handed over to Lebanon the body of Lebanese policeman Ali al-Bazzal, who was executed late last year.

Preserved Corpses of Newborns Found in Sidon

Naharnet/The preserved bodies of two newborns were found on Saturday in a garbage container in the southern city of Sidon, the state-run National News Agency reported. The corpses were discovered in a plastic container near the abandoned al-Shab Hospital in the area of al-Bawaba al-Fawqa, it said. According to NNA, the forensic expert said after inspecting the bodies that they had been preserved in the container for the past 20 years. The bodies were taken to Sidon's state hospital for DNA tests, the agency said. The authorities also summoned officials at al-Shab hospital to question them, it added. In December, a man found an aborted fetus in a garbage bag in Sidon’s landfill.

Report: Berri Disapproves of Harsh Rhetoric Directed against Saudi Arabia
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri had expressed his concern over the escalation of the Sunni-Shiite strife in the region, while emphasizing the need to safeguard the interests of Lebanese expatriates, reported the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Saturday. Berri had informed the visiting Lebanese Business and Investment Council in Saudi Arabia that “he disapproves of the harsh rhetoric, by Lebanese sides, against the kingdom.” “The rhetoric causes problems for the Lebanese expatriates in Saudi Arabia,” he explained. It also harms Lebanon's economy and its ties with Riyadh, he noted before a delegation from the council, according to sources from the meeting that was held earlier this week. The sources added that Berri had stated that the situation in Lebanon “requires it to distance itself from regional crises.”“It needs an Iranian-Saudi agreement otherwise it would be difficult to tackle the crisis in Lebanon,” the speaker was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, the delegation had also held talks on Thursday with head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad to discuss the “suffering of the Lebanese diaspora in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the party's harsh campaign against it.” The delegation explained that “Hizbullah's high tone against Saudi Arabia does not serve the party, Lebanon, or the Lebanese expatriates in the Arab Gulf region and the kingdom.”For his part, Raad expressed his understanding of the situation of the Lebanese diaspora in Saudi Arabia, voicing his readiness to “do what it takes to maintain their presence in the kingdom.”He hailed ties between the Lebanese and Saudi Arabian people, despite the disagreement between Hizbullah's leadership and the Saudi policy. The lawmaker pledged to the delegation that the rhetoric against Riyadh will be lowered, said the sources. The delegation returned to Saudi Arabia on Friday after holding a series of meetings with Lebanese officials throughout the week. Hizbullah has been recently directing a barrage of criticism at Saudi Arabia over its airstrike campaign targeting Yemen's Shiite Huthi rebels. Hizbullah officials have warned Riyadh that it would be defeated and would pay a heavy price for its attacks. There are around 500,000 Lebanese expats in the Gulf. Earlier this year, the UAE, which hosts 100,000 Lebanese workers, expelled around 70 expatriates, mostly Shiites. In 2009, dozens of Lebanese Shiites who had lived in the UAE for years were expelled on suspicion of links with Hizbullah. In 2013, Qatar deported 18 Lebanese nationals after the Gulf Cooperation Council decided to impose sanctions against Hizbullah for its military intervention in war-torn Syria to support President Bashar Assad.

Baalbek buries soldier killed in friendly fire
Nidal Solh| The Daily Star/May. 02, 2015/BAALBEK, Lebanon: A Lebanese Army soldier who was accidentally shot dead by another troop was laid to rest Saturday in his northeastern hometown. Soldier Ghassan Khaled al-Kharfan was laid to rest to the Hay al-Bassatin area of Baalbek a day after being shot dead near the southern city of Sidon. Reports said Kharfan was killed when another soldier arrived to take over his post. The details of the incident remained unclear. The shooting occurred in the village of Majdelyoun, about five kilometers east of Sidon.

Canada PM Visits Iraq after Air War Extension

Naharnet/Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Saturday days after lawmakers extended and expanded the NATO member's air campaign against the Islamic State jihadist group. Harper held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad before heading to the autonomous Kurdish region in the north where Ottawa has military trainers deployed to assist the fightback against the jihadists. Abadi's office said the allies had discussed "the war being waged by Iraq against the terrorist bands of Daesh (IS) and the international support being provided to Iraq in this campaign." Canada is the only Western ally so far to have joined the United States in carrying out air strikes against IS in neighboring Syria as well as Iraq. European allies and Australia have joined the air campaign in Iraq but in Syria Washington has otherwise had to depend on Arab allies for support. Canadian lawmakers voted to expand the air campaign to Syria on Monday over leftwing opposition to Harper's ruling Conservatives. Ottawa first joined the U.S.-led air strikes on IS in Iraq in November. Harper has defended the need for expanded sorties, saying the IS group "must cease to have any safe haven in Syria." But opposition parties warned that the air campaign might embroil Canada in a regional conflict that could drag on for decades. Agence France Presse

Kerry: Criticism of Iran nuclear deal is hysterical

Ynetnews/Published: 05.02.15 / Israel News
US Secretary of State tells Channel 10 that developing agreement will assure permanent inspection of nuclear facilities, promises US will not sign deal that compromises Israel's security. US Secretary of State John Kerry pushed back against criticism of the developing deal with Iran – including comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – in an interview to Channel 10 that will be broadcast on Sunday evening. The top American diplomats said the reactions to the nuclear agreement being negotiated with Tehran were hysterical, and claimed people must check the facts and examine the information behind the facts.  He stressed that the agreement was not temporary and that inspectors would be working "daily" in Iran permanently. Kerry also emphasized that the United States would not sign an agreement that compromised Israel's safety. He vowed that America would not agree to a deal that did not block Tehran's path to a nuclear bomb and guaranteed the security of the State of Israel. The top American diplomat said President Barack Obama had made an absolute commitment that Iran will not attain a nuclear weapon and that the current course was in Israel's best interest.

Report: ISIS leader sidelined by spinal injury, possibly spurring appointment of new caliph
By JPOST.COM STAFF/05/02/2015
A spinal injury has sidelined Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to a report by the Guardian.
The leader of the self-styled caliphate, often pictured dressed in black Islamic garb, is said to have suffered the injuries after a US air-strike in Iraq's north-western region of Nineveh in March and has since retreated to Mosul, the war-torn country's second largest city which had fallen into the Islamic State group's possession in June of last year.
The jihadist organization, in control of vast swathes of Iraq as well as Syria, where it is said to have killed over 2,000 people just off the battlefield, is now under the leadership of Abu Alaa al-Afri who is yet to assume the title of caliph, which al-Baghdadi still holds, but is running the the group's day to day operations.
Al-Afri, a former physics teacher who had penned several scientific and religious publications, is a veteran militant who previously had ties to al-Qaida in Mesapotamia, the branch of the notorious terrorist organization from whom the Islamic State group in part grew and eventually separated.
The process of choosing a leader of the caliphate is a complicated one, Middle East expert William McCant told the political blog site Think Progress.
"Isis's Shura council voted for al-Baghdadi for several reasons: his religious credentials, his supposed descent from Muhammad, and his tribal connections," criteria that al-Afri might not necessarily meet.
However Hisham al-Hashimi, a senior adviser to the Iraqi government, emphasized al-Afri's potential taking of the reins, suggesting that “he is smart, and a good leader and administrator. If Baghdadi ends up dying, he will lead them,” he added, suggesting that if the terrorist organization is under enough duress given the international campaign against the, an unorthodox decision might be made.
For now the exact circumstances of al-Baghdadi's health remain obscure. Following the March air-strike in question, the Pentagon has denied having known that al-Baghdadi was present in the area targeted. Meanwhile, on the ground, the natural secrecy maintained by Islamic State members and sympathizers further shrouds reality.
One source quoted by the Guardian had claimed that physicians and doctors with strong allegiances to the Islamic State had been treating al-Baghdadi in a Mosul hospital, and that a group of men, dressed like "Kandaharis", a possible reference to the style garb worn by veteran mujaheddin who had fought in Afghanistan during the 1980's, were present as well.
While some reports place Baghdadi in Mosul, more far-fetched hearsay from Iranian and Arab media has suggested a more conspiratorial scenario. Last wekk Iran's state FARS news, quoting two Iraqi media outlets, claimed that al-Baghdadi had somehow been transferred to the Israeli Golan Heights, where Israeli surgeons and physicians had declared him clinically dead.
Israeli officials have not responded to these reports.

Iran's FM denies Islamic Republic 'jails people for their opinions', incurs social media wrath
By JPOST.COM STAFF/05/02/2015
Iran's Foreign Minister is facing a flurry criticism after suggesting in a recent television interview that the Islamic Republic does not persecute individuals based on their opinions. Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose representation of Tehran during the contrversial P5+1 nuclear negotiations in Switzerland brought him into the public eye, sat down with Charlie Rose on Friday for a sixty-eight minute interview at whose end he was asked about the ongoing detention of Jason Rezaian, an American-Iranian journalist that has languished in the Iranian prison system for the past nine-months.
"Iran does not jail people for their opinions," Zarif answered, despite the fact that Iran maintains one of the worst records for press freedom in the world, ranking 173 according to the 2014 Press Freedom Index, coming in just after Sudan.Mister Zarif outlined what he says is his government's plan “to improve, enhance human rights in the country."But people who commit crimes, who violate the laws of a country cannot hide behind being a journalist or being a political activist, people have to observe the law,” he added.
Speaking to the Guardian a day after Zarif's interview aired, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran's most outspoken human-rights activist and lawyer rejected the foreign minister's claims, asserting that "there are plenty of prisoners of conscience behind bars in Iran held solely because of their opinions."
Of the thirty journalists currently and imprisoned in Iran as of 2014, twenty-six are serving time on charges of crimes of an "anti-state" nature, while others have been jailed for "false news" or "insult."
Yet Sotoudeh did not simply refer to journalists, but included lawyers, students as well as religious minorities such as Baha’is and Christians in her assessment. Indeed according to a UN report on Iran from March 2014, “under the law, religious minorities, including recognized Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians also face discrimination in the judicial system, such as harsher punishments.”The report included figures indicating that“as of 3 January 2014, at least 307 members of religious minorities were in detention, of whom 136 were Baha’is, 90 Sunni Muslims, 50 Christians, 19 Dervish Muslims , four were Yarasan, two were Zoroastrians, and six were from other groups.”
A recent statement from March from a UN official expressed a similar sentiment, dispelling any preconception that Iran's new administration, considered by some to be more moderate than the previous one lead by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has tempered its approach to ordinary Iranian's freedom of expression. According to Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's rapporteur of human rights, enforcers of Rouhani's government “continue to harass, arrest, prosecute and imprison many members of society who express criticism of the government or publicly deviate from officially sanctioned narratives.”Zarif did not escape the wrath of social media either, where his opponents expressed their malcontent more robustly.One user took to Zarif's Facebook page, commenting, “nobody is jailed in Iran for his or her opinion? Liar."Another compared Zarif to Iran's notoriously bombastic former president, saying “When you lie, there is no difference between you and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."There were religiously flavored critiques as well, with one accusing Zarif of spiritual purgory - “One who lies is the enemy of God.”

Israel’s moral duty in southern Syria
Yakub Halabi, i24News/Ynetnews /Published: 05.02.15
Op-ed: Israel should show that it is ready to do everything possible to prevent other minorities from suffering the same fate as Europe's Jews during the Holocaust.
The main lesson that Israel should draw from the Holocaust is that Israel should always be ready to act as a gatekeeper for protecting minorities facing the threat of genocide or mass murder. After all, Israel persists in criticizing western allies for not having done enough to help save the Jews during World War II.
During the last few years, however, minorities in Iraq and Syria, such as the Yazidis, Druze and Christians, have been threatened with mass murder and the question now is: what should Israel do to help them? Minorities in the Middle have been Israel’s best allies in the region even before the establishment of the state, including the Maronites in Lebanon, the Circassians and above all the Druze.
The Druze in Syria are currently stuck between a rock and a hard place: the Assad regime on the one hand and the Islamic State (IS) group on the other. They must either fight for the former's fascist regime or else suffer under it and if, God forbid, their province falls into the hands of IS, they will be doomed to mass extermination.
They are faced with either fighting an unjust war and sacrificing their young men, or a threat to the existence of the whole community, thus neutrality for them is out of question. A few weeks ago, a delegation from Jabal al-Druze (Mountain of the Druze) was invited to the presidential palace in Damascus and was told rather bluntly by Assad’s close adviser, Luna Shibl, that, "you must fight with the regime, whether you like it or not."
Islamic State forces have reached the outskirts of Sweida province and the Druze understand that their fate would be similar to that of the Yazidis in Iraq if the jihadist group manages to reach their region.
Under these circumstances, Israel should pursue humanitarian intervention in Syria by creating a security zone in southwestern Syria that will extend from the Golan Heights in the west to the Sweida province in the east. This security zone should be founded on the same model as the “Security Belt” that Israel established in southern Lebanon up until the year 2000.
Based on this model, Israel would occupy the area and establish an army composed of local citizens who would protect it. This zone should mainly constitute a refuge for Syrians who are fleeing the fighting, but are blocked from either entering neighboring countries or seeking shelter in Europe.
Unfortunately, US air raids in Syria and Iraq as well as the training of the Free Syrian Army have hitherto failed to alter conditions on the ground. Establishing a security zone in southern Syria would be a game changer. The Southern Front (another rebel group) could join forces with the Free Syrian Army in defeating both the Assad regime and IS.
Since the Syrian civil war's inception, Israel’s aid to the Syrian people in their harsh time has been confined to admitting a few hundred wounded citizens to its hospitals. Yet, given the long Jewish history of persecution, Israel cannot look the other way as innocent people are being killed in a neighboring country. After all, Israel should demonstrate that it is ready to do all that is possible to prevent what befell the Jews during the Holocaust from happening to other minorities living next door to it.
Israel’s humanitarian intervention is not purely humanitarian, however. The potential liquidation of these minorities means that Israel would lose its best sub-state allies in the Middle East. These minorities have always been the gatekeepers of secularism and modernity in the Arab/Muslim world.
Finally, Israel should declare that it would have no intentions of occupying this security zone forever and that it would withdraw from it once Syria is stabilized under a humane regime.
***Yakub Halabi is an Arab citizen of Israel, assistant professor of international relations and fellow at the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies, Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

Obama's fatal attraction to Iran
Shoula Romano Horing /Ynetnews
Published: 05.02.15, / Israel Opinion
Op-ed: US president seems to naively believe that if he befriends and develops a relationship with the 'bad boy' Iranian regime, he can 'save' the Iranians and the world in the process; in practice, he is destroying the future of the free world. It seems that Barack Obama truly believes he is the chosen one who can change the "bad boy" Iranian regime, bring it back into the community of nations, moderate its revolutionary jihadist zeal, and make it the West’s new friend and partner in the Middle East.
The American president believes that by paving the way for Iran to be a threshold nuclear state and a successful regional power, he will be appropriately apologizing and compensating the Iranians for alleged past actions by the West and the US that abused and disrespected them. He believes that Iran is not bad or evil by nature but has behaved badly because it was misunderstood, humiliated, dishonored, isolated, confronted, and threatened militarily and economically by the West.
Like so many other ultra-liberal academics, he believes that Iran is lashing out with terrorism, a nuclear program, and threats of death to America and Israel, because it cries for help, attention, and its rightful place in the world, as befits the heirs of the old Persian Empire.
In pursuit of these goals, President Obama has been unilaterally rewarding and repeatedly conceding to Iranian demands in the nuclear negotiations in exchange for nothing in return. He has backed off from the initial demands that Iran shut down its centrifuges, dismantle its nuclear facilities and heavy water reactors, and from the phased lifting of sanctions depending on compliance.
Just recently, he encouraged John Kerry to be involved in "creative negotiations" to address Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's recent demand that the sanctions be lifted immediately upon the signing of a final deal. Obama has been covering up for and lying about Iran’s negotiating positions by stating that they agreed to the "framework agreement" which they have never done.
He has been keeping secrets about Iran’s dangerous behavior by concealing the fact that he has known for years that Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear bomb is less than three months and not a year as he has just recently insisted. He seems to have turned a blind eye to Iran’s belligerent military activities and its growing influence in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, and Yemen’s capital, Sana'a. Finally, he has been willing to publicly undermine the relationship with longtime friends such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in order to appease Iran.
However, reality shows that the Iranian regime has been evil and will stay evil, despite Obama’s many concessions and appeasement policy.
According to the US State Department, Iran has been and still is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and has been responsible for taking the lives of thousands of civilians in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.
Inside Iran, the regime is still responsible for a horrific human rights record against its own people including thousands of cases of arbitrary incarcerations, torture, rape, burnings, and flogging of political prisoners, journalists, and bloggers based on bogus charges as well as thousands of executions without due process.
The ayatollahs' Iran has never for the last 36 years stopped being an outspoken enemy of the US and its leader’s speeches still indicate that Iran sees itself as being in a holy war with the US and the West. Since 2003, the Iranians have been responsible for killing thousands of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ayatollah Khamenei continues to denounce the US as the Great Satan and continues to chant "Death to America," as well as making it clear in speeches, tweets and through his advisors that Iran does not intend to normalize relations with the US despite any nuclear deal.
To think otherwise only reinforces the concerns of many rational experts that Obama is detached from reality, obsessive, compulsive, delusional and irrational about present day Iran and its true intentions.

Professor of physics, Abed al-Rachman Mustapha, also known as Abu Alaa al-Afri, named new leader of ISIS

By JPOST.COM STAFF/05/02/2015 20:3
The new ISIS leader has a lot of credibility in the organization and is well-suited to take over day-to-day operations.
Abed al-Rachman Mustapha, also known as Abu Alaa al-Afri, has been appointed the new leader of ISIS following an emergency meeting convened by the organization's first leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, immediately after he was seriously wounded in an American air-raid that struck the organization's stronghold located in the northwest of Iraq. Dr Hisham al Hashimi, adviser to the Iraqi prime minister on matters concerning the Islamic State, said that "Afri is the most powerful man in the organization after al-Baghdadi himself." He continued by saying that al-Afri is "more important, and smarter, and with better relationships. He is a good public speaker and strong charisma."
"All the leaders of (ISIS) find that he has much jihadi wisdom, and good capability at leadership and administration," he added. According to al Hashimi, al Afri was a former physics teacher professor who was born in the city of al-Khidr, an estimated 80 kilometers south of Mosul, and helped establish what would later become the Islamic State while serving as a senior commander within al-Qaida in Iraq. Not much is known about the the new ISIS leader. According to a report published by the British newspaper The Guardian, he allegedly traveled to Afghanistan in 1998 before making a meteoric rise to the position of senior commander of al-Qaida in Iraq. There he allied himself to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of the organization in 2004. After al-Zarqawi's assassination 2010, he took overall leadership responsibilities for Iraqi operations for the terrorist organization. On Friday, The Guardian reported that the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was left incapacitated after suffering a sever spinal injury after American air raids bombed one of his hideouts last March - though the Pentagon would not acknowledge the raids. According to The Guardian, al- Baghdadi is assisted by two doctors who accompany him at all times throughout the city of Mosul, a major stronghold for ISIS in Iraq and the country's second largest city.

Canada’s PM visits Iraq, pledges $139 million in aid
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News
Saturday, 2 May 2015
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Saturday has made a surprise visit to Iraq to express his continued support for the fight against Islamist militants and had his federal government pledging an additional $139 million to refugees not only in Iraq but Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Harper held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad before heading to the autonomous Kurdish region in the north where Ottawa has military trainers deployed to assist the fightback against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
 Abadi’s office said the allies had discussed “the war being waged by Iraq against the terrorist bands of Daesh (ISIS) and the international support being provided to Iraq in this campaign.”  Canada is the only Western ally so far to have joined the United States in carrying out air strikes against ISIS in neighboring Syria as well as Iraq. The Canadian government also has announced $139 million in additional aid to address the refugee crisis around the region precipitated by the fighting, in addition to the $67 million already committed to Iraq. “We’re obviously here to discuss not only our relationship, but the obviously very special issue in terms of countering ISIS,” Harper said. “You can be sure we will continue to work with you going forward, not just on the security problem but on the greater humanitarian and development issues this is causing for the Iraqi people,” he added.
Harper’s visit came as seven women and children were killed by a roadside bomb and a suicide blast killed six Iraqi troops. “Canada will not stand idly by while ISIS threatens Canadians and commits barbaric acts of violence and injustice in Iraq against innocent civilians,” Harper said in a statement. “We will continue to help Iraq fight ISIS as part of the international coalition against this terrorist group.”Abadi hailed Canada’s role in that coalition as “essential” and called on the international community to join forces against the extremist threat as “terrorism is not only threatening Iraq, but the region and the whole world.”Ottawa first joined the U.S.-led air strikes on IS in Iraq in November. Harper has defended the need for expanded sorties, saying ISIS “must cease to have any safe haven in Syria.”
But opposition parties warned that the air campaign might embroil Canada in a regional conflict that could drag on for decades.
(With AFP and Associated Press)

Is America really indispensable?
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 2 May 2015
The world has been radically transformed in ways that were unimaginable 25 years ago. And the changes that will occur in the next 25 years are impossible to fathom beyond saying that they will alter fundamentally the way we think, interact, communicate, govern and fight. The diffusion of political and economic power among and within nations, the historic power shift from West to the East, the emergence of mega-cities, climate change, cyber-attacks, powerful and dangerous non-state actors like ISIS and Hezbollah, the growing role of civil society organizations, multinational corporations, and transnational threats from terrorism to pandemics such as Ebola, have caused seismic changes in our social and economic lives not seen since the Industrial Revolution.
The eve of a new Renaissance?
More importantly, the easy access to sophisticated information, the availability of the internet, the proliferation of affordable advanced technology such as smart phones and other powerful empowering tools of connectivity, and mega data, all of these megatrends will empower individuals, institutions and states in both creative and disruptive ways.
As David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy magazine framed the impact of these technologies in a brilliant presentation at the Atlantic Council’s Global Strategy Forum this week ‘this is the day before the beginning of the renaissance. This is the day before the beginning of a massive change in human history that we have not begun to grapple with.’ Rothkopf contends that the fundamentals of our lives will change in the wake of this revolution which will alter our very human identity. ‘Who am I? Do I associate with the people who are close to me? Or do I associate with people who are like me on the internet? Geography no longer becomes the primary identifier of who I am as a human being, affinity does’. According to Rothkopf, the change will transform the meaning of community, the nature of governance, society, how do we connect to one another, and even the nature of human rights.
In this new, potentially brave world, the nature of the international system is undergoing structural changes in ways that are difficult to predict. The end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union gave the United States a brief, fleeting and some would say glorious unipolar moment which collapsed with a bang with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the emergence of the BRICS grouping (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), particularly the rise of China, and the diminishing stature of Europe, which contributed also to the slow unraveling of the scaffolding of the post-war world that the U.S. built and dominated for almost a half century characterized by unprecedented security (among European states) and economic prosperity.
The state of the nation-states
In recent years American scholars, historians and policy makers have been struggling to fashion a strategic framework for a world in flux, where allies and adversaries alike have been redefining their views and relations with an America that is no longer capable of shaping global affairs alone. Many bemoaned the dearth of strategic thinking, lamenting the absence of senior officials with ‘strategic heft’ from both Democratic and Republican administrations. Former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft was correct in his recent assessment that ‘without question, among the challenges facing the United States today in regard to its foreign and security policy is an inadequate amount of strategic thinking. For a variety of reasons, not least because the world appears to be spinning faster, actionable strategic thinking appears to be in short supply’.
The diffusion of power and the proliferation of new technologies are changing the nature of an international order where the state was traditionally the most important component. Transnational threats, non-state actors and connectivity are diminishing the traditional definition of state sovereignty. State systems in the Middle East and Africa are fraying and imploding. In ancient Mesopotamia and Afghanistan the U.S. discovered the limits of its military might. These new trends are calling into question the role of the United States which was very eager under President Obama to end the two longest wars in the nation’s history, that were waged by his predecessor President Bush who sought disastrously to transform two fragmented and tortured societies into Jeffersonian democracies. In one decade the U.S. moved from the era of almost unrestrained interventionism, to the era of almost retrenchment.
Leading reluctantly
In its recent Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the Obama administration stressed the need to mobilize ‘dynamic partnership to confront new interconnected challenges, from climate change and extreme poverty to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the failure of state institutions’. The Review pointed to the ‘broad coalitions necessary to defeat ISIL in the Middle East and counter Russian aggression against Ukraine’. The Review correctly observes that ‘aspects of that post-World War II system are fraying.’ It notes that the established orders in Europe, the Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East are being challenged by Russian aggression, tensions in the East China seas, and the destabilizing actions of al Qaeda and ISIL in the Middle East. The Review does not address the destabilizing regional role of Iran and its responsibility for prolonging the tragic war in Syria, its heavy handed military and political involvement in Iraq’s conflict and Yemen’s war. Hezbollah’s brazen military support to the Assad regime is glossed over. In fighting the Islamic State, the U.S. does not seem to be mobilizing enough resources to achieve its declared objective that is to degrade and destroy ISIS. The air campaign in Iraq, where Iran and its allied Shiite militias are providing the land component, is designed to contain rather than destroy ISIS. The same can be said about containing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, but not necessarily arming Ukraine to roll back the Russian onslaught. The Quadrennial Review sees that ‘in an interconnected world, few problems can be solved without the United States- and few can be solved by the United States alone’.
The future of the past
In recent years, particularly during presidential election cycles a fever pitch hits the candidates, in which mostly Republican candidates invoke the concept of ‘American exceptionalism’ which is the most explicit – and for most outsiders- and jarring variation of the old vision of America as a beacon of liberty symbolized by the New Testament of ‘a city upon a hill’. Alexis de Tocqueville, one of the best interpreters of young America wrote that the position of Americans is ‘quite exceptional’. Ironically, it was one of the most violent men of the twentieth century, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin who coined the term when he condemned what he saw as the ‘heresy of American exceptionalism’, a fact that is probably lost on most of those who brag about the slogan, which is seen by some Americans and many non-Americans as smacking of imperial hubris. Historically, ‘exceptionalism’ was touted by many ancient cultures and religions, where each entity would proclaim sanctimoniously that it is privileged, or purer; The Greeks did it, so did the Indians, the Jews and the Muslims just to name a few.
In one decade the U.S. moved from the era of almost unrestrained interventionism, to the era of almost retrenchment
However, the history of America as the ‘indispensable nation’ is a short one, and is usually invoked by Democrats, since two of them coined it. Most people think that former Secretary of State Madeline Albright was the one who coined the expression. And although she used it with abandon during the Balkan wars, she borrowed it from an aide to President Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal who developed it in collaboration with historian James Chase. In explaining the reasons for NATO’s military intervention in Bosnia in 1996, Clinton said ‘the fact is America remains the indispensable nation…’
Is America really indispensable?
Most of the issues raised here, were at the core of a two day forum organized by the Atlantic Council earlier this week. I was asked to moderate a debate (Oxford format) about America’s role in the world, and conduct a vote on the following resolution; ‘the United States is the indispensable nation: Global stability and growth depends on an assertive U.S. foreign policy and a strong, active U.S. military presence around the world’.
Defending the resolution was Xenia Wickett, a former U.S. official and currently with Chatham House who listed the global challenges that cannot be conceivably resolved without the ‘indispensable’ United States: Terrorism, pandemics, climate change, cyber-attacks as well as ‘traditional’ threats from Russia to cite a few. The U.S. is the only nation that is truly global and responsible for 16.1% of global GDP, 8.4% of global trade and 25% of global outflow investment. Ms. Wicket stressed however, that ‘assertive’ does not mean aggressive. She defended the need for a U.S. strong and active military presence around the world to maintain sea lanes, provide humanitarian relief and global security. She asked ‘just consider the scenarios in which this is not the case- look at what would happen in the Middle East, in Asia and even, with Russia on Europe’s doorsteps’.
But, being indispensable does not mean acting alone, or that the only instrument of power should be the military. Then, Wickett asked ‘if not the U.S. then who? The EU, China, India, Brazil, Russia and Japan are all powerful actors. But none have the scope to take on the mantle of the stability America provides globally..’
Arguing in the negative, was Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and foreign Policy Studies, who rejected the claim that a ‘single country with 5% of the world’s population and generating less than 22% of the world’s economic output—is indispensable to that world’s well-being- -both its physical security and its economic prosperity- -is simply hard to belief’. Preble, in the process criticized the American luminaries of the right particularly the historian Robert Kagan who claimed that if the U.S. withdrew to its pre-Cold War posture, anarchy would rein. He said that these claims see the world as more fragile and simpler that it actually is, and pretend that the world end up in flames and only the U.S. has the capability to extinguish the fires. Preble, rejected the claim that the proper U.S. role in the world as ‘benevolent global hegemony’. Preble was quick to reject the ‘conceit’ that America’s military is a necessary precondition for all good things that follows. Preble noted that the U.S. military presence in Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein had chaos unleashed.
It is true that the U.S’s military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and before that in Korea and Vietnam has caused undue pain and was born out of ‘conceit’, in some cases, but if the U.S. did not intervene militarily in Kuwait in 1991, or in Bosnia in the middle of the1990’s, not to mention its tremendous role in defeating fascism and Nazism during WWII who would have intervened to save the day? I tried to point out that the U.S. did act in the past as a ‘benevolent’ power, like its intervention in Bosnia to save innocent civilians in a region where the U.S. had no discernable economic or strategic interests. I raised the importance of America’s ‘soft power’, its incredible cultural and artistic contributions to the world, which reflected its vibrancy and dynamism and left an indelible influence on the rest of the world for more than a century. Since the world is not full of liberal democracies, and conflicts based on state interests will remain with us for the foreseeable future, the question becomes; if the world is to be dominated by one political culture, would you rather have the United States, warts and all or Russia, or China or any other rising power?

Assad not finished yet
By JONATHAN SPYER/J.Post/05/02/2015
A number of reports have been published in recent days suggesting the tide of the war in Syria may finally have turned decisively against the Assad regime.
The reports cite a series of successes the Syrian rebels have achieved in recent weeks, and suggest the dictator and his allies will have difficulty reversing these setbacks. So is the game really finally up for the bloodstained regime of the Assads? A close examination of the evidence suggests that President Bashar Assad’s eulogizers have once again spoken too soon.
To understand why, let’s first of all look at the nature of the undoubted successes the various rebel coalitions have achieved.
The Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) rebel coalition has conquered significant ground in northern Syria from regime forces in recent weeks. Idlib City, the second provincial capital to be prised from Assad’s grasp, fell on March 29. The alliance has since scored additional victories, taking the pivotal town of Jisr al-Shughour close to the Syrian-Turkish border, and in its latest advance, capturing a regime base at Qarmid.
Jaish al-Fatah, whose two main component groups are Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahral al-Sham, now appears ready to begin attacks on the regime stronghold of Latakia Province and on the Hama area.
Further south, it has been a similarly poor few weeks for the regime. The much-trumpeted February offensive of the Syrian army, together with Hezbollah and Iranian fighters, intended to drive the rebels from the area south of Damascus, rapidly ran aground in the winter snow. The Southern Front rebel coalition and Jabhat al-Nusra went on to score a series of achievements in subsequent weeks. The town of Bosra al-Sham, a historic site close to the border with Jordan, fell on March 25; then the last regime-controlled border crossing between Syria and Jordan, at Naseeb, also fell to the rebels and Sunni jihadists.
This is the list of rebel successes to date; it is certainly considerable. Just a few months ago, many analysts were pronouncing the side of the rebels to be in its death throes. Their inability to unite, or to stem the influence of Sunni jihadists and corrupt warlords in their ranks, seemed to presage their failure.
The regime’s woes have been compounded by the appearance of fissure in its ranks. The firing of two security chiefs – Rafiq Shehadeh of Military Intelligence, and Rustom Ghazaleh of Political Security (who has since died) – adds to its travails.
So what has changed? The rebels have gone through a kind of process of natural selection in which larger units have devoured smaller ones, leading to greater cohesion. The rapprochement of Saudi Arabia with Turkey appears to have enabled more coherent organization, support and supply to the rebels in the north.
In the south, meanwhile, a similar process is occurring with regard to Western and Sunni support for the Southern Front. The latter, unlike Jaish al-Fatah, is not dominated by Salafi Islamists.
Nevertheless, it would be premature to pronounce the regime’s imminent demise.
The regime’s main and oft-noted problem throughout the war has been lack of manpower. The Assad regime has throughout been able to depend on the more or less firm support of only a very small section of the Syrian population – namely the Alawite minority, at 12 percent of the populace. In recent months, there have been signs that even the support of Assad’s own sectarian community is growing frayed.
This core defect in Assad’s position has been apparent throughout, but the regime has been able to deal with it in a number of ways.
Firstly, unlike the rebellion, the regime possesses strong and committed allies. Most importantly, Iran has been willing to mobilize its regional proxies and its own assets in order to offset Assad’s shortage of manpower. Hence, the prominent place of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters on the Syrian battlefield – along with Iraqi Shi’ite militiamen, local Alawite irregulars and Shi’ite volunteers from as far afield as Afghanistan.
There is no reason to believe that the well of potential volunteers from outside Syria has dried up.
As fewer Syrians enlist, it is likely that as in the past, their places will be filled by foreigners. To be sure, this means that the Assad side is today a mixed bag of mainly Shi’ite volunteers assembled by Tehran, rather than the army of a coherent state regime. But this does not make its defeat more likely.
Indeed, given the greater determination and cohesion the Iranians have shown throughout the region, when compared with the confused and flailing Sunnis and the largely absent West, the opposite might well be the case.
Secondly, since mid-2012, the Assad regime has sought to offset its shortage in numbers by reducing the area of territory it seeks to hold. This was the logic behind its abandonment of much of northern Syria in July 2012. Assad understands that he must continue to hold Damascus and its environs, the western coastal area and the area linking the two in order to survive.
In addition, it is a cardinal interest for him to hold Homs and Hama provinces; none of these are as yet under threat.
Until this point, the despot has suffered setbacks in areas whose loss poses no threat to his control of the area of Syria over which he rules. Iran, which is as much the protagonist of the regime’s war as is Bashar himself, does not require the totality of Syria to preserve its vital interests in the country. It needs a contiguous area of land linking pro-Iranian Iraq with pro-Iranian (Hezbollah-dominated) Lebanon.
If and when this interest comes under threat, we will discover just how much fight the regime has left in it.
Lastly, if the nuclear negotiations currently under way produce a deal to Iran’s liking on June 30, this is likely to improve the fortunes of the Assads. That is because the Islamic Republic will demand immediate sanctions relief. This will free up vast sums to flow into Iranian coffers – as much as $50 billion, according to one estimate.
It may be assumed that these funds will be made available for a friend in need. Given the fecklessness of the Western approach to the negotiations and the desire to avoid conflict with Iran, it is quite possible that such a deal will emerge.
In closing, the Assad/Iran/Hezbollah side in the Syrian civil war has not yet begun to be tested in the areas where it must prevail to survive. Thus far, it has suffered only a number of limited setbacks; it has certainly morphed from a centralized regime war effort into the kind of proxy militia arrangement in which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps specializes.
But this is not an argument for its vulnerability. Reports of its (imminent) demise have been much exaggerated.

Panic on the streets of Riyadh
Smadar Perry/Ynetnews
Published: 05.03.15/ Israel News
Analysis: The recent upheaval in the Saudi leadership is a sign of uncertainty - over Iran, the US and the Islamic terror groups.
The appointment of Adel Al-Jubeir as Saudi Arabia's new foreign minister was part of a huge shake-up that took place among the kingdom's political leadership this past week.
The protégé of two Saudi kings and senior ministers in Riyadh, Al-Jubeir, who miraculously escaped an attempt on his life in October 2011 while serving as his country's ambassador in Washington, is well known to Israeli officials from the days when he was a member of the Saudi delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference and attended the signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawns.
He's a discreet individual, and appears before the media only in keeping with directives from the king's palace; but his political and security positions are not foreign to Israel officials.
The upheaval in the kingdom occurred on Tuesday night, with the announcement on state television of a series of political appointments and dismissals, including the ousting of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the half-brother of King Salman who served briefly, from January to April 2015, as the Saudi Crown Prince.
The new heir to the throne is Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, 55, the nephew of King Salman and the so-called "General of the war on terrorism." Bin Nayef's appointment is likely to be welcomed in Washington due to his close ties with senior US intelligence and Pentagon officials. It also points to the fact that even if King Salman plans to adopt a more aggressive stance towards Iran than his predecessor, King Abdullah, he has no intentions of undermining Saudi Arabia's relations with the United States, despite Washington's betrayal of the kingdom in favor of Tehran.
Another fascinating appointment is that of Prince Mohammad bin Salman, 30, to the post of Deputy Crown Prince. In recent weeks, Mohammad, who also serves as the Saudi defense minister and deputy prime minister, has been overseeing Operation Decisive Storm, the 10-country coalition's military assault on Houthi rebel bases and targets in Yemen.
Spurred on by the anger in the kingdom over the nuclear deal with Iran, the young defense minister has put on an impressive show of strength, expressed by the fact that Saudi Arabia did not bother to inform the US administration of its plans to carry out the air strikes in Yemen. The move represented a clear signal to Washington: Saudi Arabia can get by without you.
"Based on the dynamics in play in Saudi Arabia, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that the 'boy prince' (Mohammad's nickname in the Arab media) will be the next king," says an Israeli expert on Saudi affairs. "The longer King Salman lives, the easier it will be for him to skip over the official heir to the throne and pass on the baton to his favorite son."
The unsurprising dismissal
The most unsurprising dismissal was that of Prince Saud al-Faisal, who had served up until this past week as Saudi Arabia's foreign minister for no less than 40 years. In all likelihood, Al-Faisal, who has been suffering in recent years from Parkinson's disease, will always be remembered as "the longest-serving foreign minister in the world" and the man who in 2002 put the Arab Peace Initiative up for vote in the Arab League. He'll also be remembered for his son-in-law, Prince Sultan, the son of the king, who was the first-ever Arab astronaut and took a copy of the Koran with him into space.
In addition to the appointments and dismissals, the Saudi regime also decided to award financial bonuses to each and every one of the country's tens of thousands of soldiers, officers, police force members and defense and intelligence establishment personnel – with the purpose of buying their allegiance and obedience. The palace has pledged to give them all a 13th salary, tax free, including supplementary allowances and overtime pay.
"This is the regime's way of buying peace and quiet," the Israeli expert explains. "This may be the last financial bonus that these people get in the coming months due to the steep decline in oil prices on the global market – Saudi Arabia's principal source of income."
A kingdom in panic
According to the Israeli expert, the efforts to create a new regime order in Saudi Arabia are evidence of the kingdom's weakness.
"This is an attempt to signal to the world that the kingdom is in a panic," he says. "Saudi Arabia is panicked about Iran, about the Americans, and about the Islamic terror groups. In the framework of the changes in the palace, the king has selected people who will be able to deal with these three arenas."
The Islamic arena is particularly stormy. Just this week, the Saudi interior minister announced the arrest of 93 individuals suspected of being members of Islamic State. Sixty-one are locals who were recruited under the noses of the Saudi intelligence services. They are believed to have been sent out to perpetrate attacks on the royal palaces throughout the kingdom.
Meanwhile, the new Saudi foreign minister, Jubeir, will have a key role to play in his dealing with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif – as part of the efforts to defuse US President Barack Obama's enthusiasm with respect to the nuclear deal with Iran and the lifting of the economic sanctions.
If the sanctions are lifted completely, the move could spell disaster for the Saudi economy and lead to political turmoil: Rising unemployment and increased frustration among the country's younger generation could lead to an "Arab Spring" in Saudi Arabia and undermine the stability of the Kingdom's institutions.
In two weeks, the leaders of the six Gulf States – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE and Oman – will fly to Washington as guests of President Obama. Their first stop will be the White House, and then they will move to Camp David the following day for a series of discussions. The weather should be pleasant. The mood at the talks is expected to be less so.
Obama has already said he will be doing some tough talking, and the president is expected to reprimand his guests with regard to human rights violations in their countries, the status of women, freedom of expression and democracy. The visitors, for their part, are readying to express their reservations vis-à-vis the rapprochement between Washington and Tehran.
"King Salman's health may prevent him from flying to the United States," says the Israeli expert. "If he doesn't go, he'll be represented by Foreign Minister Jubeir, his protégé. Jubeir is suited to the task: He's the one who whispered to Obama that he must reassure the Gulf States and convince them that the United States is not turning its back on them in favor of Iran."