LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For Today/If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me
Matthew 16,21-28: "From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’"
Bible Quotation For Today/ My desire is to depart and be with Christ
Letter to the Philippians 01/21-30: "For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 05-06/15
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Saudi Arabia has had enough of Kuwait’s Dashti/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 05/15
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Assad issued Hariri’s death sentence in 2004: Jumblatt
Jumblat: Failure to Implement Taef was Syrian Alibi to Stay in Lebanon, Confrontation Began with Attack on Hamadeh
Salam: Election of president key to stability
Hezbollah kills 15 militants in Qalamoun ambush
Hariri Meets Hollande as Diplomatic Endeavors to Safeguard Lebanon Continue
Hostages will 'pay the price' for Qalamoun battle: Nusra vide
Nasrallah: If Assad falls, Hezbollah falls
The Qalamoun battle is coming: Hezbollah
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Nasrallah: Hezbollah will thwart
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/ May. 06, 2015
BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Tuesday his fighters would deal with Islamist militant threat on Lebanon’s eastern border but gave no specific details on the location, scope and timing of any military operation.
Nasrallah said his party would be taking action as the Lebanese state was incapable of confronting threats from Syria-based jihadis, almost immediately drawing the ire of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
“There is no place for the Army, the government and institutions. Hezbollah is the alternative to all these and will substitute for them in going to war in Qalamoun,” Hariri said on his Twitter account Tuesday night. “Sayyed Hasan is dealing with Lebanon’s southern, eastern, Bekaa and northern borders as territories owned by Hezbollah in which the party acts as it wishes and sells and buys wars as it wishes,” he added.
Responding to Nasrallah’s declaration that the Qalamoun war is imperative “because it is a moral, national and religious assignment,” Hariri said: “We tell Sayyed Hasan: You are assigning yourself with an immoral, unpatriotic and unreligious mission. You are playing with the fate of Lebanon on the edge of the abyss.”
Nasrallah’s remarks, in a speech broadcast by Al-Manar TV station, came hours after Hezbollah fighters ambushed a Nusra Front convoy on the outskirts of the east Lebanese border town of Tfail, killing at least 15 militants and wounding 30 others, a Lebanese security source said. At least one Hezbollah member, a field commander in Qalamoun, was killed in the clashes, the source said.
Responding to media reports that Hezbollah was gearing up for an all-out assault to oust ISIS and Nusra Front militants from the Qalamoun mountain range near the border with Lebanon, Nasrallah said: “We have not issued any official statement. When the [military] operation begins, it will speak for itself and impose itself on the media. We will not announce its location or time.”
However, he acknowledged that Hezbollah was making preparations for a much-anticipated major battle against the militants, saying that the Lebanese state was incapable of responding to the jihadi threat on the eastern border with Syria.
“Yes, preparations are underway and there are indications on which the people base their judgment,” Nasrallalh said. “But, for our part, we have not announced anything. Going to deal with the [jihadi threat] is imperative. But the timing and location have not been announced yet.”Nasrallah did not give details of the time limit, location, scale, phases and goals of the offensive Hezbollah is expected to launch in the Qalamoun region to oust the Islamists rebels who, he said, were intent on entering Lebanon.
“The state is not capable of dealing with this matter [militants’ threat]. Had it been capable, it would have taken action,” he said. “If the state assumed its responsibility, we would all support it. But it is clear the state is not capable of doing that.”
He recalled his warning two months ago of a jihadi threat facing Lebanon when snow starts to melt in the spring. “We have been aware of the intentions of the armed groups which were preparing for attacks once the snow has melt,” Nasrallah said.
“We are not talking about a supposed threat [on the eastern mountain range], but about a real aggression that exists at every hour through the occupation of a wide swathe of Lebanese territory by the armed groups and their continued attacks on the Lebanese Army and citizens in Arsal, in addition to the continued kidnapping of Lebanese soldiers and the threat to kill them,” he said, referring to the 25 soldiers and policemen held hostage by ISIS and the Nusra Front since last August.
Unlike past speeches, which were marked by a fiery and escalatory tone since the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen in March, Nasrallah’s speech Tuesday was generally calm.
In an earlier statement released by his media office, Hariri blasted Hezbollah over its preparations for the battle in the Qalamoun region, saying the fight was meant to protect the Assad regime, not Lebanon. “Media channels and some leaders in Lebanon have been ringing the bells for the Qalamoun hills battle, while the Syrian regime is silent,” he said. “It is as if someone is trying to say that the anticipated battle is a Lebanese one on Syrian land, always under the pretext of a pre-emptive war on terrorist groups.”
Hariri said Hezbollah was “using the Lebanese borders” to wage a war that “only serves to protect [Syrian President] Bashar Assad’s western wing in light of the regime’s recent military defeats in many Syrian areas.”
In a series of questions directed to Hezbollah, Hariri wondered what repercussions the battle would have on Lebanon. “Who can guarantee the safety of the captive Lebanese servicemen held by ISIS and Nusra if a Lebanese party takes part in the battle?” he asked. “Hezbollah alone bears the consequences of getting involved in the war to serve Bashar Assad’s military agenda.”
Nasrallah: If Assad falls, Hezbollah falls
Roi Kais/Published: 05.05.15/ Israel News/Ynetnews
Hezbollah mouthpiece says group's leader made comments in meeting with Lebanese Christian political ally, admits Syrian regime may never regain control over entire country. Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime cannot fall, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said, as it would also mean the fall of Hezbollah and the so-called axis of resistance, Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, a Hezbollah mouthpiece, reported Tuesday. Nasrallah's Lebanon-based organization has strong ties to the Syrian regime, and has dispatched its own fighters to join Assad's battle against Syrian opposition forces seeking to oust him. Together with patron Iran, Syria and Hezbollah make up the axis of resistance, with the Islamic Republic providing weapons, training and financial support for its two proxies on Israel's borders. According to the report, Nasrallah made the remarks during a meeting last Thursday with Lebanese political ally Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian who heads the Free Patriotic Movement party. The report also said that Nasrallah indicated that the regime would not be able to reclaim every inch of Syrian soil conceded to the rebels. The Hezbollah leader also reportedly likened the fighting in Syria to a pendulum swinging between gains and losses. Despite Hezbollah's intervention, the Syrian regime has lost control of vast swathes of the country in the four-year war. Meanwhile, Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star quoted sources as saying that Aoun and Nasrallah had discussed the "need to maintain security and stability in Lebanon, given the ongoing grave developments in neighboring countries."
Aoun expressed his "full support for any steps Hezbollah might take to fight terrorists," the report said. According to the Star, the two men were joined by Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Hezbollah officials Hussein Khalil and Wafiq Safa. A statement from Hezbollah after the talks said Nasrallah and Aoun also discussed domestic politics, primarily the still unresolved presidential elections. The two leaders also discussed “the terrorist takfiri (heretical Muslims) threat endangering the whole region, and highlighted the necessity of fighting it by all means to protect Lebanon and its stability,” according to the report.
The Qalamoun battle is coming:
The Daily Star/May. 05, 2015 /BEIRUT: Hezbollah and the Syrian army’s battle against Islamist militants in the Qalamoun region on Lebanon’s eastern borders is approaching, Hezbollah’s deputy chief announced Tuesday. “In any case, the Qalamoun battle is coming, and it has already stuck its neck out, proving once again that the takfiris are unable to expand as they wish,” Qassem said, according to remarks released by the party's media office. “This battle is the battle of protecting Lebanese villages and prevents takfiris from expanding and achieving their goals.”He said a political solution to the Syrian crisis is not on the immediate horizon, blaming it on the “powerful countries, especially America.” “[They are] busy with other things, and want to postpone the political solution in Syria for a year or two if not more,” he said. Qassem’s comments come in light of growing concerns over a possible explosion of the situation in the Qalamoun hills, where ISIS and Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate the Nusra Front enjoy a wide military presence.
Hezbollah and the Syrian army engaged in fierce battles against the Islamists in the area Monday, with reports of casualties on both sides. Militants bombarded Hezbollah’s outposts with rockets in the Syrian villages of Wadi Barada, Al-Kfeir, Zabadani, Serghaya and Hreira. They also launched an attack on the Qalamoun town of Al-Juba, strategically located near the highway linking Damascus to Homs, according to one security source. Clashes began after Nusra Front fighters and members of the Islamic Brigade attacked Hezbollah positions on the outskirts of the Lebanese border enclave of Tfeil, the Qalamoun town of Jreijeer and the village of Asal al-Ward, which is located near the northeastern town of Arsal. However, security sources told The Daily Star Monday that a full-fledged attack in Qalamoun was “unlikely,” and that Hezbollah’s main concern was to prevent militants from reaching Lebanese villages.
Assad issued Hariri’s death sentence
in 2004: Jumblatt
Elise Knutsen| The Daily Star/May. 06, 2015/BEIRUT: The Syrian regime likely decided to execute Rafik Hariri after a tense meeting between the former prime minister and Bashar Assad in August 2004, Walid Jumblatt told the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Tuesday. “I think that when [Hariri] visited Bashar Assad on Aug. 26, 2004, the death sentence was made then,” Jumblatt told the court. But for months after the fateful meeting, Hariri thought that diplomacy could mend his fraught relationship with Damascus. Immediately after the assassination attempt on Marwan Hamade in October 2004, Hariri called Jumblatt from Paris. “They [the Syrians] will not do anything against anyone else in Lebanon,” Jumblatt recalled Hariri saying. “I have spoken to [French President Jacques] Chirac and he sent a very firm and harsh message to Bashar Assad.”
But after months of impasse, Jumblatt told the court that Hariri began to feel sense an “imminent danger.” Six days before he was assassinated, Hariri told Jumblatt about his concerns. “He told me, ‘Either they will kill you or they will kill me.’”
Jumblatt added. Jumblatt is among the highest ranking Lebanese officials to testify at the STL about the political context in the country at the time of Hariri’s assassination. While five Hezbollah members have been charged with plotting the blast that killed Hariri and 21 others, the prosecution has moved toward suggesting Syria’s involvement in the conspiracy.Jumblatt has made no secret of his belief that the Syrian regime was responsible for a string of political assassinations in Lebanon. He previously told the court that he had evidence that the Syrian regime had killed his father, Kamal Jumblatt, in 1977, and Tuesday he made another startling revelation.
Hours after the attempted assassination of Marwan Hamade, then- Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam visited the wounded MP in the hospital. After learning that Hamade had survived, Khaddam, who was on good terms with both Jumblatt and Hariri, sat down in the waiting area of the American University Medical Center. “He [Khaddam] told a story,” Jumblatt recalled. “He said ‘In the past they also tried to kill me. Rifaat Assad tried to kill me and put a car bomb on the road near my house.’” Rifaat Assad is the brother of late Syrian President Hafez Assad and the uncle of Bashar Assad.Jumblatt said he was struck that Khaddam linked the attempt on his own life, allegedly by a member of the Syrian presidential family, to the assassination attempt on Hamade. The Druze leader said he believed Khaddam was “indirectly” accusing the Syrian regime of attempting to kill Hamade.
Throughout the day, Jumblatt repeated on numerous occasions that both he and Hariri had been opposed to Security Council Resolution 1559. The resolution, adopted in September 2004, called for Syria to completely withdraw its forces from Lebanon and for the disbandment of all militias. Political opponents have long accused Hariri of designing 1559. “Neither Hariri nor myself had anything to do with Resolution 1559,” Jumblatt said definitively. “France and other powers were the architects of 1559 ... I, personally, and the prime minister [Hariri] had a different position. We were calling for the implementation of the Taif agreement,” he said, referring to a staged withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. “Our position was different from that of President Chirac.”
But the Syrian regime was convinced that Hariri had lobbied international leaders to support the resolution. At the August meeting between Assad and Hariri in 2004, the Syrian president made an apparent allusion to 1559 and threatened Hariri. “If Chirac wants to get me out of Lebanon, I will break Lebanon,” Assad reportedly said. Hariri’s assassination “was the result of a direct threat form the Syrian president to Rafik Hariri” based on Assad’s belief that “Rafik Hariri was ... behind 1559,” Jumblatt told the court Tuesday.
But the most interesting aspects of Jumblatt’s testimony may still be to come. The prosecution has yet to ask Jumblatt any questions about Hariri’s murder or about the late prime minister’s relationship with Hezbollah. Thus far, questions have focused primarily on the Syrian regime and its extension in Lebanon, the so-called Lebanese-Syrian security apparatus. Defense lawyer Vincent Courcelle-Labousse grew frustrated with the prosecution’s line of questioning. “If the prosecution wants today to try Bashar Assad and the Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus, perhaps he should have thought about that five years ago,” he said. “We cannot have a trial by default.” Prosecutor Grame Cameron insisted that his questions were pertinent to the charges against the five Hezbollah members.
Jumblatt will continue his testimony Wednesday.
Jumblat: Failure to Implement Taef was
Syrian Alibi to Stay in Lebanon, Confrontation Began with Attack on Hamadeh
Naharnet /05.05.15/Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat said on Tuesday that the Syrian regime took the failure to abolish political confessionalism in Lebanon as an excuse to remain in the country, adding the bombing that targeted MP Marwan Hamadeh was the first warning to ex-PM Rafik Hariri. “The Taef Accord had called for abolishing the political sectarian system but this has not been achieved,” Jumblat told the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on the second day of his testimony. “The failure to abolish political confessionalism was an excuse for the Syrians to stay in Lebanon,” he said. Jumblat reiterated that he was allied with the Syrian regime, but following the extension of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term in 2004, “I said enough.”“It was time for Lebanon to become an independent state,” he told the STL."Hariri and I had the same conviction on the necessity of Syria's pullout from Lebanon based on the Taef," he said. Jumblat told the Trial Chamber that he was among officials who sought to expand the opposition against Lahoud's extension and the practices of the security system. The opposition began to gather stream through meetings held by anti-Syria politicians at the Bristol Hotel in Beirut. “Several such meetings were held at my residence in Beirut,” said the lawmaker. “There was no difference between the Lebanese and Syrian intelligence apparatuses because they had one leader – Syrian President Bashar Assad and his representative Lahoud,” he added. Jumblat said he was not surprised to be accused of being an Israeli agent and a "traitor" by pro-Syria politicians. The PSP chief described Assad as one of the “tyrants” ruling the Arab world. Jumblat also recounted to the court the circumstances of the bombing that targeted Hamadeh in Beirut in October 2004. After Hamadeh survived the assassination attempt, a former Syrian military officer, Hekmat al-Shehabi, called him and told him to be careful, said the MP. Then Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam visited Hamadeh and said he had also been the target of an assassination attempt plotted by Rifaat Assad. “According to my political conclusion, he was indirectly referring to the Syrian regime,” the lawmaker said. “Hamadeh's assassination attempt was an interpretation of Assad's threat to Hariri,” said Jumblat. “It was the first clear message of … confrontation.” On his first day of testimony, Jumblat told the court based in The Hague that Hariri was sad and angry after Assad insisted in August 2004 that the ex-PM support a constitutional amendment to extend the presidency of Lahoud. Assad threatened Hariri at the meeting they held in Damascus that he will destroy Lebanon if he rejects the extension, said Jumblat. “Assad showed hostility towards Rafik Hariri before he was elected president,” he added. Several politicians who have testified at the STL before Jumblat made revelations that Hariri had confined to them about Assad's threat. Five Hizbullah members have been charged with plotting Hariri's Feb. 14, 2005 assassination in a massive explosion at the Beirut seafront but have not been arrested. Their trial in absentia began in January 2014 and is ongoing. Hizbullah denies involvement in the murder and the group's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has denounced the court as a conspiracy by his archenemies — the U.S. and Israel.
Hostages will 'pay the price' for
Qalamoun battle: Nusra video
The Daily Star/May. 05, 2015
BEIRUT: A Lebanese hostage who appeared in a video released Tuesday by the Nusra Front said captives will “pay the price” for any upcoming battle in Syria’s Qalamoun. Addressing fellow Shiite citizens “who are not affiliated with Hezbollah,” one of the seven hostages who appeared in the video said: “Stand up to [Hezbollah] party because if the Lebanese Army is going to be dragged into the [Qalamoun] battle and if [Hezbollah] headed for the battle on the [northeastern] outskirts, we will pay the price.”Under the video posted to the Twitter account for Nusra's Qalamoun branch was a hashtag that read: “A message from the Shiite prisoners. To fellow Shiites in Lebanon. Who will pay the price[?]” The hostage who appeared as part of a group of seven other bearded captives did not give his name.
Qalamoun is a barren and arid region on the Syrian-Lebanese border and has been the scene of numerous clashes between Hezbollah and Islamist militants. In August 2014, more than 30 Lebanese soldiers and policemen were taken captive by Nusra and ISIS during a battle in the northeastern town of Arsal.
Four have since been killed, and eight released. In recent weeks there has been anticipation of a Hezbollah offensive against the jihadis in Qalamoun, but the party has said it is only aiming to cut off their supply routes and keep them isolated in the area.
The soldier in the Nusra video posted online Tuesday called on “our Sunni people” to confront Hezbollah and put an end to its dominance over state institutions, including the notorious Roumieh Prison. “Stand up to [Hezbollah] which is steering all those people in the Lebanese government who are doing these bad acts,” he said, flanked by six fellow hostages sitting on mattresses. He also urged the hostage families to “communicate” with the Nusra Front to keep them updated throughout the negotiations to free the 25 Lebanese servicemen who are still being held captive.
“Don’t listen to anyone anymore ... Form a committee and designate an honest negotiator; perhaps someone like [Health Minister] Mr. Wael Abu Faour, or [PSP leader] Mr. Walid Jumblatt or [Justice Minister] Ashraf Rifi,” he said in his message to the hostage families.
The hostages in the video took turns giving similar messages that urged the Lebanese Army to distance itself from the Qalamoun battle. They also blasted General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim for what they said were false promises.
In the afternoon, the families held a news conference near their protest tents in Downtown Beirut where they called on the state to “stop lying,” “claim responsibility” and end the 10-month-long crisis. “I beg you to put your political disputes aside,” a brother of one of the captives said, addressing Lebanese politicians. “Let’s agree to unite and become stronger so that we bring our sons back. You can resolve your domestic disputes after that.”Hussein Youssef, the families' spokesman and father of kidnapped serviceman Mohammad Youssef, called on Rifi to cooperate with Ibrahim and anyone who can help bring the hostages back. Meanwhile, the sister of one of the captives, who spoke at the conference, criticized Hezbollah.
“We have nothing to do with you or with what you are doing,” she said, addressing the party. “We are Shiites, but we belong to the state. We cannot be responsible for what Hezbollah is doing in Syria or elsewhere.” “We disown Hezbollah in front of everyone.” The families warned that if the government does not take any tangible steps, they are heading toward a serious escalation. “We will target any facility or institution from which the politicians make profit or benefit in any way,” Youssef said.
Another relative of a servicemen addressed Prime Minister Tammam Salam. “Why didn’t you mention the names of the Lebanese servicemen at the Arab Summit in front of all Arab leaders? Why didn’t you mention our sons?” he asked, calling on the Nusra Front to “show mercy” because “our state is lying to us.” The families said they asked Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri for an appointment Tuesday, but he has yet to respond. They said they might be also be meeting Salam.
Vatican Envoy in Lebanon to Assist al-Rahi
in Pressing Election of New President
Naharnet/A Papal envoy will arrive in Beirut at the end of May to press forward the election of a new head of state amid the sharp rift among the political arch-foes over a consensual candidate. Local newspapers reported on Tuesday that the Vatican’s dispatched envoy comes in light of Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's recent visit to Paris, where he met with French President Francois Hollande. Al-Joumhouria newspaper said that talks underlined the importance of France's role in pushing forward the election of a president.
According to the daily, France will carry out the necessary contacts with the countries that play a role in Lebanon in coordination with the United States and the Vatican, as the Patriarch will have to discuss the possible options to reach a settlement with Christian rivals.
The synchronized efforts are accompanied by endeavors exerted by al-Rahi locally, where he is set to hold talks with political powers in Lebanon to ease the tension and reach a breakthrough over a compromise candidate. Al-Rahi has so far met with Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel. According to An Nahar newspaper, the Patriarch aims at narrowing the list of candidates and finding a consensual figure to be elected as head of state. The daily said that al-Rahi will move on two levels, directly through talks with Christian leaders and indirectly by sending envoys. Lebanon has been without a president since May last year when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the election. Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance and MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform blocs have been boycotting the polls over the dispute.
Berri: Parliament Paralysis Threatening National Security
Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri has warned that the paralysis of the parliament was harming Lebanon's national security and threatening its internal stability. Blocking legislation leads to political and constitutional problems but also threatens the country’s national security, and ways to protect it and consolidate its stability, said Berri in remarks published in As Safir daily on Tuesday. Several blocs have been been boycotting parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a president since May last year. The country's top Christian post at Baabda Palace was left vacant when President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended. Christian blocs have also announced that they would not attend sessions which Berri is calling for to approve important draft-laws. Some are claiming that parliament should only meet to elect a head of state while other MPs are calling for adding other draft-laws to the agenda of the sessions. In his remarks to As Safir, Berri stated that there were several draft-laws that needed to be approved to guarantee security in the country. Among them is a draft-law that gives immunity to Frenchmen who are tasked with training the Lebanese army on the use of the French weapons recently supplied to the military under a $3 billion deal signed between Riyadh and Paris. French authorities have informed Beirut that they will not send the training team to Lebanon if the draft-law was not approved, said Berri. He added that the parliament should also approve a draft-law on a World Bank loan for the construction of the Bisri dam. “Does any Lebanese have an interest in obstructing this project?” Berri wondered. In January, the World Bank signed an agreement with the Lebanese government granting Beirut a $474 million loan for the construction of the dam, which aims to improve water supplies in the country.
Mustaqbal Chief: Hizbullah Direct Accomplice in Killing of Syrian People
Naharnet /Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri warned on Tuesday from attempts by Hizbullah to drag Lebanon to turmoil in Syria by mobilizing for the battle in al-Qalamoun, accusing it of becoming a direct accomplice in killing the Syrian people.
“Neither Hizbullah nor the Iranian Revolutionary Guards nor the barrel bomb attack... will be able to protect Bashar Assad from falling, as logic says that history will not have mercy on a person responsible for the death of thousands,” Hariri said in a statement issued by his press office. He accused Hizbullah of being a “direct accomplice in the crime,” warning the party from involving the border towns in the Bekaa Valley in the battles in Syria. Hariri called on the Lebanese to refuse and not to cover up for Hizbullah's attempt to drag Lebanon to Syria's al-Qalamoun gunbattle with gunmen. The Sunni leader, whose party is involved in dialogue with Hizbullah since December, refused media reports portraying the battle in al-Qalamoun as a battle that concerns Lebanon on the pretext of “precautionary war against terror groups.” “We are daily reading that Hizbullah is mobilizing and preparing for the battle and using Lebanon's border without any supervision to submerge further in the Syrian conflict to protect (President) Bashar Assad.” Hariri expressed regret that “Hizbullah will not listen to the advice of its partners in the nation and will hit against a brick wall all warnings from dragging the war in Syria to Lebanon.” “We will not back down on issuing warnings.”The Mustaqbal leader wondered if the Qalamoun battle will be on Lebanese or Syrian territories and if the Lebanese authorities handed over the border to “illegal armed groups.”He also warned of the repercussions of the Lebanese state's involvement in the border battle, in particular on the well-being of the abducted servicemen by the al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group, voicing fear that Syrian opposition groups would tamper with Lebanon in retaliation. “Lebanon is not concerned with the battle in al-Qalamoun and Hizbullah is solely responsible for the repercussions of the war, which only serves Assad.”Fighters linked to ISIL and al-Nusra Front in the Syrian al-Qalamoun have been allegedly mobilizing and moving closer to the border with Lebanon ahead of a battle along the country's eastern border for a battle with Hizbullah accompanied by Assad forces. The Lebanese army frequently clashes with the militants in their hideouts near the Syria border. The IS, which controls several areas in Syria and Iraq, aims to spread to Lebanon as its fighters position in the outskirts of Bekaa towns bordering Syria and the Lebanese army is in adamant efforts to stop their efforts to infiltrate the country. ISIL and al-Nusra Front are battling in Qalamoun the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hizbullah forces alongside each other, with support from some smaller Islamist rebel groups. Despite ideological similarities, the two groups are opposed and in conflict with each other in other parts of Syria, particularly in the north. Meanwhile, the Lebanese army denied any attempt to engage in battles outside Lebanon's border.
Hariri Meets Hollande as Diplomatic Endeavors to Safeguard Lebanon Continue
Naharnet /Head of al-Mustaqbal Movement and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri met on Tuesday with French President Francois Hollande in Riyadh. The meeting comes in light of Hariri's shuttle diplomacy to safeguard Lebanon from the conflict raging in the region. Talks were held in presence of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and members of the French delegation. A statement issued by Hariri's press office said that the meeting underlined the latest development in the region and the arming of the Lebanese military under a $3 billion Saudi-financed deal. The two officials also tackled ways to end the sufferings of the Syrian people and attempts to resolve the ongoing conflict in Syria. Hariri traveled to Washington last week on an official visit where he met with a a number of senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and several others. The talks focused on efforts to safeguard Lebanon from the repercussions of the turmoil in the region. He will also head to Moscow next week for talks with prominent leaders, al-Liwaa newspaper reported earlier on Tuesday. During his three-day official visit to Russia, Hariri will meet with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov and other senior officials.
PM Says Extension of Terms Necessary to Maintain Stability
Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam called on ministers on Monday to deal with the possible extension of the terms of high-ranking security officials with responsibility and above all interests. He stressed in comments published in As Safir newspaper that the extension remains a better choice than vacuum, saying: “We will not bargain on stability... each minister will carry out the necessary steps to prevent vacuum in all posts.” Asked if a ministerial bloc resigned or boycotted the government over the extension crisis, Salam said that “it's still too early to discuss the matter.”“The issue should be tackled from a national perspective and with responsibility.”The military posts in Lebanon are suffering as the result of the months-long presidential vacuum in light of the parliament's failure to elect a successor for Michel Suleiman whose tenure ended in May last year. The vacuum also threatens the ISF as chief Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous is set to retire in June and army commander Gen. Jean Qahwaji, whose tenure expires at the end of September. Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's bloc had continuously threatened to boycott the cabinet if the terms of high-ranking security officials were extended. Salam expressed belief that holding a parliamentary session within the presidential vacuum is impossible, stressing the importance of legislating to facilitate the lives of people. He called on certain political powers to “stop the disruptive manner and prioritizing the public interest.” Speaker Nabih 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.
Salam Says Cabinet Won't Replace President, Calls for Prioritizing Nation's Interests
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam stressed on Tuesday that his cabinet will not replace the president, pointing out that the political arch-foes should reach a political breakthrough to end the sharp rift and prioritize the nation's interests. “Despite all the political rift, the government was able to provide an acceptable amount of stability and avert security tension that doesn't serve anyone,” Salam said during his opening speech for the 23rd Arab Economic Forum held at Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel. He expressed concern that the Lebanese economy has been suffering from “an unprecedented tough situation during the past decade... and was recently hit by the closure” of the Nasib border point, which is a vital crossing on the Syrian-Jordanian border. The customs authorities say Lebanese exports to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in 2014 amounted to $920 million (821 million euros). Another $256 million was exported to Iraq. But all those potential exports are now effectively stuck in Lebanon. Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, Lebanese products traveled frequently through Lebanon's neighbor, then on to Iraq to the east or to Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf to the south. The agriculture ministry says that agricultural products make up 6 per cent of GDP and 17 per cent of total exports.
Salam hailed the efforts exerted by economic associations and the private sector that daily prove their competency and strong will to preserve the Lebanese economy despite all the obstacles. The PM addressed the forum, saying: “The political rift... has unfortunately prohibited us from making decisions and locating important policies regarding the vital economic sector, which would have a positive impact on growth.” “The security and political stability are a must to maintain a steady economic growth, which require the election of a new head of state.”Salam remarked that “the government will not replace the presence of a president at the Baabda Palace, who would be carrying out his full Constitutional tasks,” stressing that “vacuum and the paralysis of the parliament are chocking the country on all levels.”Lebanon has been without a president since May last year when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the election.
Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance and MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform blocs have been boycotting the polls over the dispute. Salam praised the Arab support to Lebanon, in particular that expressed by the Gulf Cooperation Council and Saudi Arabia.
“On behalf of all the Lebanese expats in the GCC and our armed forces, we thank Saudi King Salman and the brothers from Gulf countries for all their generous grants.”There are around 500,000 Lebanese expats in the Gulf. Last month, 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.
Reports: Indonesia to Stop Sending Domestic Workers to Lebanon
Naharnet/Indonesia will stop sending new domestic workers to 21 Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, reports said Tuesday, after the recent execution of two Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia angered Jakarta. Other countries affected by the ban are Saudi Arabia -- a major destination for Indonesian maids -- United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Egypt. The ban will come into effect in three months' time, Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri was cited as saying in local media. Jakarta, which has long complained about the treatment of Indonesian maids in the Middle East, had already placed a moratorium on sending new helpers to Saudi Arabia in 2011 following the beheading of a worker. The new move is meant to be permanent. Maids already working in the affected countries will be allowed to stay and continue in their positions. Indonesia's anger at the executions of its citizens abroad comes despite the fact that Jakarta last week executed seven foreign drug convicts, drawing a storm of international protest. "According to the law, the government has the right to stop the placement of migrant workers in particular countries if it is believed that their employment degrades human values and the dignity of the nation," Dhakiri was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Antara. He said there were "many problems" with Indonesians working abroad related to "labor norms and human rights violations.”Dhakiri cited the execution of Indonesian domestic workers Siti Zainab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim, who were both put to death for murder just days apart in April. The foreign ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador to Indonesia after both executions, complaining Jakarta had not been informed beforehand. Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law. Dhakiri also said Indonesia will tighten placement of helpers to countries in the Asia-Pacific through measures such as auditing training centers and blacklisting rogue agencies. President Joko Widodo, who took office last year, vowed in February that maids would no longer be sent abroad in future, although he did not mention a date. Previous Indonesian governments have made similar pledges. As well as the Middle East, Indonesia also sends domestic workers to many parts of Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, and has often complained about the treatment of its workers in those countries. A Hong Kong woman was jailed for six years in February for beating and starving her Indonesian maid and keeping her prisoner, in a high-profile case that drew attention to the abuse of domestic helpers in the financial hub. Agence France Presse
Aoun to Give Speech on Centenary of Lebanon Famine
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun is expected to deliver a speech on the occasion of the century-old tragedy of the devastating famine that left 150,000 and 200,000 people. Al-Liwaa newspaper quoted sources as saying on Tuesday that Aoun's speech at Le Royal Hotel in Dbayeh will not include political stances. It is aimed at shedding light at the famine which was caused by blockades and a locust infestation from 1915 to 1918, they said. Recently unearthed archives offer chilling testimonies of a time when men, women, and children fed themselves on tree bark or died by the side of the road. But parliamentary sources told al-Liwaa that Aoun's speech could witness a political rhetoric that reflects his latest meeting with Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
A Century on, Lebanon Rediscovers
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/05.05.15: Lebanon is rediscovering a century-old tragedy that most had forgotten -- a devastating famine, caused by blockades and a locust infestation, that killed a third of its population.
From 1915 to 1918, in the midst of World War I and before modern-day Lebanon existed, between 150,000 and 200,000 people died of malnutrition and disease, according to estimates by historians.
Those who survived the famine are long gone, but recently unearthed archives offer chilling testimonies of a time when men, women, and children fed themselves on tree bark or died by the side of the road.
This famine "was the biggest catastrophe in the history of Lebanon. Even the civil war (1975-1990) did not reach this magnitude", historian Youssef Mouawad told Agence France Presse.
It hit hardest for the 450,000 residents of then Ottoman-controlled Mount Lebanon which would become in 1920 the core of modern-day Lebanon.
The famine indirectly led to Lebanon's expansion. Agricultural areas like the eastern Bekaa Valley were tacked on to Mount Lebanon and port cities to guarantee the viability of the young republic.
This year, historian Christian Taoutel and Father Pierre Wittouck released a book compiling the previously unpublished French chronicles of Jesuit priests during the famine.
"The Lebanese people in the turmoil of the Great War of 1914-1918" contains harrowing accounts rarely discussed in Lebanon, where the great famine is covered in just two paragraphs in schoolbooks.
People "sank to the ground, vomiting blood", the book quotes a witness as saying. The bodies of children "were thrown among piles of rubbish".
- Rats and cannibalism -
In one of the diaries, a priest describes how in 1917 he came across the bodies of a widow and her 10-year-old son who had been dead for three days.
"The rats... had gnawed at their ears and cheeks, and the little one's belly was open," he wrote.
The book also relates stories of cannibalism, including the case of a man who had killed his children aged eight and 10 to feed himself.
"The great Turkish reformist Halide Edip... said she wouldn't dare sleep in Beirut anymore because she would hear voices screaming 'juan, juan' (I'm hungry, in Arabic) all night," said Mouawad.
The famine was the result of a series of factors.
"The mountainous terrain of Mount Lebanon could only feed its population four months out of the year," said historian Issam Khalifeh.
The situation worsened when "Allied forces imposed a blockade" in the Mediterranean to cut off supplies to the Ottomans, he told AFP.
But it was the land blockade ordered by high Ottoman military ruler Djemal Pasha that truly choked off Mount Lebanon, populated mostly by Maronite Christians protected by France.
The Ottomans feared the Maronites would support the Allies in the war "so they had to starve them before they were armed", said Khalifeh, a professor at the Lebanese University.
Lebanon's woes did not stop there.
In 1915, "the year of the locust", hordes of insects "devoured everything", Khalifeh said.
The Ottomans also requisitioned crops and pack animals to support their war effort, Mouawad said.
- 'Dead are my people' -
Mouawad said these painful years were obliterated in the minds of people because they brought up memories of shame and guilt.
"Dying of hunger isn't heroic. It's not like dying defending your village or in the trenches," he said.
Some Lebanese families made fortunes by reselling stockpiled food at exorbitant prices, Mouawad said.
"Women sold their bodies for a piece of bread, men sold their land for an orange."
Cholera and typhoid epidemics spread, emptying out entire villages.
The famine largely fell out of Lebanon's collective memory and official history, in part because it affected Christians more than Muslims and so did not serve as a unifying force for the young republic.
Rare pictures of the tragedy were taken by Ibrahim Naoum Kanaan, who led a charitable relief program in Mount Lebanon and who risked his life to document the horror.
His shocking images -- a skeletal woman devouring a morsel of bread, emaciated corpses -- are a "historical treasure", said his grandson Emile Issa el-Khoury.
"My grandfather was an unwitting hero and provided evidence of this tragedy."
The famine has lived on in Lebanese literature, including in "The Bread", a novel by Toufic Youssef Awwad, and in "Dead are my people", a poem by Kahlil Gibran.
"They died silently, for humanity had closed its ears to their cry," Gibran wrote. Agence France Presse
Propaganda Wars—ISIS vs. the Shi’ite Popular Mobilization
Diana Moukalled/AsharqAl Awsat
Monday, 4 May, 2015
When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured Iraq’s second city Mosul in June of 2014, the event brought to the fore the power of the extremist group’s propaganda machine and how it had paved the way for its lightning advance across northern Iraq and its capture of the city, which took place seemingly overnight. One of the most surprising things at the time was the feeble way the Iraqi army had reacted to the onslaught. It was said back then, and widely circulated, that all it took to erode the morale of Iraqi soldiers and make them flee their posts so readily was receiving text messages on their cell phones from colleagues warning them that fighters from ISIS were approaching.
Since then the Iraqi government has been attempting to return morale and prestige to its armed forces, who were left humiliated and marginalized by this traumatic experience. Perhaps even more traumatizing was the event that has subsequently become known as the Camp Speicher Massacre, when it is estimated ISIS militants killed more than 1,000 Iraqi air cadets in June of 2014 when they captured Tikrit, where the training facility is situated.
Over the following months it did not seem like the Iraqi government was serious about rehabilitating the image of its beleaguered armed forces, instead seemingly satisfied with relying on the military efforts and strategies of Iran’s Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, a feared division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. It was Suleimani who led the Iraqi Shi’ite volunteer forces who were now spearheading the fight against ISIS in Iraq—and given free rein by Baghdad to operate parallel to the country’s army. And it was these volunteer forces, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, who were able to retake the city of Tikrit back from ISIS about a month ago. At the present time, plans are underway to retake the western Anbar province, large parts of which, including the provincial capital Ramadi, are under ISIS’s control, with the Tikrit offensive forming a benchmark on which the current plans are being modeled.
At the same time, reports have spread like wildfire regarding ISIS’s “victories” over the Iraqi army, with the atmosphere of fear leading countless people to flee their homes in sheer panic. The Iraqi government, meanwhile, has attempted to deny the reports of the continued spread of the extremist group and its alleged massacres of Iraqi soldiers, branding these reports as mere psychological warfare. I have no doubt that much of what is being circulated is in fact subterfuge, but it is also clearly based on a modicum of truth.
What we have now in Iraq is a situation fueled by propaganda and counter-propaganda, all being exchanged in rapid-fire succession before a single Iraqi army bullet has even been fired in Anbar. What is doubly more dangerous is that all the misleading publicity campaigns and psychological warfare conducted by either side in this conflict are occurring in a country and within a context that provides a fertile breeding ground for incitement and provocation that can take many dangerous forms. Moreover, the Tikrit offensive has now cast a dark and foreboding shadow over what is about to happen in Anbar. Many reports, which included photographic and video evidence as well as eyewitness testimony, showed that following their victory in Tikrit, the Shi’ite Popular Mobilization forces engaged in what can only be described as acts of sectarian-fueled revenge over the city’s Sunni inhabitants. These human rights abuses are reported to have included mass killings as well as the ransacking and burning of homes.
The operation in Tikrit was certainly necessary; more of the ISIS-occupied territories in Iraq need to be taken back from the extremist group, a point on which there is broad consensus. However, the transgressions by the Popular Mobilization forces following their victory in Tikrit have now worked in ISIS’s favor. As part of its own propaganda efforts in the battle for the “hearts and minds” of Iraqis, it is now making reference to these actions by the Shi’ite militias in a bid to drum up support for itself from Anbar’s majority-Sunni population. These are efforts which could find some success in a restive region of the country that has felt marginalized ever since the US-led invasion in 2003. After all, ISIS, whose propaganda machine is already predicting a failure for Iraqi forces in the upcoming battle for Anbar, did not just fall out of the sky. Its emergence and dominion over large parts of Iraq is but a symptom of accumulated mistakes made over the previous decades, all representing shameful episodes for the country.
So, going hand-in-hand with the preparations for the impending Anbar offensive is a psychological battle being fought out by individual media outlets, a battle which can distort and exaggerate the current atmosphere for the benefit of the respective protagonists in the conflict.
It is now no longer possible to enter into a military conflict without prefacing it with this kind of psychological warfare conducted against the enemy. ISIS were trailblazers in this regard, but the Popular Mobilization has proved an apt pupil and quick study: The student is attempting to surpass the master.
Hezbollah's Support for Aoun is Hollow
The Daily Star/May 05/15
Last week’s meeting between the leaders of Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement was heralded in some quarters as an “exceptional” event, as Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah backed the demands of Michel Aoun on a number of sensitive domestic political issues.
But since context is everything, one should remember Hezbollah is facing a series of formidable challenges on various fronts, spurred mainly by its controversial and costly involvement in the Syrian war.
As it navigates these waters, Hezbollah has experienced huge losses in terms of its own members, its financial resources, and its political standing in Lebanon and the Arab world. Thus, it isn’t surprising for Nasrallah to meet with Aoun and give him a firm offer of verbal support when it comes to Lebanon’s stalled presidential election and the need to appoint new military and security officials. But this firm backing for Aoun can be translated into firm backing for holding no presidential poll. Hezbollah says that it would prefer to see a consensus candidate for president but then throws its weight behind Aoun, who isn’t even a consensus candidate within the Christian community. Hezbollah is perfectly aware of how Lebanon’s political system works, and is also aware of the party’s own limits, and how any weak points can be exploited. It needs the support of a leading Christian party, and the FPM for now fits this bill. Nasrallah’s hosts shouldn’t bask in the glory of last week’s meeting, because as soon as something dramatic takes place in Syria, all bets will likely be off and Hezbollah will make new calculations about the presidential election. For now, Hezbollah’s predicament in Syria is translating into support for Aoun, and for a vacant presidency.
France, Saudi Arabia unite in vision for region, say Iran deal must be verifiable
By REUTERS /J.Post/05/05/2015
France and Saudi Arabia believe that any future nuclear accord between Iran and six major powers must be robust, verifiable and no threat to Tehran's neighbors, the two countries said ahead of a summit in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia invited French President Francois Hollande, whose country is deemed to have the toughest stance among the six world powers negotiating with Iran, to Riyadh to discuss regional issues with Gulf Arab leaders who fear a rapprochement with Tehran could further inflame the region.
"France and Saudi Arabia confirmed the necessity to reach a robust, lasting, verifiable, undisputed and binding deal with Iran," Hollande and the new Saudi King Salman said in a statement after meeting on Monday.
"This agreement must not destabilize the security and stability of the region nor threaten the security and stability of Iran's neighbors," the statement said.
Hollande met Salman for an hour after dinner at his personal palace on Monday, and the Saudi cabinet on Tuesday. The two men tackled Iran's role in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria and reiterated that there was no future for President Bashar Assad of Syria after four years of civil war there.
Hollande was to address Gulf Cooperation Council leaders shortly to reassure them that France would not accept a bad deal with Iran as the powers try to meet a June 30 deadline.
In the negotiations with six world powers, the Islamic Republic wants financial sanctions on it removed in exchange for restraints on its disputed nuclear activity.
"They (GCC) have a real fear that when sanctions are lifted, Iran will be able to finance all its proxies across the region," said a senior French diplomat. Iran backs Shi'ite Houthi rebels in Yemen and Assad in his battle with Sunni Muslim insurgents.
Hollande's visit to Riyadh marked a period in which France has been able to nurture new links with the Gulf region in the face of perceived disengagement on the part of traditional ally the United States.
"They wanted us to come so they could say to the Americans, look, we also have France: it's up to you not to get edged out and to be here with us," said a second French diplomat.
The new Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, told Reuters that France was a historical ally and trading partner that had proved its reliability to the Gulf.
"We have common views with regard to the challenges in the region today with Syria, Yemen, Iraq, terrorism and of course Iran's nuclear program, and there are very large commercial and military ties between our two countries."
US Secretary of State John Kerry changed his schedule at the last minute this week to travel to Riyadh on Wednesday, looking to finalize plans for a summit at Camp David on May 13-14 between Gulf leaders and US President Barack Obama.
US officials say they are seeking the best possible settlement with Iran and have cautioned that France's position privately is not as tough as it is publicly.
ISIS claims attempted terrorist attack
in Texas, marking first effort on US soil By JPOST.COM STAFF/05/05/2015
The fundamentalist terrorist organization the Islamic State claimed responsibility Tuesday via its official radio station for the attempted
terrorist attack against an anti-Muslim event in Texas showcasing cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.
It was the first attack by the fundamentalist Islamic organization on US soil since the inception of the organization.
"Two of the soldiers of the caliphate executed an attack on an art exhibit in Garland, Texas, and this exhibit was portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Muhammad," the group said.
"We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter, and that you will see the soldiers of ISIS do terrible things," the group added.
Texas police shot dead two gunmen who opened fire on last Sunday outside an exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad that was organized by a group described as anti-Islamic and billed as a free-speech event.
Citing a senior FBI official, ABC News identified one of the gunmen as Elton Simpson. The Arizona man was the target of a terror investigation. FBI agents and a bomb squad were searching Simpson's Phoenix home, ABC said.
Phoenix's KPHO TV reported that the second man lived in the same apartment complex as Simpson, the Autumn Ridge Apartments. He was not identified, and the second man's apartment was searched, the station said, quoting an FBI agent.
FBI spokeswoman Katherine Chaumont in Dallas said she had no more information about the suspects. An FBI evidence team began to go over the scene at 4:15 a.m. CST (0915 GMT) and was still working, she said in an email.
The shooting in a Dallas suburb was an echo of past attacks or threats in other Western countries against art depicting the Prophet Mohammad. In January, gunmen killed 12 people in the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in what it said was revenge for its cartoons.
The attack on Sunday took place at about 7 p.m. local time in a parking lot of the Curtis Culwell Center, an indoor arena in Garland, northeast of Dallas. Geert Wilders, a polarizing Dutch politician and anti-Islamic campaigner who is on an al Qaeda hit list, was among the speakers at the event.
Garland police and the FBI had no immediate comment on the report.
A fighter for Islamic State, a militant group which has taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria, said in a tweet that "2 of our brothers just opened fire at the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) art exhibition in Texas," according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a US-based monitoring group.
SITE identified the writer as "Abu Hussain AlBritani," a name used by British Islamic state fighter Junaid Hussain.
Shortly before midnight, police alerted media that a strong electronic pulse would be activated near the scene, presumably as part of the bomb squad's work, and a loud boom was heard moments later, though police did not comment further.
The exhibit was organized by Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). Her organization, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, has sponsored anti-Islamic advertising campaigns in transit systems across the country.
Organizers of the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" said the event was to promote freedom of expression. They offered a $10,000 prize for the best artwork or cartoon depicting the Prophet, as well as a $2,500 "People's Choice Award."
Depictions of the Prophet Mohammad are viewed as offensive in Islam, and Western art that portrays the Prophet has angered Muslims and provoked threats and attacks from radicals.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Saudi Arabia has had enough of Kuwait’s Dashti
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 5 May 2015
It seems the Saudi embassy in Kuwait has had enough of extremist Kuwaiti Member of Parliament Abdul-Hamid Dashti’s incitation and filed a legal complaint against him. Dashti’s supporters protested the move, saying it was tantamount to interference and domination. In our region, we issues relatively. The difference between countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia is huge when it comes to the manner in which they deal with foreign disagreements.
Iran responded to its critics in Beirut by kidnapping them straight from their homes. Hezbollah militias who support Iran have also taken it upon themselves to silence those protesting against Tehran. For example, they killed a Lebanese man protesting in front of the Iranian embassy in broad daylight. Therefore, the Saudi embassy’s act of resorting to the judiciary is legal action aimed at addressing the continuous threats posed by the Dashti. In addition to his sectarian stances, h eaccuses Saudi Arabia of being a threat to Kuwait’s security and of supporting terrorist groups.
Political and sectarian incitation
Whether the Kuwaiti assembly revokes Dashti’s immunity and whether it puts him on trial and convicts him or not is another matter altogether. Committing to state laws instead of murders and abduction is an honorable path in a region where some people and governments resort to arms.
Terrorist groups sought to use Kuwait due to its media freedom in order to market organizations like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
MP Dashti stands accused of resorting to political and sectarian incitation. Maybe he does so for the sake of making electoral gains in Kuwait, where, unfortunately, tribal and sectarian blocs have dominated the scene over the past decade as competition among candidates was based on nationalism, reform, the constitution and services.
Due to fear of destabilization, patience and tolerance no longer reign – two characteristics which distinguished Kuwait and which the state was famous for. The state no longer accepts sharp criticism and defamation and it also rejects any protests which harm its pillars, including its royal family. In brief, the situation in Kuwait reflects the situation in the region; it’s very tense. Kuwait is a stone’s throw away from Iraq, a country which is undergoing disturbances related to sectarianism and where wars are being fought on a daily basis.
Terrorist groups sought to use Kuwait due to its media freedom in order to market organizations like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), collect funds and recruit youths. So much so that the U.S. government had to threaten it would pursue any Kuwaiti parties working toward that end. All countries play host to such tensions, spurred by rhetoric, and such practices which have nothing to do with democracy, especially in Kuwait which enjoys a decent degree of free expression. Due to this poisonous atmosphere, we must all stand against those who are trying to divide society and push it towards in-fighting. The wounds and battles sparked by sectarianism and the ensuing divisions are enough for our region.
The actions taken by some opportunist parliamentarians and media figures, such as sectarian and tribal incitation which threaten Kuwaiti society, harms neighboring countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman. If the sectarian controversy resumes, Kuwait will soon find itself forced to restrain or cancel parliamentarian affairs. At times of war and strife, the politicians and intellectuals bear a large responsibility and they must at least not add fuel to fire simply to make electoral gains or in pursuit of media attention.
Iranian clarity vs. Arab and American ambiguity
Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 5 May 2015
There is little ambiguity in Iran’s position regarding the mechanism and timeframe of lifting international, European, and U.S. sanctions on Tehran following a nuclear agreement immediately after a deal is concluded and not later. Rather, the ambiguity comes from the White House regarding what is being negotiated with respect to the sanctions. The ambiguity is coupled with measures Congress has up its sleeve in this regard, serious and actual measures not meant for one-upmanship.
There is little ambiguity in the Iranian policy on Syria, which Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated this week, stressing support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rejecting the principle of a transitional governing body in Syria that is the foundation and reference framework in the internationally agreed Geneva I communique. Rather, the ambiguity comes from the United States and the European Union, which seem to have both signaled to U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura to not fear reactions against inviting Iran to participate in negotiations on Syria’s future despite opposition from the Arab countries, and to not bother to clarify his alternative to the Geneva I communique. European Union foreign policy representative Frederica Mogherini even insisted on Iran playing a key role without explaining why this would be positive, and made sure to send implicit messages to Saudi Arabia and other countries opposed to the Iranian role saying it would be simplistic to believe Iran could disappear from the map.
A de-facto ally
There is no ambiguity at all in Tehran’s satisfaction with being a de-facto ally of the United States in the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This is how the Iranian government hoped the U.S. administration would think since the start of the conflict in Syria, which Iran insisted is a war with terrorism. Thus, ISIS was allowed to emerge and a de-facto alliance was forged between Washington and Tehran to crush it. Rather, the ambiguity comes from the heart of the Obama administration, which is secretly dealing with Iran in the war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq while publicly dealing with the Arab countries in a so-called international anti-ISIS coalition, all while pushing both Iran and the Arabs to be distrustful of one another.
Iran is clear in wanting a quagmire in Yemen for Saudi Arabia unless Riyadh agrees to legitimize the Houthi coup against the legitimate government
Iran is clear in wanting a quagmire in Yemen for Saudi Arabia unless Riyadh agrees to legitimize the Houthi coup against the legitimate government. The Obama administration is playing both sides. Iran is not ambiguous in holding on to its cards and interests in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Rather, what is ambiguous is the long-term comprehensive Arab strategy towards Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, coupled with the ambiguity of the U.S. intentions in the same regard. Indeed, Washington seems willing to give Tehran all it is asking for in return for the nuclear deal - which the U.S. discourse these days suggests is ready for signing - while averting to confront Iran to curb its expansion in the Arab countries. If the Arab leaders heading to Camp David to meet with President Obama have any grievances, these will not be taken seriously unless they are clear and firm about what they accept or insist upon in this fateful period of time. Ambiguity is not in the Arab interest nor in the U.S. interest in the end.
Some like to compare the nuclear agreement to be signed between the United States and Iran to the historical agreements between the United States and China, for which the prominent strategist Henry Kissinger is credited. The detente with China was a delicate balancing act of U.S.-Sino-Russian relations, on the basis that both China and Russia needed the United States. The United States was able to benefit in a great strategic way from that reality.
In the agreement with Iran, the United States does not benefit from closing the book on the animus with the mullah regime in Tehran, which took power 36 years ago and introduced religious domination over the state in the Middle East. Many Americans like to think that the nuclear deal will turn the page on America’s wars, protect the United States from Sunni extremism, and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
There are many holes in these assumptions. First, the nuclear deal postpones but does not abolish Iran’s non-peaceful nuclear capabilities. So practically speaking, the United States is agreeing to abolish the nuclear non-proliferation duty not only because regional countries will seek nuclear weapons if Iran acquires them, but because the entire international non-proliferation regime could collapse as countries like Brazil, for example, will not sit idly by.
Second, allowing Tehran to gather more ways to increase its dominance by lifting the sanctions and letting U.S. and European companies make huge investments in Iran that can never be reversed by being “snapped back,” that is re-imposing sanctions, would exacerbate extremism. The tens of billions of dollars that Tehran will reap upon signing the nuclear deal would more or less mean funding its regional projects including expansion into the Arab countries. This is tantamount to investing in sectarian wars in the Islamic world, and this is not a wise policy and it will not spare the countries that feed hostility and strife.
Third, the arrangements related to ensuring Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons are so complicated that they almost become useless. This will increase the sense of arrogance within the Iranian leadership, which would have disposed of the sanctions while obtaining the tools it requires to implement its nuclear and regional plans - with U.S. and European financing.
The new Kissinger deal?
Many have reservations on whether the nuclear deal being drafted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pursuant to Obama’s vision resembles the breakthrough made by Kissinger in U.S.-Chinese relations. One observer well familiar with the secrets and details of the framework agreement with Iran said: “This is not an agreement similar to what Kissinger secured. It is similar to the agreement concluded by Chamberlain,” in reference to the British prime minister at the time and his famous appeasement of Hitler. The observer believes Tehran will exploit the qualitative shift in U.S.-Iranian relations after the nuclear deal to bolster its projects for regional dominance, on the basis that Iran would become a trusted partner of the United States.
Tehran is seeking to impose its model - of religion imposed on the state - on the countries of the region as a fait accompli. Iran is even encouraging the Muslim Brotherhood to press ahead with their project which imposes religion on the state in the Sunni world. According to Tehran’s calculations, this is what the Obama administration, since supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as representatives of “moderate Islam”, wants. At the same time, Iran is seeking to highlight what it claims to be support by certain Arab regimes against extremism and terror, paving the way to the encirclement of regimes in the Gulf region and Egypt using the Muslim Brotherhood, and ISIS and similar groups on the other hand, to bring down these regimes.
Accusing Saudi Arabia
Jawad Zarif, during his address at New York University last Tuesday, deliberately accused Saudi Arabia of financing and recruiting ISIS. He told his U.S. audience that Saudi Arabia and its allies previously funded, recruited, and supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein. The Iranian foreign minister portrayed Iran as fighting in the frontlines against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and as a reliable ally for Washington in the fight against ISIS. He deliberately ignored to mention Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries participating in this war, despite their actual participation in the international anti-ISIS coalition. In short, Jawad Zarif presented Iran as the true ally of the United States against ISIS, because it is operating on the ground in Syria and Iraq while others are operating in the sky, and as is known, wars are settled on the ground.
Jawad Zarif promoted a regional security regime, indicating that Tehran believes resolution 598 related to the ceasefire with Iraq in 1986 is the basis and the mechanism - he was keen to say security cannot be bought or imported, suggesting the Gulf countries imported their security through the alliance with the United States. The thrust of his message is that that time is over and that Iran is ready to replace the Gulf states because it does not need to import or purchase security, but is ready for a qualitatively different partnership.
The Obama administration must think carefully about all these aspects of the Iranian proposals and decide what it really wants in the relationship with the Arab Gulf countries. If it concludes that it has no need for the Gulf states at this period or in the context of its grand strategy, it must then prepare for the consequences which may not be solely produced by the leaders of these countries. Indeed, the peoples of the Arab region have lost a lot of confidence in the United States and are fed up with the U.S. blessing of Iranian domination.
Regarding investigating the sources of funding for ISIS, according to U.S. officials, Saudi Arabia has made great strides in cooperation with the United States. Qatar is also seriously cooperating. There is no reason why the Obama administration should therefore disrupt these efforts or feed those who oppose this necessary cooperation. If it does that, the Obama administration would be seriously undermining the Arab regimes cooperating with it, and would be a partner of Iran is seeking to encircle them and bring them down.
These are issues that the Arab leaders must discuss frankly in Camp David when meeting with President Obama. However, this is not enough. The Arab leaders must also bring with them a comprehensive strategy that tackles U.S.-Gulf and U.S.-Arab relations in light of the new U.S.-Iranian relationship.
It is too late for the Grand Bargain that would cover the regional aspect and relations with the major powers in arrangements where mutual and varying interests are considered in equal measure. It is time for an alternative to the Grand Bargain, in a way that would ensure the Arab region does not become fair game for the Islamic Republic or Israel.
This is a great responsibility that lies on the shoulders of Arab leaders led by Saudi leaders. Iran is clear, and it is time for the Arabs to be clear as well.
Israeli Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan to ‘Post’: Hamas, Hezbollah likely have ‘unfinished business’ with us
Terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah likely have “unfinished business” with Israel, former national security adviser and ex-deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Dayan, who will be addressing the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on June 7, warned that both Hamas and Hezbollah can be expected to attack Israel again, as “they are terror organizations – terrorism is what they do for a living.”
Although Israeli deterrence can work to some degree, it will probably, at some point, run out, he said, as it did last summer with Hamas.
Israel should not be going to war every year or two, but, rather, if attacked again, it should seek to eliminate terrorist leaderships, and push hostile organizations out of their territorial bases, said Dayan.
“If no one attacks us from Lebanon, Gaza or Syria, then there will be no war,” he stressed. “But if war is forced on us again, we have to defeat the terror organizations.”
Both Hezbollah and Hamas would profit if Iran joins the nuclear club, Dayan, who is currently chairman of the National Lottery of Israel, said. They would be able to operate under a nuclear umbrella provided by Tehran, if Iran broke through to the weaponization stage.
Regionally, Dayan said, a nuclear Iran would trigger an arms race in the Middle East, with other states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia seeking to equalize by getting their own nuclear bombs.
That would end up creating a “nuclear mob” rather than a nuclear club, he said, a development that would create a “very unstable planet.”
Dayan urged the international community to avoid this scenario by going back and seeking a good agreement with Iran, an outcome, he said, that would be better than a military strike. An oil embargo and economic sanctions could achieve this goal, he argued.
Israel, for its part, has to take on the unpleasant role of threatening to activate the military option if Iran breaks through to the nuclear weapons stage.
“We must make it clear that we will do the best we can to not allow Iran to go nuclear.
This requires us to threaten, with a loaded gun. No one believes a threat with an unloaded gun,” Dayan added.
“We have to continue to warn [the world] and explain how to reach a good agreement by continuing the sanctions.
There is also the question of monitoring the nuclear program.
The Iranians could operate outside of the area of supervision, or they could erode the supervision,” he said.