May 09/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.
Luke 24/36-48: "/"While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."

Bible Quotation For Today/If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved
Letter to the Romans 10/01-13: "Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or "Who will descend into the abyss?" ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.".

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 08-09/15
STL pieces of truth emerging/Walid Phares/May 08/15
Senior IDF source: If Lebanon war scenario becomes reality, soldiers will cross border/J.Post/May 08/15

Hezbollah is laundering weapons and power/Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/May 08/15
Qalamoun is a test of Hezbollah’s hopes/Michael Young| The Daily Star/May 08/15
Who will pay for Netanyahu’s expensive coalition deal/By NIV ELIS/J.Post/May 08/15
Erdoğan’s Journey from White to Grey/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/May 08/15

Lebanese Related News published on May 08-09/15
Hezbollah says 3 fighters killed in Qalamoun
Hizbullah Downplays al-Qalamoun Casulaties, Says Only Three Fighters Killed
Report: Army Will Not Interfere in Hizbullah, Syrian Regime Battle for Qalamoun
Regime, Hezbollah add to gains in Qalamoun campai 
Ibrahim Says 'Racing Time' to Free Servicemen before 'Any Security Development' in Qalamoun
Hezbollah Fighting the wrong battle
LF, FPM finalize declaration of intent: MP
Syrians who suffered food poisoning treated in Lebanon 
Lebanon envoy not on crashed Pakistani helicopter: embassy 
Arrest Warrant against Syrian National over Terror Links An arres
Kanaan Says FPM, LF Declaration of Intent Accomplished
Rival Christians finalize declaration of intent 
ISIS mostly skipping Qalamoun, focused on Arsal 
Fire in Sidon Injures 3 Syrian Refugee Girls
Eichhorst Says Election of President Increases Confidence in Lebanon
ISIL, Nusra Front Gunmen Call on Arsal Refugees to Join Qalamoun Battle
UNIFIL helps teach kids about traffic safety 
AUB professors present the fruits of research
Three prerequisites for stability in Lebanon

 Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 08-09/15
Syrian activists report new chlorine attacks in Idlib
Cameron sweeps to unexpected triumph in British election
UK's Miliband quits as Labour Party leader
UK elections highlight a divided kingdom
The shameful politicization of Russia’s WWII Victory Day
In the run-up to a deal, Iran does as it pleases
U.S. kills Qaeda man who claimed Paris attacks
ISIS, Taliban pairing up in northern Afghanistan: official
Asiri: Houthis crossed red line, will pay price
Saudis announce 5-day cease-fire in Yemen war
Turkey confirms pact with Saudi to help anti-Assad rebels
34 dead in ISIS assault on east Syria city: activists
FBI sent out bulletin about gunman before Texas attack
Ukraine president says almost 7,000 civilians killed in war
EU nations oppose key refugee quota scheme
Iraq: Double suicide bombing kills at least 12 worshippers
Taliban claim downing helicopter, Pakistani PM target
UN official says donors' response slow to help Nepal

Jihad Watch Latest News
Syrian Archbishop: “We expect Christians in the West to help us. They do not”
Norway ends blasphemy law because of Charlie Hebdo jihad massacre

UK police officer’s son is waging jihad in the Islamic State
Hamas-linked CAIR urges Michigan Muslims to take precautions after Islamic State threatens Pamela Geller and non-Muslims in US
UK chooses slow suicide over immediate suicide
A Person Who Consents
I’m More Hateful Than Pamela Geller”

STL pieces of truth emerging...
Walid Phares /May 08/15/To the surprise of many citizens and observers who were told otherwise over the past ten years, the STL's sessions and witnesses are revealing pieces of truth slowly emerging. One is that the UNSC resolution 1559 was not initially engineered by the late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri or his allies or anyone among the Lebanese Christian politicians. Two, Bashar Assad miscalculated by ordering assassinations in Lebanon to preempt the implementation of 1559, thinking that Hariri was -if not behind it- but moving along with it (and he wasn't). Three there is no major difference in responsibility between the Assad regime and Hezbollah as they had and continue to have a joint strategic operation room. Assad's Mukhabarat and Hezbollah's security worked and continue to work together. It was logical that "Lebanese" Hezbollah would be more appropriate to "execute" a decision made by the "Syrian" Assad regime. It took ten years for these simple analytical pieces to surface. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Let's watch the STL progress...

Arsal official denies Nusra calling on refugees to join Qalamoun battle
The Daily Star/May. 08, 2015/BAALBEK, Lebanon: The Municipality of Arsal Friday dismissed local media reports that claimed Nusra Front has called on Syrian refugees in the northeastern town to join the battle in Qalamoun along the Syria-Lebanon border. “These reports are mere rumors,” an official at the Arsal Municipality told The Daily Star. He was responding to reports published Friday in some Beirut dailies that said Nusra Front militants were trying to mobilize Syrian refugees living in camps in the northeastern border town of Arsal against Syrian government forces and Hezbollah in Qalamoun. The Syrian army and Hezbollah Thursday recaptured a large swath of strategic territory in the Qalamoun region following clashes that killed and wounded dozens of jihadis, security sources said, in fresh hostilities that threatened to further drag Lebanon into the Syrian war. Hezbollah and Syrian troops seized five “strategic hills” in the eastern part of Qalamoun, taking control over the towns of Assal al-Ward and Al-Juba, the sources said. Islamist militants had seized the two towns in previous battles. Security sources said Thursday’s clashes left 23 jihadis killed or wounded, while Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said at least 10 militants were killed. The hostilities also left three Hezbollah fighters killed and six wounded, according to the sources.
Hezbollah conceded it lost three fighters, a statement said Friday. A rocket fired from the eastern mountain range landed between the border towns of Brital and Taybeh at dawn Friday, causing no damage or casualties, a security source told The Daily Star.Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army has reinforced all its positions around Arsal. The source said troops and equipment have been sent to the area in recent days to supply existing forces, following the outbreak of the Qalamoun hostilities. The reinforcement is aimed at continuing to prevent any infiltration attempt by militants into Lebanese territory, the source told The Daily Star.

Hizbullah Downplays al-Qalamoun Casulaties, Says Only Three Fighters Killed

Naharnet /Hizbullah stated on Friday that the number of fighters who were killed in Syria's al-Qalamoun front were only three, denying media reports claiming otherwise. “Some Lebanese and Arab media reports continue to broadcast false reports on the number of Hizbullah fighters killed in the last few days in al-Qalamoun front claiming that the number has totaled 40,” the statement said. “Hizbullah emphasizes that these reports are totally untrue and baseless. Only three fighters have been killed since the confrontations began. Their honorable families have been notified,” it added. Some media outlets said that more than 40 of Hizbullah fighters had died in fighting against Islamic militants near the border with Lebanon this week. However, al-Nusra Front said in statement via Twitter later during the day: “A large number of Hizbullah and Syrian army members were killed and others wounded in fighting with al-Fatah al-Qalamoun army in Assal al-Wared. “After Hizbullah infiltrated the area from the Lebanese side, the Mujahedin made a tactical withdrawal from Assal al-Wared to repel the infiltration," added the statement. “Hizbullah is exploiting Lebanon's land to sneak behind our fighters. We warn the Lebanese, Hizbullah is trying to drag them into a war schemed by Iran."Hizbullah has been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces against predominantly Sunni rebels and militants seeking to topple him. Fighting has intensified in the past week in the mountainous al-Qalamoun region across the border from Lebanon, where militants from the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front are entrenched. Hizbullah and Syrian government troops took control on Thursday of strategic heights in the Syrian region of al-Qalamoun that abuts Lebanon's eastern border.The control of the area on the outskirts of Assal al-Wared came following heavy clashes with al-Nusra Front.

Ibrahim Says 'Racing Time' to Free Servicemen before 'Any Security Development' in Qalamoun
Naharnet /General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim stressed Friday that mediators are “racing time” to secure a swap deal to free the Lebanese servicemen who have been in the custody of jihadist groups since August, amid concerns that military developments in Syria's Qalamoun region might affect their fate. “We are racing time to finalize the process of freeing the captive servicemen before any security development happens (in Qalamun),” said Ibrahim in a meeting with a delegation from the Press Syndicate.
“We were in contact with the Qatari mediator last night and he told us positive news about this issue and I can confirm that the servicemen are safe. I don't want to set a date but, God willing, a solution is imminent,” he added. Ibrahim noted that the file has been finalized “except for the implementation mechanism.”“The issue of negotiations and implementation is a matter of mutual trust. Some points have been accepted by us and rejected by them and vice versa, but the Qatari mediator is in Turkey and he's trying to resolve these pending points,” the general went on to say. A number of soldiers and policemen were abducted by militants from the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State groups during clashes in the northeastern border town of Arsal in August 2014. A few of them have since been released, four were executed, and the rest remain held. Last week, the hostages held by al-Nusra warned in a video released by the Qaida-linked group that they would be executed if Hizbullah and the Syrian army wage an operation in the Qalamoun region. They also voiced fears that negotiations to free them are not serious, accusing Ibrahim of “lying to the families of the servicemen.” But Ibrahim snapped back on Friday, saying “the other party always resorts to the media in a bid to pressure us.”“I reassure that the case of the servicemen has been totally finalized and the remaining dispute is revolving around the implementation mechanism,” he added. “The video that surfaced days ago will not affect us, our morale or the course of negotiations,” said Ibrahim, noting that he is seeking to finish the deal “in a manner that preserves Lebanese sovereignty and laws.”Addressing the anxious families, Ibrahim called for patience and underlined that their “pressure” will only increase the Lebanese authorities' “determination” to finalize the case.
As for the bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi and the Lebanese journalist Samir Kassab, who were kidnapped in Syria, the general said there is no information about the three abductees or their whereabouts while emphasizing that their case is on the agenda of all his meetings and visits..

Hezbollah says 3 fighters killed in Qalamoun
The Daily Star/May. 08, 2015/BEIRUT: Hezbollah Friday said three of its fighters have been killed in this week's fierce clashes in the Syrian Qalamoun region on Lebanon's eastern border. In a statement, the party described as "lies" media reports that claimed dozens of its fighters were killed battling jihadis. Fierce fighting erupted Monday after Nusra-led fighters launched surprise attacks on Hezbollah and Syrian army posts along the border region with Lebanon.On Tuesday, Hezbollah ambushed a Nusra convoy in the Qalamoun, killing around 15 militants, according to a Lebanese security source.Fighting continued Wednesday and Thursday, with Hezbollah and the Syrian army recapturing five strategic hills in eastern Qalamoun and taking control of the Syrian towns of Assal al-Ward and Al-Juba
The Army of Conquest’s Qalamoun branch - a coalition of Islamist militants fighting in the area - claimed Friday on Twitter that clashes in Assal al-Ward killed over 60 Hezbollah fighters and wounded dozens of others.But the militants "tactically" withdrew from Assal al-Ward in an attempt to foil an attack by Hezbollah and the Syrian army, the tweet added. The Qalamoun branch of the Nusra Front had claimed on its Twitter account Wednesday that it killed about 40 Hezbollah fighters and ousted the the rest from Assal al-Ward

LF, FPM finalize declaration of intent: MP
The Daily Star/May. 08, 2015/BEIRUT: A declaration of intent between arch Christian rivals the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement has been finalized, FPM lawmaker Ibrahim Kanaan said Friday.
“The declaration of intent with the Lebanese Forces is concluded and went into effect,” Kanaan told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. He said coordination is ongoing between the two sides on several issues, including the presidential election, but added that “this is being done away from the media.” Negotiations for a meeting between FPM leader Michel Aoun and LF head Samir Geagea have been in the works for months, with Kanaan, who heads Aoun’s parliamentary bloc, and Milhem Riyashi, head of the LF’s media and communication section, holding preparatory talks.

Hezbollah Fighting the wrong battle
The Daily Star/May. 08, 2015/Having already steadied a rocking boat once before, in the border battle two years ago, Hezbollah now finds itself again providing crucial life support to the Syrian regime across the border. But it is now more heavily entrenched, with the consequences – whatever the outcome – likely to be much more pronounced. The manpower provided to the border battle the first time around was not insignificant, but it is now greatly increased. And with this stepping up of the commitment to someone else’s war, Hezbollah is at risk of making itself further seen by ordinary Syrians as the enemy, alongside the regime. It also risks alienating people across the rest of the Middle East who saw it as a savior following its victory over Israel in 2006, and now see it as propping up a tyrannical government. Hezbollah also looks now to be the one leading the imminent battle to reclaim Jisr al-Shughur, taken in April by Nusra Front. Loss of the city, situated in Idlib province, en route to coastal Latakia and home to regime loyalists and Assad’s family seat, was morally and strategically significant for the regime. Regaining the city would be crucial for the government after a series of recent losses across the country. What Assad wants and needs for his regime to survive is vastly different than what is best for Hezbollah as a party or for Lebanon as a whole. Hezbollah has an important role to play at home, and it needs to again find this niche. To further involve itself and its fighters in the war next door is not for the good of Lebanon, rather, it might ultimately destabilize the country further.

Senior IDF source: If Lebanon war scenario becomes reality, soldiers will cross border
By YAAKOV LAPPIN \ 05/08/2015 11:59
The IDF held a series of intensive drills around the country in the past week, part of a directive issued by recently appointed Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who placed war training back at the top of the military’s priorities.
One of the exercises took place in the Jordan Valley, where the Artillery Corps 282 Support Unit spent five days training for war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Although the unit of conscripts holds this type of drill annually, this year was different due to the scope and variety of live fire employed, according to a senior Artillery Corps officer who spoke to The Jerusalem Post.
“What is special in our unit is its fusion of a variety of surface- based firepower,” he said. The unit can deploy cannons to strike ground targets, precision- guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, and the Spike [Tamuz] electro-optical fireand- forget missile.
It can also employ a radar battalion that can look far beyond the immediate battle zone, to locate enemies, provide early warning of incoming fire, and pass on target coordinates for return fire in seconds.
All of this activity simulated a full-scale war in southern Lebanon, the source said. Until last week, “my battalions were in Judea and Samaria, doing daily security missions. On Saturday night, they switched to a livefire drill,” he said. Usually, a full-scale drill of this kind comes at the end of a gradually escalating exercise, involving more and more military units. This time around, the source said, the Artillery Corps flipped things around, and started with the biggest drill.
“Together with the Armored Corps’ 7 Brigade, we held two-division exercises. We want to create the most realistic simulation, so this had to involve live fire,” he said. The unit moved from Ma’aleh Efraim to Beit She’an, activating the full range of its fire power – the first time this has happened in a drill, the source said.
“Our vision is to be the main ground-based firepower effort. Anyone who wants our support – infantry or armored units – has to know how to talk to us very quickly. We have the Digital Ground Army [command and control network] for that. All of the ground forces operate under one network,” he said.
This means that a tank or an infantry unit can ask for and receive precise firepower in very little time.
“If they want to hit a person in a window, they can ask for a Tamuz missile strike. If they want to hit the house, the rocket unit will do this. If they want to attack big targets, or get to an enemy antitank cell hiding around them, the classic artillery guns will provide the big firepower,” the commander added.
“The firepower is available because of the Digital Ground Army network. In the exercise, within a day or two, we saw this in action, we saw the units talking to each other.”
Ultimately, the officer said, the Artillery Corps would like to create what he called a “canopy of firepower” over maneuvering forces that move in hostile territory.
To accomplish that, artillery units will have to accompany maneuvering forces over the border rather than hang back and provide supporting fire, as they did during the conflict with Hamas in Gaza last summer. “In the North, I can’t stay back. I have to advance with the forces, at their speed. The link between the Armored and Artillery Corps enabled us to learn how to cater to each other’s needs. They will guard my units from threats in Lebanon, and I will provide very deadly and powerful firepower,” the source said.
“This integration is vital. The message I want to pass on to my battalion is: Do not be confused by past wars. We will not be standing back on the international border and firing in the next round. We will, it seems, find ourselves maneuvering with the forces, and we have to know how to integrate with them.”
A second senior IDF source said Thursday that the past week was unusual due to the intensity of the exercises, but stressed that all of them had been planned well in advance and had no relation to any recent developments.
“The goal this week is to increase our training, with an emphasis on reserves,” the source said. One of the big exercises was held by the IDF Technology and Logistics Branch, which saw 240 vehicles taking part.
“They tested a new command and control center and checked their ability to deploy heavy vehicles to battle zones. Around 1,500 reservists were called up by the Transportation Center,” the source said.
An additional large drill involved the Northern Command’s 36th reserve Armored Division, which, like the 282 Artillery Support Unit, used the Jordan Valley to simulate a Lebanese battleground. In that drill, tank fire capabilities were put to the test.
A third exercise involved the reserves, the Infantry’s 16th Brigade, and was held on the Golan Heights. “This centered on the actions a reservist brigade will have to take when it is called into action,” the source said. “We want to reach a situation in which a battalion commander will know that if a drill is scheduled for six months from now, it will be held on time,” he said.
“We want to stick to the intense training plan for 2015. We are approaching levels of training that are higher than in past years. The aim is to allow a maximum number of exercises,” he added.
The IDF has so far stuck to this plan, and, barring any major surprise security escalations, it expects to continue to do so in the coming months, according to the source.

Qalamoun is a test of Hezbollah’s hopes
Michael Young| The Daily Star/May. 08, 2015 |
There were contradictory statements this week as to whether Hezbollah would proceed with an offensive in Qalamoun.
An unidentified “security source” told this newspaper, “Hezbollah, after an in-depth military assessment, concluded that there was no need for a costly wide-scale offensive.” Often, a security source means someone from the military, meaning the statement was probably coordinated with the party.
Yet the next day, Hezbollah’s media office released a statement by the deputy secretary-general, Sheikh Naim Qassem, in which he made the contrary claim.
“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 was quoted as saying. “This battle is the battle of protecting Lebanese villages and prevents takfiris from expanding and achieving their goals.”
In the evening, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah added to the uncertainty. In a speech he said, “We have not issued a statement, and we will not issue a statement. When we launch a [Qalamoun] operation, it will be obvious to everyone.”
Hezbollah is careful with its messaging, and an anonymous source sounds less credible than party leaders speaking on the record. But both Nasrallah and Qassem’s comments betrayed uneasiness. They know the delay in initiating a Qalamoun offensive has led to doubts about Hezbollah’s capacities.
An attack in Qalamoun had meaning in a very different military context in Syria. In March Iran organized major operations in Syria’s north and south, the main objective being to cut off rebel supply lines to Syria and Jordan. Both offensives failed ignominiously, and were followed by major rebel gains, so that resupply lines into Syria have now been secured.
The reversals completely altered the stakes for Hezbollah, and for the Syrian army whose role would be essential in a battle for Qalamoun. The party cannot take military action in the area without a guarantee of victory, since a further defeat in light of those in northern and southern Syria would be disastrous. Yet such a victory is far from assured, for several reasons.
First, Qalamoun does not lend itself to unequivocal outcomes. It’s a vast, thankless region extremely difficult to control, which is why it was so appreciated by cross-border smugglers.
Second, Hezbollah’s ally in such a venture is a demoralized and depleted Syrian army, whose combat effectiveness has steadily deteriorated in recent years. Hezbollah has no confidence in the Syrians, and even less that they would prevent rebel reinforcements from other areas. Corruption is rampant in the Syrian ranks and as the tide turns in Syria this is bound to increase as units begin preparing for a future without Bashar Assad. Such hopelessness could facilitate rebel efforts to buy their way through Syrian lines to Qalamoun, possibly creating a situation where Hezbollah will send its men into a meat grinder.
We have quite possibly reached a new stage in Syria. The countries backing the opponents of Assad have unified their efforts, and it seems to be working. Their most likely strategy is to pursue and consolidate their battlefield gains and push Iran into accepting a compromise at the expense of Assad. This would presumably allow a managed transition away from his rule, in that way averting the chaos of Libya.
The United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura has seen a small opening. On Monday he began talks with a wide range of political actors from Syria and the region in an effort to relaunch negotiations and end the Syrian conflict. At this stage de Mistura’s objective will not be to achieve a breakthrough, but to prepare a forum that can facilitate negotiations in the future when or if the parties see a need for them.
As negotiations with Iran continue over a final nuclear accord, several officials have already suggested that those talks, if successful, could lead to Iran playing a role in finding a solution to the war in Syria. That supposition may be too optimistic by half. Iran is a house of many mansions, and it’s not at all evident that those inside the country who may lose from a nuclear accord, principally the Revolutionary Guard and their allies, would willingly go along with a process whose ultimate outcome is the removal of Bashar Assad.
Yet if Assad’s foes in Syria make more significant gains, then his allies in Tehran may not have much of a choice. That is why their natural instinct would be to claw back territory to improve Assad’s bargaining hand in the future. In that context a battle for Qalamoun takes on especial importance. But so too does the strategic necessity of getting Qalamoun right. That is why if an offensive doesn’t take place in the coming weeks, it is not because justification for it is lacking; it will be because Hezbollah and Syria’s army are unable to triumph decisively.
And if that’s the case then the limits of Iran and Hezbollah’s effectiveness in Syria will be visible, and therefore their ability to keep Assad in place will be reduced. But to admit this will be difficult for some in Iran, which is why Hezbollah will have a role in determining what decision Iran ultimately takes with regard to the Syrian conflict. The party cannot afford to so involve itself in Syria that it loses control in Lebanon, or, as Qassem insinuated, leaves Lebanon’s Shiites without suitable protection.
We are nearing decision time in Iran. A nuclear deal might loosen up funds to bolster Assad in Syria, but all that would do is delay his end, so decayed are the Syrian regime and army. Hezbollah must consider the risks of going down with Assad’s ship. What it does or does not do in Qalamoun will be an illustration of the frame of mind in the party’s leadership.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

Netanyahu's political challenges: Expanding gov't, handing out Likud portfolios
Yuval Karni /Ynetnews /Published: 05.08.15 / Israel News
Before he can appoint 10 additional Likud ministers, the prime minister will have to pass an amendment expanding the number of ministers in the government. After securing the smallest of majorities in his bid to form a government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will face two major political challenges this coming week as he will have to maneuver a vote on increasing the number of ministers, as well as hand out portfolios to 10 senior Likud MKs next week. Only two of the 12 expected Likud ministers have been told what role they will play in the fourth Netanyahu government - Moshe Ya'alon who will stay in the Defense Ministry and Yisrael Katz who will remain in the Transportation Ministry. After handing out most of the senior ministries to coalition partners, Netanyahu will have to find a way to appease three of the senior ministers in his third government: Gilad Erdan, who won the Likud's primaries, Silvan Shalom, and Netanyahu's long-time ally Yuval Steinitz. Senior Likud officials said Netanyahu has already scheduled meetings with Likud ministers and MKs ahead of the distribution of portfolios, which will take place on Tuesday – after both the government and Knesset are scheduled to vote on expanding the government, a vote that requires the attendance of all 61 coalition members to pass.
Netanyahu plans to hand out the portfolios to his Likud party members only a day before the new government is sworn in on Wednesday, in order to stop disappointed MKs from teaming up and working against the new government. According to Likud sources, the Public Security Ministry, one of the remaining senior positions left up for grabs, will either be handed out to Erdan or Steinitz. If he doesn't receive the public security portfolio, Steinitz could be appointed to the Energy and Water Ministry, the Interior Ministry, or maintain his post at the Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Ministry. Benny Begin, who was urged by Netanyahu to return to the Likud, is also a contender for the Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Ministry. Silvan Shalom, meanwhile, could either remain in the Energy and Water Ministry or be appointed interior minister. Yariv Levin, who served as the chairman of the Likud faction in the 19th Knesset, is also in the running for the Interior Ministry. He is also a potential candidate for the Tourism or Culture and Sport ministries.
Outgoing deputy foreign minister Tzachi Hanegbi will likely find himself in the Communications Ministry, though outgoing deputy minister in the PMO and the Environmental Protection Ministry, Ofir Akunis, is also in the running for the communications portfolio.
Danny Danon, who was fired from his position as deputy defense minister in July 2014 after publicly criticizing Netanyahu's handling of Operation Protective Edge, could receive the Ministry for Senior Citizens, the Welfare Ministry or the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.
Haim Katz, who chaired the Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, is also in the running for the senior citizens and welfare portfolios. Tzipi Hotovely, who served as the deputy transportation minister in the 19th Knesset, is a contender for the Science, Technology and Space Ministry, as well as the Tourism Ministry. Meanwhile Ze'ev Elkin, who headed Likud's coalition negotiations team, is also in the running for the science and immigrant absorption portfolios. Miri Regev, the highest-ranked woman on the Likud list, is in the running for the Welfare Ministry, while Gila Gamliel, who was promised a ministerial position from Netanyahu, is in the running for the culture and sport portfolio. In addition to the ministerial positions, two Likud MKs will be appointed deputies for the defense minister, even though senior political and security officials believe the Defense Ministry does not need even one.
Crucial vote
The government will convene on Sunday to vote on the decision to increase the number of ministers in the government, limited to 18 in the previous term. The vote will then pass on to the Knesset for approval on Monday, where all 61 members of the coalition will have to attend and vote in favor for it to pass. The coalition now faces two possibilities: If the motion to expand the government passes in the Knesset on Monday, all 20 government ministers will be sworn in on Wednesday: 12 Likud ministers, three Kulanu minister, three Bayit Yehudi ministers, and two Shas ministers.
But if the coalition fails to pass the amendment to the Basic Law: The Government to increase the number of ministers, only 15 ministers will be sworn in on Wednesday, with five additional ministers (two from Likud, one from Kulanu, one from Bayit Yehudi and one from Shas) remaining "hostages" of the coalition until the amendment passes in the Knesset. This is done to ensure all 61 MKs from all coalition parties support the amendment so the five "hostage" ministers can be sworn in at a later date.
**Itamar Eichner, Orly Azoulay and Akiva Novik contributed to this report.


Cameron sweeps to unexpected triumph in British election
Reuters, AP/Latest Update: 05.08.15
Conservatives on course to win 325 seats in parliament, while opposition Labour Party takes a beating, mostly from Scottish nationalist in Scotland.
Prime Minister David Cameron won an emphatic election victory in Britain, overturning predictions that the vote would be the closest in decades to sweep into office for another five years, with his Labour opponents in tatters.
The sterling currency and share prices soared on a result that reversed expectations of an inconclusive "hung parliament" with Cameron jockeying for power with Labour rival Ed Miliband. Instead, Cameron was due to meet Queen Elizabeth before noon to accept a swift mandate to form a government.
Cameron's victory speech
But despite the unexpectedly decisive outcome, more uncertainty looms over whether Britain will stay in the European Union - and even hold together as a country.
Scottish nationalists swept aside Labour, meaning that Scotland, which voted just a year ago to stay in the United Kingdom, will send just three representatives of major British parties to parliament and be all but shut out of the cabinet. That could revive calls for it to leave Britain.
Cameron's victory also means Britain will face a vote which he has promised on continued membership in the EU. He says he wants to stay in the bloc, but only if he secures changes to its rules in negotiations that have not yet begun.
With a few dozen seats yet to be declared in the 650-seat house, the Conservatives were on course for an overall majority to govern alone for the first time since 1992. They could also ask a small party to join them in government if they fall a few seats short.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Cameron on Friday. "Congratulations to David Cameron on an impressive victory and renewed mandate. I look forward to working with you on shared goals of peace and prosperity," Netanyahu wrote in a post on his Facebook page.
The opposition Labour Party took a beating, mostly from energized Scottish nationalists who pulled off a landslide in Scotland.
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband all but conceded defeat on Friday morning, saying he was "deeply sorry" for a "very disappointing and difficult night".
Miliband was widely expected to resign as party leader. The BBC reported he would do so soon.
With Cameron's Conservatives on the cusp of winning a majority in the 650-seat House of Commons, the election result looked to be far better than opinion pollsters, or even his own party, had foreseen. The prime minister was beaming early Friday as he as announced the winner of his Witney constituency in southern England.
"This is clearly a very strong night for the Conservative Party," he said, stopping just short of declaring victory.
Cameron sounded a conciliatory note, especially towards Scotland, likely to be his first immediate headache.
"I want my party - and, I hope, a government I would like to lead - to reclaim a mantle we should never have lost, the mantle of one nation, one United Kingdom," Cameron said, vowing to counter the rise of Scottish nationalism with more powers for Scotland and Wales.
A majority would mean Cameron no longer needs the Liberal Democrats, with which he has governed since 2010. The centre-left party was crushed, perhaps reduced to single digits after winning 57 seats five years ago.
Labour Party routed out of Scotland
The opposition Labour Party, led by Ed Miliband, was routed in Scotland by the Scottish National Party, which took almost all of the 59 seats in Scotland.
"What we're seeing tonight is Scotland voting to put its trust in the SNP to make Scotland's voice heard, a clear voice for an end to austerity, better public services and more progressive politics at Westminster," party leader Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC.
"The Scottish lion has roared this morning across the country," said former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who was elected in the seat of Gordon.
Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy insisted he would not resign despite losing his seat but Miliband's grip on the leadership seemed more tenuous, as the party failed to make predicted gains against the Conservatives across the rest of Britain.
"This has clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour Party," said Miliband. "In Scotland we have seen a surge of nationalism overcome our party."
The exit poll forecast it would get just 239 seats. If accurate, that would be the centre-left party's worst result in almost three decades. The scale of its defeat in Scotland at the hands of nationalists is likely to raise serious questions about its future direction and policies.
Opponents fear the Scottish National Party is preparing to use an emphatic win to renew its push for an independence referendum even though it lost such a plebiscite only last year.
"We're seeing an electoral tsunami on a gigantic scale," said Alex Salmond, the party's former leader.
"The SNP are going to be impossible to ignore and very difficult to stop," he said, saying such a result would strip Cameron of any legitimacy in Scotland where his Conservative Party would have only one lawmaker.
Poor showing for Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is expected to resign, after seeing the party humiliated as a response to his decision to join the Conservatives in government five years ago and abandon high profile election pledges.
"It is now painfully clear that this has been a cruel and punishing night for the Liberal Democrats," said Clegg, who held onto his own seat. He said he would discuss his future with colleagues later Friday.
The UK Independence Party, which wants an immediate British withdrawal from the EU, was on track to get two seats at best amid speculation that Nigel Farage, its leader, would fail to be elected and therefore have to step down.
The party easily secured the third most votes, but could not translate this to many seats under Britain's system, in which candidates stand for seats in individual districts and a party's overall vote tally is meaningless.
Meanwhile, George Galloway, who has declared his constituency an "Israel-free zone," has lost his seat in Bradford West to the Labour Party.
The exit poll projected that the Conservatives would get 316 seats - up from 302 and far more than had been predicted - and Labour 239, down from 256. It said the Liberal Democrats would shrink from 56 seats to 10, while the Scottish nationalists would grow from six to 58. The anti-immigration, anti-Europe UK Independence Party was projected to win two seats.
Based on interviews with 22,000 voters, the poll differed strongly from opinion polls conducted during the monthlong election campaign, which had put the Conservatives and Labour neck-and-neck.
As results rolled in overnight, the Conservative Party appeared to be in a commanding position to form the next government, either alone or by seeking partners from smaller parties. One result could be re-run of the Conservative-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats that has governed since 2010.
The chief exit pollster, John Curtice of Strathclyde University, said it looked as if Conservative and Labour gains had canceled each other out across England and Wales, and that Labour had lost much of its support in Scotland to the SNP.
"We now have to take seriously the possibility the Tories could get an overall majority" in Parliament, he said. The survey was conducted by pollsters GfK and Ipsos MORI for Britain's broadcasters and released as polling stations closed and the counting began.
Each of the 650 constituencies are counted by hand and the results follow a familiar ritual. Candidates -- each wearing a bright rosette in the color of their party -- line up onstage like boxers as a returning officer reads out the results.But if the form was familiar, the results were often shocking.
Among the early Scottish National Party winners was 20-year-old student Mhairi Black, who became Britain's youngest lawmaker since the 17th century by defeating Douglas Alexander, Labour's 47-year-old foreign policy spokesman and one of its most senior figures. Black is the youngest lawmaker since 13-year-old Christopher Monck entered Parliament in 1667.
The UK Independence Party ran third in opinion polls, but by early Friday had won only one seat because its support isn't concentrated in specific areas. Leader Nigel Farage said he would resign if he does not win the seat of Thanet South -- an outcome that looked a distinct possibility.
Britain's economy -- recovering after years of turmoil that followed the 2008 financial crisis -- was at the core of many voters' concerns. The results suggest that many heeded Cameron's entreaties to back the Conservatives as the party of financial stability. Public questions at television debates made plain that many voters distrusted politicians' promises to safeguard the economy, protect the National Health Service from severe cutbacks and control the number of immigrants from eastern Europe.

Who will pay for Netanyahu’s expensive coalition deal?
By NIV ELIS/J.Post/05/08/2015
When the governing coalition fell in December, wary citizens complained that an election was unnecessary and expensive, costing the state roughly NIS 1.5 billion.
But the election was just the beginning.
The coalition deals Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed in the past few weeks turn out to be an order of magnitude more expensive.
Knowing that Netanyahu had few viable coalition options, the parties entering the government exacted heavy prices in the name of their constituencies or the ministries they stood to control.
By some estimates, the coalition deals will add up to NIS 9 billion, which alongside the NIS 5.6 billion in extra defense spending and the NIS 8 nillion that already needed to be cut will put the 2016 deficit at roughly double its intended target.
That level of politically motivated spending makes Yair Lapid’s ill-conceived 0 VAT proposal for new housing – a policy that helped break the last coalition in part because it was a monumental waste of NIS 3 billion – look like pocket change.
So where did all that money go? Let’s begin with the ultra-Orthodox parties.
When Yair Lapid became finance minister in 2013, he demanded a reduction in National Insurance Institute child allotments, which increased with every respective child, thus benefiting the ultra-Orthodox. The spending cut, which was intended to push the community into the workforce, saved NIS 2.75 billion. United Torah Judaism demanded that the allotments be returned, and the cost may be somewhat higher given growth in the haredi population. Another billion will go toward haredi education, according to media reports.
Shas demanded that Netanyahu make good on his preelection promise to eliminate VAT on basic food items, a policy he had opposed up until the campaign, and opposed again once the results were in.
Netanyahu finally acquiesced, and though some reports put the cost of the policy as high NIS 5.5b., more recent estimates put it closer to NIS 2 billion.
The Bank of Israel isn’t thrilled about the policy, noting that it benefits the rich – who actually consume more basic food products – more than the poor. It would be more effective to offer the poor a targeted benefit, such as tax credits for working, which would cover the cost of the VAT on food items. The bank also complains that a differentiate VAT system opens room for loopholes, exploitation and a ton of expensive bureaucracy.
Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett allegedly demanded a NIS 1 billion increase for education, a welcome expenditure given that Israel spends less on education than its OECD counterparts. On a similarly welcome note, another billion will go toward implementing Kulanu MK Eli Alalouf’s poverty plan, according to TheMarker, which also said Kulanu insisted on a NIS 1.3 billion expenditure on raising soldier salaries.
Lucky for Netanyahu, he’s not the one who has to do the hard math after doling out promises. It is Kulanu’s Moshe Kahlon, the incoming finance minister, who will have to figure out how to trim the billions of shekels now weighing down his budget.
Lucky for him, the 2015 budget is operating on autopilot based on 2014 spending levels, and is expected to roughly hit its 2.5 percent deficit target. Kahlon may leave that plan in place and put his energies toward 2016. But the 2016 deficit is scheduled to drop to 2% of GDP, and the Bank of Israel had already forecast before the coalition deals were signed that it was NIS 8 billion over the spending limit, and another NIS 2 billion of revenues would need to be found to hit the deficit target.
Kahlon has several options.
The obvious one is to break the rules, and increase the deficit target, which will not make Israel’s creditors or credit ratings agencies happy.
Another is to blow up the rule that limits increases in annual spending, which will at least mean he won’t have to cut from important social ministries to accommodate the coalition demands. Even so, he’ll have to raise more revenue somehow, which means higher taxes. Another option is to backtrack on defense spending increases, but that is something which neither Netanyahu nor his own No. 2 in Kulanu, Yoav Galant, wants. And of course, he can always pull back the social spending that tempers Israel’s alarming inequality.
Kahlon has already discussed his desire to raise taxes on investors scooping up expensive homes, but that will only make a dent in the coalition spending binge.
Kahlon campaigned on a platform of economic reform that would include the housing market and the banking system and increase competition for the benefit of consumers.
But before he tangles with the structural problems in the economy, he will have to figure out how to pay for the demands keeping the coalition together in the first place.

Erdoğan’s Journey from White to Grey
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 8 May, 2015
With the Turkish general election campaign starting in earnest, one might expect a range of issues to be treated by rival candidates and parties. A modernizing, fairly complex and ambitious nation, Turkey faces many issues, especially at this time of conflict and uncertainty in the Middle East. And, yet, touring the country and talking to people from all walks of life, a reporter soon realizes that only one issue really matters in this election. That issue is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He is a man who is not even a candidate this time round but, having dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, is suspected of plotting to stay at the helm for as long as he can get away with it.
Erdoğan is a complex and fascinating character with a balance sheet that is hard to close with either a plus or a minus figure.
On the plus side he has given Turkey 12 years of stable government, something the republic had never known before. He has also led Turkey to unprecedented economic prosperity, taming chronic inflation and ending mass unemployment that forced whole generations to emigrate. He has also acknowledged the principal grievances of the Kurdish minority and taken measures to address some of them.
Equally importantly, Erdoğan has managed to keep Turkey out of international conflict and regional military clashes. He has even succeeded in walking Turkey away from political booby traps such as Cyprus and the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabagh.
The fact that Turkey is no longer threatened by terrorism from the ultra-left while is continuing to forge a dialogue with the secessionist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) movement could also be viewed as a plus for Erdoğan.
When compared to other nations in the neighborhood, Iran for example, Turkey under Erdoğan has been an undoubted success. It has not experienced mass executions, mass arrests of political and/or religious dissidents, and avoided a widening gap between rich and poor. While Turkey has been attracting large numbers of its exiled children back home, Iran has seen more than six million of its people, many from the educated elites, leave the country to flee Khomeinist oppression.
In 1978 per capita income in Iran was twice that of Turkey. Last year, however, the figure for Turkey stood at almost 20,000 US dollars while that of Iran hovered around 16,000 US dollars. Over the past four years, annual economic growth for Turkey has averaged at approximately 4.5 percent while Iran’s annual economic growth is in the red, standing at minus 5.6 percent. Iran only managed to narrowly avoid economic meltdown last year, recording weak economic growth of 1.5 percent. However the minus side of Erdoğan’s balance sheet is just as impressive.
Casting himself as a “providential man” he started by destroying his own Justice and Development Party (AKP), marginalizing anyone who might have cast a shadow on his one-man show. As a result he is surrounded by yes-men who no longer dare questions his judgement even when it is manifestly wrong.
Erdoğan came to power at a time when Turkey had developed an original synthesis between a religious society and a secular system of government. By trying to sap the foundations of the secular state, he has provoked an anti-religion backlash within society. At the same time he has split the religious constituency to the point that the biggest challenge to him now comes from his former religious allies led by the exiled Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
His confused approach to the role of religion in a modern society has provoked divisions that either did not exist or was kept in check with such large minorities as Alevites and dozens of Sufi fraternities feel threatened or discriminated against. With a series of purges and the appointment of judges loyal only to himself, Erdoğan has also undermined the well-established and highly prized independence of Turkey’s judiciary, something rare in the Muslim world.
Similar purges of the police and the armed forces, often carried out in the name of preventing non-existent coup attempts, have politicized institutions designed to serve the nation, not any particular political faction.
I first met Erdoğan when he was a young Mayor of Istanbul with an agenda that, according to him, consisted of a single program: rooting out corruption. Taking us on a tour of the great city’s ancient underground canals, he was insistent that he would not get lost in the similarly maze-like corruption networks established in the great metropolis. At the time, the word AK (white) in his party’s acronym had a meaning, and he did clean up Istanbul. More than a decade later, however, the White Party has become somewhat grey under Erdoğan’s leadership.
By Middle East standards corruption in Turkey still remains modest. Compared to neighboring Islamic Republic of Iran where corruption has become a system of government, Turkey is not yet completely affected by that gangrene. And, yet, there is no doubt that Erdoğan has presided over the emergence of a Mafia-style political and business organization that thrives in the grey economy. Right now that murky organization is preparing to make a big killing with a Pharaonic project to recast Istanbul into a global mega-polis. In Turkey today, the question of how to separate business from politics is now perhaps more urgent than the separation of mosque and state.
Worse still, according to many Turks, Erdoğan seems to have succumbed to a particularly acute attack of hubris. He now sees himself as a mixture of Khan, Caliph and Sultan—a leader with a global destiny symbolizing a mythical history that transcends Islam, Turkish-ness and even Ottomania and traces its origins to the Hittites and other ancient nations. Erdoğan’s hope is to win a two-third majority in the Grand National Assembly and thus be able to amend the Constitution without a referendum in order to create a presidential system in which he would enjoy more power than any Hittite Basil (King).
Many observers believe that Erdoğan’s political machine is still powerful enough to win at least a majority and maintain its hold on power. A few voices, however, suggest that the AKP could be forced into a coalition government. We shall see. The beauty of an election is that it is always a toss-up.

Syrian activists report new chlorine attacks in Idlib
May 08/15
Beirut, AP—Syrian activists and a doctor reported Thursday of new suspected chemical attacks in the northwestern province of Idlib, leaving several dozens of people suffering from asphyxiation.
Mohammed Tennari, a doctor who testified before the UN Security Council last month after treating a number of victims in Idlib from an earlier chemical attack, said there were at least three separate attacks in the province that injured nearly 80 people.
Tennari, who spoke with The Associated Press from near the border with Turkey, shared field reports from doctors in the three villages that were reportedly hit. The reports said government helicopters dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine on the villages of Janoudieh, Kansafrah, and Kafr Batiekh on Thursday.
Tennari is on his way back from the United States where he reported to the council on a suspected chlorine attack in March that killed three children and their grandmother in the same province. He is the coordinator for the Syrian American Medical Society, which has volunteer medical personnel treating victims and reporting on attacks in Syria.
Also, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, another monitoring group which is based outside the country, reported the three different attacks, sharing on Twitter images it said were from field hospitals where victims were taken. The group reported that 69 people were injured in the attacks.
The reports could not be independently verified. There has been an increase in reports of suspected chlorine bombs amid intensified fighting in the province where the rebels have made significant advances against government troops in recent weeks. Rebel fighters seized the provincial capital and weeks later moved in on a strategic town near the border with Turkey. The government has vowed to restore control.
Tennari said a man in his thirties died Thursday from another suspected chlorine attack in a fourth village in Idlib on May 2. The man’s six-month-old baby died in that attack, Tennari said.
Despite condemning such attacks, the United Nations has been unable to follow through with action or assign blame. The rise in attacks comes as the United States is leading an effort to create a way to attribute blame.
On Thursday, the current council president, Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, said a “large majority” of members support the US effort and are ready to move quickly in the next few days. But Syria ally Russia worried whether it will be objective, with Ambassador Vitaly Churkin telling the AP, “They’ve done their attribution of blame already.”
The US and some other council members accuse Syria’s government of using chlorine against its own citizens, saying that no other party in the conflict has the helicopters to deliver such weapons. Russia has insisted that more evidence is needed to blame anyone.
Even though the Security Council, badly divided on Syria, came together in 2013 to rid Syria of its chemical weapons program, chlorine was not included in that effort. The chemical does not have to be declared because it is also used for regular purposes in industry. Chlorine is a poisonous chemical element used as a bleaching agent and for water purification, but in more concentrated form can cause victims to suffocate.
The reports of new attacks came after the International Committee for the Red Cross director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, warned on Thursday that the humanitarian situation in Syria has deteriorated sharply amid intensified fighting in several parts of the country between government forces and rebel groups, as well as among rival opposition faction.
“The fighting is escalating in many parts of the country and more and more people are being forced to flee their homes. It is causing untold suffering,” said Stillhart.
Stillhart finished a two-day visit to the Syrian capital, Damascus, where he met government officials, appealing for more access to areas affected by the fighting, including the violence-torn, besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk on the outskirts of Damascus.
The camp has been the scene of clashes between local fighters and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) since the beginning of April. It was the latest tragedy to engulf the camp’s residents, who have already suffered through a devastating two-year government siege, starvation and disease.
About 18,000 people are still in the camp, a built-up area once home to some 160,000 Palestinians and Syrians. The United Nations over the weekend expressed alarm over the continued fighting, along with the use of heavy weapons, and airstrikes.
Fighting has also intensified elsewhere in Syria in recent weeks, as rebel advances have pushed out government forces from contested areas in the country’s south and north. Government troops are pushing back.
On Thursday, Syrian government forces and allied fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah group took control from ISIS fighters of more areas near the Syrian border town of Assal Al-Ward.

Hezbollah is laundering weapons and power
Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya
Friday, 8 May 2015
Lebanon is under increasing danger in light of Hezbollah’s accelerated pursuit of weapons laundering and its intention to be transformed into a power that would replace the legitimate power of the Lebanese State. It’s a different kind of laundering, a laundering of Hezbollah’s illegitimate power imposed by its armed strength on ordinary citizens who believe in Lebanon and its institutions.
On May 25, the presidential vacancy will celebrate its first anniversary. Those who are maintaining this vacancy are well known, too well known. The country’s structure is under threat due to Iran’s intention of changing it definitively far from any parity between Christians and Muslims. This is its utmost goal: keeping the Lebanese Republic without its head.
Preserving a part of Syria
It is clear that Iran is trying to compensate for its loss in Syria, all of Syria, and in Lebanon. It is focusing on preserving a part of Syria as a passageway to regions dominated by Hezbollah in Lebanon. This cannot happen without an exhibition of Hezbollah’s weapons with all what it implies on the regime and its composition. According to many observers of the Iranian regime, its investment in Hezbollah for more than three decades remains far more important than its investment in the Syrian regime. In the eyes of Iran, Lebanon is more important than Syria despite all efforts exerted by Tehran in buying up land and changing the nature of the Syrian society.
Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria had disastrous effects on Lebanon. As a brigade of the Iranian “Revolutionary Guards”, Hezbollah founded the grounds for a very dangerous precedent on the regional level through surpassing the Lebanese borders and prioritizing the sectarian bond over all national ties. In other words, the sectarian militia considered that supporting the minority Alawite regime in Syria is far more important than preserving Lebanese sovereignty.
Under the circumstances, every move towards immunizing Lebanon is more than useful. The visit of ex-Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to Washington where he met top officials including Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry denotes that there is an awareness of the importance of immunizing this little country. Saad Rafiq Al-Hariri didn’t come out of nowhere. There is still a firm footed Lebanon which is still resisting in spite of all the attacks trying to suffocate it. This is why Hariri stressed during his meeting in the U.S. on the importance of electing the Lebanese president who is the only Christian head of state in the Middle East.
Hariri’s visit
Through Hariri’s visit to Washington and anticipated visit to Moscow soon, we realize someone is trying to offer Lebanon solutions or, more correctly, there is someone who wants to protect Lebanon instead of turning it into a base to attack any Arabic allegiance in the region.
There are simply two choices for Lebanon: to be an appendage to the Iranian project in the region and nothing more or to be an independent Arab. Another aspect of the Lebanese resistance and resilience is highlighted through the efforts of the Interior Minister Nouhad Al-Machnouq in setting the record straight and confirming that the Lebanese institutions belong to all the Lebanese and that security on Lebanese soil, including that of the southern suburbs, is indivisible. According to him, issues at hand can only be resolved calmly, carefully, wisely and seriously without cheap maneuvers wherever it may come from.
Pursuing this logic doesn’t mean to abandon one of the most important and incontestable convictions: that any weapon born out of the legitimate Lebanese authority is a threat to the country and serves Israeli projects and anyone who works to provoke sectarian instincts and terrorism in all its forms by supporting sectarian militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
In light of Hezbollah’s course of action, the din caused by Christian deputy Michel Aoun who serves Iran’s intention to triangulate the power between Shiites, Sunnites and Christians becomes irrelevant. Aoun’s mission is known. All that is needed is to freeze the presidential election in order to change the regime.
A cover up
Some Christians are participating in covering up Hezbollah’s power laundering attempts. Lebanese people who have the minimum level of patriotism won’t accept that.
It is a pity that Michel Aoun is once more playing a role in destroying the Lebanese state institutions. He did that in the past and continues to do so. He helped the Syrian tutelage to put its hands on Lebanon in 1990 and now serves as an Iranian puppet in a project that transcends Lebanon.
More unfortunate is that an 80-year-old man is refusing to learn from his past mistakes. He doesn’t have enough courage to even ask himself who really beneficiated from his futile wars when he was in Baabda palace in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
If it is that hard for him, why doesn’t he ask himself why he lives in Al Rabyeh, a region of Christian majority instead of Haret Hrek, his birthplace, which has become one of Hezbollah’s bastions?