LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For Today/‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
John 11/17-27: "When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’"
Bible Quotation For Today/Enemies of the cross of Christ, Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.
Letter to the Philippians 03/13-21: "Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself."
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 11-12/15
Hezbollah opens up about relationship with Al Houthis/Erica Solomon,/Financial Times/ May 11/15
It’s time for Gulf leaders and Obama to seize the day/Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya/May 11/15
Saudi king, followed by GCC rulers, snubs Obama on summit. US fails to isolate Netanyahu on nuclear deal/DEBKAfile/May 11/15
Lebanese Related News published on May 11-12/15
All-out battle in Qalamoun has not yet started
2 Nusra leaders killed in Qalamoun clashes: Al-Manar
Hizbullah Fighters Escort Journalists on Tour of Qalamoun Mountains
Hezbollah says it killed 20 Nusra militants
World Bank pledges $20M for Lebanon: MP
Berri Warns: No One Can Paralyze Parliament
Thousands of Qalamoun jihadis likely to resettle near Arsal: reports
Parliament deadlock to cost Lebanon $1.2B: finance minister
Army arrests 29 Syrians for illegally entering Lebanon
Sidon vandals burn billboards praising Saudi king
Red Cross’ humanitarian mission at threat
Northern Young Man Killed Fighting alongside IS
Officials: Zouk plant contamination down 80 pct
Army Arrests Syrians for Illegal Entry
Abou Faour Says Political Rift Shouldn't Affect Security Agencies
Kataeb Urges Govt. to Order Deployment of Army along Syria Border
Nasrallah to Deliver Speech on Resistance and Liberation Day
Hariri to Meet Putin in Moscow Visit, Discuss Developments
Derbas Denies Assistance Has Stopped for Syrian Refugees
FPM may escalate row over posts ‘within days’
AUB scientists see potential in algae production
MP: Half of people in Lebanon not Lebanese
Hariri to seek protection for Lebanon from Moscow
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 11-12/15
Sidelining attempts to interrupt the Iranian nuclear deal
Putin, Kerry to discuss Ukraine, Syria, Iran, US says
will Obama succeed in reassuring Gulf leaders about Iran?
Kuwait Shiite MP wants minister grilled over Yemen war
'Assad puts intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk, under house arrest for planning coup'
Syria rebels storm Jisr al-Shughur hospital
72 dead as Syria army battles to free loyalists: monitor
Yemen Houthi rebels say they shot down coalition warplane
Heavy bombing on Yemen border area by Saudi forces and Houthis
UK elections and the future of Mideast relations
Yemen’s Saleh declares support for Houthi militias
Jeb Bush: I would have authorized the Iraq invasion
Moroccan jet in Saudi coalition missing in Yemen
Syrian regime fights for strategic town
U.S. defends record before top U.N. human rights body
France backs EU plan for refugee quotas
Turkish ship attacked as it approached Libya's Tobruk
Israel PM's wife hits back after employee abuse claims
Russia’s biggest-ever military parade/Aggressive displays
Jihad Watch Latest News
Geller and Spencer in Breitbart: “In Cathy Young’s World, Everybody Surrenders”
Pakistan: Muslims tell Christian, “stop building churches or we will kill you”
Haroon Moghul: Geller & Spencer are “the Anwar al-Awlakis of anti-Muslim terrorism”
Michigan: Muslim publisher says Pamela Geller is “worse than ISIS”
Jihad Watch: The most attacked site on the Internet
Malaysia: Muslim leader forbids Mother’s Day, says it honors Virgin Mary
UK rejects nearly 200 army recruits for fear of jihadist infiltration
Emile Lahoud & the Humiliating Stupidity
Emile Lahoud is a mere puppet no more no less. Those who watched his latest TV interview are now more than sure that he is just nothing, just nothing, but an Iranian cheap trumpet the same as the derailed Aoun and all those evil politicians and clergymen in 8th of March. What a waste of men. Meanwhile, Al Raei's sermons that do not witness for the truth & Jobran \Bassil's disgusting tours are two ugly titles for our Maronite misery
All-out battle in Qalamoun has not yet started
The Daily Star/May. 11, 2015
BEIRUT: An all-out military confrontation in the Qalamoun mountains has not yet begun despite the ongoing clashes pitting Hezbollah and the Syrian army against Islamist militants, a senior source familiar with military developments in the region said Sunday.
Although Hezbollah and Syrian troops have made major military gains since they began the campaign in Syria’s Qalamoun region last week, including seizing strategic hills and taking control of Assal al-Ward and Al-Juba, “the circumstances are not yet conducive for an all-out battle,” the source told The Daily Star. The source pointed out that ISIS, whose militants are entrenched on the rugged outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal, some 6 kilometers away from the theater of military operations, has not so far joined the battle.
Summing up the ongoing fighting in Qalamoun between Hezbollah and Syrian troops and rebels led by the Nusra Front, Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, the source said: “What is happening now is a gradual nibbling of the [Qalamoun] hills and moving forward with steady steps.”
According to the source, Hezbollah’s attack in Qalamoun has foiled the militants’ strategic goal to cut off the Beirut-Damascus highway, which is “an extremely important and sensitive point for the Syrian regime and Hezbollah because it is a vital lifeline between the Lebanese and Syrian capitals.”The Syrian army and Hezbollah made further advances on the outskirts of the village of Al-Juba, about 8 kilometers northeast of the Lebanese border town of Tfail, seizing control of 40 kilometers, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV reported Sunday.
It said three training camps belonging to the Nusra Front on the outskirts of Al-Juba were destroyed during clashes, which resulted in the killing of more than 20 Nusra militants while others have fled.
Heavy machine guns mounted on four military vehicles, tens of posts inside caves and military tents were also destroyed during the fighting, Al-Manar TV said. It added that several explosive charges and mines were also dismantled.
Explaining the situation in the Qalamoun region, a military source familiar with Hezbollah’s campaign told The Daily Star: “The hills stretching from the [Lebanese border town] of Brital to deep into Qalamoun have become under full control of Hezbollah and the Syrian army. They have been fully linked and supply routes to the [armed] groups [in Zabadani, Serghaya and Hafaya in rural Damascus] have been severed.”“It can be said that the town of Zabadani, where a good number of fighters are entrenched, is nearly besieged,” the source said.
Although the Nusra Front said in its Twitter account that its fighters had made “a tactical withdrawal” following Hezbollah’s attack in the Qalamoun mountains after causing heavy losses among Hezbollah fighters, a Salafist sheikh who maintains contacts with the Nusra Front and ISIS, spoke about the fighting in the region. “Half of the Nusra Front fighters in Qalamoun, estimated at around 4,000 fighters, have recently withdrawn following Hezbollah’s invasion of their outposts and bases in rocky caves in rugged areas in view of the lack of sufficient experience in direct fighting,” the sheikh told The Daily Star, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He added that the Nusra fighters’ expertise was confined to making explosive charges and rigging vehicles with bombs. “This has led to the quick collapse [of Nusra fighters]. Furthermore, the [Nusra] emir Abu Malek al-Tali is not the one who fully oversees all of Qalamoun’s areas where his deputy, Abu Massab [a Syrian] and Abu Sahib [a Lebanese] are tasked with directing the armed groups. Both men do not have sufficient military experience,” the sheikh said.
According to the sheikh, ISIS fighters are holed up on the outskirts of Arsal. He added that ISIS commanders have been brought from Iraq in preparation for the confrontation with Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said the Lebanese military would not “slip” into the battle in the Qalamoun region. Kahwagi assured security officials during a meeting Saturday that the Army “is ready to confront any assault on Lebanese sovereignty and push back any infiltration [attempt] by militants,” Al-Hayat newspaper reported.
However, he also emphasized that the military’s responsibility “is limited to dealing with attacks on Lebanese territory,” saying it will not “slip into participation,” it said. Quoting Army sources, the paper said that despite the military escalation near Lebanon’s borders, Lebanese officials were assured that “the security situation is under control.”
2 Nusra leaders killed in Qalamoun
The Daily Star/May. 11, 2015 BEIRUT: Hezbollah and Syrian army troops engaged in fresh clashes Monday with jihadi militants over a strategic hill in the Qalamoun region, Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar said, adding that two Nusra leaders died in the fighting. The report said that Al-Barouh hill, located on the outskirts of Ras al-Maara, witnessed fierce clashes which led to the killing of Nusra commander Abu al-Shweikh and a field commander identified as Abu Khaled. Clashes erupted after Hezbollah and the Syrian army wrestled full control of the hill Monday morning. Control of the hill, which overlooks the town of Ras al-Maara and the Lebanese border, allows the Syrian army and it allies to have greater access to the nearby jihadi bases. Hezbollah and the Syrian Army advanced toward the area after seizing control of the outskirts of Al-Juba, Al Manar reported. A security source told The Daily Star, however, that sporadic clashes are still ongoing around the town of Al-Juba, noting that militants still maintained control over two hilltop positions. Militants who fled the outskirts of Ras al-Maara Monday withdrew toward the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal, namely the areas of al-Rahwe and Wadi Mira, Al-Manar said. The Syrian army and their Lebanese allies are also seeking to advance toward a nearby hilltop known as Tallit Moussa, which is one of the highest positions in the Qalamoun, according to Al-Manar. The hilltop overlooks the outskirts of Arsal, which would allow Hezbollah and the Syrian Army to monitor militant movements in the area. The two sides have been engaged in deadly battles in Syria's Qalamoun region, which straddles Lebanon's eastern border, since last week. Hezbollah and the Syrian army have scored important gains in the fighting, driving militants from several towns, including Assal al-Ward and Al-Juba, and about a dozen posts.
At least three Hezbollah fighters and dozens of jihadis have been killed since last week's clashes erupted.
Parliament deadlock to cost Lebanon
$1.2B: finance minister
The Daily Star/ May. 11, 2015/BEIRUT: Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil warned Monday that Lebanon would lose $1.2 billion if Parliament does not hold a legislative session soon. “We should put the Parliament back to work, and we in the Finance Ministry are especially aware of the harm that comes from the absence of legislation,” Khalil said during a ceremony to mark the opening of a new EU-funded auditorium at the tax administration building in Beirut. “We are at risk of losing $600 million in projects approved by the World Bank that require the Parliament’s approval,” he added. “If the Parliament does not convene, we will lose $1.2 billion that Lebanon needs to fund many projects.”Khalil said when he took office, he thought that the deadlock at the legislative body was “temporary,” and that it would cease in a few months. “The political situation in the country has imposed itself on us, and it is a reality that we reject,” he said. “We want the election of a new president and the formation of a new Cabinet that could fulfill its duties in the presence of a head of state.”However, he emphasized the importance of taking legislative action to avoid the financial damage. Christian parties have been boycotting legislative sessions since November, arguing that the country’s political institutions should not operate as if there was a president. The Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement have agreed that they would keep boycotting sessions unless the top items on the legislative agenda were an electoral law draft and the expatriates naturalization bill. Lebanon has been without president since May 25, 2014, when former President Michel Sleiman left office at the end of his term. Khalil dedicated his speech Monday to announcing new reforms his ministry would launch to reduce waste and enhance efficiency. EU Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst sponsored the event. The reforms include the digitalization of many bureaucratic producedures and creating a new system to help citizens report corruption at the administrations. A new call center will also be launched for this purpose. The measures also aim at reducing citizen-employee interaction to decrease the possibility of bribes and favoritism.
Hizbullah Fighters Escort Journalists
on Tour of Qalamoun Mountains
Naharnet/In the pockets of the rugged mountains near the Lebanese border, the distinctive yellow flag of Hizbullah now flies where al-Qaida militants once held sway. These gains in the Qalamoun Mountains represent a bright spot for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, now reeling from a unified insurgent assault in the country's northwest. And again, they show the influence of the Lebanese group in Syria's civil war, grinding on into its fifth year after more than 220,000 people were killed. A team of Associated Press journalists traveling with Hizbullah into Syria found smiling Hizbullah fighters proudly showing newly dismantled booby traps and food quickly left behind by the Islamist insurgents as commanders promised further advances they say protect Lebanon.
The Qalamoun Mountains are on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon. They tower near Syria's capital, Damascus, and link that base of Assad's power to the coast, an enclave of his Alawite sect, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam. But the Sunni militants of the local al-Qaida chapter called al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group have been dug into the terrain for years.
Although Hizbullah officials say a full-blown assault to recover Qalamoun hasn't started, Hizbullah fighters in recent days have captured large areas and strategic hills. On Thursday, Hizbullah fighters attacking from the fields of the Syrian border town of Assal al-Ward met comrades on the offensive from the outskirts of the Lebanese village of Brital. "The situation is better than perfect," one smiling Hizbullah fighter said, speaking along with others anonymously as part of the conditions Hizbullah set to allow AP journalists to make the trip. Insurgents appear to have left their camps in a hurry. Groceries, medicines and other supplies littered their camps. At a Hizbullah position, fighters installed a 130 mm cannon pointed deeper into Syria. Wooden ammunition boxes nearby bore Persian words -- a sign of the support of Iran, a major benefactor of both Hizbullah and Assad.
Shelling could be heard in the distance, which Hizbullah fighters attributed to clashes around Syria's Barouh mountain to the north. Two giant Hizbullah bulldozers ground out a sand road on one of the region's mountains. Some 3,000 militants are in the Qalamoun region, almost equally split between the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group, a Hizbullah commander recently said in Beirut. He said Hizbullah and Syrian troops surround the Qalamoun from the north, the east and the south, as well as part of the west, squeezing the Islamic militants who remain. The total area of the Qalamoun being contested is about 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) — of which 340 square kilometers (131 square miles) lie in Lebanon and are under militants' control. Hizbullah cites that fear of militants sweeping through Shiite and Christian villages in diverse Lebanon as one of the main reasons for their involvement in Syria.
"We are giving our blood so that people (in Lebanon) live with dignity and safety," Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah recently said.
But analysts say the fight is not expected to have immediate military repercussions in Lebanon — though it directly affects Assad's survival and Hizbullah's reputation. Some observers however fear the Qalamoun offensive could prompt Islamist militants to launch attacks in Shiite areas of Lebanon itself, including Beirut's southern suburbs. A wave of bombings targeting Hizbullah strongholds in 2013 and 2014 left scores of people dead and wounded. Already, residents in a southern Beirut stronghold of Hizbullah say security has been tightened in the area, with officials searching cars and checking identification papers.
Berri Warns: No One Can Paralyze Parliament
Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri stressed that no side could prevent the parliament from legislating, warning that he could call for a session within 24 hours, which would enjoy the necessary quorum. “I can call for a parliamentary session within 24 hours and more than 70 lawmakers, from all the Lebanese spectrum, including those who are threatening to boycott, would attend,” Berri's visitors quoted him as saying in comments published in al-Joumhouria newspaper on Monday. However, the speaker stressed that he will not make such a move as he takes into consideration the Maronite stance and the National Pact, calling on those who are boycotting to back down on their stance. “They should abide by the norms of legislation,” he pointed out. “No one will be able to paralyze the parliament.”The speaker has been recently annoyed with the Christian parliamentary blocs' decision to boycott a session that he intends to call for to approve urgent issues, including the wage scale for the public sector and the food safety draft-law. The Lebanese Forces and its old-time rival the Free Patriotic Movement will boycott the session over the agenda, while the Kataeb party rejects to attend the session as the “parliament should be only considered as an electoral body and not a legislature” in the absence of a president. Berri has been threatening to dissolve the parliament to press lawmakers to carry out their Constitutional duties during the assembly's ordinary session, despite his knowledge that such a move is impossible amid the presidential vacuum. 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. The vacuum striking the presidential post is having a tough impact on the cabinet and the parliament as the state is threatened with further crises over ongoing rows between the rival parties.
Kataeb Urges Govt. to Order Deployment of Army along Syria Border
Naharnet/The Kataeb Party warned on Monday that the developments along Lebanon's border with Syria in the east “bring the country back into the circle of danger,” urging the adoption of protective measures to tackle them. It said in a statement after its weekly politburo meeting: “The government should take the decision to deploy the army along the border with Syria.” The army should pursue armed groups within Lebanese side of the border, it explained. The party also demanded that the government ask the United Nations Security Council to dispatch international troops, now deployed in the South, to assist the army in adherence to Resolution 1701. “The current situation obligates the Lebanese to overcome their disputes and stand united with government and army in order to stay clear of conspiracies,” said the Kataeb. For about a week, Hizbullah and Syrian regime forces have been waging a battle against armed groups for control of Syria's al-Qalamoun region that abuts the Lebanese-Syrian border. Addressing the ongoing vacuum in the presidency, the Kataeb remarked that it has become “a threat to Lebanon's system and entity, while harming the democratic traditions.”The vacuum is leading the country to vacancies on all fronts, it warned. It therefore demanded political forces to “reach a roadmap that would end all forms of vacuum and paralysis caused by the presidential deadlock, starting with staging the polls.”Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014 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 polls.
Hariri to Meet Putin in Moscow Visit, Discuss Developments
Naharnet/Head of al-Mustaqbal Movement and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri will head to Moscow for a two-day official visit this week to tackle the crisis gripping Lebanon, at forefront the presidential vacuum. Local newspapers reported on Monday that Hariri will meet during his visit to Russia President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other senior officials. The Sunni leader will reportedly tackle with Putin the latest developments in the region and ways to safeguard Lebanon from their repercussions, in addition to the possible means of supporting the country's military capabilities. The two officials will also underline Hariri's recent visits to Washington, Ankara, Doha and his meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Riyadh. The ex-premier will urge Putin to support Lebanon in its battle against terrorism and to facilitate the election of a new head of state. He will be accompanied by deputy Speaker Farid Makari, former MPs Ghattas Khoury and Bassem al-Sabeh and his adviser Nader Hariri.Hariri's shuttle diplomacy aims at safeguarding Lebanon from the repercussions of the turmoil in the region. Vacuum striking the presidential post since May last year is having a tough impact on the cabinet and the parliament as the state is threatened with further crises over ongoing rows between the rival parties.
Northern Young Man Killed Fighting alongside IS
Naharnet/A young man who hails from northern Lebanon has been killed fighting alongside the Islamic State jihadist group, according to media reports. “Raed Khaled Taleb, aka Abu Anas al-Lobnani, has been killed in Iraq while fighting alongside the Islamic State,” As Safir newspaper reported on Sunday. It said Taleb hailed from the town of Fnaydeq in the northern Akkar district and that his family “has been notified of his death.” “Raed, 24, had been jailed in Lebanon in 2012 for a full year on charges of plotting to blow up military barracks and coordinating with the (Qaida-linked) Abdullah Azzam Brigades in (the Palestinian refugee camp of) Ain el-Hilweh,” As Safir added. Meanwhile, Hizbullah's al-Nour radio station said the IS “announced the death of Abu Anas” after he “blew himself up near an Iraqi checkpoint on the Iraqi-Syrian border.” “He had joined the takfiri groups two years ago and fought alongside them in Syria before moving to Iraq,” al-Nour added. On March 29, Lebanese young man Mustafa Khodr was killed in a suicide operation during a battle he fought alongside Islamist militants in the Syrian city of Idlib, which has been seized from regime hands by fighters led by the Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front. Khodr hailed from the northern region of Dinniyeh but was a resident of Tripoli's al-Qobbeh district, according to media reports.A number of Lebanese young men from Tripoli, Sidon, and the North have joined extremist groups involved in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Hizbullah is meanwhile combating alongside Syria's regime and has sent elite forces across the border.
Saudi king, followed by GCC rulers,
snubs Obama on summit. US fails to isolate Netanyahu on nuclear deal
DEBKAfile Special Report May 11, 2015
Saudi King Salman’s last-minute cancellation of his White House summit with US President Obama and his decision to send Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in his place, is seen as a calculated snub for the president’s policies on Iran and the Middle East. Two senior Gulf rulers then opted out of the Camp David summit Obama scheduled for Wednesday, May 13 at Camp David: Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isaa Al Khalifa and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, leaving only the rulers of Qatar and Kuwait.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced Monday, May 12, that the king could not make the one-on-one White House summit Tuesday, May 12, because the five-day humanitarian truce in Yemen was due to start on that day.
But every informed source agrees that this was just an excuse to back out of the promise made to US Secretary of State John Kerry, when he visited Riyadh last week, that he would attend both the White House and the Camp David events.”
Gulf sources reported that Obama’s Gulf summit teetered after Kerry failed to sell King Salman the president’s plan for a new US-led regional defense system for guarding against Iranian missiles. It was to be a shared response to Iran’s nuclear program and regional expansion, and allay Gulf allies’ concerns over the forthcoming nuclear deal with Tehran.
But Kerry informed Riyadh that Obama would not be ready to sign a written regional defense pact between the US and the Gulf Cooperation Council at the Camp David summit, as some Gulf rulers had insisted.
Washington and the GCC also remained sharply at odds on the Syrian war and the Bashar Assad’s political future. The Saudis are not content with the US supplying the Syrian opposition for the first time with heavy weapons. They also want no-fly zones imposed over the war-torn country, arguing that weapons are not much use so long as the Syrian Air Force is free to strike rebel forces at will – and are armed by Iran, moreover, for chemical warfare.
The other bone the Saudis had to pick with the Americans was the Yemen war. They maintained to the Secretary of State that, while Obama was offering the region a hypothetic defense shield against Iran, at the same time, American assistance fell short of Saudi needs for beating back the Houthi rebels sponsored by Tehran. They complained especially about the lack of US naval protection in the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden.
In Riyadh’s view, the Obama administration is trying to walk a fine line between irreconcilable positions: Saudi Arabia’s requirements, on the one hand, and Iran’s illicit seizure of merchant ships in international waters, on the other. By accepting Tehran’s demand for Iranian ships and planes to deliver “humanitarian aid” to Yemen, the Obama administration is opening the door to arms supplies for the Houthis and deeper Iranian intervention in Yemen.
All that Kerry achieved in his two days of talks in Riyadh was to obtain Saudi Arabia’s consent to declare a five-day ceasefire for humanitarian aid to reach the stricken Yemen population.
But the most vexing issue between Washington and Riyadh continues to be the nuclear deal between Washington and Tehran which Obama is pushing to the exclusion of almost any other consideration.
debkafile’s Gulf sources note that had Kerry been able to build Saudi and Gulf support for this deal, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would have been left hanging alone. By refusing to attend the summit convened by Barack Obama, Saudi King Salman is signaling that he is not going to default on the Middle East front lined up against the US president’s Iranian venture.
'Assad puts intelligence chief Ali
Mamlouk, under house arrest for planning coup'
By JPOST.COM STAFF/05/11/2015
Syrian President Bashar Assad has placed his top intelligence official under house arrest for allegedly conspiring with the regime’s enemies to carry out a coup, the British daily Telegraph reported on Monday. Ali Mamlouk, who heads the National Security Bureau, was reportedly detained after he was suspected of maintaining contact with governments backing the Syrian rebels as well as oppositionists from abroad. According to the Telegraph report, key associates of the president, including those with access to him, “are increasingly turning on each other.”The newspaper cites sources within the presidential palace as saying that there is great dissension within the various intelligence arms, some of whose commanders are growing wary of Iran’s burgeoning influence in Damascus.
Factions within Assad's "inner circle" are weary of the role the Islamic Republic is playing in Syria's domestic conflict and how much influence their officials are amassing in Damascus, while others are in support of Iranian patronage.
It was as Syrian troops lost control of Idlib city and Jisr al-Shughour to an alliance of Islamist rebels including Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s local branch, that Mamlouk reportedly began to make contact with hostile governments and former regime officials, the Telegraph added. "Mamlouk had been communicating with Turkish intelligence through an intermediary," according to an unnamed senior regime source with knowledge of Mamlouk's plan.
Furthermore, it is alleged that Mamlouk was in contact with Rifaat al-Assad, Bashar's uncle, who was ostracized from the regime in the 80's for his role in an attempted coup, who still retains "big interest among...Syrian officers and military," should he return back to Syria.
Iranian resources have been indispensable to Assad's efforts to battle a fierce and fractured opposition enemy. Yet, the spread of Iranian influence has infiltrated some of Syria's most important institutions, including the central bank, angering some as a breach of Syrian sovereignty.
"Most of the advisers at the presidential palace are now Iranian," an unnamed source told the Telegraph. "Mamlouk hated that Syria was giving her sovereignty up to Iran. He thought there needed to be a change.”Tehran has also provided the credit and monetary support necessary to keep Syria's ailing economy from completely collapsing, more than $15 billion, according to Damascus' finance minister. However, as Tehran continues to have a major hand in decisions regarding both battlefield strategy and financial policy, the animosity between the two allies continues to grow. Last month, when senior officials in Syria's regime made one of their regular visits to Tehran, the meetings were tense, and at sometimes fraught, the Telegraph reported.
"Members of the regime said that they were losing control of Syria. At one point they even suggested considering cutting a deal with the opposition," the source said. "The Iranians were furious, after all they had done to help. They would not lose control."
The Telegraph dispatch is the latest in a string of recent reports that suggest the Assad’s grip on power is slipping in light of recent rebel gains on the battlefield.
A report in the Saudi newspaper Okaz earlier this month quoted Lebanese Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas denying an article in the same paper a day earlier quoting unnamed sources claiming that Syrian intelligence told the elite Alawite families to leave the capital within 48 hours for its coastal stronghold of Latakia. "Reports of President Assad giving his top Alawites orders to flee Damascus are undoubtedly wishful thinking and activist fancy," Joshua Landis, a Syria expert and the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told The Jerusalem Post.
"The regime lost an important provincial capital that was surrounded by opposition militias," said Landis adding. "Morale has been damaged, but the regime is neither giving up the ghost nor preparing to abandon Damascus for some coastal Alawite enclave."
The unconfirmed Saudi report could have simply been propaganda by the kingdom against its rival. Adding doubt to the original Saudi report and others that call into question the stability of the Syrian regime, the Syrian Army reportedly tightened its grip in the capital on Sunday. "The regime has cut off the last main road for rebels leading out of eastern Ghouta," a rebel stronghold in Damascus, said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman, AFP reported.
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Actions Speak Louder than Words, Mr. President Obama
Salman Aldosary/Asharq Al Awsat
Monday, 11 May, 2015
The upcoming summit at Camp David may be the most significant US–Gulf meeting in the last 50 years. This is not because it would be the first time a US president has met with Gulf leaders. But rather because Washington—and this is no secret—is aware of the strain and the confidence crisis the US–Gulf alliance is now suffering. Who knows, the summit may represent an opportunity to bring this historic alliance back on track after its derailment over the past few years. It is an opportunity for the US administration to transform words into actions and dispel doubts about its regional credibility, which has suffered thanks to its handling of the Syrian crisis, its shaky stances on Bahrain, Egypt and Iraq, and the clandestine and ambiguous deal it is expected to sign with Iran.
The US is a state of institutions, where decision-making is not dominated by the White House. In addition to the president, there is the Pentagon, the CIA—which must always be close to decision-making circles—and the Congress, the institution that is capable of vetoing presidential decisions in a constitutional manner. No doubt all these institutions are aware of the negative impact which a break in the alliance with the Gulf may have on US interests. Certainly, the policies of both sides do not have to be identical. However, it would be illogical for the US to adopt policies that run against Gulf interests. Otherwise, Washington would end up damaging its own interests in the region.
The Gulf States should be commended for curbing their anger regarding the Iran deal, for guarding against any fiery response which could threaten their strategic interests with the US. Despite their anger at the US’s surprising regional stances, the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, have maintained a minimal degree of relations with Washington, even with its officials constantly contradicting themselves, saying one thing in the morning and doing the opposite at night. An example here was Barack Obama’s now-infamous statement that any use of chemical weapons by Bashar Al-Assad’s regime would cross a “red-line.” Never have the Gulf States dealt with such contradictory US policies. Nevertheless, the Gulf States opted not to escalate tensions with Uncle Sam. Nor did they ever make the threat, whether publicly or secretly, that there are other superpowers out there, all of whom would be eager to gain even just a portion of the advantages which the US enjoys in the region.
Let’s assume that President Obama is not meeting the Gulf leaders in order to just verbally reassure them about the nuclear deal with Iran, since he has already done that on several previous occasions. President Obama must surely have a clear project in mind that would translate his administration’s words into actions. A US official told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that “unprecedented” levels of military cooperation with the Gulf states are expected to be unveiled at the Camp David summit. If this indeed pans out, the US should also provide written guarantees to this effect, as Abu Dhabi’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, has demanded. The Gulf–Iran gap is too wide to bridge due to Tehran’s interference in the Gulf’s internal affairs, the sectarian poison it tries to inject into the region, and the various cells it continues to plant inside Gulf and surrounding countries. All of this indicates it is highly unlikely that Iran would seek peace and stability, claims promoted by Washington. Without written guarantees, it would be easy for the US to contradict what it has agreed to only verbally. Only through such steps will the US restore warmth to its ties with the Gulf once again and prove that the nuclear deal, a final version of which is expected to be signed soon, is not open to any vague or ambiguous interpretations.
The US wants to have its cake and eat it. It seeks to have distinguished relations with the Gulf and Iran at the same time. This equation is impossible to achieve, not because the Gulf harbors any feelings of hatred towards Tehran, but rather because the Iranian regime is founded on hostility towards its Arabian Peninsula neighbors and the bulk of its policies are aimed at interfering in their internal affairs. So, this is the whole story, Mr. President.
It’s time for Gulf leaders and Obama
to seize the day
Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
Monday, 11 May 2015
The meetings between Gulf leaders and U.S. leaders next week will be a historic opportunity for a fundamental turning point in U.S.-Arab relations, that is, if the Gulf leaders negotiate firmly, earnestly, and skillfully. The U.S. political class has become accustomed to be disregardful of Arab visits, as they rely on secret deals behind closed doors and wager on Arab-Western distrust and differences.
Things are different this time because of what looks like a Gulf mandate to the new Saudi leadership to present a joint vision for the anticipated shift in the U.S.-Arab relationship, in light of the nuclear deal set to be concluded in late June. The security concerns of the Gulf nations will be strongly present on the agenda of the meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, who has linked his historical legacy to a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Any attempt to dissuade Obama from his eagerness for a deal with Tehran would draw the ire of the man who does not accept criticism easily and who has no wish to deviate from the path he set with Iran. Any attempt to remind him that he had backed away from his own red line on the 11th hour will be sure to anger him and make him more critical of his interlocutors. Barack Obama is not an easy man, but he is more complicated now on the verge of a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has little patience and he has no room for bargaining. For this reason, if the Gulf leaders make sure they understand the general American mood and Obama’s mood, they would be able to go to Washington with more confidence in themselves and their choices, and would be in a good position to convince the United States of the benefits of strong mutual relations rather than tell Washington what they need. There is a wide gap between the two sides.
Iran is presenting itself to Washington as a strong partner able to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on the ground. Iran’s diplomacy speaks the language that addresses U.S. fears, to undermine the international coalition in which the Arab countries have a key role, and to disparage Gulf participation in that coalition as long it is limited to aerial but not ground operations.
The Obama administration believes it can exploit the Arab and Iranian preparedness in the strategy to crush ISIS, which in U.S. calculations is now the number one terrorist group. Some in the administration believe the Arab-Iranian rivalry benefits U.S. interests and therefore, there is no need to defuse it.
No backing down
The Gulf leaders will not back away from the anti-ISIS coalition, as this group is an existential threat to them and as it drums up hostility for the Sunnis given that it was Sunnis behind 9/11 and Sunnis behind the unprecedented terror of ISIS.
These leaders may find themselves compelled to draft logical and practical proposals to let Obama and Congress know that they are willing to let Iran combat ISIS alone to test its real abilities to defeat ISIS without Sunni participation in the war. It may be worthwhile for Gulf leaders to detail it to the U.S. political and media class how the Gulf and other Arab countries play a role in the war on ISIS, and what would the fate of the war be without Arab and Sunni participation. This would challenge the Iranian claims that Tehran is the partner that is up to the job, and show that Iran would not be able to vanquish ISIS if the Arab countries withdrew from the international coalition.
Second, the Islamic Republic of Iran is pretending that it is ready to start a new page in regional security cooperation and build a new joint security system bringing together Iran, Iraq, and the six GCC nations. These claims are music to the ears of the U.S. media class.
But the GCC countries are not prepared to dismantle the GCC and replace it with an alternative regional security system that would include Iran and Iraq, because they believe Tehran wants to fragment the only Arab bloc that has real security and economic institutions. The GCC is a priority in Iranian interests. Furthermore, the regional security system being sought by Iran is for Tehran a gateway that would achieve two main things:
First, crowning Iran as the primary actor in relation to Gulf security, especially after international recognition of its nuclear importance. Second, replacing the U.S. security relationship with the GCC countries with a U.S.-Iranian relationship that would strengthen Iran.
Accordingly, the Gulf leaders must be armed with explanations to give to the American political and media class describing the pitfalls of Iranian proposals and the reasons why they are opposed to them, with a good dose of political realism.
New nuclear reality
It is clear that the United States and the European countries are gearing up to benefit from the new nuclear reality – following a deal with Iran – to conclude deals for “protecting” against the sense of superiority Tehran will feel following a final deal. For this reason, President Obama wants to renew efforts to develop a missile shield for the Gulf. The U.S. military industry is ready to take advantage, and so are the European military industries, especially those of France. Indeed, France wants to benefit from the Gulf détente with French President Francois Hollande, who attended a summit with Gulf leaders recently.
The oil and construction industries are also preparing themselves. Lifting the sanctions on Iran is also tempting for Wall Street, as much as it is tempting for European oil companies. None of them want to let Russian, Chinese, Indian, or Brazilian companies benefit by themselves. The language of interests is prevailing now in conjunction with the political and nuclear negotiations.
In the past, the Gulf leaders rushed to appease through commercial and military contracts. Perhaps, this time, they are going to Washington in a more prudent mood, linking strategic matters to commercial matters in the Gulf region and beyond, for example in Syria.
Gulf leaders, particularly Saudi leaders, see the Iranian objectives as part of a regional project that affects Arab national security, starting with Saudi Arabia through its borders with Yemen, and not ending with Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. The Gulf leaders are aware that the six negotiating parties in the P5+1 framework with Iran complied with the Iranian insistence on not discussing regional issues and focus the talks on nuclear issues exclusively. For the record, the Iranian position and the U.S. position in the negotiations were the opposite of the positions that prevailed later. In other words, Tehran did not want to discuss regional issues in the beginning, but the U.S. and the Europeans were opposed to this. Accordingly, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany focused on nuclear negotiations and refused to discuss regional Iranian actions from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
Now, some of these countries are trying to address this mistake and say that it’s not too late. There are two opinions regarding this issue: one opinion that says the window for a ‘grand bargain’ has closed and that there is no room for anything now except for some “patching up” here and there.
Desperate for a deal
The other opinion holds that now is the right time to fix the mistake, especially since Tehran has reached the last stop and is desperate for a deal. Consequently, now is the time for grand tradeoffs and even a grand bargain is not yet too late.
Syria is a major part of the bargaining, which is why the Syrian issue has returned to the fore. On the battlefield, the balance of power is not in the regime’s favor. Politically, U.N. Envoy Staffan De Mistura has been making new proposals, including for talks in Geneva to which he invited all opposition leaders as well as Iran. Tehran may celebrate the fact that it was invited despite Gulf reservations against giving Iran a say on Syria’s fate as it is a party to the civil war there. However, Iran today is under the microscope. Recall that Iran had rejected from the outset the Geneva 1 communique calling for establishing a transitional governing body in Damascus.
Therefore, when the Gulf leaders raise the Syrian issue with Obama at Camp David, they will have ammunition at their disposal based on the fact that Iran had circumvented the reference framework for a political settlement in Syria. If the Gulf leaders bend in the direction of half-solutions and half-promises to the Syrian opposition in footsteps of the Obama administration, then the Gulf positions will not be taken any seriously and the operation in Yemen would have no regional payoff. But if they show determination, then the payoff in Syria could be great in the context of curbing Iranian regional ambitions.
On Yemen, it will not be difficult to highlight the Gulf positions, particularly the Saudi position. Just like the Obama administration wants to contain the Yemeni crisis, Riyadh too wants an exit strategy for Yemen so that it does not become a quagmire for the Saudis that the Iranian leadership that backs the Houthis would sit and watch with glee. The Gulf leaders can insist that the Obama administration can truly make Tehran understand firmly that the time has come for Iran to end meddling in Yemen and to stop using the Houthis to provoke a war of attrition that would be destructive for the Yemeni people. The Gulf leaders can stress that the Arab alliance will not back down in Yemen no matter how arrogant Iran acts, because the events in Yemen for the Arab powers mean “enough is enough.”
What about at the nuclear level? Gulf leaders may come to Washington hoping that Congress will side with them in opposing a nuclear deal that gives Iran a strategic edge and billions of dollars to achieve its nuclear ambitions and expand in the region. It is best for these leaders not to place all their eggs in one basket. It is best also for them not to appear as though they are interfering in internal U.S. policy.
What the fate of the nuclear deal will boil down to is lifting sanctions and re-imposing them in case Tehran breaks its promises regarding not pursing military nuclear capacity, and the mechanism of supervision to prevent the conversion of peaceful nuclear capacity to military nuclear capabilities.
Both are being drafted. If the Gulf leaders bring more complaints to U.S. policymakers about Iranian “treachery” and “malice”, this will fall on deaf ears in Washington. If the leaders go to Washington carrying careful questions and insist on having answers regarding these aspects of the nuclear deal, they would be letting Washington know they are unwilling to content themselves with smooth talking and “reassurances” and insist on strategic guarantees rather that distraction meant to keep them away from shaping the future of the region.
The Daily Star/May. 11, 2015
Russia’s biggest-ever military parade, boycotted by most Western leaders, showed just how determined President Vladimir Putin is to revitalize the atmosphere of the Cold War.
Ostensibly held to commemorate the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, it also served as an opportunity to show off Russia’s latest materiel acquisitions, as well as for Putin to speak of international cooperation having been undermined in recent years and that a “military-bloc mentality is gaining momentum.” Pointing the finger at others, Putin apparently sought to use the commemoration of a war in which tens of millions of Russians alone were killed in justifying renewed military aggression as merely an act of self-defense.
However, whether closer to home – in Ukraine – or further afield in proxy wars – such as in Syria – Putin is working to secure an international view of Russia as an aggressive superpower, a beast to be universally feared. Harking back to the glory days of the Russian empire and the Soviet Union, Putin is repeatedly using history – such as in the annexation of Crimea – to evoke a renewed sense of nationalism. This is, of course, accompanied with an effort to silence all domestic opposition, whether through imprisonment, threats or exile.
But these hollow promises of Russia regaining its position as a global superpower combined with crippling economic problems will mean that Putin’s efforts can only go so far. Ultimately, even the fiercest patriots want the chance of a secure future and a decent life, and not to see its country’s resources squandered on gratuitous military parades and unnecessary weapons only meant to intimidate.
Hezbollah opens up about relationship with Al Houthis
Published: 03:03 May 11, 2015
Gulf News/By: Erica Solomon,/Financial Times
They are hundreds of miles apart and their local struggles have little in common, yet Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Al Houthi militiamen are opening up about a relationship forged by sectarian politics transforming the Middle East.
With regional tensions exacerbated by a Gulf-backed coalition striking Al Houthis, the long rumoured but never proven ties are becoming visible.
Some sources say Iran-backed Hezbollah may even be providing direct support to their Yemeni allies.
Hezbollah has made no comment on its role with Al Houthis, but a political source close to the group’s leadership said the relationship goes back several years and hinted it may be playing an advisory role to Al Houthi militiamen.
“Perhaps a limited role, giving advice and counsel, but there is no presence on the ground,” the source said.
Other Hezbollah fighters say they have played a more active role on the ground in Yemen.
An Al Houthi official who met with the Financial Times in Beirut said relations with the Lebanese movement stretch back over a decade.
“This is not a relationship with one side in control and the other mindlessly following. We exchange experience and ideology,” he said, asking not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the subject.
“We have our own character, our own way of doing things,” he stressed. “The goal is not to build a Hezbollah model in Yemen.”
Gulf officials say the Yemen campaign was partly designed to stop Iran from turning the Al Houthis into a copy of Hezbollah, a formidable guerrilla force.
A Hezbollah commander, who withheld his name because members are not permitted to speak to media, said Al Houthis and Hezbollah trained together for the past 10 years.
“They trained with us in Iran, then we trained them here and in Yemen.”
Hezbollah has long been suspected of channelling Iranian support to Al Houthis. For years, Al Houthi officials have been spotted at Beirut hotels and are believed to be hosted on Iran’s dime. Al Houthi television channel Al Maseera is based in Beirut’s Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs. “There’s been an active Al Houthi office in Beirut, and the city has been a popular meeting place between Yemeni political groups and other regional actors for some time,” said Yemen analyst Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations.
Hard evidence is scarce, but sources in Washington, Riyadh and London insist Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard experts are in Yemen, most likely for planning and co-ordination.
Analysts say any military links are likely quite limited. Hezbollah - already fighting in Syria to prop up President Bashar Al Assad and playing a small role supporting Shiite militias in Iraq - is militarily stretched and based far away from Yemen.
While two Hezbollah members said hundreds of Lebanese and Iranian trainers and military advisers are in Yemen already, these claims were impossible to verify.
“The Iranians are probably dealing with missile batteries and other weaponry. We are the guerrilla experts, so we give advice about the best timings to strike back, when to hold back,” said one Hezbollah fighter.
The Hezbollah commander, said eight Hezbollah members had died in fighting in Yemen, a claim impossible to verify but which shows the interest Hezbollah members have in portraying themselves as part of the fight.