May 15/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother
Mark 03/31-35//04/01-09: "Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’"

Bible Quotation For Today/ It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior
Letter to the Hebrews 07/01-07: "This ‘King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him’; and to him Abraham apportioned ‘one-tenth of everything’. His name, in the first place, means ‘king of righteousness’; next he is also king of Salem, that is, ‘king of peace’. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest for ever. See how great he is! Even Abraham the patriarch gave him a tenth of the spoils. And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to collect tithes from the people, that is, from their kindred, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man, who does not belong to their ancestry, collected tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had received the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior." 

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 14-15/15
An upbeat ending to Obama’s Gulf summit/David Ignatius/Washington Post/May 14/15
Annex to U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Camp David Joint Statement/The White House/Office of the Press Secretary/14 May/15
Knesset approves fourth Netanyahu government/ynetnews/May 14/15
A plan without Assad or ISIS/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Arabiya/ May 14/15
Wooing the Gulf States: From Riyadh to Paris to Camp David/Simon Henderson/Washington Institute/May 14/15

Lebanese Related News published on May 14-15/15
3 Lebanese transferred from Israel to Lebanon
Assad knew about Samaha plot, video indicates 
Officials Condemn Samaha Verdict as Jumblat Says it 'Legalizes Assassinations'
Samaha family says sentence too harsh 
Protesters Rally near Military Court, Say Samaha Verdict 'Encourages Terrorism'

Israeli official reveals Hezbollah 'strongholds' built into Lebanese villages
Army Arrests Shooting Suspects, Illegal Residents
Israel looks to justify south Lebanon attacks 
Aoun in Anti-Extension Rhetoric on Friday: Threats and Promises
Hezbollah targets rebels around Qalamoun peak 
Hariri Discusses with Putin Situations in Lebanon, Region
Loyalty to Resistance: Hizbullah Battle in Qalamoun is a National Duty
Hezbollah, Syrian army make big gains in battle
March 14 General Secretariat Concludes National Council's Preparatory Meetings
Qazzi Sounds Alarm over Unemployment among Lebanese
Report: Thousands of Hizbullah Fighters Engaging in Qalamoun Battle
Lebanese Businessman Found Shot Dead in Akkar
Hariri meets Putin in Sochi

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 14-15/15
U.S. and Gulf states to deepen military ties
U.S. House passes Iran nuclear review legislation
Obama updates Gulf leaders on Iran talks, seeks support for deal
Iranian Boats Fire Warning Shots at Singapore-Flagged Ship
The GCC-U.S. summit: An opportunity for strategic reassurance
Can Obama and the GCC strike a balance at Camp David?
NYT columnist: U.S. looks to ‘walk and chew gum’ on Iran deal
Iran blasts Saudis over Yemen
Iranian official says Saudi king 'traitor to Islam,' iterates support for Assad

Obama meets top royals in lieu of Saudi King's attendance of regional summit
Politicians will do anything to see Kahlon fail
PA : Half of world's Palestinians still refugees
Saudi Says Yemen Rebels Violating Truce but Vows 'Restraint'
U.S.-led coalition launches 31 air strikes against Islamic State: task force
UNESCO chief appeals for sparing Palmyra from Syria fighting
14 Die in Kabul Guesthouse Siege, Most of Them Foreign
Jeb Bush says "knowing what we know now" he would not have invaded Iraq
At least 12 dead after attack on Nigeria's Maiduguri city
UK: More than 700 potential terror suspects gone to Syria
Hamas says ISIS has no foothold in Gaza Strip
White House says concerned about Syria chemical weapons allegations
Israel says Egypt buying advanced Russian air defense system
NATO will examine ‘all possibilities’ in ISIS fight
British teen girls who joined ISIS are now ‘running’ from the militants

Latest Jihad Watch News
Raymond Ibrahim: U.S. State Dept. Invites Muslim Leaders, Denies Christians
Algerian Muslim leader: Turn all churches into mosques
Islamic State releases audio message purportedly from the caliph
Video: Media rushes to abandon the principle of freedom of speech
Islamic State deputy possibly killed in strike on mosque that US denies happened
Video: Islamic State issues new “Message to America,” threatening massive hacking and cyber attacks
The ISIS death fatwa
Italy: Muslims disrupt Catholic procession with insults and threats

Lebanon's Satanic Military Court: What about our People In Israel
Elias Bejjani/14.05.15
Why all these Lebanese politicians, particularly from the sovereign and patriotic March 14th coalition are crying fault today against the legitimacy of the military court ? Why only now!!
Why only now when they were cowardly mute with dead consciences for years while this satanic Syrian-Iranian tool of intimidation and terrorism was falsely and unjustly persecuting and sentencing our forgotten Lebanese people, who were forced to take refuge in Israel since year 2000 because of the terrorist Hezbollah dire and bold criminal threats?
In reality and actuality the credibility of all these politicians and clergymen in Lebanon is a big zero and will remain so due to the fact that they are not fair, lack the needed courage, and very selective in their stances.
Sadly their political, patriotic, humane and judicial stances are always tailored to serve only and only their own personal interests, greediness and authority ambitions.
Loudly, we call on all the Lebanese politicians and in particular the so called Christian leaders and parties, and on the clergymen, especially on the derailed and conceited Maronite Patriarch Bchara Al Raei to fear Almighty God and His Judgment Day, witness for truth and to work hard and openly to bring our people back from Israel after abolishing all the unjust verdicts issued against them by the Iranian-Syrian Lebanese Military Court.
In conclusion the real credibility comes with fairness in witnessing for the truth and not via pursuing personal agendas, partiality and selectivity.

*Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
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3 Lebanese transferred from Israel to Lebanon
The Daily Star/May. 14, 2015 /BEIRUT: The Red Cross Thursday transported a Lebanese woman and her two sons from Israel to Lebanon through the Naqoura border crossing, a security source said. Asmahan Alyan, and her two sons, Mohammad, 15, and Ali, 13, were handed over to Lebanese authorities after crossing into the country. Alyan had left Lebanon on the eve of Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000. More than 2,000 Lebanese citizens and their families who sided with Israel during its occupation of Lebanon are residing in border villages in Israel, after fleeing south Lebanon before Israel's withdrawal

Officials Condemn Samaha Verdict as Jumblat Says it 'Legalizes Assassinations'
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat criticized on Thursday the sentence issued by the military court against former Minister Michel Samaha. “The court's verdict in Samaha's case legalizes assassinations and explosions,” he said in a statement.
“The verdict can only be described as a judicial, military, and political scandal that avoids the implementation of the law and justice against those who oversaw the execution of crimes and terrorist bombings,” he added. “This light verdict contradicts all political and legal factors and leads us to addressing the case of the military judiciary … which has exceeded its privileges,” he continued. The MP noted that Samaha's verdict demands that the military tribunal's jurisdiction in tackling crimes be reconsidered and allow normal courts to play their role. “The verdict should therefore be reconsidered in order to avoid allowing this incident to pave the way to legalizing terrorism and murder, which would ignite the internal Lebanese scene for the interests of regional axes in a manner that would ensure their survival at the expense of Lebanon's stability,” Jumblat remarked. Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi later added: “We will stay in our fight towards the building of the state against the mini-state.”
He said he is planning to amend the law of the military court. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said after a cabinet session held at the Grand Serail: “We will exert efforts to avoid the repetition of such verdicts in future cases and to ensure that all Lebanese are treated equally.” Meanwhile, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea voiced his support for Rifi's position on the verdict, saying: “It is time to abolish exceptional trial, starting with military ones.”He added, via Twitter, that there should be a return to civil trials.
The minister had declared in the wake of the verdict on Wednesday that it fell short of his expectations. “I announce to the Lebanese people the death of the Military Court and we will utilize all means to amend the law of military trials,” he said.
Geagea added: “The verdict diminishes the Lebanese people's trust in the state and in the existence of justice.”The tribunal sentenced on Wednesday Samaha to four-and-a-half years in jail over terrorism charges. Samaha, arrested in August 2012, would be released at the end of this year taking into account time served and because the judicial year amounts to nine months in Lebanon. He was found guilty of "having tried to carry out terrorist actions and for belonging to an armed group" and was also stripped of his civic and political rights. The defense team argues that the former minister fell into a trap set by the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch. Samaha, who was also once an adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad, admitted in court last month that he had transported explosives from Syria for use in attacks in Lebanon, but argued he had been the victim of entrapment. The explosives were to be used in blasts on the Lebanese border, intended to force the closure of the frontier and stop the passage of Lebanese fighters joining rebel forces in Syria. The prosecution had charged Samaha and Syrian security services chief Ali Mamlouk with transporting explosives and planning attacks and assassinations of political and religious figures in Lebanon. The trial was postponed multiple times because of the absence of Mamlouk, who remains in Syria, until a judge separated the two cases, allowing Samaha's trial to open on April 20. Syria maintained a nearly 30-year presence in Lebanon, withdrawing its troops in 2005 after the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
But a series of assassinations of prominent anti-Syrian regime figures in Lebanon followed the withdrawal. Samaha could have faced the death penalty if convicted in the trial. The Lebanese judiciary has issued an arrest warrant for Mamlouk and sent Syria a formal notification of the warrant and charges, but received no response. Samaha's trial came amid continuing tensions in Lebanon over the Syrian conflict that began in March 2011 with protests against Assad's regime. Beirut has maintained an official policy of neutrality on the war, but the violence has regularly spilled over its borders and exacerbated existing sectarian tensions.

Assad knew about Samaha plot, video indicates
Nizar Hassan| The Daily Star/May. 14, 2015
BEIRUT: A video broadcast by Lebanese TV channels Thursday showed former minister Michel Samaha and undercover police informant Milad Kfoury discussing plans to carry out explosions, indicating that Syrian President Bashar Assad was aware of the operation.
Both MTV and LBCI broadcast videos showing a conversation between Kfoury and Samaha, during which Samaha talks about the quantities of explosives that he was smuggling, and the targets of the attacks. The footage, taken from a hidden camera that Kfoury was carrying, began with Samaha handing the informant a plastic bag with money. “One hundred and seventy thousand (dollars)?” Kfoury asked, as Samaha nodded yes. Samaha then began to explain how much they were collecting in terms of explosives.
He said the shipment contained a number of packages, each included two bombs weighing 20 kilograms each. Other bombs weighed more than 50 kilograms, he said, adding that all of them were made of TNT.
As Samaha talked about the explosives, Kfoury appeared surprised that the quantity was larger than he expected, saying he should have come in a larger car to collect them. “All the explosives are ready and the detonators have been sent to you as well,” Samaha said, adding that he would return to Syria to get more explosives later. He also said he received pistols.
The video also revealed that targets included militants and any religious or political figures that were present at militant gatherings. “I have prepared the implementation phase,” Kfoury said. “But you know the difficulty of this for me. All I care about is that Maj. Gen. Ali [Mamlouk] and the president (Assad) are the only ones who know about this.” Samaha responded with head and hand gestures, and said: “No one, no one at all... Only two people know, Ali and the president.”In a later part of the video, Samaha told Kfoury that the attacks should target “militant gatherings” and military arsenals, but to not be concerned with collateral damage. Kfoury then clarified that the gatherings will include lawmakers from the area, which is a reference to the northern district of Akkar.
“I have told you that sheikhs will be attending, Sunni sheikhs,” Kfoury emphasized. “So be it... let them stop attending,” Samaha said with a smile. MTV said more footage would be aired during its nighttime newscast. The video was published after the military court sentenced Samaha to four and a half judicial years in jail, with each judicial year equivalent to nine months. Samaha, who has been in custody since August 2012, will be eligible for release in December. Politicians, mainly from the March 14 coalition, lashed out at the tribunal over a verdict that they saw as “scandalously” light, and some of them called for completely scrapping the court. This prompted State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud to call on Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr to challenge the verdict issued against Samaha. On Thursday, media reports said Saqr was studying the case in order to file an appeal before the Military Appeal Court. Among the most notable remarks were those of Justice Ministry Ashraf Rifi, who said the verdict was “shameful,” pledging to “work through all means to amend the law of military verdicts.”A Hezbollah delegation visited the Higher Judiciary Council Thursday in response to Rifi’s comments, according to media reports. The reports said Hezbollah official Wafiq Safa and MP Nawwar Sahili discussed the matter with the council head and several of its members. In a statement Thursday, Lebanon’s Higher Judicial Council said that the judicial system recognizes methods of reviewing any decision that is subject to complaint. It also said that any announcement relating to the referral of a judge to judicial inspection served as a violation of legal protocol.The council said it renews its confidence in Lebanese judges and acknowledged the “magnitude” of the burden placed on the judiciary in light of the country’s difficult circumstances.

Rifi oversaw explosives transfers, Samaha family says, denouncing sentence
The Daily Star/May 14, 2015/BEIRUT: The sentence handed down Wednesday to former minister Michel Samaha over transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon was unfair considering he fell victim to entrapment in an operation supervised by ex-police chief and current Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi, his family said Thursday. The military court Wednesday sentenced Samaha, who was being tried on terror charges, to four-and-a-half judicial years in prison. Given that he had been in custody since August 2012, the ex-minister will be set for release in December. A judicial year is equal to nine months. “We consider the four-and-half-year sentence against Samaha as inappropriate with the act of transferring explosives after being lured [to do so] by the [Internal Security Forces] Information Branch,” the family said in a statement. Samaha had told the court that he transferred the weapons at the request a man who later turned out to be a police informant, accusing the ISF of targeting him. The family also dismissed criticisms by Rifi who on Wednesday described as "shameful" Samaha's sentence and vowed to amend military court laws. The family argued that Samaha had not been accused of the 2012 assassination of then-head of the ISF Information Branch Maj. Gen. Wissam Hasan for him to receive the four-and-a-half-year prison term, but that the transfer of explosives was carried out upon ISF orders and under the "supervision" of Rifi, who was at the time the head of the ISF.

Protesters Rally near Military Court, Say Samaha Verdict 'Encourages Terrorism'
Naharnet/14.05.15/A number of protesters staged a sit-in Thursday outside the Military Court in Beirut to denounce what they called “the farce of a verdict” that was issued Wednesday against former minister Michel Samaha. “We call for reconsidering the verdict issued against Michel Samaha because such a verdict encourages terrorism and extremism,” a Mustaqbal movement youth official said at the demo. Another protester meanwhile called for "amending the jurisdiction of the Military Court to limit it to military personnel.""We are against trying civilians before the Military Court," he added. The tribunal sentenced on Wednesday Samaha to four-and-a-half years in jail over terrorism charges. Samaha, arrested in August 2012, would be released at the end of this year taking into account time served and because the judicial year amounts to nine months in Lebanon. He was found guilty of "having tried to carry out terrorist actions and for belonging to an armed group" and was also stripped of his civic and political rights. The defense team argues that the former minister fell into a trap set by the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch. But the verdict was seen as too soft by many observers and political forces, who took to media outlets and social networking websites to express their dismay over the court's "unjust" ruling. “The court's verdict in Samaha's case legalizes assassinations and explosions,” Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat has warned. On Thursday, several TV networks aired videos showing Samaha handing ISF informant Milad Kfouri explosives and fuses he had transported in his car from Syria with the aim of staging bombings and assassinating Lebanese officials and religious figures at the behest of Syrian security services chief Ali Mamluk. Samaha's lawyer Rana Azoury said the ex-minister, who was once an adviser to Syria's President Bashar Assad, explained during the April 20 trial session that he had been "harassed" for four months by Kfouri to transport the explosives to be used in blasts on the Lebanese border. Samaha's trial had been postponed multiple times because of the absence of Ali Mamluk, who remains in Syria, but after a judge separated the cases against the two men, a first trial session began on April 20. The Lebanese judiciary has issued an arrest warrant for Mamluk and sent Syria a formal notification of the warrant and charges, but received no response.

Hariri Discusses with Putin Situations in Lebanon, Region
Naharnet/14.05.15/Al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri held talks Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi. The meeting was also attended by Hariri's adviser Nader Hariri, his adviser for Russian affairs George Shaaban, Putin's foreign affairs aide Yuri Ushakov and Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. According to a statement issued by Hariri's office, the talks tackled “the situations in Lebanon and the developments in the region, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.” On the first day of his trip on Wednesday, the ex-PM held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Lebanese newspapers had reported that the Hariri-Putin talks would address ways to safeguard Lebanon from the regional turmoil and possible means for supporting the country's military capabilities. They were also expected to discuss Hariri's recent visits to Washington, Ankara, Doha and his meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Riyadh.

Loyalty to Resistance: Hizbullah Battle in Qalamoun is a National Duty

Naharnet/14.05.15/TThe Loyalty to the Resistance bloc urged on Thursday support for Hizbullah and "its mission of confronting foreign aggression."MP Hassan Fadlallah said after the bloc's weekly meeting: “The battle that Hizbullah is waging in al-Qalamoun is a national duty obligated by the interests of our people.”“The sacrifices being made there will come to reflect positively” on the country, he added in reference to the battles Hizbullah and the Syrian regime are leading against rebels and armed groups in the Syrian border region of al-Qalamoun. “We call on all segments of the population to adhere to the resistance in order to protect Lebanon against existential threats,” he stressed. “We salute the brave resistance fighters who are defending Lebanon against takfiri threats,” declared Fadlallah. Addressing the presidential vacuum, he said: “The ongoing vacuum is a sign of the depth of the crisis in Lebanon.”He once again indirectly held the March 14 camp responsible for the vacuum, accusing it of holding on to its stances “in a manner that violates the constitution.” 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.

March 14 General Secretariat Concludes National Council's Preparatory Meetings
Naharnet/14.05.15/The March 14 General Secretariat concluded on Thursday a workshop for its preparatory commission, which is tasked with proposing the roadmap of the upcoming stage and the bylaws of the the coalition's National Council.
According to a statement issued by the secretariat, the commission failed to reach an agreement over the council's final manifesto, which includes political parties, independents and civil society activists. The statement said that seven official meetings were held at the secretariat's headquarters with the attendance of the majority of the members. “Due to the national need, the independents decided to prepare for their own National Council,” the statement read. The secretariat said that “it will continue coordination between the components of the March 14 alliance to preserve its unity.” The March 14 camp announced the formation of a National Council comprising political parties, independents and civil society activists, following a closed-door conference marking the tenth anniversary of the coalition's birth. The coalition was established in March 2005 in the aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which was largely blamed on the Syrian regime at the time. On March 14, 2005, a month after Hariri's murder, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese flocked to downtown Beirut to demand the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after a nearly 29-year presence. The mass rally was later dubbed the Cedar Revolution or Independence Uprising. The Syrian withdrawal did take place in April of that year.

Report: Thousands of Hizbullah Fighters Engaging in Qalamoun Battle
Naharnet/14.05.15/Thousands of Hizbullah fighters are engaged in the battle in the Syrian region of Qalamoun as the party's leadership is seeking to boost its capabilities and improve its performance to control the area along with the Syrian Army forces. “Thousands of fighters, who hail from various Lebanese towns, are participating in the war raging in al-Qalamoun,” prominent Hizbullah sources told the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper on Thursday. The sources told the daily that the fighters are fully equipped and supported by a logistic team and air-led strikes by the Syrian army. “Daily evaluations are carried out for the military plan.”The sources revealed that the “operations were divided into three areas: the east, south and west.”“The fighting is based on a comprehensive plan.”They told the daily in remarks that “the experience which Hizbullah is undergoing is the first of its kind and against forces that have the necessary military expertise and have strong beliefs.”The sources considered the Qalamoun battle as the “harshest” conflict that Hizbullah has been engaged in. Hizbullah and the Syrian army seized control Wednesday of the strategic Tallet Moussa hill in Qalamoun, as they pressed on with a major offensive against militant groups in the border region. The peak oversees Lebanon's border area. The forces continued their onslaught on the heights of the strategic Mount al-Barouh, where “tents belonging to the militants were torched and two military vehicles were destroyed, which left several of them dead or wounded.”Hizbullah and the Syrian army also seized control of “strategic” Southern Aqabat al-Faskh hill west of Ras al-Maarah, the Tallet al-Harf and Dahr al-Hawa hills, and “the entire al-Khashaat heights which lie in Lebanese territory on the border with Syria,” Hizbullah's mouthpiece al-Manar said. Last week, Hizbullah and Syrian forces controlled the strategic heights of Assal al-Ward in Qalamoun. Some 3,000 militants are in the Qalamoun region, a Hizbullah commander recently said. 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 — 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. 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.

Qazzi Sounds Alarm over Unemployment among Lebanese

Naharnet/Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi stressed on Thursday that Lebanon is imposing strict measures on Syrian laborers and not restrictions. “The conditions are in line with the national resolutions that are linked to the organization of the work of foreign laborers and with the labor laws applied in all countries around the world,” Qazzi revealed in comments to the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat. He expressed fear over the impact of the Syrian workers on the Lebanese employment rate, noting that unemployment among Lebanese swelled since 2012 to reach a devastating 25 percent, where 36 percent of them are youth. “The numbers are alarming,” Qazzi told the newspaper. He pointed out that currently there are around 346,000 unemployed Lebanese due to the competition enforced by the Syrian workers. Lebanon has been facing an explosion of social, economic and political tension due to the soaring numbers of Syrian refugees in the country..Around 170,000 Lebanese are living below the poverty line. There are now around 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Although Lebanese border officials began informally restricting the entry of Syrians last October, Beirut officially imposed visa regulations earlier this month on visiting Syrians. The move was the first such in decades.

Lebanese Businessman Found Shot Dead in Akkar
Naharnet/A Lebanese businessman was killed overnight near the town of Charbilla in the northern district of Akkar, the state-run National News Agency reported on Thursday. NNA said Asaad al-Warraq's bullet-riddled body was found meters away from the entrance to his town. According to LBCI, he was found lying on the floor not far from his vehicle.Security forces and forensic experts launched an investigation into the crime, the agency added.

Iranian official says Saudi king 'traitor to Islam,' iterates support for Assad
By REUTERS/05/14/2015 /DAMASCUS - A senior Iranian official branded Saudi Arabia's King Salman a traitor to Islam on Thursday and equated the Gulf state's military assault on Iranian-allied fighters in Yemen with Israeli actions against Palestinians. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Iran's national security and foreign policy committee, speaking in Damascus, also reiterated his country's support for the Syrian government, which is battling an insurgency backed by Saudi Arabia. Shi'ite Islamist Iran has been a vital ally for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the four-year Syrian war, providing crucial military and economic support. Syria is a focal point in a wider regional struggle between Tehran and Riyadh and which is also playing out in Yemen. "We are here to announced anew that our support for Syria - government and nation - is solid and continuous, and we are proud of this support," Boroujerdi said, according to a report on the Syrian state news agency SANA. In fierce rhetoric, Boroujerdi said "God would take revenge" against the Saudi monarch for serving what he called US-Israeli interests in the war against the Shi'ite Houthi rebels. "He should be called the traitor of the noble Haramayn and the Islamic nation and against all the teachings they are killing children in Yemen with American weapons and replicating the crimes of the Zionist entity," he said. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home of its holiest sites in Mecca and Medina - referred to in Arabic as the Haramayn. "They will have to expect heavenly revenge," he said. His comments in Farsi were translated into Arabic. An alliance of Gulf Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia has been bombing the Houthi militia and allied army units that control much of Yemen since March 26 in what they say is an attempt to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The United Nations says 828 civilians, including 182 children, have been killed across Yemen in the conflict. Saudi Arabia and its allies believe the Houthis are a proxy for the influence of their arch-rival Iran in a regional power struggle that has helped exacerbate sectarian tensions across the Middle East. Riyadh says Iranian support for militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq as well as Yemen undermines strong government and boosts Sunni Muslim militants. It accused Tehran of arming the Houthis, charges the Islamic Republic denies.

Aoun in Anti-Extension Rhetoric on Friday: Threats and Promises
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun is expected on Friday to deliver a slashing speech and announce that the ministers representing him in the government would stop attending sessions if it failed to appoint new security officials. While some sources said Aoun would withdraw his ministers and keep their resignation as an option, other officials stressed that the FPM chief would not announce his upcoming steps. He would only remind officials and the people at a press conference he is scheduled to hold in Rabieh about the dangers of violating the law in extending the terms of current senior security officers, they said. The FPM has been calling on the appointment of new officials and has rejected outright the extension of the mandates of the army and police chiefs. There have been reports that Aoun wants to have his son-in-law Commando Regiment chief Brig. Gen. Chamel Roukoz as army chief. Roukoz's tenure ends in October while the term of Army Commander Gen. Jean Qahwaji expires at the end of September.
Internal Security Forces leader Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous is also set to retire in June. Some sources said that Aoun could propose a solution to the extension crisis by calling on naming three military candidates and allow the cabinet to chose the most competent to replace Qahwaji. Aoun's rhetoric is also expected to focus on the presidential deadlock, said the officials, who made remarks to several newspapers published Thursday. MPs failed once again Wednesday to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman, whose term ended in May last year. Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned the 23rd presidential electoral session to June 3 over lack of quorum. The Loyalty to the Resistance bloc of Hizbullah and Aoun's Change and Reform bloc, in addition to other blocs in the March 8 alliance, have been boycotting the elections. Some sources expected Aoun to promise the people on the implementation of an initiative that he had proposed in June last year. The FPM chief, who is a presidential candidate, had called for a “limited constitutional amendment” that would allow the people to elect their head of state in an attempt to resolve the presidential deadlock. Aoun has said that his proposal lies in allowing only Christians to vote for their candidates in the first round. The system then allows the polls to be held at the level of the entire nation to pave way for both Muslims and Christians to choose the two candidates who received the majority of votes in the first round.

Israeli official reveals Hezbollah 'strongholds' built into Lebanese villages
By REUTERS/05/14/2015 /An Israeli official made unusually detailed allegations on Wednesday of secret Hezbollah guerrilla sites in Lebanese villages, driving home its warning that civilians there risk bearing the brunt of any future war. Though neither side appears keen on coming to blows, Hezbollah has been building up its arsenal since the last, inconclusive conflict of 2006 and Israel regards the Iranian-backed Shi'ite guerrillas as its most immediate threat. Worried that thousands of precision-guided Hezbollah rockets could paralyze their vital infrastructure, Israeli planners have long threatened to launch a blitz against suspected launchers in Lebanon, even if that means harming civilians. A senior Israeli intelligence official took the unusual step on Wednesday of showing foreign correspondents aerial photographs of two Lebanese border villages, Muhaybib and Shaqra, with dozens of locations of alleged rocket silos, guerrilla tunnels, and anti-tank and gun nests marked out. Each of the some 200 Shi'ite villages in southern Lebanon "is a military stronghold, even though you can walk in the street and you'll see nothing", said the official, who could not be named in print under military regulations. Hezbollah, whose fighters are helping Damascus battle the Syrian insurgency, says its capabilities have improved since the 2006 war with Israel but does not publish deployment details. The Shi'ite movement, which is a major military and political power in Lebanon and has never accepted the existence of the state of Israel, describes itself as a defensive force for a country far outgunned by its southern foe.
Should there be another conflict with Hezbollah, the Israeli official said, Lebanese civilians would be allowed to evacuate, but not at the cost of Israel suffering unbridled rocket salvos.
"It is a win-win situation for Hezbollah. If we attack them, we kill civilians. If we don't attack because there are civilians, it is good for Hezbollah as well," the official said. In 2006, Israel killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations. Hezbollah killed 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers within Lebanese territory. The toll on non-combatants spurred a UN truce resolution that called for Hezbollah to be stripped of weapons. It also called for an end to Israeli overflights of Lebanon, which continue.
According to regional security sources, Israel has over the past two years repeatedly bombed Hezbollah-bound missile shipments from Syria. The Israeli official urged greater foreign intervention against a combustible arms build-up. "I know that on the first day of the next war, the international community will stand up to say: Stop this war," he said. "And I have a different suggestion. Why wait for the first day of the war? Why not avoid this war?"

Obama meets top royals in lieu of Saudi King's attendance of regional summit
By REUTERS/05/14/2015
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday went out of his way to play down the absence of Saudi King Salman from a regional summit with Gulf leaders that is likely to be dominated by tension over US efforts to forge a nuclear deal with Iran.
Obama met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office on Wednesday after King Salman pulled out of the visit last week.
"The United States and Saudi Arabia have an extraordinary friendship and relationship that dates back to [President] Franklin Roosevelt," Obama said at the start of the meeting.
"We are continuing to build that relationship during a very challenging time," he said.
Obama said they would discuss how to build on a ceasefire in Yemen and work toward "an inclusive, legitimate government" in Saudi Arabia's impoverished neighbor, where Iran-supported Houthi rebels have been under attack by a Saudi-led coalition.
King Salman decided abruptly to skip the White House meeting and a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council at the president's Camp David retreat in Maryland outside Washington on Thursday.
The White House has sought to counter perceptions that his absence was a snub that would undermine efforts to reassure the region Washington remains committed to its security against Iran.
"King Salman, when he met directly with Secretary of State John Kerry in Riyadh last week, did not express any specific concerns about the agenda at Camp David," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.
US officials have said the right leaders were attending the summit, which they portrayed as a working meeting rather than a symbolic get-together.
The Gulf Cooperation Council includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Oman.
The absence of many top Arab leaders, in addition to King Salman, is viewed as a reflection of frustration with Obama's pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran and a perceived US failure to support opposition fighters in Syria.
The president called Saudi Arabia a critical partner in the fight against Islamic State militants and highlighted his interactions with the two leaders who came in King Salman's place.
"On a personal level, my work and the US. government's work with these two individuals ... on counter-terrorism issues has been absolutely critical to maintaining stability in the region but also protecting the American people," Obama said.
Crown Prince bin Nayef said his country attached great importance to the "strategic and historic relationship" with the United States.
Obama did not have private meetings on his public schedule with the leaders from the other countries. The leaders, dressed in traditional clothing, arrived at the White House later on Wednesday evening for a dinner and were greeted by Obama upon arrival.

Wooing the Gulf States: From Riyadh to Paris to Camp David
Simon Henderson/Washington Institute
May 7, 2015
This week's Gulf Arab summit in Riyadh and Secretary Kerry's May 8 meeting with GCC foreign ministers in Paris will be crucial to fixing the agenda for next week's Camp David summit.
Amid a flurry of speculative news stories about what Washington can offer to placate Gulf concerns about the putative nuclear deal with Iran, a dress rehearsal of sorts took place on May 5 in Riyadh. The leaders of five Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries were there -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates -- while Oman sent a special representative of Sultan Qaboos, who has been unwell. Also in attendance was French president Francois Hollande as the guest of honor, probably reflecting France's tough stance in the nuclear negotiations and its record as an arms supplier to the Gulf states. (Last month, for example, Qatar announced a $7 billion deal for French fighter aircraft.)
Because the Riyadh summit served as an opportunity for Gulf leaders to voice their anxieties about current regional affairs, it provides clues as to what public statements might emerge from their May 13-14 talks with President Obama at Camp David. In most respects, they eschewed the sharp criticism of Iran that has emerged from Gulf capitals in recent months. They also avoided reiterating their unhappiness with Washington, which stems from the U.S. failure to punish Syria for using chemical weapons and from their fears that the Iran deal will only confirm Tehran's nuclear status rather than limit its capabilities. Yet while Gulf leaders would likely prefer to use the Camp David talks to confirm their alliances with the United States rather than widen the differences, there will be a price for Washington to pay.
At the end of the Riyadh meeting, President Hollande and King Salman of Saudi Arabia issued a joint statement emphasizing the need to reach a "robust, lasting, verifiable, undisputed, and binding deal with Iran," one that must not "destabilize the security and stability of the region nor threaten the security and stability of Iran's neighbors." But the final communique of the summit itself reflected a broader range of concerns and gave less prominence to the nuclear issue. In order, the final statement addressed Yemen (seven paragraphs), the Palestinian cause (one paragraph), Syria (two paragraphs), Iraq/ISIS (one paragraph), Libya (one paragraph), terrorism (one paragraph), relations with Iran (one paragraph), Iranian nuclear concerns (one paragraph), and the long-festering dispute over Iran's occupation of three UAE islands (two paragraphs).
There was no reference to Iran's involvement in Syria or Iraq, nor its support for the Houthis, the targets of the ongoing Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen. The GCC leaders also expressed "keenness to build balanced relations" with Iran, while their disquiet about Tehran's regional influence was rendered as "mutual respect for the principles of good neighborliness." On the nuclear issue, they expressed hope that the initial framework agreement will lead to "a comprehensive final agreement ensuring the peaceful [nature of] the Iranian nuclear program."
In terms of vitriol, Israel and Syria were the only targets. Despite many reports of deepening Israeli-Gulf contacts due to shared interests on Iran, the GCC leaders "condemned the repeated brutal attacks carried out by the Israeli occupation authorities and Israeli extremists against the unarmed Palestinian citizens, religious shrines, and places of worship." On Syria, the GCC "expressed deep concern over the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation," blaming the Assad regime for the "killing, destruction, and use of heavy weapons, aerial bombs, and poisonous gas, which have resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and the injuring and displacement of millions more."
As for Camp David, the communique mentioned that the GCC leaders "looked forward to their meeting" with President Obama, "wishing that the talks contribute to the strengthening of the close relations with the United States in light of current developments and events, and the enhancement of the region's security and stability." Such blandness obscures the main challenge for President Obama next week: how to get GCC approval for an Iran nuclear accord, or at least avoid public criticism of the deal's perceived weaknesses.
During bilateral talks in Riyadh today, Secretary of State John Kerry and the Saudi leadership discussed, in Riyadh's formulation, "negative Iranian interventions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and other places." It will be interesting to see how much this mirrors the views of other Gulf states during Kerry's discussions with GCC foreign ministers tomorrow in Paris. There are important nuances in opinion between the different GCC members, which will also be reflected in who represents them at Camp David.
Saudi Arabia: The big question is whether King Salman will travel to the United States next week, an exhausting trip for a man of his age and health. If he does attend, which son will he bring: his favorite, Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman (a.k.a. MbS), an outspoken critic of Iran, or Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef (a.k.a. MbN), Washington's favorite? And if Salman stays home, will the kingdom be represented by MbS or MbN?
Kuwait: Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah is the GCC's conciliator, preferring compromise over confrontation. Perhaps significantly, MbS held one-on-one talks with him in Kuwait yesterday.
Bahrain: King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa will likely savor the opportunity to have his relationship with the United States framed in military/diplomatic terms rather than criticism of his government's human rights record. Given the island's majority Shiite population, he is particularly conscious of the threat of Iranian mischief.
Qatar: Last year, Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was the bad boy of the GCC, but this year he is more of a team player.
UAE: President Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan is incapacitated, but his younger brother Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed (a.k.a. MbZ) is working to coordinate the GCC position. MbZ knows the overall importance of staying close to Washington, but regionally he is seeking a partnership with MbS, the Saudi architect of the war in Yemen, where Washington wants a diplomatic solution. These goals may prove incompatible.
Oman: The sultanate is the odd-man-out of the GCC, preferring to engage with Iran and stay out of the coalition campaign in Yemen. Sultan Qaboos is the most likely no-show at Camp David, and whoever he designates as a substitute may cancel as well.
As for the next week's agenda, if Washington hews to the argument that Iran will be less dangerous with a nuclear agreement in place, it may only confirm the GCC's worst fears about the Iranian threat, which no new arms agreement with the United States can salvage. However, in the psyche of Gulf leaders, an undertaking from President Obama delivered personally and sealed with a handshake may have enough meaning to bridge the difference. The discussions will also take place against the symbolic backdrop of Camp David, where Egypt and Israel made peace in 1979. But the definition of success for this summit will more likely be a limited agreement than an historic pact.
*Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute.

A plan without Assad or ISIS
Thursday, 14 May 2015
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Arabiya
Although the forthcoming Geneva III conference on Syria is marked by many obstacles, U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura insists that it will begin next month. On May 4, consultations were launched in Switzerland that will last for six weeks. Meetings with Syrian representatives and parties will be held behind closed doors. No statements will be issued, and no interviews or statements will be provided to journalists. These consultations are supposed to help the U.N. envoy arrange the conference.
Despite that, there are more cynics than optimists regarding the talks. The conference may not even be held due to the major differences among Syrian parties and foreign governments. Unfortunately, moderate voices are few and largely unheard, although there is a real need for reasonable, pragmatic solutions.
The only hope for Syria is to have a reasonable middle-ground solution with an electoral system in which everyone can participate after eliminating Assad and ISIS.
The most recent suggestion is that of Mohammed Salman, head of the National Democratic Initiative and a former Syrian minister who is banned from travel. In a recent statement, he suggested a two-year transitional phase under U.N. supervision that includes both the regime and the opposition, including the armed one.
He does not name President Bashar al-Assad, nor organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as part of the plan. The proposal harmonizes with the Geneva I conference, and may therefore be accepted by Arab countries that support the Syrian opposition, including the Gulf states.
'No one will win militarily'
The aim is to establish a U.N.-supervised democratic regime, expel all non-Syrian forces, fight terrorist groups, prepare for a constituent assembly that lays down a constitution, and plan legislative elections.
The last four years of conflict have taught everyone that no one will win militarily, and that a possible solution will have to grant each party something and not everything. They have also taught us that there are impossible solutions, such as keeping Assad in power or including ISIS in governance.
Assad has failed in his security and military plans, and his allies have been unable to rescue him. The Syrian opposition has realized that extremist groups such as ISIS and Al-Nusra Front have hijacked the revolution and therefore cannot be accepted. The only hope for Syria is to have a reasonable middle-ground solution with an electoral system in which everyone can participate after excluding Assad and ISIS.
Others share this desire for a peaceful solution in which various parties take part. There is a project called “The Day After,” by a Syrian organization based in Istanbul that says it “works for the sake of supporting a peaceful, secure and democratic transition.”
Can such positive ideas grow in the burnt Syrian soil, and despite the domination of extremist parties on both sides? It is not easy, but the United Nations must push moderate figures and ideas to the forefront if it wants Geneva III to succeed.

U.S. House passes Iran nuclear review legislation
The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass legislation giving Congress the right to review, and possibly reject.
By Reuters | Washington
Thursday, 14 May 2015
The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass legislation giving Congress the right to review, and possibly reject, an international nuclear agreement with Iran. The 400-25 vote sends the legislation to the White House, where administration officials have said President Barack Obama will sign it into law. The Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015 passed the Senate last week. The Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015 passed the Senate last week, after lawmakers reached a compromise to remove some of its toughest provisions, and Obama dropped his threat to veto the measure as a threat to ongoing negotiations between the United States and five other world powers and Iran. The bill gives Congress 30 days to review a final nuclear deal after international negotiators reach such an agreement, and during that time bars Obama from temporarily waiving any U.S. sanctions on Iran that were passed by Congress. If the Senate and House pass a resolution of disapproval of the deal, it would prevent Obama from offering any waiver of
congressional sanctions, the overwhelming majority of U.S. sanctions on Iran. Such sanctions can only be permanently lifted by Congress.

U.S. and Gulf states to deepen military ties
Thursday, May 14, 2015. (AP)/By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Thursday, 14 May 2015
President Barack Obama vowed on Thursday to back Gulf allies against any “external attack,” seeking to reassure them of Washington commitment to their security amid Arab anxiety over U.S.-led efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. Obama, hosting the GCC states for a rare summit at the Camp David presidential retreat, pledged that the United States would cooperate with them to address what he called Iran’s “destabilizing activities in the region.” “The United States will stand by our GCC partners against external attack and will deepen and extend cooperation that we have,” Obama told reporters, with Gulf leaders standing by his side at the end of the talks. Obama promised a “concrete series of steps” from the one-day summit as he sought to allay Gulf Arab fears that the potential lifting of international sanctions on Tehran would embolden it in the region and raise the risk of more sectarian strife. Following Obama's remarks, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, said that his country and other GCC states hope that the Iran agreement would be a stabilizing factor in the region. Sheikh Tamim also said that the talks were fruitful and candid in all regional issues.
External threat
According to a joint statement released by the White House, the U.S. said it "is prepared to work jointly with the GCC states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state's territorial integrity that is inconsistent with the U.N. Charter.” The statement, which was obtained by Al Arabiya news, added that: “In the event of such aggression or the threat of such aggression, the United States stands ready to work with our GCC partners to determine urgently what action may be appropriate, using the means at our collective disposal, including the potential use of military force, for the defense of our GCC partners.” Obama and leaders from six Gulf nations gathered at Camp David in an effort to work through tensions sparked by the U.S. bid for a nuclear deal with Iran. Obama is seeking to reassure the Gulf leaders that his country’s overtures to Iran will not come at the expense of commitments to their security.
Non-NATO ally status
On the sidelines of the summit, a White House spokesperson said that the White House was open to the idea of granting its Gulf Cooperation Council partners major non-NATO ally status. But talks at the Camp David summit have been focused more on public assurances about help the U.S. can provide with security, Ben Rhodes said. Obama and the leaders from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain opened their talks with a private dinner Wednesday night at the White House. Just two heads of state are among those meeting Obama, with other nations sending lower-level but still influential representatives. The most notable absence is Saudi King Salman. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced that the king was skipping the summit, just two days after the White House said he was coming.
The Saudi king isn't the only head of state sending a lower-level representative to the summit. The heads of the United Arab Emirates and Oman have had health problems and were not making the trip. The Gulf summit comes as the U.S. and five other nations work to reach an agreement with Iran by the end of June to curb its nuclear efforts in exchange for relief from international economic sanctions. The Gulf nations fear that an easing of sanctions will only facilitate what they see as Iran's aggression. The White House says a nuclear accord could clear the way for more productive discussions with Iran about its reputed terror links.

Knesset approves fourth Netanyahu government
Attila Somfalvi/Ynetnews
Latest Update: 05.14.15/ Israel News
After last-minute postponement, Knesset plenum votes 61-59 in favor of swearing in Israel’s 34th government. A Knesset plenum on Thursday evening voted 61-59 in favor of swearing in Israel’s 34th government. The ceremony began at 9 pm, two hours after the original scheduled time, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to finish appointing ministers from within his own party.
The day, intended as a celebration of democracy at work, devolved into a political circus as two key Likud politicians – Gilad Erdan and Silvan Shalom – had yet to receive a portfolio until the ceremony actually commenced, when Netanyahu urged Erdan to reconsider his position and announced Shalom as interior minister and deputy prime minister.
Erdan and Shalom had eyed the foreign ministry, but their hopes were dashed when MK Tzipi Hotovely received an assurance from Netanyahu that she would serve as a deputy in the ministry while the top post was to remain vacant. Tzachi Hanegbi was announced as coalition chairman and the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Opposition chief Isaac Herzog attacked the new government during the ceremony. “This is not the government the people wanted and not even the government that half of the people wanted,” he said. “You bought control with lies. After such negotiations, you still dare give the world advice about negotiations with Iran?”
Herzog also criticized the decision to expand the number of ministers. “My way is not your way,” he said. “No respectable leader will join your government.”Prime Minsiter Netanyahu, on his part, decried the system of government, saying it must be changed. “It encourages extravagant, excessive demands both by parties and by individuals,” he said. A source in the Knesset said in the evening that “what is happening here is a circus” after a last-minute crisis between Netanyahu and the two senior members of his faction led to the delay of the Knesset swearing in session.
The MKs and ministers received a message of the postponement; even the president received a late warning of the delay due to the mess in the legislature and the Prime Minister’s Office. When President Reuven Rivlin’s staff then asked the officials responsible for the ceremony about the postponement, the Knesset staff denied the delay.
Erdan remained in his home during the evening hours and has yet to depart to the Knesset because he has rejected all offers from Netanyahu and his staffers. The senior Likud MK will arrive to the scheduled vote on the new government, but may not take part in the ceremony. Sources close to Erdan said he had no intention of spoiling the swearing in or damaging the ability of the coalition to approve incoming ministers.

Annex to U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Camp David Joint Statement
The White House/Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release/14 May/15

President Obama and Heads of Delegations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states came to Camp David to reaffirm and deepen their close partnership, make progress on a shared set of priorities, confront common threats, and work to resolve, or at a minimum de-escalate, regional crises and provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. The United States has worked with its GCC partners over six decades on matters of mutual interest, including confronting and deterring external aggression against allies and partners; ensuring the free flow of energy and commerce, and freedom of navigation in international waters; dismantling terrorist networks that threaten the safety of their people; and preventing the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. In recent years, we have made significant progress, under the framework of the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum, to work cooperatively on security and political issues of regional importance. Today, the United States and GCC member states recognize the need to consolidate and develop this relationship based on friendship and cooperation to more effectively address the challenges we face.
At Camp David, the leaders of the GCC states and President Obama reaffirmed the longstanding U.S.-GCC partnership and pledged to further enhance the relationship between the United States and GCC member states. This partnership is based on a shared commitment to the stability and prosperity of the region, mutual interest in confronting the threat of terrorism and other destabilizing activities, and resolving regional conflicts through political means. The leaders underscored their mutual commitment to the U.S.-GCC strategic partnership to provide for closer relations in all fields, including defense and security cooperation, and to develop collective approaches to regional issues in order to advance their shared interest in stability and prosperity.
The U.S.-GCC strategic partnership involves both enhanced cooperation between the United States and the GCC collectively and between the United States and individual GCC member states in accordance with their respective capacities and interests. It establishes a common understanding on mutual assurances and heightened cooperation, including efforts to build collective capacity to address the threats of terrorism and other regional security threats.
As part of this new partnership, the leaders of the United States and the GCC decided on the following steps to enhance their cooperation:
Security Cooperation
The U.S.-GCC security relationship remains a major pillar of our strategic partnership and a cornerstone of regional stability. Our existing cooperation, including basing, information sharing, joint military exercises, and provision of sophisticated military equipment and training are a testament to the sustained value we place on our shared security interests. The leaders decided at Camp David to enhance security cooperation in the following areas:
Security Assurances: At the core of the partnership is our shared interest in a region that is peaceful and prosperous. At Camp David, we have recommitted to the importance of this vision. President Obama affirmed that the United States shares with our GCC partners a deep interest in a region that is peaceful and prosperous, and a vital interest in supporting the political independence and territorial integrity, safe from external aggression, of our GCC partners. The United States policy to use all elements of power to secure our core interests in the Gulf region, and to deter and confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War, is unequivocal.
The United States is prepared to work jointly with the GCC states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state's territorial integrity that is inconsistent with the UN Charter. In the event of such aggression or the threat of such aggression, the United States stands ready to work with our GCC partners to determine urgently what action may be appropriate, using the means at our collective disposal, including the potential use of military force, for the defense of our GCC partners.
The United States and GCC member states also decided to set up a senior working group to pursue the development of rapid response capabilities, taking into account the Arab League’s concept of a “unified Arab force,” to mount or contribute in a coordinated way to counter-terrorism, peacekeeping and stabilization operations in the region. The United States and GCC member states also affirmed their strong support for the efforts of the P5+1 to reach a deal with Iran by June 30, 2015, that would verifiably ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon, noting that such a deal would represent a significant contribution to regional security.
As with Operation Decisive Storm, GCC states will consult with the United States when planning to take military action beyond GCC borders, in particular when U.S. assistance is requested for such action.
Ballistic missile defense: GCC member states committed to develop a region-wide ballistic missile defense capability, including through the development of a ballistic missile early warning system. The United States will help conduct a study of GCC ballistic missile defense architecture and offered technical assistance in the development of a GCC-wide Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. All participants decided to undertake a senior leader tabletop exercise to examine improved regional ballistic missile defense cooperation.
Military Exercises and Training Partnership: Building on their extensive existing program of military exercises and training activities, the United States and GCC member states decided to establish a new, recurring, large-scale exercise emphasizing interoperability against asymmetric threats, such as terrorist or cyber-attacks, or other tactics associated with hybrid warfare. The United States will also dispatch a military team to GCC capitals to discuss and decide on ways to increase the frequency of Special Operations Forces counter-terrorism cooperation and training.
Arms Transfers: In order to ensure that GCC member states are able to respond quickly to current and future threats, the United States and GCC member states will take steps necessary to ensure arms transfers are fast-tracked to GCC member states contributing to regional security. To that end, President Obama will dispatch a senior team to the region in the coming weeks to discuss specific modalities. The United States and the GCC will work together to set up a dedicated Foreign Military Sales procurement office to process GCC-wide sales, streamlining third-party transfers, and exploring ways the United States could accelerate the acquisition and fielding of key capabilities.
Maritime Security: To protect shared maritime security interests and freedom of navigation, the GCC member states decided to increase their participation in international maritime task forces on counter-terrorism and counter-piracy. They also decided to take further steps to exchange information about and, as appropriate, interdict illicit arms shipments to conflict areas. The United States committed to provide additional training and technical assistance for coastal security, protection of offshore infrastructure, and counter-smuggling.
Building on a shared commitment to address the acute threats posed by Al-Qa’ida, ISIL/DAESH and their affiliates, the United States and GCC member states will pursue initiatives to further build their capacity to track, investigate, and prosecute those engaged in terrorist activities within their borders, as well as to contain and deter transit, financing and recruitment by violent extremists. The United States and the GCC will hold a second U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum Working Group on Counter-terrorism and Border Security to follow up on previous efforts to cooperate on border security, countering the financing of terrorism, cybersecurity, and critical infrastructure protection. Leaders also decided to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation in the following areas:
Foreign Terrorist Fighters: The United States and GCC member states will bolster their joint efforts to identify and share information on suspected foreign terrorist fighters (FTF). In response to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014), the United States and GCC member states will work together to implement traveler screening systems and enhanced biometrics collection capability, and share best practices to make it more difficult for terrorists to avoid detection at any GCC airport.
Counter-Terrorist Financing: The United States and GCC member states will increase efforts to cut off terrorist financing, including through enhanced intelligence exchange and enforcement efforts to freeze assets of individuals and entities designated under relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, especially in the region. The United States will organize a public-private sector banking dialogue in the fall of 2015 to facilitate discussions on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.
Critical Infrastructure and Cybersecurity: The United States and GCC member states will consult on cybersecurity initiatives, share expertise and best practices on cyber policy, strategy, and incident response. The United States will provide GCC member states with additional security assistance, set up military cybersecurity exercises and national policy workshops, and improve information-sharing.
Countering Violent Extremism: Recognizing the need to counter recruitment by extremist groups from at-risk youth and vulnerable communities, the United States and GCC member states will provide financial support for multilateral initiatives to counter violent extremism (CVE) aimed at strengthening resilience in vulnerable communities, including support for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund. In addition, GCC leaders offered to host a CVE religious leaders conference aimed at boosting efforts that will expose the true nature of ISIL/DAESH and other terrorist organizations.
Counter-proliferation: The GCC member states determined to accelerate efforts against the proliferation of WMD, the means of their delivery, as well as advanced conventional weapons, by enhancing national controls on proliferation-sensitive items and technologies.
Regional Security
The United States and GCC member states reaffirmed their shared interest in de-escalating regional tensions, resolving regional armed civil conflicts, and addressing the critical humanitarian needs of populations affected by conflict. The leaders made clear their belief that the conflicts in the region, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, are eroding state structures, creating ungoverned spaces, and promoting sectarianism, all of which serve as fodder for terrorists and other extremist groups and directly threaten their shared security interests.
The leaders set out core principles that, in their view, must govern efforts to resolve regional armed civil conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, including:
the respect for state sovereignty;
a shared recognition that there is no military solution to the regions’ civil conflicts, and that they can only be resolved through political and peaceful means; and
the importance of inclusive governance; and respect for, and protection of, minorities and human rights.
The leaders also held in-depth discussions on the most pressing conflicts in the region and steps they decided should be taken to help resolve them.
Iran: The United States and GCC member states oppose and will cooperate in countering Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and continue consultations on how to enhance the region’s security architecture. As part of this effort, the United States will work in partnership with GCC member states to build their capacity to defend themselves against external aggression, including in terms of air and missile defense, maritime and cybersecurity, as GCC member states take steps to increase the interoperability of their military forces and continue to better integrate their advanced capabilities. At the same time, the United States and GCC member states reaffirmed their willingness to develop normalized relations with Iran should it cease its destabilizing activities and their belief that such relations would contribute to regional security.
Yemen: The United States and GCC member states expressed deep concern over the situation in Yemen and its destabilizing impact on the region. Leaders emphasized the need to rapidly shift from military operations to a political process, through the Riyadh Conference under GCC auspices and UN-facilitated negotiations based on the GCC initiative, National Comprehensive Dialogue outcomes, and the Security Council’s relevant resolutions. Taking into consideration the humanitarian needs of civilians, they welcomed the start of a five-day humanitarian pause to facilitate delivery of relief assistance to all those in need and expressed hope it would develop into a longer, more sustainable ceasefire. They expressed their appreciation for the generous grant of $274 million provided by Saudi Arabia for the UN humanitarian response in Yemen. Leaders emphasized the importance of working with the international community to prevent the provision of weapons to designated Yemeni parties or those acting on their behalf or at their direction in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
The United States also reaffirmed its assurance to help GCC member states defend themselves against external threats emanating from Yemen and emphasized its particular support for Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity. The leaders underscored that Yemen’s political transition should be in accordance with the GCC Initiative, National Dialogue outcomes and UNSC resolutions. Furthermore, leaders stressed the imperative of collective efforts to counter the shared threat from Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is exploiting the crisis.
Iraq: The United States and GCC member states reiterated their support for the Iraqi government in its efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL/DAESH. They encouraged the Iraqi government to achieve genuine national reconciliation by urgently addressing the legitimate grievances of all components of Iraqi society through the implementation of reforms agreed upon last summer and by ensuring that all armed groups operate under the strict control of the Iraqi state. GCC member states recommitted themselves to reestablishing a diplomatic presence in Baghdad and to working with the Iraqi government to support efforts against ISIL/DAESH, including in Anbar and other provinces.
Libya: Noting growing concern about political deadlock at a time when violent extremism is expanding, the United States and GCC member states decided to coordinate their efforts more closely on Libya’s political transition. They will press all parties to reach a political agreement based on proposals put forward by the UN and to urgently establish a national unity government before Ramadan, and stand ready to substantially increase their assistance to such a government. Leaders committed to seek to stem illicit arms flows into Libya, and called on all Libyans to focus on countering the growing terrorist presence, including that of ISIL/DAESH, instead of fighting their political rivals.
Syria: The United States and GCC member states reaffirmed the importance of a genuine, sustainable political solution as soon as possible to end the war in Syria and prevent the further suffering of its people. All affirmed that Assad had lost all legitimacy and had no role in Syria’s future. They affirmed their commitment to working towards a post-Assad government that is independent, inclusive, and protects the rights of minority groups. The United States and the GCC member states committed to increasing support to the moderate opposition. GCC member states decided to intensify efforts to combat extremist groups in Syria, notably by shutting down private financial flows or any form or assistance to ISIL/DAESH, Al Nusrah Front, and other violent extremist groups, and to intensify efforts to prevent the movement of foreign terrorist fighters in and out of Syria. They expressed their determination to work together to mobilize the international community for post-Assad reconstruction of Syria. All affirmed their commitment to continue to support Syria’s neighbors as they face the immense challenges posed by the ongoing conflict and to work together to strengthen the stability and security of these countries.
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The United States and GCC member states strongly affirmed the necessity of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a just, lasting, comprehensive peace agreement that results in an independent and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel. To that end, the United States and GCC member states underscored the enduring importance of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the urgent need for the parties to demonstrate—through policies and actions—genuine advancement of a two-state solution, and decided to remain closely engaged moving forward. The United States and GCC member states also recommitted to continue to fulfill aggressively their pledges made for Gaza’s reconstruction, to include pledges made at the October 2014 Cairo Conference.
Lebanon: The leaders expressed their concern over the delay in electing a new president of Lebanon, called on all parties to strengthen Lebanese state institutions, and emphasized the critical importance of Lebanon’s parliament moving forward to elect a president of the Lebanese Republic in accordance with the constitution.
U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum:
The leaders pledged to further deepen U.S.-GCC relations on these and other issues, to build an even stronger, enduring, and comprehensive strategic partnership and work together for the same, aimed at enhancing regional stability and prosperity.
To ensure continuity of those efforts, and speedy implementation of decisions expressed in the Camp David Joint Statement of 14 May 2015, they directed their respective administrations to strengthen the framework of the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum, to include more frequent ministerial and technical meetings for foreign affairs, defense, security, economic and other areas relevant to the Forum’s activities. They agreed to meet again in a similar high level format in 2016, in order to advance and build upon the US-GCC Strategic Partnership announced today.

An upbeat ending to Obama’s Gulf summit
By David Ignatius May 14/15
Washington Post
President Barack Obama, center, waves as he stands with, from left, Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Bahrain Crown Prince Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalif; Deputy Prime Minister of Oman, Sayyid Fahad Bin Mahmood Al Said; Kuwait’s Emir Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah; Qatar’s Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani; Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef; and Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani of Bahrain after their meeting at Camp David in Maryland, Thursday, May 14, 2015.
President Obama’s meeting with Arab leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council leaders at Camp David ended with surprisingly upbeat statements and an “unequivocal” U.S. commitment “to deter and confront” any future aggression from Iran.
“The U.S-G.C.C. relationship has just been elevated to a new level,” said Yousef Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Washington, in a telephone interview after the summit ended. “The potential for collaboration has just taken a new step.”
Coming after months of hand-wringing about deteriorating relations with Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and other Gulf countries, the Camp David meeting was seen as a potential arena for confrontation. But it apparently proved the opposite. The Arabs got what they wanted, in assurances of American willingness to challenge Iranian meddling in the region, and Obama got an endorsement of his effort to negotiate a nuclear deal with Tehran.
Mutual suspicions will remain—this is the Middle East, after all—but the meeting represented an important consolidation of ties with Sunni Arab powers as the U.S. heads toward a potential breakthrough agreement with Shiite Iran. Obama, in effect, is adopting a strategy of riding two horses at once–an approach Iran, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers have often adopted.
The Camp David setting seems to have helped lighten the atmosphere. After a somewhat stiff morning session devoted to briefing the leaders on the progress of the Iran talks, the leaders adjourned to lunch. After that, the mood changed. During the afternoon, the leaders talked informally about regional challenges in Syria, Iran and Libya, with Saudi, Emirati and Qatari leaders raising their hands to interject and offer comments and suggestions.
The mood in this afternoon session was “really, really positive,” said one attendee. “We came away with a collective spirit we didn’t have before the meeting.”
Secretary of State John Kerry told the group about his visit this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the U.S. hope that the Russians will join in sponsoring a process of political transition away from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Obama and other U.S. officials urged Gulf leaders who are funding the opposition to keep control of their clients, so that a post-Assad regime isn’t controlled by extremists from the Islamic State or Al Qaeda.
A joint statement issued by the group took an anti-Assad line, but without the emphatic “Assad must go” tone used by Obama three years ago. This time, the communique “reaffirmed that Assad has no legitimacy and has no role in Syria’s future.” How this change will be accomplished wasn’t explained, and probably hasn’t yet been agreed.
The importance of the meeting was symbolic, but that’s not a trivial matter. In contrast to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who harangued Obama and lobbied against the Iran nuclear deal from the floor of the Congress, the Gulf Arab leaders have said, in effect, that they’ll support the deal so long as Obama keeps Iranian proxies from advancing further in the Sunni world.
For once, in the theater of the Middle East, the Arabs have opted to be the good guys, compared to an unyielding Israeli government. And Obama has responded with the sentiment conveyed by the Arabic expression, “Ahlan wa Sahlan.” You are welcome.
***David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.