May 22/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength
Mark 12/28-34: "One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’Jesus answered, ‘The first is, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."The second is this, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.’Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that "he is one, and besides him there is no other";and "to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength", and "to love one’s neighbour as oneself", this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question."

Bible Quotation For Today/Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’
Letter to the Ephesians 05/08-21: "For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit,
as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 21-22/15
Why Hezbollah may seek to change Taif/Michael Young/The Daily Star/May 21/15
Iranian embassy blown up in Damascus: Nusra Front suspected/DEBKAfile/May 21/15
Baghdad must empower Sunnis or lose Iraq/David Ignatius/The Daily Star/May 21/15

Lebanese Related News published on May 21-22/15
Iran Warns Israel of Hizbullah Rockets if Attacked
Conflicting Reports on Fate of Lebanese Detainees as IS Seizes Palmyra Prison
Hariri via Twitter: Endeavors to Involve Army in Outside Battles will Fail
Berri on Liberation Day: Resistance Necessary to Protect Border
On Syria-Lebanon Border, Hizbullah in 'Hardest' Battle
Mashnouq Tackles Appointments Dilemma in Rabieh Talks
Military Judge Issues 6 Indictments against Terrorists
Gemayel Urges Election of President, Warns against Forming Constituent Assembly

Police dismantle car bomb in Arsal 
Nasrallah remarks on Arsal a 'call for strife': Hariri 
Arsal offensive requires Cabinet decision: defense minister
Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy: Hezbollah to back Assad for 'as long as it tak
3 arrested in Lebanon for 'financing Syrian armed groups': Army 
PSP opposes constitutional changes: Chehayeb 
Cabinet approves funds transfers for Lebanon projects 
Lebanon military court rejects appeal by Salafist sheikh 
Talks to ship Lebanese goods by sea advance 
Why Hezbollah may seek to change Taif 

Suleiman Reiterates Insistence on Baabda Declaration, Slams Those Seeking 'Constituent Assembly'
Lakeside lethargy 

Bassil Presses at Diaspora Conference for Adoption of Expats Citizenship Law

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 21-22/15
Hollande says world must respond to threat to Palmyra
Obama: Supreme leader is anti-Semitic
Obama: 'I don't think we're losing' fight with ISIS
40 rebels dead in Aleppo air raid: activists
Damascus cedes Palmyra to ISIS 
One-third of Palmyra's 200,000 residents may have fled: U.N.
Video shows Syrian army using barrel bomb
Turkey shipped arms to Syria Islamists, documents say

Obama, Tunisia’s new president to meet at White House
Israel rules out any payment to 'enemy' Iran
Iran threatens '80,000 rockets at Tel Aviv and Haifa' over distorted Ya'alon comment
US presses Israel on talks for Middle East nuclear-free zone
Lieberman blasts Netanyahu for talks with Arab list
Israel court orders Palestinian lawmaker freed on bail
Muslim Brotherhood becoming more violent and radical, expert tells 'Post'
Classified document on Bahrain rankles Britain decades late
Top Turkish newspaper fined for insulting Erdogan
Turkish prime minister says far-left suspect bombed pro-Kurdish party
Iran backs Yemen talks but no foreign interference: FM
Baghdad must empower Sunnis or lose Iraq 
Egypt's judges are the new frontline
Muslim Brotherhood becoming more violent and radical, expert tells 'Post'

Latest Jihad Watch News
Why Pamela Geller is currently the Left’s chief villain
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Hillary got warning Benghazi attack was premeditated jihad terrorism, still blamed Muhammad video
White House denies that the Islamic State has established a caliphate, insists it has lost territory
AFDI/JW Muhammad Cartoon Contest winner Bosch Fawstin: “The Garland attack is a litmus test”
Where Our Frontier Lies Today
AFDI Rolls Out New Free Speech Ad Campaign to Featuring Muhammad Cartoon
Kenya: Muslim preacher charged with inciting Muslims to kill non-Muslims
Robert Spencer in FrontPage Mag: The Jihadi Job Application
Cyrus McGoldrick, ex-official of Hamas-linked terror org CAIR, flies to Iran to curse U.S.
Germany: Court rules that satirist who criticizes Islam can be called a “hate preacher”
Jerusalem: Muslim rams car into Israeli police officers

15 years after Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon
By: Elias Bejjani
* & Charbel Barakat*
N.B: This study was first published on 23.05.10
May 21/15
There is no question that the withdrawal of a foreign army from any country should be hailed with a sense of relief and joy; even if it was an ally its withdrawal indicates that the country is self-governing and is capable of defending itself independently.  Meanwhile, the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon on May 23/2000 was not hailed by our people, because practically it was the beginning of a new tragedy that was added to the many Lebanese tragedies. Why was there this bitter feeling and why is it still painful after 15 years?
The other question is why our people who are patriotic and adore their land have decided at that time to leave their beloved country and go into exile in neighbouring Israel? Did they actually follow the withdrawing Israeli army?
The intention of this editorial is not to delve into many analyses, but to summarize the actual reasons that made our people hastily cross the border and seek refuge in Israel: 
1-At that time Lebanon was still under the oppressive Syrian occupation and its mere decision making process was fully controlled by Syria, the occupier.
2- Hezbollah, an armed militia, which is totally affiliated to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was in control of Lebanon's Shiite communities culturally, ideologically, militarily and economically, especially in numerous parts of the south.
3- The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stationed in south Lebanon failed in their duty of reassuring the citizens of their safety, did not show any interest in the outcome of the Israeli withdrawal, did not negotiate with the southern citizens in the absence of the Lebanese authorities or even ask for their opinion or protect them.
While Israel was logistically preparing for the withdrawal, Hezbollah waged a merciless and savage media campaign against the southern Lebanese citizens. The campaign was aired publicly on all local and international TV channels and radio stations. The most frightening threats were uttered personally by Hezbollah's Secretary General, Sheik Nasrallah, who savagely said, �We will enter their bedrooms, pierce their stomachs, slaughter them and slice their throats. 
But Nasrallah’s threats did not frighten the South Lebanon Army (SLA), on the contrary this rhetoric was ridiculed on May 18/2000, six days before the Israeli withdrawal, when the Hezbollah militia tried to overcome and control one of  the SLA posts at the "Hamra Bridge". The attack failed badly and Hezbollah suffered huge losses.
Facing this disastrous milieu and all the other uncertainties, southern citizens were left with two bitter options: to militarily defend their land, engage with Hezbollah and repeat the status that prevailed before 1978; or to succumb to Hezbollah, surrender their weapons and live under its authority. Encountering this dilemma, they decided to avoid more Lebanese bloodshed and to leave Lebanon, the country that they cherished, without a fight and take refuge in Israel.
As a result of the Israeli withdrawal, there has been an enormous global escalation of terrorism not only in the Middle East, but in many other countries. Progress of peace efforts suffered a remarkable setback and worldwide violence prevailed leading to the 9/11 attacks and to subsequent acts of terrorism throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
The Free World countries responded by waging a massive global military anti-terrorism campaign that primarily focused on both Iraq and Afghanistan. Subsequently, the international community tried to amend the fatal mistakes that were committed in Lebanon and issued UN Security Council Resolution 1559 that addressed three important issues:
1-Syrian occupation: It called for the immediate withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon.
2-Weapons of terrorism: It called for the disarming of all militias, and in particular, of Hezbollah.
3- Safeguarding Lebanon's democratic system: It called for free parliamentary elections without Syrian interference.
UN Resolution 1559 provided the Lebanese people with the incentives to take action. Accordingly, the Cedar Revolution emerged and the Lebanese people by the hundreds of thousands peacefully took to the streets forcing the withdrawal of the Syrian army.
Unfortunately, this revolution did not finish the job, which gave Hezbollah the route to brazenly escape and instigate a war with Israel in 2006. Sadly, due to the Lebanese authorities’ and politicians’ hesitation, poor judgment and lack of courage, they did not fully utilize the available circumstances to finish off the Hezbollah phenomenon. Instead Hezbollah besieged the government's headquarters, alleged a divine victory on Israel in the 2006 war, and on May 07 and 11/2008, invaded the western section of the capital Beirut and attempted to conquer the Shouf Mountain, enforcing a new national balance equation in a bid to abort the Cedar Revolution and circumvent and cripple UN Resolution 1559.
The Iranian endeavours for not allowing the disarmament of Hezbollah unveiled the actual elements of her plot:
1-A well set plan to expand Iran's hegemony on the whole Middle East.
2-The establishment of a military base In Eretria and Yemen.
3-The mobilization of the Shiite Houthis tribes on the Saudi -Yemeni border.
4-Supporting and instigation of instability in neighbouring Iraq.
5-The formation of numerous sleeping militant cells among the Shiite Arabian Gulf countries' communities.
6-Keeping Egypt unfocused on the actual Iranian scheme through instigation of strife between Egypt and other African countries that share the Nile River.
7- Playing with and tickling Muslims’ emotions and instigating religious fanaticism to fight Israel through Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
At the same time, Iran has been working day and night to become a nuclear power and  possess a nuclear weapon that is intended to be used for intimidating the Middle East countries, control their resources and wealth and have a monopoly on the region's fate and decisions.
Hezbollah is pivotal for all of the above Iranian schemes and a primary source of manpower. Its militant members who number in the tens of  thousands speak the Arabic language, are ideologically and religiously well prepared, and more than ready to carry out missions in any country as instructed.
There is no doubt that the current situation in the whole Middle East in general, and in Israel and Lebanon in particular, is much worse from the day the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon was implemented 10 years ago. The Iranian danger to both Israel and Lebanon is escalating. Lebanon did not enjoy any kind of stability despite the UN Resolutions, the bitter events' experience, the great sacrifices and the presence of new players (powers) on its arena.
Sadly, Lebanon is now living a repeat of same ghastly milieu that prevailed in 1982: tension, instability, chaos, and forced absence of any input on what goes on its land. The war-peace decision making process is again in the hands of Syria and Iran, while weapons of all kinds are smuggled to Hezbollah and to other Lebanese - Palestinian armed terrorist groups via Syria without any kind of control or impunity.
Based on all of the above, we request:
1- Lebanese officials to be prudent, patient, thoughtful and not to fall prey to the axis of evil’s schemes, terrorism, fanaticism, violence, intimidation, and whims of sabotage. Their patriotic duties and obligations as responsible Lebanese officials and leaders are to help in making Lebanon a country of peace, prosperity, freedom and stability in the region and not to be an arena and battlefield for Iran, Syria and their armed proxies. They must be aware that for the past 30 years, our Lebanese people have endured much more than they can tolerate, and as the saying goes: "He who does not learn from the past cannot make the future."
2- The  Cedar Revolution’s masses to hold dearly to their solid faith in a free, sovereign and independent Lebanon that should not under any circumstances be an aggressor, but a peace maker and an advocate for human rights and democracy. We encourage the masses to actively help in preserving the historic Lebanese role in hailing the right of all countries and people in the region to live freely without any kind of oppression. Lebanon's mission and message are to protect the weak and the oppressed and not to hail the conceited and arrogant.
3- Neighbouring Syria to overcome its ongoing expansionism schemes and accept once and forever the reality that Lebanon is an independent and sovereign country and not a Syrian territory or satellite. Accordingly, the joint borders must be patrolled and all kinds of infiltration and smuggling permanently stopped.
4- Israel to re-evaluate the achievements and setbacks of her withdrawal decision; meanwhile, We agree fully with Moshe Arens's analysis of May 17/10, which stated: "Chief among the assumptions underlying the decision to withdraw unilaterally was that once Hezbollah had achieved its stated goal of freeing southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation, it would restrict its activities to the Lebanese political arena and abandon further military operations against Israel. Secondly, should Hezbollah, nevertheless, continue military actions against Israeli targets after the withdrawal, Israel believed it would then be free to respond with drastic military actions that would dissuade Hezbollah from engaging in further military activities against Israel. Well, wrong on both counts. After the Israeli withdrawal, Hezbollah not only did not disband its militia but intensively armed itself, including the acquisition of large numbers of long-range rockets, and developed from a guerrilla band into a well-trained and -equipped military force."
5-The Free World and Arab countries to completely support a free and democratic Lebanon and take a courageous stance in this regard before it is too late. A regime in Lebanon fully under the direct control of Syria or Iran or through their armed proxies is a dire threat to peace and stability to not only the Middle East but to the whole world.
6- Our people, the southern Lebanese citizens, who have been living a forced exile in Israel since May 2000 to remain as tall as Lebanon's Holy Cedars. They should know that the free Lebanese people hail their heroism, courage, peaceful inclinations, acceptance of others, tolerance, patriotism, sacrifices, love  of their homeland and deeply rooted faith. We know that they have proudly, honourably and courageously defended their beloved land and rights and never attacked others. We assure them that Lebanon won’t have long lasting stability until their honoured and dignified unconditional return is achieved. 

Conflicting Reports on Fate of Lebanese Detainees as IS Seizes Palmyra Prison
Naharnet /21 May/15/Conflicting reports emerged Thursday about the fate of dozens of Lebanese detainees at the prison of the Syrian city of Palmyra, after the Islamic State jihadist group seized control of the facility from the regime's hands. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq denied having any information about the issue after media reports claimed that the IS had “liberated” Lebanese detainees from the Palmyra prison, noting that he was still trying to verify the allegations. For her part, Wadad Halawani, head of the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Missing in Lebanon, described the reports as “inaccurate” and “unconfirmed,” in remarks to LBCI television. Sky News TV had earlier in the day quoted Lebanese Islamic activist Ahmed al-Ayyoubi as saying that the IS had set free the Lebanese detainees who had been at the prison and that they “could head to Turkey,” describing Ayyoubi as an adviser to Mashnouq. But Mashnouq's press office clarified that Ayyoubi is not an adviser to the minister, noting that he had only “volunteered” to play a mediation role between Mashnouq and some Lebanese Muslim clerics as part of efforts to “consolidate civil peace in the city of Tripoli.” LBCI said the reports sparked a state of confusion among the families of the Lebanese detainees. MTV had quoted the so-called Palmyra branch of the Islamic State as saying that “27 Lebanese detainees were freed from the Palmyra prison, including 5 Christians who had been in the regime's prisons for more than 35 years.”Speaking by phone to MTV, Ali Abou Dihn, head of the Association of Lebanese Detainees in Syrian Prisons, said he had not yet obtained any information about the fate of the prisoners, confirming that Lebanese detainees had been held at the facility for more than 35 years. He said most of them had been sent to the prison in the eighties and early nineties of the last century. Citing a tally by the association, Abou Dihn said there are 628 Lebanese detainees in all Syrian prisons. Jihadists from the Islamic State group seized full control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra earlier on Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Britain-based monitor said regime troops had pulled back from positions in and around Palmyra, including from the aforementioned prison, an army intelligence outpost and a military airport. The Palmyra prison is notorious for the killings of hundreds of prisoners at the hands of the regime in the 1980s and seen as a symbol of oppression during the reign of late Syrian president Hafez Assad. Since IS launched its assault on the city on May 13, at least 462 people have been killed in fighting, the Observatory said, including 71 civilians, some of whom were executed by the jihadists.

 Hariri via Twitter: Endeavors to Involve Army in Outside Battles will Fail
Naharnet/Al-Mustaqbal Movement chief Saad Hariri emphasized on Thursday that Hizbullah's attempts to involve the army in foreign battles based on a preset date and location will not be successful. “We will not stand still and watch the viscous attempts to involve the Lebanese army in battles that have been pre-determined in time and place by Hizbullah,” said Hariri via twitter. The former PM inquired about Hizbullah's involvement in Syria's war asking: “Who authorized them to violate the borders with weapons and gunmen and drag terrorism to Lebanon's territories?” Hariri's comments came in reference to the latest battles in the mountainous al-Qalamoun region across the eastern Lebanese border, where militants from the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front engage in fierce battles with Hizbullah and the Syrian army. The Lebanese army frequently clashes with the militants in their hideouts near the Syrian border, but refuses to get involved in battles on Syrian territories. On Thursday, the Lebanese army targeted militant positions and their movement on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal, and gunmen on the outskirts of northeastern border village of Ras Baalbek in the Bekaa. Observers fear that jihadists linked to al-Nusra Front would overrun Arsal if Hizbullah, the Syrian army and the Islamic State group clamped down on it in the Qalamoun battle. Hariri addressed families of Arsal and said: “You are the real grantor for Lebanon in the face of terrorism and in the face of sedition. The voices threatening Arsal with doom and destruction will not achieve their goals no matter what.”He concluded by saying: “Before they say anything about Arsal, let them ask themselves what they are doing in al-Qalamoun.”The Qalamoun region straddles the Syria-Lebanon border and was a stronghold of rebel forces until a major operation by Syrian regime troops backed by Hizbullah fighters last year. Hizbullah fighters backed by the Syrian Army have lately taken control of new militant positions on the outskirts of al-Qalamoun. Hizbullah has been fighting alongside Assad's forces against predominantly Sunni rebels and militants seeking to topple him.

 Bassil Presses at Diaspora Conference for Adoption of Expats Citizenship Law
إNaharnet/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil reiterated on Thursday his call for parliament's adoption of a draft-law on giving the Lebanese nationality to expatriates. During a speech at the conference Lebanese Diaspora Energy 2015, Bassil urged the expats to press for the approval of the draft-law. The first step that comes in parallel with the adoption of the law is made by pressing for E-registration to achieve E-voting, he said. “All of us have preserved our Lebanese culture in our blood. We can't lose it,” he stated.
“I can't promise you that we will change facts in Lebanon but I promise you to live the dream,” he added. “We believe in ourselves and in you. All of us have the energy to act,” stressed Bassil. “We produce positive energy and pump it in the countries where expats are,” he told the conference that was held for the second consecutive year. The conference, which is an event aimed at further strengthening the bonds between Lebanese residents and emigrants worldwide, runs through Saturday. “The event seeks to showcase the successes of Lebanese expats and to encourage them to stay connected, while celebrating the Lebanese heritage and promoting a positive image of Lebanon around the world,” said the Lebanese Diaspora Energy website established by the Foreign Ministry. On Tuesday, Bassil and his Mexican counterpart Jose Antonio Meade launched the Lebanese-Mexican House in the coastal town of Batroun aimed at boosting cultural ties between the two countries.

Nasrallah remarks on Arsal a 'call for strife': Hariri
The Daily Star/May. 21, 2015/BEIRUT: Future Movement chief Saad Hariri Thursday criticized calls for a military intervention in Arsal's outskirts to oust jihadis from Lebanese territory. Hariri described Saturday remarks by Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah who said party fighters would liberate Arsal's outskirts if the Lebanese state failed to act as a "call for strife." Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun earlier this week also called for the Lebanese state to enter Arsal's outskirts to expel ISIS and Nusra Front militants.
“The voices threatening Arsal with doom, destruction and other tragic things will not achieve their purposes no matter how loud they get,” Hariri wrote on Twitter. “Before they ask Arsal any questions, let them ask themselves what they are doing in Qalamoun, and who allowed them to violate borders with weapons and militants and attract terrorism to Lebanese territories.” Hezbollah and the Syrian army earlier this month launched an offensive in the border Qalamoun region from where jihadi groups have been staging attacks on Lebanese territory since the start of the Syrian conflict. In more than two weeks of fighting, the allies have taken control of most of Qalamoun, sending militants fleeing north, many toward the outskirts of Arsal. Hariri denounced “the attempts to involve the Army in battles scheduled by Hezbollah."Parliament's Future bloc on Tuesday had blasted Hezbollah’s offensive in Qalamoun and denounced Nasrallah's Arsal remarks. “These grave remarks inflame sectarian struggles and further complicate the internal and external situation,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting.

Gemayel Urges Election of President, Warns against Forming Constituent Assembly
Naharnet/Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel called on Thursday for giving a new push to Lebanese politics to resolve the presidential deadlock and confront all local and foreign challenges. Following a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki Gemayel said: “It is unfortunate that some parties are not realizing the importance” of electing a new head of state. He expressed fears over the establishment of a Constituent Assembly over the obstruction of some parties of the parliamentary sessions aimed at electing a president. Lebanon has been without a head of state since President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended in May last year. Baabda Palace was left vacant over the differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances that caused lack of quorum in more than a dozen round of electoral sessions.
“It is our duty to head to parliament and give back (state) institutions their glow,” said Gemayel. A proposal to establish a Constituent Assembly was first made in 2012 by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah for the purpose of building a strong state to end sectarian divisions and solve the country’s crises.

Suleiman Reiterates Insistence on Baabda Declaration, Slams Those Seeking 'Constituent Assembly'
Naharnet/Former President Michel Suleiman on Thursday stressed keenness on the Baabda Declaration that he brokered in 2012, as he criticized Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun's latest presidential proposals. “The Taef Accord ended the wars of others on Lebanon's soil and the Baabda Declaration was aimed at preventing war among the Lebanese on the soil of others,” said Suleiman in a televised speech marking one year since the presidential vacuum started.
The address was delivered after a meeting for the Republic Gathering, which Suleiman heads. The gathering comprises Suleiman's ministers in Tammam Salam's cabinet – Samir Moqbel, Alice Shabtini and Abdul Mutalleb Hennawi – Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, a number of ex-ministers, and several political, economic, academic, civil society and media figures. Suleiman called on all political forces to “abide by the Baabda Declaration to preserve the state's sovereignty across all Lebanese regions.”On Wednesday, Hizbullah's top lawmaker Mohammed Raad dismissed the Baabda Declaration as “merely a transcript of a (national dialogue) session.”“We don't want to exhume the dead from the graves,” Raad answered when asked about the declaration during a TV interview. In 2013, Raad, who attended the 2012 dialogue session, said the Baabda Declaration was “born dead”, accusing the rival March 14 camp of smuggling “arms and fighters” into war-torn Syria. Hizbullah has openly sent elite fighters across the border to aid the Syrian regime in the face of an Islamist-led uprising. The Baabda Declaration calls for dissociating Lebanon from the regional crises, especially the conflict in Syria. Separately, Suleiman called on the lawmakers who are boycotting voting sessions to head to parliament and elect a new president, warning that “it is unacceptable to jeopardize the fate of the country.”“The Taef Accord and the Constitution must be immunized, and this begins with the election of a new president, instead of promoting the idea of a so-called constituent assembly,” the ex-president added.
He also slammed “any form of partitioning” or “constitutional heresies,” in an apparent jab at MP Michel Aoun. On Friday, Aoun blamed the current political crisis on “the limitation of the presidential powers” after the Taef Accord and “the lack of participation by all the Lebanese factions” in the country's political life. He called for choosing one of four solutions: a two-phased election of the president by the people, a popular referendum that is binding for parliament, a parliamentary vote for the “two most representative Maronite MPs”, or holding parliamentary polls based on a new and balanced electoral law before organizing the presidential vote. As for the work of Salam's cabinet, Suleiman warned against “paralyzing the government” or “any attempt to topple it.”

3 arrested in Lebanon for 'financing Syrian armed groups': Army
The Daily Star/May. 21, 2015/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army announced Thursday that it had arrested three people involved in transferring funds from Lebanon to Syria to fund armed groups. Lebanese national Mohammad Dahrouj, who had previously been arrested for smuggling rockets, was one of the three suspects arrested by the Army Intelligence in Beirut Wednesday night. The statement said that Syrian nationals Ahmad Najjar and Ayman Azama were also arrested, adding that all three confessed to illegally transferring funds to Syria. The Army confiscated an unspecified amount of cash they were carrying.

Arsal offensive requires Cabinet decision: defense minister
The Daily Star/May. 21, 2015 /BEIRUT: The Army is ready to defend Lebanon’s eastern borders, but an offensive against jihadis based on Arsal’s outskirts requires a Cabinet decision, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel said Thursday. “The Lebanese Army is perfectly ready to defend Lebanese territory on the eastern mountain range,” Moqbel told reporters as he walked out of a Cabinet session. “Since the beginning of the [border security problems], the Army has fulfilled all of its duties and has occupied strategic hills to prevent the passing of militants.”Moqbel said the Army has the support of the Cabinet, but its responsibilities still fall short of entering Arsal’s outskirts and pushing out the jihadis. “The Army’s duty is to stand on Arsal’s outskirts to close crossings that allow the infiltration of militants [into Lebanese villages],” he said. “An attack on the militants requires a political decision,” he added, saying only a Cabinet decision could allow the army to enter the jihadi-occupied region. The comments come days after both Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun said the Army should liberate the area. Nasrallah added that his group, which has been advancing for more than two weeks in Syria's nearby Qalamoun region along with the Syrian army, would otherwise go ahead and implement the mission.Militants from ISIS, the Nusra Front and other jihadi groups gained a foothold in Arsal’s outskirts in the wake of the Syrian crisis. The advancements of Hezbollah and the Syrian army over the last two weeks have forced militants to retreat north, many fleeing toward Arsal’s outskirts. ISIS and the Nusra front still hold 25 Lebanese servicemen hostage in their hideouts on Arsal’s outskirts. They were abducted during the clashes between the two groups and the Lebanese Army inside the town last August.

Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy: Hezbollah to back Assad for 'as long as it takes
May. 21, 2015/Reuters
BEIRUT: Lebanon's Hezbollah says the Middle East is at risk of partition and sees no end to the war in Syria, where it is fighting alongside President Bashar Assad against insurgents supported by his regional enemies.
Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the Iranian-backed group, said the insurgents would be unable to topple the Assad government despite their recent gains in battle, including this week's capture of Palmyra by ISIS.
In an interview with Reuters, Qassem said Assad's allies - Iran, Russia and Hezbollah - would back him "however long it takes." There could be no solution to the war without Assad, and it was time for "Arabs and the world" to realize that, added the white-turbaned cleric, speaking at Hezbollah offices in Beirut.
Hezbollah has been a crucial ally to Assad in the four-year-long war, sending its fighters to help him hold on to territory and power.
The Lebanese group, a Shiite Islamist party with a powerful armed wing, describes its role as part of a struggle against jihadis who are a growing threat to the region.
The regional instability has been fuelled by rivalry between the Shiite Islamist government of Iran and the conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the main sponsors of the insurgency against Assad.
Qassem said Saudi policy was to blame for regional conflicts including the most recent one in Yemen. He accused Riyadh of "double standards," backing radical Sunni Islamists, or "takfiris," across the Middle East, while seeking to suppress them at home.
He also blamed Washington, saying it was waiting to see how things turned out instead of adopting clear policies.
Saudi Arabia has denied accusations of backing radical Islamists. It says Iran's efforts to expand its influence are the main source of instability in the Middle East.
"The region is today on fire, tense, without any proposed solutions. It seems this will continue for a number of years, and there is also the risk of partition in some of its countries," said Qassem.
"The biggest danger in the plan to partition the region is for Iraq, because America is promoting this, and it seems there are some elements in Iraq that want this, but it has not matured yet," he said. Washington says it supports a united Iraq.
Destruction would continue in Syria because it would not submit, Qassem said. "Solutions for Syria are suspended. There is no political solution in the foreseeable period, and it is left to attrition, to the battlefield, and to wait for other developments in the region, particularly Iraq," he said.
With the United States leading an air campaign against ISIS militants in northern and eastern Syria, Assad had appeared increasingly confident at the turn of the year.
But since late March, he has faced significant setbacks.
Wide areas of territory in the northwestern province of Idlib have been lost to an alliance of mainly Islamist insurgent groups believed to be backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which all want to see Assad gone from power.
Other insurgents have made gains in south at the border with Jordan, while ISIS - the most hardline and powerful insurgent group in Syria - has been attacking government-held areas, putting the over stretched army under even more pressure.
Qassem said ISIS's capture of the ancient city of Palmyra from the army this week was part of the ebb and flow of the war in which ground lost in one area is made up in another.
"It is normal to lose in some areas and win in others," he said. "What is happening is attack and retreat which does not change the equation neither geographically or politically."
Assad's losses in Idlib have been at the hands of an alliance of Islamists including the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the hardline Ahrar al-Sham. They have come together under the banner of the Army of Conquest.
Qassem said Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were training, arming and funding these groups to try and shift the military balance by bringing together "takfiri terrorist forces" with U.S. supervision.
"This shift in balance is temporary and not fundamental and does not the change the equation in Syria," he said.
Qatar and Turkey deny backing radical jihadi groups such as ISIS, while not hiding their support for the insurgency against Assad.
Hezbollah says its offensive with the Syrian army against insurgents including the Nusra Front in the mountains between Lebanon and Syria was ongoing and partly to protect Lebanon, targeted by suicide attacks since Syria's war began in 2011.
"Syria's allies are continuing in supporting Assad's Syria until the end, regardless of how long it takes," Qassem said.

Why Hezbollah may seek to change Taif
Michael Young| The Daily Star/May. 21, 2015
Tammam Salam made it clear earlier this week that the prospect of a resolution to the presidential crisis was slim. One doesn’t need the prime minister to reach a similar conclusion.
But for Michel Aoun, a central player in the presidential stalemate, what are the calculations? Of course Aoun wants to be president, and for years has impaired the country with his unrelenting ambition. But beyond his impulse to advance his personal interests, the general has to be careful. The long-term benefit of the Christians may suffer greatly from a continuing presidential vacuum and Aoun would see this if only he looked beyond the presidency to grasp the regional context.
If Bashar Assad’s regime falls, as seems more likely by the day, how will this influence the behavior of Hezbollah? And how might it affect the Taif agreement and, with it, Christian fortunes? These are the questions the Aounists, who purport to defend the interests of Lebanon’s Christians, need to ask, but aren’t asking, lost as they are in quietly preparing for the succession of their leader, who is over 80.
To put it bluntly, if Hezbollah loses Assad in Syria, they will seek – indeed will have no alternative but to seek – a fundamental overhaul of the Lebanese system that favors the Shiite community, and the party especially. Only such a transformation can protect Hezbollah and its weapons in the long run, as the party adapts to a situation in which its military capacity will be contested by non-Shiite Lebanese.
Many Christians, weaned on the destructive populism of Aoun, have never understood that the Taif agreement is the best protection they have against the reality of demographics. As they continue to lament the lost powers of the presidency, they cannot accept the far more important truth that Taif has fixed Christian representation at a proportion significantly higher than the Christian population. As such, it is the best, indeed the only, protection they have in the sole country of the Middle East where Christians retain a measure of political power.
But today there is much to fear that the extended vacuum in the presidency, by subverting confidence in the workability of the political system, is a first step in doing away with Taif and bringing about constitutional changes that would dissolve the 50-50 breakdown in representation between Christians and Muslims. And, most convenient, the vacuum is not being perpetuated by Hezbollah and the Shiites. At least publicly this is the work of the Christians themselves, Aoun above all.
Hezbollah is simply allowing the deadlock to continue. The party is cleverly hiding behind Aoun’s conditions, offering no compromises, making no efforts to mediate, subtly indicating that Aoun is its preferred candidate, in that way making sure the vain general will carry on blocking an election.
But Aoun has only so many years left, while Hezbollah is planning much further ahead. If, or once, Assad is removed, the prospect of a Sunni-dominated Syria will isolate Hezbollah. Within Lebanon the party will have to deal with an energized Sunni community that will actively oppose the party’s hegemony. In Syria, even if Hezbollah can defend an Alawite enclave along the coast and lines of communication between this area and the Shiite-majority northern Bekaa Valley – in itself a highly tenuous project – the party will no longer enjoy strategic depth in the event of a conflict with Israel.
For all intents and purposes such dynamics would end Hezbollah’s capacity to maintain an autonomous military deterrent. That’s not to say that the party would be disarmed. Rather, it would find it far more difficult to use its weapons against Israel, because a large portion of Lebanese would reject this and because the possibility of rearming the party in the midst of battle would be severely constrained.
What would Hezbollah’s options then be? Only one comes to mind: To enhance its power in governing institutions in order to portray its military actions as a Lebanese state decision. The party could seek to exploit Christian fears of Sunni predominance to put on the table the notion of an alliance of vulnerable minorities, one between Shiites and Christians.
But here is the rub: Hezbollah would have to persuade Christians that by giving up part of their representative power under Taif they could enhance their overall long-term security in the Lebanese state. In other words under a new system where Christians accept a change in representation, so that Maronites, Shiites and Sunnis each control roughly a third of seats and posts in the system (with adjustments for other minorities), to replace the 50-50 ratio of today, Christians would actually be better off. How so? Simply because the new Christian-Shiite alliance would, together, control two-thirds of the representation in national institutions, over the Sunni third.
This may sound appealing to some Christians, and Aoun in statements in the past had indicated his partiality toward such a scheme. But it would also represent a blow to the consociational system by aiming to create a permanent majority and minority, and by formalizing almost systemic Christian opposition to the Sunnis. This could break Lebanon apart and effectively undermine what remains of the National Pact.
The only way Christians can survive in Lebanon is if they maintain good relations with both Sunnis and Shiites. Taif is their single guarantee, and relying on an alliance of minorities would be absolutely mad – all the more so if this is manipulated by Hezbollah to preserve its weapons and autonomy. Christian leaders, and the Maronite patriarch, Beshara Rai above all, must warn against this. Their fear of marginalization should not push them into taking decisions that would lead to far worse.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.

Baghdad must empower Sunnis or lose Iraq
David Ignatius/The Daily Star/May 21/15
The capture of Ramadi last weekend by ISIS fighters is a significant setback for U.S. strategy in Iraq and shows that, nearly a year after the extremists overran Mosul, the U.S. still doesn’t have a viable plan for protecting the country’s Sunni areas.
The collapse of the Iraqi army in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, was in some ways a replay of the Mosul debacle in June 2014. The Shiite-dominated Iraqi military, though trained and retrained by the United States appeared to lack the leadership or will to fight off a relatively small but ferocious onslaught of Sunni insurgents.
The Ramadi defeat exposed the sectarian tensions that underlie this war. Among the urgent questions: Are Shiite regular army troops ready to fight and die to protect Sunnis, or will their lines collapse in Sunni areas, as happened in Mosul and now Ramadi? If the tougher Iranian-backed Shiite militias are sent instead to do the job, will the Sunni population see them as a Shiite occupation army – setting the stage for a generation of sectarian revenge killing?
U.S. Central Command, or Centcom, offered bland reassurances in the hours before the lines buckled in Ramadi. Via teleconference from the Middle East, Marine Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley told reporters Friday that the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy was on track. Ramadi was “contested,” he said, but ISIS was “on the defensive” throughout Iraq and Syria, and resistance was mostly “small-scale, localized, harassing attacks.” He said the U.S.-led coalition had conducted 165 airstrikes in the past month to support the Iraqis and that coalition planners were “working closely with the Iraqi security forces to control critical infrastructure.”
The Centcom briefing proved grossly overoptimistic. According to field reports compiled by a consulting firm, the extremists began Friday with a car bomb attack in Albu Diab, north of the city, that was a “likely diversion tactic.” As Iraqi troops rushed north, the insurgents sent a wave of at least four car bombs into the city center. They did their work. The government defense lines broke.
Given that the ISIS drive to capture Ramadi has been predicted for weeks, why didn’t U.S. and Iraqi planners reinforce the garrison there? Why didn’t coalition forces fight harder to control “Camp Blue Diamond,” a former U.S. military base on the northwest edge of the city? Why didn’t the coalition add troops to protect Ramadi’s provincial version of the Green Zone in the center of the city? Why were ISIS fighters allowed to capture new stores of Iraqi weapons and liberate scores of their compatriots in Ramadi’s jails – adding new arms and men at a strike?
The ISIS breakthrough in Ramadi brought wild celebration in other Sunni areas under its control. The group released a video Monday that appeared to show jubilant Iraqi men and boys in the Ninevah area spontaneously dancing and waving its black-and-white banners. The exuberant faces on the video, posted by the SITE monitoring service, titled “Glad Tidings of the Supporters with the Conquests of the Predators of Al-Anbar,” show how success begets success in the Iraqi conflict. Another jihadi video shows newly freed prisoners kissing the ground. Celebrations of the Ramadi victory, with festive, flag-waving crowds, were posted from as far away as Tripoli, Libya.
What’s worse, the Ramadi defeat showed that the cornerstone of U.S. strategy for Iraq – a Sunni tribal force that can work with the Iraqi military to clear and hold areas seized by ISIS – isn’t in place yet. The Iraqi parliament still hasn’t passed a long-promised law to create such a force, and arms shipments to Sunni fighters have been delayed or ignored by the Baghdad government.
“If it stays like this it’s going to lead to a civil war,” warned Sheikh Abdul-Razak, a leader of the Dulaimi tribe from Anbar province, who was visiting Washington Tuesday. He said Sunni tribes would refuse to fight alongside Iranian-directed Shiite militias that are being sent to Anbar. And he predicted it would take “at least a year” to organize a force that could liberate Ramadi with support of the local Sunni population.
The U.S. shouldn’t abandon its strategy: This is still Iraq’s war, not America’s. But Obama must reassure Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the U.S. has his back – and at the same time give him a reality check: If Abadi and his Shiite allies don’t do more to empower Sunnis, his country will splinter. Ramadi is a precursor – of either a turnaround by Abadi’s forces, or an Iraqi defeat.
David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

Israel rules out any payment to 'enemy' Iran
Agence France Presse/May. 21, 2015/JERUSALEM: After a Swiss court reportedly ordered an Israeli oil firm to compensate Iran over a scrapped joint venture, Israel said Thursday that its laws prohibited any payment to "the enemy."Iranian state news agency IRNA said Wednesday that the court had found Israel's Trans-Asian Oil (TAO) liable for payment of $1.1 billion to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). It said that NIOC and an Israeli company had signed an agreement in 1968 to transport Iranian oil to the Jewish state across the Red Sea.But after the 1979 Islamic revolution which overthrew Iran's pro-Western shah, the new regime cancelled the contract because it did not recognize the Jewish state. Tehran says it was owed $450 million when the partnership ended. The Israeli finance ministry on Thursday issued a carefully-worded statement which neither confirmed nor denied the IRNA report. "Without commenting on the substance of the matter, we should remember that in accordance with the laws on trading with the enemy, it is prohibited to transfer funds to the enemy, which includes the National Iranian Oil Company," it said. "It is highly doubtful that Israel will actually pay the debt," said an expert quoted by Israeli defense analyst Yossi Melman in Maariv newspaper on Thursday. Israel considers Iran its deadly foe and accuses it of seeking to develop nuclear arms and of financing attacks by Gaza-based Hamas and by Lebanon's Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly compared the Islamic republic to Hitler's Nazis, while Tehran regards the Jewish state as "Little Satan."The premier is an implacable foe of any easing of international sanctions on Tehran as part of a nascent deal meant to prevent it acquiring nuclear arms. In a January editorial, the left-leaning Haaretz daily wondered if Netanyahu's campaign to isolate Iran could be to some extent influenced by the festering financial dispute, which has been the subject of arbitration for two decades. "The legal battle has kept the highest people in government very busy, but Israelis have been left in the dark," it wrote.
"All this raises troubling questions. Do Israel's efforts to impose international sanctions on Iran also stem from financial considerations, not just security ones? "Are Israel and Iran conducting a dialogue through their lawyers and arbitrators behind the public threats that have led Israel to the brink of war with Iran?"

Obama: Supreme leader is anti-Semitic
Ynetnews/Published: 05.21.15/Israel News
In wide-ranging interview to the Atlantic's Goldberg, US president opens up on developing deal with Iran and feels a personal responsibility to Israel. US President Barack Obama spoke to the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg at length, in an interview published on Thursday, regarding his views on Israel and the developing deal with Iran. “Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this.” The American president emphasized his stake in preventing Tehran from building a nuclear weapon to Goldberg. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.” In the wide-ranging interview to the Atlantic, Obama called Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei an "anti-Semite" and adamantly defended his support for Israel and American Jewry. Turning to the regime in Iran, Obama said "the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival… and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations." On his fractious relationship with Netanyahu, Obama told Goldberg that when Netanyahu said in the final days of his bid for reelection that "a Palestinian state would not happen under his watch, or (when) there was discussion in which it appeared that Arab-Israeli citizens were somehow portrayed as an invading force that might vote, and that this should be guarded against—this is contrary to the very language of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which explicitly states that all people regardless of race or religion are full participants in the democracy."The US president explained that "when something like that happens, that has foreign-policy consequences, and precisely because we’re so close to Israel, for us to simply stand there and say nothing would have meant that this office, the Oval Office, lost credibility when it came to speaking out on these issues.”

Exclusive: Iranian embassy blown up in Damascus: Nusra Front suspected
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 21, 2015/A mighty explosion struck the Iranian embassy in Damascus Wednesday night, May 20, debkafile’s exclusive intelligence and counter-terrorism sources reveal. First reports are of “heavy casualties” and serious damage to the embassy compound. The Iranian and Syrian governments have clamped a curtain of secrecy down over the disaster, although the thunder of the explosion and rush of special forces and relief teams to the scene in the Syrian capital could not be concealed.
debkafile’s sources add: The explosion has initially been attributed to the Syrian arm of al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra. A day earlier, Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was known to be present at the embassy building in Damascus. It is not known whether he was still there when the explosion occurred or had meanwhile departed for Tehran. The Iranian embassy is a pivotal point for the Syrian conflict. As the Revolutionary Guards general staff center, it is the venue for the joint Iranian-Syrian military and logistic decisions taken in the conduct of the war. It also served as the Iranian command center for its operations in Lebanon, including military liaison with the Lebanese Hizballah, whose forces are fighting with Bashar Assad’s army in Syria. From there, Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani issued his war directives when he was present in the Syrian capital. The embassy building was therefore one of the most heavily fortified and guarded premises in the Syrian capital.
Its destruction by a bomb explosion came on the heels Wednesday of the fall of the ancient city of Palmyra to the Islamic State - the second devastating blow for the Assad regime and its backers in a single day. The fate of its rare heritage sites is not the only concern. With Palmyra ((Tadmor - est. pop. 120,000), the Islamic State also gained access to important military sites, including the biggest Syrian air force base.
The disaster may be compared to the ISIS conquest in January of the northern Syrian town of Raqqa, today the Islamists’ headquarters in the country. Palmyra is the second major Arab city to fall to the group this week after the Iraqi town of Ramadi on Sunday.
For Iran, the loss of Palmyra is a major setback in the sense that it removes from Syrian military control the main air base where Iranian flights delivered war materiel for the Syrian army and Hizballah day by day.

Iran threatens '80,000 rockets at Tel Aviv and Haifa' over distorted Ya'alon comment
Iranian officials have been thrown into a fit over distorted comments attributed to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon that have swept across the internet and include popular anti-Israel sites.
A report by Iran's Fars news agency on Wednesday claimed that the defense minister supposedly said “We are going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion … we did it then, we did it in [the] Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future,” while speaking at an unnamed "conference in Jerusalem."
The quote was most likely based on Ya'alon's comments from the May 5 Shurat Hadin conference. He was recounting targeting decisions in which he was involved when it first became apparent that Hezbollah was purposely placing weapons in civilian homes in Lebanon. He said that “If we don’t intercept the rocket-launchers in advance, civilians will be hurt, if not killed. If we hit the launchers, it will hurt or kill Lebanese civilians.” He said a “long, deep discussion” regarding the “moral and legal considerations” took place before the final decision to strike the rocket launcher.
Another quote attributed to Ya'alon, for which a basis could not be found, claimed that Israel would act "as the Americans did in 'Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000.'"
In response, Iranian Major General Rahim Safavi threatened Israel with violence, saying that "the Zionists and the US are aware of the power of Iran and Hezbollah, and they know that over 80,000 (Iranian) missiles are ready to rain down on Tel Aviv and Haifa."
"We have displayed part of our military capabilities while we have kept many of our achievements and capabilities hidden to outsiders," a comment which comes just a month after P5+1 countries agreed to a framework deal with Iran. "Our response will be crushing not just to the Zionist regime, but to any other aggressor who intends to take action against us."
Iran's UN envoy Gholam Ali Khoshrou also mistook the exaggerated statements for real and issued a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. "Moshe Ya'alon's recent remarks and the Zionist official's implied reference to the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the Islamic Republic like what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and also his threats against the Lebanese civilians, including the women and children, shows more than ever the regime's aggressive nature."
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.