PeaceNews’ Book Review – The Wandering Who?

DateWednesday, June 27, 2012 at 4:34PM AuthorGilad Atzmon

Zero Books, 2011; 215pp; £8.99.
ImageGilad Atzmon has created a firestorm of controversy with this examination of Jewish identity, so I read it with some trepidation.
In the end I found it an engaging read, simply written, about complex ideas. He refuses to hedge words, to compromise in order to create allies, and in some cases he seems to have gone over the top, intentionally provoking friends and enemies alike.
Atzmon grew up in Israel, the grandson of one of the radical founders of Israel. As a youth, his burgeoning fascination with the saxophone and jazz music led him to a different understanding of Zionism – something cemented by his experiences in the Israeli Defence Force.
Now a well known international jazz musician, his irrepressible, emotional style flows through this book.
Atzmon’s main target is Jewish exceptionalism, and he dissects the phenomenon using the tools of his education in philosophy. And while one suspects that Atzmon is more comfortable as a musician than as a philosopher, what he discovers is critical in understanding Jewish identity and the continuing evolution of Israel.
This book is directed primarily at Jews, but anyone interested in identity politics – or in any aspect of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict – will find it fascinating, if a little bit like watching someone smashing windows.

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US finds isolated on sanctions against Iran

Once again, Washington is forced to exempt China and Singapore from sanctions over purchases of oil from the Islamic Republic. Israel-Firster Hillary Clinton used her usual lie that China has “significantly reduced” its oil purchases from Iran. In reality, China imported 524,000 barrels per day in May, a 35% jump on the previous month, the BBC reported on June 22, 2012.
On June 21, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said that the country’s oil imports from Iran are “fully reasonable and legitimate,” and do not violate any relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
After being exempted, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei reiterated its opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran on Friday.

Hillary Clinton is welknown for lying against everything which moves against Israeli interests. She used the “significantly reduced” mantra as an excuse to exempt Turkey, Japan, India, South Korea and EU countries in the past. Even the Zionist Rep. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (with Jewish family roots), the Republican chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee slammed Hillary for her lie about China.

The administration likes to pat itself on the back for supposedly being strong on Iran sanctions. But actions speak louder than words, and today the administration has granted a free pass to Iran’s biggest enabler,” said Ileana, who is a staunch critic of China due to country’s support for Iran.

With Thursday’s decision to grant exceptions to China, which buys up to a fifth of Iran’s oil exports, and Singapore, which buys Iranian fuel oil, the Obama administration has now spared all 20 of Iran’s major oil buyers from its unilateral sanctions.
RAND Corp. in its recent report had warned Washington that the US and EU sanctions against the Islamic Republic are harming the EU more than Iranian regime which the USrael desire to topple.
As usual, Washington reserved its vengeance for Iran’s Muslim neighbors, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They’re warned that they will lose USAID if they crossed the red-line.
In 2010, both Pakistan and Iran inked an agreement in Istanbul which involved the construction of a 900-kilometre-long gas pipeline, from Asalooyeh in Southern Iran and Iranshahr near the border with Pakistan that will transport 750 million cubic feet a day of gas from Iran to Pakistan for the next 25 years to generate 4,000 MW of electricity.
Iranian companies are helping Venezuela, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and several other countries in developing their oil and gas fields.

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TRIPPING ERDUGAN As usual Erdugan is lying to his people . No wonder since Erdugan is a lie himself : an Islamic puppet created by the world order. In front of all, the PM of Turkey is not ashamed to lie and say that the reconnaissance Turkish air craft was shot down within International air space and that Syria violated International law by bringing it down . What Erdugan is saying is not true because the air craft was shot at when it was 2km over Syrian land after it made two circles over the shore violating Syrian air space , it was not brought down by missiles it was simply shot down . The other thing that Erdugan did not even mention was that the reconnaissance air craft was on an Intelligence mission on behalf of NATO to test Syria’s air defense system . Well, NATO has got its answer now and so has Erdugan who would better leave his arrogant attitude and his out of place ego trip of a Ottoman Sultan to a more modest stand . The Lesson Erdugan has to learn from this is to stop meddling in Syria’s affairs before it’s too late and that there is no reason he should expose Turkey to more incidents and accidents. What Mr Erdugan should know -as well- is that in any given struggle, righteousness is a source of strength and that stooges like himself have everything to fear from Syria the hearth of Arabic Nation and the protector of the Arab and of Palestinian Cause . Let Erdugan first come to terms with the killers of the nine Turkish activists on the freedom flotilla before starting accusing Syria of things that Syria did not commit
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Little Hope for Change Among Egypt’s Poor

Boys play in a destroyed car at Manshiyet Nasser shanty town in eastern Cairo 28 June 2012. (Photo: Reuters – Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Published Saturday, June 30, 2012
While Mursi is now tackling the difficult task of juggling affairs concerning the SCAF and international powers, Egypt’s poor are wondering if they will yet again be forgotten.

Ordinary Egyptians do not expect the future to differ much from the past with the arrival of a new president. That seems to be the prevalent attitude among Egypt’s urban poor and residents of its teeming working-class districts and shanty towns. Their accumulated impressions of the two candidates in the presidential run-off – the military’s candidate Ahmad Shafiq and Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood – appear to have prevented them from supporting either in large numbers.
Egypt’s poor suffered badly under the three-decade rule of Hosni Mubarak, who Shafiq described as his “highest example.” His regime treated them as an undesirable burden at best, or simply neglected them.

Few were therefore rooting for Shafiq, despite his campaign promises to maintain fuel and bread subsidies, provide benefits to the unemployed, extend medical insurance to everyone, double the Health Ministry’s budget, and set a minimum wage. He also said he would build new towns to house the poor, increase the provision of clean drinking water, and write off small farmers’ debts. People did not believe Shafiq because they had frequently heard similar pledges from his role-model, Mubarak.

But neither did poor Egyptians greet the news of Mursi’s election with general rejoicing, nor vest high hopes in the fact that he hails from the Brotherhood, which treats the poor as deserving of compassion, alms and charity.

What Egypt’s poor want is recognition that they have rights which have been denied them, and that these go beyond occasional charitable handouts. The Brotherhood is well known for distributing food in working-class districts. It does so all year round, but increases the quantity ahead of any elections. Besides, there was little difference between Mursi and Shafiq in terms of their championing of the free-market economy, which invariably puts the poor last. Both strongly support the private sector, whose only concern is businessmen and their bank balances, and for which the poor are merely cheap labor.

But what do poor Egyptians think about their new president now that the Brotherhood candidate has won?

Evidently, many were strongly influenced by the ferocious anti-Brotherhood media campaign that has been waged in recent weeks by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). When asked, residents of working class districts of Cairo often said that they expected the Brotherhood to take the country to war against Israel, or force women to wear the hijab or niqab. Others thought it would amputate the hands of thieves, slit the throats of murder suspects, and sentence people to lashings for failing to perform prayers. These were the kind of fears raised about the Brotherhood by the likes of widely-watched talk-show host Tawfiq Okasha, as part of the effort to misrepresent and discredit the Brotherhood and improve the image of SCAF and, subsequently, Shafiq.

Few respondents in these neighborhoods thought the new president represented them, and many said neither of the contenders was the kind of president they wanted for the country after the revolution. Many expressed support for Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the first round and narrowly failed to make it to the run-off.

“People felt Hamdeen was the closest to them,” he said Muhammad Saad, who lives in the central Cairo district of Bulaq Abul-Ila. “But he didn’t have the money to match the financial resources of the Brothers, or of Shafiq who was backed by the fuloul – the “remnants” of Mubarak regime – and the military.”

There was widespread dismay in such districts at Sabahi’s defeat, and at being left with a choice between the Brothers and the fuloul. Those who went on to back Shafiq generally did not do so out of admiration for or confidence in him, but dislike of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yet all concur that there is much for the new president to do.

Muhammad Ibrahim, a young man from the working class Cairo district of Duweiqa, said he wanted the president to treat poor Egyptians “as though he is one of them,” not as objects of charity but as people with rights. “We wanted a poor president, but elections cost a lot of money for advertising and paying for campaigns,” he said.

“Suitable housing and a decent job,” said Hassan Nada, another resident of the neighborhood, when asked what he wanted from the new president. “I wish I had somewhere to sleep without worrying about scorpions and snakes.” Duweiqa, where many people live in barely habitable wood and corrugated iron shacks, has been suffering a major infestation of parasites.

“The new president should provide jobs for young people and put an end to unemployment,” said Naased Abd al-Sattar from the Sayyeda Zeinab quarter. “If he did that, Egypt would be the best country in the world,” he added. “The youth are poor and need jobs so they can find somewhere to live and lead a normal life.”

Safaa al-Agrouti wanted the new president merely to “be a man and keep his word,” by doing what he said he would in his election program.

The demands of Egypt’s poor may be simple, but much political will and focus will have to be mustered if they are to be fulfilled.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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How High will Obama Jump for Israel in Nov. Election?

Franklin Lamb – Beirut


Gaphics by Alex
When we say “jump”
you answer, “how high”?

Presidential candidate Barack Obama is being targeted by the US Israel lobby from A to Z, (Ackerman, Gary & Aipac to Zuckerman, Mort & the Zionist Organization of America) as no American President seeking re-election has been in the country’s 236 year history.

“how high”?
Israel’s duel loyalty agents, as well as more fair minded American Jewish voters have historically intimidated and influenced US presidents seeking reelection, especially those in a tight race, with various financial and political threats and rewards.  That’s part of the American political game and obviously plenty of other lobbies do it also.
And it pays off. From Truman’s recognition of Israel’s declaration of statehood during his tough reelection fight in 1948 when Chaim Weizmann and other Jewish leaders swarmed the Oval Office to Carter’s Camp David sell-out of American humanitarian values during his Democratic party splitting 1980 re-election challenge from Ted Kennedy. 
For more than 60 years the Zionist lobby has used cash, real & fake polls, and tactics ranging from threats of exposing sex-capers and corruption to withholding or delivering Jewish votes in key states like Florida, New york, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to achieve maximum obeisance to Israel’s goals.
One might agree that all these tactics are part big leagues American politics.

According to  long time Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban, President Truman would not have supported a Jewish state were it not for  “a crucial $25,000 gift made by Jews to Truman’s vice presidential aspirations in 1944 and that in 1948 American Jews helped Truman again, this time to finance his campaign at a “desperate time”.    According to Eban,”No historian would question the judgment that without the support of, and political pressure from, American Jewry, Israel’s emergence could not have been conceived.” Eban concluded that the Zionist’s lobby’s “extraordinary solidarity and tactics” enlarged Israel’s power beyond the limited dimensions of its space and size.”

Concerned that Truman was too pro-Arab, Zionists enlisted Eddy Jacobson, a friend of Truman’s to sway the President to see Ezer Weizmann once again, despite Truman’s earlier ban on Zionists due to their “harassments.” Truman at first refused. He wrote on February 27, 1948, to Jacobson,  just as the Nakba was ethnically cleansing  nearly 800,00  Palestinians from their homes and lands, that he would not learn anything new from Weizmann, and added: “The Jews are so emotional, and the Arabs are so difficult to talk with that it is almost impossible to get anything done.”  Nonetheless, after considerable persuasion which Jabonson claimed involved large amounts of campaign donations, Truman wrote Jacobson, “You win, you baldheaded SOB. I will see him.”

Concerning Camp David, Jimmy Carter explained a couple of years ago during a  question and answer period following a lecture at the American University of Beirut that “the Jewish lobby was relentless with pressure tactics of various sorts and Begin lied to me about Israel’s willingness to make peace with the Palestinians. I regret to have to admit to you that we caved to their political pressure.”

One could perhaps feel for Obama and his campaign staff given what they are reportedly experiencing today, especially since America’s most powerful lobby has become even stronger since the 1980’s. Their tactics are many and aimed at sapping Obama’s will to do what American national interests require. One is Bill Clinton’s reported deal, being talked about on Capitol Hill, with Israeli officials to assure that if Obama is defeated Hillary will make his/her move and lock up the 2016 Democratic primaries and the general election with plenty of attendant joy for Tel Aviv. 

The power to make credible demands on Obama involve much more that Jewish votes since they make up a bit less than 2% of the American electorate. Yet, even the smallest group can make an electoral dent if they move in unison and that may happen regarding Obama among those Jewish voters and Christian Zionists who put Israel first. Obama’s fate, though, is more closely tied to the Jewish vote in states Florida and Pennsylvania where they made up 4% of the 2008 electorate in both of these states.

Statistics being used by the Zionist lobby to pressure the increasingly jittery Obama campaign include recent polls. The Republican Jewish Coalition claims that 30% of Jewish voters who support Romney, represents the “highest level of Jewish support for a Republican presidential candidate in 24 years.” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks recently stated that if the Jewish vote poll numbers hold in November, they will spell “a disaster” for Obama.
In the 2008 election, Jews supported Obama by a 57 percentage point margin 2008 1.1 points (57 x 0.02) of his popular vote margin. A recent Gallup poll has Jewish voters still in Obama’s camp, but only by barely 35 percentage points. That is the lowest percentage for a Democratic presidential candidate among the Jewish electorate since 1988. A recent Gallup polls reveals a 10-point drop in Jewish voter support (22% in New York) or five points worse than Obama’s shrinkage among all registered voters compared with 2008.
The Israel lobby knows, and they know that Obama’s campaign staff knows, that any diminution in his support from Jewish voters will have a major impact in a very tight election. They both realize that Obama needs to retain his 2008 Jewish vote levels and campaign cash – or risk defeat. . In a close election, one point either way could make the difference as it did in Florida’s 2000 election.
So what price is being demanded of the Obama campaign for Zionist lobby support between now and November 6th?
 They include, but are not limited to the following:
-Obama must freeze Israeli-Palestinian “peace talks” and block European Union pressures on Israel over the settlement and human rights issues;
-Israel wants Obama to pressure the government of Turkey to cancel the 5/28/12 indictment of four senior Israeli military commanders, who have been charged in a Turkish court in connection with the killing of nine Turkish citizens in 2010 on broad the Mari Marmara, one of the ships of the Freedom Flotilla.  Warrants have been issued for the arrest of former Israeli military chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, the former head of military intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, head of the navy, Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, and head of the air force, Brigadier General Avishai Lev. Israel wants them withdrawn.  According to an aid of Senator John Kerrey, the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) of the US State Department has advised the US Senate Foreign Relations committee that the Israeli attack on the Mari Marmara constituted an international crime which involved lethal and excessive force and resulted in the killing of nine civilians and the wounding of at least 50 others.  The State Department further advised Congress that while Israel carried out an inquiry into the attack, that inquiry failed to meet the requirements of international law. Israel has not prosecuted anyone who killed those on board the Mari Marmara;
-A green light to attack Iran in case the Zionist leadership decides to do it;
-An unequivocal White House commitment that the 2012 Democratic Convention Party Platform will back the 5/17/12 passed resolution (H. Res. 568 adopted by vote of 401-11) affirming that it is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and opposing any reliance on a policy seeking to contain a nuclear-capable Iran;
-That the White House force US Senator John Kerrey, Chairman of the Foreign Relation Committee to expedite a vote on a similar resolution in the Senate (S. J. Res. 41) which remains on hold in Kerrey’s committee.
– That the White House publicly endorse the 5/23/12 Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act (S. 2101), which would dramatically escalate the level of sanctions against Iran and sharply tighten the enforcement of existing sanctions law.
-A public pledge by Obama that the US will attack Iran and Hezbollah if either retaliates against Israel for its bombing of the Islamic republic.
-More money for fourteen new Research & Development projects for the Israeli military;
– Free convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard,
-More visible White House support for various congressional resolutions supported by Israel, ranging from those targeting Iran, Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians.
-Regime change is Syria,
Instruct Egypt that the price for continued US military and economic aid is to embrace the Camp ‘David accords and all its provisions requiring Egypt to “cooperate with Israel”
-Arrange for Israeli Embassy space in Cairo given that to date no one is willing to rent it any, and damp down Muslim Brotherhood calls for the recovery of Palestine;
– Support for the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 (H.R. 4133 and S. 2165), which recommends several ways to strengthen U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation in such fields as missile defense, homeland security, energy, intelligence and cyber-security. The House bill, which passed on May 8 by a vote of 411-2, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
-That the 2012 Democratic Platform and candidate Obama emphasize over the next five months the need for America to guarantee Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge over any and all combinations of adversaries on the battlefield.
Obama election year groveling to Israel was perhaps symbolized by the June, 13 2012  White House spectacle of bestowal on Israel’s President Shimon Peres of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.
The PMF recognizes those individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” 
Peres, father of Israel’s colonial settlements, has committed myriad international crimes against the Lebanese people and Palestinian refugees, including the April 18, 1996 Qana Massacre  that  killed 106 Lebanese and Palestinians and wounded approximately 120 including four Fijian UNIFIL soldiers who were among the 800  civilians who had taken refuge in the compound. Peres sanctioned countless other attacks on civilians killing more than 14,000 civil and wounding more than 25,000 as part of various Israel aggression during his time as Prime Minister, meaning that he belongs on trial at the International Criminal Court at the Hague not at a White House dinner even in an election year. Despite knowing this, Obama caved to AIPAC and Congressional campaign pressure and sullied the PMF, his office and claimed American valves.
In an email from one Congressional staffer, she explained that the lobby wanted Peres to receive this honor which disgusted many on Capitol Hill and internationally,  hoping to deflect some of the increasing condemnations  the Apartheid regime has been receiving including the recent British government’s Foreign Office in its report, Children in Military Custody has accused Israel of illegal mistreatment of Palestinian children after a report by a delegation of senior British lawyers revealed unconscionable practices, such as hooding, solitary confinement and the use of leg irons. found that “undisputed facts” pointed to at least six violations of the UN convention on the rights of the child, to which Israel is a signatory.
The report claims that youngsters are dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, have their wrists bound behind their backs, and are blindfolded and made to kneel or lie face down in military vehicles. The children are held in conditions that amount to torture, such as solitary confinement and no access to their parents.
In a damning conclusion, the report points out repeated breaches of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
In addition, Israel is a party to the Geneva Conventions, and bound by its obligations, yet Articles 76 and 65 of the 4th Geneva Convention were also found to have been breached, according to the report.

Article 76 prohibits detainees from being transported to the country of the authority which has detained them. In this case, Palestinian children were found to have been transported from the West Bank into Israel.

Article 65 states that any penal laws applied to prisoners in an occupied land must be translated into their own language. The lawyers said the Israeli authorities failed to translate Military Order 1676 from Hebrew into Arabic.

To the extent Obama convinces the Israel lobby between now and Tuesday November 6th may determine whether he is a one term President or returns for a second term with its uncertainties regarding traditional US Presidential support for Israel given that during his second term, as he has stated publicly thanks to a live media mike, he will have much more flexibility.

It is too early to know what boast Obama’s campaign might receive from the US Supreme Court’s 6/29/12 decision upholding his truly historic achievement of reforming the American health system which will provide quality health care for more than 30 million uninsured Americans.  Widespread public approval of Obamacare may significantly weaken Zionist lobby plans to control the White House as it has the Congress and how high President Obama needs to jump.
Franklin LambFranklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon. He is reachable c\o
He is the author of The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon.

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The Map of Foreign Armed Groups in Homs and Al-Qusayr

Nidal Hamadeh
armed groupsWell-informed French sources declared that thousands of Arab and foreign fighters are in Homs and its surrounding territories, as well as in Al-Qusayr and the nearby villages, especially those to the west of Al-Assi River.

The previously mentioned sources quoted French security sources as saying that almost all of those fighters entered Syria through Lebanon, some of which came through Beirut International Airport, while others came through the Mediterranean upon ships that docked off the port of Tripoli whose passengers, the foreign fighters, came to the Lebanese land on-board small boats.

The same sources stated that the armed groups in Al-QusayrMap and its nearby villages are around twelve thousand fighters from different countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan, Algeria, Palestine, and Lebanon), besides the armed Syrian fighters who are fighting against the regime. The French sources mentioned that the majority of the Lebanese fighters come from Irsal, Sidon, and Tripoli. As for the foreigners, they spread through the villages to the west of Al-Assi River taking advantage of the environment which is full of trees; those villages are Saqarja, Abou Houri, Al-Nahriya, Al-Azaniya, Al-Burhaniya, and Ain Al-Tannour. The latter is the center of gravity of those fighters because the Syrian Army exclude it from shelling for it contains the reservoir of drinking water for Homs and Hamah from the Al-Assi River. The army avoids bombing the village not to hit this reservoir and consequently cut off water from both Homs and Hamah.

Most of Al-Qusayr is under total control of the insurgents, and the majority of them are Syrians, the French sources stated. However, the Syrian Army controls the building of the directorate to the east of the city and close to the borders with Homs, in addition to the villages along the international road between Homs and the Lebanese borders in Al-Qa’a. In this wide area, armed groups are well-equipped with rocket launchers, heavy-caliber cannons, anti-aircraft weapons, ammunition, and automatic rifles. They also built fortifications, passageways, and barricades, and they immediately bury their homicidal.


Armed militantAccording to the same sources, the Syrian army controls most of the quarters in Homs while the armed groups control a part of the overpopulated Al-Khalediya Quarter, near the Al-Qosour Quarter which is geographically outside Homs. The Syrian army intended to control the latter quarter, and is performing combing operations in the area. It is also continuing to cordon off Al-Khalediya Quarter where fighters were shifting between the two quarters either for withdrawal or storage. The army is tightening the grip over the area where armed groups are hiding by which almost all the quarters are under its control. As for the armed groups, they are fortified in a 1 squared Kilometer piece of land.

500 armed fighters are in this area while the majority of the fighters are in Bustan Al-Diwan Quarter in Al-Hamidiya neighborhood. They caused Christian populations to immigrate from their hometown, and established a field court in Beit Al-Agha, the majestic historic landmark in Homs. The situation in Jouret Al-Shayah, very close to the city’s commercial center, is more likely in favor of the regime, which is, seemingly, about to end the battles with significant military success during the last days in which hundreds of fighters were killed.

The Regime’s StrategySyrian army

French sources stated that the Syrian regime is applying the anti-insurgency war or confronting guerrillas plan which allows it to control the strategic facilities, Homs-Levant highway, Homs-Aleppo highway, military and civil airports, public facilities, electricity stations, oil refinery in Homs, military bases such as the Al-Dhab’a Airport in Al-Qusayr valley, Al-Baath University in Homs, and all the governmental institutions in the city. The army seeks decreasing its losses and not exhausting it throughout avoiding presence in the small rural villages where fighters are located. The Syrian army follows the method of bombarding on a daily basis, but seems tending to finalize its operations in the summer.

What is the military solution?

Syrian army tanksAs the source mentioned, the situation in Homs is in the regime’s favor. However, the regime must use its ground forces in Al-Qusayr to terminate the battles in this flat land where trees are spread all over the area. It also has to increase the number of its helicopters, and after the battle of Homs ends, the army can send its special forces to Al-Qusayr. The regime wishes to end the battles in the summer, before the American presidential elections in November because Obama, the busy man about being reelected, prefers not to have foreign troubles. This is what he said to the Europeans concerning the Iranian nuclear program, and was asserted on by a French diplomat in front of Arab journalists in a closed meeting in the French Foreign Ministry on the Iranian issue. “France won’t be the diplomatic spearhead against Iran, because President Hollande doesn’t want to annoy Obama in the climax of his electoral campaign,” the man said. It is self-evident that what is applied on Iran is also applied on Syria since the NATO didn’t react against shooting down the Turkish jet in the Syrian regional waters along with the Turkish borders.

Translated by Zeinab Abdallah

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Ahmad al-Assir: Crisis or Opportunity?

Why all the worry that the actions of Assir and his followers could set the stage for a clash which in turn triggers widespread strife in the country? (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)
Published Saturday, June 30, 2012
It may be hard to discuss the issue of Saida and Sheikh Amad al-Assir.
He has managed to make many enemies in a short period of time. These are essentially from the club of traditional political players, whose membership seems to elude him. He denies wanting to join it. Yet he accuses “the political representatives of the Sunni sect in Lebanon” of failing in their duty, and he hopes to “achieve that which would safeguard the dignity” of the community so he can go back to his mosque and resume his mission as a preacher.
It may be hard for many people to adopt Assir’s discourse. Some of those who enthused about him after he started making his political voice heard have clearly stepped back. Perhaps they concluded that continuing to follow his lead would entail more sacrifices than they could bear. Others saw him as their spokesman, but not their leader. A third group felt that Assir was going further than his supporters would have wanted in pressing his demands.

The majority of the above had either gone along with Harirism, or were politically disillusioned. Assir also unsettled Harirism’s Christian and even Druze allies, Walid Jumblatt’s overture to him notwithstanding. But most worrying of all is Assir’s willingness, if only rhetorically, to enter into an all-out confrontation with the two most powerful forces in the Shia sect.

What may be even harder is persuading the powers-that-be, both in government and opposition, that someone should breach the wall with the aim of extending a hand to Assir. A dialogue needs to be sought with him to discuss what he deems to be public demands, and to work out solutions that convince him to abandon the plans he has recently been putting into action.

The difficulty here lies in the fact that most of the major players in government and opposition refuse to treat Assir as a general trend. They insist on considering him to be a confined individual case, which can be isolated and bypassed. This is because Assir does not possess the same stature as the country’s main political forces. He cannot claim to speak for a Sunni majority, nor is he capable of getting all other Islamist groups in Lebanon to join an action that leads to the unknown.

So why all the worry that the actions of Assir and his followers could set the stage for a clash which in turn triggers widespread strife in the country?


The real answer lies in the fact that Assir, with his actions and his rhetoric, is filling a vacuum among Syria’s and Hezbollah’s Sunni enemies in Lebanon. He proclaims out loud what most of them say in their homes, private discussions, workplaces and late night chats. His show of defiance is one which many believe that Sunni political leaders should be mounting themselves.

When Assir says his actions hinge on the resolution of the issue of weapons, he does not mean, and cannot reasonably mean, that he wants a quick resolution to the question of the arms held by the resistance in Lebanon.

He is in fact – regardless of whether some people like this reasoning or reject it – urging on a debate about the relationship between the different groups in Lebanon.

This absent, or rather abandoned, debate has many themes, the weapons issue being one of them. But its aim is to reformulate the rules of Lebanon’s governance and the relationship of its citizens to the state. Assir may be uninterested in much of that, but he has seized on an issue that goes to the heart of Lebanon’s current difficulty, which stems from the profound dispute between the political leaders of the majority of the country’s Shia and the majority of its Sunnis.

In short, the problem will not be solved either by cracking down on Assir’s group, as some hot-heads believe, or by the sheikh obtaining a clear and convincing answer about the future of Hezbollah’s weapons.

For a solution to be reached, those concerned must dare to take two simultaneous steps.

The first of these concerns Assir himself. He needs to provided with an acceptable ladder with which to climb down from his tree.

The second step is more general, and relates to the essence of the issue. In this regard, the onus lies with those who wield the most influence. With Syria preoccupied by its domestic crisis, the main regional parties to such a dialogue now would be Saudi Arabia (plus perhaps the new Egypt) and Iran, and the main local ones Hezbollah and the Future Movement.

There may be no sign of that happening. But Assir’s actions managed to bring antagonistic parties in Saida together around a single table to confer about what should be done. A get-together could be more focused and effective if it involved the main players in the Sunni-Shia cold war which the country and the region are witnessing.

As recent and earlier experience has taught us, and as the ongoing tragedy in Syria underlines, attempts to avoid dialogue in order to pursue gains, by this side or that, only succeed in postponing the inevitable.

Eventually, all the players must sit around the table to produce a feasible compromise that ensures they can continue living together.

Ibrahim al-Amine is editor-in-chief of al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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