Syrian Behind Hermel’s Suicide Blast: Did Assir Supporters Hit Choueifat?

Via -Al-Manar
Al-Akhbar

Choueifat blast

Yesterday, terrorism hit the city of Choueifat on the outskirts of the southern suburb of Beirut. Yesterday the suicide bomber was not driving a booby-trapped car, he rather followed a different strategy, as he took a “van” which was supposed to pass through the Dahieh reaching Hamra street.

Did Ahmad Al-Assir make another strike? Do those who are still active in his group stand behind Choueifat’s suicide explosion? Yesterday this question was asked in the security corridors after two suspects were arrested for being related to the suicide bomber who blew himself up inside Choueifat’s van, and for being known as activists in groups related to Saida’s escaped sheikh.

Security information have revealed that the suicide bomber was seen standing in front of “Gulf Mart” in Khaldeh, carrying a bag in his hand. Information have further indicated that the suicide bomber kept standing for around 15 minutes before getting into a Taxi cab driven by Salafist Sheikh A.G. A while after taking off, the sheikh dropped off the suicide bomber who took a van heading to Choueifat. After the explosion in Choueifat was heard, the taxi driver claimed that he was suspicious about the man so he dropped him, according to a security source.

The security apparatuses began their investigations, and the Information Branch arrested Sheikh A.G. along with his son and the two witnesses Ahmad N. and Mamdouh M. for investigations. However the key witnesses are Sheikh A.G. ad his cousin Z.G. as the latter is a well known arms dealer in the area which the suicide bomber took off from. Information also stated that Sheikh A.G. had previously traveled to Pakistan, while search is ongoing for Z.G. who disappeared.

Until yesterday, the security apparatuses were not able to specify the kind of relation between the sheikh and the suicide bomber. Security sources told Al-Akhbar that the sheikh either “has a direct relation with the suicide bomber, or he knows the side standing behind the latter, because he had received a phone call from someone asking him to drive the suicide bomber from Khaldeh to a specific spot in Choueifat.

Moreover, security sources presumed that the suicide bomber was heading to the southern suburb of Beirut where he was supposed to blow himself up. Information circulated about the van driver being suspicious about the suicide bomber which urged the latter to blow himself up. However, security sources assumed that the suicide bomber blew up the explosive belt by mistake.

The question about groups related to Assir’s involvement is based on the Iranian Embassy explosions which were implemented by two supporters of Assir.

On another hand, sources close to “Al-Nusra Front” told Al-Akhbar that the suicide bomber who did the latest suicide attack in Hermel city was a Syrian citizen. Sources said he was known as “Abu Omar Al-Ansari”, but they refused to reveal his real name, leaving this issue for “Al-Nusra” leadership. The same sources also stated that delaying the announcement about the identity of the last suicide bomber is for “security essentials”.

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Orient Tendencies: The War Against Syria and the Illusion of Compromise

Posted on February 3, 2014 by Alexandra Valiente
Orient Tendencies
Monday February 3, 2014, no169
Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared by neworientnews.com
Editor in chief Wassim Raad
wassimraad73@gmail.com
New Orient Center for Strategic policies

The war against Syria and the illusion of compromise

By Ghaleb Kandil
Some politicians believe that Russia and the United States agreed on compromises in the region, and that everything that happens politically and militarily in Syria is part of a scenario to implement these arrangements.
In fact, international relations are going through a transitional period that will see the outlines of a new balance of power. These new equilibrium were able to emerge through the resistance of the Syrian state against the colonial aggression led by the United States. It is clear that the US unilateral post-domination era is under construction. The rules of the new Cold War are not yet definitively drawn. Recognition by the United States at the end of its unilateral hegemony is accompanied by continued attempts to influence the new equations that are emerging.
It is in this context that fit US and Western pressures and interference in the backyard of Russia. Ukraine crisis is the best example of this attitude, as well as the continuation of the partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia, to prolong the bloodshed in Syria, in the hope of changes for the benefit their agents of balance of power relations underlie all coming political compromise.
These are the realities emerging from the Geneva II Conference, where Americans have negotiated indirectly with the Syrian official delegation, through a delegation established by its ambassador in Damascus Robert Ford. It is in this same context that was taken the decision to exclude Iran from this conference, which was a message to Russia, worthy of the time of the unilateral hegemony through orders given to the Secretary General of the United Nations. The reform of this organization and the rebalancing of relations within it are also unavoidable conditions for establishing a multipolar world.
In this transitional period, the confrontation continues to develop new relations between international powers, and Syria is the mirror of the new international order. The belief in the existence of supposed international arrangements and a serious American will to fight against terrorism, is a pure illusion. Worse, it can distort the calculations and produce erroneous analyzes.
These are the United States, which exported to Syria qaïdiste terrorism in cooperation with the Saudi regime, Turkey and Qatar. It was Washington who hosted and hatched the Muslim Brotherhood, and it continues to do so even though it knows that the brotherhood promotes takfirist thought and terrorism in the Muslim world. The U.S. refusal to consider as a priority the fight against terrorism in Syria, as claimed by the Syrian official delegation, is an admission of Washington’s determination to use terrorism to bleed the Syrian state. The arguments presented by Barak Obama, in an interview at the New Yorker, to explain the reasons for its support to Islamic Front, illustrate perfectly this reality. He described as “jihadist” the fighters of this terrorist organization calling to make a distinction between them and Al-Qaeda. The Front is a pure Saudi-American product that is only active inside Syria and does not constitute a terrorist threat, as claimed by the Foreign Policy magazine in an article published few days ago.
The next step will be characterized by an upsurge in fighting on the ground and the pursuit of American, Saudi, Qatari, French et British support for extremist movements. Despite the last maneuver of Recep Tayyeb Erdogan during his visit to Tehran, which was not accompanied by any concrete measures on the ground, Turkey will also continue its support to terrorists.
The U.S. administration has acknowledged the failure of his bet to destroy the Syrian state. Its new strategy is to permanently install lines of demarcation between the Syrian Arab Army and the rebels, through a massive support in weapons, money, human reinforcements and technical advice. Certain circles in Washington openly mention the dismantlement of Syria by separating the provinces of Idleb, Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Hasakah, from the central state . Other projects talk about the division of Syria into three regions: the first, under the control of the central state and its armed forces; the second under the hegemony of armed groups; and the third under the domination of the Kurds.
The Syrian Arab Army is therefore fighting for the unity of Syria and for its independence. Americans and their agents will discover that all their plans are only pure illusion, because when it is the unity and independence of their country which is at stake, the Syrian people and its army are willing to make all the sacrifices that are necessary.
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Statements
Gebran Bassil, Caretaker Energy Minister (Free Patriotic Movement)
«We should reduce the difficulties in forming a new Cabinet such as the agreement to postpone discussion on the government’s policy statement rather than adding more obstacles such as the rotation of ministerial portfolios. The principle of rotating ministerial portfolios is a sound policy if it is adopted by consensus and consultations … [and] at the beginning of a new Parliament or presidential term. If there were good intensions, the rotation would have been based on consensus and included all ministerial posts but the intentions aim at excluding not only a person or a political movement but also an entire sect. It is strategic for Lebanon and Christians because it entails international relations stolen from the Christians 25 years ago. It also includes a balanced development that was absent from Christian areas for 25 years. Therefore, it is a primary ministry par excellence and should not be a target of exclusion and it is the right of this sect to be trusted with Lebanon’s oil for an interim period. Is it acceptable to allocate the Interior Ministry to a sect in order to reassure it, allocate the Finance Ministry to a specific sect to compensate for it or allocate the Defense Ministry to a party to protect a grant for the Army?. The issue is now bigger than forming a government but it is concerned with constitutionality and trust, which if breached would require not only a new social contract but a whole new nation. Deviating from the National Covenant will lead to Sunni-Shiite strife and a conflict between Muslims and Christians in the events Muslims fail to correct this deviation. Consensus is at the heart of the Taef Accord which also stipulated fairness and equality … The Constitution also stipulates that the absence of sectarian balance can [legally] force the collapse of the government. The prime minister-designate is not the one in charge with forming a Cabinet and cannot impose or threaten a certain reality.»
Samir Mazloum, Maronite bishop
«The presidential election is an absolute priority for the Maronite Patriarchate. All deadlines are important but nothing should prevent the holding of presidential elections. If a political party with a large parliamentary bloc, such as the Free Patriotic Movement, is not represented in the government, this means that the government is not in conformity with national unity. The Christian community must be represented qualitatively in terms of people and ministries that will be assigned, as well as other communities.»
Samir Geagea, Lebanese Forces leader
«The Mars-8 coalition prevents the formation of a national unity government, intentionally or not, because of the will of Hezbollah to stand alongside Aoun. President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam should not lose any minute and should exercise their constitutional prerogatives to form a neutral government. Such a measure has become an urgent necessity in the interest of Lebanon.»
Elie Ferzli, Former Vice-president of the Lebanese Parliament
«If the new government has an age of two months only, the rotation at the ministerial portfolios is then directed against the Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, who represents the largest Christian political force in the country. The block of General Michel Aoun has 20 of the 27 Maronites members of Parliament. Bassil represents the Free Patriotic Movement. We must respect the Christian component of Lebanese partnership. Michel Aoun has the sovereign right to decide on portfolios allocated to Christians. Neutrality does not exist in Lebanon and Prime Minister-designate, Tammam Salam, is not neutral.»
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Events
  • A car bomb killed at least four people Saturday near a gas station in eastern Lebanon’s town of Hermel, according to caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel. Speaking to al-Manar television channel, the minister stated that the blast was carried out by a suicide bomber, which also injured at least 15 people. “At least four people were killed and more than 15 wounded, two or three of them in critical condition,” he said. “We think it is a suicide attack,” he added. However, Hermel’s Municipality Head, Subhi Saqr, stated to the Lebanese National News Agency (NNA) that at least 28 were wounded. Furthermore, the proximity of the explosion, which took place around 6:00 pm, to the Al-Aytam gas station had sparked a huge blaze that hindered the arrival of emergency services, according to statements by a security source to NNA. According to the Lebanese National News Agency, the blast was also in proximity of a school hosting orphans. The al-Mabarrat school confirmed that none of their resident students were hurt Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the attack. “Once again, the hands of treason target a Lebanese region and claim the lives of innocent citizens,” he said. Tensions surfaced elsewhere in Lebanon after the explosion. Residents of al-Labweh blocked the road to Ersal in protest of the recent explosion at Hermel. While in Beirut, a hand grenade was thrown at the Al-Manar’s headquarters, according to a report by al-Mayadeen television channel. A car bomb had previously hit Hermel on January 16, killing five and injuring 40. The previous attack had been claimed by the Lebanon branch of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
  • Ad Diyar daily reported that the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, Commander General Jean Kahwaji, went to Riyadh at the head of a delegation of senior officers for talks focused on the delivery of French weapons for a value of $ 3 billion paid by Saudi Arabia.
  • The French Justice suspended on Friday a decision of the Communist mayor of Bagnolet, who made an honorary citizenship of the Lebanese militant Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, sentenced to life in France. The Administrative Court of Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis) issued an order for immediate suspension of that decision. On December 11, 2013 the communist mayor of Bagnolet, Marc Everbecq, awarded the title of honorary citizen to Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, following the example of two other communist municipalities in the Pas-de-Calais.
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Press review
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
Imad Marmal(January 31, 2014)
The issue of the ministerial rotation opened all the wounds of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). It is no longer a matter of ministerial portfolios only. The controversy on the principle of alternation woke all latent fears of Rabié, whether those on his ambiguous relationship with allies or opponents. The FPM has the feeling of being disappointed by the allies who went too far in the negotiations before agreeing with the Future on government composition, sparing no previous commitments with the FPM. Some of the Aoun supporters detailed facts about the agreements that have been concluded in their camp, following the designation of Tammam Salam for the formation of the government, and would have involved the maintenance of the Ministry of Energy in the hands of the FPM. If the government agreement sealed between Amal, Hezbollah and the Future Movement was necessary and vital to counter the danger of sectarian fitna, why the Christian partner was excluded from such agreement that is of great strategic importance? ask Aoun supporters.
An Nahar (Lebanese daily, close to March-14 Coalition)
Rosanna Bou Moucef (January 30, 2014)
The speech on the state of the union, delivered by Barack Obama, brought nothing new to those who follow American politics. The president reiterated his intention to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. After Afghanistan, Obama outlined the priorities of his country as follows: the continuation of the war against Al-Qaeda, in cooperation with the countries where the organization operates, and the continuation of diplomatic efforts within the framework of Israeli peace talks-Palestinian; support for a Syria without dictatorship and without fear of terrorism, and its announcement that he will use veto against any act of Congress imposing new sanctions on Iran during the negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear project.
In foreign policy, Obama has focused on the option of diplomacy and the refusal of direct military intervention, stressing the importance of diplomacy backed by pressure in the area of ​​negotiation with Iran. This position confirms the guidelines enshrined in the abandonment by Obama of the military option against the Syrian regime and the Libyan solution in Syria.
This year is very important for the region (Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear issue, Israeli- Palestinian negotiations), but this was not reflected in Obama’s speech.
There is an increasing fear of a Russian capacity for better management of the Syrian file that the US. Ultimately, Washington may be resigned to accept that the search for a solution to the Syrian crisis is entrusted to Moscow.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
(February 1, 2014)
Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) have circulated a warning that Prime Minister Najib Mikati has been named as a possible target for assassination. Some security officials have downplayed the threat, but others are taking it seriously, given al-Qaeda’s increased activity in Lebanon, particularly in the north and the Bekaa. Is Mikati now on an al-Qaeda hit list? A memo dispatched by the chief of the Government Guard, states: “Information has come to light that an explosive charge has been planted in a champagne-color Kia SUV, driven by a Syrian suicide bomber named Abu al-Adnan from the Khaled bin al-Walid Brigades of the Islamic Front. The car might target a senior political figure in Tripoli or Beirut, and has started moving closer to the target. There are [also] reports about a black bomb-rigged Honda that might be detonated in Tripoli near the house of the figure in question.” When the memo was first publicized, it was thought to be one of a dozen similar reports circulated by the security services to their units, based on tips from informants or “technical sources,” like phone and electronic surveillance. But upon closer examination, it can be seen that it was the Directorate General of the ISF itself that issued the warning, while the original information had named the target as Mikati. Furthermore, it appears that the Government Guard has stepped up its security measures over the past two days in the vicinity of Mikati’s home in Tripoli, and those of his family. Some of the security officials we spoke to downplayed the report, saying, “We know that this is not a credible threat.” But if so, then why was the information circulated? One security official answered, “We cannot afford to be complacent about such information. We circulate it to fulfill our duties and allow precautionary measures to be taken.”
The report identified the Islamic Front as the party planning to assassinate Mikati. The Islamic Front is a Syrian opposition group that was formed two months ago, merging a number of Syrian opposition factions. The backbone of the Front is made up of Salafi fighters and clerics, with various political affiliations. Some are backed by Turkey, others by Qatar, but a majority of them are closely linked to Saudi intelligence.
Some political sources have found reason for pause in this information, especially since it is emerging in parallel with an incitement campaign led by the Future Movement – and Saudi Arabia – in North Lebanon against Mikati, even though he resigned as prime minister more than 10 months ago, in deference to a Saudi desire to remove Hezbollah from the government. Sources said that Saudi Arabia’s doors remain closed to Mikati.
Incitement in the north is not limited to Mikati. Prominent clerics in Tripoli have also complained about receiving death threats from Salafi extremists affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Clerics and security officials reckoned that the threat is serious because it comes at a time when al-Qaeda affiliated groups are operating freely in the north and Bekaa. In some areas, for example, armed militants from al-Qaeda affiliates like al-Nusra Front and ISIS now appear publicly, from Tripoli to Akkar, all the way to Ersal.
These areas, despite the Future Movement’s clout, are now practically in the hands of extremist groups, including those close to al-Qaeda. Indeed, on the ground, the Future Movement’s strength in Tripoli is in decline. People previously thought to be supporters of Future are now closer to the discourse of al-Qaeda. Similarly in Ersal, mayor Ali al-Houjeiri and other Future-affiliated figures no longer control things on the ground, and have long been overtaken by al-Nusra- and ISIS-affiliated groups.
Sources close to the security establishment and Islamist sources say that ISIS has decided to expand into Lebanon. ISIS’ bid has been reinforced following the disputes among jihadi groups in Syria, for example, between ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani.
Twitter user @wikibaghdady, who has been leaking confidential information about ISIS for weeks, has mentioned that Baghdadi wants to expand his group and gather pledges of allegiance from all around the world, with the first logical destination after Iraq and Syria being Lebanon. Al-Qaeda’s successes in carrying out suicide bombings and other attacks in Bekaa and Beirut – against mostly civilian targets – has also helped ISIS’ bid. Al-Qaeda’s affiliates believe that by merely starting a battle with Hezbollah in Lebanon, jihadis everywhere will flock to the country.
Meanwhile, reports have surfaced regarding Lebanese Salafi groups heading to Syria to receive the approval of jihadi groups there to begin operating in Lebanon. A group led by a North Lebanon-man identified as A. M. reportedly went to Syria to obtain ISIS’ blessing, before returning to Tripoli.
Al Akhbar (January 31, 2014)

A primary round of investigations into Omar al-Atrash established him as a suspect in a string of suicide bombings and attacks in Lebanon’s Bekaa, Dahiyeh, and Saida. Atrash’s statements provided invaluable information, as the detained cleric allegedly confessed to transporting two Saudi suicide bombers, who are still at large, to Beirut. Atrash has now been officially charged, paving the way for further questioning.

On January 30, an official statement by Lebanon’s army command confirmed previous press reports regarding Atrash’s confessions to his role in the recent wave of deadly bombings in Lebanon. Atrash has been referred to a military court, which charged him over his alleged role in the attacks.
Al-Akhbar learned that the military court intends to request the intelligence directorate to expand the scope of the investigations into Atrash. According to informed sources, the information the suspect may be in possession of cannot be extracted from him in just a few days of investigations.
Atrash reportedly spoke at length during his interrogation about his role in the terrorist bombings in Lebanon. The cleric also revealed some secrets about the work of jihadi organizations, but many details need to be followed up and verified. It is understood that there have been talks with the Ministry of Justice and the military court to get their consent to keeping Atrash in the custody of army intelligence for a longer period of time.
According to the same sources, Atrash was apprehended while army intelligence was in pursuit of a Saudi national, who, according to US intelligence tips, had entered Lebanon to carry out a major terrorist attack. During the search for the Saudi, information surfaced that made Atrash a suspect.
Atrash was subsequently arrested. Shortly after, he admitted his intent to move the Saudi national, who remains at large, to the capital. Atrash also confessed that he had previously brought another Saudi to Beirut, revealing that both of the Saudis were commissioned in Syria to carry out two suicide attacks in areas with sizeable Hezbollah influence.
Atrash also confessed that the registration papers found in his possession belonged to cars in the process of being moved to Beirut, to be handed over to suicide bombers for detonation in Dahiyeh or other areas. The suspect also said he was helping with logistics, including transferring funds.
The sources said Atrash disclosed information about certain events, details of which had been hitherto secret, including facts like:
– Atrash transported to Beirut the two suicide bombers who attacked the Iranian embassy, handing them over to the Palestinian fugitive Naim Abbas. Abbas operates from Palestinian refugee camps, including Ain al-Hilweh in South Lebanon.
– Atrash transported one of the suicide bombers involved in the Haret Hreik bombings to Khaldeh, also handing him over to Abbas.
– Atrash sent one of the suicide bombers using a microbus from Bekaa to Beirut, where Abbas was waiting for him. Abbas then moved the bomber to another location, where he gave him the explosive-rigged vehicle and an explosive belt.
– He transferred funds to Abbas, which he obtained from inside Syria.
– The two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at Lebanese army checkpoints in Awwali and Saida, and who until now had not been identified, were Qatari nationals, whom Atrash helped move from Bekaa to Beirut.
– The suicide bomber in the recent attack in Hermel was probably the brother of a Lebanese national who blew himself up in Syria a while ago.
Investigations into Atrash revealed Abbas, born in 1970, as a prominent al-Qaeda figure in Lebanon and the mastermind of a number of suicide attacks that targeted the southern suburbs of Beirut. In statements given by Islamist prisoners in Lebanon years ago, Abbas was named as the perpetrator of the assassinations of Army Major General Francois al-Hajj and MP Walid Eido. The prisoners cited leaders of Fatah al-Islam as the source of this information, but security services were not able to verify its accuracy.
According to reports, Abbas resides in South Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh camp, bearing in mind that security reports indicate Abbas often vanishes from the camp before reappearing with his beard shaven.
Atrash’s confessions have revealed that Abbas, who is a former member of the Islamic Jihad, is the same person known as Abu Suleiman. The latter was previously identified by the army as the owner of a warehouse in an area near Dahiyeh. Abbas, according to the same reports, gave a bomb-rigged car to Qutaiba al-Satem, the perpetrator of the first suicide bombing in Haret Hreik, after receiving it from Atrash.
The sources pointed out that Atrash confessed when he was confronted with damning evidence, including recordings of phone conversations proving his involvement, in addition to images sent by phone of the rigged cars and the perpetrator of one of the suicide attacks in Dahiyeh.
According to the sources, the army tasked a doctor to examine Atrash before handing him over to the military judiciary, to prove that he was not beaten in custody. Both the forensic doctor and Atrash have signed a report to this effect, the sources added.
Government commissioner to the military court, Judge Saq Saqr, charged Atrash and 12 others, including Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian nationals and other unidentified suspects, with joining an armed terrorist group with the goal of carrying out terrorist attacks, recruiting people for terrorist acts, and involvement in the bombings in Haret Hreik. Judge Saqr referred the case to the military investigative judge.
In the meantime, the army’s crackdown on terrorism continues. According to reports, more than 20 suspects have been arrested over the past two months, including Danish, Belgian, and German nationals suspected of being members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Nusra Front, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
In the same vein, investigations with detainee Jamal Daftardar, who was arrested by the intelligence directorate in Kamed al-Loz, continue. Daftardar had been under close surveillance after Lebanon received US tips regarding the movements of the now-deceased leader of Abdullah Azzam Brigades Majed al-Majed, as Daftardar was in charge of medical care for the latter in Lebanon.
According to reports, Daftardar is from the second generation of al-Qaeda operatives. His role focused on explosives and combat training.Al-Akhbar learned that his 16-year-old wife has since been released by the authorities, but was referred to General Security for processing, as she is a Syrian national. It appears that Daftardar knew the real identity of Majed, unlike others who were taking the Saudi terror leader to hospital or paying his medical bills.
Al Akhbar (January 31, 2014)
Amal Khalil
Early 2014, fugitive Lebanese Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir made a comeback via online social networks, tweeting messages and posting audio messages. Though these almost daily posts won’t make up for his absence since late August, for some, they may fill a void amid the absence of Sunni leaderships.
Many consider Assir’s rise to celebrity status as a sign of Sunni frustration. In just a few weeks, he captured local attention and created a media frenzy.
He first emerged as an advocate of the Syrian revolution but was so taken by fame that he proclaimed himself a spokesman of “oppressed Sunnis” all over the world, from Lebanon to Somalia to Burma. In Mecca’s holy mosques, Syria’s battle fronts, and Egypt’s squares, signs were raised saluting this rising “champion.”
Many factors contributed to the myth of Assir. The sheikh played the sectarian card well and used the absence of Sunni leaders to his advantage. Today, he plans on exploiting the fact that former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri reneged on his previous promise to not join a government with Hezbollah unless the party gives up its arms or withdraws from Syria.
Assir has lambasted the Hariri family and their Future Movement ever since the Abra battle last June. In a tweet posted yesterday, he noted sarcastically: “The first outcome of the peaceful resistance against the party’s arms was the agreement to participate in an inclusive government that would cover its crimes in Lebanon and in Syria.”
Assir continued: “The youth of March 14 were mistaken to hand their revolution to leaders who only raise the ceiling of their demands then surrender because they follow outside orders.” Assir suggested that Hariri and Lebanese Prime-Minister designate Tammam Salam introduce a special portfolio for Sunnis: the ministry of disgrace and shame, amid the supremacy of Speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, the opportunism of MP Michel Aoun, and the wit of MP Walid Jumblatt.
From his hiding place, Assir pledged to fight oppression “until the last minute of my life.”
Assir had been bashing the Future Movement even before Abra, accusing the young Hariri of “living the good life and dancing around abroad.” He hasn’t even spared Saida deputies Bahia al-Hariri and Fouad Siniora, though it is no secret that they both sympathized with him before and after the battle.
In a phone interview with Al-Akhbar, Sheikh Maher Hammoud, imam of al-Quds Mosque suggested that the fugitive sheikh should add the word “stupid” to his tweets. According to Hammoud, Assir would be utterly stupid to try to present himself as a leader for Sunnis or any other group of people, calling upon him to draw lessons from his past experience and “repent.”
Hammoud explained that the leadership of Hariri family is now shaken “because they are puzzled between moderation and extremism. They believe that by not responding to Assir’s insults, they would be able to keep about 20 percent of the votes in the coming elections.”
He also pointed out that late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s leadership “did not fill a void and was not integral. It was temporary and interest-based. It came at a time of frustration and political vacuum. Meanwhile, traditional Sunni leaderships in Lebanon have always had Arab extensions, precisely with late leaders Gamal Abdel Nasser and Yasser Arafat.”
“A real Sunni leadership is the one based on an integral and sound understanding of Islam, one that bears the great causes of the nation. It champions Palestine and confronts US hegemony over the region,” he said.
In a previous tweet, Assir asserted he was “among the last people who withdrew from the neighborhood of Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Abra,” adding, “I went out with my face revealed and holding my arms. If it was not for the women and children, I wouldn’t have withdrawn.”
Reenacting his role as a preacher and a spiritual guide, he advised “Sunni scholars and politicians to speak the truth about Hezbollah’s crimes against us, committed directly by the party or through its tools in the Lebanese army.”
Al Akhbar (January 31, 2014)
Sami Kleib
The most important result of Geneva II is its failure. Now, it is time to prepare better for the second round of negotiations, which might fail, too. The failure will likely continue until Russia and the United States agree on what the political solution will look like. Until the solution is ripe and ready, it is alright to administer some over-the-counter pain medicine and pretend that the cancer is being cured.

The failure of the first round of Geneva II allows the Russians to say the opposition is the problem. Moscow was not satisfied with the Syrian National Coalition delegation that negotiated in Geneva. Perhaps it was happy deep down that the delegation was weak and did not represent the opposition. Now, it can push to expand the representation of the opposition, end the coalition, and include most of the leftist, liberal, and secular opposition.

The failure of Geneva II does not bother Washington. The United States is looking to get rid of the specter of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It is natural, then, to hold him responsible for the failure of the current round. The Barack Obama administration realizes that Assad is going to run in the presidential elections next summer. They think that if he runs, he will win. The United States is under Russian, Iranian, and Chinese pressure to leave the Syrian people to decide their future. There is an international consensus that Assad is guaranteed to win, even if the elections take place under international supervision.
The Americans cannot even imagine this possibility, but they can not overthrow Assad or kill him. If they do, the chemical weapons deal would stop and the open door with Iran would close. There would be a major problem with Russia and China who have not gotten over the international fraud involved in overthrowing the Libyan regime and killing Moammar Gadhafi. Most dangerous is that no one knows how the Syrian army and its allies would react.
It was necessary to pull the rug from under the feet of the Syrian government’s delegation in Geneva II. The speeches of the US, Saudi, Turkish, Qatari, and French foreign ministers in Montreux all held Assad responsible for the war and terrorism in the country. The former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, continued the campaign with his statements about war crimes. The US Congress resumed non-lethal military aid to the moderate Syrian opposition. The United States and France accused the regime of obstructing the delivery of chemical weapons, and Washington proclaimed, again, that the war option against Syria is not off the table.
The message is clear: Assad is not allowed to retake the reins. At this point, almost everything is in his favor. A fractured political opposition, fighting among opposition fighters, the reconciliation process moving forward at a faster pace, the presence and vitality of the official delegation in Geneva II whose members dominated foreign media coverage, the high morale of the army on the ground, and the shift in the Syrian public mood, whereby many want a return of the state. Add to the mix the consistency of the Iranian and Russian positions in support of their Syrian ally. Sources from both sides confirm that Assad himself, and not just the regime, is still a red line.
What can Washington and its allies do?
There are three options. Either the US accepts Assad’s survival, candidacy, and victory based on a tacit agreement with Russia. (It is possible despite the American noise that will accompany it). Or it will try again to tip the military balance by giving the opposition lethal weapons. (An unlikely possibility because of concerns over al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Or it will put forward an acceptable alternative to Assad. (This option is being highly promoted at this point).
A senior US official says the alternative is ready. He is reticent about the details, but he points to two options. Either it will be someone who is acceptable to the army and the main figures of the regime, which means there will be no problem with the Russians and Iranians, or the presidency in the next phase will be a kind of transitional body based on Geneva II.
Before that, the Swiss city would have hosted a number of meetings to reach an international consensus on the shape of the transitional body, its powers and its role. The same official confirms, without batting an eyelid, that the alternative has been found, and he is from the Alawi sect. He confirms, too, that contacts have been made with people inside Syria for that purpose, and that the matter is now being discussed with the Russians. You can hear similar accounts from coalition leaders who were in Geneva.
Is it serious or is it just hype? Figures within the Syrian regime and a number of their allies believe that the United States has left no stone unturned to find an alternative to Assad. They add, however, that the United States was unable to achieve this goal, even when the regime was weak. So, how will it be able to do so now, when the state has regained many of the elements of its power? It is just hype, they insist.
As such, it appears that the failure of the current round of Geneva II is useful for Washington. The United States stresses that the coalition delegation made a major concession by sitting at the negotiating table. They also agreed to discuss side issues, abandoning the precondition for negotiations, i.e., Assad stepping down. But according to Washington, the official delegation demonstrated an unwillingness to accept anything that has to do with redrawing Syria’s political future. The United States confirms that, with its allies, they tried their best to encourage the coalition delegation to come to Geneva but that it might be harder in the future.
The Russians and their allies respond that the regime, too, made a major concession when it sat with parties it describes as terrorists. That is why Moscow argues that the reason this round of negotiations did not go anywhere is because the coalition is unable to control the opposition forces on the ground and does not represent the opposition.
It is necessary, then, to have future negotiations attended by a larger cross section of the opposition and to have a more effective regional presence. The Russians talk about the need to include Iran in future negotiations that will likely take place in a few months.
It is said that Tehran, through the warm reception it gave the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is trying to pull the rug from under the feet of Saudi Arabia. The Iranian and Turkish sides are looking for a Syrian opposition that is not subject to Saudi influence. Turkey wants a price for that, however. It keeps on saying that Assad is the problem, hoping to soften Iranian opposition to the idea of abandoning him. Nevertheless, the facts on the ground indicate that the Turkish wind is blowing against the al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. This is the only thing that will weaken the fighters and make it possible to find future common ground regarding Aleppo and its countryside.
All this reveals that not all the elements of the political solution are available. But it also suggests that efforts are accelerating behind the scenes, even though the most likely possibility is that the war in Syria will go on for quite some time. However, concern over terrorism means that the United States and its allies do not have the luxury of managing the Syrian crisis forever. It is necessary, therefore, to keep the two Syrian sides within a framework of successive negotiations, even if the results are modest or even non-existent in the early stages.
Associated press (American News Agency, January 28, 2014)
Syrian Al Qaeda-linked groups want to attack the United States and are training a growing cadre of fighters from Europe, the Mideast and even the United States, United States intelligence chief James Clapper warned. Director of National Intelligence Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee that groups such as the Al Nusra Front in Syria have inaugurated training camps “to train people to go back to their countries,”the Associated Press quoted him as saying.
He described this as “one of the newest threats emerging in the past year to U.S. security.” He added: “Al Nusra Front, to name one …. does have aspirations for attacks on the homeland.”
However, Clapper did not elaborate or offer any evidence of al-Nusra’s desire to attack the U.S. He said the civil war in Syria has become a “huge magnet” for these groups while sub-Saharan Africa has become a “hothouse” for extremists even as Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been steadily weakened in Pakistan.
America’s intelligence agencies estimated that there were about 26,000 fighters deemed to be “extremists” operating in Syria out of a total opposition force of 75,000 to 110,000 from some 50 countries, Clapper said.
He said more established groups, like Yemen’s Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, are still more capable of carrying out attacks against the U.S., but described steep growth in numbers of fighters in Syria.
He also offered a warning on advances in Syria’s biological weapons program.
Although Syria has agreed to eliminate its large arsenal of chemical weapons, the regime may now have the ability to produce biological weapons on a limited scale, he said.
“We judge that some elements of Syria’s biological warfare program might have advanced beyond the research and development stage and might be capable of limited agent production, based on the duration of its longstanding program,” the Associated Press quoted Clapper as saying in written testimony.
Clapper offered no further details, but it was the first time an official has publicly stated that spy agencies believed Syria had made strides in its biological program.
Neither President Bashar Al Assad’s regime nor the rebel groups appear able to achieve a decisive victory on the battlefield in the next six months, said Clapper, adding that the war would further foment Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions across the region.
Meanwhile, another U.S. official warned of extremist rebels getting access to technologies that could be used against Washington. “Not only are fighters being drawn to Syria, but so are technologies and techniques that pose particular problems to our defenses,” the Associated Press quoted committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein as saying.
She warned Syria could become “a launching point or way station for terrorists seeking to attack the United States or other nations,” in the annual hearing Wednesday to hear the U.S. intelligence committee’s assessment of worldwide threats.
U.S. intelligence analysts have told the Associated Press that Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahri and his lieutenants are too preoccupied by the constant threat of U.S. drone strikes to plot a major attack against the U.S. similar to Sept. 11.
This has pushed Zawahri to empower various “nodes” of his organization to choose their own, often local targets, though he encourages them to focus on the “far enemy” of the U.S. when they can.
U.S. intelligence officials told the Associated Press that Zawahri so far has not called on the Syrian branches to attack U.S. targets, allowing them to focus on the war against Assad.
Reuters (British News Agency, January 31, 2014)
Myriam Karouny
Faced with recent setbacks in Iraq and Syria, al Qaeda is slowly but firmly gaining influence in Lebanon, helped by the country’s increasing sectarian violence and the turmoil caused by Syria’s civil war, sources close to the group say.
Lebanon, a small Mediterranean state with a fragile sectarian power sharing system, has seen the worst of the Syria’s war spillover with car bombs in Beirut and Tripoli, gunfights in city streets and rocket fire in the Bekaa Valley.
The violence is exacerbated by Lebanon’s own sectarian divisions and entrenching them. Shi’ite Hezbollah supports President Bashar al-Assad while his rebel opponents are backed by Sunni Muslims including Islamists and al Qaeda fighters.
In Syria, the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds territory in the north and east but has been on the defensive in recent weeks after coming under attack from rival rebel groups that resent its harsh rule.
The sources say it is now seeking to expand in Lebanon, particularly the northern city of Tripoli, plagued by violence and lawlessness since the start of Syria’s uprising nearly three years ago.
The accounts from the sources, including fighters who support and oppose al Qaeda inSyria, appeared to be supported at the weekend when a statement in the name of Abu Sayyaf al-Ansary – described as al Qaeda’s commander in Lebanon – said the group had put down roots in Lebanon.
In an audio statement Ansary declared allegiance to the head of ISIL. Speaking, he said, from Tripoli, he announced Lebanon would be a gateway for al Qaeda to strike at Israel.
Several Syrian rebel sources said the group was in the final stages of establishing itself in Lebanon’s north – a region seen as fertile ground for the group where many people have adopted a stricter interpretation of Sunni Islam in the past few years.
Against that backdrop, a local commander in Syria who is close to al Qaeda commanders there said Ansary had been given the conditional blessing of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to announce al Qaeda’s presence in Lebanon.
“There will be statement in the next few days and the world will know then what will happen in Lebanon, and with God’s will it will warm the heart of the faithful,” he said.
While the group is expected to focus on Tripoli as a base, local commanders may be present in the northern province of Akkar, in the Bekaa Valley and the southern city of Sidon, where supporters of Sunni Islamist Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir clashed with the army last year.
Residents say al Qaeda is already calling the shots in some Tripoli neighborhoods and areas of the northern province of Akkar and the Bekaa Valley. Black and white flags associated with its uncompromising Islamist agenda openly fly from the streets and balconies of some Tripoli districts.
Baghdadi, an Iraqi who leads thousands of fighters from across the world but mainly from Iraq, Egypt and Libya, initially sent his men to fight alongside Syrian rebels, most of them Islamists.
But many Syrian fighters grew to resent his dominance, especially after his fighters killed and tortured hundreds of Syrians including other Islamist fighters.
“His dream is to create a state, he cannot see anything else but that and will crush anybody who stands in his way,” said a Syrian commander who fights against al Qaeda.
The sources were divided over how powerful the group is at this stage in Lebanon. Some said it had already established its base and would launch more organized attacks in the country, while others said it was still in final preparatory stages.
“Our understanding is that they are around 80 percent established but not fully established. They are still not well organized or the cells connected to each other,” said another Syrian commander via Skype. “They are in the process of re-grouping, that is what we know.”
Sources in Tripoli said that a debate took place for weeks among the jihadis on whether to go public. They were told by higher command to wait for approval from Baghdadi.
Saturday’s audio statement, posted on YouTube in Abu Sayyaf al-Ansary’s name, suggests that approval has been granted.
“After the flag of Islam was raised from Iraq to the Levant … we have decided to announce our allegiance to them,” he said. “We swear allegiance to Emir Abu Bakr al-Husseini al-Baghdadi, from Tripoli, so that we will be a door for him, God willing, from Lebanon to the holy site (Jerusalem).”
“So we offered the idea of regenerating their cells in Lebanon so that we continue the path of jihad which has scared America in its den.”
“The north (of Lebanon) is a fertile ground for this for many reasons. People are extremists – but because of ignorance,” said a third Syrian commander who lives in Turkey. He predicted an escalation in violence in Lebanon but said all-out conflict remained unlikely for now.
“More car bombs and explosions will happen here and there. As for an all out war in Lebanon, I think it’s not possible in the near term,” he said.

Orient Tendencies: The Syrian State Has Won the First Round in Geneva II

Posted on January 27, 2014 by Alexandra Valiente
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Orient Tendencies
Monday January 27, 2014, no168
Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared by neworientnews.com
Editor in chief Wassim Raad
wassimraad73@gmail.com
New Orient Center for Strategic policies

The Syrian State Has Won the First Round in Geneva II

By Ghaleb Kandil
The Geneva Conference 2 showed strongly the sovereign and independent position and attitude  of the Syrian state and its determination to seriously find a political solution to the crisis through dialogue with the opposition. However, the opposition presented a crestfallen face and continued, with the enemies of Syria, the campaign of lies to intensify pressure on this resistant state. 

Geneva 2 has identified a series of data, which included the Syrian state strength and credibility, which are illustrated in the following facts: 

-The firm determination to protect the independence and sovereignty, refusing any precondition and focusing on the will of the Syrian people, the ultimate authority of constitutional and political reference. An even greater determination to face any attempt of foreign intervention in Syrian sovereign affairs. 
-The choice of inter-Syrian dialogue, even if the opposition delegation suffers from a serious lack of representativeness and is manipulated by the alliance that is waging a war against Syria, led by the United States.
-The strong commitment to the priority of the battle against terrorism, subtly integrated into the concept of stopping the violence, consecrated by the initiative of Kofi Annan, sabotaged by the United States. 
-The presentation of the Syrian state vision of the transitional period, which should be the culmination of the dialogue in the shadow of the current Constitution and not a coup through a transitional governing council, as defended by the Secretary of State, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton before him, according to their interpretation of the Geneva 1 understanding. An understanding that is the subject of conflicting views between Moscow and Washington. 
In addition to all these elements, the delegation of the Syrian state has emerged as a cohesive team, skilfully managing the media, political and diplomatic battle, focusing the interests of journalists in Montreux. The Syrian delegation gave a brilliant image of the Syrian state, consistent and confident in its supremacy. 
The United States, as usual, released a lot of lies in order to increase pressure on the Syrian state, trying to impose a definite reading of Geneva 1, backed by many Western media. In fact, Geneva 1 nowhere mentions namely President Bashar al-Assad, and does not expect the formation of a supra-constitutional transitional instance. This means that such a body, if it were born, could be constitutional only if it is formed by a decree signed by President Assad and if its members take an oath before the head of state. 
Statements of John Kerry and François Hollande on the role of President Assad are not in accordance with the provisions of Geneva 1. And indecency has reached such heights that at the same time, U.S., British and French authorities, circulate information on contacts made with the Syrian authorities on cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Unscrupulously, Kerry sent one of his assistants to the newsroom of Montreux to declare to journalists known for their friendships with the Syrian state, that the United States are aware of the changes in the balance of power imposed the Syrian Arab Army, and to confirm the Syrian-American contacts. This schizophrenia was probed by journalists in Switzerland during the coverage of the conference. 
The Government of Qatar, and behind it the U.S. intelligence, invented a big lie in an attempt to influence the climate of the conference, through the so-called report on torture and executions in the Syrian prisons. Western journalists and experts have noticed the many flaws and failures in this document and its unexpected timing for the opposition and the enemies of Syria. Some stressed ironically that countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which does not even have a Constitution, present themselves as defenders of human rights facing a civil and secular state, fought by extremist-Takfirists groups, funded by these two backward countries. 
Another incongruity of the conference, the fact that the U.S. ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, appeared as the true president of the Syrian National Coalition delegation (SNC).
Likely that the conference will end with the three propositions given in Moscow by the Minister Walid Moallem: an exchange of prisoners; security arrangements, which would start in Aleppo-the SNC wants them to start in Homs; the delivery of humanitarian aid. 
Another date may then be decided after the settlement of the two mistakes which the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has promised to fix: the exclusion of Iran and the expansion of the representativeness of the opposition delegation  by including other groups that have been excluded. 
The Syrian national state won a major round and the battle continues. It is the Syrian Arab Army which will have the major role in the coming period. 
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Statements
Saad Hariri, Future Movement Leader
«We’re trying to run the country with everyone, because we do not want to keep anyone outside. Lebanon is having a difficult time, especially since the international community has failed miserably to do anything for Syria. I think it is our duty toward the people of Lebanon to stabilize the country … I am very optimistic. We know that they are allegedly persons who committed these crimes … But at the end of the day, this is a political party that has a big coalition, with Aounis. Eventually I will return to Lebanon. There is a security problem in Lebanon, especially as you know the assassination of Mohammad Shatah the year before, and Wissam al-Hassan the year before that. I don’t want to go back and end up like the others. I want to go back and play my role as I should.»
Michel Aoun, Free Patriotic Movement leader
«We can make sacrifices but not at the expense of the people we represent and we can make concessions without eliminating … our presence and role. While we reject the principle of having a single sect or party permanently occupying any ministerial post, rotation [of ministerial portfolios] is permissible [only after] a new parliamentary era and in the framework of an actual equality. I am still working toward the formation of a national unity government and I am glad with a formula that represents everyone. We accepted the 8-8-8 formula despite the injustice concerning the number of ministerial posts allocated to our bloc. We cannot waiver on proper Christian representation either in terms of the ministerial portfolios, the number of the posts and their nature whether they are … primary or secondary. We cannot give up on the right of each party naming its representatives in the Cabinet because that party should be held accountable to its voters. We think that the prospective government can establish a new phase of dialogue and understandings with the aim of securing stability instead of strife that is threatening Lebanon’s existence. We think that the government will pave the way for the presidential election, which should be held on time and bring a strong president who is a true representation of Christians.»
Adnane Mansour, Caretaker Foreign Minister
«I will never retract these statements regardless of the campaigns against me, after all we live in a democratic country and there are different points of view… and we will choose the road we deem appropriate. I had informed President Michel Suleiman of the content of my speech before I left, but I added a passage during the conference because the Lebanese people, who sacrificed many martyrs, cannot be called terrorists.»
Samir Geagea, Lebanese Forces leader
«The country cannot be left without a government, which must be an actual, harmonious one, and these conditions can only be attained at the moment through a neutral government. I am convinced that as long as Hezbollah remains in its current position, we will not be able to improve the country, things will rather become worse. The 14-Mars is wrong if he thinks he can make a difference by participating in the new government. We agreed in the coalition on the fact that participation in government without political change we would be fatal. We do not want to participate in government without prior guarantees and later worked as wish some of our comrades, to develop the ministerial declaration on the basis of principles to which we are all committed. Hezbollah has made concessions only in form. The formula of 8-8-8 offers no solution since it seems that the party will try to have a say in the choice of a minister close to the president and another close to the Prime Minister, which will increase its share to ten ministers and not eight.»
Samir el-Jisr, Future bloc MP
«Those present at the meeting believe that failure to deal with the security incident that sparked the recent clashes, and failure to contain the matter by pursuing and arresting the perpetrators, is what allowed the return of sniper operations. The lack of a security presence in all areas of the city has allowed for waves of theft. Stability begins with protective security, which can identify threats and deal with them before they happen. The return of stability begins with the active presence and deployment of security forces.»
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Events
  • A resident from the northern city of Tripoli pledged allegiance in a YouTube video to the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. “After the flag of Islam expanded from Iraq to Al-Sham [Syria]… we have decided to pledge allegiance to [ISIS]… from Tripoli, so it would become a door, God willing, [to pass] from Lebanon to [Jerusalem],” Abou Sayyaf al-Ansari said in a video broadcast Saturday on YouTube. “We pledge allegiance to the [chief] of believers, [ISIS leader] Abou Bakr al-Husseini al-Qoreishi al-Baghdadi,” the extremist added. “We have proposed to them to recruit units in Lebanon in order to continue the path of Jihad,” Ansari explained in his YouTube address. Ansari also slammed the Lebanese Armed Forces, and called on Sunnis in the army to leave it. “We have awoken from our sleep… because the nation’s pillars are being cracked by Lebanon’s Crusader army [the LAF] supported by [Hezbollah]. On another hand, the Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon issued a statement along with the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claiming responsibility for the rocket strike on the Beqaa town of Hermel, adding that they would continue to target Hezbollah until their demands are met. “The Marwan Hadid Brigades adherent to the Abdullah Azzam Brigades as well as the Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon [claim responsibility for] the bombing of Hermel with seven Grad rockets, [an attack] which achieved its goals,” a statement issued on Twitter said.
  • Thirteen nuns abducted by Syrian rebels from their convent in the town of Maaloula last month are “well” as negotiations continue for their release, Syrian Patriarch John Yazigi told reporters on Saturday. Rebels kidnapped the nuns on December 3 from their convent in the Mar Thecla Monastery of the historic Christian town Maaloula and taken to the nearby village of Yabroud. “They are believed to be at a residence in Yabroud, and they are well,” the cleric was quoted as saying by Lebanon’s National News Agency from Beirut’s international airport ahead of a visit to Moscow. “Negotiations are still ongoing,” he added. “We hope for their quick release along with the bishops, for they carry a message of peace in the service of others,” Yazigi said, referring to two bishops kidnapped in Syria last April. The 13 nuns were kidnapped along with three civilians a day after rebels overran their village.
  • Nearly 50 people were killed in weekend clashes that erupted during rival rallies marking the anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 that toppled Hosni Mubarak, the health ministry said Sunday. Three years after Egyptians rose up to demand the overthrow of Mubarak, thousands of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Saturday chanted slogans backing another military man, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as police clashed with Islamists and activists elsewhere. Forty-nine people were killed, the ministry said, in 24 hours of fighting across Egypt as police and supporters of the military-installed government clashed with Islamist backers of president Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed in July after a single turbulent year in power. Egypt was already on edge after four bombs exploded in Cairo on Friday, including a massive blast outside police headquarters. The attacks, which were claimed by a Sinai-based extremist group, killed six people. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an Al-Qaeda-inspired group, claimed Friday’s bombings, all of which targeted police, and urged “Muslims” to stay away from police buildings.
    ___________________________________________________________
Press review
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
Imad Marmal(January 24, 2014)
Whence comes the surprising flexibility of Hezbollah, the Future Movement and Amal Movement on the government issue, which led the parties to make reciprocal concessions that allowed to consider a unifying government. An expert explains that these concessions are not due solely to an internal consideration. They reflect foremost regional and international upheavals that local actors could not ignore.
These changes involve Russia, the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Ambassador David Hale said during a visit to Tammam Salam: “If you form a neutral government, we do not oppose it. But it would be preferable that you form a government in which Hezbollah would be represented.” European ambassadors have called to share the prime minister-designate to form as soon as a unifying government , assuring that they would be at his side.
An Nahar (Lebanese daily, close to March-14 Coalition)
(January 25, 2014)
“The alternative to forming a cabinet according to the 8-8-8 formula is a fait accompli or neutral cabinet, which is the best choice for March 14,” Berri was quoted by his visitors as saying.
“I fear the opportunity to form a unity government will not be seized,” he said.
Berri also voiced his readiness to make efforts again concerning this issue when he is certain that “parties are willing to be flexible in order to reach an understanding and overcome obstacles.”
Lebanon’s political parties are attempting to form a new government that would bring together the rival March 14 and March 8 alliances. 
Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri, whose party is the main pillar of the pro-Western March 14 coalition, stated earlier in the week that he is putting aside his personal differences with Hezbollah, in an effort to form a national-partnership cabinet that can safeguard the country.
Meanwhile, the Free Patriotic Movement has rejected the proposed rotation of the ministerial portfolios, and caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil has voiced his insistence on the party maintaining control over the Energy and Telecom Ministries.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
Radwan Mortada (January 25, 2014)
On January 24, online jihadi forums affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were promoting a recorded speech by ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf al-Ansari, in which he will declare the expansion of the Islamic State into Lebanon. The speech will be posted today on ISIS’ official Twitter page at an as yet undisclosed time.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s branch of al-Nusra Front posted on its Twitter feed its fourth official statement to date, titled “Urgent appeal to Sunnis in Lebanon.” The statement declared, “Iran’s party [i.e. Hezbollah] and all its bases and […] strongholds are a legitimate target for us wherever they may be found.” Al-Nusra, based on its “concern for the blood of the Sunnis and to clear one’s conscience before God,” called on Sunnis in Lebanon to “refrain from approaching or residing in [Hezbollah] areas or near its bases,” and to “avoid its gathering places and posts.”
The jihadi factions are racing to declare war on Lebanon. This takes place in parallel with rapid security developments, in tandem with the Lebanese army crackdown on individuals suspected of involvement with al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. But what implications does al-Nusra Front’s fourth statement carry? And will there be anything new in the speech of ISIS leader Ansari?
Speaking to Al-Akhbar via Skype, a jihadi leader active in the Damascus countryside gave a preview of Ansari’s speech. He said, “Our war will no longer be confined to Syria. Soon, Lebanon will ignite.”
He continued, “The time intervals seen between the five bombings that hit Beirut’s southern suburb will shrink, and the pace of martyrdom [suicide] attacks against Hezbollah targets will accelerate.” The jihadi leader then said, “Things won’t stop at the time intervals between attacks, and their scope will also expand.”
“The amount of explosives used will also be doubled,” he added.
According to reports, Ansari is an al-Qaeda commander in Lebanon. His speech might be timed to take place in parallel with terrorist attacks.
The security services are tracking down jihadi movements between Lebanon and Syria. Security sources told Al-Akhbar that Saudi suspects were crossing through the border town of Ersal to fight in Syria, but did not confirm reports that the Saudis intend to return to Lebanon to carry out suicide attacks here.
The security services did not conceal their concerns regarding the possible use of so-called inghimasi fighters by the jihadis in their attacks. The inghimasi – from Arabic inghimas, plunging into, as in enemy ranks – is a type of suicide attacker who engages in guerilla warfare and does not activate his or her suicide belt except as a last resort.
In other words, the security services fear terrorist attacks against commercial centers or residential areas in specific regions, to cause the greatest number of casualties and cause a much bigger frenzy in the media than suicide attacks would do. In this regard, Al-Akhbar has obtained exclusive information revealing that advanced surveillance cameras were installed at a number of critical buildings nearly a week ago, while existing cameras have been replaced with more sophisticated ones to monitor suspicious movements.
Al Akhbar (January 25, 2014)
Maysam Rizk and Usama al-Qaderi
It seems as if takfiris have managed to put the Future Movement and Hezbollah in the same boat. Future’s officials are now worried about a backlash led by extremists against their “moderate” movement. But in this new battle, the Future Movement lacks a leader; its chief Saad Hariri has been absent for years, living in Paris.
Would Hariri’s “opening” toward Hezbollah put both parties in the same boat against takfiris? For some in the Future Movement, this is quite plausible, mainly after statements and videos that were circulated in Tripoli, lambasting Hariri’s agreement to join a government alongside Hezbollah.
In these statements, Hariri was accused of “selling his own religion and waiving the blood of martyrs so he can reach power.” He was also warned from ever “returning to Lebanon.”
To add oil to fire, Saida’s fugitive Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir announced via Twitter, “Making concessions before an aggressor and a murderer and accepting to take part in an inclusive cabinet after the assassination of former minister Mohammed Shatah is a defeat and a surrender.”
“These threats are very serious,” said Future Movement sources, who revealed that many officials “are taking precautionary security measures because these statements are considered direct threats to their lives.”
They believe that the coming attacks won’t be restricted to Dahiyeh and Hezbollah strongholds. There is a plausible chance that Tariq al-Jdideh and other regions dominated by Hariri sympathizers would also be targeted. “What Dahiyeh is witnessing today due to Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, may also affect us because we insist on moderation in the face of extremism,” the sources said.
Future officials don’t seem concerned about statements coming from Tripoli, as much as they fear “turbulent acts due to Assir’s reckless behavior, similar to what happened in Abra.”
These threats prompted some officials within the Future Movement to criticize Hariri’s positions, as the policy adopted in the last couple of years had favored extremism over moderation “and Assir managed somehow to occupy a certain space within Future Movement sympathizers.”
According to critics, the main issue here is that “Hariri still believes that Tripoli and Beirut would be at his beck and call when he returns from his exile in Paris, and he doesn’t quite understand the changes at the political level and on the ground.”
They called Hariri to “recalculate his positions in virtue of the changes among Sunnis after the revolution in Syria, amid a lack of funding and services provided by Hariri.”
These Future officials hope Hariri will successfully take advantage of the extremists’ outrage. They believe the Future Movement “can reveal extremists’ animosity toward everyone, mainly amid the violence they spread all over the country.” However, they stress, “Hariri should also set a line separating concessions from his image as a moderate Sunni leader who is working to spare Lebanon a major explosion.”
Hariri’s TV appearances and tweets are not enough. “The plan he seeks to initiate to counter takfiris cannot be launched from Paris but should be launched from Koraytem.”
“He made us a matter of ridicule,” said a Future Movement hawk. Hariri is “crushing the Sunni sect and surrendering in front of the force of arms.” They recalled his previous solid positions, saying that once “he got cornered, he was ready to waive.”
One official close to the Future Movement said, “The problem is not just convincing our allies about Hariri’s new positions. We are also facing a big problem in convincing our own people about his decision to join a government with Hezbollah.”
According to the source, divergent positions between the base and the command led to tension within the movement. The leadership has been away for about two years and the Future Movement’s central command now realizes its big dilemma.Recently, orders have been given to local officials, mainly in the Bekaa, to restore political activities “but with a new momentum, after the Bekaa command failed on many previous occasions.”
However, a prominent Bekaa figure held the central command responsible, saying, “They told us to wait and watch because the public cannot hear or see over the bullets.” According to him, this has made Assir a prominent figure today.
Following Hariri’s declaration to join a government with Hezbollah, leading extremists in Sunni towns in the Bekaa attempted to mobilize locals. They said, “The Future Movement doesn’t represent Sunnis but only seeks its own interests” and questioned Hariri’s loyalty to his sect.
They said the Future Movement repeatedly makes concessions “for a few ministerial seats.” In the town of Kamed al-Lawz, a local sheikh took advantage of a funeral attended by many mourners to criticize the Future Movement, saying that the Hariri family “shamed us all.”
Al Akhbar (January 24, 2014)
Ghassan Saoud
The views expressed by Lebanese Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri in a recent TV interview reinforced among many the belief that the political accord over forming a coalition government is the culmination of regional accords. The theme of these accords – counterterrorism – will be the main if not the only item on the manifesto of Tammam Salam’s government.
The militants in the North Lebanon city of Tripoli are furious. They have been told that the Ministry of Health, since the beginning of 2014, has stopped covering their medical bills in the city’s hospitals. They are also furious because of the roughness the army showed in the last confrontation.
During that confrontation, the army, perhaps for the first time, responded violently to the source of fire, targeting the so-called “alleyway commanders” of the militants directly. The army even tried to bring in tanks to Bab al-Tabbaneh, before it named the suspects accused of assaulting its soldiers in an official statement, in what may be a hint for other security services to arrest them rather than continuing to give them cover.
At the same time, the militants in Tripoli have been informed that army intelligence chief for North Lebanon, Gen. Amer al-Hassan, during a security meeting at Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s home to discuss the new round of violence, had a markedly different attitude. Hassan voiced sharp criticisms against some of those present, and made threats against the militants.
Add to this the militants’ major disillusionment with Saad Hariri, after the latter gave a green light to security services to crackdown on anyone disturbing the peace in the city. Then there’s the fact that retired General Ashraf Rifi could not be reached for the past two days, ever since Rifi called on the supporters of the “Cedar Revolution” to reassess the current stage, in a message posted on the Lebanese Forces website.
The militants are two kinds: Salafis and non-Salafis. The city had been expecting a battle between the army and the first kind, but the most recent round was with the non-Salafis.
It is in this latter category that alleyway commanders like Abu Khalil al-Hallaq and Abu Jamal al-Nhaili can be classed. They operate behind the cemetery in Bab al-Tabbaneh, in a street commonly known in Tripoli as Captain Street. There are rumors in the city that Nhaili was behind the viral video that contained threats to Hariri recently. These two commanders, like most militants operating on the front lines with Jabal Mohsen, count themselves as supporters of General Rifi.
Three years ago, the alleyway fighters did not number more than 200, and their job was to fire their weapons from the balconies of their homes at buildings in Jabal Mohsen. Not one of them was a “full-time” fighter. Today, there is a “squadron” of militants in almost every alleyway, led by what best resembles an emir, or commander.
Loyalties in the alleyways overlap. The Zahra family fighters, who are active in Bab al-Tabbaneh, are loyal to Rifi, too, and so is Emad al-Riz and many others who receive backing and encouragement from the former chief of the Internal Security Forces.
Others, like Saad Masri, who was involved in the latest round of fighting, have mixed loyalties for both Rifi and Prime Minister Mikati. Surreally, Mikati admitted in the last meeting at his home to lending financial support to Masri, but said, “I wasn’t the one who bought him a gun worth more than $60,000. I don’t know where they got all this!”
Talal Issa, another militant commander operating near Tripoli’s bazaar, also has overlapping loyalties to both Rifi and Mikati. Ziad Allouki is affiliated with Rifi, but he also makes room for the wishes of Mikati and the Karami family, as they both command considerable support in his turf.
In the district of Mankoubine, commanders like Tawfiq al-Shaar (Abu Mustafa) are closer to Mikati than to others. The consensus is that Mikat is like “Santa Claus,” he gives without return, especially since the militants cannot vote due to criminal convictions.
In truth, Mikati did nothing more than use money, instead of the powers of his office, to buy these militants off. While this is bad, others have done worse things. Others have created, trained, and armed the comprehensive – though chaotic – paramilitary structure that exists today in Tripoli.
In private meetings, MP Walid Jumblatt has said that his attacks against the Information Branch followed this security agency’s collusion with what he called “the madness in Tripoli.” The Information Branch was headed by Chaim Araji, until Rifi suspected the latter was collaborating with Mikati, and replaced him with Mohammed Arab, an officer fully loyal to Rifi.
It follows from the above that the non-Salafi militants are not a real danger. Indeed, if the Future Movement decides in earnest to de-escalate, then Rifi can pacify them just as fast as he can mobilize them. But if there is no decision to de-escalate, then Rifi will not order them to stand down, and the army will not seriously crack down on them. The farce of the past three years will just continue.
Instead, the real battle, in the event a decision is made to “cleanse” Tripoli, would take place between the army and the takfiri elements in the Salafi camp. In the last round of fighting, this faction stayed put, and did not fire a single bullet. We are not talking here about Salafi clerics like Bilal Duqmaq, Dai al-Islam al-Shahhal, and Omar Fustuq – who don’t have a single fighter – but about four or five groups led by people like Ali Hajar, Hussam al-Sabbagh, and Firas al-Ali.
Throughout the past few days, these extremist groups restrained themselves, because, according to one activist in their ranks, they knew they would be scapegoated in the current regional political bazaar. The reason for their restraint is their fear that the army might be looking for a pretext to repeat in Tripoli what happened in Abra with the supporters of Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Assir.
For years, these Salafi militants have strapped explosive belts around their waists, but they do not have access to the kind of funding or advanced weaponry as their comrades in the “alleyway squadrons.” In fact, most of them are merchants and shop owners from the city.
In various discussions with them, one comes out with a strong impression that they are extremely cautious folk. So much so that they have been stringently disciplining anyone in their ranks who dares raise the banners of al-Nusra Front or other organizations designated as terror groups worldwide. Meanwhile, three specific issues dominate their calculations:
One, the presidential elections around the corner. This stirs bitter memories for them, since it was the Nahr al-Bared conflict (in their view) that had paved the way for General Michel Suleiman to Baabda. Similarly, the battle of Abra helped secure an extension of army commander Jean Kahwaji’s term, as they say.
Two, Saad Hariri is seeking to mend his image before the international community, as a moderate anti-terror figure, and as collaboration with Islamists has turned from an element of strength to an element of suspicion and censure.
A former Tripoli MP said Hariri refused to sacrifice his Islamist allies before, but that today, the impetus for this is regional and there is no room for sharing power with the Islamists. At the same time, Hariri would benefit from not being directly in power to keep his distance from any potential consequences for the liquidation of yesterday’s allies.
Three, there is a 180-degree shift in the Shia attitude. Seven years ago, the Shia political forces tried to draw red lines over the storming of Nahr al-Bared, but now, the Shia forces have an unrivaled enthusiasm for cracking down on extremists and destroying their nurturing environment.
There might never be a battle between the army and the extremists, which could allow the latter to expand and attract “alleyway commanders” to their side.
But if it does take place, the battle would probably see eight or nine fronts similar to the Abra front simultaneously, in addition to dozens of secondary skirmishes in other neighborhoods. This would be a bigger and more violent battle than Nahr al-Bared, given the population density and the near impossibility of evacuating non-combatants, according to one security source.
But ultimately, according to a minister in the caretaker government, success in such a battle depends on not having any foreign elements, like Palestinian factions, Syrian factions, or al-Qaeda, entering the fray. He cites the high number of Syrian refugees in the city, and the relative ease at which hundreds of them could be recruited to fight.
Al Akhbar (January 22, 2014)
Sami Kleib
Geneva II is a surreal conference, not much different than the surrealism of the top artists who once lived in the magnificent city of Montreux, Switzerland. The official Syrian delegation heads to the conference to assert the regime’s legitimacy in the fight against terror, only to discover that Saudi and international traps have been laid for it and its ally Iran. The opposition delegation heads to Montreux seeking to delegitimize the regime, only to find out that an international plot has been hatched to end its role and lay the foundations of a more representative opposition framework for future negotiations.
Ultimately, the photo-op will be the most important outcome, with a picture of the regime and the opposition sitting around the same table.
Tremendous US pressure was brought to bear to persuade the coalition to attend. As a result, the coalition splintered, and those within the opposition grouping who agreed to attend were an unlikely alliance of pro-Saudi elements, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Michel Kilo’s faction. Some have jokingly called Kilo, the former communist, “our sheikh,” since he went to Riyadh and failed to object to the implementation of Sharia and attacked the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar. Opposition sources say that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi spy chief, met with Kilo twice, the first time for eight hours after he dispatched his private jet to bring him from Istanbul to Jeddah, and the second for four hours.
US Ambassador Robert Ford explicitly told the opposition: Agree on whomever you want however you want, but you must attend. Indeed, Washington hopes to achieve something before the end of Barack Obama’s second term, but also before Ford’s mission ends.
But there had to be a price, that came on a golden platter. The UN came out with the “present” when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon withdrew his invitation to Iran to attend Geneva II. This happened under pressure from Saudi and France, according to what is being said in Geneva. This belief is reinforced by reports that Russia and Washington had both agreed to invite Iran.
Iran’s name was even put on the conference table. Suddenly, the invitation was rescinded. It was a big slap in the face to the international organizations. But that’s OK; slaps will not be in short supply in Montreux and Geneva.
The second surprise came from Greece. It was soon revealed that Greece’s detention of the Syrian delegation’s plane was the result of European pressures on Athens. Between the surprises of Iran and Greece, a report was leaked on what has been described as systematic crimes by the regime against detainees. All this is meant to weaken the position of the regime and embarrass it ahead of the international conference.
Some said that withdrawing the invitation relieves Iran. Iran would be free in not accepting any of the conference’s outcomes. In effect, Iran paved the way for this with official statements on January 21.
Ban Ki-moon and international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tried to persuade Tehran to consent to the principles of the Geneva I communique before attending Geneva II. Tehran dug in its heels. So did Russia, and Bashar al-Assad before them both. There can be no discussions whatsoever about the powers of the president or about transferring these powers to a transitional government. This is a red line for Damascus, and will remain a red line, even if it causes Geneva II to implode.
Does Geneva II pave the way for the elimination of the opposition coalition? This is a distinct possibility. Russian officials have candidly told opposition figures from outside the coalition: Don’t bank too much on the first episode of Geneva; there is more to come. Some suspect that Moscow and Washington have agreed to let the first stage pass in any way possible, with Russian pledges to expand the opposition framework in the coming phase.
There is another view holding that the hard core of the Friends of Syria group, which comprises 11 countries, has decided that the opposition’s delegation to Geneva II should be malleable so as to forestall any dissent. One figure in the opposition from outside the coalition went as far as saying, “We no longer trust anything. It seems that the Americans and the Russians have decided to refloat the regime. They want to show the opposition as fragmented to make it easier to support the regime against terror in the next phase. Everything else is rhetoric.”
The residents of Montreux are oblivious to what is happening in their city. Sitting in their homes, they see the delegations coming to disturb the calm in the city that lies between the mountains, opposite a marvelous lake.
Between Montreux and Geneva, there are tunnels that go beneath the mighty Alps. Whenever a visitor exits a tunnel, he will see the fir, cypress, and pine trees standing tall under what is left of the last snowstorm. And whenever a visitor leaves a tunnel, he will glimpse the sunlight, shyly peering from behind the clouds. By contrast, the participants in Geneva II don’t know where the negotiations’ tunnel will lead.
Are regional and international conditions ripe for a settlement? Or will there be more blood, fire, bombings, and destruction at the end of the tunnel, before a deal can be reached? From the counterattack against Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen, it appears that the battle is still very much raging.
The conference participants envy the people of Montreux for the splendor of the place. Here, the people have only seen the scenes of carnage on television, or not at all. The music and art festivals are much more appealing to them than the delegations that came to negotiate, without being convinced about the worth of these negotiations to begin with.
The Daily Star (Lebanese daily close to the March-14 coalition)
Hussein Dakroub (January 25, 2014)
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam intends to form a fait accompli government after intensive efforts failed to resolve the row over the rotation of key ministerial portfolios in a national unity Cabinet, political sources said Friday.
However, the sources said behind-the-scene contacts were still ongoing in a last-ditch attempt to reach an agreement over such a Cabinet based on an 8-8-8 lineup.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, warned against attempts to exclude MP Michel Aoun’s Free Patrotic Movement from the new Cabinet.
“If an agreement is not reached in the next couple of days over the proposed 8-8-8 Cabinet lineup, Salam is poised to form a fait accompli government, most likely a nonpartisan government,” a senior political source told The Daily Star.
The source said there was “a slim chance” the ongoing consultations between Salam and the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition would soften Aoun’s stance on rotating key ministerial portfolios.
Aoun opposes the idea of a ministerial rotation, which is upheld by Salam and backed by President Michel Sleiman, because it will deprive him of two key portfolios: the Energy Ministry currently held by his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, and the Telecommunications Ministry held by Nicolas Sehnaoui, who also belongs to the FPM.
Aoun has demanded that Bassil retain the Energy Ministry in the new Cabinet, in addition to another sovereign ministerial portfolio to be allotted to his bloc.
Salam, who has adopted the principle of the rotation of ministerial portfolios among parties and sects since he was appointed prime minister-designate in April, has strongly rejected Aoun’s demand.
Aoun’s stance has stymied mediation efforts on the Cabinet formation exerted mainly by Hezbollah, caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil from Speaker Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc, and caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, who belongs to MP Walid Jumblatt’s centrist bloc.
Abu Faour met Salam Friday in the latest bid to end the rift over the rotation of ministerial portfolios. Hussein Khalil, a political aide to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, also met Salam for the same purpose Thursday.
A source close to Salam said consultations to overcome the last remaining hurdle posed by Aoun’s rejection of a ministerial rotation were still ongoing.
But FPM sources denied that any negotiations were being held to clinch a deal over a national unity Cabinet.
Because the negotiations have reached a dead end, the sources said they expected the new Cabinet decrees to be issued by the president would give Aoun a considerable share of ministerial portfolios as promised by Sleiman and Salam.
The sources said they could not predict how Aoun’s allies, namely Berri, Hezbollah, the Marada Movement and the Tashnag Party, would react if the FPM leader decided to withdraw his ministers from the new Cabinet.
Berri, Hezbollah and March 8 politicians have repeatedly warned Sleiman and Salam of the dire consequences of forming a fait accompli government – their term for a neutral or nonpartisan Cabinet – on the country’s security and stability, already threatened by the repercussions of the war in Syria.
Salam was reported to have given the March 8 coalition a Sunday deadline to accept his proposed 8-8-8 Cabinet lineup, or else he would form a fait accompli government.
MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, warned against attempts to exclude Aoun’s bloc from the new Cabinet. He also warned against forming a fait accompli government.
“We must not rush matters in the Cabinet formation. Excluding a major component from the Cabinet at this stage, especially since it attains a heavy representation for the Christians, will cast doubts about the constitutionality of the Cabinet,” Raad told a memorial ceremony in the southern town of Ghaziyeh, in a clear reference to Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc. “Therefore, we must give ourselves a chance to exert sincere efforts in order to accommodate everyone [in the Cabinet] and reach agreement with everyone,” he said. “We don’t want a neutral, illusive government. We see no benefit from a so-called fait accompli government,” Raad said. “We stress the need for an all-embracing political government because we feel the danger of disintegration awaiting us at the hands of terrorists and takfiris,” he added.
AFP (France-Press Agency, January 25, 2014)
Anyone travelling from the UK to Syria faces arrest on their return, a senior police chief warned Saturday, fearing they pose a terror threat to Britain.
Manchester’s police chief Peter Fahy, who leads the Association of Chief Police Officers’ “Prevent” counter-terror strategy, said there was a “huge concern” about people travelling to Syria to fight in its civil war.
Sixteen people have been arrested on suspicion of terror offences this month after returning from Syria, compared with 24 in the whole of last year, the BBC reported.
Syria “is an incredibly dangerous place and you will be arrested and stopped at the border if you try and come back,” Fahy told BBC radio.
“We’ve stopped quite a number of people because we’re very, very clear about what will happen.”
A defector from the hardline Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham warned this week that Al-Qaeda was training hundreds of British people fighting in Syria to become jihadists and urging them to carry out attacks when they return home.
The defector, known as Murad, told The Daily Telegraph newspaper that other recruits from Europe and the United States were also being trained to make car bombs before being sent home to form terror cells.
Fahy said there was “a real worry about those who may be radicalized, who may have been engaged in terrorist training.
“If people are engaging in terrorism or planning terrorism or fundraising for terrorism then that is clearly against the law,” he added.
Fahy said the police were concerned about the welfare of young people who have travelled to Syria and said they could be put on special programs.
He said police would work with youth organizations and schools “essentially to make sure these people haven’t been affected and try and make sure they’re not a threat to this country.”
The “Prevent” strategy provides practical help to stop people from being drawn towards terror and provides advice and support.
Britain’s intelligence services estimate that around 500 British fighters are currently in Syria.
The Times newspaper said Saturday that security screening at airports has been increased, with the focus on people flying in from Istanbul, a staging point on the route into Syria across the Turkish border. Two British women were on Wednesday charged with raising money suspected of funding terrorism in Syria, Scotland Yard police headquarters announced.
Two British men were charged last week with travelling to Syria for terror purposes, while another man was arrested on suspicion of attending a terror camp in the war-ravaged country.
CNN.com (American TV website, January 24, 2014)
By Kapil Komireddi
“The French, British and Americans have no understanding of what’s happening here,” a foreign diplomat posted in Syria told me in the summer of 2012. At the time it was still possible for an outsider like me, having recently arrived in Syria from London, to imagine Bashar al-Assad’s imminent departure. Even a U.S. State Department official had dismissed his regime as “a dead man walking.”
But non-Westerners who had spent years in Syria were less hopeful. They rejected reports in the American press prophesying the demise of the government. Al-Assad, they said, was popular among the minorities. Besides, the army’s loyalty to him was near-absolute.
Today, Bashar al-Assad is more powerful than he was 15 months ago. For all the predictions of his impending overthrow, his Baathist machine remains the only stable feature in Syria. Despite the carnage, daily life in Damascus, al-Assad’s bastion, largely continues as before. There have been no major defections, and most importantly the Syrian Arab Army, despite suffering more than 30,000 fatalities, continues to pledge its allegiance to al-Assad. In the past two months, it has reclaimed from the opposition territory outside Damascus.
Yet, instead of recalibrating its response, Washington remains tethered to its same narrow policy goal: al-Assad’s removal from power. John Kerry devoted his speech Wednesday in Switzerland, where representatives of the Syrian government and some opposition groups have assembled to hold peace talks, to reiterating this demand. This is an unrealistic expectation. Far from achieving al-Assad’s exit, it will prolong the violence. Syrian government representatives did not go to the negotiating table to throw away his gains. The so-called Geneva Communiqué that forms the basis of Kerry’s demand does not in fact call for Assad’s removal.
And he is unlikely to budge without a credible threat of force from the United States.
Kerry claimed this week that such a threat was still “on the table”. In truth, Washington’s options are severely limited by the embarrassing fact that the opposition that has come to Switzerland to wrest power from al-Assad does not have a significant constituency in Syria. Its members hold little sway over the mujahideen fighting government forces.
Much of the territory outside the government’s control is held by groups linked to al Qaeda, and al Qaeda is opposed to the peace talks. It is aware that it could emerge as the unintended beneficiary of any Western attempt to dislodge al-Assad.
Even the “moderate” elements of the opposition appear to be beyond Washington’s control. The peace talks in Switzerland were deemed crucial by Washington. Yet members of the opposition repeatedly threatened to derail them if their demand to exclude Iran from the process was not met. Kerry had been attempting for weeks to get a seat for Tehran at the talks because he grasped that, as a regional power that has abetted Syria in its civil war, Iran’s presence was vital to progress. This irked Saudi Arabia, the Sunni theocracy that is alarmed by the thaw in relations between Tehran and Washington.
Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Syria has always been part of its effort to blunt Iran’s influence and cripple what it sees is a Shia corridor of power in the Middle East. As the principal backer of the opposition, Saudi Arabia has played a key role in transforming Syria into a haven for foreign jihadists cut from the same ideological cloth as the men who carried out the 9/11 attacks. Iran hurt its own interests by refusing to adhere to preconditions, which in Tehran’s view bound it to an unfavorable outcome — a Saudi-backed transitional government — even before the talks had begun. But its abrupt exclusion from the peace talks is a triumph of Saudi policy.
All of this explains why al-Assad, despite having presided over the slaughter of so many Syrians, was able to ridicule the negotiations as a “joke”.” His decision to dispatch a delegation to participate in them was in deference to his sponsors in Russia who, having labored hard to halt the threat of a U.S. military strike against their client last year, are eager to demonstrate the utility of diplomacy. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was quick to cast the opening day as a success. “For the first time in three years,” he said, “the sides — for all their accusations — agreed to sit down at the negotiating table.”
But the framework for the negotiations already looks obsolete. Hammered out in 2012 by Kofi Annan, then the U.N. peace envoy to Syria, its terms — calling for a transitional governing body by mutual consent of all parties, a national dialogue, free elections, and a comprehensive review of the constitution — hark back to a time when al-Assad seemed weak, the opposition was unified, and the phrase “Arab Spring” could be spoken hopefully in the West. The major powers that helped forge the Geneva Communiqué, perhaps anticipating al-Assad’s fall, refused to place their weight behind it when it mattered. Annan quit his job in frustration.
To ordinary Syrians, the ongoing talks in Switzerland look like a meaningless sideshow. Al-Assad, feeling triumphant, refuses to go. An internally riven opposition refuses to temper its demands. The West, unwilling to intervene militarily and incapable yet of forcing change diplomatically, watches with impotent rage. Al Qaeda, once enfeebled, looks on expectantly.
Syria is now a homicidal theater for a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran — the Middle East’s Sunni and Shia powers. A dialogue between the two may do more to halt the fighting in Syria than negotiations between Assad and his Syrian adversaries operating from abroad. Washington’s energies are better spent in nudging the two rivals in that direction.
More immediately, the United States’ ambition should be to end the violence. Rather than push for al-Assad’s departure, it should work toward obtaining a pragmatic power-sharing deal centered on reconciliation rather than regime change. Finally, it should press its allies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to drop their support for radical Islamists. If not, the flames that are now devouring Syria may soon engulf the West.

Outside Forces Seeking Palestinian-Hezbollah Conflict

Franklin Lamb

Ain el Helweh camp, Lebanon
Al-Manar

It isn’t just the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine six decades after the Nakba; one can sense the carnivorous drooling from Tel Aviv to Amman, from Riyadh and the Gulf Kingdoms all the way to Washington DC and beyond—drooling and salivation over their project to promote tensions between the Palestinian Resistance and what is in some respects its historic offspring—Hezbollah.

The hostile forces gathered against the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah-Palestine Resistance alliance are reportedly hard at work on yet another scheme to weaken, and possibly destroy, all four. It won’t be easy, but it is a key game plan among those still seeking regime change in Syria.

Ain el-Helweh camp's entrance
Even as some of these governments deceptively play down their central goal of regime change in public, they appear to be fantasizing that by building up the Lebanese army—with a pledged $3 billion from Riyadh—that Lebanese troops can be induced to confront Hezbollah and its allies, this in what seems to be a “beat em or bleed em” strategy.

Patrick Cockburn, writing recently in the UK Independent and Counterpunch, gave a digest of anti-Shia hate propaganda being spread by Sunni religious figures, clerics financially backed by, and in some cases based in, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies. Cockburn noted accurately that what is being painstaking laid is the groundwork for a sectarian civil war engulfing the entire Muslim world.

Efforts to egg on a confrontation between Palestinians and Hezbollah have increased over the past three months in Lebanon’s camps, stemming principally from some of the local Sunni and Christian power centers. Support is being seen for various “militia of the month” groups, those terrorizing the population of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Moreover, the Takfiri Al-Nusra Front leader Abou Mohammed al-Joulani insists his organization is active on Lebanese soil in order to help the Sunnis, including Palestinians, face the “injustice” of Shiite Hezbollah. “Lebanon’s Sunni are requesting that the mujahideen intervene to lift up the injustice they are suffering from at the hands of Hezbollah and similar militias,” he said recently in an interview on Al-Jazeera.

Shiite-populated areas across Lebanon have been the target of terror attacks even before Hezbollah entered the fighting on the side of the Syrian government in May 2013, but those terror attacks have intensified recently. Four car bombings have targeted southern Beirut in recent months, while a number of IED attacks have occurred in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.

Sheikh Jamal KhattabThe head of the Islamic Jihadist Movement in Ain al-Hilweh camp voiced fears on January 8 of a possible armed sectarian confrontation between Hezbollah and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon if the party did not revise its policies at home and in Syria. Sheikh Jamal Khattab told the Daily Star that should fighting erupt between Palestinians and Hezbollah the conflict could be even worse than the “war of the camps” (read: massacres) of the 1980s, when that conflict was not considered particularly sectarian. Today, says Sheikh Khattab, it would be different. Today it would be a Sunni vs. Shia war, with regional and international consequences, given the poisonous sea-change in sectarian relations since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In Ain al-Hilweh and other camps, posters of local men killed while fighting alongside Takfiri groups in Syria, or against U.S. troops in Iraq, are tacked up throughout the camp. Lebanese security sources claim that Palestinian Islamist groups in Ain al-Hilweh have all finalized preparations to for a possible conflict with the Hezbollah’s organized and trained “Resistance Brigades.” These organizations include Usbat al-Ansar, Jund al-Sham, Fatah al-Islam, and other Salafist groups, and supporters of the controversial fugitive Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, and rumors abound that some of these elements are being financed by certain of the six Gulf CooExtremist militants in Ain el-Helwehperation Council states as well as some Lebanese pro-Western March 14 parties. Apparently the consideration among such groups and their sponsors is that conditions in Lebanon are ripe for an expanded war against “Shia infidels,” and reportedly plans are now in place to bring it here, with several groups that are now fighting in Syria pledging to widen the Sunni-Shia war into Lebanon.

For their part, some pro-Hezbollah groups and many Lebanese citizens are suspicious of possible Palestinian involvement in recent terror attacks in Dahiyeh and the recent bombing of the Iranian Embassy. In point of fact, one of the two suicide bombers who attacked the Iranian Embassy on November 17 was Mouin Abu Dahr, a known pro-Palestinian whose mother is a Shiite and his father a Sunni. Ain al-Hilweh of course has also been in the spotlight with the arrest of Majed al-Majed, the leader of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Majed is believed to have lived in the camp since 2012.

Clearly Israel and its new—as well as its longtime—allies seek a Sunni-Shia war, and the sooner the better. Also favored is a continuation of the Syria crisis for the reason that they consider Hezbollah to be squandering some of its best fighters and commanders and well as its weapons stores. Western Diplomats have spoken about US-Israeli hopes that Syria will be Hezbollah’s Achilles heel and Iran’s Vietnam, and Israeli media have commented on views by some officials that Hezbollah has shifted its attention toward Syria and away from the southern front with occupied Palestine.

Time will tell.

Hezbollah maintains it is using only five percent of its capacity to confront Israel, and according to one source close to the Resistance:

Hezbollah has self-sufficiency when it comes to the missiles, strategic and non-strategic weapons. All these weapons are quite abundant. Any additional equipment will constitute a negative factor because there is no need for them. All the weapons that are manufactured by Iran or owned by Syria are also available for Hezbollah. The land forces and the Special Forces fighting in Syria have acquired a lot of practical and intelligence related experience and a force of maneuvering on the land.  This experience will be used when the war with Israel begins again.

The Sunni and the Shia, just as with the Palestinians and Hezbollah, need each other for many reasons, including confronting growing Islamophobia, anti-Arab hate propaganda, and the deepening and broadening apartheid occupation of Palestine.

All must work to tamp down their differences publicly and privately while endeavoring to neutralize sectarian provocateurs, Sunni as well as Shia—domestic and regional as well as international—provocateurs that today are seeking internecine and sectarian violence in order to weaken both sects, and even all of Islam.

Source: Al-Manar Website
23-01-2014 – 11:00 Last updated 23-01-2014 – 12:15

Mass Murder in Middle East Is Funded by Our Friends “the Saudis”

Patrick Cockburn – The Independent

Via Al-manar

World View: Everyone knows where al-Qa’ida gets its money, but while the violence is sectarian, the West does nothing.

Mass Funeral (AFP)Donors in Saudi Arabia have notoriously played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining Sunni jihadist groups over the past 30 years. But, for all the supposed determination of the United States and its allies since 9/11 to fight “the war on terror”, they have showed astonishing restraint when it comes to pressuring Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies to turn off the financial tap that keeps the jihadists in business.

Compare two US pronouncements stressing the significance of these donations and basing their conclusions on the best intelligence available to the US government. The first is in the 9/11 Commission Report which found that Osama bin Laden did not fund al-Qa’ida because from 1994 he had little money of his own but relied on his ties to wealthy Saudi individuals established during the Afghan war in the 1980s. Quoting, among other sources, a CIA analytic report dated 14 November 2002, the commission concluded that “al-Qa’ida appears to have relied on a core group of financial facilitators who raised money from a variety of donors and other fund-raisers primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia”.

Seven years pass after the CIA report was written during which the US invades Iraq fighting, among others, the newly established Iraq franchise of al-Qa’ida, and becomes engaged in a bloody war in Afghanistan with the resurgent Taliban. American drones are fired at supposed al-Qa’ida-linked targets located everywhere from Waziristan in north-west Pakistan to the hill villages of Yemen.

But during this time Washington can manage no more than a few gentle reproofs to Saudi Arabia on its promotion of fanatical and sectarian Sunni militancy outside its own borders.

Evidence for this is a fascinating telegram on “terrorist finance” from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to US embassies, dated 30 December 2009 and released by WikiLeaks the following year. She says firmly that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”. Eight years after 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, Mrs Clinton reiterates in the same message that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups”. Saudi Arabia was most important in sustaining these groups, but it was not quite alone since “al-Qa’ida and other groups continue to exploit Kuwait both as a source of funds and as a key transit point”.

Why did the US and its European allies treat Saudi Arabia with such restraint when the kingdom was so central to al-Qa’ida and other even more sectarian Sunni jihadist organisations? An obvious explanation is that the US, Britain and others did not want to offend a close ally and that the Saudi royal family had judiciously used its money to buy its way into the international ruling class.

Unconvincing attempts were made to link Iran and Iraq to al-Qa’ida when the real culprits were in plain sight.

But there is another compelling reason why the Western powers have been so laggard in denouncing Saudi Arabia and the Sunni rulers of the Gulf for spreading bigotry and religious hate. Al-Qa’ida members or al-Qa’ida-influenced groups have always held two very different views about who is their main opponent. For Osama bin Laden the chief enemy was the Americans, but for the great majority of Sunni jihadists, including the al-Qa’ida franchises in Iraq and Syria, the target is the Shia. It is the Shia who have been dying in their thousands in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and even in countries where there are few of them to kill, such as Egypt.

Pakistani papers no longer pay much attention to hundreds of Shia butchered from Quetta to Lahore. In Iraq, most of the 7,000 or more people killed this year are Shia civilians killed by the bombs of al-Qa’ida in Iraq, part of an umbrella organisation called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which also encompasses Syria. In overwhelmingly Sunni Libya, militants in the eastern town of Derna killed an Iraqi professor who admitted on video to being a Shia before being executed by his captors.

Suppose a hundredth part of this merciless onslaught had been directed against Western targets rather than against Shia Muslims, would the Americans and the British be so accommodating to the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Emiratis? It is this that gives a sense of phoniness to boasts by the vastly expanded security bureaucracies in Washington and London about their success in combating terror justifying vast budgets for themselves and restricted civil liberties for everybody else. All the drones in the world fired into Pashtun villages in Pakistan or their counterparts in Yemen or Somalia are not going to make much difference if the Sunni jihadists in Iraq and Syria ever decide – as Osama bin Laden did before them – that their main enemies are to be found not among the Shia but in the United States and Britain.

Instead of the fumbling amateur efforts of the shoe and underpants bombers, security services would have to face jihadist movements in Iraq, Syria and Libya fielding hundreds of bomb-makers and suicide bombers. Only gradually this year, videos from Syria of non-Sunnis being decapitated for sectarian motives alone have begun to shake the basic indifference of the Western powers to Sunni jihadism so long as it is not directed against themselves.

Saudi Arabia as a government for a long time took a back seat to Qatar in funding rebels in Syria, and it is only since this summer that they have taken over the file. They wish to marginalise the al-Qa’ida franchisees such as Isil and the al-Nusra Front while buying up and arming enough Sunni war-bands to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The directors of Saudi policy in Syria – the Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the head of the Saudi intelligence agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the Deputy Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan – plan to spend billions raising a militant Sunni army some 40,000 to 50,000 strong. Already local warlords are uniting to share in Saudi largesse for which their enthusiasm is probably greater than their willingness to fight.

The Saudi initiative is partly fuelled by rage in Riyadh at President Obama’s decision not to go to war with Syria after Assad used chemical weapons on 21 August. Nothing but an all-out air attack by the US similar to that of Nato in Libya in 2011 would overthrow Assad, so the US has essentially decided he will stay for the moment. Saudi anger has been further exacerbated by the successful US-led negotiations on an interim deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

By stepping out of the shadows in Syria, the Saudis are probably making a mistake. Their money will only buy them so much. The artificial unity of rebel groups with their hands out for Saudi money is not going to last. They will be discredited in the eyes of more fanatical jihadis as well as Syrians in general as pawns of Saudi and other intelligence services.

A divided opposition will be even more fragmented. Jordan may accommodate the Saudis and a multitude of foreign intelligence services, but it will not want to be the rallying point for an anti-Assad army.

The Saudi plan looks doomed from the start, though it could get a lot more Syrians killed before it fails. Yazid Sayegh of the Carnegie Middle East Centre highlights succinctly the risks involved in the venture: “Saudi Arabia could find itself replicating its experience in Afghanistan, where it built up disparate mujahedin groups that lacked a unifying political framework. The forces were left unable to govern Kabul once they took it, paving the way for the Taliban to take over. Al-Qa’ida followed, and the blowback subsequently reached Saudi Arabia.”

Source: Websites
08-12-2013 – 16:12 Last updated 08-12-2013 – 16:12

الاندبندنت: السعوديون يمولون القتل الجماعي في الشرق الأوسط

الاندبندنت: السعوديون يمولون القتل الجماعي في الشرق الأوسط
نطالع في صحيفة الاندبندنت،   تقريرا للكاتب باتريك كوكبيرن بعنوان “أصدقاؤنا السعوديون يمولون القتل الجماعي في الشرق الأوسط”.
ويقول الكاتب إن مانحين في السعودية لعبوا دورا أساسيا في تأسيس جماعات جهادية سنية والحفاظ عليها لأكثر من 30 عاما.
ويضيف أنه بالرغم من التصميم المفترض من الولايات المتحدة وحلفائها لخوض “الحرب على الإرهاب” فإنهم قاوموا بشدة في ما يتعلق بالضغط على السعودية وأنظمة الحكم الملكية في الخليج لوقف تمويل الجهاديين.
ويشير الكاتب إلى أن تقريرا للاستخبارات الأمريكية عن هجمات الحادي عشر من سبتمبر/ ايلول خلص إلى أن تنظيم القاعدة يبدو أنه اعتمد على مجموعة أساسية من الوسطاء الذين جمعوا أموالا من مانحين عدة، وكذلك على جامعي تبرعات آخرين في دول الخليج وخاصة السعودية.
وفي برقية عن “تمويل الإرهاب” إلى سفارات الولايات المتحدة، قالت وزيرة الخارجية الأمريكية السابقة هيلاري كلينتون أن “مانحين في السعودية يشكلون أكثر المصادر أهمية لتمويل الجماعات الإرهابية السنية في أنحاء العالم.”
وترجع البرقية، التي أوردها الكاتب، إلى عام 2009، وسربها موقع ويكيليكس المتخصص في كشف الوثائق السرية.
وبالنسبة للسبب في عدم الضغط على السعودية ودول أخرى لوقف التمويل، يقول كوكبيرن إن “التفسير الواضح” هو أن الولايات المتحدة وحلفاءها لم تشأ إزعاج حليف وثيق.
لكن هناك سببا آخر يتمثل في ماهية هدف الغالبية العظمى من الجهاديين السنة وهو الطائفة الشيعية وليس الولايات المتحدة، بحسب الكاتب. ويشير كوكبيرن في هذا الإطار إلى أن الشيعة هم من يُقتلون بالآلاف في العراق وسوريا وباكستان وحتى في دول لا يوجد بها عدد كبير من الشيعة مثل مصر.

Lebanon: Embassy Suicide Bombers Are Graduates of the Assir School

A few hours after the Iran embassy bombing, the Internal Security Forces (ISF) removed security checkpoints at the entrance of the commercial market in Saida, prohibiting the entry of all cars. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)
Published Tuesday, November 26, 2013
DNA tests reveal that the two suicide bombers behind the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut resided in South Lebanon and were followers of Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Assir.
It was a sluggish weekend in Saida and its environs; the double suicide bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut resulted in a series of shocks for the area. On Friday night, November 22, the army command announced DNA test results on the remains of one of the bombers: Mouin Abou Dahr, 21, from Saida. Before the initial shock was absorbed, the army dealt a second blow: DNA from the second bomber belonged to Adnan Mohammed, 21, a Palestinian resident of Bisariyeh in Zahrani.
Last Friday morning, several of Mouin’s relatives began whispering that the photos released by the army of the Iranian embassy bombing suspect looked uncannily like Mouin. His father, a truck driver, visited a prominent figure for advice and was told to call army intelligence in Saida. During an interrogation, he said that Mouin had been calling him from Syria over the past several months, without saying why he was there. The father was transferred from Saida to the Ministry of Defense, where he provided his DNA before being released.
By Saturday morning, November 23, army intelligence learned more about the photo of the second bombing suspect. He looked similar to a Palestinian called Adnan Mohammed, who they had arrested in August 2012 in an incident of a sectarian nature in Bisariyeh, where he lived with his family. Adnan’s father was summoned for interrogation, stating that his son had left his home at the beginning of the month. The report also noted that Adnan spoke to his family through Skype from Syria, without mentioning further details.
Chasing Assir Followers
Army intelligence gave the green light to resume the campaign of arrests against supporters of Salafi Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir. On Saturday, they detained Mohieddine B. after receiving information that he participated in the Abra battles and soon disappeared, fleeing to Jordan. Hilal A., another suspect, was also arrested.
An army unit raided the home of Mahmoud Gh. in Abra, owner of the mechanic shop where suicide bomber Adnan Mohammed worked. He disappeared the moment Adnan was arrested.
A few hours after the Iran embassy bombing, the Internal Security Forces (ISF) removed security checkpoints at the entrance of the commercial market in Saida, prohibiting the entry of all cars. Two days later, the measures were reimposed on the city. After discovering the identity of suicide bomber Abou Dahr, the army was put on alert in the city and began patrolling the streets.
Security measures at army barracks entrances were tightened and cement blocks were placed outside to deter car bombs. At the same time, a security source revealed that new reports began to surface related to threats against some local figures and security officials. Security sources advised sheikh of Imam of al-Quds Mosque, Maher Hammoud, to take security precautions.
Mouin Abou Dahr: Just Like His Sheikh
Until Sunday night, the Abou Dahr family refused to meet any strangers in their home in the Saida neighborhood of al-Bustan al-Kabir. An army patrol calmed the neighborhood’s fears of retaliation against the family. The family, known to be politically moderate, issued a statement expressing “the deepest pain that one of our own is accused of the heinous and awful crime in Bir Hassan. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims, pray for the injured to be healed, and take refuge in God from this evil.”
Although the family washed its hands of Mouin, it did not take a similar position when he joined the fighting in Abra against the army in June 2013. A relative, Fadi Abou Dahr, also participated in the battle and was detained by the army and taken to Rihaniyya prison.
A few years ago, Mouin began to visit Assir’s Bilal bin Rabah mosque. He carried a gun and sometimes stood guard at the entrance along the mosque’s security perimeter. As the Abra battle was about to end, he fled to an unknown location. News came out that he had left to Sweden to join his brothers and mother, then to Denmark, and then to Kuwait. However, it was later found out that he went to Syria to fight against the Syrian army.
Some Saida residents do not believe that Mouin’s support of Assir could justify his committing this terrorist act. They indicate that this type of death is alien to Saida, which resisted the French and Israeli occupations. “The suicide bomber, or even the martyrdom fighter, is an alien concept to Saida,” a resident of the city told Al-Akhbar. A former member of the resistance said that no fighter from Saida, “even at the height of faith in the resistance, never went to meet death on his own.”
Tuffahta, the birthplace of Mouin’s mother Kawthar Ammouri, also disowned him. The town is full of posters of martyrs from leftist parties, Palestinian factions, Hezbollah, and Amal. Its residents maintained that he hasn’t visited since he was little. But didn’t his mother’s Shiism impact his upbringing? “This does not mean he cannot be sectarian or hateful,” a town resident replied. “Sheikh Assir’s mother is also Shia.”
Abou Dahr family elders asked the security forces about the remains of Mouin. They were told that the military prosecution is keeping the remains of both bombers and has not decided to deliver them to their families yet. The bodies are being kept in a hospital in Beirut. However Adnan Mohammed’s family did not request his remains.
Adnan Mohammed: Looking for Nidal
Bisariye gradually began absorbing the shock. Since the 1950s, the town has hosted many Palestinian refugees, who even established their own neighborhood. Adnan’s family hails from Akka, Palestine and had lived in Tal al-Zaatar, before fleeing to Bisariye in 1976.
His mother, Fatima Kayed, is also from Akka. Her father left Bisariye during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and settled in Yarmouk camp near Damascus before the current Syrian crisis forced him to return to the Lebanese town. The mother disowned her son and his uncle refused to collect his remains. The security forces, the municipalities, Hezbollah, and Amal are cooperating to protect the family from any reaction.
Some neighbors said that Adnan was “simple-minded” and doubted he was fully aware of what he was doing. They mentioned that he always skipped work in the mechanic’s garage where he worked in the industrial zone in Saida. Most comments skipped over Adnan to mention his brother Ali, 24, who frequented Bilal bin Rabah Mosque to listen to Assir, before his father forced him to stop.
Ali broke off from Assir, but his neighbor and close friend 24-year-old Nidal M., who is also Palestinian, did not. “Look for Nidal, who disappeared last May,” an informed source told Al-Akhbar. Nidal’s father was also interrogated at army intelligence where he admitted that he had spoken to his son several times after he left to fight in Syria. Security services believe that he was among those whom Assir claimed to have sent to fight with the opposition in Qusayr.
A few months ago, Nidal, accompanied by Adnan, attacked his sister’s home. She had eloped with their Shia neighbor and was pregnant. At the time, he said he based his actions on a sermon given by Assir, where the sheikh said he was allowed to slaughter his sister for marrying an infidel.
To manage the repercussions of the incident, a delegation from town visited Assir, who denied issuing such a fatwa. But the reconciliation between the two families did not please Nidal, who decided to leave “this Shia environment to live in Saida.”
Preliminary investigations suggest that Nidal could have taken Adnan with him to Syria since they both disappeared around the same time. A security source revealed that another young friend of Adnan and Nidal, Marwan H., also disappeared around the same time. From the town of Yarin on the southern Lebanese border, Marwan lived in Bisariye with his family for years, much like hundreds of southern residents who were displaced by the 1978 Israeli invasion.
Marwan’s family has not reported their son’s disappearance until now, despite the passing of seven months.
Saida Condemns, but Where Are Hariri and Siniora?
Last Thursday, November 21, Lebanese MP Bahia Hariri held a meeting with the members of the Consultative Gathering in Majdelyoun. The meeting, attended by former Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, began with a moment of silence for “the martyrs of the two suicide bombings targeting the Iranian embassy and the total rejection of such operations, which target Lebanese sovereignty.”
As usual, in the meeting’s final recommendations, Hariri did not forget to mention the Abra detainees: “The participants were also informed about the steps taken by judicial authorities to transfer them to prisons in Aley, Jezzine, and Roumieh. This file is in the hands of the military court, and we await the preliminary indictment, which should not take long.”
The next day, when Mouin’s identity was uncovered, few spoke in Saida of those who had condemned the suicide bombings. The city did not hear the comments of its two MPs, Siniora and Hariri, or about the involvement of one of the city’s residents.
The leadership of the Future Movement visited the offices of al-Jamaa al-Islamiya where they declared that Mouin “only represents himself. He is an individual who does not represent the temper of his family or the moderate and conservative Saida.” They hoped that “reactions to the incident do not spill into Saida.”
Head of Saida municipality Mohammed al-Saoudi commented on the involvement of Mouin: “Saida and everyone in it condemn this act. If it turned out that one of the suicide bombers is from the city, it does not mean it represents its position. He committed suicide, not an act of martyrdom. Those who commit suicide will go to hell.”
In terms of the city’s religious leaders, only the imam of al-Quds Mosque, Sheikh Maher Hammoud, considered what Abou Dahr did “to be a virus infecting the city’s residents, and the city urgently needs vaccination.” As for Mouin’s link to Assir, Hammoud maintained that the sheikh’s supporters are still benefitting from political cover.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Al-Manar Reveals Identity of Second Suicide Attacker on Iran Embassy

Local Editor
The second suicide attacker on the Iranian embSuicide Bomberassy is the Palestinian Adnan Moussa al-Mohammad who resides in Zahrani district, according to Al-Manar exclusive information.
“Al-Mohammad left his place of residence, southern village of al-Baysareyya, before six months of carrying out the suicide bombing,” Al-Manar reporter said.”Adnan Al-Mohammad called his father after three months of his departure and told him that he is in Africa.”
Source: Al Manar TV
23-11-2013 – 16:53 Last updated 23-11-2013 – 16:53 |

Investigations Reveal One of Iranian Embassy’s Suicide Bombers

Abu Dahr

Local Editor

Abu DahrAs the Lebanese Army circulated the photo of one of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up near the Iranian embassy in Beirut, Adnan Abu Dahr informed the military intelligence that released photo is his son’s Moeen who lives in Bustan area, Sidon.

Abu Dahr told the army intelligence that his son traveled to Kuwait after he fought for Assir’s group during Abra clhes and joined later the terrorist groups in Syria.as

It is worth to mention that Abu Dahr blew himself up at gate of the Iranian embassy, and the identity of the second suicide bomber is expected to be released soon.
Moeen Abu Dahr published on his Facebook account, two days before the blasts, a number of posts that refer to his political affiliation as well as his desire to commit a suicide.
“O Sheikh! They let you down, yet, by Allah, we will avenge you,” he posted, addressing ‘Sheikh’ Ahmad Assir.
Source: Al Manar TV
22-11-2013 – 20:55 Last updated 22-11-2013 – 20:57

‘Hariri Inc’ Capitalize on the Ruins of Abra

A supporter of Lebanese radical cleric Ahmad al-Assir holds a poster of Lebanese singer Fadel Shaker who supports the cleric as they demonstrate after Friday prayers in the Abra district of the southern Lebanese city of Sidon on 5 July 2013. (Photo: AFP – Joseph Eid)
Published Tuesday, July 16, 2013 ]
The Hariri family has promised the displaced residents of Abra that they will be able to return to their homes in the former “security zone” of Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Assir before Eid al-Fitr next month. Geneco, a company controlled by members of the Hariri family, will handle restoration works to repair the damage incurred during last month’s clashes between the Lebanese army and Assir’s militants here on the outskirts of Saida. But a closer examination reveals that the Hariri family may be exploiting the residents’ needs for publicity, while the cost of the works will be borne by none other than the Lebanese treasury.

The building across from the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Abra, the erstwhile sanctuary of Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Assir, has been turned into a gigantic billboard, displaying ads for anything from construction contractors and painters, to carpenters, and window and door suppliers.The relatively affluent neighborhood is now a golden goose for all kinds of tradespeople seeking to turn a profit. Some people even refer to them as “war profiteers,” after many contractors raised their fees and the prices for raw material.

Assir’s former security zone, an area that spans many hundreds of meters, is now a giant construction site. Scaffolding litters the facades of the buildings surrounding the mosque, and workers can be seen toiling there throughout the day.

The workers are busy removing the rubble and damaged doors and windows, and plastering over holes from bullets and shells. On the rooftops, meanwhile, they are removing punctured water tanks and singed clotheslines.

One of the buildings displays a large sign thanking former Prime Minister Saad Hariri who, according to the same sign, is paying to renovate the damaged facades out of his own pocket. But despite the many pictures of a beaming Hariri erected amid the rubble and bullet holes, the residents are yet to benefit from his magnanimity.

Meanwhile, the name Geneco, Hariri’s contracting arm, can be seen across Abra, on buildings, cranes, diggers and scaffolding, perhaps to remind its residents that the Hariri family is rebuilding Abra, “which the army and Hezbollah have destroyed.”

The public relations campaign launched by Saad Hariri’s aunt, Saida MP Bahia Hariri, over the reconstruction of Abra, has caused confusion over who exactly is funding the works.
Indeed, listening to Bahia Hariri’s statements made during meetings with residents affected by the fighting, one would leave with the impression that the Hariri family is footing the entire reconstruction costs, from A to Z, at its own expense. However, it turns out that their largesse is limited to repainting the building facades in Abra, while everything else is to be covered by the government: that is, the Lebanese taxpayer.

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Saida mayor Mohammad al-Saudi said that a survey of the damage conducted by Geneco, at the behest of the Council for Development and Reconstruction, and in coordination with a committee from the army, found that there were 530 damaged apartments, 50 shops, 150 vehicles, and 66 families in need of alternative housing as their homes are now uninhabitable.

According to Saudi, after the survey was completed, MP Hariri said her brother Shafik, through Geneco, was willing to repair the building facades at the family’s expense, “to save time and cut through official procedures for tenders and bidding.” Saudi put the cost of reconstruction in Abra somewhere between $17 and $20 million.

Geneco was also contracted by the High Relief Commission (HRC) to conduct structural repairs to buildings with damaged foundations, at the expense of the Lebanese government. The HRC also intends to distribute compensation for furniture and other internal fixtures damaged during the clashes.

For its part, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya paid $1,000 each to 30 families to cover temporary accommodations for two months; the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Development also doled out the same amount to a further 36 families. The charity Farah Al Ataa (the Joy of Giving) is also involved in the repairs of three buildings through its network of volunteers, together with a campaign launched by al-Jamaa al-Islamiya to clear rubble from apartments and streets in the area.

A number of Abra residents, both men and women, stood watching the cranes and laborers at work repairing their homes. The extensive damage to their apartments had forced them to move in with relatives in Abra, Saida, Majdelyoun and beyond. But some of them, who are sympathetic to Ahmed al-Assir, have decided not to return to Abra at all after the debacle with the Salafi cleric.


In a building near the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, one woman and her daughters were packing their belongings to move to another residence, far from Abra. The woman is neither a supporter of Assir nor of Hezbollah. She simply does not believe that peace can return to the neighborhood, she said, and expects a new round of fighting to take place, as long as the mosque has not been shut down. To bolster her claim, she pointed in the direction of the posters adorning the doors of the mosque, which proclaimed that “this mosque belongs to its people,” and “may Allah protect you, Sheikh Assir.”

On the balcony of Assir’s burnt out home across from the mosque, the cleric’s wife, Amal Shamsuddin, erected a sign promising that her husband will return, “because the voice of righteousness will not go in vain.” But Assir’s home and his adjacent office will require extensive work to restore them to their previous condition.

The crumbling walls and the shattered windows grant passersby a clear view of the inside. In truth, Shamsuddin comes here every day to examine the house with a number of her husband’s supporters, and to collect belongings and books scattered by the falling shells.

Likewise, the wife of one of Assir’s bodyguards, Mohammad al-Souri, also returns to the area to repair his shop and the vegetable stall that he ran on behalf of Assir. Souri, like his boss, is now a fugitive, while his wife is reopening the shop to support the family during her husband’s absence.
Her neighbor, the unveiled owner of a lingerie shop, is also trying to repair the damage to her store. “Most importantly, we got rid of Assir and his security measures, and his tent that blocked the sunlight,” she said. “Although,” she admits, “the price was high.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

LA Fails March 14 Attempts, Al-Assir to Army Soldiers: We’ll Slaughter You

Local EditorTension prevailed the session of Parliament’s National Defense Committee Thursday after the Future MPs and their March 14 allies tried to accuse the Army of inititing the battle against Ahamad al-Assir on Sunday 23rd of June.
However, the LA representatives turned the table by presenting recordings al-Assir abuses against the military institution.
According to the recordings al-Assir personally issued the orders to his supporters to tear apart the LA soldiers after they refused his “orders” to remove their post.
In details, the he LA presented to lawmakers footage incriminating Ahmad al-Assir as investigative Military Judge Fadi Sawan questioned one of his supporters accused of transferring arms to Syria.

The fresh developments in the case coincided with reports that the Army had obtained footage of al-Assir ordering the attack against the soldiers stationed near his security perimeter.

One of the videos shown by the Army during the closed session included footage from within al-Assir’s security perimeter around the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, and a video taken by Assir’s brother.
Some of the footage showed al-Assir ordering the removal of the Army checkpoint and launching the attack against the Army, according to al-Jadeed.
For its part, al-Akhbar daily mentioned that another recording showed al-Assir’s militants asking their Sheikh on the supposed answers to the media.
His answer was: “Tell them that the army initiated the assault on us and we are defending ourselves.”
The daily also revealed that the LA displayed another recording that goes back to days before the Abra incident.
The video shows al-Assir at one of the LA checkpoints insulting the LA soldiers by saying: “You animals, we will slaughter you.”
However, the elements of the army didn’t respond at that time, showing a maximum level of self-restraint.
Following the committee meeting, caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn, who attended the session, said the military was the only side fighting against al-Assir’s gunmen, adding that soldiers “did what they had to do and spared the lives of innocent civilians.”
“According to all the Lebanese and international media, there was not a single injury for any civilian in the operation, and this proves the Army’s professionalism and confidence,” Ghosn said.Ghosn responded angrily to the suggestion that the Defense Ministry and the Army were being “questioned” over the events in Abra.
“I refuse the word ‘questioning,’ the LA does not get questioned, it is carrying out its duties with all professionalism and discipline,” he said.
As for the footage the Army presented during the parliamentary meeting, the defense minister explained that the military “gave away all the proofs and evidence that it carried out a professional and skilled security operation.”
“We did what we had to do and gave away all the necessary evidence,” Ghosn said.In parallel, he reiterated that Hizbullah did not help the LA in its battle against al-Assir.
“There was no participation by any element other than the LA,” he said.

Meanwhile, Loyalty to Resistance Bloc MP Ali Ammar, for his part, lashed out at the March 14 lawmakers for “attempting to undermine the LA rather than support it and protect it.”

“By now we are all aware of the source of funding for all the attacks against the Army,” he told reporters. “We will not tolerate the campaign on the LA and we will safeguard it.”

The recommendations by the National Defense Parliamentary Committee regarding the Abra incident have yet to be announced. The committee will meet again next Thursday.

Source: News Agencies, Translated by website team

الأسير للجيش: سنذبحكم يا حيوانات

أمر الأسير جماعته بالقول: «خزقوهن تخزيق» (مروان طحطح)

لم يفلح نواب قوى 14 آذر في تحويل جلسة لجنة الدفاع النيابية إلى جلسة محاكمة للجيش على خلفية احداث صيدا بعدما باغتهم ممثلو الجيش بشرائط تسجيل بالصوت والصورة لاعتداء الشيخ أحمد الأسير ومسلحيه على عناصر حاجز الجيش قرب مربعه الأمني واعدامهم

ساد التوتر جلسة لجنة الدفاع والداخلية والبلديات النيابية أمس بعدما حاول نواب 14 آذار وضع الجيش في قفص الاتهام وإثقاله باتهامات مكررة بارتكابه أخطاء جسيمة خلال معركة عبرا ضد مسلحي الشيخ احمد الأسير ابتداءً من يوم الأحد 23 حزيران الماضي. إلا ان ممثلي الجيش قلبوا الطاولة بعرضهم تسجيلات تظهر وقائع بداية الاشتباك، واعتداء مناصري الأسير على حاجز الجيش الكائن قرب المربع الأمني في عبرا وإصدار الأسير الأوامر شخصياً بتمزيق عناصر الجيش تمزيقاً بعدما رفض هؤلاء «اوامره» بإزالة الحاجز.

US Circles: After Qusayr, Everything is Expected

Local Editor
  • Official investigations on the recent clashes in Sidon between the Lebanese army and Ahmad Al-Assir group revealed that most of those who were fighting with him belonged to Arab and Foreign nationalities. The reports had irrefutable evidence hence the majority of those killed, wounded, or detained were not Lebanese.

Assir, Shaker

  • Western well-established sources expressed high concerns about the military future of the Syrian militant groups, they expected big gains and sudden surprises which would boil down to the interest of the Syrian government, especially in Homs.

militants in Syria

  • Many American high echelon circles called what happened in Qusayr battle as a game changer. “After Qusayr everything could be expected,” they said. The only thing they are sure about, that the downfall of the Syrian government has become very difficult and a distant possibility.

Syrian army in Al-Qusayr

Source: Al-Manar Website
07-07-2013 – 11:04 Last updated 07-07-2013 – 11:04

About Saida and its People, Before and After Assir

Over a decade he managed to build up a popular base of loyal followers, before the mosque started to close in on him and his operators, who wanted him to strike out further afield. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)
Published Monday, July 1, 2013
In Saida today, there is a real identity crisis. The people of this big village are beginning to fear one another, not knowing anymore who is their friend and who is their enemy.

There are those in Saida who are used to taking everything for themselves. They still wield a small gang of opportunists and spew hatred at those who don’t look or dress like them. Little do they know that no one believes what they say anymore.They are the Future Movement, which today lives off the crumbs of others, and has nothing to do but to curse, lie and incite, after it has lost its ability to take any action of worth.Assir’s problem – as the people of Saida say – was that he was politically incompetent. He did not know his boundaries or understand the prevalent political logic in this country of miracles. He got lost when he thought that people’s support for him meant that they trusted his leadership.He first lost his way when he abandoned his position as local mosque imam who cared about his flock. He didn’t limit himself to leading them in prayer, but visited them in their homes and workplaces, helping them to solve their daily problems. Over a decade he managed to build up a popular base of loyal followers, before the mosque started to close in on him and his operators, who wanted him to strike out further afield.

A fatal mistake is committed only once Assir decided to become – in one fell swoop – a rebel sheikh and started to play in a much bigger field. It was then that he veered out of control and his story quickly came to an end.

The destruction he left in his wake is not just physical, it seeped into the souls of Saida residents, who still don’t know whether to celebrate the absence of an adventurer or cry over the victory of a foe that was becoming stronger by the day.

Today, Saida is left to wonder about its uncertain future, a sense of foreboding hovers over the city.
Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Ahmad al-Assir and Lebanon’s Despondent Sunnis

ON THE WAY OF NO RETURN

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Maybe this has to do with covering the defeat of the opposition in Syria where the Syrian army is progressing on all fronts- especially in the vicinity of Damascus -and now has almost secured the road between Homs and Damascus in an attempt to keep major cities linked together .Tal Kalakh has surrendered without battle . Armed people have just handed in their weapons to th…e army . Luckily enough they are local people . Now, another area on the Lebanese Syrian border has returned to the authorities without spilling blood- this time -or causing any destruction .

What is happening in Syria is writing the next sequence of events . The abdication of the prince of Qatar –due to the failure in Syria and under US pressure- in favor of his younger son, caused somehow the ending of the al Asir phenomenon in Lebanon – which is a Qatari phenomenon- that Qatar is trying to put term to one way or another. The new Qatari prince might be seeking a new start but has received- already – the blessings of the Israelis promising that he will not commit any foolishness .

The quantity of weapons discovered in al Asir quarters in Saida is unbelievable , the most sophisticated weapons and big amounts of money were found . Recruits were paid a minimum of 600 dollars and salaries could reach 2 thousand dollars a month. The scheme originally sought the clash between al Asir armed people and the Resistance people , but ended in a clash with the Lebanese army and 18 soldiers were killed before the army responded and chased out the thugs from the vicinity of Saida .

Every one knows in Lebanon that Qatar is funding all this masquerade.. Al Asir has escaped and some officials from the Security seem to have facilitated his escape and that of his family who are all holders of Qatari passports. Number of Palestinians and Syrians were fighting on the side of al Asir along with Lebanese , many of his assistants fled with him.

While Lebanon is under threat from sectarianism fueled by Gulf countries’ Intelligence Services and their Media and their hired mercenaries , other Muslim and Arab countries are subject to different pressures and upheavals . They are witnessing a new season of Spring starting from the Taqsim Square in Istanbul and not ending with Maydan al Tahreer , Cairo..

The situation in these countries is most dangerous . It is threatening the social web itself whereby the country will remain divided and unable to proceed . No one can save Mursi now , not even al Azhar -who has given license to peaceful demonstrations against the president- nor Sheikh al Qaradawi whose visit to Cairo is expected soon . The army has spread its forces widely and will not allow any escalation of the situation . Every one says that the future seems uncertain . The country is deeply divided and both parties are determined to reach their goal, all major cities are witnessing this division and both parties are rallying one against the other . The al Azhar has warned against escalation into civil unrest and civil war and is refraining from taking a stand either way . The repercussions on all countries of the defeat of the Syrian opposition cannot be measured . Egypt- who supported the opposition and hosted it but did not get directly involved in the Syrian mud- has to pay its share of instability like Turkey and Qatar and soon KSA .

These upheavals are all a cover for US stunning defeat in Syria and all countries would have to make up for their short comings and sacrifice whatever they enjoy in terms of stability that has gone out of Egyptian hands for example . It will be very difficult to bring these people back to the place where they belong and to recover a form of stability. The foreign affiliated NGOs who are active on the ground will not let this happen, the whole of society has been infiltrated . The only solution for Egypt is- as expressed by al Ahram-assistant director – to have legislative elections take place in due time and which will bring to the parliament the representatives of the people and will help the country get out of this dead end. All this while Syria and Lebanon will regain slowly their stability.

Lebanon Threatened by Civil War

Lebanon Threatened by Civil War

          A Lebanese army soldier stands atop an  armored personnel carrier as he patrols the area near the mosque complex where  hardline Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir was believed to be sheltering with  his supporters in Abra, near Sidon, southern Lebanon, June 25, 2013. (photo by  REUTERS/Ali Hashisho)
By:  Nasser  Chararah for Al-Monitor  Lebanon Pulse         Posted on     June 25.
The suburb of Abra, which lies just outside the city of Sidon, the so-called  capital of South Lebanon, appeared as if it could be part of Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

In this area, the radical Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir had established a security zone  around the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, which has become the headquarters of Assir  and his group. Assir’s story does not differ much from those of hundreds of  other similar figures who have taken center stage over the past five years in  many Arab countries.

The rise of the Salafist  movement in the Arab world has been the result of the sweeping Arab  revolutions and the collapse of many military regimes’ decades-long rules. This  has led to the sudden emergence of these sheikhs, surrounded by dozens of  fervent advocates, who are ready to give their lives to establish Islamic  rule. In Lebanon, this phenomenon, which is based on the righteous Salaf (the first three generations of early Muslim  times or the lives of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad), has begun to  establish itself since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution. Assir is considered one of the main models of the  Salafist movement in Lebanon.

As expected, clashes broke out on Sunday, June 23,  between Assir’s group and the Lebanese army. The army had been trying to avoid  such a confrontation, which provoked a wave of media criticism. However, the  army declared that Assir crossed all red lines when his advocates killed two  army officers at a checkpoint without any reason whatsoever. Military operations were launched to put an end to the situation in Sidon,  but the human cost was high. After nearly 48 hours of fighting, around 80 army  soldiers had been either killed or wounded. Meanwhile, Assir and his group used the citizens living in the buildings  surrounding the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque as human shields, aiming their sniper  fire at the army and hindering its progress. The longer the fight drags on the  more bitter its political and security consequences throughout Lebanon. The army  is not fighting on solid ground, but amid difficult conditions.
In fact, the army is not supported by a political decision because the  Lebanese government is limited to managing day-to-day state affairs and is  divided on a sectarian basis. The Sunni ministers within the government have  been supporting the army, but not to the extent that this support could provoke  the Sunni public. The latter could embark on the path of extremism should the  clashes with Assir expand to reach Tripoli, the Tariq al-Jadideh neighborhood in  Beirut or Naameh on the coastal road. All these regions have witnessed  situations similar to the “Assir phenomenon.” Many fear that the expanding clashes could be spurred on by false slogans  calling to defend the Sunni community. This is very likely to happen in a  country like Lebanon, where sectarian masses could respond to such calls. This  is especially true in light of the sharp sectarian divide gripping the  region.
Nevertheless, up until this moment, most Lebanese are convinced that the  army has been fighting to preserve security and stability in Lebanon. The army  is well respected and valued among Lebanese citizens of all sects. Yet the fear  remains that Lebanon could be dragged into the war raging in Syria. It is at  this point that it would be difficult to predict the turn of events. While the clashes between the army and Assir’s radical groups — backed by  foreign jihadists, Palestinians and Arabs — have intensified, Assir has called upon the Sunnis in the army to defect and fight  alongside Sunnis against the army. These calls for defection did not find an  echo within the army’s ranks even though some Salafist websites in Lebanon and  Syria asserted the defection of many Sunni officers.
Most Palestinian groups in the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee  camp also refused to respond to Assir’s calls, with the exception of some  extreme individuals. Fatah al-Islam and Jund al-Islam share ideological links  with Assir, and although these groups constitute a small segment of the camp  forces, they have military savvy and are threatening to drag the refugee camp  into a clash with the army, repeating the scenario of the Nahr al-Bared camp, which played out a few years ago. The army is trying to end the situation in Sidon amidst popular sympathy. On  the other hand, Salafist groups across areas of Lebanon, especially in Tripoli (the capital of the North, with a Sunni majority)  continue to downplay this sympathy and promote clashes so as to drag the country  back into a civil war. Nasser  Chararah is a contributing writer  for Al-Monitor’s Lebanon Pulse and for multiple Arab  newspapers and magazines, as well as the author of several books on the  Hezbollah-Israeli conflict.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/abra-clashes-sidon-lebanon-civil-war.html#ixzz2XYKIeI3F

Ahmad Al-Asir: Expired!

Translated and rewritten by Nour Rida* He was a short-term phenomenon in Lebanon, with limited liabilities. Unlike what
he claimed about brave leaders yielding at combat, he ran from battle when felt jeopardy.
Just like previous prototypes, whether Western or Gulf made, he was created and shelved as necessity required. Be it the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Contra in Nicaragua, the Lahd Militias in south Lebanon or other, all are examples of regime-created movements that share the same circumstances when they come to light, when in action and activity, and at their getaway ending. All are founded on the basis of illusions and contrived facts.
These organizations stem from sectarian, economic and of course political circumstances and given. A “fake cause” is invented, then promoted on both, the media and popular levels.For instance, the Lahd militias claimed their collaboration with the “Israeli” enemy is a guarantee to desired stability. This claim was denied after the end of the Zionist project in Lebanon in the year 2000, when the liberation came to prove that Christians in the south are doing much better than before, and even feel safer than the times when Lahd was ‘at their service’.

In the case of al-Asir, the invented pretext is “the Sunni people are targeted”. This phenomenon was created as a tool to target the Resistance, a tool made by regional and international powers. It was aided by media distortion and black-out, also fact distortion and falsification in order to disfigure the Resistance and its axis. They created the biggest lie: There is a Shiite threat against Sunnis. Yet, ground facts prove these claims futile. Al-Asir called on the Sunni army soldiers and generals to defect from the Lebanese army, but no response came to such urge. The Sunnis realize well that al-Asir is a Takfiri danger that threatens them in first place. On the contrary, the Sunnis, in Saida especially, welcomed the role of the Lebanese army.

As for the ending, these are also very similar. The original people of a certain project let go their puppets, their tools, as soon as circumstances change or are modified, or when these tools expire.

Antoine Lahd, for instance, is mere proof that the maestro lets go his choir when the chant performance is done. Samir Geagea, who was made by a major player, is another example of no less importance; he was put 11 years in prison, none of his creators were there to defend him.

Meanwhile, al-Asir; a version of phenomena produced on the margins of major schemes, based on fabricated facts, is mobilized for a short period of time and then dumped in a moment of miscalculations.

Source: Al-Ahed News, written in Arabic by Buthaina Olleik


26-06-2013 | 16:53

Assir’s “Mosque”… An Arms and Explosives Depot

Local Editor

Following is a report which portrays the arms and explosives stored in the “mosque” of Ahmad Al-Assir:

 

Retired Singer Fadel Shaker Brags about Killing 2 Lebanese Soldiers – video

Retired Singer Fadel Shaker Brags about Killing 2 Lebanese Soldiers
Local Editor
Retired singer Fadel Shaker appeared, in a video said to be recorded two days ago, bragging about killing two soldiers in the Lebanese Army during the clashes of Abra in Sidon.

Two militants standing near Fadel Shaker also stressed their support to Ahmad Al-Assir and his partisans, and expressed confidence in his “victory”.

ظهر فضل شاكر في فيديو يُقدر أنه صُوّر أمس، حيث يفاخر شاكر مستخدماً عبارات بذيئة بقتل اثنين من افراد الجيش في اليوم الاول لاشتباكات عبرا.

وإلى جانب فضل، وقف عددٌ من المسلحين الذين بدوا واثقين من ما اسموه “انتصارا ومن دعم سيتلقوه من كل صيدا وطرابلس”.

سبب خطير دفع الجيش إلى تنفيذ الهجوم الحاسم بصيدا 
‏الإثنين‏، 24‏ حزيران‏، 2013


أوقات الشام

ناجي س. البستاني

لقد تعرّض الجيش اللبناني لاعتداء غادر في عرسال منذ بضعة أسابيع، لكنّه لم يبادر إلى تنفيذ هجوم شامل على المسلّحين هناك، وهو لا يزال يعالج الأمور بتأنّ على الرغم من الوجع، لكنّه إتخذ القرار بحسم الوضع بعد تعرّض ضبّاطه وجنوده لاعتداء غادر مماثل في صيدا. فما سبب هذا الإختلاف في ردّ الفعل؟

بداية، لا بد من الإشارة إلى أنّ أحمد الأسير أصبح يتصرّف في الآونة الأخيرة بتهوّر كبير، وبخطوات غير محسوبة النتائج، منتشياً بولاء بضع عشرات من المسلّحين له، وإستعداد آخرين من المتشدّدين الفلسطينيّين والسوريّين لدعمه، وفرحاً بازدياد شعبيّته نتيجة الإحتقان السياسي – الطائفي في لبنان والمنطقة. وبلغ الأمر بالأسير، الذي أصبح يعتقد أنه يحظى بحماية مذهبيّة دينيّة، حد محاولة اللعب بنار الفتنة، من خلال التحضير لإقفال طريق الجنوب، ولشنّ هجوم على شقق في عبرا يتواجد فيها مناصرون لـ”حزب الله”، بغض النظر عمّا يتحدّث عنه بشأن إستفزازات ومراقبة أمنيّة يتعرّض لها. وقد حاولت المراجع الرسميّة ثني الأسير عن خطته هذه، لمعرفتها عزم “الحزب” ليس فقط بالدفاع عن هذه الشقق، بل بشنّ هجوم مضاد واسع وشامل، في حال التعرّض لأي هجوم جديد من قبل جماعة الأسير. من هنا، وأمام إصرار الأسير على رفع وتيرة التوتّر المذهبي والأمني في المنطقة، وضعت قيادة الجيش خطّة للسيطرة على الوضع في كامل مدينة صيدا، إدراكاً منها أنّ أيّ مواجهة واسعة بين أنصار كل من “حزب الله” و”الأسير” قد تتفاقم بسرعة وتنتشر شرارتها في غير مكان في لبنان. وهذا السبب الخطير، قد يمثّل في حال حصوله، نقطة تحوّل في الصراع الداخلي اللبناني، بحيث يتحوّل من سياسي مع توتّرات أمنيّة متفرّقة، إلى عسكري شامل.

من هنا، بدأت القيادة أخيراً سياسة متشدّدة على حواجزها، في محاولة لتجنّب الوصول إلى مرحلة الصدام. وجاء تصرّف مجموعات الأسير المسلّحة بالأمس، والذي أوقع عدداً من الضحايا بشكل غادر في صفوف الجيش، بمثابة “نقطة الماء” التي أفاضت الكوب. فأعطت قيادة الجيش الأوامر لشنّ هجوم شامل على مسلّحي الأسير، لطيّ صفحة هذه الظاهرة بشكل حاسم، على الرغم من الكلفة البشريّة الباهظة الي يتكبّدها ضبّاط وجنود الجيش.

وفي ظلّ إرتفاع عدد الشهداء، رفضت “القيادة” الإستجابة للضغوط التي تدعو إلى تهدئة ظرفيّة، لا تنهي حال الإحتقان القائم، عبر إنهاء ظاهرة الأسير الذي تتراوح خياراته حالياً بين تسليم نفسه أو الفرار من المنطقة. وقد ساعد تصرّف الأسير المتهوّر إزاء الجيش، قيادة هذا الأخير على التشدّد، لأنّه بعد تعرّض كرامة الجيش للإهانة، وعسكريّيه وضبّاطه للقتل، لم يكن بإمكان أيّ طرف في لبنان الوقوف إلى جانب المعتدين. وهذا ما أسفر عن خسارة الأسير، ورقة الإصطفاف المذهبي والسياسي، والتي كان يمكنه أن يلعبها، في ما لوّ نفّذ تهديداته الأمنيّة ضد شقق “حزب الله” في عبرا. 

والأمل اليوم، أن ينجح الجيش في إنهاء هذه المشكلة نهائياً بأقل حجم من الخسائر الممكنة، لأنّ الكلفة صارت من الآن باهظة جداً. والأمل أيضاً أن لا يغلب الوتر المذهبي على أيّ جهة كانت، فيبقى الصراع في إطار إعتداء مرفوض وغادر على الجيش، تسهيلاً لإعادة الأمور إلى طبيعتها في أسرع وقت ممكن.

النشرة

لكن وبعد أن تحوّلت وجهة سلاحه إلى صدور الجيش، خسر هذه الورقة الثمينة، خاصة وأنّه في الفترة الأخيرة تعرّض لفضيحة إستخباريّة تمثّلت بتسريب إزدرائه بالدين المسيحي، في الوقت الذي نمت فيه خلافاته مع شخصيّات سنّية سياسيّة فاعلة، ترفض سياسته الهجوميّة المتهوّرة والمتفلّتة من أيّ ضوابط، بغض النظر عن الحجج التي يُطلقها، والتي كان يمكن أن تكون مقبولة أو محط تفهّم على الأقلّ، لو أنها لم تترافق مع تصرّفات ميدانية لا تتناسب مع واقع القوى على الأرض، ولا تتوافق مع الوضع الأمني الحسّاس جداً في البلاد.

والأمل اليوم، أن ينجح الجيش في إنهاء هذه المشكلة نهائياً بأقل حجم من الخسائر الممكنة، لأنّ الكلفة صارت من الآن باهظة جداً. والأمل أيضاً أن لا يغلب الوتر المذهبي على أيّ جهة كانت، فيبقى الصراع في إطار إعتداء مرفوض وغادر على الجيش، تسهيلاً لإعادة الأمور إلى طبيعتها في أسرع وقت ممكن.

النشرة

 

ORIENT TENDENCIES: SYRIA’S RESISTANCE CONFOUNDS THE WEST

Posted on June 24, 2013 by Alexandra Valiente

Orient Tendencies
Monday June 24, 2013
no 137
Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared by neworientnews.com
Editor in chief Wassim Raad
wassimraad73@gmail.com
New Orient Center for Strategic policies

The Lebanese Army decides to end
Ahmad al-Assir’s militia
By Pierre Khalaf
After predicting that Lebanon was heading towards desolation and threatened to attack the Lebanese Army, the fundamentalist Sheikh Ahmad al-Asir went from words to action Sunday. His militia, armed, trained and funded by Qatar and the Future Movement of Saad Hariri, attacked the Lebanese Army, killing two officers and five soldiers, in Abra, east of Saida. This attack is part of a series of aggressions against the army led by Syrian and Lebanese extremist groups supported by the Gulf states. Already between Thursday and Saturday, several positions of the Lebanese regular troops were under fire and attacks in various parts of the country. In recent months, several officers and soldiers had been killed by extremists in the town of Ersal and in Tripoli. The aim of these attacks is to neutralize the army, push her to withdraw, in order to transform these areas in havens for Syrian extremists and their Lebanese accomplices.
These groups could not prosper without the coverage of the Future Movement, which materially supports them in the intention to use them in a plan to encircle the Lebanese resistance, and without the irresponsibility of senior officials, who were reluctant to act decisively against these unhealthy phenomena threatening national unity with their sectarian discourse.
This time, the army decided to put everybody in front of their responsibility. In a severe statement, the military noted that the army tried to protect Lebanon from Syrian events and neglect the political appeals to the suppression of group belonging to Sheikh Ahmad al-Asir in Saida in order to avoid the discord. “But what happened in Saida today exceeds all expectations. Army was targeted with a cold-blooded and premeditated manner in order to inflame the situation in Saida like what happened in 1975. ” The military has rejected the double standard of the political class and put politicians in Sidon to the following choice: “Either you are with the military, or you are with the armed groups and, therefore, with the chaos and discord. ” “A group loyal to Sheikh Ahmed el-Asir attacked without reason, a military barrage in Abra,” says the text. “Two officers and a soldier were killed and several others were injured, while several military vehicles were damaged,” the military statement.

In a video sent to the mobile phones of his followers, al-Asir called “supporters throughout Lebanon to come” lend a hand to his men and “defend our religion and women.” He appealed to sedition, asking “the noble Sunni leave the Lebanese Army that attacks us.”

As usual, the head of the Future Movement bloc, the former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, held an ambiguous speech. He tried to drag the name of Hezbollah in the incidents of Sunday as the resistance has nothing to do in these events. Saying he was opposed to any attack against the army, he called for a cease-fire. Thus, he puts the army and militiamen on an equal footing. Nowhere does he demand the murderers of the three soldiers to be delivered.
But the army seems determined. Reinforcements and special troops were sent and launched a major offensive against the security perimeter of the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, Abra, transformed into a stronghold by al-Asir militia. After fierce fighting, the soldiers surrounded the area and chased the militiamen who tried to cut roads of the city through snipers posted on rooftops.

The resistance of Syria, a puzzle

with no solution for the West

By Ghaled Kandil
The universal war waged by Barack Obama against Syria is entering a new phase after a remobilization of resources under the auspices of Saudi Arabia and France. The division of roles took place in Doha.
The crumbling and rotting fronts of aggression against Syria, called “opposition”, have always been an endemic headache for the international coalition hostile to Syria. Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Heads of Western and Arab intelligence services openly recognized these facts. In meetings held in Istanbul, Doha and Paris, “opponents” leaders were appointed and new names were invented to prepare every time a new stage of the attack. The West does not understand that the balance of power has changed because the popular mood is not the same. The pseudo-opposition no longer has any support in the population, that supports at 70% the president-resistant Bashar al-Assad, as Western intelligence agencies admit.
Again, the imperialists and their agents shout “We found,” in the manner of Newton when the apple fell on his head. The scientist spoke, of course, about the Gravity, while they talk about Salim Idriss. This deserter officer is presented as the man who will make miracles to achieve the illusion of Obama and Francois Hollande, to “rectify the situation on the ground by making a disconnection between the Free Syrian Army” (FSA) and al-Nosra Front.
Just seeing that the plan coordination was given to the founder of Al-Qaeda and takfirist terrorism, Bandar bin Sultan, shows how the Western speech is full of lies.
Geniuses, how can you change the realities on the ground? Could the additional quantities of weapons turn robbers into freedom fighters? and murderers and other headhunters in tolerant and enlightened groups that protect churches, convents, religious Christians and Muslims men placed on the lists of people to be killed by the Saudi and Qatari fatwas issued by Takfirist sheikhs? Would Your Salim Idriss dare to take any action against these groups of bloodthirsty mercenaries?
Salim Idriss is just another mercenary working for Western, Saudi and Qatari intelligence services, not a popular leader capable of performing miracles that would remove these Takfirist groups. He will only exacerbate the divisions between the armies of opportunists as Michel Kilo, who spoke of a revolution in the revolution, and the real leaders of al-Nosra Front, Riad Chakfa and Farouk Tayfour, the leaders of the bloody military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, in the 80s, that all Syrian know … and hate.
Bandar took command of the new plan of attack, which resulted in an upsurge in suicide attacks in recent weeks. He put on a spurt his mercenary groups across Jordan in the province of Daraa, to change the balance on the ground in a desperate attempt to postpone of Aleppo’s liberation battle. But the enthusiasm of the Syrians to return to the bosom of their state, the determination of the Syrian Arab army and the loyalty of the allies of Syria, will defeat the plan.
Additional sacrifices will be necessary, but the outcome of the war is no doubt the victory of Syria and defeat its enemies.
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Statements
Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President
«Where will those weapons end up. If the United States and the State Department recognize that one of the key opposition organizations al-Nusra is a terrorist organization officially recognized as terrorist which is linked to al Qaeda, how can they give weapons to that part of the opposition. There are no answers to those questions… so it is not as simple as some people would suggest. We believe that our position is well founded … we believe only the Syrian people themselves can guarantee a long-term solution. There is indeed a certain difference of view between us and, let’s say, the U.S. We should encourage the sides, the parties to the conflict to engage in dialogue and achieve positive results. This discussion was among interested parties among partners and there were differing opinions during that debate… despite the depth and complexity of the problems, we were looking for a way to compromise.»
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister
«The Jabhat al-Nosra group is the most effective structure for the armed opposition. Most of armaments supplied at present and in the future Syria will be distributed through this structure. This small group is better coordinated and disciplined. Our colleagues realize it.»
Michel Sleiman, Lebanon’s President
«Hezbollah is a resistance and resistance has a national holiday, and it is present in the Ministerial Declaration through the expression ‘army, people and resistance’. If he takes part in the Battle of Aleppo and he wipes new casualties, the tensions will be back. This must stop to Qusayr and Hezbollah should retreat to Lebanon.
I have not betrayed. From the beginning, I informed him that I could not accept such behavior. I told him that it would expose and Lebanon, in front of the Israeli enemy. I have said that I will protect the resistance, but I want to protect it from itself as well. When I see that Hezbollah misbehave, I would speak openly.
When President Barack Obama recently contacted me and expressed concern about the involvement of Hezbollah in Syria, I immediately replied to him that we were concerned, we also, because of the involvement of all Lebanese parties in Syria, and we agreed unanimously on the declaration of Baabda to prevent any intervention but the various parties have not met.»
Hassan Fadlallah, Hezbollah MP
«Hezbollah wants PM-designate Tammam Salam to be successful in forming the government and his success depends on his ability to form a government of real unity. March 14’s precondition to exclude Hezbollah from the government is unachievable. There are attempts to spread security tension in the country by firing rockets and blocking roads and sectarian incitement which will only lead to endangering citizen’s safety and compromising the state’s security pillars.»
John Kerry, US secretary of State
«The supporters of the Syrian opposition will step up military and other aid in a bid to end an imbalance on the ground in Bashar al-Assad’s favor. The United States supported the original Geneva Communiqué as it sets up a process by which a transitional government would be put in place to end the conflict, that transitional government being chosen by mutual consent of both the Assad regime as well as the opposition. The rebels need more support for the purpose of being able to get to Geneva and to be able to address the imbalance on the ground. The United States and other countries here — in their various ways, each choosing its own approach — will increase the scope and scale of assistance to the political and military opposition. Reliable civilian governance and a stronger and more effective armed opposition will better enable the opposition to be able to provide the counterweight to the initiative of Assad.»
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Events
  • Along US with missiles and fighter jets, about 700 US troops will remain in Jordan after training exercises which ended this week, US President Barack Obama said in his letter to the Congress. The troops and military equipment took part in the Eager Lion exercises in Jordan. “This detachment that participated in the exercise and remained in Jordan includes Patriot missile systems, fighter aircraft, and related support, command, control, and communications personnel and systems,” Obama said in a letter to House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner. “The deployment of this detachment has been directed in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, including the important national interests in supporting the security of Jordan and promoting regional stability, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations,” the US president said in his letter.
  • Spanish security forces on Friday broke up an Al-Qaeda-linked network in north Africa  suspected of sending fighters to Syria, arresting eight people in early morning raids. Police launched operations against the network in Ceuta, a Spanish territory in north Africa. “We have broken up a network responsible for sending combatants to Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups operating in Syria,” the Spanish interior ministry said in a statement. The network, operating in Ceuta and the neighbouring Moroccan town of Fnideq, sent dozens of Islamist militants — some minors — to Syria, the ministry said. “Some of them would have carried out suicide attacks while others would have been incorporated into training camps prior to carrying out armed action,” the government said. “This network, based in Ceuta and Fnideq, carried out fundraising, indoctrination, and organising and financing travel, in contact with other terrorists and following the guidelines of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization.” Security forces confirmed that several “jihadists” were waiting to travel from Spain to Syria, it said.
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Press review
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist, June 21, 2013)
The security breach observed in the country is dangerous. Various incidents and road blocks in several regions are a premeditated plan to open all fronts against Hezbollah and its allies, with the aim of forcing the party to withdraw its fighters from Syria and to defend itself on its own soil instead of fighting alongside regime. However, Hezbollah has sent several clear messages on the first day of his involvement in the Battle of Qusyr, that he put all his units on alert all along the border with Palestine, to say that if he is confronted to a triangular confrontation, he will not hesitate to take an existential battle in its own way and according to its timing. Faced with this premeditated plan, the leadership of Hezbollah and Amal have decided to call their supporters to exercise restraint to avoid being drawn into clashes.
The commander Jean Kahwaji said that the army will not show any leniency when it comes to public safety and stability in the country. He added that the current situation is extremely difficult and delicate and requires that all parties are aware of the possible implications.
As Safir (June 19, 2013)
Qassem Qassir
The Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has sent a message of congratulations to Sheikh Hassan Rohani as soon as he was elected to the presidency in Iran. According to Islamic sources, the command of Hezbollah wanted and cut short any bet on a possible change in the relationship between Hezbollah and Iran under the mandate of the new president. The same sources indicate that the relationship between Hezbollah and Iran are not defined by the President but by the Supreme Leader. However, Iranian sources says that President will have a range of new options to implement the policy of moderation, openness and balance he advocated. The sources agree that the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah are not exclusively defined by the Presidency, however, they state that a real change has occurred. The Iranian elite realized today that it is now impossible to limit Iran’s relations with the countries of Latin America, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, and it will be open to others, taking the interests of the Iranian people.
Al Hayat (Lebanese daily financed by Saudi Arabia, June 21 2013)
Raed Jabr, correspondent in Moscow
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also the special envoy of President Vladimir Putin in the Middle East, said that his country was opposed to the involvement of all parties in the Syrian conflict. He said: “I met in Lebanon Hezbollah Secretary General who said that he had no intention of intervene in Syria. The Syrian crisis began two years ago and the party is involved only very recently (…) He told me that the intervention occurred when Syrian rebels arrived at the gates of Damascus. Thousands of fighters, well armed, with foreign jihadists in their ranks. Hezbollah has studied the situation and found that there is a real danger that Damascus falls. So he decided to go into battle to help his friends and allies. “
Mr. Bogdanov and continued: “I ​​explained to Mr. Nasrallah that President Michel Sleiman had come to Moscow at the beginning of the year, to defend the statement of Baabda and the policy of distancing, supported by all parties Lebanese. Nasrallah said, ‘Hezbollah is committed to the declaration of Baabda but when he saw what was happening on the ground, where fighters go from Lebanon to Syria, we realized that the statement was something and the reality on the ground an other thing.In addition, the rebels were preparing to celebrate their victory in Damascus. So the intervention of our fighters had become necessary. ‘”

Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance, June 20, 2013)
At least 18 Lebanese citizens have been expelled from Qatar, a government source in Beirut told AFP Thursday, after the Gulf Cooperation Council pledged to act against members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.
“Eighteen Lebanese have been expelled from Qatar, in the wake of the GCC decision,” the source said on condition of anonymity, saying it was not clear if they were Hezbollah members.
On June 10, the GCC, to which Qatar belongs, said it would implement measures affecting the “residency permits and financial and commercial transactions of Hezbollah” in response to the group’s involvement in the conflict in Syria.
The GCC statement urged the Lebanese government to “assume its responsibilities towards the behavior of Hezbollah and its illegal and inhumane practices in Syria and the region.”
The bloc, which backs the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The decision stirred fears among the many Lebanese who work in the Gulf of being sanctioned by their host countries.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Awwad Assiri, was asked on Thursday if his country would move to expel Lebanese citizens, but said only that the GCC decision “affects those who support Hezbollah.”
“Hezbollah has erred against itself, its sect and its country. This decision affects those who have been deceived (by Hezbollah),” he told Lebanon’s Future TV.
While the GCC has condemned Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, Gulf countries have provided substantial funding and ammunition to Syrian rebels. A memo leaked in January revealed that Saudi Arabia was also sending death row inmates to fight jihad in Syria.
Al Akhbar (June 21, 2013)
Qassem Qassem
Recent rumors depict the Hezbollah-Hamas partnership as deteriorating under the weight of the war in Syria. One rumor even claimed that Hezbollah gave Hamas a 48-hour ultimatum to leave Lebanon. Though the relationship is lukewarm, there is ongoing coordination between the two sides.
A delegation from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, recently visited Beirut. There, the guests were received by Hezbollah, with the party taking care of security details and accommodations. Beirut was just a stop along the way to Iran, where the military wings of various Palestinian factions go to train.
Despite political differences between Hamas and Hezbollah, nothing has changed when it comes to the military relationship between the two sides. For its part, Iran remains committed to training and arming Qassam fighters, a “red line that has not been breached so far,” according to sources in both resistance movements.
Recent reports claimed that Hamas militants were fighting alongside the armed opposition in Syria. Hamas leaders have denied this categorically, maintaining that officials have opted to leave the Syrian capital so as not to take any sides.
On the other hand, sources close to Hezbollah and the Syrian regime claim that Hamas had a role to play in the battles of Qusayr. The sources say that the tunnels discovered in the strategic Syrian town had been dug using small Iranian devices that Hezbollah had transferred to Hamas.
The sources said, “What delayed the military operation was the explosives planted by the militants everywhere, from windows to television sets and even teapots, in addition to using motion-sensitive explosives – all methods that the resistance fighters use against the enemy.” Some of the explosives, they added, were found to contain electronic chips that Hamas had acquired from Iran and Hezbollah.
When asked whether it was possible that some of the militants who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq had shared their expertise with the Syrian opposition, sources close to Hezbollah said, “Some of the tunnels we found were primitive, and did not have ventilation holes to blow off the pressure from the rockets that might fall on them. But there were also tunnels nearly six meters underground, similar to the ones we usually dig.”
The sources then said, “Let’s say that digging the tunnels does not need a lot of know-how, but their booby-trapping methods are the same as ours.”
Hamas’ Qusayr Denial
Hamas denied these reports. Ali Baraka, a Hamas official in Lebanon, said, “We sat down with Hezbollah and asked them about rumors alleging the capture of Hamas fighters in Qusayr and about explosives we had received from the Resistance before, but Hezbollah leaders denied all this.”
Baraka then asked, “How can we keep explosives we received in 2008 and not send them to Gaza? All weapons we receive are sent directly to Palestine. Those who can bring Fajr rockets in will not keep small explosive devices.”

Concerning reports about Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal’s bodyguard joining the Free Syrian Army, Baraka said that he “was expelled after the politburo left Damascus, and is currently detained by al-Nusra Front in the Yarmouk camp because of a dispute between them.” There are debates within Hamas on the group’s position in Syria, as well as its relationship with Iran, Hezbollah, and some Arab countries.

Hamas leaders deny such disputes and stress that the military wing is committed to the decisions of the politburo. This was confirmed by its military spokesperson Abu Obeida at a Gaza press conference. Nevertheless, a different story unfolds on the ground.

Leaders in Gaza have expressed their resentment over the presence of Meshaal in Qatar. There are divergent camps within the Qassam Brigades, one close to Meshaal and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and another close to Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar and the late Ahmaed al-Jaabari, second-in-command of the group’s military wing. The second side believes that the liberation of Palestine and securing arms for the resistance are only possible through Iran, and not Qatar.

According to sources close to Hamas, Iran was the only country to support Hamas directly with both money and arms. But Iran has taken notice of Hamas’ exit from Syria, and the angry exchange that reportedly took place between Jabari and the Qatar Emir Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, during the latter’s visit to Gaza.
Jabari, who withdrew from that meeting with Hamad, was killed less than a month later. Today, there is talk of a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel.
On a different note, Tehran and the Resistance in Lebanon have reportedly received reassurances from Qassam, which has said it refuses to see Hezbollah as a Shia party at odds with Sunnis. The above notwithstanding, sources in Hamas confirmed that Iranian military support has declined, while Iran has stepped up its training and backing of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades of the Popular Front and the Islamic Jihad.
After Hezbollah’s participation in the battle of Qusayr, sectarian divisions have grown in the Palestinian refugee camps. For some, Hezbollah has transformed from a resistance movement against Israel to a Shia party fighting the Sunnis in Syria.
Hamas has picked up on this, and found itself compelled to prevent tarnishing the image of the Lebanese resistance group, especially in Saida’s Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, where some set fire to Hezbollah aid packages. Hamas took measures to ensure this does not happen again, arguing that no matter what Hezbollah does, it remains an Islamic faction that must not be declared an apostate.
Al Akhbar (June 20, 2013)
Amal Khalil
It was approximately a year ago when Salafi Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir and his followers blocked a main road leading to southern Lebanon for a month and half. This was but one step in his larger plan to build a militia to face down Hezbollah in the south.
The sheikh began his militarization campaign by recruiting young Lebanese using anti-Shia slogans. Since then, he has attracted a hodgepodge of local Lebanese, Palestinian refugees, and Syrians to his cause.
Once established in southern Lebanon, he visited other spots in Lebanon like Ersal and Tripoli, hoping to build a national profile for his movement and to establish a network of like-minded allies.
Throughout this period, he benefitted from Gulf funding – by way of born-again singer Fadl Shaker – in addition to some local sources. The money was used to buy weapons from Saida’s Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. Some sources even claim that he received arms from March 14.
Fighter training took place in a number of areas near Saidi, as well as the North, until Assir established a security compound centered around his mosque in the Saida district of Abra.
Close followers of the sheikh’s activities say that he has received training and logistical support from official quarters, allowing them to move freely in the city. Through these official connections, Assir is also privy to detailed information about the residential areas adjacent to his mosque.
More mainstream Sunni political forces like the Future Movement and al-Jamaa al-Islamiya (Lebanon’s Muslim Brotherhood) also provided the radical cleric with the necessary political cover to conduct his armed forays in the city.
Saida security sources say that Assir’s armed operation in the city on Tuesday, in which he deployed around 300 fighters, was an attempt to display his growing military prowess. The move was also intended as a launching point for a new phase of activity that promises to be bolder than last year’s.
Assir’s goal was to paralyze areas beyond the immediate surroundings of his mosque. As his snipers took positions on top of a number of buildings across the Shia district of Haret Saida, groups of his followers tried to shut down the two main arteries leading south.
The local security source says that the operation would not have been as successful had it not been for the involvement of other forces in the operation, including al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya and Future. However, fears that he would be joined by radical Islamists from Ain al-Hilweh did not materialize, otherwise the situation could have taken a more serious turn. But what about Assir’s opponents such as Hezbollah, Amal, and the local Resistance Brigades – how did they respond? Aside from deploying fighters in the Shia neighborhoods adjacent to the sheikh’s mosque, they were largely restrained, a sign that they do not yet have the green light from their leadership to take aggressive countermeasures.
Hezbollah and its allies limited their actions to pinprick operations on both Fadl Shaker’s house and Future Party leader Bahia Hariri’s compound, prompting both to appeal to the commander of the armed forces to deploy the army, which – after three hours of mayhem – finally managed to take control of the situation.
Al Akhbar (June 18, 2013)
Ibrahim Al-Amine
The Future Movement’s incitement against Hezbollah would not have been anything out of the ordinary if it had not decided to turn it into a sectarian conflict. After the Syrian army regained control of Qusayr, Saad Hariri realized that more is required of him than simply building on Najib Mikati’s resignation.
March 14 – along with the Syrian opposition’s regional and international backers – seem to be in a sudden rush to draw Lebanon into the conflict raging next door by characterizing it as a Sunni-Shia conflict that transcends borders.
After having failed to ignite a sectarian war in Tripoli and the North – in addition to a reluctance to stir up trouble in Beirut and Saida – Future and its allies have turned to the northern Bekaa, which shares a long border with Syria, and where large numbers of opposition fighters are concentrated.
And despite the bloody events of the past week, the only reason the situation remains relatively quiet is due to Hezbollah preventing, and even suppressing, any possible reaction from among its supporters.
The other side pushes forward with its campaign of incitement, believing that Hezbollah will continue to exercise restraint. In addition, they can always lay blame for any incident on the Syrian militants that operate in the border area. That is not to say, however, that the Lebanese security forces do not know in detail the groups involved and who is funding and supporting them.
Given the political crisis in Lebanon, with both government and parliament in a state of paralysis, the only authorities left to keep the peace are President Michel Suleiman and Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces Jean Kahwaji. Therefore, it is necessary to say the following:
First, the president is directly responsible for the deteriorating situation in the Bekaa. As long as he insists on siding with March 14, then he has relinquished any responsibility for the country as a whole. If he continues to delay the deployment of the army to fulfill its duties in that area, then he is nothing but a partner in the crimes being committed there.
Second, the leadership of the armed forces knows well it does not need political cover to take control of the troubled areas along the border. The army has already paid dearly with its soldiers’ lives in that region. It must take immediate practical steps to deploy in the northern Bekaa or risk losing the confidence of a large part of the Lebanese population.
There is no room for excuses here. Suleiman and Kahwaji know that they are directly responsible. As long as they delay taking any action to contain the situation, then more and more people will be convinced that there is no longer any need for their services!
FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German Daily, June 17, 2013)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reiterated that Syria’s main priority now is fighting terrorism, and stresses upon being open to political solutions to solve the crisis away from extremism and bloodshed. ”We are confident that we can successfully fight terrorism in Syria, but the bigger issue is the ensuing damage and its cost. The crisis has already had a heavy toll but our biggest challenges will come once the crisis is over,” Assad said. “It may take a long time, but with our determination, our strength and our solidarity, we can rebuild the country,” the President stressed, adding, “It will not be easy to eliminate the social effects of the crisis, especially extremist ideologies. Real reconstruction is about developing minds, ideologies and values.”
Asked whether he considered Syria a secular state, he answered: “Many people understand secularism as synonymous with communism in the past, in that it is against religion. For us in Syria secularism is about the freedom of confession including Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Secularism is crucial to our national unity and sense of belonging.” “We are a secular state that essentially treats its citizens equally, irrespective of religion, sect or ethnicity. All our citizens enjoy equal opportunities regardless of religious belief,” he remarked.
As to the file of possible intervention, President Bashar Assad said, “We can see clearly that what is happening in Iraq now, and in Lebanon previously, are repercussions of the situation in Syria, and this will only extend further and further. We are seeing these ramifications and the intervention is still indirect, so imagine the consequences of military intervention?”
Regarding Syria’s relationship with Russia and the latter’s indefinite support, he said, “Our relationship with Russia, Iran and other countries that support Syria are cooperative relations certified under international law.”
As for countries that are willing and arm the rebels in Syria, he said: “The countries have adopted policies that meddle in Syria’s internal affairs, which is a flagrant violation of international law and our national sovereignty.”
Regarding al-Nusra Front, the President said, “Al-Nusra Front claim to be applying Sharia Law and the Islamic Religion; however, in reality their actions are a complete distortion of the real religion of Islam.”
Moreover, when asked about the hesitation of the EU in arming the rebels, President Assad viewed, “They are aware that weapons sent to the region will end up in the hands of terrorists, which will have two consequences. First, Europe’s back garden will become a hub for terrorism and chaos, which leads to deprivation and poverty. Second, terrorism will not stop here – it will spread to your countries.”
“Any individual or group excluding the army and police who carries arms, kills people, threatens and intimidates public safety are by definition terrorists,” he added.
Regarding to Hizbullah and defending its borders from terrorist groups, the Syrian President commented, “The aim of this frenzy is to reflect an image of Hizbullah as the main fighting force and to provoke Western and International public opinion against Hizbullah.”
“The Syrian Army is a large army capable of accomplishing its missions across Syria, with the support of the local communities. Damascus is certainly more important than the town of al-Qusayr [retrieved by the Syrian Army],” he added.
As to the alleged use of chemical weapons, Assad said, “It is counterintuitive to use chemical weapons to create a death toll that you could potentially reach by using conventional weapons,” adding, “Had they obtained a single strand of evidence that we had used chemical weapons, do you not think they would have made a song and dance about it to the whole world? then where is the chain of custody that led them to a such result?”
Regarding reforms, the President viewed, “We started the reforms and issued a number of new legislations, lifted the emergency law and even changed the constitution through a referendum. Yet what the West refuses to see is that from the first weeks of the protests we had policemen killed. Could the chants of protesters actually kill a policeman?”
As to dialogue, Assad said, “From day one we have extended a hand to all those who believe in dialogue. Opposition is a political act, and so when we refer to the opposition, we mean the politicians to whom we are always committed to dialogue, regardless of what happened in Al-Qusayr.”
Los Angeles Times (American daily, June 21, 2013)
David S. Cloud & Raja Abdulrahim
CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming them, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders.
The covert U.S. training at bases in Jordan and Turkey, along with Obama’s decision this month to supply arms and ammunition to the rebels, has raised hope among the beleaguered Syrian opposition that Washington ultimately will provide heavier weapons as well. So far, the rebels say they lack the weapons they need to regain the offensive in the country’s bitter civil war.
The tightly constrained U.S. effort reflects Obama’s continuing doubts about being drawn into a conflict that has already killed more than 100,000 people and his administration’s fear that Islamic militants now leading the war against President Bashar Assad could gain control of advanced U.S. weaponry.
The training has involved fighters from the Free Syrian Army, a loose confederation of rebel groups that the Obama administration has promised to back with expanded military assistance, said a U.S. official, who discussed the effort anonymously because he was not authorized to disclose details.
The number of rebels given U.S. instruction in Jordan and Turkey could not be determined, but in Jordan, the training involves 20 to 45 insurgents at a time, a rebel commander said.
U.S. special operations teams selected the trainees over the last year when the US military set up regional supply lines to provide the rebels with nonlethal assistance, including uniforms, radios and medical aid.
The two-week courses include training with Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter antitank rifles, anti-tank missiles and 23-millimeter antiaircraft weapons, according to a rebel commander in the Syrian province of Dara who helps oversee weapons acquisitions and who asked that his name not be used because the program is secret.
The training began in November at a new American base in the desert in southwestern Jordan, he said. So far, about 100 rebels from Dara have attended four courses, and rebels from Damascus, the Syrian capital, have attended three, he said.
“Those from the CIA, we would sit and talk with them during breaks from training, and afterward they would try to get information on the situation” in Syria, he said.
The rebels were promised enough armor-piercing anti-tank weapons and other arms to gain a military advantage over Assad’s better-equipped army and security forces, the Dara commander said. But arms shipments from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, provided with assent from the Americans, took months to arrive and included less than the rebels had expected.
Since last year, the weapons sent through the Dara rebel military council have included four or five Russian-made heavy Concourse antitank missiles, 18 14.5-millimeter guns mounted on the backs of pickup trucks and 30 82-millimeter recoil-less rifles. The weapons are all Soviet or Russian models but manufactured in other countries, the commander said. Such weapons allow the rebels to easily use captured munitions from the Syrian army, which has a large arsenal of Russian and Soviet arms.
“I’m telling you, this amount of weapons, once they are spread across the province [of Dara], is considered nothing,” the commander said. “We need more than this to tip the balance or for there to even be a balance of power.”
U.S. officials said the Obama administration and its allies might supply anti-tank weapons to help the rebels destroy armored vehicles used by Assad’s forces. They are less likely to provide portable antiaircraft missiles, which the rebels say they need to fight back against Assad’s helicopters and warplanes. U.S. officials fear those missiles would fall into the hands of the largest of the Islamist militias in the rebel coalition, Al Nusra Front, which the U.S. regards as an Al Qaeda ally.
Asked Friday about the CIA training, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. had increased its aid to the rebels in the Free Syrian Army, but he refused to provide details. “We have stepped up our assistance, but I cannot inventory for you all the elements of that assistance,” Carney said,. “We have provided and will continue to provide substantial assistance to the Syrian opposition, as well as the Supreme Military Council.”
The council is the military arm of an umbrella group that represents more moderate rebel factions, including the Free Syrian Army.
CIA officials declined to comment on the secret training programs, which was being done covertly in part because of U.S. legal concerns about publicly arming the rebels, which would constitute an act of war against the Assad government. Other U.S. officials confirmed the training, but disputed some of the details provided by rebel commanders.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Bittar, who defected as a fighter pilot from Assad’s air force last year and is head of intelligence for the Free Syrian Army, said training for the last month or so had taken place in Jordan.
The training, conducted by American, Jordanian and French operatives, involves rockets and anti-tank and antiaircraft weaponry, he said.
Between 80 and 100 rebels from all over Syria have gone through the courses in the last month, he said, and training is continuing. Graduates are sent back across the border to rejoin the battle.
Bittar said sufficient weapons had yet to arrive for the rebel forces and that the Americans had not yet told them when they could expect to receive additional arms. “Just promises, just promises,” he said.
AFP (France-Press Agency, June 22, 2013)
Turkish police used water cannon on Saturday to disperse thousands of demonstrators who had gathered anew in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Hundreds of riot police backed up by water cannon trucks moved in on several thousand protesters chanting for Erdogan’s dismissal. “This is but a start, the battle continues!” the protesters yelled, throwing red carnations. “It is by resisting that we will prevail!”
The protesters had gathered a week after police evicted thousands of people from the adjacent Gezi Park, the epicentre of nationwide demonstrations that had shaken Turkey for much of June and presented Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted government with the biggest challenge of their decade-long rule.
Following the eviction, the protests that had infuriated Erdogan and earned Turkey harsh criticism from the West had fizzled out as the premier claimed victory over “traitors.”
“The people and the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] government have foiled the plot… hatched by traitors and their foreign accomplices,” Erdogan said on Tuesday.
The violence sparked widespread anger and snowballed into mass demonstrations against Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian, before culminating in another crackdown on Gezi Park. Four people have been killed and nearly 8,000 injured in the turmoil, according to the Turkish Medical Association. Hundreds have also been arrested across the country in connection with the demonstrations and at least 46 people have been charged, most of them accused of belonging to “terrorist” groups and destruction of property, according to lawyers groups.
Separately on Saturday, some 80,000 people rallied against Erdogan’s government in the German city of Cologne.   

From Tripoli to Saida, a Map of Lebanon’s Battlegrounds

A masked gunman and supporter of Lebanon’s radical Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir walks in the central Nur square in the northern city of Tripoli on 24 June 2013. (Photo: AFP – Ibrahim Chalhoub)
 
 
Published Monday, June 24, 2013
 
A number of flashpoints litter Lebanon. Reports of armed groups backed by foreign intelligence services note that they seek a climate that would drag Hezbollah into a sectarian war. Although Hezbollah is keen on showing patience and restraint – at least politically – it is ready to suppress them, if necessary, militarily.The armed groups in Tripoli, Saida, and the Tariq al-Jdideh district of Beirut all have similar methods and composition, which could mean that they are controlled by a single entity. In the aftermath of the Saida battles between the Lebanese Army and Ahmad al-Assir’s militants, certain conclusions can be drawn from these groups’ capabilities to withstand a sweeping military operation.

Saida and Salafi Cleric Ahmad al-Assir

Last week, Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Assir tested his military capabilities on the ground. Around 120 of Assir’s gunmen deployed throughout the city. There were also reports that al-Jamaa al-Islamiya took part in the ensuing clashes, but Assir failed to attract the support of groups in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp.

For two hours, Assir’s fighters fired in the air and at supposed Hezbollah buildings. But after some time, Assir’s groups received warning shots from heavy machine guns and two B-10 shells, throwing Assir’s militants – and him personally – into disarray.

This did not stop Assir’s men from crossing a red line by attacking a Lebanese Army checkpoint on Sunday, June 23, killing a number of soldiers and prompting a decisive reaction from the military, which has continued into today.

Tripoli

In the north Lebanese city of Tripoli, for example, there are two red lines that the militants will not be allowed to cross: entering Jabal Mohsen, which is likely to lead to a Syrian army intervention; and threatening the strongholds of Suleiman Franjieh.

The facts on the ground indicate that the main function of Tripoli militants is nothing more than to stir up trouble. For instance, the fighters led by Salafi cleric Hussam al-Sabbagh in Bab al-Tabbaneh do not number more than 400. Other groups include Jund Allah, a 110-strong group led by Sheikh Kanaan Naji, and Saad al-Masri’s group of 40 militants.

In all the battles between Jabal Mohsen and its surroundings, the militants have only tried once to storm a building at the entrance of Jabal Mohsen. However, the Arab Democratic Party quickly responded with dozens of shells of intermediate caliber, forcing the attackers to retreat.
Meanwhile, whether in Tripoli or other flashpoints, Syrian refugees are a factor in the calculations. Indeed, a segment of the refugee population has become the equivalent of reserve forces for the armed groups.

The bottom line is that eradicating the militants from Tripoli would not be impossible if they were to cross any red lines. Envisaging such a scenario necessitates learning the lessons of the battle of Qusayr, where Hezbollah, for the first time in its history, carried out a major offensive.

Qusayr’s military implications are clear. They demonstrate that Hezbollah has accrued extensive abilities in coordinating the operations of various military formations, such as ground support and artillery; command over the movement of forces in an area ​​nearly half the size as ​​northern Lebanon; and can utilize its military intelligence to change the circumstances of battle.

Tariq al-Jdideh

Militants in the Tariq al-Jdideh neighborhood of Beirut are trying to establish a demarcation line with the Shia neighborhoods, particularly the area of Shiyah.

The number of militants in Tariq al-Jdideh barely numbers a thousand. They include Salafi fighters of Palestinian and Syrian nationalities, as well as other local fighters. The nearby Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila also funnel fighters to the area, as is the case with the 40-member group led by Abu Khamis al-Beiruti.

These militants do not have adequate combat training. This assessment was put to the test when Tariq al-Jdideh’s fighters attacked the Arab Movement Party headquarters nearly a year ago. Back then, the party’s offices fell as a result of deception alone.

In truth, it would have been possible to rescue the headquarters if a coordinated force from outside the area had intervened, while the cost of eradicating the Tariq al-Jdideh flashpoint would not have exceeded, at worst, 20 casualties.

Nehme-Coastal Road

The militant groups stationed in Nehme along the coastal road to Khaldeh do not number more than 200 fighters. These militants’ purpose is to block the coastal road between Beirut and Saida in times of unrest. Another possible role is to break into the tunnels of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) holed up in the hills in Nehme.

In fact, nearly a week ago, a fire was deliberately started near the entrance of the tunnels, causing planted mines to explode.

Conclusions

A military reading of the above-mentioned flashpoints suggests the following conclusions:

– The common feature among all the militants is the lack of organization and the absence of professional training.

– The intelligence services backing the militants have only invested in Syrian refugees in a limited fashion. As soon as many of these refugees arrive in Lebanon, they are given money to purchase mobile phones and laptops. At best, this would only allow them to communicate with the opposition coordination committees on social media platforms, and is of no use in building up any significant militant grouping.

– In any simulation of a hypothetical war, should red lines be crossed in Tripoli or Saida, learning from the Qusayr experience will be vital.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Army Takes Control over Assir Complex, Kills Dozens of Partisans, Others Escape

Military official for Assir’s militia Abdul Rahman Shmandar killed,
Local Editor
The Lebanese Army took complete control over Ahmad Al-Assir’s complex in Abra after clashing with snipers located on the roofs of some buildings and a number of Assir’s partisans who escaped the complex after the Army controlled it.Abra clashesSimilarly, clashes reportedly took place between the Army and militants on the Marine Corniche of Sidon, leaving a number of casualties in the ranks of the militants, while the rest escaped.
However, clashes in Abra are ongoing as the number of martyrs from the Lebanese Army exceeded 15 officers, in addition to dozens of injuries.

In parallel, sources said that dozens from Assir’s partisans were killed and injured, and most of them were foreigners, mainly of Syrian and Palestinian nationalities.

Military official for Assir’s militia Abdul Rahman Shmandar was also killed, while Bilal Bader, one of the leaders of the five groups associated with terrorist Al-Nusra front, was injured during the clashes.

In this context, Anatolia news agency reported that 60 members of Jund Al-Sham militant group were involved in the clashes.

Source: Agencies
24-06-2013 – 13:57 Last updated 24-06-2013 – 13:57

Fighting Rages in Sidon: 15 Soldiers Killed, Army Vows Retaliation

 
Local Editor
Around 15 Lebanese soldiers, including three officers, were killed in continuing clashes with Ahmad Al-Assir’s armed partisans in Abra, east of Sidon, who dared to launch a “cold-blooded” attack against the army on Sunday.
Sidon clashes
The fighting, which the Army said was reminiscent of events preceding Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War, wounded another 38 soldiers.The sea route in Sidon, the entry point to the south, was experiencing light traffic amid the spread of the army.
Sidon, yesterday, suddenly turned into a battlefield after Assir militants attacked a Lebanese Army barrier in Abra. Security sources said the military post, not far from the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque where Assir preaches, was struck by rocket-propelled grenades. The sources said Assir’s partisans were relying heavily on RPGs in the clashes. One armored personnel carrier was set ablaze after receiving a direct RPG hit, they said.
roads blocked in LebanonThe fast-pacing events in Sidon sparked a series of protests in several parts of the country, some supporting Assir, others the Army.Very violent battles erupted at Ain al-Hilweh camp today where tanks are being used.On Monday, the Lebanese army crossed the concrete barriers surrounding Bilal bin Rabah mosque in an attempt to arrest Al-Assir.
The army had earlier evacuated population of the buildings surrounding the mosque where they were trapped since yesterday afternoon.In a statement earlier in the day, the Army said three of its members, including two officers, were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in the Abra-Sidon area.“Without any reason, an armed group belonging to Sheikh Ahmad Assir attacked an Army checkpoint in Abra-Sidon, killing two officers and a private; and wounding several others in addition to destroying several military vehicles,” the statement said.Army logo
The army said it would respond with an iron fist to any further aggression against it, calling on officials in Sidon to express unambiguously their position over the dangerous events “either to stand next to the Lebanese Army to protect civilians or to stand beside the provokers of strife and killers of soldiers.”

“The Army will not remain silent to what it has suffered militarily and politically and will continue its mission to crack down on strife in Sidon and other parts and strike with an iron fist whoever thinks of shedding the blood of the Army and respond to all those who protect them politically and at the media level,” it said.

In a video posted on Youtube Sunday, Assir urged members of the military to desert and called upon all his partisans to erupt and support him by blocking roads. “We are being attacked by the Lebanese Army, which is Iranian and Shiite,” Assir said.

President Michel Sleiman called in all ministers and security chiefs for a meeting at the Baabda palace on Monday.

Sleiman also declared that the Army has full liberty to counter the aggressors and stop the perpetrators to maintain calm, saying that calls for soldiers to desert and to “wage a jihad” against the military only served “Lebanon’s enemies” and would go on deaf ears of the Lebanese, Palestinians and soldiers.

 

Source: Websites
24-06-2013 – 09:36 Last updated 24-06-2013 – 09:40

Lebanese Salafis kill 10 soldiers in Sidon

Lebanese security forces are deployed during clashes on 23 June 2013 in the village of Abra, on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese city of Sidon. (Photo: AFP – Mahmoud Zayyat)
Published Sunday, June 23, 2013
Updated 01:00 am: Armed supporters of Salafi Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir killed 10 Lebanese soldiers and injured 35 near the southern town of Sidon on Sunday, the army said.”An armed group loyal to Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir attacked, for no reason, a Lebanese army checkpoint in the village of Abra” just east of Sidon, it said.The army identified the first six victims as First Lieutenant Samer Geryes Tanyous, Lieutenant George Elian Bou Saab, Sergeant Ali Adnan al-Masri, and soldiers Rami Ali Baker, Bilal Ali Saleh and Elie Nicolas Rahme.It added that one gunmen was killed and 15 injured.The fighting erupted when Assir supporters surrounded an army checkpoint in Abra, where a vehicle transporting other supporters of the radical cleric had been stopped, a security source told AFP.
“After the armed men attacked with gunfire,” the army fired back, the source added.The army vowed it “will not tolerate” the latest developments, and that it “will continue to fulfill its mandate to suppress strife.”

The military will “strike back with an iron fist anyone who… spills the blood of the army,” the statement said.

Amjad al-Assir, the sheikh’s brother, was defiant when reached by telephone.

“The army is with Hezbollah. We’re being bombarded from all sides,” he told AFP as explosions were heard in the background.

“Sheikh Assir will stay on the battlefield along with those who support him. We will resist to the last drop of blood.”

According to the Lebanese National News Agency, fighting was still raging on late Sunday evening, as residents of the Abra neighborhood called on the army and the Internal Security Forces to be evacuated from the area.

In Beirut, Assir supporters blocked a road in the Verdun and Tarik al-Jdide neighborhoods to protest the Sidon clashes, Naharnet reported.

Future TV said that several religious scholars from the north of the country were mediating talks with the army to reach a ceasefire.

ضغوط من أمير قطر على مراجع لبنانية لمنع الحسم ضد الأسير

الإثنين‏، 24‏ حزيران‏، 2013

أوقات الشام

قالت مصادر سياسية في بيروت لوكالة “أنباء آسيا” أن امير قطر اتصل مباشرة بمرجعيات سياسية لبنانية تنتمي الى فريق ١٤ اذار والى فريق الوسط طالبا فيها منهم التحرك للضغط على الجيش اللبناني لمنعه من اعتقال الشيخ أحمد الاسير ولمنع الحسم ضد المسلحين في المربع الامني في عبرا.

وأوعز امير قطر الى اصدقائه في بيروت من كبار السياسيين بشن حملة تمنع الكيل بمكيالين بحسب زعم امير قطر، فالحسم ضد أحمد الأسير يجب ان يسلكه حسم سلاح “حزب الله”.
وتكشف المصادر السياسية بشكل واضح عن وقوف قطر خلف تحركات احمد الاسير الذي يأتمر بأوامر الفنان المعتزل فضل شاكر وليس العكس.

 

وكالة أنباء أسيا

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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