Orient Tendencies: Saudi-Israeli Offensive to Break the Blockade of al-Ghouta Failed

Posted on December 2, 2013 by Veritas

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Orient Tendencies
Monday December 2, 2013, no160
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 Saudi-Israeli offensive to break the blockade of al-Ghouta failed

By Pierre Khalaf
الغوطة الشرقية تنهي أحلام الأمير سلمان بن سلطانThe last desperate attempt to break the blockade imposed seven months ago by the Syrian Arab Army in the eastern Ghouta, east of Damascus, is an operation mounted from A to Z by the Saudis, Americans and Israelis.
The offensive was launched from Jordan Friday, 22 November, by some 5000 Syrian and foreign mercenaries,. Their goal was to retake the strategic town of Oteiba, located 30 kilometers southeast of the capital, which was the headquarters of armed rebels in Damascus province.
According to various sources of information, the offensive was prepared by a Saudi-Israeli-American common command center, located in Jordan, where mercenaries were trained by instructors from the CIA and funded by Saudis petrodollars. The column crossed into Syria via desert roads helped by satellite photographs. With the approach of the column of the Eastern Ghouta, the Israelis launched a vast operation of telecommunications interference against the Syrian Arab Army troops defending the region. The army units were cut off their command and contacts between them were also very disturbed. It was then that the mercenaries launched their attack, while simultaneously rebels encircled within the Ghouta tried an output.
أكثر من 500 قتيل في 12 يوماً: ضربة قاسية للمسلحين في الغوطةIn all, some 5,000 men attacked the positions of the Syrian Armed Arab in an attempt to break the blockade of the eastern Ghouta. Despite their number, their heavy weapons provided by Saudis and logistic brought by the Israelis, the rebels have taken only a few army checkpoints in five or six villages at a cost of more than 300 dead, a third are not Syrian nationals.
After stabilizing the front line, the Syrian regular army and the National Defence Army launched a counter-offensive to regain lost ground and prevent mercenaries consolidate their positions in regions where they entered. Despite two other offensives launched earlier this week, the rebels have failed to improve their situation.
Experts from all sides confirm the failure of the “Saudi-Israeli offensive”, which military objective was to take Oteiba. At the political level, this attack is a desperate attempt to improve the Saudis’ agents uncomfortable position who represent the so-called Syrian opposition at the Geneva 2 conference, on the 22nd of January 2014.
According to informed sources, the United States granted a period of two months for the Saudis to try again to change the balance of power on the ground. Hysterical, the Saudis do not hide anymore their direct participation in the war against Syria. Reliable sources say the Saudi extremist fighters in the rebel ranks amounted to several thousand. Many of Al-Qaeda militants who were imprisoned in Saudi Arabia were released on the condition that they would fight in Syria to “establish the Islamic caliphate.” These same sources estimate at 300 the number of Saudis killed in the rebel ranks, while dozens were captured by the Syrian Arab Army.
Many Saudis have also been killed in the past two weeks, during the fighting in the region of Qalamoun, on the border with Lebanon, where the Syrian Arab Armed took the towns of Qara and Deir Attiya, and a large part of the city of Nabak. Among the dead were the Saudi Mutlak al-Mutlak, the son of an officer of the Saudi royal guard.
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Statements
Najib Mikati, Caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister
«I did not spare a way to defuse the incidents that broke our hearts, killed our sons and destroyed our properties. I did not even hesitate to resign from my post in hopes that this step would be a way to end the tragic events in Lebanon and especially in Tripoli. Every day I see our beloved city of Tripoli suffer and burn; its residents are being killed and have become desperate because the hands of evil have turned them into hostages. Yesterday, we held an expanded meeting in Tripoli, and the decision that was taken–following discussions with President Michel Suleiman was to put all the security forces under the command of the army, and that the army should take all the convenient and firm measures to control the security. The judiciary also issued arrest warrants against all those who disrupted the security in the city, and we are positive that the army will carry out its missions, including all the arrest warrants.»
Sheikh Naïm Kassem, deputy secretary general of Hezbollah
«Takfirists are responsible for the attack against the Embassy of the Islamic Republic in order to strike the head of the axis of resistance and prevent the establishment of a strong regional axis facing the Israeli-American project. The main enemy is Israel and the US-Israeli-takfirist project.»
Faisal Moqdad, Syrian vice-minister of Foreign Affairs


«The Syrian government delegation at Geneva will be working under Assad’s directives, and any solutions proposed will have no impact unless president Assad approves of them. In their closed meetings, Western leaders say there is no replacement for president Assad. At Geneva II, we will gather around the table and we will discuss, without foreign interference and there will be an enlarged government. We reiterate our reservations about participation in Geneva II by representatives of the armed terrorist groups. The stupid Turkish policy has compromised the Turkish people by attracting Al-Qaeda.»

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister
«The solution to the nuclear issue serves the interests of all countries in the region. It is not at the expense of any state in the region. Be assured that the nuclear deal is in favor of the stability and security of the region. We look at Saudi Arabia as an important and influential country in the region. We will implement the deal and are convinced that implementing it will build the trust.»
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Events
  • Fourteen people, including a woman and an off-duty soldier, have been killed in two days of sectarian clashes in northern Lebanon linked to the war in neighboring Syria, a security source said Sunday. The fighting in the northern port city of Tripoli also wounded 49 people, including 11 soldiers, the source told AFP. On Sunday four people were killed, two of whom were in a truck when they were shot dead by a sniper, while the third was the off-duty soldier and the last victim a woman who died of injuries sustained the previous day. Their deaths came after a day of fierce clashes that lasted into the night that left six dead. The fighting pits residents of the city’s Jabal Mohsen district which is home to an Alawi minority against Sunni residents of the neighboring Bab al-Tabbaneh. Attacks targeting Alawi residents because of their perceived support for the Syrian president have escalated in recent weeks leading up to the most recent battle between the two neighborhoods.
  • An unknown masked gunman shot on Sunday three members of the Fatah Movement in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon, the National News Agency reported. The gunfire killed one of the two victims, identified as Hammoud al-Rami, and injured the two others, Abdel Hamid al-Youssef and Mohammad Saad, who were transferred to the Labib Abu Dahr medical center for treatment. MTV television reported later that a gunfire exchange erupted following the incident between members of the Fatah Movement and the Jund al-Sham militants. Meanwhile, LBC television reported that a man identified as Ibrahim Abdel Ghani was shot dead while he was passing in his car in the camp.
  • The Lebanese Armed Forces arrested in Arsal a man from North Lebanon who is affiliated with a Salafist movement, the National News Agency reported. The NNA explained that the Salafist was arrested Saturday at dawn at the Wadi Hmeir checkpoint in the pro-Syrian rebel Sunni town of Arsal.
  • Palestinian security forces have arrested 20 Salafists in a series of raids across the West Bank, a security source said on Sunday, denying any of them had ties to Al-Qaeda. “In the last few days, around 20 people were arrested in Nablus, Jenin and Qalqilya,” the senior Palestinian security source told AFB on condition of anonymity, saying those detained “embrace the Salafy ideology but are not affiliated with Al-Qaeda.”
  • Head of the Future bloc MP Fouad Siniora held talks with Speaker Nabih Berry Sunday as part of the dialogue the two officials launched in September. A source close to Siniora said the meeting aimed at maintaining ongoing communication between the two officials. “It is a way to ease the political stalemate in the country,” the source said. Berri and Siniora discussed various files at the local and regional levels, the source said.
  • More than 41,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in November, according to an inter-agency briefing, while the agency canceled the registration of 13,000 individuals. The latest round of registration brings the total number of registered refugees to 758,000, with another 73,000 awaiting registration. The agency said the total number of refugees assisted by UNHCR in Lebanon now stands at over 830,000. The Lebanese government estimates the real number of Syrians in the country to be over 1 million.

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Press review
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
Imad Marmal (November 29, 2013)
The Iranian leadership has the feeling of having achieved an accomplishment and is convinced that the deal with the Great Powers pave the way for a “nuclear spring.” Would Iran, which now finds itself in a strong position, take the initiative to open a dialogue with the Gulf without running the risk of being accused of weakness or be misunderstood. About the Iranian-Saudi relations, the Speaker Nabih Berri believes that only dialogue between the two countries will be able to stem sectarian tension in Lebanon and the region, such a dialogue is a prerequisite the development of a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
An Nahar (Lebanese daily close to March-14 coalition)
(November 28, 2013)
Returning from Tehran, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry said he had taken no mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, adding that no one had asked for it. “But if I am asked, I will not hesitate to do anything that might serve the relations between the two countries, taking into consideration the interests of Lebanon,” he said.
The Parliament Speaker added that he will continue to do everything in its power “to get out of our internal crisis.” “I am fully prepared to undertake all that is likely to serve my country and, of course, opening channels of communication and cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iran has a positive impact on Lebanon and facilitates the solution problems of our country,” said Mr Berry. The Speaker expressed his satisfaction with the results of his visit to Tehran, which he described as “successful”. “The policy of the Iranian leadership is characterized by wisdom and knows what he wants and what serves the interests of its people and States of the region,” he concluded.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
(November 29, 2013)

Ten days ago, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with a delegation of party leaders and politicians from Arab countries. He said unequivocally: The battle will continue as long as Saudi Arabia continues to “back terrorism,” and the flow of extremist fighters, money, and arms into Syria continues. – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has proclaimed that Saudi and other countries’ support for terrorist groups will delay any solution to the crisis. He also said that the Syrian government was advancing on more than one front against terror and the war against Syria, stressing that the government would not go to Geneva if it is expected to hand over power.
Assad’s remarks on the situation in Syria came during a meeting on the sidelines of the Arab Parties Conference held in Syria 10 days ago. Al-Akhbar interviewed a party leader from the Maghreb who took part in the meeting.
In response to a question on what is happening in Syria, Assad said, “We have been subjected to a major war. In the first phase, we had to focus on standing our ground, which is what we did in the first year. Then we moved into the stage of triumphing over the enemies. There are experiences in recent history, including what happened with the Resistance in Lebanon, which stood its ground for many long years, and then achieved major victories in 2000 and 2006. We have known from the outset that the battle targeted our independent decision, but this independent decision was a major factor in our steadfastness and our victory, although we appreciate the support Syria has received from its allies, and some allies have had a pivotal role, such as Russia, which stands on our side because its interests, too, are threatened. I heard directly from the Russian leadership that they stand alongside Syria to defend Moscow and not just Damascus.”
Assad continued, “The time required to end the crisis in Syria depends to a large extent on the ongoing support and funding to armed groups provided by the actors in the region.”
He added, “Saudi Arabia and other countries are strong backers of terrorism. They have dispatched tens of thousands of takfiris to the country, and Saudi Arabia is paying up to $2,000 as a monthly salary to all those who take up arms on their side.”
Assad said, “There is another problem, related to al-Qaeda’s infiltration through the border with Iraq. This is something that the authorities in Baghdad are cracking down on but not entirely with success. Consequently, stopping Saudi support would have a decisive impact, especially since the militants and those behind them have been caught by surprise by our army’s capacity to confront them. Now, we know, and the whole world knows that al-Qaeda does not pose a threat to Syria alone. We hope for rational solutions in the coming months, but the issue is also contingent upon our ability to confront those, and we are determined to fight them until the end.”
The Syrian president then told his audience, “In light of the situation on the ground, we do not believe that it is possible to reach a settlement soon. As long as fighters, weapons, and funds continue to be sent across the border into Syria, we will not stop pursuing them. No one in the world can stop us exercising our right to defend our country. Moreover, today, we find little that can be agreed upon in Geneva, especially since some wrongly believe that we are going there to hand over power to them.”
“If this is what they want, then let them come to Syria so we can hand over power to them,” Assad sarcastically added. “If they decide to appoint [leader of the opposition National Coalition Ahmad] al-Jarba as president, do they think he would be able to come to Syria?”
Assad explained that Saudi Arabia “is leading the most extensive operation of direct sabotage against all the Arab world,” adding, “Saudi Arabia led the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council in the battle against all nations and parties that stand in the face of Israel. The [Saudis] gave cover to the Camp David agreement, supported the war on Lebanon in 1982, and today, they are engaged in an open-ended war against Syria. We are now openly saying that we are at war with them. True, we accommodated them previously, but they want everything to be according to their vision and interests.”
Regarding the position of the Western countries that back the armed Syrian opposition, Assad said, “The colonial West still acts in a vain mentality. They act like the past 20 years did not happen. They ignore the US defeat in Iraq, and they act as though the Soviet Union collapsed only yesterday.”
Concerning the current state of the Arab world and the Arab League, Assad said, “If the league shall remain under the influence and tutelage of backwards regimes like those of the Arab Gulf countries, it will have no role and no value. However, not all the Arab countries have had their independence taken from them.” He then added, “Today, there is a brave man making a stand in Iraq who is Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He has important stances, even though his country is torn and many seek to destroy it. Even Algeria, one could consider its stance ahead of others. But most importantly, we must take heed of what is taking place in Egypt today. We see as the rest of the Arabs do that there is in Cairo today someone telling America frankly and sharply, ‘You have no business in Egypt’s internal affairs,’ and this is an important position that must be supported.”
The Syrian leader then spoke about the state of political parties in Syria and the Arab world, and said, “Vacuum is one of the reasons why extremist groups have spread. But another reason has to do with the fact that these parties did not rejuvenate themselves, and they are still weak. We as a state are keen on boosting their work, not as a party. We have also been observing the reflection of Syria’s steadfastness on Arab reality in general, and especially in the Maghreb, which we fear could be subjected to the rule of NATO.”
Assad then warned against the spread of Wahhabi ideology in the Arab world, and said, “This requires a new approach to religious institutions, but first and foremost, it requires supporting a civil state based on co-citizenship.”
Assad added, “Today’s generation has been subjected to a large-scale process of spreading ignorance. The generation that preceded us had more awareness, and this process of spreading ignorance is aimed at keeping the Arab world in a state of backwardness. I want to remind you that the West does not want us to ever evolve. I remember when the US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited us in 2003 and conveyed his country’s demands from Syria after the occupation of Iraq, he especially wanted us not to host any Iraqi scientists. We rejected his demand, so the US and Israeli intelligence liquidated quite a few of those scientists. Today, they want to eliminate scientists in Iran.”
But Assad noted that, by contrast, awareness among Arab peoples is reemerging, saying that raising the picture of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdul-Nasser in many Arab demonstrations is a sign of this.
He said, “We are not against religion, but we are against invoking religion in all aspects of people’s daily lives. Even us, who are secular, gave religion a role in our constitution, which states explicitly that Sharia is a source of legislation. However, we refuse any politicization of religion in the sense that leads to negative results. As an example that our stance is not against religion, consider Hezbollah’s case in Lebanon. This is an ideological party that derives its ideas from religion. But we do not disagree with Hezbollah politically. This is proof that we don’t have an absolute stance against religions, but we refuse any religious force that operates in accordance with takfiri or Wahhabi ideology.
“For this reason, we say that we do not deal with the Muslim Brotherhood in this way. I believe that Syria cannot tolerate this faction. They did not give us a positive model in all stages. They operate on the basis of a sectarian position; otherwise, how can one explain their stance opposed to Hezbollah? They accept politicization in all issues, and use sectarian discourse to inflame Sunni-Shia strife.”
He then said, “Syria, like Iran and Hezbollah, tolerate many things to prevent sedition. Even the approach in dealing with the situation in Bahrain is very cautious for this reason.”
Al Akhbar (November 29, 2013)
Maysam Rizk
In a closed Lebanese parliamentary session hosted by the telecommunications and foreign affairs subcommittees, 27 representatives of foreign diplomatic missions were presented with evidence that Israel has been eavesdropping on their communications, monitoring citizens and state institutions alike.
Not surprisingly, US Ambassador David Hale failed to attend the meeting, possibly due to the likelihood that his government is keenly aware of Israel’s intensive espionage program in Lebanon and may even receive reports from the Zionist state, according to Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah, who heads up the media and telecommunications committee in parliament.
The diplomats were informed of how Israel has recently intensified its illegal spying activity, particularly along the border with Lebanon, where it has erected dozens of listening posts with the latest eavesdropping technology. Israel’s appetite for information has now gone beyond spying on Lebanese to include the country’s diplomatic missions and the communications of the UNIFIL force stationed in the South.
The session did not take more than half an hour, as it was limited to a presentation, without any discussion scheduled to follow. Although none of the ambassadors issued any statements to the press after the briefing, they appeared unsettled as they exited the hall. According to a parliamentary source, it is unlikely that many of those present were aware of the scale of Israeli monitoring.
The source says that the parliamentary committees, which is in charge of following up on Israel’s eavesdropping activity, left little doubt in the mind of their foreign guests, as they were presented with “a detailed explanation of the ways by which they are being monitored.”
The intent of the meeting, Fadlallah explained in a press conference, “is to provide these countries with the information necessary to help us limit this Israeli aggression on Lebanon,” with the hope that they put some pressure on Tel Aviv to stop its intensive spying campaign.
There is also talk about raising the matter before the UN and possibly making a bid to expel Israel from the International Telecommunications Union. As for what role the Resistance can play in limiting Israel’s eavesdropping, Fadlallah repeated the words of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, who recently said that the matter is in the hands of the state, which is more than capable of dealing with the issue.
Al Akhbar (November 29, 2013)
Ibrahim al-Amin
After playing a central role in freeing the Lebanese hostages who were held in northern Syria, Qatar is using the same channels to mend its ties with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.
When negotiations over the nine Lebanese hostages involving Turkey, Qatar, Syria, and Lebanon hit a snag – after Damascus refused to free dozens of Syrian women prisoners as part of the deal – Doha resorted to contacting Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah to guarantee their eventual release.
Unlike Ankara, the Qatari authorities want more out of the deal than simply washing their hand of the whole affair. Doha is looking to regain its “strong presence” in the region’s affairs after a decision was taken regionally and internationally to remove the country from the Syria file, in favor of a stronger Saudi role, assisted locally by the UAE, Kuwait, and Jordan.
A Qatari official points out that since the former emir, Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, overthrew his father in a palace coup in the mid-1990s, there have been widespread concerns in the emirate that Saudi Arabia does not want its Gulf neighbor to be in any way independent of kingdom’s influence.
After the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Doha was almost completely marginalized from the events taking place in the region. This was intolerable to the small but ambitious Gulf emirate, which sought to return to its former position as a mediator of regional conflicts.
After the old leadership, including the emir and the prime minister, was replaced with a new one, Doha began to implement a transitional strategy of mending fences and re-establishing old ties. In this vein, they sought to build on the Lebanese hostage deal by being part of ongoing efforts to release others, such as the two Orthodox bishops abducted by the opposition in Syria.
The country’s new emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani moved quickly to reopen channels with both Iran and Iraq, leaving behind their differences on Syria. Doha also came to an understanding with Turkey and Hamas to develop measures to deflect the Saudi Arabia campaign to wipe out the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence from the region.
Qatar also asked Lebanese security officials who were involved in freeing the Lebanese hostages to relay positive messages to both Hezbollah and Damascus, requesting that Doha play a role in the release of the Syrian women prisoners, which was negotiated separately and eventually led to the release of 40.
At this point, after expressions of goodwill sent through various channels between Doha and Beirut’s Dahiyeh, Hezbollah agreed to re-establish some ties with the Qataris, thus allowing for the resumption of direct communications between the two parties.
Damascus, however, was not eager to end its enmity toward the Gulf emirate, particularly given the destructive role Doha played in the Syrian crisis. Yet President Bashar al-Assad relented to communicating indirectly through the offices of Nasrallah.
It was not long before a Qatari official arrived in Lebanon bearing a letter from the emir to the Hezbollah leader, who agreed to meet with Doha’s envoy. After agreeing on improving ties, Qatar urged Resistance officials to help them break the ice with Damascus. Hezbollah, in turn, encouraged the Qataris to make an effort to contact Syrian officials directly to discuss the matter.
This was quickly agreed upon back in Doha, and before long, a Qatari official contacted Damascus. Although the conversation was deemed positive by both sides, the Syrian official told his Qatari caller that more time is needed before Assad can receive official visitors from the emirate in the presidential palace.
Al Akhbar (November 26, 2013)
Ibrahim al-Amin
It seems that the Future Party is seriously considering extending Lebanese President Michel Suleiman’s term in office, particularly if efforts to turn the tables on the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria fail.
But this is not a view shared by their Christian March 14 allies, who prefer to float candidates from among them as a possible alternative, although their chances of success remain slim.
Future leader Fouad Siniora, for example, would like to see March 14 nominate a weak Christian personality that cannot stand up to the Sunni prime minister, while at the same time provoking March 8’s number one contender Michel Aoun.
In this regard, Siniora believes that former minister John Obeid is eligible for the spot, particularly given that some elements of March 8 and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt have no objections to putting his name forward.
However, given the complicated and delicate situation in Syria, it may not be wise to go with an independent such as Obeid, and therefore March 14 is trying to float the idea of extension for Suleiman, hoping to convince him to take more hard-line positions toward Hezbollah.
No doubt the Lebanese president’s delayed visit to Saudi Arabia was part of this effort. Not only was Future leader Saad Hariri invited to Suleiman’s meeting with the Saudi king without his knowledge, but his royal host is said to have barely paid any attention to what Suleiman had to say, with some sources reporting that the monarch spoke little more than six words to the Lebanese president throughout the meeting.
So when Suleiman tried to talk about Lebanon’s policy of disassociation toward the crisis in Syria, hoping to convince the Saudi king of curtailing some of his country’s activities in Lebanon, the monarch simply said, “God willing.” When Suleiman explained the importance of the army in maintaining stability, the response was, “not necessarily.” Finally, when the president raised the need to form a new government, “not now” was the king’s stern retort.
When his earlier trip to the kingdom was canceled, Suleiman knew that he was being punished for not carrying out his responsibilities as Riyadh would have liked. The president was not doing enough to quickly form a government that would exclude Hezbollah, not to mention his reluctance to call out the Resistance on its involvement in the fighting in Syria.
When Suleiman returned from Saudi Arabia, many in March 14 felt uneasy, prompting them to try to shore up the president with talk about the Baabda
Declaration, which he considers one of his highest achievements in office. The Christians among them, however, did not want an early end to the presidential race, hoping they get a chance to prove their mettle by putting forward their own candidates.
But at the end of the day, they do not have any such privilege and are obligated to sit quietly until Riyadh makes its decision. The only role they can play now is to be part of an orchestra to demonize Hezbollah, thus justifying the terrorist attacks against it.
While everyone is waiting for some sort of breakthrough in the political deadlock, either due to developments in Syria or as a result of the recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, Suleiman prefers the status quo because it is what will allow him to stay in the presidential palace for several more years … God help us!
Al Joumhouria (Lebanese daily, close to March-14 coalition)
(November 30, 2013)
Speaker Nabih Berri said that he has requested that the United Nations draw a maritime demarcation line to protect Lebanon’s oil resources.
“I am waiting for the Americans’ response concerning my request for the UN to draw a maritime white line demarcating the maritime border, similar to the blue line drawn along Lebanon’s land border,” Berri said.
The speaker also said that the government, despite its caretaker status, should convene to study the oil resources issue. “I still support the government meeting over the oil issue, due to the threats that are affecting it.” He added that the limited scope of the work of a caretaker government should be expanded “when the issue that is being dealt with relates to the fundamental political or economic security of the country.”
Berri’s comments came as reports have emerged concerning a United States proposal for establishing a “maritime blue line” near Lebanon’s shore.
In April, a group of 46 firms qualified to bid on a first round of licenses to explore Lebanese offshore gas fields, with 12 qualified to bid as operators.
AFP (France-Press Agency, December 1st, 2013)
Three Lebanese nationals suspected of being Hezbollah members were cleared of terrorism charges in Nigeria on Friday but one of the accused was convicted of a weapons offence and jailed for life.
Mustapha Fawaz, Abdallah Thahini and Talal Ahmad Roda were arrested in May after the discovery of an arms cache in a residence in the northern Nigerian city of Kano.
They were accused of plotting attacks against Western and Israeli targets in Nigeria but denied the accusations.
Federal High Court Judge Adeniyi Adetokunbo Ademola said Hezbollah “is not an international terrorist organization in Nigeria” and therefore membership is not criminal.
He said there was “no evidence” that the group was planning an attack or had received “terrorism training” as the prosecution alleged.
All three men were also acquitted of money laundering charges.
But Roda was found guilty of conspiracy to import weapons into the country and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Defense lawyer for all three men Ahmed Raji told reporters after the hearing: “We are happy and slightly not comfortable with respect to the third accused [Roda].
“The most important thing is that the grave aspect of the charges, that is terrorism, was knocked out. We are happy about that.”
The trial featured several unexpected twists, including a testimony from Roda that an extremist cell in Nigeria had plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador.
In August, Fawaz testified that he had been harshly interrogated by Israeli security agents after his arrest.
He said the grilling was carried out by “six Israeli Mossad agents and one masked white man” who were primarily concerned with his contacts in Lebanon and demanded details of where weapons were stored in his home country.
Thahini testified that he collapsed after being denied sleep for five days in a similar interrogation by purported Israeli agents.
Fawaz owns a popular amusement park in the capital Abuja called Wonderland, which the court ordered should be re-opened after the ruling. He and Thahini were immediately released while Fawaz was escorted away in handcuffs, an AFP reporter in the court said.
The Guardian (British daily, November 27, 2013)
Jeremy Shaoira and Samuel Charap
On the heels of a successful Geneva agreement between the P5+1 and Iran, the announcement that the peace conference for Syria’s civil war –the Geneva II conference– will be held on 22 January is welcome news. But even if all sides actually show up to the meeting, there is considerable doubt as to whether a political settlement between the warring Syrian parties is possible at this stage. To increase the chances of success, the US and Russia should pursue a ceasefire among the regional supporters of the war as a precursor to Geneva II. Let’s call it “Geneva 1.5″.
The conflict in Syria is no longer a domestic struggle. It has become a regional proxy war, principally between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but with important roles played by Qatar, Turkey and Iraq. These external actors are fanning the flames of conflict and actively dissuading their Syrian allies from committing to Geneva II.
Thus far, no effort has explicitly addressed the role of regional actors in Syria and the conflicts between them. The Syrian factions would not be present as in Geneva II. Geneva I, which took place in July 2012, also did not include the Syrians but it focused on the principles of civil war resolution and excluded some of the key regional actors – particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia. The purpose of a Geneva 1.5 conference would be to facilitate eventual political resolution within Syria (executed in Geneva II) by first cutting off the activity of regional actors that fuels the conflict. The goal would be a ceasefire agreement.
The US and Russia could begin by bringing the key regional actors together to work on the question of humanitarian assistance in Syria and use that effort to move into discussions about the conflict and Syria’s future. The very act of getting the Saudis and the Iranians around the same table to discuss Syria would be a major breakthrough, but once they’re there, Washington and Moscow should push for genuine de-escalation. The key will be convincing all parties that they have little hope of realizing their maximalist goals and then finding a formula that can accommodate all sides’ interests in a future Syrian settlement.
Despite the myriad difficulties associated with this approach, there are reasons to think that such a deal might be possible. In Syria, Iran is wasting precious resources on a struggle that it cannot win and in the process validating the Saudi narrative of the Sunni-Shi’a split, destroying its standing in the Arab world. Iran may accept a settlement that protects its core interests of ensuring its connection with Hezbollah and Lebanon and preventing Damascus from being controlled by a puppet government of another power. The success of the nuclear talks might also have made Tehran more likely to engage.
Meanwhile, the Saudis are facing the growing threat that Syria is becoming an incubator of a brand of al-Qaida-linked extremism that might eventually threaten their own rule. Their path to victory in Syria looks increasingly unclear as the Assad regime continues to demonstrate its resilience. Simply put, the Saudis do not have the capacity to win a long proxy war with Iran. Therefore, they might see the benefits of a power-sharing arrangement in Damascus that would give them some influence with a Syrian transitional government. Despite these incentives, Turkey and Qatar, which maintain somewhat better relations with Iran, would have to be enlisted to pressure Saudi Arabia to attend and negotiate.
The United States and Russia are not neutral parties in the Syrian war, but they are nonetheless best positioned to lead a Geneva 1.5. They share an interest in ensuring that Islamist extremists do not gain control of Syria. The US has closer relations with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey and Russia has better ties with Iran. If Washington can demonstrate that it is serious about reining in its regional allies, Moscow might make a similar attempt to bring Iran to the table. Russia traditionally relishes the role of “guarantor” of the settlements to others’ wars.

Lebanon: Dangerous Proposal to Integrate Gangs into Security Forces

A Lebanese man carries a gun as he stands next to his motorcycle during a clashes between Sunnis and Alawites after a demonstration of the anti-Syrian regime protesters, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, on Friday June 17, 2011. (Photo: Archive – AP)
In spite of their continued reign of terror, the armed fighters of the North Lebanon city of Tripoli are ready to become part of the formal security forces. The proposal is the brainchild of Lebanese caretaker-Prime Minister Najib Mikati, yet the interior minister is perplexed.
Imagine Ziad Allouki, an armed gang chief in Tripoli, as an official commander of a police precinct. Should the Lebanese prepare themselves for such an event? Anything goes in this country. Anything includes the prospects of appointing wanted criminals accused of terrorizing innocent civilians no less, into positions of maintaining security.
Around two months ago, in a public chat with journalists, Mikati said he “discussed with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel the possibility of the integration of these people [gang members and leaders] into the Internal Security Forces (ISF), just like with the militias after the civil war, especially since there is a new cycle to recruit 2,000 new members soon.”
Mikati, whose portrait is displayed publicly in the offices of some of the militias, said he was “ready to help these young men find jobs, if they truly believed in remaining under the ceiling of the state and its authorities.”
Charbel Is Not Excited
Charbel does not seem excited about the suggestion, however, he did not reject it “in principle.” He used to be in the corps and was a brigadier general, therefore it is difficult for him when “the corps is insulted or undervalued.”
Charbel informs Al-Akhbar that Mikati’s proposal is “merely a suggestion, an idea for discussion and debate. But what I am certain of is that the law requires from all recruits to the security forces to have a clean judicial record and no prior criminal convictions. Therefore, I definitely cannot accept the enlistment of wanted criminals or prior convicts. Other than that, there’s no problem.”
Charbel confirms the ISF will be accepting 2,000 new recruits. “The security forces are still lacking in numbers according to the original mandate,” he explains. “But those who want to join need to clean their judicial record first.” Of course, the Lebanese do not need reminding that the state can withdraw arrest warrants as it wishes and even clear judicial records, no matter how sullied.
A Scourge of Taif
Mikati was clear in his proposal: He wants to replicate the post-Taif Agreement experience following the Lebanese civil war, when armed militias were integrated into the security forces. But this would address the effects and not the cause.
In 1990, after the civil war, the warlords signed the Taif Agreement, which stipulated: “Declaring the dissolution of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, with the reinforcement of the Internal Security Forces, through opening the door for recruitment of all Lebanese, with no exception, and their deployment into units in the governorates, following their participation in organized and regular training courses.”
The former militants definitely needed all sorts of training concerning morals and conduct, though likely less training was needed in carrying and deploying arms – they could’ve even trained the state in this regard.
One officer, who preferred to remain anonymous, explains how they introduced “their militia behavior into the state security forces.” He continues: “Mentalities cannot change overnight. That is if we assume that it could change after all the blood they shed in the war.” Some of them “are now officers, most of those reached the rank of major now. However, over time, they vanished into the body of the security forces and cannot be recognized.” But has it become difficult to make them out because the institutions themselves have taken on the character of militias?
In the early 1990s, “integration” was supervised by then-interior minister Sami al-Khatib. He faltered at first and it took more than the scheduled time. Ultimately, around 1,600 “militiamen” were integrated into various security forces and the Lebanese army, according to shares agreed upon by the warlords.
“Back then, this meant collecting soldiers from various regions and sects in unified units. It was a difficult decision, after they had served in sectarian brigades,” explains Brigadier General Elias Farhat of the Lebanese army. “Political powers were hesitant due to the objections of sectarian forces and apprehension of soldiers serving in areas they do not belong to.”
Adding Insult to Injury
Former commander of the gendarmerie Joseph Doueihy could not find words to describe the integration of “armed gangs” from Tripoli into the security forces. As an officer who was sent to retirement two months ago, he would feel “personally insulted if what they said happens. I was part of the corps for a long time and got wounded thrice in the line of duty against outlaws. And now they want to bring those in our place? Imagine a charlatan or thief becoming a priest or sheikh. Handing security to thugs is an issue that injures me deeply.”
“I am saying it publicly. We need to recruit honest young men or what they call sons of good families. Other than that, we would be hurting ourselves,” he says.
Provocation and Cajoling
It is interesting that those armed gangs and their chiefs believe the step “needs to be studied.” So, they do not mind joining the security forces in principle, but they need to think before putting their indispensable talents in the service of the state. This is what people close to armed gangs in Tripoli are saying.
A few days ago, Ziad Allouki sat in the chair of the ISF northern commander Mahmoud Anan and asked his friends to take pictures, before sharing them on social networking sites. The incident “hurt” the general, according to some, especially since the pictures were sent to officers and the interior minister. It was a message from the armed gangs that they were “the ones who decide.” It will not be surprising if one of them asks to sit in the interior minister’s chair one day.
Follow Mohamed Nazzal on Twitter.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

S.Nasrallah: Security,Oil in Lebanon Bear no Delay, Syrian Army Winner on Ground

Local Editor

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah stressed Monday that liberating the nine Lebanese citizens who were kidnapped and held in Syria’s Aazaz for 17 months gives hope to the families of the rest Lebanese missing and kidnapped people that their day of freedom is near to come.

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan NasrallahDuring a speech he delivered on the 25th anniversary of Al-Rasoul Al-Aazam hospital in Shahed School of Beirut southern suburb, Sayyed Nasrallah underlined the Syrian situation militarily and politically and the Lebanese internal situation regarding the oil file and the security developments.

His eminence congratulated Aazaz liberated Lebanese thanking all those who contributed to their freedom and emphasizing that the two bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazeji, must be freed, which represents a mutual concern between the Lebanese and the Syrian people.

All the Lebanese who were kidnapped due to the events in Syria must be freed, including Hassan al-Miqdad, Samir Kassa and the residents of Maaroub town,” Sayyed Nasralla said, stressing that someone should be delegated to follow-up on such affairs in order to know the responsible for the kidnapping and to “open the door for old files,” and calling the Lebanese judiciary to review the file to know reasons behind their kidnapping.

“If we are in a respectful state, humanitarian issues must be reviewed regardless any political aspects… Regarding the Indonesian boat (which sank last month) the Lebanon reclaimed its citizens… This is the school of Resistance which does not accept to keep prisoners and bodies of martyrs for its enemy,” His eminence noted, stating that there are more pending files with the Zionist enemy and the Syrian brother.

“As for the Israeli side, files regarding the missing Lebanese are still pending since the invasion and the occupation era, including Yahya Skaf. The Israeli army bears the responsibility of all those missing whether by Lebanese militia groups, Lahd army or Antony Haddad army,” Sayyed Nasrallah stated.

Hezbollah Secretary General also noted that “there are 17 thousand missing persons due to the Israeli occupation, including the four Iranian diplomats along with other people during the Lebanese war,” calling for “the formation of a serious framework and appointing of a certain party to follow-up on the matter.

“I’ve got a clear word from the Syrian government that aims at reaching a  reasonable ending for those files. This issue requires solution at the end of the day,” he stressed, underlying the case of Imam Sayyed Musa al-Sadr with whom contact had been lost since he went to Libya in 1979.

“Another very serious file emerges … The case of the Imam of Resistance who lifted oppression on people. The case which has nothing to do with a family, sect or people. It is all about the dignity of the nation. It is a pure national case … We’ve sent letters to Iran urging to exert double efforts to bring Imam Sadr’s case to an end,” his eminence said, pointing out that Moussa Koussa, former Libyan foreign minister during Moammar Gaddafi’s era, and Abdulla al-Sanosi are wandering in the Arab capitals’ hotels while they both had worked for the Libyan intelligence and know the place of Imam Sadr.

“There is also another man whom the Libyan authorities must interrogate. He is found in the prison and they are hindering the matter.”

Lebanon: Al-Rasoul Al-Aazam Hospital

Domestically, Sayyed Nasrallah expressed beliefs that Syrian events are affecting everything in Lebanon, because a certain Lebanese party hindered matters on the basis of waiting the results in Syria and the fall of President Bashar al-Assad, and that there are people who do not want to rturn to Lebanon only via Damascus airport.
“The Lebanese people become sick of hindering accusations, and they know – more than others – who is hindering the Parliament, the legislation, the dialogue, the caretaker cabinet sessions and the formation of a new government,” his eminence said.

On Syria, Sayyed Nasrallah noted that major development occurred during the last months, where the battlefield evolves in favor of the Syrian army, underlying the inability of armed groups to change the game rules, due to the international and Arab change of direction following opposition limitations to unify ranks and the failure of any possible military action on Syria.

“The whole world believes that there will be no military solution for Syria. The available and acceptable solution is the political one,” Sayyed Nasrallah stated, adding that “the available way for political option is through dialogue without precondition.

“Talks on Geneva II conference open horizons regardless conditions and details. Lebanon and all peoples of the region must push towards the political solution in Syria,” he said, indicating that there are regional countries very mad about what is going on in the region, “i.e. the Saudi Arabia, which is not secret, that attracted tens of thousands of fighters from across the world,” and provided them with $ 30 billion so far, along with weapons, incitement, mass media and other tools.

They (the Saudis) did their best to topple Syria but they failed.

“The region cannot keep ablaze just because there are angry countries. There is a state which wants to hinder the dialogue and to postpone Geneva II, but all those who oppose the political solution in Syria are drinking from the same well. Those who oppose the solution want more destruction in Syria, in the regional states and in Palestine,” his eminence highlighted.

Sayyed Nasrallah made it clear that stubbornly has no horizons at all, and catching the opportunity of dialogue is a chance for all other parties:

“All those whose hearts beat for the Syrian people must point their fingers at the party which hinders the political solution… It is the responsibility of the nation. Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League are calling for a political solution.”

Hezbollah Secretary General voiced beliefs that the local, regional and international front which worked on toppling the regime in Syria have failed.

Sayyed Nasrallah also called March 14 bloc and al-Mustaqbal party not to hinder the formation of the new Lebanese cabinet, warning that any delay will improve the situation of the other party, indicating that the chain of salaries, the oil file, the electoral draft law and the presidency of the Republic are all pending issues that must be solved.

Your bets on Syria have failed,” he told March 14 figures, adding that everyone feels the country is disabled.

“March 14 believes that the solution is to form cabinet before going to dialogue, before the legislation and before other things. We’ve agreed upon the 9-9-6 formula but they haven’t. If they agreed, the country would be better, there would be room for dialogue, the parliament would return to tackle the people’s affairs, and all resolutions which do not need the approval of two thirds would pass. We can solve all other problems,” Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah stated.

“If there isn’t any possibility to form the cabinet, is it acceptable to disable the parliament for unconstitutional reasons?” he asked, pointing that the vast majority of the ministers agree on holding a cabinet session to review the oil file and the security events in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, but there are  heavy political pressure since caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati resigned.

If only those for whom Mikati resigned respect him. They attack him every day,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, adding that there are two serious files that bear no delay.

Firstly, his eminence urged the government to tackle the oil file without preconditions, indicating that “the Israelis are working day and night while we cannot meet,” describing such obstacles as “failure to do our duties” regarding this matter.


Secondly, Sayyed Nasrallah called for handling the Lebanese security situation in general and Tripoli events in particular, stating that what is going on in the northern city is painful for everyone and what we really need is the political will and a definite decision that the Lebanese army and other security apparatuses to handle situation there.

“This is the solution. the only solution is to call on the Lebanese army and the state, not to call on the Al-Nusra Front and ISIL (the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant),” he stressed.

His eminence urged clerics in Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods in Tripoli to issue Fatwas that ban fighting and shooting at the army, noting that “state agencies know about the bombings and explosions, they know the locations of booby-trapped cars but didn’t move a finger.”

Perpetrators shouldn’t have any political cover because every explosion is condemned and all the people are under risk,” he said.

Sayyed Nasrallah expressed hopes that a national humanitarian establishment to be created, indicating that not only the Christian presence is threatened, but entire peoples in the region as well.
“The entire region is moving towards more conflicts,” he said.

“Therefore, shall we act with the mentality that our country needs careful attention?” Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah ended up asking.

Source: Al-Manar Website
28-10-2013 – 17:07 Last updated 28-10-2013 – 19:31

TRIPOLI , LEBANON , UNDER THREAT

Tripoli, Lebanon, is burning and have become under the mercy of the multiple armed factions financed by the Saudis . This is the Saudi present to Lebanon, a poisoned present indeed to transfer the Syrian conflict to Lebanon whereby the thugs of the opposition are anticipating the battle of the Qalamoun on the Lebanese/Syrian borders and threatening to to break into the Alawite quarter of Djebel Muhsin and invade it in retaliation . This means that Tripoli will be set on fire .
This has been prepared long time ago whereby Intelligence people working on the ground are setting the plan for the next move . Local politicians are also involved in this mess seeking their own interests whereby it is said the 80% of the thugs in control of the various quarters are affiliated the PM of the resigned Government Mr.Mikati and now these so called leaders have become out of control.
The security plan set by the local political forces in Tripoli have not been applied and remained ink on paper and there is great escalation in what threatens to become a real sectarian war between Alawites and Sunnis in the second capital of Lebanon . This is due to the fact that the army has not received orders to interfere and take things under control even though the Lebanese Army is qualified for such a thing .
The Saudis -through al Hariri Group- are fueling these differences in Tripoli and want to control Lebanon and making him pay the price of the Victories achieved by the Syrian Army.

Feisal Abdul Sater: On Lebanon and Syria

فيصل عبد الساتر _ مع الحدث / المنار 07 10 2013

Lebanon: Consolation Prizes for PM Losers

Published Saturday, April 6, 2013
 
A Saudi friend asked me yesterday: When Ghazi Kanaan used to impose his orders on Lebanese officials, did he at least let them claim that they were the ones who came up with the idea? This is how Walid Jumblatt claims he brought Tammam Salam to the post of prime minister.
Outgoing prime minister Najib Mikati, on the other hand, has a long explanation for what pushed him to resign. Mikati had hoped for that President Michel Suleiman would hold on to him as a partner in running the country. He was even ready to entertain Suleiman’s wishes for a bigger piece of the government.

Jumblatt went to sleep with the nomination key around his neck. He understood the magnitude of recent economic and international transformations. However, he thought he could re-nominate Mikati by making a deal with March 8 and convincing the Saudis of a governmental formula that would allow March 14 to join the government.
The accord between Suleiman, Mikati, and Jumblatt was supported – or at least not rejected – by influential Arab and western capitals. They wanted him to carry out a palace coup against Hezbollah and its allies.
They aimed for taming the Resistance and telling it that times have changed. They wanted to entice Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri with his own space, away from Hezbollah, and give Michel Aoun a choice between “being realistic” or stepping back to the benefit of others.

Many stories and rumors are circulating about those difficult final hours. However, one thing’s for sure: it was not part of the Three Musketeers’ calculations.
First of all, Hezbollah surprised Mikati by not holding on to him as prime minister. To be more precise, they were not ready to pay additional costs by keeping the current government.
Second, the West surprised Mikati by indicating that getting rid of this government has become desirable. They were also not worried about instability and could ask their allies in Lebanon to ease the tensions.
Third, the Saudis surprised Jumblatt by welcoming Mikati’s resignation, ending their campaign against him in return.
All of a sudden, they all found themselves in a dark tunnel. It was a constant headache for Michel Suleiman. The March 8 government did not accept his plan for the parliamentary elections and ignored his decision to seclude himself. To top it all off, he was informed of the decision to name Salam as if he was a regular MP.
Mikati discovered that he was quickly pulled out of the race. Last minute developments indicated that only Hezbollah stood by his side and had proposed his return. He was morally compensated by allowing him to announce his withdrawal before Salam’s nomination was announced.
However, the “quarrel” will be with Jumblatt, who was late to realize that the margin of maneuver was narrow. His consolation is telling the public that he was the one who brought Salam.
Jumblatt, who is nevertheless frantic for several reasons, did not realize he was tripping over his shadow. It is enough to watch him speak about the Syrian crisis, describing “disengagement” as Mikati’s most important achievement, then accusing Hezbollah and groups in the North of violating this position. Then, to remind people of his stature, he sits up, lifts his eyebrows, and calls for the killing of any Druze who supports Bashar al-Assad.
The cost of the uncalculated adventure of the Knights of Wasted Time was to quickly push Lebanon from the sponsorship of Anjar and Awkar, to the patronship of Bandar. God knows if it will stop at this.
Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
 

Lebanon: Tammam Salam’s Path to Prime Minister

Riyadh had to choose one of two names: Salam or Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi, head of the Internal Security Forces. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)
 
Published Friday, April 5, 2013
 
How did Lebanon and Saudi Arabia’s power brokers decide on Tammam Salam as the country’s next prime minister? Al-Akhbar explains how former prime minister Mikati’s calculations failed him and paved the way for Salam’s rise.

When former prime minister Fouad Siniora delivered his speech to the massive crowds at the funeral of Wissam al-Hassan, the assassinated intelligence chief, standing next to him was none other than Tammam Salam.

Last night, Siniora and Salam were side-by-side once again, this time at Saad Hariri’s downtown mansion. The Arab and international signal had been given to begin negotiations on a new prime minister. With that, MP Salam is now the next prime minister in waiting.

Today is the beginning of a new phase in a path that was plotted months ago. Riyadh had to choose one of two names: Salam or Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi, head of the Internal Security Forces. The latter had been asked two months ago, but he nominated Rafik Hariri’s sister and Saida MP Bahia Hariri. She preferred to run for parliament.

In those two months, the situation took a different turn. Rifi was slated for an extension in his position, but fell into the quarrel between Hezbollah and MP Michel Aoun, on one side, and Mikati, on the other.

In the last few days, the Saudis proposed Rifi’s name to its visitors. The last such visitor was MP Walid Jumblatt, who found it difficult to defend a character who is “confrontational” with Hezbollah.

Like they did with Mikati, however, the Saudis wanted to push Jumblatt into a final and decisive position. Then, they put Salam’s name in the negotiation basket.

Rifi was picked by both Hariri and the Saudis for several reasons. His security abilities would be useful to control the situation in Tripoli and Saida. He has good ties with the Arab (read: Saudi) and Western intelligence communities.

Salam is a purely Saudi suggestion. Hariri was unhappy with the choice until the last moment. However, Hariri did not want to give back the clout to someone who had kept a distance from the Future Movement.

But the Saudis spoke and Hariri met the son of former prime minister Saeb Salam. Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Sultan met with Hariri and, all of a sudden, Salam became the opposition candidate. The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon went around Beirut informing all those concerned of Riyadh’s position.

Jumblatt chose the easiest of the two names, Salam, as a candidate for consensus, given first by March 14, before March 8 had announced its position.

Mikati’s Sin

When Mikati threatened to resign for the “umpteenth” time, there was no one to stop him this time. He committed a serious error in an appropriate time and situation. He thought he was indispensable; everyone will come back to him or Arab and Western capitals will call for his return. But his political calculations failed.

The capitals demonstrated that their support for the current government was weak. They were primarily concerned with the question of Lebanon’s stability. As Paris told Mikati on the eve of his visit in February 2012, they will receive the Lebanese prime minister, no matter who he is.

This was repeated yesterday. Mikati is a guarantee for Lebanon’s stability only as long as he is head of government. Otherwise, a replacement is ready and all governments will be willing to deal with his successor.

When he resigned, Mikati could not find anyone to support him. Hezbollah and Aoun owed him nothing. Only Jumblatt remained at his side until he was accused of politically burning him.

Mikati, the MP from Tripoli, had come to power in alliance with the Future Movement and then turned against them. Hariri has declared a veto on Mikati as prime minister and as MP in the next elections.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
 

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

 

 

Lahoud: Syria Triumphs Under Assad Leadership

 

Fatima Salemeh

Former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud warned of the dangerous phase Lebanon is undergoing, noting it is a delicate phase in regard to the chaos and difficulties it faces.

In an interview with al-Ahed news, Lahoud said “This is the most dangerous phase we live since I was army chief. Lebanese officials have acknowledged that one million refugees from Syria have moved to live in Lebanon, yet we do not know their nationalities. They might not be Syrian, rather they might be extremists from Arab countries (Yemen, Libya…). They have arrived with arms and money, we do not even know how, but this is omen of ruin to Lebanon.”

With regard to the government, Lahoud viewed that the PM Najib Mikati’s resignation did not cause any change on the Lebanese arena. “This government dealt with a few routine administrative matters, it served as a caretaker government,” Lahoud considered.

The former Lebanese President assured that the golden formula of the Army-People-Resistance cannot be annulled, adding “They tried to end this equation with the help of former PM Fouad Seniora, but we did not allow them to do so.”

“We must maintain the strength of Lebanon by preserving its honorable Resistance and its party Hizbullah, which stands in face of the “Israeli” enemy. It should not be distracted by internal sectarian issues,” he stated.


Lahoud went on to say “We assure that Lebanon will form a government with the golden formula topping its agenda list. There is no Lebanon, Palestine, or right to return without the tripartite equation. It is a hundred times better to stay in a caretaker government than to withdraw the word “Resistance” from the ministerial statement.

Lahoud called on all religious sects to join the Resistance, underscoring, “How can we give up on this resistance which confronts “Israel” and prevents it from re-occupying our land?!”

The former President, commenting on the Arab summit that was lately held in Doha, said “The Qatari Emir was tasked to suggest again annulling the fourth item of the so-called Arab peace initiative

(concerned with the right of the Palestinians’ return).”
According to Lahoud, this talk about annulling item 4 of the initiative directly targets one of Lebanon’s main strength pillars.


“They are trying to deviate us from confronting “Israel”, they are trying to bring the Resistance to an end,” he accentuated.


On the election law, Lahoud said “It is best that the Lebanese agree on one electoral law, which can be reached by popular vote, that way the people will chose what they want.”

Moving on to the Syrian file, Lahoud assured that Syria remains strong under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad. He censured the Western campaign launched against him, reminding that the same scenario had taken place at the time the Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser was in office and had called for patriotism and nationalism.
Lahoud feared that the end of the conflict in Syria will lead extremists to target Lebanon instead.

“Today, the Russians will not agree to topple the Syrian regime, because extremist ethnicities will reach in the heart of Moscow,” he stated.

He feared that the end of the conflict in Syria will lead extremists to target Lebanon instead. The former President finally assured “The Assad regime will not fall apart, because it enjoys the support of the people, also it is backed by the Russian Veto.”

 

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Lebanon .. The Victim of U.S. commands

 
د. نسيب حطيط
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أوائل شهر آذار، دعت السفيرة الأميركية كونيللي إلى ضرورة إجراء الانتخابات في موعدها وفق قانون الستين، وتقصدت بشكل خبيث توزيع بيانها من مقر الرئاسة الثانية، في الوقت الذي كانت الرئاستان الأولى والثالثة توقعان على مرسوم دعوة الهيئات الناخبة في حزيران،

بشكل يوحي أن المايسترو الأميركي قرر ودعا وأذاع نيابة عن اللبنانيين ومؤسساتهم التشريعية والتنفيذية، صيغة قانون الانتخاب وموعدها، وبقي إعلان نتائجها التي ستحددها الأموال الخليجية، وذلك لإنجاز الانتخابات النيابية قبل نهاية العام 2013 لتأمين انتخاب رئيس الجمهورية المقبل وفق المصالح الأميركية، وذلك للتفرغ لمعركة رئاسة الجمهورية في سورية حتى العام 2014 لقناعة الأميركيين، بأن إسقاط الرئيس الأسد صار شبه مستحيل وتجاوز توصيف الصعب، ولا يمكن لأميركا وأتباعها العرب خوض معركتي الرئاسة في سورية ولبنان في آن واحد.

يطالب البعض بالسيادة ولا يحركون ساكناً عندما تغتصب سياسياً وأمنياً من الأميركيين، حتى كاد السفير جيفري فيلتمان يوصف بقائد ثورة الأرز، بما يشبه دور “برنار هنري ليفي” في الثورة الليبية وغيرها من الثورات العربية، ولا يتحرك السياديون في 14 آذار عندما تغتصب بالخروقات “الإسرائيلية”، لكن آذانهم تسمع صفير أي طلقة سورية ترد على المسلحين المتسللين من لبنان، ويضغط البعض ويحرق الصهاريج السورية لاستعادة جثث القتلى الذين هاجموا الأراضي السورية، ويدينوا الجيش السوري لأنه دافع عن أرضه وشعبه!

أعلنت كونيللي بعد استقالة الحكومة، ضرورة تأليف حكومة يشكلها اللبنانيون، لكن المشكلة أننا لا نعرف من هم اللبنانيون؟ هل هم السفراء الغربيون، وعلى رأسهم كونيللي، وهل حلفاء سورية والمقاومة هم لبنانيون أم أن تعريف اللبناني يقتصر على حلفاء أميركا و”إسرائيل” في لبنان.

ينتظر اللبنانيون أن تتفق أحزابهم وطوائفهم وزعماؤهم على شكل وتوقيت الحكومة، لكن الوقائع توحي بعكس ذلك، فالإذن بتأليف الحكومة وشكلها وموعدها ليس بيد القوى اللبنانية، فلها حق المشاركة والتنفيذ، لكن القرار هو خارج الحدود ويرتبط بالمشهد السياسي للمنطقة وبالأحداث السورية بشكل خاص، وقد سقطت الحكومة اللبنانية عندما تشكلت حكومة المعارضة السورية والحكومة الجديدة لن تبصر النور إلا إذا حددت أهداف تأليفها وفق المحاور الآتية:

– حكومة لإجراء انتخابات تؤدي إلى فوز 14آذار لاستعادة السلطة والأمن استعداداً للمرحلة المقبلة لحصار سورية بشكل أكثر إيلاماً.

– حكومة للتهدئة السياسية “بانادول سياسي” لتقطيع الأشهر القادمة، بانتظار جلاء الموقف الإقليمي واتجاه الرياح السورية، بحيث تكون الحكومة الجديدة لا طعم ولا موقف ولا قرار.

– حكومة تمثل نسخة مكررة عن الحكومة السابقة، وبرئاسة الرئيس ميقاتي، الذي يعود مرتاحاً من أثقاله داخل “الطائفة السنية”، ومن ضغط المستقبل خصوصاً، مما يتيح له حرية حركة أكثر، مقابل التضحية بعدم الترشح للانتخابات النيابية المقبلة.

لكن بعض المؤشرات تدل على خيار آخر يربح الجميع فيه ويعفون أنفسهم من مسؤولية اتخاذ القرار وفق السيناريو التالي:

– إطالة المشاورات لتأليف الحكومة حتى لو تم تكليف رئيس لتشكيلها لكسب الوقت.

– تمديد ولاية المجلس النيابي لأكثر من سنة، وذلك لإقرار قانون انتخابي جديد “قانون مختلط”، ويعهد إلى المجلس الحالي انتخاب رئيس الجمهورية الجديد أو تعديل ولايته بالتمديد أيضاً.

– التمديد للقادة الأمنيين والتخلص من المرشحين منهم للانتخابات النيابية أو لرئاسة الجمهورية.

– انتظار الاصطفافات الإقليمية والدولية الجديدة بعد قمة الدوحة التي ستقلب بعض التحالفات، خصوصاً على الساحة الفلسطينية.. والسؤال المطروح، هل تعود “فتح” ومنظمة التحرير إلى التعاون مع سورية والمقاومة، مقابل هجرة “حماس” إلى المحور القطري – التركي.

إن معظم القوى السياسية في لبنان تنتظر نتائج أحداث سورية، وقد راهنت قوى 14 آذار على سقوط النظام، وانتظرت العودة عبر مطار دمشق، وعاندت وقاطعت طوال سنين، ولم يحدث شيء مما راهنت عليه، وإذا بقيت على رهانها، ستنتظر طويلاً وتدخل في دائرة التقاعد السياسي أو المنفى الاختياري طويلاً، فإن لم يستطع النظام السوري الحسم لصالحه، فلن تستطيع أميركا وحلفاؤها إسقاطه أيضاً، ويمكن أن تكون أمام مشهد التجربة الأفغانية والعراقية الطويلة، التي انتهت مع كل القوة الأميركية إلى فشل المشروع الأميركي إلا شيء واحد هو تدمير أفغانستان والعراق، وما زالت طواحين الموت تدمر سورية، وهذا ما ستنجح فيه أميركا وحلفاؤها، ولكن العصا التركية والخليجية التي تحرك بهما أميركا النار في سورية ستحترق كلما طالت الأزمة، وستكون الدول الخليجية الداعمة والممولة للمسلحين أول الخاسرين، لأنها لا تملك مقومات القوة الرادعة، ولأن أميركا لا تحمي حلفاءها، بل تحمي مصالحها وستبدلهم كما تبدل الثياب الممزقة أو المتسخة.

إن مشكلة السياسيين في لبنان، أنهم مياومون بالسياسة، ويتصرفون على أن لبنان مستقل وسيد وحر، وأنه جزيرة معزولة عن العالم والمحيط، وهذا تقدير خاطئ فيشغلون أنفسهم بالتصريحات في الداخل، بينما الحقيقة المرة والقاتلة، أن القرار “خارجي” بامتياز، ونحن الضحايا منذ العام 1975.

لقد انتهى عصر الأحادية الأميركية، وصار الروس والصينيون وحلفاؤهم شركاء في رسم المشهد السياسي، ومثلما تستطيع أميركا إشعال الحرب في سورية وغيرها، تستطيع كوريا الشمالية وحلفاؤها إشعال التوتر والحرب في شرق آسيا، ولا بد أن يفهم البعض أن أميركا حشدت حلفاءها ضد سورية وتقودهم من بعيد، وتفاوض باسمهم، لكنها وقعت بالخصومة المباشرة مع كوريا الشمالية، وبقي الروس والصينيون يراقبون عن بعد، ولا بد من قراءة مشهد عالمي جديد، يؤكد أن أميركا باتت مهددة، وهذا أول السقوط المعنوي والتراجع الميداني.

المشكلة أن البعض في لبنان يعتقد أنه إذا امتلك بضعة نواب أو بعض المسلحين، فإنه قادر على تغيير العالم والواقع يكذب ذلك، فكلنا ضعفاء إذا لم نحصن بلدنا من الخارج المستعمر، وندفع ثمن قتلنا بالمماطلة بملفي النفط والغاز الذي تحاول أميركا و”إسرائيل” السيطرة عليه بالضغط لمصادرة سلاح المقاومة، ليسهل على اللصوص سرقة ثرواتنا وكرامتنا.. لكنهم سيفشلون، والهزيمة لهم، وإن كانت أثمان تضحياتنا كبيرة.

الثبات

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

ORIENT TENDENCIES: THE DISGRACE OF THE ARABS

Posted on April 1, 2013 by
Monday April 1, 2013, no125
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

US meddling in Lebanon

By Ghaleb Kandil

The resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati is mainly due to the positions of the United States and the West vis-à-vis the Lebanese internal balance and its relationship with the new electoral law. This is a response to 8-March and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which torpedoed the 1960 Act by preventing the formation of the Supervisory Commission elections.

The United States ambassador, Maura Connelly, gave the kickoff of escalation three weeks ago, insisting on the need to hold elections as scheduled, regardless of the electoral law.

Washington and the West are aware that any law other than that 1960 on will be subject to the determination of the Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai and General Michel Aoun to put an end to the injustice suffered by Christians in electoral matters since the Taif agreement. The U.S. and Western policy makers are convinced that the proportional electoral system and the Orthodox project (each community elects its own members) would put an end to the hegemony of their allies: a third of the seats would go to Sunni opponents of the Hariri clan; Christian representation would essentially goes to FPM. And if the blocks of the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb will increase, it will be at the expense of Christians elected on the lists of Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt.

The decline of the Western presence in Parliament will result in an automatic decline of its influence in the choice of the future President of the Republic, who is elected by the Chamber of Deputies.
All these issues are entangled with the determination of General Michel Aoun to reject all extension of the Parliament mandate, which expires in June, the President of the Republic mandate, which ends in May 2014.

Consultations for the selection of a new Prime Minister and for the formation of the next government are related to these political issues. Thus, despite discreet contacts made between the different political forces to try to reach acceptable scenario, the situation remains unclear. Political circles say that the Lebanese have to get used to the idea of ​​a long period of current affairs government, as it is difficult for the various actors to reach agreement on a new electoral law. And if the American auxiliaries in Lebanon try to attempt a move on the ground, it will result in a new balance that will certainly not be in their favor.

U.S. limits and divides opposition

The latest developments have proved that the U.S. plan which is to mobilize and send terrorists in Syria and weapons to rebel groups has reached its peak. The decision of the Arab League arming terrorists has retroactive effect, which seeks to justify actions already undertaken. It is no longer a secret that 3500 tons of weapons, transported aboard 130 aircrafts were sent to Syria in the last three months. And despite all forms of support, Syrian opposition is undermined by divergences and traversed by outside influence. France-Press Agency sheds light on this aspect:

Divisions within the Syrian opposition have brought to light the extent of a regional struggle led to blows money, media propaganda and weapons between the Qatar-Turkey axis and Saudi Arabia, close to American politics. “Our people refuse any supervision. Regional and international disputes have complicated the situation”, said the president of the opposition coalition, Moaz Ahmed Al-Khatib, in a speech to the Arab summit in Doha.

Simultaneously, some 70 opposition figures denounced in a message to the Arab summit a policy of “exclusion” followed by the Coalition, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, and a “scandalous Arab and regional hegemony ” on opposition, referring to Qatar.
“There is a struggle between two main axis that do not represent the entire opposition but are essential for material aid and military aids. Qatar/Turkey axis supports the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi axis in harmony with the United States”, said Ziad Majed, a political science professor at the American University of Paris. “This has an impact on the internal composition of the political opposition and the affiliation of various military groups”, he added.

At the meeting of the Coalition in Istanbul, the participants expressed their divisions between supporters and opponents of an “interim government” to manage the “liberated zones”.

Some critics have denounced Ghassan Hitto, elected head of the government, as “Qatar’s candidate,” and others have suspended their group membership.

For Mr. Majed, “Saudi-American axis preferred to postpone the formation of the interim government and the axis Qatar/Turkey wanted to form it quickly and would have pushed to choose Hitto.” 

The rivalry between the rich oil monarchies of the Gulf and neighboring Turkey, seeking a regional power, is also reflected in the military.

After the meeting in Istanbul, Riyadh has hinted that it was “unhappy with the choice of Hitto, leading the Free Syrian Army (SLA) to reject this choice”, told AFP an opponent who requested the anonymity.

Daraya rebel fighters in the province of Damascus tell AFP that because the lack of arms and ammunition, they were on the verge of losing the city, besieged by the regime for more than three months. But, says one of them, “when Mr. Khatib made his offer of dialogue with the regime, weapons flowed quickly. This means that the weapons were stored at the border”.

According to an Arab specialist, weapons sent by Qatar are arriving to groups close to the Muslim Brotherhood via Turkey.

However, he adds, the Saudis prefer to fund and arm the military councils led by army dissidents “for fear of the increasing role of radical Islamists”, an approach supported by the United States. Saudi deliveries now arrive by the Jordanian border.
As for Salafi, including Al-Nosra Front they are funded based NGOs including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, according to the specialist on Syria, who does not want to be named.

Regional rivalry is also played in the media, especially television Al-Jazeera in Qatar and Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned chain, competing to provide a forum for various opposition groups (AFP).

Statements

Michel Sleiman, Lebanese president
«We agreed with Patriarch Rai that elections should be held as scheduled at any price. The duty of government is to organize elections, to ensure peace and security in Lebanon and reduce the impact of the Syrian crisis on the country. Most Lebanese do not want the 1960 Electoral Act, but all the Lebanese want the elections to take place on time. Not organizing elections is a great sin and come to a political vacuum is a mortal sin. I will not sign the extension of Parliament mandate. Political parties are responsible for the current situation. They must agree on a new electoral law as soon as possible.»

Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president
«I called Brics leaders to work together to stop immediately the violence in Syria to ensure the success of the political solution. This requires a clear international commitment to dry up the sources of terrorism, to stop its funding and its equipment. You who seek to bring peace, security and justice in today’s troubled world, put all your efforts to stop the suffering of the Syrian people, caused by unfair economic sanctions, contrary to international law, and which affect directly the lives and daily needs of our citizens. I express the desire of the Syrian people to work with Brics countries as a force just trying to bring peace, security and cooperation between countries, away from the hegemony and injustice imposed on our peoples and our nations for decades.»

Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement

«The Electoral Orthodox project is the only legitimate one. This is our only chance to ensure a fair and balanced representation of the Christian community. The Taif Agreement provides a balanced representation of all communities. Lebanon has already gone through a similar situation. We want a new electoral law before the formation of a new government, it is our priority. Mikati did his best and he was very cooperative. I would participate in a meeting of the dialogue if the discussion focuses on the electoral law. »

Samir Geagea, Leader of the Lebanese Forces
«One government can save Lebanon, a government formed from Mars-14 personalities and centrists. Thus, we could adopt a new electoral law in Parliament. Hezbollah has tried his luck in trying to govern, and then we were opponents. He should do the same today. The proposal to form a national unity government is not possible.»

Sergei Lavrov, Russian minister of Foreign Affairs
«We received with deep regret the outcome of the Arab League summit in the capital of Qatar. Decisions adopted at Doha mean that the League has waived the peaceful solution. Recognizing the Syrian opposition coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people destroyed all settlement efforts, including Arab League. The mediator of the UN and the League for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will no longer pursue its mission. There will be no possible negotiation between the government and the opposition in Syria, I really do not see how Mr. Brahimi will be able to fulfill its mandate as a mediator.»

François Hollande, French president
«Paris will not send any weapons to the Syrian opposition fighters until it has a tangible proof that these weapons will not fall in the hands of any terrorist group.»
Events

Ø A British report indicates that hundreds of Muslims, with British, French and other countries of the European Union passports, are participating in hostilities in Syria in the ranks of radical groups, and may return to Europe. According to the document, the radical extremists are able to carry out terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage. “It would be foolish to believe that radical Islamists decide one day that Europeans are their friends, says Sergei Demidenko, a Russian political analyst. The West will always be their potential target”. Sources give different figures – from 3-10000 mercenaries. All agree that they are part of al-Nosra Front linked to Al-Qaeda.

Ø A delegation of national and Islamic parties, led by the head of international relations at Hezbollah, Ammar Moussawi, visited China at the invitation of the Chinese Association for International Understanding. The members of the delegation met with officials of the Chinese Communist Party and parliamentary personalities.

Ø Turkey has expelled hundreds of Syrians refugees after clashes with military police, said a Turkish official. “These people were involved in violence. They were seen by surveillance cameras in the camp”, the official said. “From 600 to 700 people were expelled. Security forces continue to review video footage and if they discover other people, they will be deported”, he added.

Press review

As Safir (Lebanese daily, close to the majority, March 29, 2013)

Dialogue between the President of the Chamber, Nabih Berry, and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Michel Aoun is blocked due to differences relating to the convening of a Parliament plenary to vote the electoral law and the extension of the mandate of the security institutions. Hezbollah has not lost hope. In a final attempt, the political assistant of the secretary general of Hezbollah, Hajj Hussein Khalil, met with president Nabih Berry in the presence of Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. There were reports of a possible intervention of Marada leader, MP Sleiman Franjieh, to mediate between the two ” forced allies.”

The last hours of consultations show that the former prime minister, Saad Hariri, has not yet decided over the issue of his candidacy to succeed Najib Mikati, although Saudi Arabia is not enthusiastic about the idea, while Qatar, Turkey and Britain, as well as other capitals, would support the continuation of the outgoing Prime Minister. The position of these countries aroused reserves of the Future Movement who believes that if we had a process of elimination, it should start with the name of Mikati which should be deleted of the list of potential prime ministers, because the “man is undesirable.”

At this point, MP Walid Jumblatt is embarrassed after he had provided guarantees to President Nabih Berry and Hezbollah. The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party now arises the following questions: How will I do if Saad Hariri is a candidate? Can I deceive him again? What price should I pay? What will be my attitude if he proposes another candidate? How do I act with Najib Mikati to whom I promised to stay with him? Could I disappoint Hezbollah and Nabih Berry in consultations for the choice of prime minister?

An Nahar (Lebanese Daily, close to march-14 coalition)

Sabine Oueiss (March 25, 2013)

The Syrian crisis will worsen and pressure against Hezbollah will intensify. Which would have deprived the Lebanese government of the international recognition, under the pretext that the distinction is no more possible between its president and the Hezbollah. As well as the assumption that the government is guaranteeing the stability of Lebanon lapses, especially that Lebanon is in the eye of the Syrian storm and warnings about the need to keep it away from this crisis are now ineffective. At the same time, the countdown began for constitutional deadlines.

Najib Mikati’s resignation is a way out for all, including Hezbollah. A current affairs government, where the minister is the only master on board of his ministry, is preferable to an cabinet that has become a burden for the party, especially since it lost productivity and became the hostage of external commitments of the Prime Minister.

Government sources give a reading at the post-resignation. They said the resignation came at the right time after the government had reached the limit of what he could do and that the need for change has become more urgent. The slogans of yesterday are no longer valid.

These sources draw the following scenario: In a first step, Najib Mikati is reappointed as prime minister after parliamentary consultations. Then the Speaker Nabih Berry convene a parliamentary session to discuss the electoral law. In the proposed agenda are the Orthodox project and other drafts. Consultations for the formation of the government will take time and go through shocks.

Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Resistance, March 29, 2013)

Jamal al-Ghorabi

To get to the Sayyida Zainab shrine from central Damascus, one must take the Airport Road. Until recently, this route was considered too dangerous because of flying rebel roadblocks and falling mortar shells. Yet following an army offensive into the capital’s suburbs, access has become easier.
Once you pass the army checkpoints and fortified military positions, you are almost to the gold-domed shrine that is the burial place of Zainab Bint-Ali, granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad and a revered figure for Shia Muslims.

At the entrance to the nearby market is a checkpoint manned by members of the local Popular Committees. Once inside, the alleys are lined with signs in Farsi. Many of the shops cater to the busloads of Iranian pilgrims who used to make pilgrimages to this area on the southern outskirts of Damascus.

In the market, business does not seem booming. Trade has dwindled since pilgrims have become targets of kidnappers. Unsold goods are piled up in the stores. Most shops display portraits of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah alongside Bashar al-Assad. Shia religious slogans are plastered on all surfaces. Banners call for the shrine to be defended until martyrdom.
To enter the actual shrine, you must first undergo a search conducted by the Abul-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, the main protectors of the site. Young men, their badges identifying them as members, smile before searching visitors, and apologize to them afterwards, explaining that it is due to the security situation.

Inside, calm prevails. Three young boys converse in a language that turns out to be Baluchi. They have come from Pakistan with their parents to visit the shrine, explained their father Hassan. His niqab-covered wife refused to speak, but when asked why they chose to make the journey at this time, Hassan explained that he made a vow and is fulfilling it.

Elsewhere, a man in his sixties from Bint Jbeil, Lebanon clasped the silver lattice-work that encloses Zainab’s tomb. He kissed it and recited religious entreaties for the well-being of his family, he said, and for Syria to overcome its crisis.

Barely half a kilometer to the west of the shrine lies the small village of Jiera, where rebel groups operate. They sometimes trade fire with members of the Abul-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, mostly at night. Recently the gunmen have become less active thanks to the brigade, and the area has become relatively safer, but not entirely.

When the muezzin belts out the call to prayer, the shrine is transformed into a beehive. It is as though the entire neighborhood has congregated. At nightfall, the shrine is locked, security is heightened, and the adjoining streets become a virtual military zone. Brigade members are deployed in substantial numbers since clashes occasionally break out.

One member explained that gunmen take advantage of the densely built-up neighborhoods to the west of the shrine to stage hit-and-run attacks and fire mortars. They are invariably beaten back, he said, and have failed to reach the shrine itself, although they managed to damage an outer wall with a mortar shell.

Al Akhbar (March 29, 2013)

Hassan Illeik

With the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has become Lebanon’s political kingmaker once again. He reveals to Al-Akhbar his conditions for the next government.

Walid Jumblatt rejects the idea that he has regained his role as a kingmaker, a figure who is able to both shape the next government and determine which election law will be adopted for the parliamentary elections. “I cannot accept any side being left out,” he says, suggesting that he does not plan to back a particular bloc as he did in 2011 with the previous government. “This is a very dangerous period.”

He’s pleased that Hezbollah is not pressuring him this time around, adding that the situation has changed since then, particularly when it comes to Syria. He maintains that Lebanon’s policy of dissociation from the crisis next door has collapsed, blaming Hezbollah, Lebanese Sunni armed groups, and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) of violating it.

So what do you think should be done? “The return to dialogue,” he answers. “We really should stay away from the kind of criticisms that the Future Movement directed against the National Dialogue Roundtable. We’ve made a lot of progress on how to benefit from Hezbollah’s arms in confronting the Israeli enemy, so let’s use it to get them out of Syria.”

He refuses to name his candidate to head up the next government, insisting that the selection be made collectively by the main political forces. If it is going to be a government of technocrats, as some are proposing, then he would name businessman and head of the Arab Chamber of Commerce Adnan Kassar.

Jumblatt denies reports that he had already proposed the return of Mikati to head up a national unity government. He reaches for a piece of paper on which he wrote his main conditions: a return to disassociation from the Syrian crisis, making sure Lebanon’s sources of wealth are not “controlled by destructive political forces,” and administrative reform.

His second condition stands out most. Jumblatt doesn’t want Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement to control the lucrative energy and telecom ministries as they have in previous governments, thus firing the first salvo in the ministerial selection process.

He insists that Mikati’s resignation had nothing to do with external pressures as many had suggested – “he was barred from appointing a first-category civil servant,” he says, referring to the refusal of the previous cabinet to endorse Mikati’s proposal to extend the term of the commander of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), Ashraf Rifi.

He refuses any quid pro quo between extending for Rifi and the new election law, particularly the Orthodox Gathering proposal which he strongly opposes, denouncing the Christian political leaders who are supporting it.

Jumblatt says categorically that his MPs will not participate in any parliamentary session that will consider the Orthodox law. He is only willing to consider what is being called a “mixed law” that combines both proportional and majority representation.

Al Akhbar (March 28, 2013)

Nicolas Nassif
The three Lebanese governments formed during President Michel Suleiman’s five-year term have all been forced into existence due to external pressures.

The 2008 Fouad Siniora government was the result of the Doha Agreement. The 2009 Saad Hariri government saw the light of day due to a Saudi-Syrian reconciliation. The 2011 Najib Mikati government emerged after the collapse of this regional understanding.

After Mikati’s recent resignation, however, it is unclear what circumstances will force the formation of a new government, particularly given the fact that the constitution does not impose time limits on either the president to name a new prime minister, or the prime minister to form a government.
It seems clear that most of the political parties, which are divided between March 8 and 14, are not in any rush to form a new cabinet for a variety of reasons.

First, the president prefers to wait until the contending political forces come to some sort of agreement on the shape and role of the new government before initiating consultations to name a prime minister.

It doesn’t matter that there is a majority that supports a particular candidate – without the agreement of both March 8 and 14, the new prime minister will hit a wall and be forced to step down.
Since the Taif Agreement, presidents have generally moved rather quickly to name a prime minister as soon as a government collapsed. Suleiman has decided to break this practice this time around, particularly as the political parties have come to play a role in the formation of recent governments that is equal to the designated prime minister.

Second, given that the preparations for parliamentary elections are due to begin on April 20 (two months before its term expires), no prime minister alone is capable of dealing with the contradictory demands that will be placed on any new government. The likely result will be an extension for parliament before the formation of a new government.

Third, both March 8 and 14 will not rush the formation of a government before determining what role it is meant to play internally and externally, in addition to what their position will be within it.
It is telling that neither side has put forward any names despite the fact that it has become customary since the time of Syrian rule to designate a prime minister almost immediately before or after the government resigns.

Even if a cabinet is formed, it cannot last long as it will expire with the onset of the March 2014 presidential elections, thus making any new government a transitional one at best.
Fourth, both sides are now dealing with Mikati’s resignation cooly after some initial negative reactions from March 8 and celebration on the part of March 14.

His resignation does not appear to have changed the balance of power between the majority and minority in parliament. Rather, it appears that there will be two large minority blocs – March 8 and 14 – with a much smaller group of MPs headed by Mikati, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt standing in the middle.

Al Akhbar (March 27, 2013)

Ibrahim al-Amine

Suddenly, the Arabs became men. They awoke to the fact that they possess military capabilities ready for use. But where? In an Arab land. And against whom? An Arab people. Their rationale is that there are killings and death in Syria. They decided that the culprit is a segment of the Syrian population, and it must be fought with every means at their disposal.

Suddenly, the Arabs became men. But instead of feeling disgraced by the constant sight of death in Palestine, they decided to kick up as much dust as possible in the name of Palestinian reconciliation. They resolved to hold summits to ensure Palestinian reconciliation. They hope the dust-cloud will be thick enough to conceal their big crime in Syria. Suddenly, the Arabs have all been exposed. There are no major countries left in the Arab world.

In Egypt, the government is busy ingratiating itself with the whole world in search of loans to exchange for what is left of the public sector. Algeria faces daily threats of it being added to the list of Arab countries in urgent need of an Arab Spring.

There is no need to even mention Tunisia, Libya, or Yemen. They have become centers for the production of terrorist groups to fight beyond their borders, while takfiris terrorize the folks back home.

In Lebanon, all contracted services are being delivered on demand. The government resigns, and courts chaos and civil war, to keep the plunderers of Arab wealth happy.
In Jordan, meanwhile, they are told they have two choices: civil war, or signing up for the global alliance against the Syrian regime.

As for Palestine, it can continue to be ignored, as there’s no tragedy there that merits action.

This has left the institution of the Arab League under the control of the madmen of the Gulf, and transformed Qatar, from one moment to the next, into a megalomaniac that thinks it is the leader of the Arab nation.

Thus, without shame, Qatar wants to persuade the world that the cause of Syria is top priority. They want to persuade us that they are qualified to champion a people, while they shackle their own peoples, and their wretched ruling families indulge in the theft of an entire nation’s resources.

America’s Gulf clients found that Palestine warrants no more than a few million dollars and some reconciliation efforts. They have never heard of a popular uprising going on in Bahrain for the past two years. And they certainly face no protests at home for a fair distribution of wealth. All that really troubles them is Syria.

Once again, these people seem confident that they are all-powerful. They are equally confident that American and Western armies will forever protect them..

The one thing that preoccupies them is an obsession that has become very personal. What they worry about the most is being caught vulnerable as they stand transfixed before their TV screens, waiting for just one item of news: the announcement that Bashar al-Assad has fallen.
 

Al Akhbar (March 28, 2013)

Yehia Dbouk

An Israeli decision to transfer its military brigades from the Syrian border to the Lebanese suggests that Israel is preparing for a new war in the north.

Israeli military sources told Haaretz that war exercises are currently focused on its northern front. With a Syrian army weakened, claimed Haaretz, the Lebanese border preparations are informed by a “redefinition of the real threat represented currently in Hezbollah.”

The newspaper reported that Yair Golan, head of the Israeli Northern Command, has stressed the need to work on dismantling the aura that has developed around Hezbollah in order to highlight the possibility of its defeat in the next war.

Golan emphasized that Hezbollah is creating a strategic balance with Israel and “part of it is trying to get surface-to-sea missiles to eliminate our naval superiority, surface-to-air missiles to eliminate our aerial supremacy, and perhaps even trying to acquire chemical weapons to eliminate Israel’s supreme strategic capabilities.”

Golan pointed out that “the pressure faced by Hezbollah as a result of Syria’s disintegration is quite evident and it is expressed not only through its support for Assad, but also through developments in Lebanon.”

Golan said, “It is believed that instability in this country will further take root, but that Hezbollah will succeed in facing it with Iran’s help. I have a feeling that Hezbollah will overcome this challenge, but its control over Lebanon will be more obvious than before.”

This, according to Golan, means that “we will have a Hezbollah state, but it will be behind the Alawite state expected to emerge in Syria. In other words, Iran is here.”

AL Joumhouria (Lebanese daily, close to March 14 Coalition) (March 27, 2013)

Military sources reported that the plan of the army to control the situation on the ground in Tripoli is still in force, but a possible explosion is not excluded. These sources mention a well studied plan by the militia, including Salafists and supporters of the Free Syrian Army to transform the city into a center for operation and logistics.

The same sources added that Al-Qaeda, in cooperation with the Salafists in Tripoli, want a sanctuary. The organization works to route militants from Syria, Mali, Iraq, Sudan and Jordan towards Lebanon. To ensure the success of his plan, the Emir of Al-Qaeda in Lebanon, Houssam Sabbagh, strives to undergo brainwashing to Sunni sheikhs in the city, and pushes them to proclaim an Islamic emirate in Tripoli. This option had been already considered by the Group of Mohammad Zein al-Abidine Ben Nayef Ben Srour, who arrived in Lebanon on the eve of Nahr al-Bared war, in 2007.

Military sources add: “The Srour affiliated groups are present today in the streets of Tripoli. They include Libyans, Algerians, Syrians, Kuwaitis and Palestinians. They coordinate their action directly with Houssam Sabbagh and Kuwaiti Yaacoub Choummari. Their goal is to create a broad Salafi Religious Council, which attract other Salafist groups to unify the gun and put the Salafist plan to proclaim an Islamic emirate in North Lebanon. In addition to the religious council, these groups want to form a council of war.”

The Lebanese security services are aware of these plans and know that these ideas are deeply rooted in the minds of Salafists and their supporters.

Yediot Aharonot (Israeli Daily, March 29, 2013)

According to former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit (1989-1996), Qatar played a “historic role in Israel’s favor larger than Great Britain.” Referring to the role of Doha in the implementation of policies of the United States and Israel in the Middle East, Shavit added that the services rendered by the Qatar to Tel Aviv are “more decisive than the services rendered to Israel for many years in other countries. “

According to former Mossad chief, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, had always sided with the U.S. and “Israel” in regional issues. “The foreign policy of Qatar as Arab political lever in Tel Aviv and Washington,” said Shavit.

Haaretz (Israeli Daily, March 30, 2013)

Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg expected for future conflict between Israel and Hezbollah that the latter will rain down 10 more times rockets than those dropped on the central of Israel during July war. “Hezbollah is able today to rain down on the central of Israel 10 more times rockets than those dropped in 2006. It will be massive rockets and missile fire”, Eisenberg said. “Before 2006, Hezbollah was able to launch 500 rockets but this did not happen because Israel destroyed the rockets during the war first nights”, he pointed out.

“Now Hezbollah has around 5 thousand rockets, of 300kgs to 880kgs. First days will be very difficult and I am preparing myself for a scenario when the interior front will be rained down by more than one thousand rockets every day”, he added.

However, Eisenberg considered that Israel is not looking for such military confrontation. “This war is useless also for the second party and Israel’s know how to harm widely its enemy, far much more than the latter could do thanks to our Air weapons”, he stated.

Ria Novosti (Russian press Agency, March 30, 2013)

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday posted a statement on its website slamming the US State Department’s stated intent to continue funding non-governmental organizations in Russia as “interfering.”

“We view the declaration made by the official representative of the State Department, Victoria Nuland, that the United States will continue financing individual NGOs within Russia via intermediaries in third countries, bypassing Russian law, as open interference in our internal affairs” the statements reads.

This statement responds to comments Nuland made during Thursday’s State Department presse briefing in which she highlighted US concern that the latest wave of spot-checks on NGOs in Russia was “some kind of witch hunt.” The Russian Foreign Ministry statement singles out the use of that term in particular as “nothing other than cynical and provocative.”

On Thursday, Nuland also said “we are providing funding through platforms outside of Russia for those organizations that continue to want to work with us, understanding that they have to report that work now to their own government.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized Nuland as inciting Russian NGOs and public bodies to violate Russian regulations.

On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin warned the Kremlin’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin that the raids should be monitored to ensure there were no “excesses” by the officials carrying out these spot checks.

Earlier this week, Russian NGO Agora, which has provided legal support to numerous political activists and which itself was also subject to a spot check, said that this latest wave of inspections has affected over 80 organizations across Russia.

Reuters (British press agency, March 30, 2013)

Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users in the country by limiting access to the site to people who register their identification documents, the Arab News daily reported on Saturday.
Last week, local media reported the government had asked telecom companies to look at ways they could monitor, or block, free internet phone services such as Skype.

Twitter is highly popular with Saudis and has stirred broad debate on subjects ranging from religion to politics in a country where such public discussion had been considered at best unseemly and sometimes illegal.

Early this month, the security spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry described social networking, particularly Twitter, as a tool used by militants to stir social unrest.
The country’s Grand Mufti, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, last week described users of the microblogging site as “clowns” wasting time with frivolous and even harmful discussions, local newspapers reported.

“A source at (the regulator) described the move as a natural result of the successful implementation of (its) decision to add a user’s identification numbers while topping up mobile phone credit,” Arab News reported.

That would not necessarily make a user’s identity visible to other users of the site, but it would mean the Saudi government could monitor the tweets of individual Saudis.

The English-language news outlet did not explain how the authorities might be able to restrict ability to post on Twitter. The newspaper belongs to a publishing group owned by the ruling family and run by a son of Crown Prince Salman.

Internet service providers are legally obliged to block websites showing content deemed pornographic.

One of the big investors in Twitter is Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of King Abdullah who also holds significant stakes in Citi Group, News Corp and Apple through his Kingdom Holding Company.

The country’s telecom regulator, Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) did not immediately responded to requests for comment on the report. Last week it did not comment on the report it was seeking to restrict Skype use.

A spokeswoman for Kingdom Holding said Prince Alwaleed was not available to comment.
“There are people who misuse the social networking and try to send false information and false evaluation of the situation in the kingdom and the way the policemen in the kingdom are dealing with these situations,” said Major General Mansour Turki, the security spokesman, at a news conference on March 8.

In a separate interview with Reuters this month, Turki argued that a small number of supporters of al-Qaeda and activists from Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority used social media to stir wider sympathy for their goals and social unrest.

Two weeks ago one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent clerics, Salman al-Awdah, who has 2.4 million followers on the site, used Twitter to attack the government’s security policy as too harsh and call for better services. He warned it might otherwise face “the spark of violence.” Two leading Saudi human rights activists were sentenced to long prison terms this month for a variety of offenses including “internet crimes” because they had used Twitter and other sites to attack the government.
Some top princes in the monarchy now use Twitter themselves and Crown Prince Salman, King Abdullah’s designated heir and also defense minister, recently opened an official account
 

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Saudi Arabia Set for Lebanon Comeback

Najb Mikati attends a session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013 on 25 January 2013 at the Swiss resort of Davos. (Photo: AFP – Johannes Eisele)
 
Published Tuesday, April 2, 2013
 
Following the Lebanese prime minister’s resignation, Saudi Arabia has been working behind the scenes to boost its presence in Lebanon. Here’s a look at how the kingdom views a future Lebanese government.

During the two-year tenure of Najib Mikati’s government, Saudi Arabia, to some extent, kept its distance from Lebanese affairs. Yet one question remained largely unanswered: Did Mikati take office with a green light from Saudi?

Throughout the lifespan of the previous Lebanese government, all attempts by Sunni Lebanese leaders to get answers failed miserably. Today, as the country searches for a new government to replace Mikati’s outgoing cabinet, Lebanon is once again a hot topic in Saudi Arabia’s corridors of power.
Despite all the reported affirmations that Saudi will let Future head Saad Hariri name a candidate for the post, Arab and Lebanese sources say that Riyadh has a special agenda.

As part of that agenda, Saudi has resolved to make a comeback in Lebanon, in accordance with a formula that mimics the former role of Syria. In other words, the kingdom would not act as a party to the internal conflict, but rather as a “referee,” managing and helping resolve crises among Lebanese factions.

According to the sources, it is possible that in the coming days Lebanese figures from different sects will visit Saudi to discuss solutions to the present crisis. The same sources maintain that though it was Riyadh – in addition to Washington – that instructed Mikati to resign, Saudi Arabia is in favor of him returning to preside over the future government. The goal, the sources claim, is to form another government led by Mikati, but under a different set of alliances and conditions.

In short, Riyadh wants Mikati to return to lead a government not dominated by the March 8 coalition, especially with the Free Patriotic Movement controlling the lion’s share of cabinet portfolios. From the Saudi point of view, Mikati would help safeguard the moderate-centrist ground in the political spectrum.

Designating Mikati to form a cabinet again would also alleviate the March 8 and 14 polarization. This would produce a “moderate” and religiously diverse bloc, bridging the gap between Hezbollah and the Future Movement – the source of most Sunni-Shia tension.

To successfully see its bid through, Riyadh is betting, among other things, on President Michel Suleiman adopting a strong stance in favor of its scheme. Furthermore, Riyadh is acting based on the assumption that Hezbollah wishes to defuse Sunni-Shia tension.
While leaving the door open to discussions, Saudi prefers to see Mikati form a government that is neutral in appearance. In this vein, Suleiman reportedly intends to stand his ground on several issues, like holding the 2013 general election within the constitutional deadlines.

Behind closed doors, Suleiman shares Riyadh’s view that Mikati is the best choice for prime minister, as he has shown an ability to manage the political game despite its complexities.

Another item on the Saudi agenda, which also happens to be Mikati’s signature stroke, is the dissociation policy over the conflict in Syria. The policy remains desirable internationally, despite recent reservations.

More than ever, Riyadh is enthusiastic about Lebanon’s dissociation approach. For one thing, Saudi is rumored to be planning a gradual withdrawal from the quagmire in Syria. The same sources reckon that Damascus is aware of this recent shift in Saudi attitudes, but that it remains cautious.

It is worth noting that Riyadh, throughout the previous phase, had postponed tackling the situation in Lebanon, waiting instead for the dust to settle in Damascus. But the sources believe that Saudi has finally decided to stop putting its Lebanon policy on hold.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
 

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Jamil Al-Sayyed: On Miqati resignation and the war on Syria

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SYRIAN UPDATE / CONCLUSION

Daniel Mabsout,

623930-11-03-31-bashar-al-assad[1]

The resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Mikati and that of the Lebanese Cabinet subsequently comes because what is being required now from Lebanon- on behalf of the western establishment- is no more neutrality and non involvement in the Syrian issue but active recognition of the new government of the coalition and replacement of the actual Syrian ambassador by a …representative of the coalition of the opposition .Lebanese authorities will not yield to such desire and the tendency is to name Mikati again as Prime Minister, or someone like him who occupies a middle position. Lebanon is about to reproduce the same cabinet and therefore the same position regarding Syria ,which means that all this turmoil provoked by the Arab League and the visit of Obama will not bring the desired change and looks more like a storm within a cup of tea, not to mention that Lebanese authorities are dissatisfied with the performance of Arabs and the Arab League that has not given enough money to spend on the almost two million Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon lately .

On the other hand, the kingdom of Jordan is also very hesitant to endorse the role given by the US administration- after the visit of Obama – so as to facilitate the mission of the Syrian opposition by training fighters that are not among the fanatics of al Qa’ida . Not to forget that Jordan has refused – until now – to accommodate thousands of refugees fleeing Syria – among them a number of Palestinians- and to host them in acceptable conditions and in equipped camps for fear that these camps will turn into training fields as is the case with the Turkish refugee camps .

Jordan has also refused lately to let Saudi fighters cross the borders towards Syria . These two governments- whether Jordanian or Saudi – live in the fear of seeing the thugs of the opposition return home knowing the fact that Jordan comes second after Saudi Arabia in the number of opposition fighters active on the Syrian ground .

We don’t know to what extent the king of Jordan will answer Obama’s call, being aware of the fact that- lately -Jordan has been looking for improving economic relations with Iraq at the expense of the Gulf countries, and is not happy to see that the general US orientation is to solve the Palestinian problem at the expense of Jordan by operating demographic changes whereby Palestinians- who are mostly Muslim Brothers -will form the majority in the kingdom . All this, not withholding the fact that an eventual fall of the Syrian regime that will bring the Muslim Brothers to power is not seen with a favorable eye in Jordan .

All this means that the stormy visit of Obama, and the non less stormy 24th Conference of the unfortunate Arab League, will leave things pretty much where they were regarding the Syrian situation and maybe the whole thing was but a show to bring comfort to Israelis and to Netenyahu and assure that things are going the right way . Now, if you add to this the fact that the new agreement between the Turkish government and the PKK – meant to draw the Kurdish Syrians to the side of the opposition – is not to be taken seriously because Kurds – according to experts – will never trust Erdogan, you end up with Obama leaving the area maybe empty handed .

Remains the question of the Israeli/ Turkish reconciliation which in itself is a show , the relations between the two have never been better whether in terms of trade exchange- that has reached its highest peak lately -or in terms of military cooperation. The only unresolved matter concerns the indemnities paid to the families of the victims of the Mavi Marmara that Israel insists that they do not exceed the limit of 100 thousands dollars or even 70 thousand dollars – for each family- in comparison with the million or two millions that the Turks are asking for , but this- of course – will not form an impediment to the Israeli / Turkish relations that go back to 1949 immediately after the establishment of the usurping state in 1948 and which have been flourishing since.

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The specter of war on Syria or Intimidation?

 

شبح حرب على سوريا أم تهويل؟

سامي كليب

ما عادت نذر الحرب الإقليمية مجرد تحليل. كل الجبهات متأهبة. يكفي خطأ في الحسابات لينفجر الوضع. لاحظوا التطورات:
غسان هيتو الكردي بات رئيسا لحكومة جزء من المعارضة. عبدالله أوجلان يوقف إطلاق النار مع أنقرة. بنيامين نتنياهو يعتذر من تركيا. هل كل هذا الغزل للأكراد من قبيل الصدفة؟ أكيد لا.
 
التطورات الكردية سبقت أو رافقت زيارة الرئيس الأميركي باراك أوباما. رغبة سيد البيت الأبيض واضحة: إزاحة الرئيس بشار الأسد، تطويق إيران وإضعاف المفاوض الروسي إلى أقصى حد. لا بأس من إغراء الأردن وجذبه، ولا بأس من تحذير العراق برسالة حملها جون كيري. ولا بأس أخيرا من الإيحاء بان المعارضة باتت جسما واحدا ففتحت قمة الدوحة ذراعيها لمعاذ الخطيب وهيتو لاحتلال مقعد سوريا.
 
في هذا الوقت بالضبط استقال نجيب ميقاتي من رئاسة الحكومة. مبرر الاستقالة هو ملف التمديد للواء اشرف ريفي. تصديق هذا المبرر صعب. لم ولن يكون ميقاتي من مؤيدي ومحبي ريفي، ولعل استقالته أنهت الملف بأرخص الأثمان.
ميقاتي استقال لأسباب اكبر من لبنان. هكذا يعتقد مسؤولون إقليميون كبار. هكذا تعتقد دمشق وطهران و«حزب الله». من يعرف الرجل يدرك انه حين يخطو بهكذا اتجاه، فهذا يعني انه يريد تفادي أمر كبير قد يحصل.
 
ليست قضية اشرف ريفي أمرا عابرا. يدرك عارفو الرجل أن دولا كبيرة تدخلت لصالحه. أميركا وفرنسا نصحتا غير مرة بالإبقاء عليه. فرانسوا هولاند بنفسه تدخل مؤخرا. دور الرجل بات إقليميا بامتياز. ورث دور الراحل وسام الحسن.
فهل صار ريفي قضية دولية كبرى لم يستطع ميقاتي إلا تبنيها؟ هذا جائز.
 
وميقاتي الذي لا يتحمل مسؤولية عدم إجراء الانتخابات لفترة طويلة جدا، يعرف أن للاستقالة علاقة مباشرة بتطورات مقبلة وربما خطيرة في الملف السوري، وفي العلاقة الأمنية بين سوريا ولبنان بسبب التطرف السلفي…
 
تستطيع السفيرة الأميركية مورا كونيلي أن تعبر عن مفاجأتها من الاستقالة، لكن ماذا عن المعلومات التي تقول بان الأميركيين كانوا على علم، وكانوا في طليعة المتصلين، وهل فعلا أن سفير السعودية في لبنان زار ميقاتي صباحا فقط ليحمل له شكر الأمير مقرن على التهنئة بتعيينه نائبا لرئيس مجلس الوزراء؟.
 
سبق استقالة ميقاتي توتر بين الرئيس ميشال سليمان ودمشق بسبب الحدود. جاءت رسالة تأييد من أوباما إلى سيد بعبدا بعد اتصال من سليمان بمسؤول أميركي رفيع المستوى يعتقد انه نائب وزير الخارجية وليام بيرنز. حصلت اتصالات أخرى بين مسؤولين لبنانيين وأتراك.  
استقال ميقاتي فيما كان باراك أوباما ومن قلب إسرائيل يتهم «حزب الله» بالإرهاب. كرر الاتهام 5 مرات.


ماذا تعني كل هذه الهمروجة؟
تعني أولا أن أميركا عادت إلى خططها القديمة. لا بد من إعادة تفعيل الحلف الأميركي ـ الإسرائيلي ـ التركي، بعدما فشلت الأحلاف الأخرى في إحداث اختراقات جدية خصوصا في الموضوع السوري وفي مواجهة إيران.. لا بأس أن تنضم إلى هذا الحلف لاحقا دول عربية.
وتعني ثانيا، أن الغرب وفي مقدمه أميركا يشعر بخطورة تفكك المعارضة، ويخشى سيطرة أوسع لـ«جبهة النصرة» ومقاتلي تنظيم «القاعدة» على المشهد السوري والتمدد صوب دول الجوار خصوصا عبر الجولان والأردن ولبنان، ويقلق من احتمال تمكن الجيش السوري والقوات الشعبية التي أسسها من تغيير المعادلة العسكرية لصالح النظام.
وتعني ثالثا أن لا حكومة ولا انتخابات قريبة في لبنان.
ما هي الاحتمالات ؟

 
[ الاشتباك مع إسرائيل قائم. الجميع متأهب لهذا الاحتمال من طهران إلى دمشق إلى جنوب لبنان.
 
[ السعي مجددا لإسقاط النظام بالقوة قائم. قطر تحاول مع فرنسا تسويق فكرة أن وصول السلاح إلى غير «جبهة النصرة» و«القاعدة» بات مضمونا، وان الإسراع بالقضاء على النظام يكبح تمدد «القاعدة». ماذا لو تعرضت قوات «اليونيفيل» في جنوب لبنان لعملية انتقامية من الموقف الفرنسي؟ ألم يحصل هذا سابقا؟ ماذا لو بادرت إسرائيل للقيام بهكذا عملية تنسبها إلى «حزب الله» أو غيره لإبعاد قوات الطوارئ؟
 
ثمة من يروج لمقولة إن النظام سيخسر معركة دمشق وينكفئ بعد أن يضمن خطا عسكريا مضمونا يمتد من الساحل السوري عبر حمص إلى مناطق البقاع اللبناني. المقربون من النظام يقولون إن هذا وهم وان الجيش السوري وضع خطة عسكرية دقيقة بات معها من المستحيل أن تربح المعارضة العسكرية أي معركة ضده.
 
لو اشتد الضغط على النظام السوري وحلفائه، هل يبادر إلى حرب أوسع؟ الاحتمال وارد جدا، والاستعدادات كبيرة، والاتصالات السورية ـ الروسية ـ الإيرانية تتكثف أكثر من أي وقت مضى ورسائل التحذير تعددت.
 
يبقى السؤال الأهم، هل أن في كل ما يحصل قرارا بإسقاط الأسد بالقوة، أم أن فيه مناورات الساعات الأخيرة لإقناع النظام بان عليه القبول بتخفيض شروط التفاوض وتمهيد الطريق لانتقال سياسي سريع؟
 
كل شيء وارد، أما الخطر الأكبر فهو محدق بلبنان، من سينقذه من توسيع الفتنة المذهبية، أو من تجدد الاغتيالات، أو من تفجيرات واشتباكات مرشحة للأسوأ؟
السفير

 

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Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared

Posted on March 25, 2013 by Libya 360°

Monday March 25, 2013, no124
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 resignation of Mikati and the US escalation plan
By Ghaleb Kandil
The resignation of Najib Mikati is a Lebanese copy of the American escalation plan in the region, whose was launched by President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel. In Lebanon, the resignation was preceded by many political indices. It opens the door to a new phase of political and securitry confrontation, which is part of the global war waged against the Syrian national state, whose players want to turn Lebanon into a platform for attacking the neighboring country and weaken the resistance, which is a deterrent against Israel and its supporters.
The first signs of this escalation occurred with the statements, a few weeks ago, of the U.S. ambassador in Beirut, who required the organization of elections in Lebanon under the 1960 law. Maura Connelly has torpedoed all Lebanese attempts to a consensual electoral law, as Washington and its Gulf allies have come to the conclusion that any legislation correcting the Christian representation allows a clear majority which would defeat the mission that they gave the centrist bloc, which was to neutralize national initiatives. A task that the March-14 coalition, the Future Movement in particular, failed to complete. The statements of Connelly inaugurate a period of confrontation and unrest.
The aggressive and provocative statements of Obama towards Hezbollah is another proof coming from the highest authority in America. The U.S. president is the source of instructions to Gulf monarchies, Turkey, Lebanon and European countries. He orders and all other run. Some Lebanese political forces and personalities bend his orders on the pretext that the West always wins, while past experiences show that Lebanon has defeated the West at many occasions. Or they say they are unable to resist the pressures exerted on them. The American order is clear: the time has come to put an end to partnership with Hezbollah in the government.
The two contentious issues that had apparently caused the resignation of Mikati are at the center of American interest: the insistence for the creation of the commission to supervise the elections, is part of the will to hold elections on the basis of the 1960 Act; insistence to keep Gen. Ashraf Rifi at the head of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) is quite natural, because since 2005, this institution is at the heart of the services and information provided to the Americans and their auxiliary in the region, including those involved in the war against Syria.
Lebanese officials who campaigned for maintaining Rifi at ISF head are well aware that this man and his institution have provided support and protection to Takfirists movements close to al-Qaeda and other multinational terrorist groups in the Palestinian camps and inside the central prison of Roumieh.
The resignation illustrates the entanglement of political and security issues with the electoral law. Any political solution must await the collapse of American illusions in Syria and the defeat of the United States in this country.

Obama regional tour

The U.S. president has launched the escalation plan during his regional tour which aimed to strengthen the ranks of his allies, to resolve differences between some of them, in order to try to change the balance of power in Syria and the region. He first gave the signal to open war against Hezbollah, he convinced Jordan to fully play the role allotted to him in the aggression against Syria (influx of terrorists, training in the kingdom etc.. ..) and finally, he settled the pseudo-dispute between Turkey and Israel.
His Secretary of State was asked to follow up, trying to isolate Syria from its allies. John Kerry warned Sunday in Baghdad Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that plane loads of arms that connect Iran and Syria through Iraqi airspace helped to keep Assad in power. “Anything that helps Assad is a problem,” said Kerry, who spoke during a press conference during a surprise visit to Baghdad.
The stage is set, the decisive battle will soon begin.
Statements
Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement
«Mikati resigned for stupid reasons. We must go to one of the embassies to understand exactly the reasons for the resignation. To appoint a new Prime Minister is a complicated affair, Lebanon lives into chaos and the government cannot even send at home a retire officer. Ashraf Rifi’s predecessors were more loyal to Lebanon than he was. President Sleiman violates the rights of Christians and some Muslims who rejected 1960 law.»
Bichara Raï, Patriarch of the Maronite Church
«The Lebanese people and leaders must be aware of the seriousness of the situation in Lebanon and return to the dialogue table. After the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and given the internal and regional security situation, we must assume our responsibilities and form a government capable of serious work for the people and for the adoption of a new electoral law. We hope that the elections will take place in time to preserve the Constitution and democracy in Lebanon. We need a government that can handle internal security and especially our border with Syria. A cabinet that strengthens the economy and the national pact. We pray for the innocent and a solution based on negotiations.»
Marwan Charbel, Lebanese Interior Minister
«The dangerous developments in Tripoli have regional ties, if not international. Some fighters do not come from Tripoli and members of the city have no influence on them. President Nabih Berri should convok the House that members sign a commitment to Lebanon’s security.»
Martin Nesirky, Spokesman ok Ban Ki-moon
«In this challenging time for the region, Secretary General calls on all parties in Lebanon to stay united behind the leadership of President Michel Sleiman. He calls them to work together with the institutions of the state to maintain peace and stability, and respect the political separation of Lebanon from the Syrian conflict. Parties should support the role of the Lebanese Armed Forces working for the unity, sovereignty and security.»
Alexander Zasypkin, Russian Ambassador
«It is necessary to provide clarification on the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo and determine the origin of these weapons to avoid a repeat of this incident. This is a dangerous development that should encourage all parties to work more seriously to push the protagonists to talk. Surrender to the opposition of the regime is unacceptable and Russia is ready to exert pressure to prevent this.»
Events
Ø Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemned the suicide bombing that killed a Sunni famous cleric and 48 other people in Damascus, pledging to “cleanse” the country of extremists in a message published Thursday night. “I offer my condolences to the Syrian people for the martyrdom of Sheikh Mohammad Said al-Bouti, this great man of Syria and the Islamic world,” said Assad.
“They believed that by killing you they silence the voice of Islam and faith in the country (…), they’ve killed him for having raised his voice against their obscurantist ideas to destroy the principles of our merciful religion,” says the message.
“I swear to the Syrian people that your blood and your little grandson’s and all the martyrs will not be cast for free, because we will be faithful to your ideas by destroying their darkness until we clean up the country, “said Mr. Assad. Thursday evening, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives killing 49 worshipers, among them the Sunni Sheikh Mohammad Said al-Bouti and his grandson, said the Ministry of Health.
Ø Antoine Audo, bishop of Aleppo, which is located in Rome as head of Caritas Syria for a meeting of regional Catholic Relief, has reported a “painful” situation not being able to be with her faithful. “In Aleppo, two young priests have been kidnapped. Ransom of 150,000 dollars was requested, “he also said. The prelate also spoke of an “underlying concern” that led to the departure of 20,000 to 30,000 Christians of Aleppo were 160,000 as at the beginning of the conflict. The bishop spoke of the three types of displaced: first there those inside Syria, for example those who left the suburbs of Damascus to the city center. The second category, the majority, left to Lebanon, a “Christian country” to which links are “historical.” A third category went to Canada or the United States.
Ø The Syrian authorities have released the young Lebanese Salafist Hassan Srour, captured four months ago in Syria while fighting with the rebels. Syrian television had broadcast an interview in which Srour stated that the Lebanese extremist preacher Dai al-Islam al-Chahhal had financed the group of volunteers to Syria. He is the only survivor. Syrian authorities had given the body of his eleven comrades killed in an ambush near Tall Kalakh. Srour release was obtained thanks to the intervention of General Abbas Ibrahim.
Press review
As Safir (Lebanese daily, close to the majority, March 22, 2013)
Marleine Khalife
Independent U.S. sources in Washington call a “tragedy” the events in Syria and believe that the United States should stay away from the problems in the Middle East for their unlimited support for Israel helps create more problems in this area. These sources do not see any “hopeful” message in President Barack Obama’s tour in the region, nor Syria, nor for the Palestinian cause, or for the Iranian nuclear issue. His tour is part of a “moral commitment” to Israel and regional allies of America.
These sources believe that “President Bashar al-Assad heads a dictatorial regime but at the same time gave women freedom and religious freedom of worship.” These sources are skeptical that things remain as theere were with the jihadists.
The Obama administration is not defending this view openly although it is convinced, the sources added. “What concerns him is to support the rebels to overthrow the Assad regime to fulfill Israeli conviction that the destruction of Syria will lead to the weakening of Iran”, said the U.S. sources.
Europeans share this plan and their common desire is to destroy Syria to weaken Iran and Hezbollah.
Behind the scenes, European power criticize the American “hesitation”. Paris and London decided to arm the opposition, although the two capitals support and cover the operations of arming the insurgents long ago. But now they want to build strong relationships with any regime that would succeed Assad, knowing that his overthrowing him is not an easy task. The United States, for their part, try to remove the calyx of a new war, except in the case of use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Commenting the appointment of Ghassan Hito, Kurdish head of the interim government opposition, the same American sources say that the whole affair was “cooked” by the CIA, and is one of the facets of Washington’s support for the rebels.
An Nahar (Lebanese Daily, close to march-14 coalition)
Rosanna Bou Mouncef (March 19, 2013)
Well-informed political sources reveal that the negotiations taking place behind the scenes about the electoral law are actually on whether to extend the mandate of Parliament. There is no question of a technical delay of three or four months, as some claim, but an extension, because the considerations that have prevented the election will still be present after this time. 8-March movement calls for a three years extension of House mandate, because it wants to keep the majority of which he grabbed at the “coup” against the majority after the last election in 2009. 14-March prefers a one-year extension, which could possibly be extended.
The same sources added that the differences displayed publicly about the electoral law will prevent the elections organization (…) and the security incidents from one region to another, are arguments to preserve the status quo in Lebanon and not move any piece of the Lebanese puzzle, fear of provoking a war with local, regional, communitarian and financial ingredients are ready. Only a balance of terror prevents the outbreak of war.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the majority, March 23, 2013)
Ibrahim al-Amine
There are many details, and a lot has happened over the past few days. From Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri’s trip to Rome, to President Michel Suleiman becoming persuaded that the domestic political set-up needs changing, to the contacts made in connection with the two cabinet sessions convened in the past couple of days.
What is clear is that Mikati’s resignation was essentially part of the crisis in Syria.
Regarding the domestic issues that prompted the move, which are inextricable from developments in Syria, a number of things can be noted.
One is the growing hold of the US and certain European and Arab governments over a great many Lebanese politicians, including Suleiman, Mikati, and Walid Jumblatt.
These countries wanted to block the adoption of a new election law that would deny the March 14 coalition a parliamentary majority and jeopardize the “balance-tipping” power of Jumblatt. So they went into action to ensure that no agreement would be reached on legislation that does not suit their strategy. Even the confused position of the Phalangists and Lebanese Forces was insufficient to enable the Orthodox Gathering Law to be approved.
Given Suleiman, Mikati, and Jumblatt’s insistence on involving Berri in the ploy to thwart the Orthodox Law, the speaker may have erred by not referring it to parliament earlier, rather than allowing the trio to mount their pre-emptive strike aimed at keeping the 1960 election law in place.
The trio assumed that pressure from the president and prime minister would suffice to achieve this goal. Their aides insist they had they cooperation of the speaker — why else would he have agreed not to convene parliament to debate the Orthodox Gathering law? But it did not cross their minds that the people who matter would be unwilling to submit to blackmail once again.
The other directive that was issued relates to the security situation in the country.
For the West and its Arab clients, it is not enough to neutralize the Lebanese army, prevent it from acting decisively to bring the security breakdown under control, and threaten to split or scrap it. They also want direct control over the Internal Security Forces (ISF), so decided there is a pressing need for General Ashraf Rifi to be kept in his post as ISF head following the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan.
No opportunity was missed to press this point, whether in repeated remarks by the US ambassador to Lebanon, or in the Saudi ambassador’s claim to have been given an undertaking by the president of the republic that Rifi’s term would be extended. The French prime minister even raised the subject with Mikati, telling him within earshot of accompanying ministers that “President Hollande recommends” that Rifi be retained.
But the trio were unsure they could get that done. When Mikati failed to secure a direct promise from Berri, he sought at least to obtain one from Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The big surprise was when Hezbollah’s reply, delivered to the prime minister minutes ahead of the resignation announcement, was “do what you deem appropriate.”
While everyone will now be busying themselves with analyses and anecdotes about the domestic aspects of the crisis, the consequences of Mikati’s resignation for the tragedy in Syria are no less serious. In this context, it would help to note the following:
– The sharp escalation of political and military pressure on the Syrian regime by its Arab and Western detractors. They have acted to foil any efforts by opposition figures to pursue a political settlement, such as by sidelining Moaz al-Khatib. This while running a massive scheme to arm and train thousands of fighters inside Syria, Turkey, and Jordan, ahead of what the Turks have been saying will be a decisive showdown in three months.
– The real results of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Palestine and Jordan. While urging the Palestinian president to keep praying, he was firm with the king of Jordan about the need to fall fully in line with the anti-Assad camp. More importantly, Obama obliged Israel’s leaders to keep quiet, refrain from action against either Iran, Syria, or Hezbollah.
– The American, European, and Gulf mobilization against Hezbollah, which has taken several forms: reactivating the issue of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL); putting pressure on the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization; directly pressing the prime minister to do what is necessary to weaken Hezbollah’s influence in the government; and contriving a new controversy called “Hezbollah’s role in Syria.”
In light of the above, some worrying conclusions can be drawn:
– The slogan of dissociation from the Syrian crisis, even if it was never fully realistic, is being finally abandoned. The resignation of the government means involving Lebanon directly. In parallel, more pressure will be exerted on the army to prevent it from taking preventive measures, while the ISF will likely head toward disintegration, rendering it ineffective.
– The architects of this move are betting that change in Syria is inevitable and will come soon. One security veteran says it amazes him how time after time, world capitals behave as though the end of the war in Syria and the downfall of the regime are imminent. This wager requires waves of tension to be unleashed in Lebanon, in the belief that this will unsettle Hezbollah and prevent it from aiding the regime in Syria.
– The political chaos will be protracted, the elections are as good as postponed, and the political tilt of Suleiman-Mikati-Jumblatt will revive the fortunes of the March 14 camp. Some of its leaders made calls yesterday evening to arrange their affairs in anticipation of new ministerial and security posts.
God protect us.
Al Akhbar (March 23, 2013)
Ghassan Saoud
If you had expected anything substantive to come out of President Suleiman’s historic trip to West Africa – where large numbers of Lebanese have lived and worked for decades – you would be sorely disappointed. It was all pomp and circumstance, with little to show for in the end.
On the plane carrying the president, his wife, and their entourage, Suleiman sat like a statue at the front of the plane hardly uttering a word, much less changing his characteristically vacant expression.
It was clear from the seven-day trip that the president’s relationship with the accompanying ministers is far from normal. Only on a couple of occasions could Suleiman be seen talking with them, despite the fact that Lebanon is facing critical economic, political, and security problems.
He brought several of his close advisors to keep him company, one of them giving him Wikipedia-style introductions to each country they were about to visit, while the head of his media office made sure that the team of journalists on board did not capture any out-of-character images of the president.
In a quick visit to Senegal, Suleiman met with a clerical delegation in the morning and, after receiving a medal from the the Senegalese president, he and his wife hopped on a boat to visit Gorée Island, which once served as a major outpost for the slave trade.
Ironically, one of the president’s favorite Lebanese TV stations was interviewing someone at the time who kept using the term “abeed,” which means slave in Arabic, to refer to Africans. There was no protest from the journalist.
In the Ivory Coast, the president was received by schoolchildren waving Lebanese flags along his motorcade’s route to the hotel. The local Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, whose members are estimated to control 40 percent of the country’s economy, covered the delegation’s room and board.
For his part, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara turned a new page with Suleiman, putting behind him the fact that Lebanon’s ambassador had openly sided with his opponent during the country’s controversial 2011 presidential elections.
For some strange reason, after receiving a medal from Ouattara, the Lebanese president reciprocated by granting his counterpart – and his wife! – Lebanon’s medal of achievement.
He indulged the local community with his pat centrist speeches, declaring that Lebanon cannot and will not become a passage for weapons and fighters to Syria and advising them to preserve the peace in their host countries.
In Ghana, he promised the Lebanese there “a modern and democratic electoral law,” and repeated calls for “a dialogue between civilizations.”
The first lady did not miss her chance to make a statement to the media. After Ghanaian children welcomed her with a dance, she declared that “Ghana’s children are Lebanon’s children.”
No such honors were exchanged on the tour’s last stop in Lagos, Nigeria, but it was made up for when Lebanese businessman Gilbert Shaghoury gave Suleiman a tour of his man-made peninsula project, situated on reclaimed land from the sea.
Ad Diyar (Lebanese daily, close to March 8 Coalition, March 22, 2013)
Sources close to Sheikh Ahmad al-Asir reported that the cleric had received an invitation from the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, to visit Doha as a representative of a faction of the Lebanese people. It will be the first visit of Sheikh al-Asir in a Muslim country. He should spend three days in Qatar before returning to Beirut.
In Doha, Sheikh al-Asir will meet with Qatari security officials to discuss with them the situation on the ground in Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon, and the situation of Sunnis and their ability to cope with crises that they are facing. According to some sources, Sheikh al-Asir will receive financial support to form a political party which he will soon announce the birth as the “Party of the Sunnis.”
Ad Diyar (Lebanese daily, close to March 8 Coalition, March 19, 2013)
Simon Abou Fadel
A series of clues emanating from official circles suggest that the time to end the Ahmad al-Asir phenomenon approaches. A ministerial source says that Sheikh al-Asir is now a threat to the country, and its actions may cause discord between Sunnis and Shiites that could not be contained. The Government adds that minister Marwan Charbel tried by all means to contain al-Asir. But instead of limiting his actions, the sheikh extended them to other regions. In addition, he does not hesitate to attack the commander of the army, General Jean Kahwaji, and begins to exacerbate sectarian tensions within the military institution.
The inhabitants of Saida are unhappy with behaviors that may cause a Sunni-Shiite discord and economic losses. In addition, the Future Movement does not support al-Asir. Hezbollah the authorities to contain this phenomenon.
Al Baas (Syrian Daily, March 21, 2013)
Syrian army forces discovered the main smuggling used for infiltration of terrorists and sending arms to Syria. This road passes through the village of Oteiba. The army also seized a truckload of arms in the countryside of Hama. Meanwhile, some 220 refugees have voluntarily left the Zaatari camp, in Jordan, to return to their villages in the region of Daraa. On the ground, the armed forces have inflicted heavy losses on the terrorist groups in the eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. Dozens of al-Nosra members died in the fighting.
The Wall Street Journal (American Daily, March 23, 2013)
The US Central Intelligence Agency has been feeding information to select rebel fighters in Syria to try to make them more effective against government troops. Current and former US officials said that the new CIA effort reflected a change in the administration’s approach that aims to strengthen secular rebel fighters. The CIA has sent officers to Turkey to help vet rebels who receive arms shipments from Gulf allies, the report said.
But administration officials cited concerns about some weapons going to Islamists.
In Iraq, the CIA has been directed by the White House to work with elite counterterrorism units to help the Iraqis counter the flow of al Qaeda-linked fighters across the border with Syria.
Syrian opposition commanders said the CIA had been working with British, French and Jordanian intelligence services to train rebels in the use of various kinds of weapons.
The move comes as the Nusra Front, the main al-Qaeda-linked group operating in Syria, is deepening its ties to the organization’s central leadership in Pakistan.
The new aid to rebels doesn’t change the US decision against taking direct military action, the paper added.
Der Spiegel (German Weekly, March 24, 2013)
Israel’s “Prisoner X,” the former Mossad agent who was found hanging in his jail cell shortly after his arrest in 2010, had provided Hezbollah with the identities of Lebanese informants, helping crack at least two major spy rings in the country.
Accordind to an internal Israeli record, Ben Zygier, an Australian national recruited by the Israeli spy agency in 2003, was suspected of having passed on the names of Ziad al-Homsi and Mustafa Ali Awada prior to his secret arrest and detention in Israel.
Lebanese authorities arrested the two suspects in 2009 on charges of espionage and sentenced them each to 15 years in prison.
Ziad al-Homsi
Homsi, a former mayor of a town in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley, and prominent member of the March 14 coalition’s leading Future Movement, served only three years of his sentence and was released in May 2012.
Zygier’s identity had only become known to the public last month when it was revealed by an investigative Australian TV report. Israel had imposed a gag order on its media to prohibit them from reporting on the case.
Zygier had reportedly been kept in a cell built for the man who assassinated former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Israel has remained extremely secretive over the case, refusing to provide information over the reasons behind Zygier’s arrest

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Mikati’s Resignation: The End of Dissociation

While everyone will now be busying themselves with analyses and anecdotes about the domestic aspects of the crisis, the consequences of Mikati’s resignation for the tragedy in Syria are no less serious. (Photo: Haytham Moussawi)
 
 
Published Saturday, March 23, 2013
 
There are many details, and a lot has happened over the past few days. From Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri’s trip to Rome, to President Michel Suleiman becoming persuaded that the domestic political set-up needs changing, to the contacts made in connection with the two cabinet sessions convened in the past couple of days.

What is clear is that Mikati’s resignation was essentially part of the crisis in Syria.

Regarding the domestic issues that prompted the move, which are inextricable from developments in Syria, a number of things can be noted.

One is the growing hold of the US and certain European and Arab governments over a great many Lebanese politicians, including Suleiman, Mikati, and Walid Jumblatt.

These countries wanted to block the adoption of a new election law that would deny the March 14 coalition a parliamentary majority and jeopardize the “balance-tipping” power of Jumblatt. So they went into action to ensure that no agreement would be reached on legislation that does not suit their strategy. Even the confused position of the Phalangists and Lebanese Forces was insufficient to enable the Orthodox Gathering Law to be approved.

Given Suleiman, Mikati, and Jumblatt’s insistence on involving Berri in the ploy to thwart the Orthodox Law, the speaker may have erred by not referring it to parliament earlier, rather than allowing the trio to mount their pre-emptive strike aimed at keeping the 1960 election law in place.

The trio assumed that pressure from the president and prime minister would suffice to achieve this goal. Their aides insist they had they cooperation of the speaker — why else would he have agreed not to convene parliament to debate the Orthodox Gathering law? But it did not cross their minds that the people who matter would be unwilling to submit to blackmail once again.

The other directive that was issued relates to the security situation in the country.

For the West and its Arab clients, it is not enough to neutralize the Lebanese army, prevent it from acting decisively to bring the security breakdown under control, and threaten to split or scrap it. They also want direct control over the Internal Security Forces (ISF), so decided there is a pressing need for General Ashraf Rifi to be kept in his post as ISF head following the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan.

No opportunity was missed to press this point, whether in repeated remarks by the US ambassador to Lebanon, or in the Saudi ambassador’s claim to have been given an undertaking by the president of the republic that Rifi’s term would be extended. The French prime minister even raised the subject with Mikati, telling him within earshot of accompanying ministers that “President Hollande recommends” that Rifi be retained.

But the trio were unsure they could get that done. When Mikati failed to secure a direct promise from Berri, he sought at least to obtain one from Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The big surprise was when Hezbollah’s reply, delivered to the prime minister minutes ahead of the resignation announcement, was “do what you deem appropriate.”

While everyone will now be busying themselves with analyses and anecdotes about the domestic aspects of the crisis, the consequences of Mikati’s resignation for the tragedy in Syria are no less serious. In this context, it would help to note the following:

– The sharp escalation of political and military pressure on the Syrian regime by its Arab and Western detractors. They have acted to foil any efforts by opposition figures to pursue a political settlement, such as by sidelining Moaz al-Khatib. This while running a massive scheme to arm and train thousands of fighters inside Syria, Turkey, and Jordan, ahead of what the Turks have been saying will be a decisive showdown in three months.

– The real results of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Palestine and Jordan. While urging the Palestinian president to keep praying, he was firm with the king of Jordan about the need to fall fully in line with the anti-Assad camp. More importantly, Obama obliged Israel’s leaders to keep quiet, refrain from action against either Iran, Syria, or Hezbollah.

– The American, European, and Gulf mobilization against Hezbollah, which has taken several forms: reactivating the issue of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL); putting pressure on the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization; directly pressing the prime minister to do what is necessary to weaken Hezbollah’s influence in the government; and contriving a new controversy called “Hezbollah’s role in Syria.”

In light of the above, some worrying conclusions can be drawn:

– The slogan of dissociation from the Syrian crisis, even if it was never fully realistic, is being finally abandoned. The resignation of the government means involving Lebanon directly. In parallel, more pressure will be exerted on the army to prevent it from taking preventive measures, while the ISF will likely head toward disintegration, rendering it ineffective.

– The architects of this move are betting that change in Syria is inevitable and will come soon. One security veteran says it amazes him how time after time, world capitals behave as though the end of the war in Syria and the downfall of the regime are imminent. This wager requires waves of tension to be unleashed in Lebanon, in the belief that this will unsettle Hezbollah and prevent it from aiding the regime in Syria.

– The political chaos will be protracted, the elections are as good as postponed, and the political tilt of Suleiman-Mikati-Jumblatt will revive the fortunes of the March 14 camp. Some of its leaders made calls yesterday evening to arrange their affairs in anticipation of new ministerial and security posts.

God protect us.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

نهاية النأي بالنفس

‏السبت‏، 23‏ آذار‏، 2013
تفاصيل كثيرة، والوقائع أكثر عن الأيام القليلة الماضية. من رحلة الرئيسين نبيه بري ونجيب ميقاتي إلى روما، إلى قناعة الرئيس ميشال سليمان بضرورة تعديل الوقائع السياسية الداخلية، وصولاً إلى الاتصالات الخاصة بجلستي الحكومة خلال اليومين الماضيين، لكن الاكيد ان استقالة الرئيس نجيب ميقاتي، تقع في صلب الأزمة السورية.
اما ما خص الجوانب الداخلية المرتبطة عضويا بما يجري في سوريا، فيمكن ملاحظة عدة أمور:
داخلياً، اتضح تعاظم الوصاية الأميركية والأوروبية ودول عربية على فريق سياسي كبير في لبنان، بما في ذلك الرئيسان سليمان وميقاتي والنائب وليد جنبلاط. وبدت هذه العواصم معنية برفض أي قانون جديد للانتخابات يطيح أكثرية فريق 14 آذار، ويهدد حجم «بيضة القبان» التي اسمها وليد جنبلاط. وبالتالي، حشدت هذه العواصم بقوة، لأجل منع حصول توافق على قانون جديد لها يناسب استراتيجيتها. وحتى الارباك الذي أصاب فريقي الكتائب و«القوات اللبنانية»، لم يكن كافياً لخوض معركة إقرار القانون الأرثوذكسي.
ومع إصرار الثلاثي سليمان، ميقاتي وجنبلاط على إقحام الرئيس بري في مناورة اسقاط الأرثوذكسي، فإن رئيس المجلس ربما يكون قد أخطأ في عدم التعجيل بإحالة اقتراح قانون اللقاء الأرثوذكسي على الهيئة العامة، لكن الثلاثي بادر من دون انتظار، إلى خوض المعركة الوقائية الهادفة الى التعامل مع قانون الستين على أنه أمر واقع. وافترض هذا الفريق، انه بالإمكان من خلال ضغوط رئيسي الجمهورية والحكومة، تحقيق هذا الهدف. ومرة جديدة يقول أركان «الثلاثي» انهم عملوا باتفاق مع رئيس المجلس، والا فلماذا وافق الأخير على عدم دعوة مجلس النواب إلى مناقشة اللقاء الأرثوذكسي، لكن فات هؤلاء ان القوى صاحبة الامر والنهي، ليست في وارد الخضوع مجددا للابتزاز.
أمر العمليات الآخر، كان متصلاً بالواقع الأمني في البلاد. لم يكتف الغرب وعرب الغرب بالعمل على تحييد الجيش اللبناني، ومنعه من القيام بدور حاسم لضبط فلتان أمني خطير، والتلويح بتقسميه وتخريبه، بل طالبوا بإبقاء مؤسسة قوى الأمن الداخلي تحت الوصاية المباشرة، ووجد هذا الفريق ان بقاء اللواء أشرف ريفي في منصبه، ضرورة ملحة، بعد اغتيال العميد وسام الحسن. ولم يترك الغربيون والعرب فرصة إلا أشاروا فيها إلى هذه النقطة. من الكلام المكرر للسفيرة الأميركية في لبنان، إلى زعم السفير السعودي حصوله على تعهد رئيسي الجمهورية والحكومة بالتمديد لريفي، وصولاً إلى قيام رئيس الحكومة الفرنسية بفتح الموضوع أمام الرئيس ميقاتي، وعلى مسمع الوفد الوزاري، قائلاً له: إن الرئيس هولاند يوصي بالتجديد لريفي.
في هذه اللحظة الداخلية، أظهر الثلاثي المتمرد اليوم، قلقاً إزاء مسار الأمور، وانطلقت وساطات بلغت حد المقايضة من أجل تمرير ملفي هيئة الإشراف على الحملة الانتخابية والتمديد لريفي. وكان ميقاتي على وجه الخصوص، يسعى إلى الحصول على وعد مباشر من رئيس المجلس. وإزاء فشله، سعى إلى الحصول، أقله، على وعد من حزب الله والتيار الوطني. وعنصر المفاجأة البارز كان في أن حزب الله رد بعبارة وصلت إلى رئيس الحكومة قبل دقائق من إذاعته بيان الاستقالة: «افعل ما تراه مناسباً!».
وإذا كان الجميع سوف يُشغل في تحليلات وروايات تتعلق بالعناصر الداخلية للأزمة، إلا أن الواقع الأكثر صعوبة، يتصل بموقع خطوة استقالة الرئيس ميقاتي، في سياق المأساة السورية. وفي هذا السياق، من المفيد ملاحظة الآتي:
ـــ مسارعة الفريق العربي والدولي المناوئ للنظام السوري إلى خطوات عملانية هدفها زيادة الضغط السياسي والميداني، من محاصرة أي مبادرة من جانب شخصيات في المعارضة، مثل عزل معاذ الخطيب، إلى مخالفة عناصر التوافق الأميركي ـــ الروسي، وتعيين رئيس حكومة انتقالية سوف تنقل لها كل مصالح سوريا في العالم، مروراً بأوسع عملية تدريب وتجهيز مع أسلحة نوعية لآلاف المقاتلين، في داخل سوريا، وفي تركيا والأردن، لأجل إعداد خطة يتولى الأتراك الحديث عنها، باعتبارها المعركة الفاصلة ضد النظام خلال الأشهر الثلاثة المقبلة.
ـــ تبيان النتائج الفعلية لزيارة الرئيس الأميركي باراك أوباما إلى فلسطين والأردن، اذ تمنى على الرئيس الفلسطيني الاكثار من الصلاة والدعاء، فهو كان حازما مع ملك الأردن ازاء ضرورة الانضواء الكامل في الجبهة العاملة ضد بشار الأسد. والاهم إلزام اوباما قيادة اسرائيل الصمت، والامتناع عن أي مبادرة، لا ضد إيران، ولا ضد سوريا ولا ضد حزب الله، والتصالح مع تركيا والانطلاق نحو مستوى جديد من التنسيق بين الدولتين، وخصوصاً انهما باتتا اليوم أمام عدو واحد هو بشار الأسد.
ـــ استنفار أميركي وأوروبي وخليجي ضد حزب الله، تمثل أولاً في تنشيط ملف المحكمة الدولية، والضغط لأجل اعتبار أوروبا حزب الله منظمة إرهابية، وتعميم أجواء التحريض على الحزب بوصفه مصدر خطر على أرزاق اللبنانيين في العالم العربي، والضغط المباشر على رئيس الحكومة للقيام بما يلزم لأجل إضعاف حضور حزب الله داخل الحكومة، وتعزيز الحملة ضده من جانب قوى إسلامية الطابع لاجل ترهيبه بالفتنة السنية ـــ الشيعية. وصولاً إلى اعداد ملف خاص اسمه: دور حزب الله في سوريا.
وعلى قاعدة ما سبق، يمكن المسارعة إلى وضع بعض الاستنتاجات المقلقة:
التخلي نهائياً عن شعار النأي بالنفس عن الأزمة السورية، واذا كان الشعار ليس واقعياً من حيث المبدأ، الا ان خطوة استقالة الحكومة، تعني اقحام لبنان مباشرة، ما يعني توقع توترات أمنية ليس فقط على الحدود مع سوريا، بل ربما داخل الأراضي اللبنانية. بموازاة ضغوط إضافية على الجيش لمنعه من القيام باعمال ردعية، واعتبار قوى الأمن الداخلي، مؤسسة سائرة نحو الانشقاق أو التشرذم، وبالتالي انعدام الفاعلية.
ـــ ان من يقف خلف هذه «الخطوة الغبية» يراهن بقوة على متغيرات حتمية في سوريا خلال وقت قريب. ويروي مرجع أمني بارز، أنه يفاجأ مرة تلو الأخرى، بأن عواصم عالمية تتصرف على أساس ان الحرب في سوريا على وشك الانتهاء لمصلحة سقوط النظام. وهذا الرهان يعني، إفلات الساحة اللبنانية امام موجات من التوتر، على خلفية أن هذا الأمر، قد يمثل عنصر ازعاج لحزب الله، وذلك بقصد منعه من مساعدة حكم الأسد.
ـــ ان الفوضى السياسية سوف تطول، وان الانتخابات صارت في حكم المؤجلة، وإن الانحياز السياسي الثلاثي، سليمان ـــ ميقاتي ـــ جنبلاط، سوف يعيد الحيوية إلى فريق 14 آذار، الذي بدأ بعض أركانه مساء أمس، يجرون الاتصالات لترتيب سيارات وياقات جديدة، أملاً في مناصب رئاسية ووزارية وأمنية…
الله يستر!

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

ORIENT TENDENCIES: US PLAN TO DESTABILIZE THE M.E. FROM IRAQ TO LEBANON

Posted on March 11, 2013 by
 

Monday March 11, 2013, no122
Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared by neworientnews.com
Editor in chief Wassim Raad
New Orient Center for Strategic policies
 

An American plan to destabilize the region, from Irak to Lebanon, including Syria and Jordan
By Ghaleb Kandil

It is no exaggerating to say that the United States Ambassador to Lebanon, Maura Connelly, gave the kickoff of the new American plan to spread chaos and create an atmosphere of confrontation that lead to power emptiness in the country.

Coordinated movements of Takfirists extremists groups, the provocative speeches exacerbating political tensions and the media campaigns against Hezbollah, are part of the American plan to encourage escalation on the ground, with the active complicity of the Future Movement and medias in which delegates from U.S. intelligence office communication., based in Dubai, work. The past two years, all the efforts of the United States to provoke sectarian strife had failed. 
One might ask about the relationship between Sheikhs Ahmad al-Asir, Dai al-Islam al-Chabal, and the United States. The answer is clear: this relationship is maintained through Gulf states financial aid (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait and Lebanon Hariri clan) to these two extremists sheiks that are directly related to the Americans.
The U.S. plan is a blow to one of the pillars of the stability of Lebanon, represented by the formula of power developed since the formation of Najib Mikati government.

Washington’s action aims to link the explosive region, including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. Its aim is to improve the conditions for negotiations, in order to strengthen the influence of its allies in the region. Especially that this influence had seriously declined after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the Israeli defeat in Lebanon and Palestine.

In this context, Maura Connelly asked President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, to begin preparations for the parliamentary elections in June according to 1960 law. Because the replacement of this law would lead to a further decline of the influence of Washington and its Lebanese and regional auxiliary, including centrists, whose ties with the West are no longer a secret. The request submitted by Ms. Connelly has created an electrified climate within the Lebanese government after MM. Sleiman, Mikati and Charbel had yielded to U.S “wishes”, reflecting a change in the tactics of the United States who have decided to turn the page on the stability and opt for escalation in the region, from Iraq to Lebanon, including Syria and Jordan.
The movement initiated by the Gulf Cooperation Council to put pressure on Lebanon and threaten to deport thousands of Lebanese working in these states is an illustration of the American plan. As fierce smear campaign launched against Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, and information on his dismissal and two Hezbollah ministers. As well as Leaks on the the information about the intention of President Sleiman to ask ministers close to him to resign. All these measures, if implemented, would bring a blow to political stability.
These data provide evidence for the existence of a destabilization U.S. plan in order to expand the Syrian battlefield to Lebanon, in order to put on the table the issue of the Resistance armaments. The ultimate goal is, of course, to guarantee the security of Israel by weakening the Resistance.

Statements
Michel Sleiman, president of the Lebanese Republic
«The countries of the region are causing riots to have elections, and we want to cause problems for to postpone them? The situation is not dangerous, but it is worrying. Elections have a 95% chance to stand on the basis of a law other than that of 1960. If there is no election and there is an extension of the Parliament mandate, the security risk is high. The Delegation of the Gulf Cooperation Council who visited the presidential palace did not issued an ultimatum. Why do we want to bring the conflict Syria to us?»
Adnane Mansour, Lebanese Foreign Affairs minister
«All resolutions of the Arab League on Syria remained without effect, and the violence in the country has continued to escalate, with all the effects it had on Lebanon. Where is the problem when I demanded the return of Syria to the Arab League that it is possible to talk with her and find together the political solution? I can keep my distance vis-à-vis what is happening in the neighboring country, but not vis-à-vis the dangers that Lebanon may incur. What law of the Arab League or the UN authorizes state to intervene, especially military, in the affairs of each others? Can we protect Lebanon against the effects of what could happen in this case? My positions take into consideration the interests of Lebanon. When I see that interest is in danger, I do not hesitate to say it.»

Fouad Siniora, Lebanese former Prime minister
«The positions of Mr Mansour is in total contradiction with the Constitution. We condemn this fact since a Foreign Minister, representing the government, is not allowed to express his personal views in an Arab and international forums. Our relations with the Arab countries are difficult because of the positions taken by some Lebanese parties.»
Michel Aoun, Leader of the Free Patriotic Movement
«The arms of the resistance exist to defend the southern border. These are weapons of defense which do not attack Israel, but defend Lebanon if Israel attacks our territory. We are not in favor of participation in the fighting in Syria but there are Syrian villages inhabited by Lebanese near the borders, and these villages are under attack. They have the right to defend themselves.»
Oussama Saad, Former Lebanese MP
«The movement of Shiekh Ahmad al-Asir and similar phenomena are controlled by the Gulf states who finance them. The United States implement constructive chaos theory and try to cause discord between Sunnis and Shiites to spread chaos and civil wars in the region as part of its war against the resistance movement.»
Maura Connelly, American Ambassador to Lebanese
«As one of the oldest democracies in the region, Lebanon has, in our opinion, to comply with Constitution schedule to organize elections. Nothing prevents the organization of elections in time in the absence of an agreement in the near future on a new electoral law.»
Alexander Zasypkin , Russian Ambassador to Lebanon
«The elections in Lebanon must be arranged with the agreement of all the Lebanese parties and not the result of foreign directives. Foreign interference in Lebanese affairs is unacceptable. Russia supports the initiatives taken by the authorities and the Lebanese army to preserve the stability of the country. Our position is clear. We do not interfere in the affairs of Lebanon and we want others to adopt the same policy. All details relating to elections are internal Lebanese affairs.»
Serguei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Affairs minister
«President Bashar al-Assad will not leave power and we have no intention of asking. It is not for us to decide who should lead Syria. It is the Syrians to decide. We are opposed to any pre-condition to stop the violence and begin dialogue because we believe that the number one priority is to save lives.»
Events
  • Ø According to As-Safir daily, “UNIFIL has justified the violation by Israel of Lebanese territories in Wazzani. A statement issued by UN forces indicates that the Israeli army, which began March 4 to dig a road south of the blue line in the region Wazzani, had informed UNIFIL in advance of the work it plans to undertake. The statement said that UNIFIL has shared this information with the Lebanese armed forces. “
Press review
As Safir (Lebanese daily, close to the majority, March 8, 2013)
Marlene Khalifeh
The election date has raised in recent days a strong interest from Western diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador, Maura Connelly, his British counterpart, Tom Fletcher, the representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, European Commissioner to Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Füle, and the Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon, Angelina Eichhorst. The only practical application of the appeal of the West to organize the elections as scheduled in accordance with the 1960 Act, has been the signature by the President and Prime Minister of the decree calling the electoral college.
Some believe that the West wants to see the establishment of an Assembly where a “centrist bloc” will be able to tip the balance. According to government sources, this block will consist of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, MP Walid Jumblatt, Elias Skaff and others. The objective would be to establish a balance in the Chamber.
A Western diplomat said that the crisis in Lebanon does not find its origins in the electoral dispute, but in the aftermath of the conflict in Syria on Lebanon. Regarding the postponement of the elections, another European diplomat said that if it happens, maintaining Najib Mikati government would be better than a vacuum.
An Nahar (Lebanese Daily, close to march-14 coalition)
Rosanna Bou Mouncef (March 8, 2013)
Political sources close to March 14 coalition find that the last visit of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General in Lebanon marks a shift in the politics of the Gulf states towards the Lebanon. Gulf countries want Lebanon to respect the dissociation policy by preventing Hezbollah from getting involved in Syria. The message of the GCC aims to bring the party to the following choice: either join the government or participate in the Syrian war. If the situation does not change in Lebanon, the Gulf countries will not hesitate to evoke the question of the Lebanese working in the peninsula.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese daily, close to the majority, March 7, 2013)
In Lebanon’s northeastern Wadi Khaled, one finds what could be called the extension of al-Nosra Front inside March 14. Under the pretext of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Phalanges’ homebase of Bikfaya and the Lebanese Forces’ homebase of Maarab are both creating links with extremists.
It begins in Roumieh prison. Reports indicate that the prison has become a factory of sorts for manufacturing new types of Islamist groups.
The latest such incident occurred when Bilal A.J.K., from the village of Rajm Issa and imprisoned for his affiliations with Fatah al-Islam, met with a Libyan Muslim Brotherhood supporter going by the name of Bashti. Upon leaving prison, Bilal formed the first Libyan-type Brotherhood group in Wadi Khaled under the directions of Bashti.
The group communicates with al-Qaeda using the Thuraya satellite phone network. It recruited around 30 members throughout the villages of Rajm Issa, Rajm Hussein, and Rajm Khalaf. The most prominent members are F.S., Rabih B., and Khaled A.J.
Since its inception several months ago, the group has been busy training and preparing, in addition to participating in fighting in Tal Kalakh and al-Qasir in Syria. Its operations in the Homs countryside are coordinated by Khaled A.J., a former fighter in Baba Amro who has links with both former Colonel Amid Hammoud, commander of al-Ansar group, and the Salafi Omar M., AKA Omar Ajaj.
Khaled’s mission focuses on sending fighters to al-Qasir and Tal Kalakh to conduct military operations and providing them with shelter at bases in Wadi Khaled.
Another group in the region is led by a Lebanese MP. Mustafa A.H. from Knayseh, who holds Lebanese nationality, is the commander, but his brother carries Syrian nationality and is the mayor of the Syrian village of Bouit.
The latter was in charge of smuggling defecting Syrian army soldiers and officers into Wadi Khaled. He was recently arrested by Syrian authorities once they uncovered his activities.
The third group in Wadi Khaled is a branch of al-Ansar, which presents itself as the “military wing” of the Future Movement and is led by Colonel Hammoud. The group is under the command of Ahmed A.D.S. from the town of Hnaider, assisted by Haitham R.S. from Rajm Hussein.
Its base is located in the Wadi Sarhan region between Rajm Khalaf in Lebanon and Bouit in Syria, and serves as a training camp for the Free Syrian Army.
For a while, the groups were under the supervision of Colonel Abdullah al-Khatbi, a Syrian army defector. He later had to relocate to Tripoli due to security reasons, where he now lives in an apartment rented by Hammoud in the annexed area of the city.
To disguise his movement between Tripoli and Wadi Khaled, Khatbi has used a car with blue license plates belonging to a Lebanese MP. He is the brother-in-law of the Future Movement official A.M., AKA Broken Amer, who hosted him after he fled Syria.
The Lebanese Forces and the Phalanges
Mahmoud N. is the commander of a group linked to the Lebanese Forces in Wadi Khaled. He was active logistically within the Salafi offensive under the pretext of “solidarity” with the Syrian opposition in its attempt to topple Assad.
The group consists of about 40 men and has a clandestine office at Mahmoud’s own home in al-Maslabiyeh. According to people close to his circles, he is known to have an old relationship with the US Embassy in Beirut and is in regular communication with Maarab’s security chief.
Another group in the area is linked to the Phalanges, acting in support of the Syrian opposition and led by a Phalangist regional official called Mohammed I. He is linked to MP Sami Gemayel and is assisted by his brother Ahmed. The Phalanges have around 80 individuals active in Wadi Khaled.
The mission undertaken by the Lebanese Forces and the Phalanges is related to monitoring the borders, collecting information on Syrian army deployments, and facilitating the work of the FSA.
It should be noted that arms smuggling routes in the region pass through the Nsoub crossing in Mount Akroum-Bouit and the Shabieh crossing in al-Hisheh. The smugglers only need to cross the river to arrive at the Homs highway.
Al Akhbar (March 7, 2013)
Hassan Illeik
It is no coincidence that Algeria and Iraq were the only two countries at the 6 March 2013 Arab League meeting in Cairo that objected to the proposal to arm the Syrian opposition.
Their opposition did not merely reflect their overall political stance, or their ties with the resistance axis in the region. They also happen to be the only two Arab states that are capable – thanks to their own oil and gas resources – of refusing to do the bidding of Gulf oil monarchies.
Neither is it a coincidence that a bevy of Lebanese political groups mobilized yesterday to attack Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Adnan Mansour over his stance on Syria.
With the brazenness of a bully, the Gulf states yesterday threatened Lebanon with economic and security consequences if it does not adhere to its policy of “dissociation” from the crisis in Syria.
The implied economic threat is clear. They are hinting that they will expel Lebanese workers from their countries if stances are taken in Lebanon that oppose their policies in Syria.
Less clear is the security threat. Are they promising to send us theirmujahideen to fight for freedom as defined by al-Nusra Front? Or will they open a Beirut franchise of their gun-running operation in Syria?
What Mansour actually did in Cairo was to adhere genuinely to the dissociation policy. The only stance the minister took was an ethical one in favor of a peaceful solution in Syria, and of Damascus retaking its seat at the Arab League so that dialogue can begin in Cairo.
The Gulf regimes, committed to implementing US Secretary of State John Kerry’s agenda of more blood and destruction in Syria, disapproved of Mansour’s stance. For them, “dissociation” means turning a blind eye to an influx of arms intended to destroy an Arab country.
Mansour’s sin was to call for peace at a time when every other country is pushing for war. His greater sin was to flout his obligation of submission and obedience to the ordained rulers of the oil monarchies.
Al Akhbar (March 7, 2013)
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour shot back at criticisms of his recent stances on Syria Thursday, accusing unnamed Arab states of “orchestrating noisy reactions” against the Lebanese government “which they have opposed since day one.”
“Lebanon will maintain a neutral stance on Syria, but when Lebanon is affected then of course we have to put Lebanon’s interests first,” said Mansour at a press conference held upon his return from Cairo at the Rafik Hariri airport.
“A 15 year civil war is enough for us. We will not have more war in our country…I cannot be neutral about the dangers that might happen to my country” he added referring to an Arab League decision to allow members to arm Syrian rebels. Mansour warned that Lebanon would not grant passageway to the transfer of arms.
“I don’t see what the problem is with calling for Syria’s return to the lap of the Arab League…the verbal attacks against me weren’t the first and they won’t be the last.”
Mansour, a member of the pro-Damascus Amal movement, called on the Arab League Wednesday to reinstate Syria’s membership, deeming the move “essential for a political solution”, and sparking uproar from Lebanon’s opposition and some heads of state.
The remarks appeared to contradict Prime Minister Najib Mikati a policy of “dissociation” from the conflict in Lebanon’s dominant neighbor. Mikati has also promise that his country would respect any League decisions about Syria.
“It was not the decisions of the Arab League that drowned Syria in a sea of blood. Bashar Assad is the one who killed his people and drowned Syria in a sea of blood,” Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani said in response to Mansour’s remarks.
“The Syrian regime has found someone to speak on its behalf at the Arab League,” said Saudi-backed former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
“Lebanon’s foreign minister has executed this dark mandate, which is incompatible with the fundamental basis of Arab solidarity, and erases all claims related to the policy of disassociation.”
Syria’s two year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has claimed nearly 70,000 lives, and has raised the specter of spilling over into neighboring states, namely Lebanon.
Although the smallest of the neighboring states, Lebanon hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees at 332,297 (March 5, 2013 UNHCR figure) with Jordan trailing closely behind at 324,543.
Fears of a crisis spillover into Lebanon have been widespread, and tens of thousands of ammunition rounds have been seized in the country while en route to Syria.
“Based on information that we have, there are reasons to believe that there is a flow of arms both ways – from Lebanon into Syria and from Syria into Lebanon,” Terje Roed-Larsen UN special envoy to the Middle East said to reporters in May last year.
Ad Diyar (Lebanese Daily close to March 8 coalition)
(March 6, 2013)
Security services learned that ten young supporters of Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir are wearing explosive belts in processions and demonstrations organized by the cleric in different regions of the country, particularly in the city of Sidon. This type of behavior is new and does not occur at events organized by al-Asir in the past. But recently, the imam of the mosque Bilal bin Rabah have taken this decision to “die a martyr” if the police came to arrest him.
France-Presse Agency (March 9, 2013)
A Saudi court on Saturday dissolved a human rights group and handed down heavy jail terms to two of its members for offenses that included sedition and giving inaccurate information to foreign media.
Mohammed Fahd al-Qahtani and Abdullah Hamad are founding members of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, known as ACPRA, that documents human rights abuses and has called for a constitutional monarchy and elections.
Qahtani was sentenced to 10 years. Hamad was told he must complete the remaining six years of a previous jail term for his political activities, serve an additional five years and comply with an 11-year travel ban when he leaves jail. They have 30 days to appeal.
The judge at the criminal court in Riyadh, in delivering his verdict ordered “the dissolution of the Saudi Association of Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), for failing to obtain authorization, and the seizure of its assets.”
Qahtani and Hamad reacted calmly to the verdict, saying they planned to continue their “peaceful struggle.”
Riyadh, Washington’s main Gulf ally, does not allow protests, political parties and trade unions. Most power is wielded by top members of the ruling family and senior clerics of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam.
Last year, ACPRA issued a statement demanding that King Abdullah fire his heir and interior minister, Crown Prince Nayef, who they held responsible for rights abuses. Nayef died shortly afterwards.
Unlike in most previous cases, the trial was opened to the press and public, in what Saudi activists described as a step forward for rights even as they decried the verdict.
Supporters of the two men shouted out that the trial was politically motivated after the judge handed down the sentences, and a line of security officers armed with truncheons cleared the courtroom.
On Thursday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said that activists, whom he did not name, had tried to stir up protests in the world’s top oil exporting country by spreading “false information” on social media.
ACPRA claims to have created a file listing “hundreds of human rights violations over the past two years,” and has helped victims seeking justice.
It says the kingdom is holding around 30,000 political prisoners.
La Libre Belbique (Belgian Daily, March 8, 2013)
Hundreds of young Europeans, including dozens of Flemish, fight in Syria alongside radical Muslims, said the president of the European agency Eurojust, Michèle Coninsx. In an interview with Dutch radio VRT, Ms. Coninsx expressed concern about the growing number of young people making the trip between Europe and Syria. According to Eurojust to coordinate the activities of national judicial authorities, this trend draws concern because young people come into contact with radical movements often linked to Al-Qaeda and pose a danger to their return to Europe

 

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Sayyed Nasrallah on Leader Martyrs Day: Resistance Ready, Possesses All Armaments for Any Future Confrontation with “Israel"

 

Details...Zeinab Essa

On the Day of the Martyr Leaders [Sayyed Abbas Mousawi, Sheikh Ragheb Harb, and Hajj Imad Moghniyeh], Hizbullah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech in which he tackled various regional and internal developments on top of which the “Israeli” threats.


Sayyed Nasrallah’s speech came during a ceremony at Sayyed Shuhada’a complex in Dahiya [Beirut’s Southern suburb] under the slogan: On the Path to Palestine.

On the Commemoration

The Leader of the resistance welcomed via video-link all participants in the commemoration as he paid tribute to the families of the martyrs and the martyr leaders.

“In this memory we vow to honor the will and the cause of the martyrs,” His Eminence stressed, and pointed out that “in this anniversary, we learn to inspire, renew our vow and pledge, preserve the will, and remain the men of position.”

His Eminence further stated that “these martyr leaders remain the witnesses of all stages of the resistance.”


On the Martyr Leaders, Sayyed Nasrallah highlighted: “Martyr Sheikh Ragheb was a witness of the foundation, leadership and decisive choices. Sayyed Abbas was a witness on the stage of stability and focus and consistency in the path of resistance. Martyr Haj Imad was a witness on the stage of the quantitative and qualitative development as well as on achievements and victories.”


In this context, His Eminence called for being faithful to the martyrs’ will and to the cause.
“The biggest threat in the region is “Israel” and Zionism,” he said, and highlighted that “the only logical choice is popular resistance to face the “Israeli” threat.”

He also warned of the dangers of adopting narrow thinking, regarding regional issues. “The resistance achievements form evidence of its capabilities: from the liberation to the deterrence power and protection of the country.”

On the Path to Palestine


As Sayyed Nasrallah revealed that “the future will reveal the aspects of cooperation between the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance,” he mentioned: “For 30 years the resistance was one of the strongest realities that changed regional strategies.”
“The Lebanese resistance has helped the Palestinian resistance by all means to become strong. The resistance succeeded when the Lebanese stood by its side and the people were the ones to achieve the liberation,” His Eminence clarified.

In parallel, Sayyed Nasrallah revealed that “the martyr Haj Imad had many major roles in communicating, and transferring experience between Lebanon and Palestine.”
He offered his condolences to the Iranian Republic over the martyrdom of the Iranian official Houssam Khoshnevis. “All these martyrs fell on the path to Palestine as they were linked to Palestine, and its sanctities in a relationship based on faith, devotion, love, passion and great concern.”

On the regional level, His Eminence saluted the Bahraini revolution as he hoped that national dialogue will be able to achieve people’s aspirations in the country.

Regarding the threats of an “Israeli” war on Lebanon, the Hizbullah chief viewed that “an anticipated “Israeli” war against Lebanon are mere inventions that were disseminated by local factions instead of the Zionist entity.”


He stated that “Israel” implicated Hizbullah right after Burgas bombing. “”Israeli” Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu immediately accused Hizbullah.”

“Many Lebanese sides were quick to adopt the accusation, sue us and enter Lebanon in the economic and political consequences for the possibility of naming us on the international terrorism list. “They even prepared themselves to topple the government,” Sayyed Nasrallah iterated.

His Eminence said: “I don’t want to comment on the Bulgarian accusations. This issue is being looked at in a patient and calm manner and we will see later how to deal with it depending on the outcome.”

However, the leader of the resistance accused some Lebanese and Arab media outlets of taking advantage of the incident to tarnish the resistance’s image.

“The worst thing here is: that all this talk about a possible war by “Israel” on Lebanon was done by Lebanese and Arab media outlets and figures,” he said.


Meanwhile, Sayyed Nasrallah explained that “some people hope to exploit the Syrian crisis, to attack Lebanon and try to eliminate the resistance, as Damascus is occupied in its war and is unable at the moment to aid the resistance in Lebanon in a war against “Israel”.”

Resistance Ready

تزويد حزب الله بمنظومات دفاع جوية لعرقلة التحليق فوق لبنان
وأخرى بر بحر لتغطية شواطئ الكيان الصهيوني برمته

“”Israel” does not need a pretext to launch any aggression on Lebanon. In 1982, “Israel” accused the Palestinian factions of the attempt to assassinate the “Israeli” ambassador in London and waited no investigation or charge, yet directly attacked Lebanon” he added.
However, His Eminence assured that “the resistance is ready and possesses all armaments and weapons required and needed to face any “Israeli” aggression without the need of Iranian or Syrian aid.”

“The resistance will respond to any attack against Lebanese territories,” he stressed, and assured that “nowadays, and particularly after the 2000 liberation, the “Israelis” count thousands of times before even thinking of carrying any attack on Lebanon.”

Sayyed Nasrallah also affirmed that the resistance is able to target the infrastructure of the Zionist entity. He vowed with the great honored blood of the martyr leaders that the resistance has greater determination and a stronger will to confront any aggression, and preserve the martyrs’ will.”

“Still our respond and account with the “Israeli” is open,” His Eminence asserted.

Sayyed Nasrallah Slams Hariri’s Provocation:

On the domestic level, Sayyed Nasrallah responded to allegations that head of the Future Movement, MP Saad Hariri mentioned during the commemoration of late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassination earlier on Thursday.

“Reducing the number of Shiite ministers aimed at giving a chance to a reputable historical family in Lebanon, the Karami family, to take part in the political life. And the scarified Shiite minister belonged to Amal Movement and not Hizbullah,” His Eminence stated in response to Hariri’s accusation to Hizbullah of paying bribes to preserve the resistance arms.

Concerning the Special Tribunal to Lebanon, the resistance leader expressed Hizbullah’s understanding to Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s position: “Does this form a bribe or shame? PM Miqati and his government will remain faithful to the resistance.”
Furthermore, Sayyed Nasrallah commented on accusing Hizbullah of supporting MP Michel Aoun’s proposed Orthodox Gathering electoral law for the same purpose of preserving arms.
“We favor an electoral law that considers Lebanon a one single electoral district and adopts proportional representation, but we do support Christians’ call for just representation and hence, we will go with the Orthodox suggestion,” he reiterated.

In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah reminded that “since 2006, General Aoun was decisive in his choices as he stood by the resistance when it was required to crush Hizbullah. His position was based on moral and national aspects. “Was this position in sake of the Orthodox proposal?” he wondered.

His Eminence went on to comment on the allegations concerning Hizbullah’s relation with the National Struggle Front leader, MP Walid Jumblatt. “He has a clear stance towards the resistance but we are divided on Syria’s conflict, and we will not encourage tension in the country because of our different views on this topic.”

“The resistance is a priority to us because Lebanon and the region are threatened and it is the only mean for defense,” he said, and noted that “all what leads to transmitting the Syrian conflict to Lebanon is a big mistake.”

Did You or Your Father Receive Bribe?

In parallel, Sayyed Nasrallah emphasized that “we agreed on the four-party alliance in the 2005 parliamentary elections to preserve national unity and avoid the Sunni-Shiite strife.”
“You suggested neutralizing the issue of the resistance’s arm to support you to head the government but we rejected, because we want a prime minister that resides inside Lebanon and is available in the country,” he stated.

As he slammed Hariri’s provocative speech, Sayyed Nasrallah wondered: “Had your father received a bribe when he vowed to reserve the resistance arms until a comprehensive Arab-“Israeli” agreement?”

Moreover, His Eminence revealed that “the late PM even pledged to resign and travel if Sayyed Nasrallah didn’t agree to deliver weapons once all Arabs reach a compromise with “Israel”, rather than get into conflict with the Resistance over such a matter.”

“Disarming Hizbullah was not mentioned in the Doha accord that you agreed on and the resistance was an exception to handing over the weapons by other groups in the country. Have you agreed in receiving a bribe,” he clarified.

Addressing Hariri, Sayyed Nasrallah said: “You proposed to neutralize the arms of the resistance if we agreed to support you as a premier.”


He pointed out that Hizbullah rejected the deal over “national interests.”

Nasrallah stressed that “if the weapons of the resistance weren’t to confront “Israel” it wouldn’t be worth the sacrifice.”

Sayyed Nasrallah once again reiterated “Hizbullah’s commitment to equal power-sharing and this is why we agreed on the Orthodox Gatherings draft law.”
“We want a Lebanese Prime Minister, who lives in Lebanon, and follows up the ministers and governmental issues,” he said.


“We do not want to take over the country and monopolize the rule, we believe in sharing power. We want the establishment of a state in Lebanon and we believe in the Taif accord,” he concluded.

Source: moqawama.org


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Sayyed Nasrallah: Hezbollah Fully Equipped, Won’t Tolerate Israeli Attack (updated)

Details...

Editor’s note: In his speech today Sayyed Nasrallah did not touch directly the Syrian crisis, but warned that Israel could exploit the Syrian preoccupation with its internal situation to  attack  Lebanon.  He stressed that the resistance has everything need to defend Lebanon against any Israeli aggression, and continue its support of the Palestinian resistance until the liberation of Palestine from the sea to the river. Hezbollah would not be a part of any political settlement in the region and therefore the settlement will not be at the expense of Palestine.

=======

Batoul Wehbe
Sayyed NasrallahHezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said the resistance in Lebanon is fully equipped and will not tolerate any attack that might take place against Lebanon.

In a televised speech during a ceremony in commemoration of Hezbollah’s martyred leaders, Sayyed Nasrallah warned the Zionist entity and its allies that the Islamic resistance in Lebanon will not tolerate any attack against the Lebanese territory, assuring that Hezbollah is fully-equipped “and everything we need is found in Lebanon, we don’t need to transfer it neither from Syria, nor Iran.”

His eminence considered that the Israeli knows that all we are saying is serious and therefore is mobilizing all its capabilities, and pointed out that when the Israeli enemy wants to attack Lebanon, it does not look for any excuse but invents one.
crowds at Sayyed Shohadaa complex
“30 years on, the Resistance project stands on a solid ground of equations, achievements and victories, not just dreams ought to be true. For 30 years the resistance was one of the strongest realities that changed regional strategies,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.

In the school of martyred leaders, Sayyed Nasrallah said, the priority was the resistance because the correct diagnosis of the biggest risk points to the Israeli enemy and the Zionist project.

“When we think deeply on Islamic and national levels we find that the most danger threatening the nation is “Israel”, and the only logic choice is the popular resistance.” 

The S.G. said Martyr Sheikh Ragheb Harb was a witness to the establishment of the resistance, leadership and decisive options, Sayyed Abbas Mousawi witnessed the stage of stability, focus and consistency in the resistance, and the martyr leader Hajj Imad Mughniyeh was a witness on the stage of quantitative and qualitative evolution as well as the stage of achievements and victories.
Hariri
Concerning Al-Mustaqbal Party leader MP Saad Hariri’s speech during the commemoration of his late father PM Rafik Hariri’s assassination, Sayyed Nasrallah said that reducing the number of Shiite ministers was aimed at giving a chance to a reputable historical family in Lebanon, the Karami family, to take part in the political life and wasn’t a bribe as the MP had claimed.

“We reject neutralizing Hezbollah’s weapons and the abolition of the International Tribunal, in return of putting the country under the control of a specific person, this is bribery. We do not want to maintain the arms rather we want to maintain the resistance, and if the weapons of the resistance weren’t to confront Israel and defend Lebanon it wouldn’t be worth the sacrifice,” his eminence said.

Sayyed Nasrallah told Hariri that through the Turkish-Qatari initiative “you offered us to keep our arms in return for backing you for premiership ad we didn’t accept you to be the PM out of national interests.”

His eminence desribed Saad Hariri’s speech is an insult to his father’s history. “In the past, we met you martyred father and discussed about the resistance and its weapons, and we have already told him that our priority is the resistance and everything other than it is debatable. He told us: I am with you and I’m with the keeping of the resistance and its weapons until peace is established.”

“Did your father take a bribery from us?” the S.G wondered.

“When we deal with (Prime Minister Najib) Miqati’s government, we are sure that it will not stab the resistance in its back. Miqati and his cabinet will remain faithful to the resistance,” his eminence indicated.

On relations with PSP leader MP Walid Jumblatt, Sayyed Nasrallah said Jumblatt “has a clear stance towards the resistance but we are divided on the Syrian crisis, and we will not encourage tension in the country because of our different views on this topic.” He added that the “split over the situation in Syria doesn’t mean that we want the turmoil to spill over into Lebanon.”

Hezbollah’s secretary general Nasrallah hailed the Orthodox Gathering proposal, saying: “We are convinced that it achieves better representation even if we had a priority to make Lebanon one district based on proportional representation. We agreed on the Orthodox deaf-law and we will vote if it was proposed at the parliament.”

Concerning the Bulgarian accusation for Hezbollah as being behind Burgas airport attack where Five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian driver were killed last year, Sayyed Nasrallah rejected the accusations as baseless.

“[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu immediately blamed Hezbollah of being behind the attack… But Israel doesn’t wage a war as a reaction,” H.E said in his speech. In this regard, Sayyed Nasrallah denounced some parts who believed this claim and based their measures on it, including Lebanese parts.

The S.G. offered condolences over the martyrdom of the head of the Iranian Committee for Reconstruction of Lebanon, engineer Hussam Khoshnevis while he was on his way to Lebanon from Syria.

He also saluted the Bahraini revolution, expressing hope that the national dialogue will achieve people’s aspirations.

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Damascus reassuring: political and military wind changing

 

 

 تقرير سياسي حول الحرب الكونية الباردة في سوريا وتأثيرها على لبنان
دمشق مطمئنة: الرياح السياسية والعسكرية تتبدّل

بعد أقل من شهرين تكمل الأزمة السورية عامها الثاني. الرئيس الأميركي باراك أوباما طالب للمرة الأولى برحيل نظيره السوري بشار الأسد في 18 آب عام 2011. مر على ذاك الموقف عام و6 أشهر. سبقه إلى ذلك الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي في 28 أيار 2011. لم يرحل الرئيس السوري، وبينهما تحدث الأتراك وقادة عرب مرات عديدة عن قرب الرحيل. وها هو وزير الخارجية الروسي سيرغي لافروف يؤكد «أن رحيل بشار الأسد مستحيل»، ويتبعه مستشار مرشد الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران للشؤون الدولية علي اكبر ولايتي بالقول إن «الأسد خط أحمر»، ثم يخرج وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم لينفي كل ما قيل سابقاً (بما في ذلك ما قاله نائب الرئيس فاروق الشرع)، ويؤكد أن من يريد رحيل الأسد يتسبب في استمرار الحرب السورية.
يستنتج المرء مما تقدم، أن محور روسيا إيران سوريا قد صمد ولعله يتجه إلى تحقيق انجازات أمنية وسياسية تدفع إلى التساؤل فعلياً عن أسباب ومآل ما حصل، أسباب
قد تنعكس قريباً على مستقبل الوضع اللبناني وما يجري الإعداد له من قوانين انتخابية وغيرها. فمن موسكو وطهران إلى سوريا ولبنان، ثمة قناعة بأن ما يجري في سوريا الآن هو تجليات حرب كونية باردة، وأن دمشق باتت ساحة انتصار أو هزيمة واحد من المشروعين، ما لم تحصل تسوية كبيرة.

الذين زاروا الأسد في الأيام الأخيرة فوجئوا بحجم الاطمئنان عنده. يتحدث الرئيس من قصره (الذي لم يغادره خلافاً لما قيل) عن الوضع الحالي من منطلق أن المعادلة انقلبت. يقول إن الدولة ستستمر بترسيخ أقدامها حتى ولو طالت الحرب. يشرح أن المعركة ما عادت بين سلطة ومعارضة وإنما بين الدولة و «إرهابيين» وان القتال سيستمر حتى القضاء عليهم مهما كلف الأمر.
لم يتخل الرئيس مطلقاً عن ثقته بنظامه وجيشه. لم يشك لحظة واحدة بثبات الحليف الروسي على المستوى الدولي والحليف الإيراني في الإقليم. يبتسم مراراً، يمرر مزحة على طريقته الهادئة المخالفة لاشتعال الجبهات السورية. يقول بلهجة المطمئن: «قلت منذ البداية إن تحالفنا مع الروس إستراتيجي لا يتغير عند المنعطفات، اعتقد كثيرون أننا نبالغ». هذا التحالف انطلق فعلياً منذ العام 2007 وترسخ وقويت دعائمه فصار سداً منيعاً أمام أية محاولات لضرب سوريا عبر مجلس الأمن أو الأمم المتحدة أو خارجهما.
لا قلق عند الأسد من تمدد المعارضة المسلحة في الجسد السوري. لديه من القرائن الكثيرة التي تؤكد أن الجيش قادر على حسم عدد من المعارك المؤجلة. جغرافية سوريا سمحت للإعلام المناهض للنظام السوري بتصوير الأمر على انه سقوط حتمي للمنظومة الأمنية. الديموغرافيا السورية لا تسمح للجيش بالبقاء في الكثير من المناطق التي يحسمها. هو يضرب ويقتل الكثير من المسلحين ثم ينسحب. يعود مسلحون آخرون. لكن الأسد واثق من أن «البيئة الحاضنة آخذة بالتغيير الجذري». كثيرون يساعدون الجيش في العثور على مخابئ المسلحين. في الآونة الأخيرة قتل مئات المسلحين بعد مساعدة الأهالي.
تفاؤل الأسد أمام زواره في الأسابيع الماضية يتقاطع مع جملة من المعطيات الدولية والإقليمية أبرزها:
[ قلق أميركي فعلي من تمدد «جبهة النصرة» والجهاديين على حساب المعارضة «المقبولة غربياً». يرافقه شبه يقين من أن الجيش السوري الذي لم ينشق عنه سوى جزء بسيط جداً في خلال نحو عامين ما عاد قابلاً للتفكك. ينسحب الأمر على السلك الديبلوماسي السوري الذي فاجأ، كما الجيش، السفير الأميركي السابق في دمشق
روبر فورد. هذا الديبلوماسي الأميركي الذي جاهد لإحداث اختراقات كبيرة في المؤسستين الأمنية والديبلوماسية، والذي كان منذ الشهر الثاني للأزمة السورية يمني النفس بإقناع ضباط وشخصيات سياسية علوية بالانشقاق، قال قبل أيام، وهو يرفع يديه صوب السماء أمام احد الضيوف، «لا أدري كيف سيرحل الأسد، هو قد لا يرحل مطلقاً، لا يريد الرحيل». قالها بمرارة الفاشل. الصدى نفسه قد يتردد في دوائر غربية وبينها في الخارجية الفرنسية.
الحركات الجهادية ليست مزحة. «انقلب الكثير من السحر على السحرة»، يقول مسؤول سوري رفيع. فوجئ الأميركيون ومعهم بعض الأوروبيين بأن سماحهم بمرور بعض الجهاديين عبر الحدود الأوروبية ثم التركية فاق التوقعات. من سيناء إلى العراق وسوريا وصولاً إلى الأردن وشمال لبنان يتعمق العامل الجهادي القاعدي في جسد الشرق. لا بد إذاً من غض الطرف عن عمليات الجيش السوري ضد هؤلاء. كلما قتل الجيش من الجهاديين كلما خفف عبئاً عن الغرب.
[ التورط الفرنسي في مالي، وخطف الغربيين في الجزائر، وفشل تحرير الرهينة في الصومال، أيقظ كل ذلك الدول الغربية من سباتها. حصلت اتصالات مكثفة في الأيام القليلة الماضية بين باريس وواشنطن ولندن وبعض الدول العربية لتسريع خطوات تطويق هذا المد الجهادي. صدرت مواقف فرنسية تقول إن بعض الدول العربية مسؤولة عن تعزيز هذا المناخ الجهادي القاعدي. توجهت أصابع الاتهام إلى من دعم تسليح «القاعدة» في ليبيا. سيصدر كتاب خطير في الأيام القليلة المقبلة في باريس يتحدث عن الدور القطري في عدد من الدول العربية وفي التأثير على فرنسا وغيرها. يوقع الكتاب إعلاميان بارزان وخبيران بشؤون المنطقة هما جورج مالبرونو وكريستيان شينو. من الصعب انتظار دور فرنسي مباشر في الأزمة السورية قبل مرور أشهر طويلة على هذا الخطأ الديبلوماسي والأمني في غرب أفريقيا.
[ تغيير في الموقف العربي. ملك الأردن عبدالله الثاني قال صراحة لشخصين على الأقل هما عبد الباري عطوان، صاحب جريدة «القدس العربي»، وناهض حتر، الكاتب الأردني المقبل على دور سياسي يساري في بلاده، إن الأسد باق وإن المعادلة آخذة بالتغيير. الاستخبارات الأردنية قالت أمراً مماثلا للاستخبارات اللبنانية والسورية. ثمة اتصالات بعيدة عن الأضواء تجري مع السعودية ساهمت في تعديل بعض الرياح بين الرياض ودمشق. لم يصل الأمر إلى نتائج كبيرة بعد ولكنها بداية جيدة. الكلام عن السعودية في دمشق لا يشير إلى طرف مركزي، يحكى عن أطراف متعددة في الدولة ويقال إن احد ابرز هذه الأطراف له رأي مخالف للتدخل في سوريا. وحدها قطر لا تزال المتهم الأبرز في دمشق حتى ولو بقي الكلام عن السعودية وتركيا حاضراً في حديث وليد المعلم. نقل مسؤولون جزائريون وعراقيون ولبنانيون ومصريون استياءً فعلياً من «التعنت» القطري حيال تسليح المعارضة.
[ تفاهم روسي أميركي على الكثير من التفاصيل بشأن الأزمة السورية، رافق ذلك تغييرات جوهرية في إدارة أوباما. يستند هذا التفاهم أساساً إلى اتفاق جنيف. لا بد إذاً من تسوية تضم النظام الحالي وأطراف المعارضة. دمشق قابلة بإعادة تفعيل مهمة الأخضر الإبراهيمي ولكن بشروطها. موسكو لن تقبل مطلقاً الضغط على الأسد للتخلي عن السلطة. أكد لافروف صراحة لنظرائه الأوروبيين في الأسابيع الماضية أن الأسد لا يزال يحظى بشعبية كبيرة في سوريا تسمح له بالترشح وربما النجاح في الانتخابات المقبلة. الإيرانيون قالوا للروس صراحة أن لا مجال للتفكير بإجبار الأسد على الرحيل. ها هو علي اكبر ولايتي، احد أهم الشخصيات المقربة من المرشد السيد علي خامنئي، يقول صراحة إن «الأسد خط أحمر». ومن يزور طهران يسمع كلاماً أقوى بكثير من هذا، لا يوازيه سوى نقمة اكبر على قطر ودورها، ولوم شديد على تركيا. ولايتي تعمد التصريح بذلك قبل يومين لقناة «الميادين».
[ الدور التركي آخذ بالتراجع، رغم ضرورة استمرار التصريحات المناهضة للأسد. يشعر رئيس الوزراء التركي رجب طيب اردوغان بحجم المأزق. تتردد معلومات في باريس عن احتمال إبعاد وزير الخارجية أحمد داوود أوغلو في المرحلة المقبلة. يبدو أن النظام السوري نجح كثيراً في تعزيز التفاهم مع الأكراد. بات مقاتلو «حزب العمال الكردستاني» سداً منيعاً أمام التحرك التركي. المسؤولون الأمنيون السوريون مرتاحون جداً لـ«حزب العمال الكردستاني». يحكى عن مفاجآت مقبلة عند الحدود. يؤكد مسؤول في حلف شمال الأطلسي أن إرسال «الباتريوت» إلى تركيا هو لحمايتها وليس للهجوم. أنقرة قلقة إذاً على أمنها بعدما كان أردوغان، ولفترة طويلة، سيد «المبشرين» بسقوط قريب للأسد. هل كان اغتيال الناشطات الكرديات الثلاث في باريس من قبيل الصدفة؟
[ ثمة معلومات كثيرة يسمعها زائر سوريا عن تغييرات محتملة في السعودية وقطر. يقال إن المملكة، التي شنت حرباً إعلامية شعواء مع الإمارات والكويت على الإخوان المسلمين في مصر وتونس، تعيش مرحلة التمهيد الفعلي لما بعد الملك عبدالله. واشنطن ترعى حالياً مرحلة استبدال الجيل السابق من قادة السعودية بجيل من الشباب. في صحيفة «واشنطن بوست» قبل فترة مقال مفصل عن ذلك. صحة الرجل ما عادت تساعد. يحكى أيضاً عن استعدادات في الدوحة لمرحلة التغييرات السياسية المقبلة وسط كلام عن صحة الأمير.
قد يسمع زائر دمشق تحليلات حول كل هذه المتغيرات، ولكن الأهم يبقى الخيار العسكري في الوقت الراهن. استئصال الجهاديين والمقربين من «القاعدة» صار أولوية. حتى الكلام عن المعارضة «المعتدلة» ما عاد مسموعاً كثيراً. فهؤلاء برأي القيادات السورية فقدوا الكثير من أهمية حضورهم على الساحة الداخلية، «تركوا الساحة لمقاتلين لا يعرفون عن الإصلاح

والحريات والديموقراطية شيئاً»، ولم يتخذوا المواقف في الوقت المناسب. هذا كلام يتردد كثيراً في دمشق من رأس هرم السلطة حتى المفاصل الأساسية.

ومع ذلك فالحل السياسي مطروح. يقول زوار الأسد إنه في كل مرة يتحدث عن الإصلاح إنما يعيد السائل إلى خطابه الأخير. يقول إنه قدم مشروعاً متكاملاً في دار الأوبرا. تحدث عن الدستور والميثاق والاستفتاء والانتخابات. هذه أمور جوهرية متفق عليها أصلاً مع الروس. موسكو ارتاحت لخطابه. شكلت إدارة الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين سداً منيعاً أمام الهجمات الغربية والعربية على الخطاب. ذهبت الإدارة الروسية ابعد من ذلك، اعتبرت أن خطاب الأسد هو أقصى ما يقدمه النظام وأنه بات على المعارضة تقديم تصورها للحل.
كل ما تقدم مهم، ولكن الأهم أن صورة المعركة على الأرض آخذة في التغيير. دخلت معطيات جديدة وإستراتيجيات عسكرية. تعلم الجيش من بعض الأخطاء السابقة. أحكمت القبضة على المفاصل الأمنية التي كانت تمر عبرها بعض الاختراقات بدواعي الفساد المالي.
تم تشكيل لجان شعبية تدربت بشكل مكثف في الأشهر الماضية. وضعت شبكة معلومات وتجهيزات تنصت وغيرها (بمساعدة روسية كبيرة)، نافست كل المساعدات الغربية للمعارضة المسلحة. اتخذت إجراءات لحماية ذاتية في مناطق الأقليات. يقال إن ما حققته اللجان الشعبية في بعض المناطق تخطى ما انتظره الجيش.
ترافق كل ذلك مع إجراءات اقتصادية ساهمت فيها روسيا وإيران والعراق، وصولاً إلى دول أخرى لا مجال لذكرها الآن. يحكى عن صفقة لإعادة الإعمار تم التوافق عليها مع الروس. دخلت عوامل نفطية على الخط. لم يوقف ذلك من استفحال الأزمة الاقتصادية ولكن الوضع كان سيكون أسوأ بكثير لو لم تتخذ هذه الإجراءات. الهم الاقتصادي كبير ولكن الأسد يبدو واثقاً من الخطوات المقبلة. في كل المناطق التي حصلت فيها تسويات، ومنها مثلا حمص، يصار إلى تحسين أوضاع المواطنين. ثمة أمل في تسويات مقبلة في حلب تجنب المدينة حروباً جديدة. أوضاع اللاجئين والنازحين دفعت البعض إلى إعادة مد جسور مع النظام.
كيف يمكن توظيف التقدم السياسي لاحقاً؟
مع استمرار تشديد القبضة الأمنية على الأرض، ستبدأ سلسلة من الاجتماعات للمعارضة في الخارج. ثمة أمل معلق على ما تعده هيئة التنسيق ورئيسها في الخارج الدكتور هيثم مناع في جنيف. هذا المعارض، الأكثر ثباتاً على موقفه الرافض للحلول العسكرية ولعسكرة الثورة وللتدخلات الخارجية، التقى حتى الساعة أكثر من 32 وزير خارجية. الطلبات عليه كثيرة، وخصوصاً من الخليج، هذه الأيام. سيشرف مناع على اجتماع قريب في جنيف (هو نفسه الذي لم يعقد سابقاً في سانت ايجيدو الايطالية). يقال إنه سيكون أهم مما كان منتظراً في الاجتماع السابق. قد تنضم إليه شخصيات من النظام (ربما من مجلس الشعب) وشخصيات أخرى تدور في فلك الإخوان المسلمين. اجتماعات كهذه تعقد برعاية روسية وتعاون أوروبي وترحيب إيراني ومن بعض دول الخليج المناهضة لدور كبير للإخوان المسلمين. من المنتظر أن يتبع ذلك خطوات سياسية بين السلطة والمعارضة. روسيا وإيران والسعودية ومصر على الخط. تركيا مضطرة لأن تتبع ذلك.
تستند موسكو إلى مثل هذه اللقاءات والتحركات لتقول لواشنطن، أن لا سبيل لوقف الحرب في سوريا سوى واحد: تطبيق اتفاق جنيف ونقل الصلاحيات لحكومة مشكلة من كل الأطراف والإعداد للانتخابات المقبلة. وليس مقبولاً منع الأسد من المشاركة في الانتخابات.
الخيارات واضحة، إما القبول بهذه التسوية ووقف الحرب، بما في ذلك وقف دعم المسلحين، وإما حرب تطول، ولا شيء يشير إلى احتمال تغيير المعادلة سوى إذا نجح المسلحون في اغتيال الأسد بمساعدة غربية. لذلك قالت موسكو وبعدها طهران إن الأسد خط احمر. يبدو الأسد بالنسبة للعاصمتين ضمانة بقاء النظام.
في اللقاءات المصرية السعودية الأخيرة، وكذلك في الاتصالات غير المعلنة على الخط المصري الإيراني السعودي التركي، تتقدم القناعة يوماً بعد آخر بأن لا حل سوى بتسوية سياسية يشارك فيها الجميع، بمن فيهم الأسد.
ماذا عن لبنان؟

يحلو لبعض المسؤولين السوريين التذكير بأن اتفاقات دولية، وخصوصاً مع فرنسا، هي التي جاءت بالرئيس ميشال سليمان رئيساً وأن مواقفه ليست مفاجئة، فهو كما رئيس الحكومة نجيب ميقاتي اعتقدا لوهلة باحتمال سقوط قريب للنظام. يقولون إن اللبنانيين يخطئون دائما في تصديق الغرب حين يتحدث عن تغييرات. يبقى ميقاتي في دمشق أفضل موقفاً من سليمان، لكن الأسئلة كبيرة. لا رضى ولا نقمة على المسؤولين اللبنانيين وإنما كثير من العتب، خصوصاً لسماحهم بتهريب السلاح وبهجومهم على السفير السوري. «سمحت لنا الأزمة السورية باكتشاف من هم أصدقاؤنا الفعليون» يقول مسؤول سوري، لن ننسى هذه الدروس مطلقاً.
يحلو للمسؤولين السوريين أيضاً الإشارة إلى أن زيارة رئيس جبهة النضال وليد جنبلاط إلى روسيا تعني الكثير في الوقت الراهن. الرجل بالنسبة لهم بدأ تحولاً كبيراً يريده من عاصمة كبيرة. يقولون إنه فهم أن الرياح في الأزمة السورية سارت بعكس أشرعته. يشيرون بشيء من الابتسام إلى الانقسام اللبناني حول قانون الانتخابات، والى المواعيد التي ضربها رئيس الحكومة السابق سعد الحريري للعودة إلى لبنان ولم تتم. هم واثقون أن عودته ستكون نتيجة تفاهم سوري مع السعودية. هذا ليس قريباً. يقول احدهم إن القوانين السورية لا شك متقدمة كثيراً على قانون الستين وتوابعه. يؤكد بعضهم أن «دمشق لن تنسى من وقف معها، تماماً كما لن تنسى من ساهم في سفك الدماء». هل ثمة ترجمة فعلية لذلك؟ ….الصمت سيد الموقــف يرافقه تســـريب معلومة عن شخصيات لبنانية مناهضة للأســـد حاولـــت فتح خطـــوط في الشهرين الماضيين.
يناقض كل هذا المشهد ما يقوله مسؤول امني لبناني كبير، من أن النظام السوري سيسقط بعد شهرين. تماماً كما كان يقول أوباما وساركوزي وأردوغان.
مرة جديدة يتبين أن مصالح الدول أقوى من عذابات الشعوب. خصوصاً إذا ما تعلق الأمر بالعرب، وبانتظار التسوية، فإن الحرب لا تبدو قريبة الانتهاء

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River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
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Year in Review: The Highs and Lows of Lebanon’s March 14

 
By: Maysam Rizk

Al-Akhbar: Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The March 14 alliance has had an extraordinary appetite for defeat in 2012. Since its exit from power, it went on a losing streak that quickly became routine. From a financial crisis to the alliance’s divisions over Syria, the missteps of March 14 are not in short supply.

Those who are fond of power – and power alone – must find it difficult to be in the opposition. While March 14 ostensibly played opposition politics within the confines of the law and the democratic process, it all the same focused its efforts on returning to what it believes is its rightful place in power.

Along its journey to reclaim power, March 14 made many uncalculated moves without realizing that the hands that it played, whether in politics or with the public opinion, would not be winning ones.

By the admission of several March 14 MPs and political figures, the alliance has received in 2012 some of its harshest blows since its inception in 2005, after its most important politician, former prime minister Saad Hariri, left the government headquarters – and the country – altogether.

The Numbers on the Street

The leader of the Future Movement became preoccupied in his exile with the affairs of his inheritance, and his camp fell into a vicious cycle of internal crises.


March 14 has for too long bragged about so-called “million-strong” demonstrations that it held in the past, but this year’s measly numbers speak for themselves. From the alleged millions to a few thousand or less, the popular clout that the “Cedar Revolutionaries” have long boasted has shrunk deeply.

Figures in the opposition have acknowledged that Prime Minister Najib Mikati has performed admirably in office, forcing many international actors to recognize his government despite the attempts by the opposition to portray it as being subservient to Hizbullah and Iran.


March 14 has realized that it has made many mistakes that cannot be mended at this stage. One of the most salient reasons that propelled this political alliance towards blundering in this fashion, lies in its debilitating financial crisis. For one thing, this meant that the movement could no longer supply its political pawns and allies with the financial equivalent of “performance enhancers.”
The leader of the Future Movement became preoccupied in his exile with the affairs of his inheritance, and his camp fell into a vicious cycle of internal crises. The stench of differences reeked from the March 14 camp, which calibrated all its moves to the pace of the conflict in Syria.
 
Impact of the Assassination of Wissam al-Hassan
 
Ironically, the assassinations and assassination attempts against figures in the opposition provided the group opportunities to regroup and regain some lost sympathy. This started with the attempt on the life of Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces, then with the attempt against MP Boutros Harb, until the unthinkable happened, when top security figure Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, was assassinated.

After Hassan’s assassination, March 14 thought that it had regained control and its ability to direct strikes as it pleased. But the reality was quite different, and the assassination of Hassan soon proved to be a fatal blow that took the political alliance out of the game.
The attempt to exploit Hassan’s assassination as a shortcut to returning to power also proved to be March 14’s biggest blunder yet. The reckless bid to storm the Grand Serail, or government headquarters, quickly squandered all solidarity that the Future Movement had managed to win.
Instead of seeking to rectify its mistakes, the March 14 camp unleashed armed militants affiliated with the Future Movement in several areas of Beirut. This cost the movement a lot of political capital, and alarm bells sounded among its allies.

The attempt to exploit Hassan’s assassination as a shortcut to returning to power also proved to be March 14’s biggest blunder yet.

At the time, many prominent figures in March 14 acknowledged the events’ negative impact on the image of the peaceful uprising that followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The context of both internal and external events left the opposition with only one option: to pursue a “boycott” of any dialogue with the government and parliamentary committee sessions.

Despite the inflexibility shown by the opposition in pursuing the boycott, many MPs admit that this decision was made “out of spite.”
 
Salafis and March 14
 
It seems that there is a political curse afflicting the March 14 alliance. To be sure, the emergence of extremist leaders such as Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir in Saida and the militant groups in Tripoli has embarrassed the opposition, which is otherwise keen on maintaining an image of moderation.

In the end, the constituents of March 14 saw no way out of this embarrassment other than to defend those extremists while pinning the blame on the faction in power.
 
Some members of March 14 then turned their gazes to Syria. Here, the alliance was split into two camps, one that supports the Syrian revolution politically, with speeches and statements; and the other that has become engaged in the “jihadi” game. The Future Movement’s involvement in Syria is no longer a secret, as it has been disclosed by Saad Hariri himself, who said that what he has undertaken “a humanitarian duty towards the Syrian people.”
 
However, Hariri’s involvement in Syria was not welcome news to many of his allies, who insist on the importance of adopting a neutral stance. Hariri’s involvement, through one of his most important deputies, MP Okab Sakr, in arming Syrian opposition groups is perhaps one of the biggest losses suffered by the March 14 alliance.
 
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!
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