June 01/2013

Bible Quotation for today/More about Gifts from the Spirit
01 Corinthians 14/01-25: "It is love, then, that you should strive for. Set your hearts on spiritual gifts, especially the gift of proclaiming God's message.  Those who speak in strange tongues do not speak to others but to God, because no one understands them. They are speaking secret truths by the power of the Spirit.  But those who proclaim God's message speak to people and give them help, encouragement, and comfort.  Those who speak in strange tongues help only themselves, but those who proclaim God's message help the whole church. I would like for all of you to speak in strange tongues; but I would rather that you had the gift of proclaiming God's message. For the person who proclaims God's message is of greater value than the one who speaks in strange tongues—unless there is someone present who can explain what is said, so that the whole church may be helped. So when I come to you, my friends, what use will I be to you if I speak in strange tongues? Not a bit, unless I bring you some revelation from God or some knowledge or some inspired message or some teaching. Take such lifeless musical instruments as the flute or the harp—how will anyone know the tune that is being played unless the notes are sounded distinctly?  And if the one who plays the bugle does not sound a clear call, who will prepare for battle?  In the same way, how will anyone understand what you are talking about if your message given in strange tongues is not clear? Your words will vanish in the air!  There are many different languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 But if I do not know the language being spoken, those who use it will be foreigners to me and I will be a foreigner to them.  Since you are eager to have the gifts of the Spirit, you must try above everything else to make greater use of those which help to build up the church. The person who speaks in strange tongues, then, must pray for the gift to explain what is said.  For if I pray in this way, my spirit prays indeed, but my mind has no part in it.  What should I do, then? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray also with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will sing also with my mind.  When you give thanks to God in spirit only, how can ordinary people taking part in the meeting say “Amen” to your prayer of thanksgiving? They have no way of knowing what you are saying.  Even if your prayer of thanks to God is quite good, other people are not helped at all.  I thank God that I speak in strange tongues much more than any of you.  But in church worship I would rather speak five words that can be understood, in order to teach others, than speak thousands of words in strange tongues. Do not be like children in your thinking, my friends; be children so far as evil is concerned, but be grown up in your thinking.  In the Scriptures it is written, “By means of people speaking strange languages I will speak to my people, says the Lord. I will speak through lips of foreigners, but even then my people will not listen to me.”So then, the gift of speaking in strange tongues is proof for unbelievers, not for believers, while the gift of proclaiming God's message is proof for believers, not for unbelievers. If, then, the whole church meets together and everyone starts speaking in strange tongues—and if some ordinary people or unbelievers come in, won't they say that you are all crazy?  But if everyone is proclaiming God's message when some unbelievers or ordinary people come in, they will be convinced of their sin by what they hear. They will be judged by all they hear,  their secret thoughts will be brought into the open, and they will bow down and worship God, confessing, “Truly God is here among you!”

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources 
Nasrallah’s dangerous strategy/By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Alawsat/June 01/13
Moscow‘s smoke screen obscures Assad’s next Syrian war moves/DEBKAfile/ June 01/13
US and EU Must Arm the Syrian Rebels or Watch Assad Destabilize the Region/By: David Schenker/June 01/13

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 01/13

U.S.: Iran, Hizbullah Support for Global Terror Surged in 2012
Nigeria Claims Discovery of Hizbullah Cell

UN adds Syrian militants Al Nusra to sanctions list
Hezbollah fighters find Nusra’s tactics in Qusair ‘irritatingly familiar’
Lebanese Man Gets 23 Years for U.S. Plot
Salam Says Hizbullah Intervention in Syria 'Not Helping'
Mansour: We Adamantly Reject Placing Hizbullah on Any Terrorism List
Jumblat Urges 'Patience' when Tackling Hizbullah Fighting in Syria: Confrontation Leads to Sectarianism
Parliament Extends Own Term for 17 Months as Parties Justify Failure to Pass New Electoral Law

Wide Western Criticism over Extension Bid as Parliament Set to Vote on it
Franjieh: We Extended Parliament Term to Avoid Civil War, We Reject Extending Suleiman's Term

Aoun to Challenge Extension: They Realized 1960 Law Won't Secure Victory
Civil Society Activists Carry Coffins after Parliament 'Buries Democracy'
Franjieh: We Extended Parliament Term to Avoid Civil War, We Reject Extending Suleiman's Term
Fletcher Expresses Concern over Lebanesse Fighters' Role in Syria
Three Suspects Arrested over Links to Arsal Attack
Two Toddlers Killed in Gas Station Fire in al-Masnaa
Aoun, Hezbollah ties resilient so far
Experts predict high success rate for Lebanon offshore drilling
U.N. Adds Syrian Jihadist Al-Nusra to Sanctions List
Doctors Record 'Dozens of Chemical Attacks' in Syria 
Controversial EU decision to arm Syrian rebels becomes official
UNHCR Alarmed by State of Qusayr Refugees
Hilli Calls on Hizbullah to Reconsider Stance over Syrian Conflict
Briton Killed in Syria, UK Foreign Office Confirms
Kerry: Russian Missiles 'Not Helpful' to Syria Peace
Reports: Russia May Not Deliver S-300s to Syria this Year
Red Cross Halts All Staff Movement after Afghan Attack
US imposes sanctions on Iran's petrochemical industry

US: ‘Marked resurgence’ in Iran-sponsored terror
Syrian Rebel reinforcements arrive to defend strategic town
Syrian rebels: No talks while Hezbollah backs Assad
Russia to provide Syria with MiG-29 fighter planes
Syria forces killed Michigan woman in ambush'
Kerry: Unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapon
US, Germany to Russia: Don't hurt Syria peace efforts

U.S.: Iran, Hizbullah Support for Global Terror Surged in 2012
Naharnet/Iran last year boosted its support for global terrorism to levels not seen for two decades, the Obama administration said Thursday as it released its annual report on international trends in extremist violence. The report said the core elements of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan are headed for defeat but stressed that the network's various affiliates remain severe threats to the U.S. The State Department's "Country Reports on Terrorism" for 2012 left unchanged the U.S. list of "state sponsors of terrorism." Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria remain on that blacklist, although Iran was singled out as the worst offender and Syria was taken to task for the ongoing brutal crackdown on opponents of President Bashar Assad's regime. The report said 2012 was "notable in demonstrating a marked resurgence of Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism." That sponsorship has been largely carried out through the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hizbullah, Iran's ally and proxy in Lebanon, it said. "Iran and Hizbullah's terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s, with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa," it said. Those included an attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria that killed six, as well as thwarted strikes in India, Thailand, Georgia and Kenya. The report's "strategic assessment" said core al-Qaida continues to weaken as its leaders increasingly fight for survival. But it said that leadership losses with the core have driven al-Qaida affiliates to become more independent by setting their own agendas and targets and raising money on their own, primarily through kidnapping and other crimes.Because of this, the assessment noted that the U.S. must defend itself from a "more decentralized and geographically dispersed terrorist threat" that has made it more difficult to successfully disrupt plots in some places. "Though the (al-Qaida) core is on a path to defeat, and its two most dangerous affiliates have suffered serious setbacks, tumultuous events in the Middle East and North Africa have complicated the counterterrorism picture," it said, pointing out Libya and Yemen in particular. In Libya, it said a security vacuum in the wake of the 2011 revolution that toppled Moammar Gadhafi combined with weak security institutions "allowed violent extremists to act, as we saw too clearly on September 11 in Benghazi." The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in attacks that day on the American diplomatic mission and a nearby CIA outpost.
Source/Agence France Presse/Associated Press.

Nigeria Claims Discovery of Hizbullah Cell

Naharnet/Nigeria's security services said Thursday they had discovered a home in the northern city of Kano where Lebanese nationals had stored weapons intended to attack Israeli and Western targets in Nigeria.
The Kano state director for Nigeria's main intelligence branch, the Department of State Security (DSS), told journalists the compound's owner had ties to Hizbullah and that the home had harbored a Hizbullah "cell".
But the official, Bassey Etang, offered no evidence to support this claim. Journalists were brought to the home in the upmarket Bompai neighborhood of Kano and taken to a bunker dug beneath a bedroom where weapons had allegedly been stored. The stash included some 30 grenades, Kalashnikov assault rifles, ammunition and various explosive materials. Etang, the director of the DSS in Kano, said three Lebanese nationals had been arrested in connection with the illegal arms cache, while a fourth suspect was at large. "This is the handiwork of Hizbullah. What has just been discovered is the cell of Hizbullah and what you have seen here is a Hizbullah armory," Etang told reporters. "These weapons are meant to be used to target Israeli and Western interests in Nigeria."Nigeria is confronting an insurgency waged by radical Islamist group Boko Haram that has left thousands dead since 2009.
"Investigations are still ongoing to determine" if the Lebanese nationals "are really connected to Boko Haram," the intelligence chief said. Analysts see Boko Haram primarily as a domestic group that has possibly sought closer ties to al-Qaida's west Africa franchise. The military statement said that one suspect, Mustafa Fawaz, was arrested on May 16, and his "confession unveiled other members of the foreign terrorists network."
A second suspect, Abdullah Tahini, was arrested several days later while trying to board a flight to Beirut from the Kano airport, according to the military. The third detained Lebanese national, Talal Roda, was arrested at the Kano home on May 26 while Fauzi Fawad was identified as the suspect who is at-large. Mustafa Fawaz, reportedly owns a leading supermarket as well as an amusement park in the capital Abuja called Wonderland. An employee who answered a call to a number listed for Wonderland told AFP that Fawaz had not been in the office this week. Nigeria is home to a sizeable Lebanese population, including in the mainly Muslim north.
In February, the DSS said it had discovered a militant cell receiving instructions from Iranian agents that had sought to attack Israeli and Western targets in Nigeria. DSS National spokesman Marilyn Ogar said at the time the group also planned to assassinate Nigeria's former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida. Reacting to the latest claims, a security official in Israel said Nigeria was a "destination state for Shiite terror and global Jihad groups, which are boosting their efforts in Africa as part of international terror efforts." "The cell exposed and arrested is part of a Shiite terror campaign against Western and Israeli targets around the world which has been taking place for a number of years," the official said. "The possibility that members of the cell acted under Hizbullah's orders in other African states, such as Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Benin and Ghana is also being examined," he added on condition of anonymity.Source/Agence France Presse.

Lebanese Man Gets 23 Years for U.S. Plot

Naharnet/A young Lebanese man caught plotting to detonate a bomb near Chicago's iconic Wrigley Field baseball stadium was sentenced Thursday to 23 years in prison, prosecutors said. Lebanese citizen Sami Samir Hassoun was a legal resident of the United States at the time of his 2010 arrest. "The thought of what might have happened if it was real is horrific," U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said in handing down the sentence.
Hassoun pleaded guilty last year to one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of attempted use of an explosive device. The 25-year-old admitted to telling an FBI source that he wanted to "paralyze" Chicago commerce and undermine the city's political establishment. The informant introduced him to an undercover FBI agent posing as a terrorist who agreed to help him carry out the plot for a "revolution."
After weeks of reconnaissance work and discussion of potential targets, the agent gave Hassoun a backpack that he said was filled with explosives powerful enough to destroy half a city block.
Hassoun activated the timer on the fake bomb and dropped the backpack in a trash bin when the nearby bars were filled with patrons who had attended a concert at Wrigley. He was then arrested.
"In conversation after conversation, Hassoun made clear that he was willing to bomb innocents and shoot police officers as part of a bizarre effort to destabilize the City of Chicago," said Gary Shapiro, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. "And his actions demonstrated that his words were more than empty bravado."The Federal Bureau of Investigation celebrated Hassoun's stiff sentence and the hard work of the undercover agents.
"We remain vigilant in our mission to prevent attacks against Americans and to identify and hold accountable individuals and groups involved in the planning and execution of such attacks," said Cory Nelson, head of the FBI's Chicago bureau. Hassoun will be subject to deportation when he is released. Source/Agence France Presse.

Mansour: We Adamantly Reject Placing Hizbullah on Any Terrorism List

Naharnet/Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour stated that Hizbullah is an integral part of Lebanon's national and political fabric, reported As Safir newspaper Friday.
He therefore told the daily: “We adamantly reject placing the party on any terrorist list.”“Hizbullah is represented at parliament and in the government and therefore listing it as a terrorist group is an attempt at political blackmail,” he continued. “We do not want to politicize this issue,” remarked the minister.He said that Israel and international powers are attempting to deem the party as a terrorist one, saying that their success will not help achieve stability and security. On the Syrian conflict, Mansour said: “Lebanon has been adopting the policy of disassociation since the beginning of the crisis and it is distancing itself politically from this issue and its consequences.”Lebanon does not back one Syrian side against the other, he explained. Asked about Hizbullah's fighting in Syria's al-Qusayr region, the minister commented: “Some 20 Syrian villages lie near the Lebanese-Syrian border. They were not part of the crisis at first, but they soon became victims of skirmishes.” “The Syrian army was not present in these regions, which were under the control of gunmen, so the residents made a cry for help” to other powers to aid them, explained Mansour. “The Lebanese army deployed along the border in the northeast, but it cannot completely thwart the infiltration of gunmen,” he said.
Gulf Arab states will consider placing Hizbullah on its terror list, al-Rai daily reported Thursday.
Bahrain will ask foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to discuss "placing Hizbullah on the terror list" at a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, it said. The GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Earlier in May, France sought to call for the military arm of Hizbullah to be added to an European Union terror blacklist due to its backing of the Syrian regime.
"Because of the decisions that have been taken by Hizbullah and the fact that they are fighting very harshly the Syrian population, we have decided to ask that the military branch of the Hizbullah would be considered as a terrorist organization," said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the time. The United States has long designated the group, which is backed by Iran, as a terrorist organization and has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
Hizbullah has sent almost 1,700 fighters to the strategic town of Qusayr more than a week ago to support the Syrian regime's assault on the rebel stronghold.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has promised his fighters will help deliver "victory" in the battle, seen as pivotal in Syria's drawn out civil war in which more than 94,000 people have died.

Parliament Extends Own Term for 17 Months as Parties Justify Failure to Pass New Electoral Law

Naharnet /The parliament on Friday voted to extend its own mandate for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach a new electoral law. Around 100 MPs from all blocs, except the Change and Reform bloc, voted to extend parliament's term until November 20, 2014, in a session that lasted only 10 minutes. During the brief session, MP Butros Harb demanded to deliver a speech to explain to the Lebanese people the reason behind the extension, but Speaker Nabih Berri did not give him the permission, noting that "the compelling reasons clarified to citizens that the country is not safe." "Look at Beirut in the afternoon, there is no traffic on the streets, which means that the security situation is not good," Berri added. "The term of the mandate of the legislature will be modified on an exceptional basis to end on November 20, 2014," rather than this June 20 as scheduled, the motion, submitted by independent MP Nicolas Fattoush, reads. The motion to extend the normal four-year term was due to "the security situation in several Lebanese regions that gives rise to political escalation and division which often take on confessional forms."
"Security and political tensions prevent the holding of an election campaign," it said. In a televised address after the session, head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc, former premier Fouad Saniora said: "We did not want the extension of parliament's term and we were not seeking such a step.”
“We believe that extension involves some sort of turning the back on the core of the democratic system which we must abide by, especially that it is a system based on the rotation of power,” he added.
“The concept of extension contradicts with the mandate granted by the people to their representatives, which is limited to a certain timeframe,” Saniora noted.
Justifying why al-Mustaqbal accepted the extension, Saniora cited “the current tensions, the deteriorating security situations, the blazes that were ignited in Lebanon, and Hizbullah's declaration of its broad participation in Syria's battles alongside the ruling regime in a manner that contradicts with the self-dissociation policy, the Baabda Declaration, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, the Constitution and the aspirations of large segments of the people.” “After we exerted the impossible, together with all of our allies, to prevent extension from exceeding a few months for technical reasons, we fell into this dilemma,” Saniora added.
“To avoid political vacuum, we became obliged to consider extension as a good thing, although it is not a good thing,” he noted. Saniora went on to say that in some of its aspects, “this step seems to be a step towards salvation.” “I cannot but mention that during the Doha Conference, the meeting almost failed due to some parties' insistence on the 1960 law,” Saniora recalled. He noted that proposing electoral laws that “undermine coexistence” represented a reason that prevented the Lebanese from reaching a “fair law.” Al-Mustaqbal had rejected the controversial Orthodox Gathering draft electoral law, under which each sect would elect its own MPs, describing it as a sectarian proposal. “We believe that we must draw lessons from this bitter experience which led to impeding our commitment, and we must benefit from this by turning the problem into a renewed chance to activate democratic life for the sake of reaching a new electoral law,” Saniora added. “We're committed to the need to secure the success of the hybrid law formula,” Saniora said. “I stress our commitment to the initiative proposed by ex-PM (Saad) Hariri which involves progress on two tracks and the election of a senate in line with the constitution,” he added. “We must all seek to approve the creation of a senate.”
For his part, LF bloc MP George Adwan noted that “it is in the interest of all the Lebanese to stay away from what's happening in Syria in order to preserve Lebanon." "We said that no elections will take place under the 1960 law and I hope we will start exerting serious efforts to draft a new electoral law," he added. "From now on, we have all the time to prepare for a plenary session to discuss the proposals and vote on them," Adwan said. He called on all MPs and on Berri to present a new law to the Lebanese. "This is what the Lebanese Forces and its allies promise," Adwan added. Meanwhile, LBCI said the parliament approved an article proposed by MP Sami Gemayel stipulating that "no retirement salary would be paid to MPs for the extension period."

Civil Society Activists Carry Coffins after Parliament 'Buries Democracy'

Naharnet/..The Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform on Friday staged a sit-in at Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square as a parliament session to vote on the extension of the legislature's term got underway. Protesters formed a human chain to prevent MPs from reaching the parliament and hurled tomatoes at their cars, condemning the extension. They also carried three empty coffins in a symbolic scene lamenting the “burial of democracy.”  Protesters wore black clothes “to mourn democracy and freedom,” stressing in a statement that “extending for this authority will extend all the crises Lebanon is going through.”Meanwhile, other activists took to Facebook and Twitter to slam the move and mock the lawmakers. “Extension in this manner and speed reminds us of the appointment of cabinets and presidents during the Syrian era,” said an activist. “Ninety-seven dogs voted for the extension of the council of dogs in a session that lasted 10 minutes! All these dogs do not represent me,” said another activist. LBCI television said activist Marwan Maalouf was arrested while attempting to set up a tent in Nejmeh Square to protest the extension of the parliament's term. The parliament on Friday voted to extend its own mandate for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach a new electoral law. Around 100 MPs from all blocs, except the Change and Reform bloc, voted to extend parliament's term until November 20, 2014, in a session that lasted only 10 minutes. The motion to extend the normal four-year term was due to "the security situation in several Lebanese regions that gives rise to political escalation and division which often take on confessional forms."

Aoun to Challenge Extension: They Realized 1960 Law Won't Secure Victory

Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said on Friday that his political rivals “realized they will not win the polls even if the 1960's electoral law was adopted,” announcing also that he has prepared “a thorough file” to challenge the extension of the parliament's mandate. "They do not want to hold the elections maybe because even the 1960's electoral law does not secure their victory,” Aoun stated after an exceptional meeting of the Change and Reform bloc at his residence in al-Metn's Rabieh neighborhood. The FPM lawmakers in Aoun's bloc boycotted Friday's parliamentary session dedicated solely to discuss extending the parliament's mandate.
Around 100 MPs from all blocs, except the Change and Reform bloc, voted to extend parliament's term until November 20, 2014, in a session that lasted only 10 minutes.
The Christian leader vowed to challenge the extension before the Constitutional Council: “We have prepared a thorough file for this purpose and we hope the council does not commit a historical mistake taking into consideration the current political and security situation.”"The extension does not respect the constitution, the compelling reasons or the norms." “Even (Maronite) Patriarch Bashara al-Rahi and President Michel Suleiman condemned it in their speeches,” Aoun noted. The FPM leader went on to describe the parliament as “paralyzed since the assassination of former General Security chief Brigadier General Wissam al-Hasan.”
"All kinds of electoral law drafts were submitted. We have suggested dividing Lebanon into medium-sized electoral districts to improve representation but it was rejected, so was the Orthodox proposal.”
Aoun added: “We suggested a hybrid draft similar to Speaker Nabih Berri's proposal but it was also turned down.” “They instead came up with a law designed to suit their interests,” he remarked.
Rival parties have failed to agree on an electoral law to govern the June 16 parliamentary elections and the majority of them opposed the 1960 law that was used in the 2009 polls.
The lack of consensus compelled them to agree on an extension despite differences on the duration. The extension of the 128-seat legislature's term by up to 17 months marks the first time that parliament has had to extend its term since Lebanon's civil war ended in 1975-90. The decision by Berri to call for a plenary session followed an agreement between most political factions that the worsening security situation has made campaigning and voting impossible, and that postponing it may ease soaring tensions.Parliament's current term ends June 20.Source/Naharnet.

Salam Says Hizbullah Intervention in Syria 'Not Helping'

Naharnet /Lebanon should stay out of the Syria conflict and Hizbullah's involvement is "not helping matters", Prime Minister-designate Tamman Salam told French daily Le Figaro in an interview published Friday.
Hizbullah has sent its fighters to help Syrian President Bashar Assad troops recapture the key town of Qusayr near the border with Lebanon. "Lebanon has all the more need to keep its distance from what is going on in Syria given that the situation there is so heated," he told the paper. "We must at all price preserve national unity.” "And obviously, Hizbullah's military involvement is not helping matters." Hizbullah's intervention was not a reason to give up efforts to keep Lebanon out of the Syria conflict, he insisted. "We have to convince Hizbullah to not get any deeper into Syria," he said. In an interview broadcast Thursday, Assad acknowledged that Hizbullah fighters were helping his forces in the battle for Qusayr and said he was "very confident" of victory. He also threatened Israel with renewed fighting in the Golan Heights and said Russia was committed to supplying him with advanced missiles, Activists say more than 94,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it started March 2011. Source/Agence France Presse.

Hilli Calls on Hizbullah to Reconsider Stance over Syrian Conflict

Naharnet /Arab League Deputy Secretary General Ahmed bin Hilli described on Friday Hizbullah's involvement in battles in Syria as “dangerous development,” calling on the party to reconsider its stance.
“Hizbullah's involvement in Syria battles complicates the matters,” Hilli said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. The Arab diplomat called on Hizbullah to “reconsider” its stance and to “join the Lebanese consensus over Syria and not to fuel the strife in the neighboring country.”The Baabda Declaration was unanimously adopted during a national dialogue session in June 2012. It calls for Lebanon to disassociate itself from regional crises, most notably the one in Syria. “Hizbullah's involvement in Syria is undermining the role of the resistance and affecting the situation in Lebanon,” Hilli said. Hizbullah's involvement in Syria has raised fears the conflict could spill over into Lebanon, where deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime have periodically erupted in the northern city of Tripoli.
Syria has long been a crucial conduit for arms supplied to Hizbullah by Iran. Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and some Palestinian groups view themselves as an axis of "resistance" against Israel and the West.
Hizbullah is believed to have sent at least 1,700 fighters to Qusayr more than a week ago to support the regime's assault on the rebel stronghold. France estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 Hizbullah fighters are operating in Syria.
Hundreds of civilians have reportedly been killed in Qusayr and thousands could be trapped. The United Nations estimates that more than 94,000 people have been killed since the initially peaceful uprising began in March 2011.

Wide Western Criticism over Extension Bid as Parliament Set to Vote on it

Naharnet /A parliamentary session set to be held on Friday to vote for the extension of its mandate by around 17 months drew sharp criticism amid vows by President Michel Suleiman and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun to challenge the decision. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper the United States and several European countries slammed the move through diplomatic channels.
Sources told the newspaper that the western diplomats don't understand the conditions that compelled the extension of the parliament by 17 months as the controversy over the new electoral law will not be resolved.
“The circumstances didn't change... And the turmoil in Syria will further complicate the situation in Lebanon,” the sources said. An Nahar newspaper reported that Speaker Nabih Berri will brief lawmakers at the beginning of the session on the reasons behind the extension followed by a speech for MP Nicolas Fattoush, who proposed the extension of the legislature term by two years. However, the newspaper pointed out that the two-year period proposed by Fattoush is expected to be modified. Rival parties have failed to agree on an electoral law to govern the June 16 parliamentary elections and the majority of them opposed the 1960 law that was used in the 2009 polls. The lack of consensus compelled them to agree on an extension despite differences on the duration. Some blocs are backing a 15-month extension while others are backing an 17-month period. The extension of the 128-seat legislature's term by up to 17 months marks the first time that parliament has had to extend its term since Lebanon's civil war ended in 1975-90. The decision by Berri to call for a plenary session followed an agreement between most political factions that the worsening security situation has made campaigning and voting impossible, and that postponing it may ease soaring tensions.
Parliament's current term ends June 20.

Fletcher Expresses Concern over Lebanesse Fighters' Role in Syria

Naharnet /British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher expressed concern on Friday over the involvement of Lebanese fighters in battles in Syria, voicing the international community's hope that Lebanon would have carried out elections on time. "It is of great sadness that Iran is now sending sons of Lebanon to die for (Syrian President Bashar) Assad," Fletcher said after talks with Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati at the Grand Serail.
He called on "those who care about Lebanese national interests" to apply neutrilty. "We have a battle ahead to keep Lebanon out of the war," the British diplomat said. Hizbullah's involvement in Syria has raised fears the conflict could spill over into Lebanon, where deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime have periodically erupted in the northern city of Tripoli. Syria has long been a crucial conduit for arms supplied to Hizbullah by Iran. Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and some Palestinian groups view themselves as an axis of "resistance" against Israel and the West. Concerning the extension of the parliaments term by around 17 months, Fletcher said: "We understand the tough context but it is well known that the international community hoped that elections would take place.” Rival parties have failed to agree on an electoral law to govern the June 16 parliamentary elections and the majority of them opposed the 1960 law that was used in the 2009 polls. The lack of consensus compelled them to agree on an extension despite differences on the duration. Some blocs are backing a 15-month extension while others are backing an 17-month period. Fletcher pointed out that Lebanon has been a “democratic talisman in the region... I know that one day we will see Lebanon play that role again."
“It is more important than ever that we all support the army, dialogue, and PM-designate Tammam Salam's efforts to form a consensus government," he added.

Jumblat Urges 'Patience' when Tackling Hizbullah Fighting in Syria: Confrontation Leads to Sectarianism

Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Friday called for “patience” while dealing with Hizbullah's involvement in Syria's war, explaining that any confrontation with the party will lead to “falling in the trap of sectarianism.” "A confrontation will Hizbullah will not lead to any result because Sunnis and Shiites must live together in Lebanon,” Jumblat said in an interview with the American cable channel CNN that was published on the network's website. Noting that Hizbullah belongs to a “larger organization which is the Islamic Republic of Iran," Jumblat added: "Facing the party leads to falling in the trap of sectarianism that has started in Iraq and Syria and could extend to Lebanon.” "We have to be patient and careful when dealing with this.”The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced on Thursday that 104 Hizbullah members had been killed in Syria since last autumn. Hizbullah combatants have become increasingly involved in Syria's conflict, fighting alongside President Assad's forces. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said before that his party's involvement in Syria's war aimed at defending 13 Syrian villages along the border where Lebanese Shiites live, and the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine, revered by Shiites around the world.But on Saturday, however, the Hizbullah leader pointed out that Syria is “the backbone of the resistance, assuring that he will not let this bone break. The Druze leader accused "the world and the United States of abandoning the Syrian people after making many promises, among them (Syrian President) Bashar Assad stepping down.” “Assad will run for the the so-called (presidential) elections in 2014,” Jumblat assured.  “It is because the West, particularly U.S. President Barack Obama, lack compassion towards the Syrian people's future and fate.” Jumblat explained: "No real aid was provided to the people of Syria except for some money from Arab countries, but no weapons were given whereas the Russian-Iranian alliance are largely supplying Assad with military and financial assistance.”He said there is a conflict of interest between a Russian-Iranian axis on one side, and the U.S. on the other: “To preserve what is left of Syria and to provide the Syrian people with aid, there must be a conference that joins together the U.S., Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia.” Regarding his stance towards the Syrian jihadist al-Nusra Front, Jumblat denied saying that he supports the movement, explaining that he meant instead that he backs “anyone fighting against Assad.”"The West said al-Nusra is the devil but no, I say Assad is the devil.”

Franjieh: We Extended Parliament Term to Avoid Civil War, We Reject Extending Suleiman's Term

Naharnet/Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh on Friday said parliament extended its own term in order to “avoid civil war.”“I believe that we have not extended parliament's term. We are extending to avoid civil war and to prevent turning the political dispute into a military conflict, God forbid,” Franjieh said after leaving the parliament session that extended the legislature's mandate until November 20, 2014.He added: "We're against extending the term of the president (Michel Suleiman) because we are against this president."Asked about his relation with his ally, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, Franjieh said: "We are one team, now and yesterday and everyday, but we have different viewpoints over these sessions." "Some in the FPM believe that this is a juncture, and that the defeated would congratulate the winner, and we believe that things in Lebanon have always been part of a Lebanese-regional-international agreement, and nowadays we're seeing (U.S. President Barack) Obama telephoning the president and the U.S. ambassador visiting the officials and all countries in the world interfering in this juncture,” Franjieh added. “What would this juncture cause if it led to the victory of a camp over another?” he went on to say. "We are saying 'let's postpone the problem', because for the first time since many years, elections will define Lebanon's strategic course and will define if Lebanon is with or against the resistance or if it is with or against Arabism," Franjieh added. Asked about the challenges that will be filed against the extension before the Constitutional Council, Franjieh said: "Should the challenge be accepted, that will mean that the legitimacy of the Taef Accord will be questioned, because it was approved by a parliament that extended its term several times.”The parliament on Friday voted to extend its own mandate for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach a new electoral law. Around 100 MPs from all blocs, except the Change and Reform bloc, voted to extend parliament's term until November 20, 2014, in a session that lasted only 10 minutes. The motion to extend the normal four-year term was due to "the security situation in several Lebanese regions that gives rise to political escalation and division which often take on confessional forms."

2 Women Dead, 2 Toddlers Injured in al-Masnaa Gas Station Fire

Naharnet/A blaze erupted Friday evening at a gas station near al-Masnaa border crossing on the intersection leading to Majdal Anjar in the Bekaa Valley, leaving two women dead, state-run National News Agency reported.
Civil Defense firefighters managed to extinguish the flames, NNA said. The agency said two children, Shahd Mustafa al-Sayyed and Sham Mustafa al-Sayyed, were injured in the blaze, correcting an earlier report that said two toddlers were killed. It identified the two deceased women as Nadia Khalil Hamed and Widad Khalil Hamed, noting that all the victims are Syrian nationals. Earlier, Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said “a number of people were killed in a blaze at a gas station in al-Masnaa and ambulances transported the bodies of two women to al-Bekaa Hospital and other bodies to the Red Crescent Hospital."

Three Suspects Arrested over Links to Arsal Attack

Naharnet/The attack against the Lebanese army in the Bekaa town of Arsal was planned weeks in advance, reported As Safir newspaper Friday. Widely informed military sources told the daily that most of the details of the crime were uncovered, which includes the arrest of three suspects. The Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau arrested a Lebanese female nurse, who works at the Tripoli government hospital, another Lebanese national, who is the nurse's neighbor and who is suspected of renting the Hummer used in the assault, and a Syrian national, who is residing in the Bekaa town of Shtaura. As Safir said that the Syrian national was wounded during while fighting regime forces in Syria over three months ago. He was consequently transferred to hospital in Lebanon where he met the nurse. The two individuals, as well as the nurse's neighbor, then planned the attack against the army in Arsal Three soldiers were killed overnight Monday in an attack on their checkpoint in the town of Wadi Hmeid in the eastern border town of Arsal. Media reports said that the gunmen, riding in a Hummer, had fled to Syrian territories after the attack.

Reports: Russia May Not Deliver S-300s to Syria this Year

Naharnet/Russia may not deliver a hugely controversial consignment of S-300 air defense missile systems to the Syrian regime this year, two Russian newspapers reported Friday, rejecting claims the weapons had already arrived in the country. The Vedomosti daily cited a Russian defense industry source as saying it was unclear if the weapons would be delivered to Syria this year while the Kommersant daily quoted its source as saying that delivery was only planned in the second quarter of 2014. President Bashar Assad appeared to imply in an interview with al-Manar television broadcast Thursday that Russia had already delivered some of the promised ground-to-air S-300 missile systems. But both sources quoted by Kommersant and Vedomosti said that no delivery of the missiles had taken place yet. The contract was agreed in 2010 and according to Vedomosti is worth $1 billion. Kommersant added that after delivery in 2014, a minimum of another six months would be needed for the training of personnel and tests before the systems were fully operational. The source quoted by Vedomosti meanwhile said that while the Russian government is currently insisting in public that the contract will be fulfilled, this does not mean that the actual deliveries will ever take place. No further details were given. The widely-admired missile systems are seen by analysts as having huge military importance for Assad in the conflict against rebels as the weapons could be used to ward off Western or Israeli air strikes against regime targets.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Red Cross Halts All Staff Movement after Afghan Attack
Naharnet /The International Committee of the Red Cross has halted all staff movement across Afghanistan and closed its office in Jalalabad which was hit by a deadly suicide and gun attack. The two-hour assault on Tuesday, which left one Afghan guard dead, was the first time ICRC offices have been targeted in Afghanistan since the organisation began work there 26 years ago. An International Organization for Migration (IOM) complex in Kabul came under sustained attack less than a week earlier, and the two incidents raise the prospect of a new phase in the Taliban's 12-year insurgency in which no organisation is considered off-limits. The ICRC, with 1,800 employees nationwide, had 36 staff including six expatriates in Jalalabad, which is close to the Pakistani border and surrounded by some of Afghanistan's most unstable districts."All movements have been frozen throughout Afghanistan, there is not a single ICRC delegate or employee that is moving, taking the roads, today," Jacques De Maio, ICRC's South Asia chief, said in a statement released in Geneva on Thursday.
"Our sub-delegation in Jalalabad has been closed, so we are reconnecting with the government and re-connecting with armed groups to determined what happened and why." Jalalabad lies on the key route from the Pakistani border region -- where many militants are based -- to Kabul, and it has been the scene of repeated attacks in recent years. A message on the ICRC's Twitter page had initially said that all the organisation's activities across Afghanistan had been suspended. "As a consequence of the attack... people will not be getting valuable help such as food and medical aid," the ICRC said on the social networking site.
The ICRC maintains strict neutrality in the Afghan conflict and was thought to be protected from attack by its working relations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups. No militant group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday evening's attack, in which one guard died at the start of the two-hour assault. "He was unarmed, defenseless, he was protecting a compound from where hundreds of thousands of Afghans were getting valuable services," De Maio said in the video statement. "It was a brutal, despicable and frankly senseless attack... there isn't a single Afghan that would not recognize that we are strictly independent and humanitarian in what we do."
The ICRC provides medical support to two government-run hospitals as well as technical and financial help to 47 clinics across the country run by the Afghan Red Crescent Society.
It also visits prisoners held by both the Afghan authorities and the U.S.-led NATO coalition, to monitor their treatment and living conditions. The abduction and murder last year of a British ICRC worker in southwest Pakistan prompted the organisation to scale back its work there, closing offices in two major cities and cutting projects in the tribal northwest. The savage killing of Khalil Dale, whose mutilated body was found on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta four months after he was kidnapped, triggered outrage and bewilderment in Pakistan. Source/Agence France Presse.

Moscow‘s smoke screen obscures Assad’s next Syrian war moves
DEBKAfile Special Report May 31, 2013/On minute, Russian spokesmen declare that Moscow is only filling standing contracts with Syria for the sale of weapons, i.e. – S-300 anti-air missiles; the next, that delivery will take place only in the second quarter of 2014 (ahead of Syria’s presidential election). Then, after those spokesmen previously declared that Russia would only fill outstanding arms contracts, Serge Korotkov, head of the MiG company came out with the news Friday, May 31, that a Syrian delegation was in Moscow to discuss “a new contract” for the sale of “more than 10” MiG-29 M/M2 fighters.
According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, this Russian fighter-bomber is designed to operate in complex electronic jamming environments. It is therefore just what the Syrian army lacks for overcoming the Israeli Air Force’s ability to disable Syria’s Russian-made electronic warfare systems.
Moscow is therefore offering to provide Bashar Assad and his air force with a key resource for delivering on the statement he made in a TV interview Thursday, May 30: “We have informed all foreign parties that we will retaliate against any future Israeli attack.”
Our military and Russian sources say that the conflicting Russian statements on weapons sales to Damascus have two motives:
1. To lay down a smoke screen for concealing the true nature and volume of the military equipment Moscow is shipping to Assad and his army by airlift. Its transports land and unload their freight at various Syrian airfields, including Aleppo and Latakia. Without the Russian and Iranian air corridors, the Syrian army would soon run out of the ammunition, spare parts and fuel, needed day to day for keeping up its war on the rebels.
2. To spread a fog fraught with Russian menace for scaring Israel, the United States, Britain, France and Turkey off any thought of military intervention in the Syrian conflict.
This too is the frame of mind Moscow is seeking to generate for June 5 when representatives of Russia, the US and the United Nations meet to prepare the ground for the Geneva conference which had been called to hammer out a political settlement of the Syrian war. Moscow is determined to browbeat Washington into accepting Iran’s participation.
Only the UN has so far named its representatives to the preliminary meeting. They are special envoy for Syria, the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, and the Deputy Secretary General, US Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman.
Some weeks ago, Brahimi was on the point of resigning his mission. He changed his mind when he saw Assad was gaining the upper hand in the way and the Obama administration unwilling to stop him except by cooperating with Moscow in calling an international conference for setting limits on Assad’s triumph.
The Algerian diplomat became convinced that without Moscow and Iran’s attendance, the conference is condemned to fail.
Most probably, therefore, the preparatory meeting will be preoccupied with settling the argument over Iran’s participation. Already, behind closed doors, Moscow, Washington and Tehran have closed the gap between them and bargaining over the format of Tehran’s attendance, whether as a separate delegation or part of the Syrian team? And will Hizballah be asked or not?
The Russians are confident they come to the event with the strongest hand. Their delegates will lead a front composed of Iran, Syria and Hizballah, which is not only united but way ahead on the war front.
In contrast, their American co-sponsors, have not been able to persuade the fractious Syrian opposition or its Gulf patrons, led by Saudi Arabia, to put in an appearance at the conference.
Unless this obstacle can be overcome, the US delegation comes to the conference without Syrian or Arab parties on its side of the table.
Israel can only watch from the sidelines.
President Vladimir Putin and his advisers feel they can safely turn up the heat in the belief that President Barack Obama will have no choice in the final reckoning but to accept the Russian-Iranian proposals for ending the Syrian war, starting with leaving Assad in power. Otherwise, Moscow is indicating that the war will escalate, fueled by the swelling input of Russian arms, and the United States will sink further in Middle East estimation.
Implicit in the Russian stance is that the Syrian war which has already spread to Lebanon thanks to Hizballah’s participation in the fighting will next spill over into Israel. Moscow is playing the S-300 missiles and MiG-29 M/M2 warplanes as pieces in its game against Israel too on the Syrian chessboard.

US and EU Must Arm the Syrian Rebels or Watch Assad Destabilize the Region
By: David Schenker/Washington Institute/Guardian
Anything short of Assad's defeat would be a setback not only for Syrians, but also for America and Europe.
For much of the past two years, Europe and the United States have taken only diplomatic and humanitarian measures as Syria's Assad regime has killed nearly 80,000 civilians and forced another million to seek refuge in neighboring states. Despite overwhelming odds and this heavy toll, Syrian rebels made some remarkable gains on the battlefield.
Lately, however, opposition forces experienced setbacks as Assad's allies -- Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah -- have reinforced the regime. The European Union's decision to lift the arms embargo will not immediately reverse momentum in favor of the rebels, but it is an important first move away from the ambivalence that has characterized western policy toward the Syrian conflict for too long.
Until now, the EU and the US have done relatively little to suggest they really want the opposition to win. There is no such ambiguity from Assad's allies. Hezbollah is deploying troops to Syria, Iran is sending military advisors and money, and Moscow is delivering weapons, including advanced S-300 anti-aircraft weapons intended to dissuade western intervention. Meanwhile, as Russia, Iran and Hezbollah take steps to ensure that Assad remains in power, the EU and US are pushing for a July peace conference in Geneva.
This week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement describing the lifted arms embargo as "a clear signal to the Assad regime that it has to negotiate seriously" in Geneva, warning that, "all options remain on the table if it refuses to do so." Let's hope he's serious, because Geneva II has scant chance of succeeding. More likely, the conference will discredit the opposition's political leadership in the eyes of the rebels, and further fragment an already hapless political opposition.
In any event, Assad has no intention of quitting Syria. Consider his combative response to the news of the lifting of the embargo in the regime organ Al Baath: "France, Britain and their US master cannot accept Syria's military victory, because this lets Syria set the rules of the political solution at the Geneva II conference." Should the current trajectory continue -- and with ongoing Russian support -- Assad's assessment will likely prove accurate.
Geneva or no Geneva, the war in Syria will continue; this is not a crisis that will age well. And the dangers of continued western inaction -- including the destabilization of both Lebanon and Jordan, and/or the leakage of Assad's chemical weapons to terrorist organizations -- far outweigh those associated with providing weapons to the rebels.
In fact, more than a year ago, the EU and US essentially delegated the task of arming the opposition to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, states inclined, respectively, toward Salafism and the Muslim Brotherhood. Consequently, many Islamist militias have ascended in Syria, some of which are affiliated with al-Qaida.
The end of the embargo paves the way for Europe -- perhaps as early as August, in the aftermath of the failed Geneva conference -- to start providing weapons to vetted, non-Islamist rebel forces. Well resourced, these units will attract more followers, inflicting more damage on regime forces and acting as a serious counterweight to Islamist militias.
When Assad is eventually vanquished, the changed dynamic on the ground will better enable non-Islamist units to compete in the fight for Syria's future. Moreover, by establishing relationships with these armed elements now, the EU and US may be able to exert some leverage and help forestall the threat of a post-war ethnic cleansing of the minority Alawite community from which the Assad regime hails.
It's true that adding any more arms to the Syrian arena may, in the short-term, help the opposition kill more people. It's also true that some of these weapons could wind up in the hands of Islamists. But Syria is awash in weapons, and the Islamists' arsenal is already substantial. Regardless, no western state is likely to provide MANPADS, an extremely dangerous anti-aircraft weapon that could be re-deployed against civilian airliners. The rebels, reportedly, have been receiving MANPADS from Libyan stocks loosed after the war.
When and if European nations provide weapons to the Syrian opposition, it may cause some friction with Washington. At present, Europe is simply more forward leaning on the Syria conflict. As the spillover from the war continues to wreak havoc on the region -- and after Geneva fails -- the Obama administration will eventually shift toward the EU position.
Absent the highly improbable solution of negotiation, anything short of Assad's defeat would be a setback not only for Syrians, but for Washington and its European allies.
**David Schenker is the Aufzien fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute.

US imposes sanctions on Iran's petrochemical industry
In warning signal to global customers, Treasury blacklists 8 Iranian petrochemical companies owned or controlled by gov't; official says it is the largest source of foreign earnings for nuke program after oil. The United States on Friday blacklisted companies in Iran's petrochemical industry, sending a warning signal to its global customers and representing the latest effort by Washington to cut funds to the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
The Treasury Department blacklisted eight Iranian petrochemical companies owned or controlled by the government, including Bandar Imam Petrochemical Co, Bou Ali Sina Petrochemical Co and Mobin Petrochemical CoIt was the first time Washington sanctioned the business which an administration official said is the largest source of foreign earnings for Iran's nuclear program after oil sales.
In addition, the State Department imposed sanctions on a food and beverage company based in the Mideast Gulf for "knowingly engaging" in a transaction for the purchase of petrochemical products from Iran.
"Our decision makes clear the risks involved in helping Iran evade sanctions and reaffirms that the only relief Iran will get from sanctions must come through negotiations," the US State Department said in a statement. "Iran continues to ignore its international nuclear obligations, and the result of these actions has been an unprecedented international sanctions effort aimed at convincing Iran to change its behavior. The sanctions announced today represent an important step toward that goal, as they target the individual companies that help Iran evade these efforts."
"These sanctions today send a stark message that the United States will act resolutely against attempts to circumvent US sanctions," the statement continued. "Any business that continues irresponsibly to support Iran’s energy sector or to help facilitate the nation’s efforts to evade US sanctions will face serious consequences."

Opinion: Nasrallah’s dangerous strategy

By: Amir Taheri/Asharq Alawsat
“Islam seeks believers that are aware and intelligent, not zealots who are slaves to their hallucinations.”
The quotation comes from an address by Musa Sadr, an Iranian-born cleric, who, until his mysterious disappearance in 1978, acted as a key leader of Lebanon’s Shi’ites.
Here are two other quotes from Sadr: “We reject opportunism, political shenanigans, alliances with the devil and the tactic of leaning the way the wind blows.”
And: “Islam is not a boutique from which to reap profits. Nor is it [a means of] pressing people into our service, as is the method of religious organizations and foundations.”
In this previously unpublished address, Sadr describes the Iranian Shi’ite sociologist Ali Shariati as “the source of our inspiration” and echoes Shariati’s castigation of the mullahs.
Sadr talked of “keeping Lebanon safe” and trying to raise the living standards of Shi’ites who represented the poorest segment of society at the time.
Coincidentally, the text of this address was emailed to me at the same time as Hassan Nasrallah, the current leader of Hezbollah, was making a speech justifying acting in the service of President Bashar Al-Assad’s campaign against the Syrian people. What would Sadr have said about Nasrallah’s decision?
One can only guess. He would certainly have been concerned about dragging Lebanon into a dangerous adventure beyond its control. One could speculate with some confidence that Sadr would not have regarded the preservation of the Assad dynasty as a cause worthy of fighting for. Sadr was suspicious of the true nature of the Assad regime and, despite being assiduously wooed by Hafez Al-Assad, never took the road to Damascus. He would have been aggrieved by the death of hundreds of Muslims, among them some 150 Hezbollah militants, in the battle for Qusayr.
Most importantly, perhaps, Sadr would have taken exception to Nasrallah’s decision to act on orders from Tehran. According to the Iranian Kayhan newspaper, the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah entered he Syrian civil war “in response to the injunctions” of Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei.
This is in contrast with Sadr’s constant efforts not to become an instrument of influence of any foreign power, including his native Iran. It was in fact this issue, more than any other, that caused his eventual break with Iran under the Shah. His refusal to obey orders from Tehran led to the end of Iran’s financial subsidy and political support. But Sadr was not swayed; he had become the leader of the Lebanese Shi’ites and learned to think and act in the interests of Lebanon, rather than Iran.
As a journalist, I met Sadr several times over the years and witnessed how he slowly morphed into a full-fledged Lebanese leader. Towards the end, even his Persian accent had acquired a Lebanese edge.
Nasrallah’s decision to involve Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict is questionable on a number of accounts. To start with, the Hezbollah leadership was never officially consulted on the matter. Nor was the Lebanese government, which Hezbollah is a partner in, informed of this. Needless to say, the Lebanese military also was not consulted. This led to a situation where a private army, controlled by a foreign power, is using bases in Lebanon to participate in a foreign war.
Thus there is no indication that a majority of Lebanese, or even a majority of Lebanese Shi’ites, approve of Nasrallah’s adventurist behavior. In fact, the information we have from Beirut and the south indicates growing unease among the Shi’ites. There are also indications that some within Hezbollah itself are unhappy about Nasrallah’s strategy. To be sure, most Lebanese Shi’ites feel close to Iran and approve of intimate relations with whichever regime is in place in Tehran. But friendship is one thing and servility another.
In its mini-war with Israel in 2006, Hezbollah lost some 600 men. Its losses in Syria have already topped 300, according to reports. Hezbollah guerrillas are trained for hit-and-run warfare. They are not suited to seizing and holding territory, something that Assad needs to do if he is to regain chunks of Syria under rebel control. The current pattern of fighting indicates that Assad is using Hezbollah elements as cannon fodder, enabling his Alawite units to capture Sunni-majority territory. In other words, Hezbollah is being used as an instrument of ethnic cleansing against other Muslims—something that Sadr would never have approved of.
For years, Nasrallah tried to cast himself as a champion of Islam or, if that was too much, at least of Arabs. Now, however, he is no longer behaving even as a communitarian leader. He has been exposed as one of General Qassem Suleimani’s pawns in Lebanon and Syria.
The difference between Sadr and Nasrallah is that the former was principally concerned about Lebanon and, more specifically, its Shi’ite community, while he latter is a pan-Shi’ite militant who sees Iran as his ideological motherland.
Nasrallah is behaving like those Communist leaders who regarded themselves as mere agents of the Soviet Union. With the fall of the Soviet Union, all those parties disappeared. However, the Communist parties that had retained a degree of independence from the USSR survived, notably in France, Portugal and Spain.
Nasrallah would do well to study the examples set by two other clerics.
The first is Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani, now regarded as the principal Marja’a Al-Taqlid (Source of Emulation) for Shi’ites. For more than a decade, Sistani has steadfastly refused to sacrifice the interests of Iraq at the altar of political ambitions. Rather than fanning the fires of sectarian war, Sistani has used his immense prestige to help detoxify Iraqi politics. Despite endless solicitation, he has refused to intervene in Iran’s presidential elections.
The second example, is that of the late cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who was regarded as Hezbollah’s principal religious leader. Throughout his life, however, Fadlallah acted as a Lebanese Shi’ite leader rather than an accessory to the Khomeinist regime’s dreams of conquest.
What Nasrallah is doing is bad for Shi’ites, bad for Lebanon, bad for Hezbollah, and ultimately bad for Syria and Iran as well. He has become entangled in what Sadr called “diabolical schemes.”