LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Quotation for today/One Body with Many Parts
01 Corinthians 12 /11-31/ : "Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. If the foot were to say, “Because I am not a hand, I don't belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, “Because I am not an eye, I don't belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? And if it were only an ear, how could it smell? As it is, however, God put every different part in the body just as he wanted it to be. There would not be a body if it were all only one part! As it is, there are many parts but one body. So then, the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don't need you!” Nor can the head say to the feet, “Well, I don't need you!” On the contrary, we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker; and those parts that we think aren't worth very much are the ones which we treat with greater care; while the parts of the body which don't look very nice are treated with special modesty, which the more beautiful parts do not need. God himself has put the body together in such a way as to give greater honor to those parts that need it. And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. All of you are Christ's body, and each one is a part of it. In the church God has put all in place: in the first place apostles, in the second place prophets, and in the third place teachers; then those who perform miracles, followed by those who are given the power to heal or to help others or to direct them or to speak in strange tongues. They are not all apostles or prophets or teachers. Not everyone has the power to work miracles or to heal diseases or to speak in strange tongues or to explain what is said. Set your hearts, then, on the more important gifts. Best of all, however, is the following way.">
Latest analysis, editorials, studies,
reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources
In Dahiyeh, fear breeds loathing/Alex Rowell/Now Lebanon/May 30/13
No Syria intervention – yet/Michael Weiss/Now Lebanon/May 30/13
Washington the Incompetent/Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Now Lebanon/May 30/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 30/13
Suleiman Urges Nasrallah to Stop Fighting in Syria, Says Will Challenge Long Extension of Parliament's Mandate
Suleiman in Surprise Visit to Arsal: Assailants behind Attacks Will Be Arrested Sooner or Later
Geagea: We Need New Government Independent of Hizbullah's Influence
Lebanese Parliament to Convene Friday to Vote on Term
Miqati Launches Bid for Dialogue without Preconditions, Asks for Concessions
Parliament to Convene Friday to Vote on Term Extension
March 14 Officials Agree on United Stance over General Assembly Agenda
Berri Says Security Situation Forces Extension of Parliament's Term
March 14 Urges General Prosecution to Arrest those who Threatened Tripoli's Security
Ali Says 'Terrorist Countries' Targeting Resistance, Syria
Syria Troops, Hizbullah Bolster Qusayr Fighters
Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Says Iran Continues to Back Hizbullah, Salam Stresses 'National Interest' Basis for Cabinet Formation
Asiri Says Turmoil in Syria Might Spill Over into Lebanon
Hizbullah's al-Manar TV to Interview Syrian President
Rebels threaten Hezbollah’s "commander" in Syria, positions in Lebanon
Israeli forebodings over widening Russian-Hizballah-Iraqi
intervention in Syria
Israel warns will act if Russia sends Syria missiles
Israel Readying for Regional Deterioration, Says Netanyahu
Radio: Netanyahu Tells Ministers Stay Silent on Syria
Roknabadi Says Iran Continues to Back Hizbullah, Salam
Stresses 'National Interest' Basis for Cabinet Formation
Six Suicide Attackers Killed Northeast of Kabul
Iran Opens Low Level Syria Forum
Britain Reports New Cases of Syria Chem Weapons Use to U.N.
Turkish Foreign Minister Arrives at Syria Opposition Talks
U.N. Rights Body Mulls Ordering Probe into Qusayr Killings
End of EU's Arms Embargo Harms Syria Peace Bid, Says Lavrov
Canada Further Tightens Sanctions on Iran
Israeli forebodings over widening
Russian-Hizballah-Iraqi intervention in Syria
DEBKAfile Special Report May 29, 2013/
Forebodings were voiced Wednesday, May 29, by senior Israeli military officers in the face of the widening military intervention in the Syria civil war by Russia, Iran, Hizballah and latterly Iraq too. They have made Syria’s civil war the platform for a Russian contest against the West and a ladder up which Iran and its proxy Hizballah are climbing to top Middle East regional power spot.
Russia, Iran and Hizballah are winning the contest by default against an unresisting US-led West and a hesitant Israel.
A senior IDF officer acknowledged on Wednesday, May 29, that Israel’s government and military leaders are at a loss on how to proceed. They have yet to recover from the calamitous miscalculation that Bashar Assad’s days were numbered to which they clung stubbornly for almost eighteen months.
Even today, some spokesmen refer to a “disintegrating Syria,” thereby losing sight of the major strategic and military changes overtaking the country that are entirely to Israel’s detriment as well as eroding its options against a nuclear Iran.
At a time that the US and Israel should be using their heaviest military guns to slow Iran’s race for a nuclear bomb, Tehran with Moscow's backing has brought its military assets up close to Israel’s borders in Syria and Lebanon and openly threatens to use them.
Unlike Syria and Iran, Israel can’t count on military intervention against an aggressor by supportive big powers. According to debkafile's Washington sources, no part of the Obama administration, including its military and intelligence arms, favors military action in Syria.
Even the direct evidence of chemical warfare already afoot in Syria is unavailing.
In Addis Ababa, US Secretary of State John Kerry repeated the administration’s mantra Wednesday by denying “concrete evidence” of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The Secretary and the rest of NATO were deaf to the vivid testimony brought to Le Monde Wednesday by two reporters, who risked their necks by spending two months concealed in the Jobar district of Damascus. They discovered Russia or Iran had developed a chemical weapon that does not explode. The release of its poisonous gases sounds like popping the top off a can of soda and has "no odor, no smoke, not even a whistle to indicate the release of a toxic gas."
So what does happen?
The Le Monde reporters provided a graphic first-hand description.
"The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their pupils shrink, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness. The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate."
Wednesday morning, the Israeli Home Front rehearsed an attack on a Jerusalem suburb by a chemical-tipped missile.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who watched, said the exercise is designed to protect Israeli civilians “from the threats pilling up around us.” Israel’s home front is the best protected in the world but also the most threatened, he said: “We must make sure that defense is in place before an attack.
Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon voiced his certainty that the Syrian President would not use chemical weapons against Israel or treat Israelis the way he treats his own people. There is no indication that anyone in the region intends to challenge us any time soon with unconventional weapons, said the defense minister.
debkafile’s military sources find Ya’alon’s comment delusory. They don’t see why Assad would treat Israelis differently from his own people – especially since the IDF has presented him with no real deterrent. After all, none of Israel's three air strikes in January and May stopped the flow of Hizballah fighters into Syria. And meanwhile, Syrian and Hizballah leaders are declaring loud and clear that a war front against Israel is already operating from the Syrian Golan and Lebanon.
The question is who in Israel is listening. And what is being done to make sure that Assad will be prevented from using chemical weapons against Israeli military and civilian targets at a time of his convenience.
The spate of events in the last 48 hours is troubling - to say the least.
Monday, US Senator John McCain was reported to have paid a secret visit to Syria. What did this "visit" consist of? debkafile reports: The senator entered Syria from Turkey through the Kilis corridor which is the main supply route for the rebels in Aleppo, one of the few still under their control. McCain penetrated some 300 meters into Syria, had his picture taken, and left.
A US publication reported Wednesday that President Barack Obama had ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans to establish no-fly zones over Syria against Syrian warplanes. The Pentagon thereupon issued a denial: “There are no new American operational plans,” said the spokesman.
Moscow’s response was ready in place even before the report was published.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the S-300 anti-air missiles that Russia was supplying the Assad regime were a "stabilizing factor" that could dissuade "some hotheads" from entering the conflict.
In the grades Moscow handed out for foreign interventionists: The US and Israel and their leaders were "hotheads" while Moscow, the calm, rational stabilizer.
In that capacity, debkafile's military and intelligence sources reveal that a huge Russian cargo plane landed in Latakia airport Wednesday with 60 tons of "humanitarian aid for Syria."
The nature of this cargo was not disclosed, but the last thing it must have been was “humanitarian” given the massive military aid Moscow is extending Assad’s army.
Moscow also knocked on the head the timorous decision by European Union foreign ministers Tuesday to lift the arms embargo for Syrian rebels, which they carefully combined with a decision not to send them weapons.
In sum, the US is not doing anything to help the rebels, Europe is not sending arms, the rebels’ Persian Gulf patrons have bowed to pressure from Washington and slashed their weapons aid, while Israel declares it wants no part of the Syrian civil war – even after it assumed the calamitous proportions of a world power contest with Israel’s arch foes gaining the upper hand.
So who is feeding the flames of the Syrian conflict with a generous supply of military hardware? Who but Russia, the self-styled "stabilizing factor”
The Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Commander Gen. Salem Idris made a desperate show of bravado Wednesday, by threatening to strike Hizballah strongholds in Lebanon if Hassan Nasrallah does not pull his brigades out of Syria within 24 hours.
Hizballah knows perfectly well that Gen. Salem is starved of weapons, just he knows that the US, Europe or Israel will not interfere with the stream of fighting strength he is pumping into Syria.
At worst, a few rockets will hit Hizballah centers in Beirut and the Beqaa Valley. Early Tuesday morning, the rebels tried to ambush Hizballah forces near the eastern town of Arsal. Their operation went badly wrong and mistakenly killed three Lebanese soldiers manning an army checkpoint.
The senior Israeli officer interviewed by debkafile put all these forebodings into words when he said: "A military and strategic catastrophe for the West and Israel is in full flight in Syria, and no one in Washington or Jerusalem is lifting a finger. Israel’s government and military heads never imagined that the Syrian war would take this turn. But we had better wake up at this eleventh hour - before it is too late.”
Suleiman in Surprise Visit to Arsal: Assailants behind Attacks Will Be Arrested Sooner or Later
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman stressed on Wednesday that the time will come when assailants who attacked the army will be arrested. He said: “The assailants behind these terrorist attacks will be arrested an punished sooner or later.” He made his remarks during a surprise visit to the the northeastern town of Arsal after three soldiers were killed by unidentified gunmen in the area, stressing that the army is the only guarantee for Lebanon's safety. “The Army Command has the complete support to implement its plans,” he added. “Some sides are attempting to exploit the army as a form of political cover and they are trying to fragment the institution to acquire protection for a certain sect within it,” stated Suleiman. “No more martyrs will fall should the army remain inactive, but it will come at the price of the eruption of a civil war in Lebanon,” he declared.
“We will continue our duties and we will continue to withstand the blows against us for the sake of our people and nation,” said the president. Addressing officials who are criticizing the army, he remarked: “Their only concern is gaining votes for the parliamentary elections.” “The developments in Syria pain us, but we have to defend ourselves and our nation,” he added. “We must protect our country and prevent the neighboring crisis from spreading to us,” he demanded. Suleiman made the trip aboard a military helicopter accompanied by Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji and state commissioner to the military court Judge Saqr Saqr who has tasked the army intelligence and military police with carrying out a preliminary investigation into the attack. The helicopter landed in the Ras Baalbek barracks of a military unit tasked with protecting the border. The president then headed in a motorcade to Arsal. Unidentified gunmen opened fire at a military checkpoint in the northern entrance to Arsal in the area of Wadi Hmeid at dawn Tuesday, killing the three soldiers of the army’s 6th brigade.
Sources have said that the gunmen, who were in a black humvee, sped to the Syrian territories after the assault. March 14 general-secretariat coordinator Fares Soaid was among the first officials to react to Suleiman's visit, describing it as “a courageous act.”“We hope that it would be productive in terms of unveiling the circumstances of the attack,” he said on twitter.
Lebanese Parliament to Convene Friday to Vote on Term Extension
Naharnet/A parliamentary session set to be held on Friday will include the extension of its mandate as an only article on its agenda.Speaker Nabih Berri, who chaired on Wednesday a meeting for the parliament's bureau in Ain el-Tineh, called for a session on Friday at 3:00 p.m. The a legislative meeting is set to only vote on the controversial extension of the parliament's tenure. Lawmakers Michel Moussa, Serge Tor Sarkissian, Marwan Hamadeh, Ahmed Fatfat and Antoine Zahra attended the meeting in the absence of Deputy Speaker MP Farid Makari. “The current situation in the country compelled the extension of the parliament's tenure,” Berri said later during Wednesday's parliamentary meeting with lawmakers. He pointed out that the parliament’s term will be extended to Nov, 20 2014. Despite a support to extend the parliament's mandate, the caretaker cabinet decided to hold the polls on June 16 under the 1960 law by forming the authority that would supervise the elections and allocating funds for the interior ministry to organize the event. Major parties in both the March 8 and March 14 alliances have admitted that it was impossible to hold the elections on June 16 based on the 1960 law. They are close to reach a deal on the extension of parliament’s four-year term that expires on June 20 but the dispute lies in the duration.
Geagea: We Need New Government
Independent of Hizbullah's Influence
Naharnet /Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea slammed on Wednesday Hizbullah's fighting in Syria, warning that it will incur “severe consequences” on Lebanon. He therefore demanded the formation of a new government independent of the party's influence, while saying that the LF supports a technical extension of parliament's term instead of the adoption of the 1960 electoral law for the parliamentary elections.
He made his remarks during a press conference to respond to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's recent speech on Saturday. “Hizbullah has demonstrated that its interests are above all else,” Geagea continued.
The party's actions are provoking Sunnis in Lebanon and are leading the country towards the abyss, he declared. He therefore called on the Free Patriotic Movement to break it alliance with the party “otherwise it will have to bear the responsibility of the collapse of the Lebanese state.” He also demanded the formation of a “salvation cabinet, devoid of Hizbullah's influence, that will be able to defend the country and its interests, away from the equation of the people, army, and resistance.” Hizbullah is functioning independently from the Lebanese state and its laws and principles, he continued.
“The real problem is that there exists a gap between what the Lebanese people want for their state and what Hizbullah is forcing them to go through,” he said. “The principles that the state is based upon are different than those that Hizbullah believes in, as demonstrated by Nasrallah's latest speech,” he noted. Hizbullah has never missed an opportunity to diminish the authority of the state for its interests, he added.
The LF chief said that Nasrallah wondered what the Lebanese state and people have done since 2006 to confront Israel. “Wasn't the March 8 camp controlling the state from 2006 until now?” asked Geagea.
“The March 8 camp had its hands on state institutions during and after the time of Syrian hegemony,” he remarked, therefore saying that the party should not be entitled to criticize an authority that it had the main power in.
“Hizbullah does not want a Lebanese state, but a new ummah that answers to Iran,” he said.
On Nasrallah's statements that the Lebanese army is not being properly armed, Geagea said: “The Lebanese people are being cheated in being led to believe that the Lebanese army is being armed.
“There is only one way to create a balance of power between the Lebanese and Israeli armies and that lies through asymmetrical war,” he said.
“The only way for the army to assume its responsibilities is through Hizbullah to get off its case because the party is not allowing the party to perform its duties,” he stressed.
In addition, he refuted Nasrallah's claims that the army is incapable of defending Lebanon, saying that Israel assaulted the country between 1949 and 1967, years before the party was formed.
Commenting on Hizbullah's fighting in Syria, Geagea accused Nasrallah of distorting the truth in the crisis.
He said that Nasrallah claimed that the party was combating American, Israeli, and takfiri agendas in Syria, wondering how these these contradictory agendas could unite against Syria.
The LF chief instead said that Hizbullah is using this claim as a cover for the party's real purpose for fighting in Syria and that is defending Iranian interests.
Several reports have said that takfiris make up no more than ten percent of the gunmen in Syria, he said, while remarking that Hizbullah itself and the Syrian regime used “to employ these extremists to do their dirty work, as demonstrated in the 2007 Nahr al-Bared clashes” between Fatah al-Islam militants and the Lebanese army.
Hizbullah's fighting in Syria will incur dangerous repercussions on Lebanon and it is leading the extremist Nusra Front to Lebanon, he warned.
The party is also paving the way for Sunni-Shiite strife in Lebanon and a consequent civil war “simply because Hizbullah's interests are above all else”, he cautioned.
Radio: Netanyahu Tells Ministers Stay
Silent on Syria
Naharnet / Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered his cabinet to stay silent on the issue of Russian missile deliveries to Syria, public radio said on Wednesday.His remarks came after several ministers criticized Moscow's arms deals with Damascus and raised the possibility of an Israeli response should the Jewish state feel under threat.Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on Tuesday warned Israel would "know what to do" if Russia delivered promised anti-aircraft missiles to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. "The deliveries have not taken place, and I hope they do not. But if, by misfortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do," Yaalon told reporters.Israel has launched several air raids inside Syria this year, allegedly targeting convoys transporting weapons to its arch foe Hizbullah. Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz also confirmed Israel would "react to any threat.”"I hope Damascus understands that. We will react forcefully," he told reporters on Tuesday, describing Russia's planned delivery of the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles as "morally wrong.”Earlier this month, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also criticized Russia's arms deals with Syria, where a two-year conflict that started as an anti-regime uprising has killed more than 90,000 people. Moscow on Tuesday defended its arms shipments to Damascus. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the missiles were a "stabilizing factor" which could act as a deterrent against foreign intervention, as fears grow that the violence could spill over into neighboring countries.SourceAgence France Presse.
Parliament to Convene Friday to Vote
on Term Extension
Naharnet /A parliamentary session set to be held on Friday will include the extension of its mandate as an only article on its agenda. Speaker Nabih Berri, who chaired on Wednesday a meeting for the parliament's bureau in Ain el-Tineh, called for a session on Friday at 3:00 p.m. The a legislative meeting is set to only vote on the controversial extension of the parliament's tenure. Lawmakers Michel Moussa, Serge Tor Sarkissian, Marwan Hamadeh, Ahmed Fatfat and Antoine Zahra attended the meeting in the absence of Deputy Speaker MP Farid Makari. “The current situation in the country compelled the extension of the parliament's tenure,” Berri said later during Wednesday's parliamentary meeting with lawmakers. He pointed out that the parliament’s term will be extended to Nov, 20 2014. Despite a support to extend the parliament's mandate, the caretaker cabinet decided to hold the polls on June 16 under the 1960 law by forming the authority that would supervise the elections and allocating funds for the interior ministry to organize the event. Major parties in both the March 8 and March 14 alliances have admitted that it was impossible to hold the elections on June 16 based on the 1960 law. They are close to reach a deal on the extension of parliament’s four-year term that expires on June 20 but the dispute lies in the duration.
Miqati Launches Bid for Dialogue
without Preconditions, Asks for Concessions
Naharnet/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati launched on Wednesday an initiative for President Michel Suleiman to oversee a dialogue meeting among the different factions without preconditions. The initiative lies in asking “Suleiman to head a dialogue on condition that each party attends it, and expresses readiness to engage in the talks without any prior conditions and to make concessions,” Miqati announced during a press conference at the Grand Serail. The Caretaker PM said he would work along with a team on initiating contacts with each party to agree on the dialogue's framework. “Compromises should be made by all sides.”
“No one is right alone. And no one has the right to decide the fate of the other,” he said. “The responsibility of the nation is ours.” “We can only confront our enemy through our unity,” Miqati added.
He called for rebuilding bridges and consolidating the dissociation policy which he said has led to a relative stability in Lebanon. Despite all the problems “there is still a chance to resolve” the country's political crisis, he said.
Miqati reiterated his call for the formation of an all-embracing cabinet. The postponement of a solution to the crisis leads to different camps, a process that harms the country and the people's unity, he warned.
March 14 Urges General Prosecution to Arrest those who Threatened Tripoli's Security
Naharnet/The March 14 General Secretariat noted on Wednesday that the northern city of Tripoli is paying the price of the absence of the Lebanese state, demanding that no red lines be imposed against it and the army imposing their authority in preserving security in the city. It demanded in a statement after its weekly meeting: “The General Prosecution should immediately issue arrest warrants against one of the local allies of the Syrian regime, who appeared before the media and who threatened shell the city.” “The judicial authority must put an immediate end to the activity of the armed gang in Jabal Mohsen and take similar action against it as it did with Shaker al-Absi,” it said after the meeting it held in Tripoli. It also demanded the formation of a crisis cell, in participation with lawmakers from Tripoli, to follow up on relief efforts for the residents of the city.
It made its remarks in reference to Arab Democratic Party leader Rifaat Ali Eid's comments on Tuesday when he said that fighters from Tripoli's Jabal Mohsen neighborhood were forced to wage a battle in the city on May 21 after the “provocations against it became unbearable.” Clashes between the Tripoli neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen broke out on May 19. The sectarian fighting between the two main neighborhoods stretches back four decades to Lebanon's civil war, but it has become more frequent and increasingly lethal since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. The two districts support opposite sides. The latest round of gunbattles had been the bloodiest yet, leaving at least 31 dead and more than 200 wounded. The March 14 General Secretariat noted that back in 2007, “Syrian regime terrorists waged for three months a war in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp to topple the Lebanese state,” adding that their efforts were encouraged by the “red lines” Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had imposed against the army at the time.
“On May 25, Nasrallah himself marked the end of the Lebanese state and all of its institutions by announcing that the party is itself the actual state,” it added.
“The party has decided to wage the battle to eliminate coexistence in Lebanon and link Lebanese minorities to the suicidal project of minorities being led by Iran,” it said.
“Nasrallah announced on Resistance and Liberation Day the transformation of the resistance into a militia that transcends borders in order to defend holy sites and alleged Sunni terrorism,” continued the March 14 forces.
“The wounds in Tripoli have not healed since the battle of Nahr al-Bared and until the ongoing battles in al-Qusayr,” they remarked.
“We reject any red lines against the authority of the state and the army in fulfilling its duties in full,” they stressed. “Disassociating oneself from the unrest in the North is a major national sin,” they added. The army waged between May and September 2007 battles in the Nahr al-Bared camp against militants from the Fatah al-Islam group, led by Absi. Nasrallah had said during a speech at the time that the army's attacking of the camp is a red line.
On the Syrian crisis, Nasrallah had previously justified the group's involvement in Syria by saying they were defending Lebanese-inhabited border villages inside Syria and Shiite holy sites. But the offensive on the mostly-Sunni town of Qusayr forced the movement to change its argument. "Syria is the rear guard of the resistance (Hizbullah's fight with Israel), its backbone, and the resistance cannot stay with its arms folded when its rear guard is exposed," Nasrallah said on Saturday in a speech for the 13th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon. "We are idiots if we do not act," he added. Nasrallah stressed that Hizbullah will win the battle against the “United States, Israel and the takfiris just like it emerged victorious in previous wars.”
Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Says Iran Continues to Back Hizbullah, Salam Stresses 'National Interest' Basis for Cabinet Formation
Naharnet/Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi on Wednesday commented on Hizbullah's involvement in the fighting in Syria and the fear of a conflict spillover into Lebanon, stressing that his country will continue to support the resistance. "We back all causes of justice in the world and we consider the resistance against Israeli occupation in Lebanon and Palestine one of the most important causes of justice in the world,” Roknabadi explained after meeting with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam at the latter's residence in Beirut's al-Msaytbeh neighborhood. He elaborated: “As such, supporting the resistance and protecting its components and potential are essential to us.”"We have no other option but to support the resistance.” 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 Iranian diplomat added that officials in Iran emphasize on the “importance of maintaining stability, restoring security and strengthening national unity in Lebanon.” "Iran is ready to help in this matter and we consider stability and national unity to be the priorities in Lebanon.” Salam also met with Head of Journalists Syndicate Mohammed al-Baalbaki who stressed after the talks that the PM-designate's basis for forming a new cabinet is “national interest.”"Salam assured us that he will adopt all solutions and means that can get the country out of this critical situation,” Baalbaki revealed after the talks. He noted: “The national interest will be standard adopted by Salam in forming the cabinet.”
Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali Says 'Terrorist Countries' Targeting Resistance, Syria
Naharnet/Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali said on Wednesday that some country's that support “terrorism” are responsible for the campaigns targeting the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance and Syria.
“Their endeavors will not change anything,” Ali said after talks with Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour at the Bustros Palace. He pointed out that he discussed with Mansour the conditions along the Syrian-Lebanese border and the latest developments. Mansour slammed the Arab League role, considering that it became part of the assault on Syria. The diplomat called on the Arab countries that “still have a conscience” to realize the plot against his country. An extraordinary meeting of Arab foreign ministers will be held next week, to define the Arab position ahead of a peace conference scheduled for mid-June in Geneva.
The Damascus government's membership of the Arab League was suspended in November 2011 after it rejected calls to end violence against protesters and instead pressed a bloody crackdown on dissent.
Asked about Hizbullah's engagement in battles in the strategic Syrian border town of Qusayr, Ali noted that the Lebanese resistance played a major role in liberating occupied land.
Hizbullah has lost dozens of fighters in its bid to help the Syrian regime regain control of the town near the Lebanese border, and its involvement is threatening to draw Lebanon ever deeper into the Syria conflict, raising domestic tensions. Hizbullah's involvement in the fight has already stirred international condemnation, with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon saying he was "deeply concerned" by the group's role.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog says more than 94,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.
Syria Troops, Hizbullah Bolster Qusayr Fighters
Naharnet /Syrian elite forces and extra fighters from Hizbullah have been sent to reinforce government troops battling rebels in the strategic border town of Qusayr, a watchdog said on Wednesday. Government fighter jets early Wednesday bombed rebel zones of the town as regime forces readied to launch a major assault, according the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Hizbullah fighters and crack troops of Syria's elite Republican Guards had been sent to reinforce government ranks, Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman told Agence France Presse. Like Hizbullah's fighters, the Republican Guards have been trained in urban guerrilla warfare, he said.
"The preparations indicate that they are gearing for a major offensive" on neighborhoods in the north and west of the town still under rebel control, Abdul Rahman said. A source close to Hizbullah has said 80 percent of Qusayr is now under government control. "Despite the intense bombardment, the rebels are resisting fiercely," Abdul Rahman said. He added that Sunni militiamen from Lebanon had joined the battle on the side of the rebels. "The fighting is becoming more and more sectarian (Shiite versus Sunni) in character," he added. Syria's regime is dominated by the minority Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while the majority of the population are Sunnis. Control of Qusayr is essential for the rebels as it is their principal transit point for weapons and fighters from across the border in Lebanon. It is also strategic for the regime because it is located on the road linking Damascus with the coast, its rear base. "If Qusayr falls into the hands of the regime, it will be a hard blow for the rebels because routes used to bring in their arms from Lebanon will be closed," said the head of the Britain-based Observatory. "If Qusayr was not strategic the rebels would not be fighting to the death and the regime and Hizbullah would not have brought in their heavyweights," Abdul Rahman added. "The fall of Qusayr would also be a blow to the morale of the rebels" who for more than two years have been fighting to topple President Bashar Assad's regime. Iran-backed Hizbullah, a close ally of Assad, sent almost 1,700 fighters to Qusayr more than a week ago to support the regime's assault on the rebel stronghold. Initially Hizbullah said it wanted only to defend 13 Syrian villages along the border where Lebanese Shiites live, and the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine near Damascus, which is revered by Shiites around the world. However, its fighters later encircled Qusayr as regime troops prepared for the launch of a withering assault on the town that is home to 25,000 people.
SourceAgence France Presse.
Hizbullah's al-Manar TV to Interview Syrian President
Naharnet/Syrian President Bashar Assad is to give an interview Thursday to al-Manar, the television channel of Hizbullah which has fighters combating alongside government forces inside Syria, his office said. The interview would be broadcast simultaneously on Syria's official television channels at 9:00 pm (18:00 GMT) on Thursday, the presidency announced on its Facebook page. Iran-backed Hizbullah, a close ally of Assad, sent almost 1,700 fighters to the central Syrian town of Qusayr more than a week ago to support the regime's assault on the rebel stronghold. Initially Hizbullah said it wanted only to defend 13 Syrian villages along the border where Lebanese Shiites live, and the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine near Damascus, which is revered by Shiites around the world. However, its fighters later encircled Qusayr with regime troops before the launch of a withering assault on the strategic border town that is home to 25,000 people. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah has promised his fighters will help deliver "victory" in the battle for Qusayr, seen as a potential game-changer in Syria's drawn out civil war in which more than 94,000 people have died. Syrian rebel chief Salim Idriss warned on Tuesday that if Hizbullah fighters do not stop their aggression in Syria within 24 hours, "we will take all measures to hunt" them, "even in hell." "I will no longer be bound by any commitments I made, if a decision to stop the attacks... is not taken and implemented," said Idriss, a brigadier general who heads the supreme military council of the Free Syrian Army.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Syria Activists Say Opposition Fails to Act for Grassroots
Naharnet /Four key activist groups on Wednesday accused Syria's main opposition National Coalition of failing to represent the views of the grassroots, in a sign that the anti-regime bloc was ever more alienated from the ground. The groups demanded representation in the Coalition, and said they will not recognize any political group that fails to take their views into account. The National Coalition has been meeting in Istanbul for over a week, and top on its agenda was a debate on whether it should join a U.S.-Russia-led peace initiative on ending the civil war. But bickering over the make up of the Coalition has stalled any progress.
On Wednesday, the four grassroots groups -- all of which were instrumental in organizing protests against President Bashar Assad since early in the revolt that began in March 2011 -- issued a scathing statement against the Coalition. "There is no doubt that the (Coalition's) leadership has failed to fulfill its responsibility to represent the great Syrian people's revolution at the organizational, political, and humanitarian levels," the activist groups charged.
"Any new (Coalition) members must represent our revolutionaries politically, and empower them by participating fully in the (Coalition's) decision-making process," they said.
They also warned that they "will no longer bestow legitimacy upon any political body that subverts the revolution or fails to take into account the sacrifices of the Syrian people".
The statement was signed by the Local Coordination Committees, the Syrian Revolution General Commission, the Syrian Revolution Coordinators' Union and the Supreme Council for the Leadership of the Syrian Revolution.
The Coalition began meeting a week ago with four agenda items on its plate, chief among them a conference proposed by the United States and Russia on bringing rebels and representatives of Assad's regime to the negotiating table. It must also choose a new president to replace Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib and vote on a new rebel government. The group has yet to make a decision on any of the issues at stake. Coalition dissidents have accused regional and Western powers of trying to impose their own agendas on the main anti-Assad political body. More than 90,000 people have died in the country's war pitting troops against insurgents. The conflict broke out after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent. Source/Agence France Presse.
Rebels threaten Hezbollah’s "commander" in Syria, positions in Lebanon
Now Lebanon/ Syrian rebels purporting to belong to the Free Syrian Army threatened to kill Hezbollah’s alleged military commander in Al-Qusayr and retaliate against the party inside Lebanese territory. “We have identified the commander leading Hezbollah militants in Al-Qusayr, the criminal Mustafa Badr Eddine, and you will get our reply soon; it will be on your own territory and will harm your family,” FSA’s Nusrat Al-Qusayr Brigade said in a statement in a video posted Monday on YouTube. The rebels also addressed Hezbollah’s chief, saying: “We tell Hassan [Nasrallah] that your soldiers will soon return to Lebanon but they will return in pieces.”
“We promise our great Syrian people that our operations will not be limited to defending our land from aggression but will reach [Hezbollah] on their own territory in Lebanon and what has reached [the Beirut area of] Dahiyeh is only the beginning,” they added in reference to Sunday’s rocket attack on the area. The FSA members called on “all Free Syrian Army brigades to rush to the aid of Al-Qusayr’s residents to avert the invasion conducted by the devil’s party [Hezbollah].” An increasing number of Hezbollah fighters have been killed in fighting in Syria, where the Shiite party is pressing an offensive on the side of regime troops against rebels in Al-Qusayr, a strategic rebel stronghold linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coast. Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday vowed that his party and the Syrian regime would emerge victorious in the fighting in Syria. The morning after his speech two Grad rockets hit the Hezbollah-stronghold Dahiyeh southern area of Beirut. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Israel warns will act if Russia sends Syria missiles
Tensions rose in the region as Tel Aviv raised its rhetoric.
Israel warned it "will know what to do" if Russia delivers promised anti-aircraft missiles to its war-torn ally Syria, amid growing fears of a wider conflict brewing as the fighting spills into Lebanon.
Israel said Tuesday it would act if the Russian delivery went ahead, while Syria's top rebel commander gave Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement, a 24-hour ultimatum to stop fighting alongside regime forces.
The developments stoked tensions after the European Union decided to lift an embargo on supplying weapons to Syria's rebels, in a move the opposition reacted to with caution.
Syria's regime joined its ally Russia in condemning the EU decision as an "obstruction" to peace efforts, while accusing the bloc of supporting and encouraging "terrorists.”
The United States said it supported the EU move as a show of "full support" for the rebels, despite its own refusal to provide arms it fears will end up in jihadist hands.
The lifting of the embargo "sends a message to the Assad regime that support for the opposition is only going to increase", said US State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell. Moscow said its planned to deliver to Damascus the S-300 missiles -- designed to intercept aircraft or other missiles like Patriots NATO has already deployed on Turkey's border with Syria -- which were part of existing contracts.
"We consider these supplies a stabilizing factor," deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said, adding they could act as a deterrent against foreign intervention.
Israel has strongly objected to the delivery, and its defense minister warned of a response.
"The deliveries have not taken place, and I hope they do not. But if, by misfortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do," said Moshe Yaalon.
The Jewish state has reportedly carried out at least three strikes against Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011, apparently targeting weapons. On the ground, the conflict has already spilled over into Lebanon, and in the latest incident three soldiers were killed in an attack near the northern border town of Arsal, where most people back the uprising in Syria.
And in the eastern Lebanese town of Hermel, security sources said six rockets apparently fired from Syria hit the Hezbollah stronghold, wounding seven people.
Hezbollah is allied with Syria's regime and fighting alongside the army against the rebels, including in the central town of Qusayr, where it has lost dozens of men.
Its role has raised fears Lebanon could be dragged into the war, and rebel chief Selim Idriss warned his fighters would respond within 24 hours if the group failed to halt its intervention. "If the attacks of Hezbollah against Syrian territory do not stop within 24 hours, we will take all measures to hunt Hezbollah, even in hell," he told Al-Arabiya news channel.
The tensions overshadowed an ongoing meeting in Istanbul of Syria's opposition National Coalition, which responded cautiously to the EU's decision to lift its arms embargo on the rebels. "Definitely it is a positive step, but we are afraid it could be too little, too late," spokesperson Louay Safi told AFP. A week into the marathon talks aimed at presenting a united front on a proposed peace conference aimed at ending the civil war, Syria's opposition remains more divided than ever, pulled apart by regional power grabs and unpopular with rebels on the ground. The EU agreed Monday to lift the arms embargo, but no member state intends to send any weapons immediately for fear of endangering prospects for the planned peace conference. The move divided the 27-member bloc, with Britain and France in favor and Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden reticent to pour more arms into a conflict that has already cost some 94,000 lives.
Countries are expected to hold off on sending weapons to the rebels to allow efforts to convene the peace conference dubbed Geneva 2 that Russia and the United States are trying to organize as early as next month. The delay in any decision to supply arms, potentially until another EU review on August 1, angered rebel fighters.
"Why wait another two months? So that the Syrian people continue to be subjected to genocide?" rebel spokesperson Qassem Saadeddine told AFP. Fighting continued to rage, including at the central prison in northern Aleppo, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog saying at least 86 people were killed across the country on Tuesday.
Washington the Incompetent
Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Now Lebanon
The policy makers leading America's failure in Syria have managed to peg their incompetence to two drastic events that appeal to the American psyche: the miserable Iraq War and the unforgettable Great Recession. Say Syria and officials will immediately counter ‘US boots on the ground.’ Talk about spreading American values and they will talk about the need for nation-building ‘here at home.’
But America has various tools to project its power other than sending its 82nd Airborne to occupy Damascus. These tools include shaping the narrative on Syria, applying serious diplomacy – one that is backed by the threat of the use of force – and twisting some friendly arms to make sure that the sponsors of the Syrian opposition, and therefore the opposition itself, speak with one voice.
America has needlessly failed on all three counts.
From day one, when the peaceful Syrian protesters took to the streets to demand an end to the Assad autocracy in March 2011, America refused to look at the rallies as an uprising for democracy, but rather described them as a sectarian shakeup, which confirmed Assad's rhetoric and gave him cover to kill more. If the conflict is sectarian, then Assad and his sect are not killing to keep his dictatorship, but to survive.
By the same token, Assad's opponents, the Sunnis (not necessarily only Syrian), have found it compelling to rally for self-defense, from which the name the Front for the Rescue of the People of Syria (in Arabic, Jabhat Nusrat Ahal Al-Sham) was drawn. When America helped Assad turn a revolution into a sectarian conflict, it indirectly invited the rally call for the formation of the terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra.
Perhaps shaped by his experience in Iraq, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, unwittingly imported Iraq's failing solution to Syria, which was originally borrowed from faulty Lebanon. Syria's only way forward was an all-encompassing government that included representatives from all Syrian sects, or so Ford argued. Ford had apparently not learned the lessons from Iraq, and before that from Lebanon, that treating ethno-religious groups as monolithic blocs – on which states should be founded – was a recipe for disaster.
Then came John Kerry to Foggy Bottom. Under Clinton, the US State Department had some weight and at times argued against the White House, or even changed its mind, like on Libya. But Kerry owes his job to President Barack Obama, and like Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Obama's National Security Council (NSC), Kerry is one of the yes men who does not challenge the reigning orthodoxy in a team not known for its foreign policy gurus.
Bolstered by a national mood sour on foreign policy because of Iraq, the White House found it easy to ignore Syria and still win kudos with the American public. Meanwhile, America's foreign policy became like a ship in a storm without a captain.
To further undermine its diplomacy, Washington did not leave any space for imagination. In the past, administrations would stay ambiguous about America's use of military power. This would give diplomats the ‘stick’ they need in their toolboxes that also has ‘carrots.’
On Syria, Obama made it clear from day one, that the super-power was not interested in deploying any of its military assets, no matter in how small of a supporting role.
In the absence of America's leadership, the world started looking like a jungle. Might became right, while the only nations who were advised to refrain from flexing their muscles were America's allies. Obama's failure to stick to the ‘red line’ he drew on Assad's usage of chemical weapons further proved that the free world was now under the leadership of amateurs.
Moscow was the first to notice Obama's shortcomings on foreign policy. Russian interests in Syria are mostly nominal, but its president, Vladimir Putin, saw in the Syrian crisis a chance to expand his anti-American populism, and started behaving as if Russia calls the shots in a country whose leader, Assad, owes his continued existence to Iran.
Yet to justify their colossal failure on Syria, Obama officials not only invoked the memory of Iraq, but also cited America's economic hardships as another reason for US inaction.
Short of sending troops into Syria, or even sending US fighter jets into Syrian airspace, there are dozens of risk-free assaults that would cost America little and Assad a lot. US missiles from the 6th Fleet can target Assad's command-and-control centers, his air defenses, his MiGs and runways, and even his fortified bunkers in North and East Damascus.
An American strike must be coupled with smart diplomacy. Hitting Assad should not be for Israel's interest, or to secure chemical weapons, or to undermine Iran or the Shiites. If the United States ever strikes Assad and help rebels defeat him, it should be because America believes in freedom, opposes tyranny, and spares no effort in such pursuit.
After that, Moscow and other world capitals can figure out which conference on Syria they want to attend, or not, while Americans can think that – when it comes to Syria's massacres – at least they did their part to help stop them.
**Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington Bureau Chief of Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai. On Twitter @hahussain
No Syria intervention – yet
Michael Weiss/Now Lebanon
Western powers appear to have at last recognized that they can have no real role in shaping the outcome of the Syrian conflict unless they credibly advance the threat of direct or indirect military intervention. As it now stands, preparations for a more confrontational mode with the Assad regime comes at a time when the United States and European Union are nominally committed to talking a regime, which has been deploying more and more chemical weapons, into capitulating.
One European statesman I met at the weekend said that even before the EU’s Sunday vote to remove the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition, Britain and France were assuring skeptical EU member states that they would not be sending weapons to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in any case, prompting questions as to what all the fuss was about. Clearly a compromise has been struck whereby London and Paris have agreed to do nothing for now, but possibly do something at a later date. As British Foreign Secretary William Hague put it, “we are not taking any decision to send arms to anyone.” Even Austria, which had been adamantly opposed to ending the embargo, has not yet decided to withdraw its peacekeeping forces from the UN buffer zone between Syria and Israel, which it would likely do if new weapons were about to pour in. Any eventual arm flows into Syria will be subject to a “case-by-case basis” review by Brussels, which nonetheless raises concerns that, say, Romania will get creative and purchase weapons for Hezbollah instead of the FSA. Sunday’s announcement was really more a preliminary telegraphing to Russia and Iran that no longer will they be the only ones able to parlay about peace while simultaneously bolstering their client’s war-making ability. Theoretically this is meant to force the pro-regime players at the forthcoming Geneva conference on Syria – a conference at which the ever urgent topic of Assad’s political future will evidently not be up for discussion – into cutting a deal that is not exclusively to their own liking. However, it is unlikely to succeed at this unless the Brits and French actually follow through with arming; otherwise this initiative, like all previous ones, will be taken by Vladimir Putin and Ali Khamenei to be just another Western bluff.
This is indeed how Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov appears to have taken it, given his comments following the EU vote that sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft systems, which his government intends to sell Assad, would “stabilize” Syria and preempt “some hotheads” from dispatching warplanes to Damascus. The truth is that the S-300s will likely never reach Syria – not least because Israel’s defense minister Moshe Ya’alon has more or less promised to powder them upon arrival – and because the Kremlin’s unchanged and serially-reaffirmed rhetoric on this point is simply meant to embarrass the United States. Intentionality is everything; Russia wants badly to project a self-image of a renascent great power mired in a zero-sum game with an old and not especially doughty antagonist. Yet it may end up being this gambit more than anything that increases the chances for a Western intervention in Syria.
Assad, meanwhile, has left no one under any illusions as to his opinion of the “political solution.” He told the Argentinian newspaper Clarin that he is not prepared to talk to any “terrorists,” by which he of course means each and every of the more than 100,000 armed rebels currently operating in Syria, until they lay down their arms. These include those party to the US-backed Supreme Military Command of the FSA, headed by General Salim Idriss. It was Idriss who accompanied US Senator John McCain into Syria, and it is Idriss who seeks to exploit a growing rift between hardcore Islamist rebels in Syria and the more moderate forces under his direct and increasingly well-organized command.
According to Dan Layman of the Syrian Support Group, a US licensed aid-runner to the Syrian rebels, in Idriss’ letter to the EU foreign ministers dated May 24, he himself made EU arms contingent on his own accountability: “My staff and I are prepared to maintain the proper recordkeeping, precise shipment tracking, and appropriate monitoring and storage of weapons and ammunition supplies that we would be ready to share with the European Union authorities.” In other words, one screw-up and Idriss knows that he’ll risk forfeiting his hard-won hardware.
Layman thinks that “if and when” Geneva collapses, Britain and France will indeed provide weapons to the Supreme Military Command albeit under close US coordination. Washington, for its part, will likely dispatch bulletproof vests and armored vehicles and other “non-lethal” military supplies long-promised.
There’s another factor working in Idriss’ favor: namely, fears of weaponry falling into the hands of religious extremists are already coming to pass at the expense of his moderates - and, therefore, at the expense of any US leverage on the ground. Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s faction in Syria, arms itself quite easily from confiscated regime stockpiles. Martin Chulov, the Guardian correspondent who travels to Syria frequently, told me recently that Nusra’s small-arms haul from the January raid on Taftanaz airbase in Idlib province was enough to “arm an entire division for six months.” There’s also little stopping Nusra from taking rather than receiving surface-to-air missiles from regime installations. They’ve already taken tanks and armored personnel carriers this way.
Jordanian and Turkish intelligence have cut the importation of man-portal air-defense systems (MANPADs) into Syria because the US and Israel fret that they’ll one day be used to down El Al planes. One British official quoted by the Guardian’s Julian Borger on Monday said that “[t]here isn’t going to be an airliner brought down by some weapon we provide,” which rules out MANPADs from the European menu. They’re are also nowhere to be found in the exceptionally fast-moving Menendez bill in the US Senate, which the Foreign Relations Committee overwhelmingly passed, and which also seeks to arm Idriss’ men.
This introduces a significant problem for the opposition’s allies. What’s the point of gunrunning to rebels if the guns you provide cannot degrade or neutralize the regime’s devastating air campaign? Assuming the West is serious about tilting the balance of power, it really has only one option left: grounding the Syrian Air Force through direct action either through a no-fly zone or strategic bombing campaign that takes out the runways and infrastructure of Assad’s airbases and civilian airports. As I’ve argued before, the skies are the main portal for Iranian and Russian resupplies to the regime.
Although the White House is doing nothing to build a consensus in Washington for another war in the Middle East, it is taking the debate about a multilateral intervention far more seriously than some had previously imagined. The same apparently goes for the preparation for this contingency. As Josh Rogin reported Tuesday in The Daily Beast, the president has requested no-fly zone planning from the Pentagon, and while President Obama is still only in “contemplation mode,” as one unnamed official told Rogin, “the planning is moving forward and it’s more advanced than it’s ever been.”
According to a well-placed Israeli source, when CIA Director John Brennan made his “unannounced” trip to Israel earlier in the month, he received a briefing on Syria’s air defense capabilities, which, you’ll have noticed, the Israeli Air Force has gotten rather good at circumnavigating and which the Pentagon has mythologized as more “formidable” than they actually are. “Obama via Brennan wants to know what Israel can offer – and there’s a shitload to offer,” the source told me, adding that Brennan’s education on Iran’s meddling role in the Levant was proceeding at a breakneck speed. (The new-minted intelligence chief had formerly stated on the record that Hezbollah had “moderate elements.”)
In this context, it should also be intriguing that the EU has just designated Hezbollah’s “military wing,” now making an un-moderate play to recapture Qusayr from Syrian rebels, a terrorist entity.
In Dahiyeh, fear breeds loathing
Alex Rowell/Now Lebanon
Sunday’s rocket attacks on Beirut’s southern suburbs fuels further bigotry against Syrian residents
Driving through the gridlocked traffic of Beirut’s southern suburbs Tuesday afternoon, two days after a pair of 107mm Grad rockets struck the neighborhood wounding four Syrian workers, not much looked different except perhaps an increase in the number of “martyr” posters. Despite reports of local Hezbollah militants deploying on street corners and setting up checkpoints following the attacks, NOW saw no evidence during a comprehensive tour of the so-called Dahiyeh (“suburb”) – the sole gunman in sight was a plain-clothed security guard outside the Bahman Hospital in Haret Hreik. However, there was one novel phenomenon detectable in the minds of Dahiyeh residents – suspicion of, and even bigotry against Syrians.
At a red traffic light in Ghobeiry, a young boy around the age of 10 approached the driver’s window trying to sell some goods. “Where are you from?” asked NOW’s guide, Hussein, a forty-something former Amal militant now employed at the Council for the South. “Syria,” replied the boy. “F*** your sister!” grunted Hussein, turning away in disgust. “They’re dirty people,” he explained as we drove off. “If I could, I would run them all over with my car.”Dislike for Syrians – which has been on the rise in Dahiyeh ever since the armed conflict began next door – appears to have reached new levels after Sunday’s rockets, widely believed to have been launched by Syrian rebel brigades. According to civil society activist and Dahiyeh resident Lokman Slim, Syrians were subject to various forms of harassment in the hours following the attacks.
“Youngsters took to the streets with their walkie-talkies and accosted those suspected to be Syrian. They checked their phones, checked their IDs, and asked them where they were living,” Slim told NOW.
Hussein said much the same, adding that Hezbollah was keeping a very close watch on Dahiyeh’s Syrian residents, even asking them if they were for or against the Assad regime.
In part, these measures are being undertaken out of fear. Syrian rebel brigades have already launched multiple rocket strikes on pro-Hezbollah areas in the northeastern Beqaa Valley, one of which killed a teenage girl on Monday. The rebels have also repeatedly threatened to extend these strikes to Dahiyeh.
“People support these security measures, because if we’re targeted again, we might die,” said Hussein. “Syrians here are going in and out of Syria all the time. You never know who could be with the opposition.”
Hussein insisted that locals were not spooked by Sunday’s attacks, though he admitted there were quiet worries of something more major to come.
“Two rockets is not a big deal for us, we survived much worse from the Israelis. The feeling in the area is no different today than it was before the rockets. But, of course, if something bigger happens, like car bombs or gunmen in the streets, that’s another matter.”
Security concerns aside, the mounting ill-will against Syrians has evidently taken on a sectarian dimension as well.
“Alawite Syrians are obviously fine. It’s only the Sunnis we have a problem with,” said Abbas, a young resident whose house was just one block from where one of the rockets fell.
This sectarianism, in turn, appears to be fuelled by recent battles in the Syrian town of Qusayr, where Hezbollah has been in open conflict with Syrian rebels, the latter of whom are largely seen in Dahiyeh as Sunni extremists. Indeed, the Qusayr fighting seems to be at the forefront of the community’s attention, dominating café chatter and online discourse. As we drove through Dahiyeh, passing the countless “martyr” photos plastered on lampposts and balconies, Hussein would note each one that was killed in Qusayr. “There’s no such thing as the Syrian ‘revolutionaries,’ they’re terrorists,” he told NOW. “They have problems in their brains. It’s not Islam, what they think. They behead people with no political agenda, killing and terrorism are their only goals. The fighter who eats the heart of a dead person is not a revolutionary, in Islam we cannot touch the body of a dead person. It’s haram [forbidden].”
The conversation turned distinctly theological when Hussein defended Hezbollah’s fighting in Qusayr.
“A big majority of Shiites think what Hezbollah is doing is a religious duty. It prepares the return of the Mahdi and the signs of his return, and this is the core of Hezbollah’s ideology. So the jihad in Qusayr is a duty.”
Such rhetoric is perhaps illustrative of what Slim described as Hezbollah’s steering of Syria-related events to its own political advantage.
“[The Sunday attacks] led people in Dahiyeh to swing between fear, questioning, and seeking a protector. And, of course, the protector can’t be any other entity but Hezbollah. But [hostility toward Syrians] is not only caused by the shelling of Dahiyeh, it’s caused by [Hezbollah’s] propaganda machine which is focusing on the wrong deeds of some FSA elements.”
In the longer run, when the Syrian war is over, Slim believes, the Shiite community may come to resent the relatively high death toll incurred as a result of the Qusayr fighting. “People are mourning the boys,” he said.
Hussein, indeed, lamented the “mistakes” he said were made by the Party on the military front.
“The fighters being sent to Qusayr are too young, they’re too ill-prepared. The Syrians have dug trenches and are using them well, sniping the Hezbollah fighters first in the legs and then in the head.”
“Hezbollah sent them to war as if it was just a football game.”
Some of the above names have been changed at the interviewees’ requests.
*Racha El-Amin and Yara Chehayed contributed reporting.
Canada Further Tightens Sanctions on Iran
May 29, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird Foreign Affairs today issued the following statement:
“Canada’s grave and sincere concern over Iran’s nuclear program again compels us to act decisively.
“In round after round of talks with both the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] and the P5+1 [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany], Iran has failed to engage meaningfully while the risk posed by its enrichment activities only increases.
“The absence of progress with both the P5+1 and the IAEA leads Canada to ban, effective immediately, all imports to and exports from Iran. We are also adding a further 30 individuals and 82 entities to Canada’s list of designated persons under the Special Economic Measures Act.
“Canada, like many of our closest allies, is making every possible effort to halt Iran’s reckless pursuit of their nuclear-weapons capabilities. The path of nuclear non-compliance will only bring further isolation for Ayatollah Khameini’s clerical, military dictatorship. We will continue to look for ways to reduce the negative impacts on the people of Iran, including humanitarian exemptions.”
Canada continues to support the P5+1 process. The group has worked patiently with Iran, in good faith, toward a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the nuclear question. To date, however, the regime has responded only with escalation and provocation, false promises and empty gestures. This was most recently the case following talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The individuals and entities being listed today are believed to be engaged in activities that directly or indirectly facilitate, support, provide funding for or could contribute to Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities, or are associates of, or are owned and controlled by, or acting on behalf of, such persons.
For more information, please see Regulations Amending the Special Economic Measures (Iran).
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A backgrounder follows.
For further information, media representatives may contact:
Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Follow us on Twitter: @DFAIT_MAECI
Backgrounder - Additional Sanctions on Iran
In addition to imposing a ban on all imports to and exports from Iran, effective immediately, the individuals and entities announced today will be subject to an assets freeze and a prohibition on economic dealings. With these new measures, the total number of designated persons rises to 78 individuals and 508 entities.
Canada’s new sanctions include exemptions to ensure that the rich people-to-people connections between Canada and Iran continue to grow, and that ties of family and friendship are not broken by the regime’s increasing isolation.
Canada’s new sanctions include exemptions for technologies that protect Iranians online and help them break through the regime’s curtain of propaganda.
Canada’s sanctions exempt food, medicine, medical equipment, and humanitarian goods to ensure that—if the regime decides to invest in the basic needs of the Iranian people—international obstacles are reduced.
On December 11, 2012, Canada announced further sanctions against Iran under the Special Economic Measures Act in response to Iran’s continued lack of cooperation with the IAEA and the P5+1 group (UNSC permanent members + Germany), which has engaged in negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program, and to maintain unity and consistency with the latest measures adopted by the European Union and other countries.
The new measures impose an assets freeze and dealings prohibition on 98 new entities of proliferation concern, and one additional individual. They also prohibited the export to Iran of different types of goods used in the shipbuilding, mineral exploration, mining, metal production, and telecommunications industries; vessels designed to transport or store crude oil or its products; hard currency totalling more than $40,000 in value; and new goods of proliferation concern.
The expanded measures also prohibited the import of natural gas, oil, and petroleum or petrochemical products from Iran; the provision of marketing and other financial or related services in respect of certain prohibited goods; the provision of flagging or classification services to Iranian oil tankers or cargo vessels; and the provision of insurance and reinsurance to Iran or any entity in Iran.
In order to relieve some of the pressure on ordinary Iranians and on Iranian immigrants to Canada with members of their immediate family living in Iran, the Iran Regulations were also amended to allow all financial banking transactions of $40,000 and under between family members in Canada and family members in Iran.
On January 31, 2012, Canada expanded its sanctions against Iran, to add five new entities and three individuals to the list of designated persons. They joined a long list of supporters and associates of the Iranian regime whose assets have been frozen. These sanctions cover the known leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and block virtually all financial transactions with Iran, including those with the Central Bank.
On November 22, 2011, in response to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear program, Canada imposed new sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA).
•prohibit financial transactions with Iran, subject to certain exceptions;
•expand the list of prohibited goods to include all goods used in the petrochemical, oil and gas industry in Iran;
•amend the list of prohibited goods to include additional items that could be used in Iran’s nuclear program;
•add new individuals and entities to the list of designated persons found in Schedule 1 of the Iran Regulations, prohibiting dealings with these persons and entities; and
•remove certain entities that have been recommended for removal by the Minister of Foreign Affairs that no longer present a proliferation concern for Canada.
The prohibitions on financial transactions and goods used in the petrochemical, oil and gas industry in Iran do not apply to contracts entered into prior to November 22, 2011.
Canadians with relatives living in Iran will still be able to send funds to family members, provided those relatives are not listed individuals and provided transactions do not exceed $40,000.
On October 18, 2011, Canada imposed sanctions on a further five Iranian individuals, four of whom are members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard-Qods Force (the Iranian special forces).
In July 2010, Canada implemented sanctions against Iran under the SEMA . These sanctions prohibit all of the following:
•dealing with designated individuals and entities, such as dealing in any property, or making any goods or financial or related services available to a designated individual or entity;
•exporting or otherwise providing to Iran arms and related materials not already banned, items that could contribute to Iran’s proliferation activities, and items used in refining oil and gas;
•providing technical data related to these goods;
•making any new investment in the Iranian oil and gas sector, or providing or acquiring financial services for this purpose;
•providing or acquiring financial services to allow an Iranian financial institution (or a branch, subsidiary or office) to be established in Canada, or vice versa;
•establishing correspondent banking relationships with Iranian financial institutions, or purchasing any debt from the Government of Iran; and
•providing services for the operation or maintenance of a vessel owned or controlled by, or operating on behalf of, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.
The Special Economic Measures (Iran) Permit Authorization Order (SOR/2010-166), made pursuant to subsection 4(4) of the Special Economic Measures Act authorizes the Minister of Foreign Affairs to issue a permit to any person in Canada or any Canadian outside Canada to carry out a specified activity or transaction, or any class of activity or transaction, that is restricted or prohibited pursuant to the Special Economic Measures (Iran) Regulations.
Existing UN Sanctions
Since 2006, the United Nations Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran in response to its nuclear program. Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council adopted resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1929 (2010) imposing sanctions against Iran in response to the proliferation risks presented by Iran’s nuclear program and in light of Iran’s continuing failure to comply with its binding legal obligations to the IAEA through its NPT Safeguards Agreement and to comply with the provisions of earlier Security Council resolutions. These resolutions require Iran to fully cooperate with the IAEA and to suspend all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.
The Regulations Implementing the United Nations Resolutions on Iran implement the decisions of the Security Council in Canadian domestic law. Implementation of the travel bans imposed by resolutions 1803 (2008) and 1929 (2010) is ensured in Canada under existing provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
On September 7, 2012—in light of the Iranian regime’s increase of military aid to the Assad regime in Syria, Iran’s refusal to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to the country’s nuclear program, its deplorable human rights record and anti-Semitic rhetoric—Canada announced the closure of the Canadian embassy in Iran and the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Canada. All Canadian diplomatic staff left Iran, and Iranian diplomats in Ottawa, were instructed to leave within five days.
For the past 10 years, Canada has been the lead co-sponsor of the annual resolution at the UN General Assembly on the situation of human rights in Iran. The 2011 resolution highlighted long-standing violations of human rights by the Iranian authorities, such as the persistent discrimination against and violation of the fundamental human rights of women and girls, stoning and amputation, widespread discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and media censorship and harassment of human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists. Canada has pledged to continue to stand with the people of Iran against the oppression from the Iranian authorities.
The 2010 resolution was co-sponsored by 42 other UN member states and was supported by 89, with only 32 member states voting against. This represented the largest margin ever in favour of the annual resolution, signalling the international community’s deepening concern with the human rights situation in Iran.