May 31/2013

Bible Quotation for today/Love
01 Corinthians 13/: "I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing.  I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned—but if I have no love, this does me no good.  Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud;  love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs;  love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.  Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.  Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass.  For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial;  but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear.  When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways.  What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God's knowledge of me. Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources 

Sectarian anger brews among Syrian Christians/By: Karen Boulos/Now Lebanon/May 31/13
Hezbollah vs. Hamas/By: Hanin Ghaddar/Now Lebanon/May 31/13
The slow suicide of Syria’s opposition/By Michael Young /The Daily Star/May 31/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 31/13

Nigeria foils latest Hezbollah plot to attack Israelis
Nigeria Claims Discovery of Hizbullah Cell
Report: Gulf States May Place Hizbullah on Terror List
Israeli Energy Minister: We Will Not Allow Transfer of Strategic Weapons From Syria to Hizbullah
Suleiman Urges Nasrallah to Stop Fighting in Syria, Says Will Challenge Long Extension of Parliament's Mandate
Up to 110 MPs to Vote for Parliament Extension over 'Security Incidents,' 'Sectarian Disputes'
Couple Killed, Children Wounded in Bekaa Car Crash
SNC: No peace talks until Hezbollah, Iran halt "invasion"

March 14 Independent MPs Say Extension of Parliament's Term Undemocratic
FPM Takes a Firm Stance, Vows to Challenge Extension of Parliament's Term

Palestinian Refugees Burn Aid Provided by Hizbullah in Ain el-Hilweh
Russia Earmarks $10M for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan
'Karachi Affair' Suspect Detained in France for 'Escape Bid' 
Syrian Robs Lebanese Taxi Driver but Leaves Behind his ID
President Gemayel Rejects Adoption of 1960 Law, Describes it as 'Heresy'

Madi to Probe Inciting Statements on Tripoli Clashes
Charbel, Ibrahim Head to Turkey to Tackle Case of Abducted Pilgrims

Israeli intelligence denies first Russian S-300s arrive in Syria - contrary to Assad’s claim
Peace remote as Assad, allies up military efforts
Peres Says Pope Could Help in Interfaith Peace Talks
Syria Opposition in Urgent Appeal for Qusayr Wounded
Syria Opposition Says No Peace Talks until Hizbullah, Iran Halt 'Invasion'
Syrian rebel group vows retaliation against Hezbollah

Assad Implies to al-Manar that Syria Received Russia Missiles
Germany, Canada Call on Syria Rebels to Join Talks
McCain crosses paths with rebel kidnapper
New York Times: Obama has Settled on New FBI Director

Assad defends Hezbollah presence in Syria

Israeli Energy Minister: We Will Not Allow Transfer of Strategic Weapons From Syria to Hizbullah
Naharnet /Israel does not want to provoke a military "escalation" with Syria but will not allow it to transfer strategic arms to groups like Hizbullah, a cabinet minister said on Thursday. "There is no need to provoke an escalation, there is no need to heat up the border with Syria, that was not our objective and it will never be," Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom told public radio. Asked about Moscow's plans to supply S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, Shalom said they would only become a problem if they fell into the wrong hands. "Syria has had strategic weapons for years, but the problem arises when these arms fall into other hands and could be used against us. In that case, we would have to act," he said. Moscow has defended its arms shipments to Damascus, describing them as a "stabilizing factor" which could act as a deterrent against foreign intervention. Shalom's remarks were made a day after Netanyahu ordered his cabinet to stay silent on the issue of Russian arms shipments to Syria in a bid to reduce tensions with Damascus and Moscow. Earlier this week, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that Israel would "know what do to" if Russia fulfilled the delivery of the S-300 anti-aircraft system. His words appeared to be a veiled allusion to military action along the lines of several strikes carried out on Syrian soil earlier which targeted weapons from Iran destined for Hizbullah. Meanwhile, Israel's National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror recently met European Union ambassadors to explain clearly what Israel's red lines were in respect to the S-300 system, Haaretz newspaper said on Thursday. Amidror said Israel would not stop the delivery of the system but would act "to prevent the S-300 from becoming operational" on Syrian soil, according to the report. "We are not interested in intervening or influencing the situation inside Syria," he told them. "We will only act when need to protect our security and thus we will prevent in the future the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizbullah."After the end of an annual civil defense drill on Thursday, Netanyahu reiterated that Israel was surrounded by "tens of thousands of missiles and rockets that could hit our home front." Netanyahu pointed to the eight-day confrontation between Israel and Hamas militants in November, during which rockets from Gaza hit near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the first time, as "a small example of the substantial changes in modes of attack." "We must prepare defensively and offensively for the new era of warfare," Netanyahu stressed. "The Israeli home front is more accessible to the enemy than it has been."SourceAgence France Presse.

Nigeria foils latest Hezbollah plot to attack Israelis

By REUTERS 05/30/2013/
Authorities arrest three Lebanese in northern Nigeria on suspicion of being members of Hezbollah; Military Spokesman Ikedichi Iweha says arms, ammunition were targeted at facilities of Israel, Western interest in Nigeria.
KANO, Nigeria - Nigerian authorities said on Thursday they had arrested three Lebanese in northern Nigeria on suspicion of being members of Hezbollah and that a raid on one of their residences had revealed a stash of heavy weapons.The three suspects were arrested between May 16 and May 28 in the north's biggest city Kano, the city's military spokesman Captain Ikedichi Iweha said in a statement. All had admitted to being members of Hezbollah under questioning. A raid on the residence of one of the Lebanese had uncovered 11 60 mm anti-tank weapons, four anti-tank landmines, two rounds of ammunition for a 122 mm artillery gun, 21 rocket-propelled grenades, seventeen AK-47s with more than 11,000 bullets and some dynamite, he said. "The arms and ammunition were targeted at facilities of Israel and Western interest in Nigeria," Iweha said, but did not elaborate.
Separately, five fighters from Chad and two from Niger were arrested among insurgents fleeing a two-week-old offensive against Islamist sect Boko Haram in the northeast, as they tried to cross the border into Chad, Nigeria's defence spokesman Brigadier General Chris Olukolade said in a statement. Authorities believe there has been a growing involvement of al-Qaeda-linked foreign jihadists in Nigeria's insurgency.
The secret service detained the first suspect, Mustapha Fawaz, on May 16 at his supermarket in Kano. His interrogation led to other suspects, including Abdullah Tahini, who was later arrested at Kano airport with $60,000 in undeclared cash.
Weapons stash
The third, Talal Roda, a Nigerian and Lebanese citizen, was arrested on Sunday at the house where the weapons were found two days later.
"The search team uncovered an underground bunker in the master bedroom where a large quantity of assorted weapons of different types and caliber were recovered," Iweha said. "All those arrested have confessed to have undergone Hezbollah terrorist training." The possibility of a link with Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram, which Nigerian forces are battling in a major offensive in the northeast, was being investigated, Iweha said at a news conference. An alliance between Salafist Sunni Muslim Boko Haram and Shi'ite Hezbollah would be unusual, and there has never previously been evidence of such a link.
Though most Nigerian Muslims are Sunni, there are several thousand Shi'ite Nigerians, a legacy of Muslim radical Ibrahim Zakzaky's preachings since the 1980s. Zakzaky still leads Nigeria's main Shi'ite movement and has campaigned for an Islamic government and stricter adherence to sharia law. Iweha declined to say if any link to Zakzaky was being investigated, and his movement is currently seen as largely peaceful.
A Nigerian court sentenced an alleged member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and a Nigerian accomplice to five years in prison this month over an illegal shipment of mortars and rockets seized in the main port of Lagos in 2010.

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. One suspect in custody was identified as Mustafa Fawaz, reportedly the owner of an amusement park in the capital Abuja called Wonderland.An employee who answered a call to a number listed for Wonderland told Agence France Presse that Fawaz had not been in the office this week. The top military commander in Kano, Brigadier General Iliyasu Abba, who briefed journalists alongside the intelligence chief, said the case had generated "a lot of national interest". Nigeria is home to a large 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.
SourceAgence France Presse.


Report: Gulf States May Place Hizbullah on Terror List
Naharnet /Gulf Arab states will consider placing Hizbullah, which is openly involved in the Syrian conflict, on its terror list, al-Rai daily quoted highly placed diplomats on Thursday as saying. 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, the newspaper said. Bahrain currently holds the GCC's rotating presidency. The paper did not say whether this referred to the party as a whole or just its military wing, whose men are fighting alongside government troops in a fierce battle to retake the Syrian town of Qusayr from rebels. The ministers will also discuss Gulf security, "continued Iranian threats, especially the busting of Iranian spy rings," in a number of GCC states. The GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Kuwait has already convicted several Iranians and one of its own citizens for operating a spy ring for Tehran, while Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have said they busted cells working for the Islamic republic. On Monday, Bahrain on Monday banned opposition groups from all contact with Hizbullah, a month after branding the movement as a "terrorist organization." Hizbullah, like Iran, is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.Gulf states have repeatedly accused Iran of meddling in their affairs, a charge the Islamic republic categorically denies. More than 94,000 people have died in Syria since protests erupted more than two years ago and morphed into an armed conflict after being brutally repressed. SourceAgence France Presse.LebanonPoliticsIranKuwait

U.S. Demands Hizbullah Withdraw from Syria

Naharnet /The United States on Wednesday demanded the immediate withdrawal of Hizbullah fighters from Syria, saying their active role in combat there was an "extremely dangerous escalation.""This is an unacceptable and extremely dangerous escalation. We demand that Hizbullah withdraw its fighters from Syria immediately," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah confirmed last week that the group was actively fighting on the side of its close ally, Syria's President Bashar Assad, in the Syrian town of Qusayr near the border.
Psaki also condemned the "outrageous attack" on a Lebanese army checkpoint near the border on Tuesday that killed three soldiers. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, which was condemned by the Lebanese government and Hizbullah. "These and other incidents are stark reminders that the conflict in Syria poses an incredibly dangerous threat to Lebanon's stability, the people of Lebanon and security," she said.
"We call on all parties to do their part to act with restraint and respect Lebanon's stability and security."Hizbullah had long insisted its arsenal of rockets and other weapons would only be used to defend Lebanon from its southern neighbor. But Nasrallah has said the group must now defend Assad's regime against an uprising increasingly dominated by hardline Sunni Islamists who view Shiites and Assad's offshoot Alawite sect as apostates.
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 70,000 people have been killed since the initially peaceful uprising began in March 2011.Source/Agence France Presse

March 14 Independent MPs Say Extension of Parliament's Term Undemocratic

Naharnet /Independent March 14 lawmakers expressed on Thursday regret over attempts to extend the parliament's term, considering that it opposes the democratic system and the principle of rotation in power.
“The security situation and the cabinet and parliament's inability to agree on an electoral law compel the forced extension of the legislature's term, which opposes the democratic norms,” a statement issued by the MPs said.
It pointed out that the extension obliges the political powers to facilitate the formation of the cabinet and to halt all the preventive conditions by the March 8 alliance. The statement said that the situation in the country could lead to a constitutional vacuum, which threatens the state and its stability. The lawmakers “agreed to deal positively with any consensus reached by the rival parties to avert any negative repercussions on the country.” On Wednesday, Speaker Nabih Berri said that the parliament’s term will be extended to Nov, 20 2014.A parliamentary session is set to be held on Friday to vote on the timeframe of extension.

Russia Earmarks $10M for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan
Naharnet/The Russian government on Thursday earmarked 10 million dollars in aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan that will be paid through the United Nations in the year 2013. “In 2013, around 10 million dollars will be earmarked as a contribution to the budget of the the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), with around 6.5 million dollars in support for the Lebanese government and around 3.5 million dollars in support for the Jordanian government,” read a resolution issued by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Russia's finance ministry was tasked with coordinating with the foreign ministry on how to transfer the funds to the United Nations.The Russian foreign ministry was also asked to inform the Lebanese and Jordanian foreign ministries of the resolution.

Palestinian Refugees Burn Aid Provided by Hizbullah in Ain el-Hilweh
Naharnet/A number of Palestinian refugees who fled the war in Syria on Thursday set ablaze aid offered to them by Hizbullah in protest at the party's military intervention in the neighboring country, state-run-National News Agency reported.The refugees at the Palestinian Ain el-Hilweh camp in Sidon called on Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria and not to interfere in Syrian affairs, NNA said.
The military support of Hizbullah has helped Syrian regime forces gain the upper hand in the battle for control of Qusayr, a key town for both the regime and the insurgents, where a fierce army assault began 12 days ago.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan 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.Nasrallah stressed that Hizbullah will win the battle against the “United States, Israel and the Takfiris just like it emerged victorious in previous wars.”Hundreds of Palestinian refugees have fled to Lebanon after fierce clashes at the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.

Up to 110 MPs to Vote for Parliament Extension over 'Security Incidents,' 'Sectarian Disputes'

Naharnet/The extension of parliament's four-year mandate will likely be backed by 110 lawmakers during a session scheduled to be held on Friday after efforts to convince Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun to support such a move failed. Several MPs expected around 105 or 110 lawmakers to vote for the extension if they all attended Friday's session although its duration is still the source of controversy between different parliamentary blocs.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 18-month period.
The extension of the 128-seat legislature's term by up to 18 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 Speaker Nabih 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. A copy of the draft-law that was obtained by An Nahar daily said the extension was necessary given that the security situation “was affecting clearly and directly the normal life (of citizens) in vast areas and in most Lebanese governorates.”
“The transfer of incidents and disputes from one area to the other is causing deaths and injuries and mainly in major cities, which becomes an obstacle to communication between Lebanese regions from the North to the South to the Bekaa,” it said. It added that political differences that are sometimes based on “sectarian” disputes are “threatening sedition” and could obstruct the organization of electoral campaigns and voting. Hizbullah and Berri's Amal movement, which are Aoun's main allies, have failed to convince him to support the draft-law. The FPM chief has rejected an extension, favoring holding polls on time under the 1960 law despite his objection to it for failing to guarantee the best representation of Christians.

FPM Takes a Firm Stance, Vows to Challenge Extension of Parliament's Term

Naharnet/Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan revealed on Thursday that the Free Patriotic Movement began drafting a request to challenge the extension of the parliament's mandate.
Kanaan, who is loyal to FPM leader MP Michel Aoun, pointed out in remarks published in As Safir newspaper that the challenge will be filed directly after the parliament endorses the extension. He noted that the challenge will focus on several aspects including the importance of maintaining the democratic principle of rotation in power. On Wednesday, Speaker Nabih Berri said that the parliament’s term will be extended to Nov, 20 2014.
A parliamentary session is set to be held on Friday to vote on the timeframe of extension. The lawmaker considered that extending the term of the parliament due to the security situation “doesn't convince us.”
He also lashed out at the Phalange Party and the Lebanese Forces for approving such a decision, saying that it contradicts their previous stances.
On Wednesday, President Michel Suleiman reiterated that he will challenge the constitutionality of extending the parliament's term before the Constitutional Council if polls weren't held by October. MPs “will of course agree on extending the parliament's term because it will save them the cost of the electoral campaign,” Suleiman said.
The president said he wants the lawmakers to cut the extended term short and hold the parliamentary elections once they agree on an electoral law.

Couple Killed, Children Wounded in Bekaa Car Crash

Naharnet/A man and his wife were killed and their three children were injured when their car crashed into a roadblock in the eastern Bekaa valley, the state-run National News Agency reported on Thursday.
NNA said Michel Bsaibes, 37, and his 34-year-old wife Dana al-Khoury died when the man, who was driving his Suzuki four-wheeler, crashed into concrete blocks on the side of a road, the agency said.
The accident took place after midnight in the town of Chtaura. They were on their way back home from a visit to Our Lady of Lebanon pilgrimage site in Kesrouan.
Their three children 8-year-old Joy, Joseph, 4, and Louna, 2, suffered bruises and broken bones and were taken to the Bekaa hospital, NNA added.

Syria Opposition Says No Peace Talks until Hizbullah, Iran Halt 'Invasion'

Naharnet /Syria's main opposition group said Thursday it will not take part in proposed U.S.-Russia peace talks while key allies of President Bashar Assad's regime are waging war alongside government forces.
"The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hizbullah continue their invasion of Syria," the opposition's acting chief George Sabra told reporters in Istanbul. "Today, Syrians' lives are more important than any political solution or any international conference," Sabra added. It has taken the divided opposition meeting in Istanbul a week to find common ground on the so-called Geneva 2 peace conference proposed by Moscow and Washington in hopes of ending more than two years of conflict estimated to have killed more than 94,000 people.
The group has previously said it was open in principle to any peace initiatives. Sabra's comments follow Syrian army advances in areas where Hizbullah has joined troops loyal to Assad. "In light of this savagery, any talk of an international conference or a political solution in Syria is just meaningless chatter," he said. His statement came hours after the National Coalition launched an urgent appeal to rescue 1,000 wounded civilians from the town of Qusayr in central Syria.Government troops and Hizbullah fighters have been battling for more than a week to retake Qusayr from rebel hands.Rebel sources say the army has also made new advances east of Damascus in the past week, in a bid to crush the rebellion there. Sabra said it was in the hands of the international community, "especially in the hands of (rebel backers) the Friends of Syria", to help stop an army advance on Qusayr and the Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus.He called on the United Nations and the Arab League to "act immediately and seriously to stop... the continuous massacres". "We cannot understand or accept that people are being killed in such a savage way while the international community is silent," Sabra added. The Coalition's chief meanwhile reiterated a call to President Michel Suleiman to stop Hizbullah from aiding Assad's troops. "We remind the Lebanese president and the Lebanese people that a party with government and parliament representation is taking part in this ugly crime," said Sabra.SourceAgence France Presse.

Syrian rebel group vows retaliation against Hezbollah

Now Lebanon/ A top Syrian armed rebel group vowed in a video to retaliate against the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah for its involvement in the fighting alongside the Syrian regime.“In response to the involvement of the terrorist Lebanese Hezbollah in shedding the blood of our people in Qusayr and for invading our lands… we will target the locations of this party everywhere, whether in Lebanon or Syria,” a commander in the Liwa al-Tawhid said in a video broadcast on YouTube on Tuesday. “We call on the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people to restrain the gangs of this criminal party, otherwise, we will have to move the battle to Lebanon.” “Our developed rockets will then target [Beirut’s southern] suburb and beyond… and I will give directions to the revolutionary in Syria to attack the gangs of Hezbollah in all Shiite villages,” he added. Liwa al-Tawhid—which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood—was formed in 2012 as the Free Syrian Army unit tasked with taking Aleppo. The rebel group boasts a fighting force of thousands of troops, and according to recent reports, has been redeploying in Al-Qusayr to support rebels fighting against an onslaught by Hezbollah and regime forces. Syrian rebel fighters have raised their rhetoric against Hezbollah as the Shiite party has pressed a military campaign in Al-Qusayr. On Tuesday, Free Syrian Army chief-of-staff Selim Idriss issued a 24-hour ultimatum to Lebanon to get Hezbollah to withdraw its troops from Syria. 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

SNC: No peace talks until Hezbollah, Iran halt "invasion"

AFP/Syria's main opposition group said Thursday it will not take part in proposed US-Russia peace talks while key allies of President Bashar al-Assad's regime are waging war alongside government forces."The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria," the opposition's acting chief George Sabra told reporters in Istanbul. It has taken the divided opposition meeting in Istanbul a week to find common ground on the so-called Geneva 2 peace conference proposed by Moscow and Washington.The group has previously said it was open in principle to any peace initiatives. Sabra's comments follow Syrian army advances in areas where the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah has joined troops loyal to Assad."In light of this savagery, any talk of an international conference or a political solution in Syria is just meaningless chatter," he said. His statement came hours after the Coalition launched an urgent appeal to rescue 1,000 wounded civilians from the town of Qusayr in central Syria. Government troops and Hezbollah fighters have been battling for more than a week to retake Qusayr from rebel hands.

Hezbollah vs. Hamas

By: Hanin Ghaddar/Now Lebanon
Hezbollah's involvement in Qusayr could drag Lebanon into a broader conflict
Clashes erupted in Beirut Wednesday night between Palestinians and members of the Amal Movement, MTV television station reported. The clashes took place in the Farhat neighborhood near the Cité Sportive stadium, during which two hand grenades were used. Without proper contextualization, this incident could be seen as just another insignificant fight between two armed groups. But it happened shortly after Jabhet al-Nusra declared the beginning of its operations against Hezbollah in Beirut and the Beqaa. Meanwhile, various sources reported that Hezbollah has asked Hamas to leave Dahiyeh (the southern suburbs of Beirut) after it became known that Hamas has been fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army in Qusayr. Hamas' alliance with Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Damascus has always given Hezbollah a certain control over the Palestinian camps in Lebanon – but things are drastically different now. Hamas is no longer an ally of Assad or Hezbollah, the organization has shifted alliances and Hamas is now Qatar's best friend and benefactor. Of course, that Hamas is now actually fighting Hezbollah in Syria is hardly surprising news. Sources close to Hezbollah in Lebanon report that most of Hezbollah’s casualties in Qusayr occur in mines which Hezbollah and Hamas used against Israeli forces – both groups were trained by the same army after all. The same sources also mentioned that cluster mines are behind most of Hezbollah’s losses. Although Hamas’ leadership in Lebanon officially denied being asked to leave the southern suburbs by Hezbollah, many doubt this actually occurred. Hamas did not and will never declare its military involvement in Syria, as the organization has always been good at playing both sides carefully. Hamas never clearly and officially cut ties with Iran, yet its leadership's new ties to Qatar are a poorly-kept secret.
After Khaled Meshaal and other Hamas officials were forced to flee the group’s headquarters in Syria, Meshaal has since stationed himself in Qatar, making the small Gulf city-state Hamas' new headquarters. Moreover, in October 2012 Qatar pledged to give Hamas $400 million USD in support, which constitutes a critical funding stream that will supplement major subsidies from Iran. Hamas' loyalty is now with Qatar, and the Gulf state is clearly supporting and funding Syrian rebels, particularly Islamist ones. It is only normal that Hamas, being the best trained military faction in the region besides Hezbollah, will be asked to join the rebels in Syria.
But this also means that Hezbollah is facing a new danger in Lebanon, and Wednesday night's news shows that Palestinian camps could again be used to partake in a conflict on Lebanese soil, this time against Hezbollah.
So here we have two supposedly resistance groups fighting each other, politically and most probably militarily. Their fight in Syria will soon move into Lebanon, and when Jabhat al-Nusra decides to launch its attack against Hezbollah in Lebanon, it will come as no surprise if Hamas and other Islamist groups in the Palestinian camps carry it out. Now that the Lebanese parliament has decided to extend its term for at least 15 months, a new government will probably not be formed anytime soon unless PM-designate Tammam Salam submits to Hezbollah's demand that it maintains control over government and state institutions. This means that Hezbollah is not only still a part of the Lebanese state, it has also managed to maintain its control over Lebanon's institutions.
Therefore, all of Lebanon's institutions and sectors will be a target to whoever wants to attack or pressure Hezbollah. When Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah officially declared his organization’s military involvement in Syria, inviting his opponents to fight him there, Nasrallah’s message was that Lebanon as a state does not matter and it only exists to serve Hezbollah and Iran's interests. Hence, Lebanon is forced to join Hezbollah in its battle in Syria.
Hezbollah is determined to win the Qusayr battle no matter the consequences, and they are now sending better-equipped and trained troops to Qusayr. Nasrallah has no choice in Qusayr but victory, in order to justify the huge number of casualties coming from Syria every day. Hezbollah's losses in Qusayr are damaging its reputation of invincibility, and winning (like the “divine” victory of 2006) has now become simply non-negotiable.
However, what does victory mean at this point? Winning the battle in Qusayr may mean losing a bigger war. Even if Hezbollah manages to take over Qusayr, they do not have the power or ability to hold it. Eventually, Hezbollah will be chased back into Lebanon. There are no borders or functioning state institutions to stop their return.
But, Hezbollah has set a dangerous new precedent with its campaigns into Syria by dragging Lebanon into the neighboring conflict. According to Hezbollah’s ideological and military training – losses, no matter how big, are irrelevant if they result in victory. This mentality is sure to prolong the conflict, something Hezbollah strives on. This time, however, is different. Hezbollah has positioned itself, through a calculated sectarian approach, as the enemy of all Sunni Islamists who are taking over most of the region. No matter how strong they are or how costly and long the conflict will drag on, Hezbollah is determined to plow ahead. Yet today they are facing all the Sunnis in the region including Hamas, and Hezbollah will eventually lose the bigger battle as a result.As a small, sectarian state, Lebanon will be the biggest loser in this broader regional divide. Therefore, the only choice left for Lebanon is to keep Hezbollah out of any state institution. They cannot be part of the government or parliament anymore. Hezbollah today is an occupying force in Syria, and if they remain in control of Lebanon's institutions, it means that Lebanon will be regarded as an occupying state. Lebanon must therefore change by exercising its real independence.
**Hanin Ghaddar is the Managing Editor of NOW. She tweets @haningdr

Sectarian anger brews among Syrian Christians

Karen Boulos/Now Lebanon
ZAHLE, Lebanon – The onslaught of fighting in Syria has undoubtedly taken a sectarian turn. This spiral of violence has engulfed all Syrian citizens, but the attacks on Christian churches in Syria and other Muslim places of worship, in addition to the kidnapping of Bishops Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim on April 22, point to the dangers threatening Syria’s Christians and the Orthodox Church in particular.
Destroyed churches have become common sights in Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. Faher Maalouf, the parish priest of Our Lady of the Earthquake Church in Zahle, Lebanon, says “the Church of Our Lady in the old Aleppo souk was destroyed, and so was the Tabaqa Church in the Aleppo suburbs. The identity of those destroying our churches is not important. What is important is the evil that drives people to kill one another, which ultimately leads to destruction.”In an interview with NOW, Maalouf explains that “Christianity, which is based on a lifelong quest of sanctification and repentance, has been persecuted right from the start. Hundreds of thousands of saints were martyred in the early centuries of Christianity and this went on until the days of the Mamluks and the Turks. Our martyrs are in the thousands.”
“Even during the Crusades, which we condemn and reject in the Orthodox Church, Muslims at the time differentiated between the Franks and the Eastern Christians, i.e. Orthodox Christians who many times took up the defense of the Christians presence [in the East]. We have a historical presence [here]. When Islam came, it respected… this presence. However, the violence we are witnessing today is unlike anything we have seen throughout the course of history, even during the Crusaders’ time, and can probably be likened to what happened under the Mamluks and the Turks. The Turks are playing the same role nowadays, as if this spirit has lived on in their hearts. What we mean to say is that this is not the Islam we know.”
Father Maalouf asserts that “dangers now threaten the existence of Christians and non-Christians alike. In other words, every decent human being and anyone who wants to live in peace is threatened. Innocent people of all denominations have been killed in Syria. Therefore, these fears do not concern the Christians alone. [We] fear that all of the East will be emptied of “decent” people and of all those who want to lead a life of tolerance, co-existence, harmony, and affection.”Father Maalouf was a student of kidnapped Bishop Yazigi at the Balamand Monastery in northern Lebanon. He says “the kidnapping of the two bishops is undoubtedly painful to us. We are mobilized in prayer so that God protects them and allows their safe return. This incident certainly affects the Christians as the kidnapping of the two bishops has political dimensions. This is certainly not a matter of gangs fighting in Syria. This is about intelligence services affiliated with [various] states.”
A source close to Yazigi told NOW: “We are committed to our activities and prayers, which aim to remind [us] of the two bishops’ cases and to the statements issued by His Beatitude the patriarch.” When asked about the displacement of Syria’s Orthodox community, the source said: “What is befalling it is the same as what is befalling people all over Syria, not just the Orthodox community.”
Many displaced Syrian Orthodox Christians have settled here in Zahle. One native of Saqlabiya, a village in the Hama province, works at a school here where he lives with his wife and two children. This Christian man, who requested anonymity, recounts how he came to Lebanon about a year and a half ago after leaving Syria because of the “disastrous situation” there. He asserts that Christians want to immigrate to European and Western countries, “but the Church is not letting them,” adding that if enough planes were brought in to fly them out, “there would be no Christians left in Syria.”
This man says: “Gunmen threatened me personally along with my family. The threats concern all Christians, as the situation in general is sectarian. They arrested me and took my car. Not all of them were Syrians, I also saw Afghans. Homs is like Iraq now; it has been emptied of its Christians as 70,000 have left the city. Churches have been destroyed in Hama, Homs, and Aleppo. However, churches in villages still exist to this day and may be bombed and destroyed anytime.”Still, according to the same Syrian man, “the Syrian army’s presence in the village impacts it negatively, as it [makes the village a] target for rebel shelling. The majority of Christians in the village support the regime not out of love, but because it used to provide them with stability, calm, and safety. Job opportunities were available and not one Christian was poor in Hama. Gunmen entered the village on Good Friday in 2011 as we were preparing for the Easter holiday. We were taken by surprise as they carried out an attack using sticks and rifles, and chanted disgusting sectarian slogans.”
**This article has been translated from the original Arabic.

Assad Implies to al-Manar that Syria Received Russia Missiles

Naharnet /Russia has delivered sophisticated air defense missiles to Syria, President Bashar Assad has implied in an interview to be aired Thursday on Hizbullah's al-Manar television, the network said.
Al-Manar said in a statement that when asked about the promised delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missiles, Assad replied: "All the agreements with Russia will be honored and some already have been recently."
Israel's defense chief, Moshe Yaalon, said earlier this week that Russia's plan to supply Syria with the weapons is a threat and that Israel was prepared to use force to stop the delivery. Al-Manar TV released Assad's comment on the Russian missiles through its breaking news service to clients on Thursday morning. The TV is to air the exclusive interview later Thursday. On Monday, the European Union lifted an arms embargo on Syria, paving way for individual countries of the 27-member bloc to send weapons to rebels fighting to topple Assad's regime. The move raised fears of an arms race in the Middle East. Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent months that are believed to have destroyed weapons shipments bound for Hizbullah.But with the Russian missiles in Syria's possession, the Israeli air force's ability to act could be limited.
Israel has lobbied Moscow over the planned sale of S-300 air-defense missiles to Syria but on Tuesday, Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said his government remained committed to the deal.
The S-300s have a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and the capability to track and strike multiple targets simultaneously. Syria already possesses Russian-made air defenses, and Israel is believed to have used long-distance bombs fired from Israeli or Lebanese airspace. The S-300s would expand Syria's capabilities, allowing it to counter airstrikes launched from foreign airspace as well.
Monday's decision by the EU paved the way for individual countries to send weapons to Assad's outgunned opponents. The EU's move may have little impact on the conflict since no single European country is expected to send lethal weapons to the rebels anytime soon. Britain and France, the main military powers in the EU, had pushed for lifting the embargo. They have argued that Europe's threat of arming the rebels in the future would force Assad to negotiate in good faith.Russia, an Assad ally, harshly criticized Europe's decision to allow the arming of Syrian rebels, saying it undercuts international efforts to bring the opposing sides in Syrian conflict together for a peace conference.**SourceAgence France PresseAssociated Press.

Assad defends Hezbollah presence in Syria

Now Lebanon/Syria's president spoke about the latest developments regarding the war raging in his country
Syria’s president defended Hezbollah’s military role in his war-torn country in an interview aired on the Shiite party’s Al-Manar television, saying the party was intervening in Al-Qusayr to stop an attempt to “choke the Resistance.”
“What is happening in Al-Qusayr is related to Israel… they are aiming to choke the resistance from land and sea,” Bashar al-Assad said in the interview broadcasted Thursday night.
“Why is Hezbollah present on the border inside Syria? Because the battle is one against Israel and its agents in [both] Syria and Lebanon,” he added.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday said that his party was fighting alongside the Syrian regime against “takfiris” in the country and vowed that his party and the Syrian regime would emerge victorious.
Both Hezbollah and regime troops have engaged in fierce battles in a campaign to seize the strategic rebel-held town of Al-Qusayr near the Lebanese border in recent weeks. Syrian rebels have responded to the campaign by threatening to hit Hezbollah within Lebanon, and two Grad rockets struck the Hezbollah-stronghold of Dahiyeh in southern Beirut hours after Nasrallah’s most recent speech.
The Syrian leader tackled Lebanon’s policy of disassociation regarding its neighbor, saying that “everyone knows Lebanon contributed to the Syrian crisis negatively.”
“What disassociation are we talking about?... When the government disassociates itself from an issue effecting its citizens, it is disassociating itself from the citizens themselves.”
However, the Syrian leader stressed that he did not want to be seen as criticizing the Lebanese government.
Assad also said that Syria would not sit idly if Israel hit his country again for transferring advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.
“We informed foreign powers that we would respond to any [Israeli] strike with a strike of our own,” the Syrian leader warned.
“If we want to retaliate against Israel, the retaliation must be a strategic one,” Assad said in reference to his regime’s policy of opening a “front” against Israel along the Golan Heights contested between the two countries.
Assad also spoke about Russian arms shipments to his country, but gave only a vague answer on whether the controversial S-300 anti-air defense system was being shipped to his country after Tel Aviv and Moscow engaged in a war of words over the issue.
“What we agreed upon with Russia will be implemented, and part of it has been implemented recently,” he said.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on Tuesday warned Israel would "know what to do" if Russia delivered promised anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian regime. Moscow had on Tuesday defended its weapons shipments and said they would lead to “stability.”
Israel has launched several air raids inside Syria this year, targeting convoys transporting weapons to its arch foe Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Assad also spoke about the proposed Geneva II peace conference, saying that his country sought to negotiate with the powers backing rebel groups in his country, and not the rebels themselves.
However, the Syrian leader warned that some powers were aiming to “sabotage the conference,” adding that if the proposed talks fall through, “nothing will change the reality on the ground.”
Regarding future political transition efforts, the Syrian president said that his country’s people would decide on the country’s fate.
“If I feel that the people want me to run for president, then I will run,” he said in reference to the presidential elections scheduled for 2014.
Russia and the US have been working to convene an international conference on the Syrian crisis in Geneva, however the Syrian opposition coalition has said that it would only attend if Hezbollah stops its campaign in Al-Qusayr. Meanwhile, Russia warned that a European Union decision to lift its arms embargo on the rebels fighting to oust Assad harmed international efforts to end the conflict.

New York Times: Obama has Settled on New FBI Director

Naharnet/U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to nominate a Republican who served under George W. Bush in the Justice Department as the new director of the FBI, The New York Times reported.
James Comey, 52, is a former hedge fund manager who now teaches at Columbia Law School. He would replace Robert Mueller, who by law must step down in September as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Times quoted two people with knowledge of the president's selection, although the White House declined to comment late Wednesday. As Comey is a Republican, choosing him would be yet another stab at bipartisanship on the part of the Democratic president, who is seeing many of his initiatives stymied by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The Times described Comey as palatable to Democrats because in 2004 he stood up to White House aides as acting attorney general and refused to renew authorization for a program to eavesdrop on people without warrants.It is not clear when Obama will make the nomination, the Times said. Mueller took over the FBI after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and transformed the agency from one that focused largely on white collar crime and drugs to an intelligence and counter-terrorism tool. Comey has served as general counsel for a large hedge fund in Connecticut called Bridgewater Associates, and at the FBI will have to grapple with budget woes stemming from across the board spending cuts.
SourceAgence France Presse.


Israeli intelligence denies first Russian S-300s arrive in Syria - contrary to Assad’s claim
DEBKAfile Special Report May 30, 2013/Senior Israeli intelligence sources emphasized to debkafile Thursday May 30 that Syria had still not received the first consignment of Russian S-300 anti-missile batteries – contrary to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s claim. Directly taunting Israel, Syrian president Bashar Assad said in an interview prerecorded for broadcast Thursday night, May 30, that the first batch of Russian S-300 anti-air missiles has arrived in Syria and a second consignment was on the way. The broadcast was scheduled to air simultaneously over Hizballah’s Al Manar and Syrian state television channels.
The Syrian ruler was responding to the quote from Israel’s National Security Adviser Yakov Amidror that the S-300 batteries have not been delivered yet and when they are, Israel will destroy them before they are operational.
Wednesday, May 29, debkafile reported the landing at Latakia airport of a large Russian transport carrying 60 tons of unidentified freight. Labeled by Moscow “humanitarian aid,” it may in fact have contained the first S-300 delivery to which Assad referred. Continuing in the same vein, Assad said that not only would the Syrian army react to any further Israeli attacks, he “would not stand in the way of Syrian groups that want to fight for the liberation of the Golan.”debkafile reported earlier Thursday. Fresh Hizballah forces entered Syria early Thursday, May 30, hours after the United States called the presence of the Hizballah fighters from Lebanon in Syria “unacceptable” and “dangerous” and demanded their immediate withdrawal. Already fighting on three fronts – Damascus, Homs and al Qusayr - debkafile’s military sources report that the new increment is assigned a fourth. Iran’s Lebanese proxies will be heading south to take on the rebel stronghold of Deraa, capital of the Huran, where thet will be fighting within 30 kilometers of Israel’s Golan border.
Lookout posts report the incoming Hizballah units organizing their equipment and getting set to move. The threats traded by Russia, Syria, Hizballah with Israel have reached a new pitch of stridency.
Israel’s National Secuirty Adviser Yakov Amidror was quoted Wednesday night as warning that if the Russian S-300 anti-air missiles are delivered to Syria, Israel will strike them and prevent their deployment for operational use. Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens voiced his certainty that the Russians are aware Israel is capable of destroying the batteries.
debkafile’s military sources add: Moscow has made a point of stressing that the S-300s for Syria will arrive accompanied by Russian officers and advisers, in the belief that Israel will think twice before tangling with Moscow by attacking the missiles still in their crates and risking harm to Russian personnel. This eventuality came up in the tough conversation Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 14. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has meanwhile pitched in to warn that another Israeli strike against Syria would elicit an immediate Syrian response. He spoke to the Hizballah TV station Al Mayadin Wednesday night. In answer to a question, he said the Syrian response would be proportional to the Israeli attack. In Helsinki, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reacted harshly to the European Union’s decision – spearheaded by Britain and France – to lift its arms embargo on the Syrian rebels: He made it clear that this decision had untied Moscow’s hands for supplying Bashar Assad with weapons banned by international treaties.
“Every decision has two sides. If one side lifts its restrictions, then the other side may no longer feel compelled to keep its previously adopted obligations,” Shoigu said Wednesday.
A special interview with President Assad is scheduled for simultaneous broadcast Thursday night by Hizballah’s Al-Manar and Syrian state television channels.

The slow suicide of Syria’s opposition

May 30, 2013/By Michael Young /The Daily Star
We are near the stage where the Syrian opposition, thanks to an effective campaign by the Syrian regime and its allies, but also a pervasive lack of unity or direction, may lose much of the support it needs to defeat President Bashar Assad’s regime. Nor has the opposition grasped the deepening anxiety in neighboring countries who fear being destabilized by the conflict in Syria. A car-bomb explosion in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli recently and the rocket attack against the Shiyah neighborhood of Beirut’s southern suburbs have only reinforced this fear (even if no one has claimed responsibility for the suspicious Shiyah attack).
The killing of three Lebanese soldiers near Arsal Monday was no less worrisome. Whoever committed all these crimes must have known they would increase hostility to the cause of the Syrian rebels, whose determination to fight Assad until he leaves office guarantees tenser times ahead. If it was the Syrian opposition or its sympathizers, their reading of events was faulty; if it was the Syrian regime or its allies, then they cleverly manipulated rising popular misgivings.
Even the reaction of the Free Syrian Army to the Shiyah attack was a disaster. Initially, an FSA officer, Ammar al-Wawi, described the incident as a warning to Hezbollah. Soon thereafter, another FSA spokesman, Fahd al-Masri, rebuked Wawi and denied any FSA involvement. Wawi later changed his version, accusing Hezbollah of firing the rockets itself. And on Tuesday, the FSA threatened to retaliate against Hezbollah unless Lebanese President Michel Sleiman withdrew Hezbollah from Syria, as if Sleiman had any say in the matter.
The cacophony is even louder when it comes to preparing for the Geneva II conference on Syria scheduled for June. Last Thursday the opposition National Coalition began meetings in Istanbul to expand its membership and include Michel Kilo, a prominent opposition figure. Kilo proposed a list of 22 candidates, of whom only five were accepted. “The real, real, real problem is in the coalition,” a disgusted Kilo told the Al-Arabiya Arab satellite television station. Meanwhile, the opposition has yet to decide whether it will be present in Geneva. A refusal to attend risks alienating the opposition’s supporters in the West. If it accepts, Geneva could prove to be its undoing, given the likely internal discord over what is agreed. Worse, there are no guarantees the National Coalition has much influence inside Syria, and Geneva may only highlight this if the groups on the ground reject political arrangements reached at the conference.
The Syrian opposition has failed to appreciate the shifting political context in which it is functioning, while the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers have. For instance there has been no planning for Geneva and the very real risks that the conference holds for the opposition, whether it participates or not.
Russia and the United States are going to Geneva with very different agendas, none of which favors Assad’s adversaries. For the Obama administration, Geneva provides an opportunity to begin a political process permitting America to evade a larger role in Syria. President Barack Obama had feared being pushed into such a role after reports came out that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against the rebels, crossing Obama’s red lines for American intervention. The president sent Secretary of State John Kerry to Moscow and the accord over a conference bought Obama time to stay clear of Syria.
In other words, the Obama administration is going to Geneva largely to avoid Syria. Already, the administration has postponed discussion of arming the Syrian rebels, stating it does not want to undermine Geneva. If a political process is agreed there, the Americans will have a further excuse not to send weapons. The European states have also agreed not to supply weapons before August, to give Geneva a chance.
Russia, with a far clearer sense of what it wants in Syria, has another aim in Geneva: to consolidate Assad rule and put in motion a negotiating process that, at least temporarily, curbs the violence and divides the opposition. By helping Assad mount a successful offensive in the area around Qusair and reverse rebel gains near Damascus, the Russians have reinforced the Syrian president’s position, making it highly improbable that Geneva will seriously broach the matter of Assad’s departure from power. The Russians surely sense that Obama’s eagerness to be rid of the Syrian headache will push the U.S. to endorse a solution that avoids determining Assad’s fate.
The Syrian opposition cannot be blamed for the shameful American performance in Syria, but it can be blamed for failing to consider possible post-Geneva outcomes. Nor has it adequately addressed the very real doubts that have emerged over the participation in the Syrian uprising of the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda. The fact is that there are profound doubts that the opposition can fill the vacuum in Syria if Assad goes, which can only favor jihadist groups. No one in the West, particularly the U.S., much cares that it was Western indecision over Syria that created an opening for the militant Islamists. As they see the opposition in disarray, one thing they do not want is a new Afghanistan in the Levant, which will destabilize Syria’s neighbors. And the neighbors are beginning to agree. Recall that associating the opposition with Al-Qaeda has long been the line of the Assad regime, which then made it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Syria’s opposition must regroup quickly, or else all will be lost. The tens of thousands of Syrians who have died at the hands of a barbaric leadership deserve better. But the chances are they will not get better.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.