Protests about the lack of proper city sanitation services have quickly escalated into full-blown calls for regime change.
Lebanese protesters demonstrated in Beirut this weekend as part of the “You Stink” movement, which was organized by citizens fed up with the garbage that had been piling up in their streets for weeks.
What began as an expression of legitimate grievances, however, quickly spiraled into the world’s latest Color Revolution attempt.
Some radical youth started throwing rocks and petrol bombs at police officers (uncannily reminiscent of the earlier hijacking of the peaceful-intentioned “Electric Yerevan” protests), which resulted in a forceful counter-response that was then immediately used to ‘justify’ the movement’s transformation into one of open regime change ends.
The thing is, however, Lebanon doesn’t really have a functioning government to begin with, having been without a President for over a year. If the Prime Minister steps down as he threatened to do, then it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis that might bring the formerly civil war-torn and multi-confessional state back to the brink of domestic conflict.
Any significant destabilization in Lebanon is bound to have a serious impact on Syria, which would be put in a difficult position by the potential cutoff of the strategic Beirut-to-Damascus highway and the possible redeployment of valuable Hezbollah fighters back to their homeland.
A Little About Lebanon
The tiny Middle Eastern state of about four and a half million people is marked by a demographic and political complexity that could hinder a speedy resolution to the current crisis. It’s necessary to be aware of some of its specifics in order to better understand the origins of the current stalemate and where it might rapidly be headed.
Unilaterally sliced out of Syria during the early years of the French mandate, the territory of Lebanon hails what is generally recognized as the most diverse population in the Mideast. Eighteen religious groups are recognized in the country’s constitution, including Alawites, Druze, Maronite Catholics, Sunnis, and Shiites.
This eclecticism of religious communities is presided over by something referred to as the National Pact, an unwritten understanding that the President will always be Maronite, the Prime Minister will be Sunni, and the Speaker of Parliament will be Shiite, among other stipulations (and with a few historical exceptions).
Complementary to this concept is the country’s unique political system called confessionalism, whereby Christians and Muslims share equal seats in the unicameral parliament, but each group’s respective composition is determined proportionally by sect. Originally meant to be a temporary solution when it was first enacted in the 1920s, it was later refined by the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the lengthy civil war and has remained in place to this day.
Crawling To A Crisis
The current crisis in Lebanon was long in the making, and it’s the result of many embedded problems that spilled over with the garbage protests. The economy has always been fragile, in that it’s highly dependent on tourism and banking – hardly the prerequisites for a stable system.
The overwhelming influx of over 1 million Syrian refugees over the past couple of years (on top of the nearly half a million Palestinian ones already present in the country) contributed to the country’s economic malaise, with the International Labor Organization quoting a 34% unemployment rate for youth between the ages of 15-24. It’s thus of no surprise then that there were plenty of disaffected young people eager and available to protest when the “You Stink” opportunity finally arose.
Lebanon’s economic troubles have been exacerbated by its enormously high debt-to-GDP ratio that has the dubious honor of being one of the world’s worst at 143%. It’s of such magnitude that Prime Minister Tammam Salam just announced that the government might not be able to pay salaries next month.
This economic dysfunction persists despite the discovery of large amounts of offshore oil and gas that have yet to be extracted. Part of the reason for this is that the country is in the midst of a political impasse stemming from parliament’s inability to agree upon a new president after the former one finished his term in May 2014.
Since the president appoints the prime minister, if Salam resigns like he threatened to do if Thursday’s upcoming Cabinet meeting yields no results, then the country would enter completely uncharted territory that might prompt more pronounced unrest and guarantee a period of heightened uncertainty.
The arrangement of political forces is thus that two men have the possibility to be president – Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea. Each represents one of the two main trans-religious political coalitions, the 8 March Alliance and the 14 March Alliance, respectively, and both want parliament to end its impasse as soon as possible.
Their similarities end there, however, since Aoun is in an alliance with multipolar-oriented Hezbollah, while Geagea is closely tied to former Prime Minister and dual Lebanese-Saudi billionaire powerbroker Saad Hariri.
Wikileaks’ latest releases from the Saudi Foreign Ministry prove that Hariri still has intimate contacts with the Saudi royal family and intelligence services, and that Geagea once begged the kingdom to bankroll his party’s finances. Therefore, although the presidency itself is largely ceremonial, it’s the diametrically competing visions of these two parties and the potential for street clashes between their supporters during the Color Revolution tumult that creates serious concern about Lebanon’s future, and consequently, could be expected to have negative repercussions for Syria.
The regional backdrop in which all of this occurs is that the US and its allies are in a ‘race to the finish’ to ‘win’ their various Mideast wars before the tens of billions of dollars of frozen Iranian funds are returned to Tehran, which would then partially disseminate it to its regional allies Hezbollah and Syria.
Additionally, Russia has made remarkable diplomatic progress in trying to reconcile all sides in Syria and assemble a coordinated anti-ISIL coalition, raising the US’ fears that its window of ‘opportunity’ for accomplishing regime change there may unexpectedly be drawing to a close.
It’s thus under these conditions that the organic protests in Beirut were almost immediately hijacked by radical Color Revolutionaries in order to create chaos along Syria’s western border.
The intent behind the calculated state collapse being attempted at the moment in Lebanon is to disrupt the Beirut-to-Damascus highway that serves as one of the two main lifelines to the Syrian capital, the other being the Damascus-to-Latakia highway. Shutting down the Lebanese route would make Syria wholly dependent on the Latakian one that’s vulnerable to an “Army of Conquest” offensive, which if successful, would cripple the country by de-facto blockading the capital.
At the same time, in the event that Beirut reaches its breaking point, some Hezbollah units currently deployed to Syria would be compelled to return back to the home front to assist in the inevitable power struggle there. The withdrawal of part (or all) of this valuable fighting contingent would make the military situation much more difficult for the Syrian Arab Army, both in defending the Damascus-to-Latakia corridor and in securing the Lebanese border from becoming a ‘second Turkey’ of terrorist infiltration.
Conclusively, it’s for these strategic reasons why it strongly appears that externally directed forces were ordered to exploit Lebanon’s existing tensions at this specific time. They engineered a Color Revolution attempt by using the “You Stink” protests as a semi-plausible cover, and this was timed to coincide with the ‘race to the finish’ being played out all across the Mideast.
Lebanon can still pull away from the brink, provided that Thursday’s upcoming Cabinet meeting resolves the presidential crisis and placates the country’s main political parties, but it will have to tread very carefully in containing sectarian temptations and avoiding the trap of escalatory Color Revolution provocations.
“Human Rights” in the Arab World: the Instruments of War, a Test Case for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Sometimes I love Republicans. They lay bare with such clarity what underlies and drives US foreign policy– the bottom line strategic interests without the pretense that more adept politicians use to justify US military aggression: the US government’s “concerns” about “human rights” for instance.
John McCain laid it all out in his interview on CNN’s Situation Room in 2013:
“Look, the Middle East is about to erupt. This is turning into a regional conflict: Lebanon is destabilized, Jordan can’t — the king of Jordan can’t last, the conflict is spreading throughout the region, Hezbollah is all in. This is becoming a Sunni-Shia conflict . . . and it’s an unfair fight!” While arguing for more US military intervention in Syria, he goes on to say, “It’s a great blow to Iran — the greatest in twenty-five years, and they’re cut off from Hezbollah, which would mean that Hezbollah would die on the vine.”
It is strange to hear American politicians wring their hands about the instability of the Jordanian monarchy and its regime while pontificating about US intentions to “bring democracy to the Middle East.”
Over the past two decades, we have witnessed the increasing use of the human rights discourse by the United States as justification for US military aggression. In some cases, these human rights abuses (as in the case of Iraq) proved nothing more than Department of Defense propaganda that was later proved false. More recently, the Assad regime in Syria has been accused of such violations as torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, though the US hasn’t been above using these alleged services themselves. (US former CIA agent Robert Baer once said of US held prisoners, “If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria.”) The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has echoed these allegations about the Syrian regime. These alleged human rights abuses, the same ones that Jordan continues to perpetrate against its own citizens with impunity, have been used as justification for US military intervention in Syria, including the arming and training of rebel forces in Jordan by US troops, which has resulted in the deaths of at least 220,000 people and over 3 million refugees. These interventions have done nothing to advance the human rights of the Syrian people, but have achieved some strategic goals for the US and Israel: Hezbollah, the only player that poses a serious threat to American and Israeli strategic interests regionally, is now embroiled in a Syrian civil war, and as McCain stated, a “great blow” has been served to both Iran and Hezbollah.
Last year, at his confirmation as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by the General Assembly, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein spoke of his commitment to push forward human rights on the Asian continent. It has been hard to take seriously this pronouncement when the High Commissioner has used his office to support concrete measures that, not coincidentally, mesh with US strategic interests, while he remains silent about the human rights abuses in his own country, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Jordan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, yet has one of the most abysmal human rights records in the world. The recent case of Amer Jubran reveals the entire spectrum of repression to which Jordanians are subjected.
Amer Jubran is an internationally known Palestinian activist, speaker and writer on the rights of Palestinians and against US and Israeli policies in the Arab world. He has also distributed information about US involvement in destabilizing Syria.
Jubran was arrested in Jordan on May 5, 2014, when 20 men in black military uniforms broke into his home in the middle of the night. He was held incommunicado by Jordan’s secret police, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) for 2 months at an undisclosed location, in violation of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A petition against arbitrary detention was filed on his behalf with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Nothing came of this.
Jubran was finally charged in August, 2014 under a new law that makes “harming the relationship with a foreign government” a crime of “terrorism.” The wording of this law is so vague that it criminalizes a broad range of political activities including journalism, in violation of Article 19 of the ICCPR, guaranteeing freedom of opinion and expression.
This same law was enacted one month after Amer Jubran’s arrest, also constituting a violation of Article 15 of the ICCPR, which stipulates, “No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offense … which did not constitute a criminal offense…at the time when it was committed.”
Jubran was tried before Jordan’s State Security Court (SSC), a military tribunal that fails to meet even minimum standards of judicial independence, violating Article 14 of the ICCPR, which guarantees the right to a fair trial by a “competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” Jubran’s defense team effectively proved the “terrorism” charges against him false, but the verdict of the SSC was reached without regard for evidence. The only evidence presented in Jubran’s trial was the coerced testimony of other defendants, also arrested in May, 2014, subjected to interrogation, and all of whom received reduced sentences of two to three years. Robert Baer also said: “If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan.” While Jubran was being detained incommunicado and “interrogated” he was threatened not only with imprisonment, but with being disappeared when he refused to infiltrate Hezbollah and act as an informant for the GID. He was recently sentenced to ten years of hard labor by Jordan’s State Security Court (see statement by Amer Jubran on his sentencing.)
The human rights abuses perpetrated against Amer Jubran are the rule in Jordan, rather than the exception. Jordan’s long history of the use of arbitrary detention and torture have been well documented by the UN. In 2013, the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a report on Jordan, detailing a series of cases like that of Jubran in which basic political freedoms had been trampled. The report had a special section on the State Security Court:
“The Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee have repeatedly recommended that Jordan abolish special courts such as the State Security Court… The Committee reiterates its 1994 recommendation that the State party consider abolishing the State Security Court.” (Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, November 2013).
What has the UN High Commissioner done thus far to respond to these recommendations and push forward the issue of human rights in his own country? When asked during a press conference as to whether it was illegal to criticize the king in the press in Jordan, the Human Rights Chief replied, “Essentially, we believe we are still a family,” while plugging the king’s new book (USA Today August 13, 2014). The UN High Commissioner failed to mention Jordan’s long history of criminalizing speech and imprisoning journalists like Jamal Ayyoub.
Interestingly, Jubran has written nothing about the Jordanian regime. His writing has consistently concerned itself with the policies of the US and Israel in the region. This speaks to the new law of “harming relationships with foreign governments.” Mr. Jubran has stated that he was told directly by his GID interrogators that any decision made about him would involve “our American and Israeli friends.”
Recent revelations about NSA cooperation with Jordanian intelligence agencies underline the central role Jordan plays in the US and Israeli “security” regime for the region. Spying on Palestinians and providing intelligence about “high security targets” is perhaps the least of the services Jordan provides. The abuses of fundamental freedoms in Jordan are consistently carried out, as in Amer Jubran’s case, in the interests of protecting US and Israeli power.
Institutions like the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights are supposed to exist to guarantee the protection of human and political rights globally. The real test of the UN High Commissioner’s commitment to push forward the issue of human rights in Asia must begin in his home country of Jordan and will involve a confrontation not only with that regime, but with the nation states calling the shots. Will the UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein use the powers of his office to advocate for human rights, when those powers come in conflict with the US, Israel, and their regional allies? If not, then the term “human rights” has become nothing more than Orwellian doublespeak, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is just one more weapon in the military arsenal of US regional dominance.
More details about the case of Amer Jubran can be found at freeamer.wordpress.com.
Lana Habash is a Palestinian physician living in Boston, MA. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Foreign powers are meddling within Syrian political affairs not to defeat ISIS as they claim, but to get rid of a regime they don’t approve of to replace it by God knows what, Catherine Shakdam from the Beirut Centre for Middle East Studies told RT.
RT: The rebels and government forces are fighting not only each other but Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] at the same time. How is this multiple-front conflict affecting attempts to prevent terrorism?
Catherine Shakdam: That’s the main problem. It’s not just that they are fighting each other. I think that there are very different goals as to what foreign powers are trying to achieve in Syria. And for now when it comes to the US for example all Washington seems to want to do is to neutralize and get rid of President Bashar Assad in Syria rather than really fight IS. That’s the main problem. We have foreign powers meddling within Syrian political affairs not to defeat IS as they claim, but rather to get rid of a regime that they do not approve of to replace it by God knows what, because they created a situation and a power vacuum which would essentially allow for Islamist radicals to take over Damascus and I don’t think that anyone would want that.
RT: Iran and Turkey brokered a 48 hour ceasefire between the Insurgents, Assad’s army and Hezbollah. How significant is their diplomatic intervention? Could this move be helpful in resolving the crisis long-term?
CS: There is a real effort here to try to breach differences and to look towards. I’m hoping, diplomacy will actually pave the way for a resolution rather than resort to military intervention. That’s the message that is coming out of Iran and Russia as well. They are all trying to calm the situation, defuse it and try to find a way which would be acceptable for everyone. I think that if indeed the fight of IS takes precedence over everything else then there is no reason why a diplomatic solution could not take place.
The problem is until now Washington’s intent on getting rid of the Syrian president, even though it’s not really their business to decide whether the Syrian people should have him as a president or not. It’s really up to the Syrians to decide for themselves. That’s the main problem – we see foreign powers trying to decide what people should do or shouldn’t do in this case.
RT: The US and its allies are stepping up their support for so-called moderate rebel groups. How could that change what’s happening in your country?
CS: Whenever I hear the US or even Britain talking about supporting moderate Islamists in Syria or anywhere else I tend to cringe. Who are those moderates really? We know those moderates are not so moderate after all. Most of the military aid which actually landed in Syria or even in Iraq landed in the hands of the likes of IS and that’s a worry, because what we are seeing is radicalization of the radicals. And whenever you attempt to fuel, by adding more military power to the situation which is already unacceptable and very volatile, you are making the problem worse here. And they are not trying to go after the ideology, what they are trying to do is militarize the ideology of terror which is of course very dangerous and it’s leading people to wonder who it is that they are serving and who it is they are really trying to support and help because the assistance is going to ISIS as far as I can see.
The Trial and Sentencing of Amer Jubran
On July 29, 2015, the trial of Palestinian activist Amer Jubran in Jordan reached its predictable conclusion: 10 years with hard labor for phony “terrorism” offenses, based at least in part on laws manufactured after his arrest.
Last year I wrote an article about the circumstances of Amer’s arrest and detention. At that time he was being held without charges, after being seized from his home in the middle of the night and held incommunicado at an undisclosed location for over 2 months.
In August of 2014, he was finally given a list of charges against him. These included the charge of threatening to “harm relations with a foreign government,” part of a new set of “anti-terrorism” laws enacted in Jordan in June of 2014 (a month after Amer’s arrest in May). The law is a codification of Jordan’s existing practice of arresting dissidents who call attention to the regime’s traitorous collaboration with the main political enemies of its own people: Israel and the United States. A pertinent example would be Mwaffaq Mahadin, tried in 2010 for “endangering relations with a foreign state” for speaking on Al-Jazeera about Jordan’s security cooperation with the US. Under the new legislation, this “crime” became a “terrorism” offense, punishable before the State Security Court.
In a statement about his trial and sentencing recorded from prison (recording here, transcript here), Amer recounts a moment in his interrogation by the GID (General Intelligence Directorate, Jordan’s infamous secret police) which leaves no doubt about the real decision-makers behind his arrest and imprisonment:
During the interrogation period, I was told by the GID that any decision made about me is involving (quote) ‘our American and Israeli friends’ (end-quote). All started when I refused to be a sell-out and work against the Lebanese resistance. I was told then that I will be sent behind the sun for such a refusal. And frankly it is very easy for me to disappear behind the sun rather than to be well outside, but a sell-out and traitor.
The involvement of the US in Amer’s detention and trial comes as no surprise. As I recounted in my earlier article, the US had already detained Amer while he was living in the United States for his political activism on behalf of Palestine and against the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. While living here as a green-card holder, he committed the inexcusable crime of refusing to be intimidated by the wave of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim repression that immediately followed September 11.
In 2002, he stood on a stage in Washington DC, before an anti-war gathering of more than 75,000 people, and spoke against US support for Israel and against the invasion of Iraq.
Amer has clarified in conversation that his refusal “to be a sell-out and work against the Lebanese resistance” was a refusal to act as an infiltrator and informant for the GID. He was thus charged with supporting Hezbollah.
In a similar trial that reached its conclusion a day earlier, another 12 people were sentenced for periods of up to 15 years for supporting Hamas. As one commentator asked in the Jordan Times: “[I]n whose interest is it to try those who support the Palestinian Hamas movement?”
“Anti-terrorism” laws that criminalize support for armed movements of national liberation in Palestine and national self-defense in Lebanon have nothing to do with protecting Jordan or its people. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah has ever threatened the security of Jordan. Such laws are designed purely to protect the interests of Israel and the US in their ongoing violations of the national sovereignty of Arab lands.
Likewise, Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate and its State Security Court function as arms of foreign powers. They are not protecting the security of Jordanians, but rather the security of Jordan’s most violent and militarily aggressive neighbor (Israel), and US soldiers who use Jordan as a base for attacking other Arab countries. Most recently, the US has been using Jordan as a base for training military forces involved in the destabilization of Syria–a conflict that threatens to engulf the entire region in violence.
To do their work effectively, these agencies must necessarily suppress the human and political rights of Jordanians. Journalists, activists, professors, religious leaders and all of Jordan’s ordinary citizens live under the constant threat of Jordan’s secret police and its judicial security apparatus. Trials before the State Security Court lack even the outward semblance of judicial independence, with judges recruited from the military and the GID itself.
In the campaign to free Amer Jubran, we are calling for letters on Amer’s behalf to be directed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein, a Jordanian. We have no illusions about the UN or its High-Commissioner for Human Rights. The value of such a campaign is to show that people around the world are watching, and to strip away the sham of “human rights” and “democracy” in Jordan.
Jordan is the most valuable regional asset for both Israel and the US. Its GID is one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world, active throughout the region, and does much of the dirty work of suppressing the rights of people in the Arab world. It’s time to expose its crimes, and disrupt the political arrangement behind them.
The chair of Labour Friends of Israel has urged party members not to back anti-war advocate Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership race because he previously called for Arab groups Hamas and Hezbollah to be involved in Middle East peace talks.
Joan Ryan said Monday there were “deep concerns” about Corbyn’s leadership campaign and in particular the positions he has taken on Israel.
The Labour Friends of Israel official asked supporters to back a candidate who could play a “constructive” role in negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine.
Corbyn has faced criticism during his leadership election campaign for previously calling Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” and insisting they be involved in regional peace discussions.
Ryan, who replaced Anne Mcguire as head of Labour Friends of Israel on Monday, told the Jewish Chronicle that Labour must be “steadfast” in its support for Tel Aviv.
She added that last month’s Jewish community hustings for the Labour leadership contenders had been a key step in the party’s efforts to “win back the trust and confidence of the Jewish community.”
Ryan, who nominated Blairite Liz Kendall in the leadership contest, went on to caution Labour voters that members should elect the candidate that is most likely to play a “constructive” role in the peace process.
“We hope that Labour party members and supporters will consider when they vote which candidate is best placed to ensure that the next Labour government can play a constructive and engaged role in the crucial search for a two-state solution,” she said.
“We recognize the deep concerns which exist about positions taken, and statements made, by Jeremy Corbyn in the past and recognize the serious questions which arise from these.”
Ryan, a former Home Office minister and party whip, said Labour Friends of Israel would “continue to work with progressives in both Israel and Palestine who share our commitment to peace and co-existence.
“At the same time, we remain adamantly opposed to boycotts and sanctions, which delegitimize Israel, do nothing to further these goals and have no place in the Labour Party.”
Corbyn was grilled by Channel 4 journalist Kristan Guru-Murthy in an interview in July for having previously called Hamas and Hezbollah “friends.”
During the interview the veteran left-winger rejected the idea that he agreed with the two organizations, which Israel considers to be terrorist groups.
Following intense questioning by Guru-Murthy, Corbyn explained his position.
“Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No,” the Labour MP said.
“There is not going to be a peace process unless there are talks involving Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas – and I think everyone knows that.”
Corbyn added that even the former head of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad agreed that more comprehensive talks must be pursued. The Israeli intelligence chief argued at the time that any viable peace process would involve negotiations with people who hold opposing viewpoints.
The socialist candidate has faced intense criticism from Labour elites since announcing his candidacy, with a number of high-profile politicians urging voters to back other candidates.
Attacks on Corbyn’s campaign became even more heated after a YouGov poll, published by The Times newspaper on Monday night, found that Corbyn had doubled his lead over the past week and would now poll 53 percent, meaning he could secure a first-round victory without needing to count the second preferences of Labour supporters.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Blair-era PR guru Alistair Campbell have all urged Labour supporters to reject Corbyn, arguing he would make Labour “unelectable” in the 2020 general election.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says the ongoing sectarian and tribal wars have been imposed on the Middle East region to deflect Muslims’ attention away from the atrocities of the Israeli regime.
The Leader made the remarks in a Saturday meeting with senior Iranian officials and ambassadors of Muslim countries posted in Iran on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
“If the Islamic Ummah were united and relied on their own commonalities, they would certainly be a unique power in the international political scene but big powers have imposed such divisions on the Islamic Ummah to pursue their own interests and safeguard the Zionist regime [of Israel],” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
The Leader added that certain incompetent officials in Muslim countries support the “illegitimate” Israeli regime, noting that arrogant powers created “criminal” terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the ISIL.
“Iran has no trust in the US because American politicians are completely dishonest and unfair,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
He stressed the importance of reinforcing unity among Muslim nations, and said Shia and Sunni Muslims have long coexisted peacefully in the region.
“With regard to regional issues like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Bahrain, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not pursue its own interests but it believes that the main decision-makers in these counties are the nations and others have no right to interfere and make decisions,” the Leader said.
Ayatollah Khamenei pointed to arrogant powers’ policies on Yemen, saying the US is supporting the Arab country’s fugitive former president who left the country at a sensitive juncture.
He added that arrogant powers also seek to overthrow a popular government in Iraq, sow discord among Muslims and divide the country, but the Islamic Republic’s policy vis-a-vis its western neighbor is based on supporting a democratic government, resisting factors of civil wars and defending Iraq’s territorial integrity.
Arrogant powers intend to oust the Syrian government which is strongly resisting the Israeli regime, the Leader said, adding that Iran considers an anti-Zionist country as useful for the Muslim world.
Ayatollah Khamenei once again reaffirmed Iran’s support for the Lebanese resistance movement due to its bravery and genuine resistance against aggressive powers.
“The Americans dub the Lebanese resistance as terrorist and regard Iran as a supporter of terrorism because of its support for the Lebanese Hezbollah, while the Americans, themselves, are the real terrorists who have created Daesh [ISIL] and support the wicked Zionists,” the Leader said.
Ayatollah Khamenei further pointed to the latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries in Vienna, and called on the Iranian nation to remain united because the negotiators are pursuing national interests.
Speech of the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, on the occasion of International Al-Quds Day (Jerusalem), July 10, 2015.
[…] Israel announces its satisfaction with the civil wars ravaging the entire region, and works through its secret services and in different ways to extend these wars. And unfortunately, many countries have been affected by this disaster, and we see what is now being prepared against Algeria, with unfortunately, once again, a sectarian appearance.
At present, I have no detailed information, I do not claim to be a specialist in this matter, but every time that there were problems in some regions, the media spoke of ethnic differences, or ethnic considerations, namely between Arabs and Amazigh (Berber). But I have seen, in recent days, some foreign (Western) channels broadcast in Arabic [BBC Arabic, France 24, etc.] speak of fights between Malikis and Ibadits. That is to say that the West wants to present this as a denominational and sectarian conflict.
This is what (the West) is implementing in the whole of the region.
During this conference (of the Israeli High Command), the impudence of Israelis went as far as calling for an Arab-Israeli alliance to confront terrorism. Conceive of it: Israel calling for an Arab-Israeli alliance to confront terrorism! And what is terrorism for them? Iran and the Resistance movements. Now, so that the imposture not be too blatant, they put Daech (the Islamic State) with us. But of course they did not include the Al-Nusra Front, or Al-Qaeda or other movements like Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, or Boko Haram or… or… or…
So this hypocrite Israel claims it shows solidarity with Egypt in the Sinai, and it incites the conflict between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, especially with the Hamas movement. In Syria, Israel presents itself as the protector of the Druze, while it fully supports the Al-Nusra Front and armed takfiri groups that threaten all Syrians, not just the Druze. This is pure hypocrisy. This is hypocrisy and deception.
But regardless of the details, Israel that is the mother of terrorism, the source of terrorism, the terrorist country, the entity that was founded by a terrorist organisation, and, to use philosophical concepts, the only state whose very essence is terrorism, whose nature is terrorism, that Israel presents itself as fighting against terrorism? Do you see what times we are in? The Israel that just a year ago, led the most merciless war and perpetrated the most heinous crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza, so that the reports of international institutions that, at all times, exonerated Israel, have failed, this time, to conceal the truth: the number of women and children killed by Israel, the number of houses destroyed, all the blood of Gaza civilians that was spilt. And after that, it dares to present itself as a civilised country, and claims to be part of a project or an Axis fighting against terrorism. Of course, this is the pinnacle of impudence.
And we must be careful not to mislead ourselves, because unfortunately there are people who may sometimes, because of the impact of terrorism on them, say “What do I care, about Israel? My priority, is this terrorism that is attacking me!” For the existing takfiri terrorism today is among the major adversities faced by our (Muslim) Community. Because (these terrorists) do not fight on a political basis, or for a political project, but on the basis of religious affiliation, or current of thought, or sectarian affiliation. And all the killings that are currently taking place throughout the region are committed on this basis, and not on a political basis or for a political struggle.
Well, the last point that shows that Israel is our enemy, who does it consider to be a threat? Who according to him is a threat? There is only one direction, only one country which represents a threat for Israel: after what happened in Syria, this country (Syria) was removed from the list of threats. All that remains is Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran. That is why we have seen, during the (Israeli) conference of Herzliya, before, and after, that the spirit of Israel is completely obsessed and captured by Iran, by the Islamic Republic: by its nuclear program, the development of its ballistic capacity, its economy, its democracy, the support of its people for its leaders, the health of its leaders and the health of the country… For everything related to Iran, one can see Israel secure its full attention and work on it, both inside and outside of Iran, and at all international forums. The only target for Israel is the Islamic Republic of Iran, and with it, the Resistance movements.
As for Israel, despite all our consideration and our respect for the Resistance movements and for ourselves (there is no harm if we manifest our respect for ourselves!), the Resistance movements have not reached the stage where they are, from Israel’s point of view, an existential danger. It is not shameful to say the truth, and that is the truth. Yes, the Resistance movements now represent a strategic danger, but they have not reached the point of representing an existential threat (to Israel). Today, on the whole of the face of the Earth, the only state, the only entity, the only thing that is considered by Israel as an existential danger to them is the Islamic Republic of Iran. These are undeniable truths. If someone claims things are different, may he come (and expose his analysis to us).
And this is why Israel incites the entire world against Iran: the United States, Congress… Netanyahu is ready to ruin his relations with the White House by urging Congress against Iran… Israel incites the Arabs (against Iran)… And many of these Arab regimes already have, by nature, such calculations, such a mentality, such a vision (hostile to Iran). This is the reality.
Question: does this not represent, today (I raise this point), if we calm somewhat, as Arabs, as Muslims, as Palestinians, as peoples of the region, if someone relaxes a bit and calmly reflects, away from the bullets, the suffering, the screaming, the problems and the Arab channels, and wonders seriously: Why? Why Israel… In all the Arab and Islamic world, worldwide, with its billion and a half Muslims, its states, its armies, its peoples… Israel fears no one, cares about no one, does not pay attention to anyone except Iran. Why Iran? Should we not pose this question on the occasion of the International Day of Al-Quds (Jerusalem)? Why this total hostility against Iran on the part of the Zionists? Why do we see nothing of this sensitivity, this preoccupation, this anxiety, this fear, this precaution, for example on the part of Israel with regard to Saudi Arabia? Or in respect to any other Arab regime? So that no one say that today, Sayed (Nasrallah) was bitter against Saudi Arabia. No, it is a logical and natural question: why?
Today, at this very moment, the Arab countries and the Arab armies buy billions of dollars of aircraft, missiles, artillery, anti-tank weapons, long-range missiles… Israel does not care in the least because there is a certainty, a confidence, a guarantee, not just a written commitment: they have absolute confidence and certainty in this official Arab mentality, and these official Arab regimes, to the point of having no need for guarantees or written commitments. And experience is the best proof: for 67 years, what for example have the Arabs done, most of them? In short, because Israel knows with certainty that the official Arab regimes have sold them Palestine, Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the Palestinian people. And the proof is what has happened for 67 years and to this day.
Well, this year, they paid a visit to Gaza: have Gazan homes been rebuilt? What is the situation of the wounded of Gaza? Where is the blockade of Gaza? How are the people of Gaza? If a small portion of the billions of dollars being spent on the war against Yemen, the war against Syria, the war against Iraq and the repression of the populations, was spent on Gaza, would we not today have Gaza in a more acceptable situation? Are they not part of Palestine? Are they not part of the (Islamic) Community? And forgive me for expressing myself again like this, but today we are forced to speak in these terms, are they not a part of the Sunni community? Are they not Muslims, who fast and pray? Why are they abandoned? Because there is an official Arab decision to sell Palestine (to Israel). Palestine has no existence (for them). And the Palestinians are subjected to torture and live in ruins because of it.
And because Israel also knows that the takfiri project, which is sponsored by some Arab countries, does not care about Palestine and Al-Quds (Jerusalem), and that its battle is on other fields, and that this takfiri project completely serves Israeli interests and destroyed for them, without them making any effort, Syria and Iraq, it participated in the destruction of Yemen and spreads sectarian and ethnic conflicts among all Muslims and Christians, tearing apart our (Islamic) Community, and tearing through the national and social fabric in each of our countries, and freely (for Israel).
Who then still carries the flag (of the Palestinian cause)? I do not say this to praise Iran, but to come to a stance. I request a stance to be taken. The one who continues to carry the flag, to face the enemy and refuse to recognise the very existence of this entity, even though the negotiations and the agreement on the nuclear issue should be stopped because of this, whether the current discussions in Vienna that last longer than expected or the ones to come. You will remember that Netanyahu asked that the agreement include the recognition of the existence of Israel by Iran. And I tell you: if the entire nuclear dossier should be closed and Iran be given everything it wanted on the nuclear issue, including what she did not even dare to dream, if the condition was (only) the acknowledgment by Iran of Israel’s existence, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Imam Khomeini, under the leadership of His Eminence Imam Khamenei, through his government, the Chamber of Deputies and his people, would never accept such a clause, as Iran would leave its religion by doing so. They know that this is Iran.
And because Iran continues to face the enemy, it is Iran who support the Axis of Resistance, its states, its peoples and its countries, politically, morally, materially, financially, in terms of arms, on the roof and in full sunlight (in plain sight). And this is something that nobody dares to do, or, so as not to exaggerate, that many are afraid to do. Despite the severe sanctions that Iran suffered for over 30 years, and the threat of permanent war and bombing of its facilities. Because Iran is such a threat to Israel, and for the project of American domination over the region, military wars have been fought against it in the past, and media wars, political, psychological and economic wars are conducted against it, wars involving the instruments and allies of the United States in the region, who constituted by their acts the best support for Israel for decades.
On this International Day of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), allow me to speak frankly with Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Palestinians, with the Resistance movements, and whoever supports and sustains the Palestinian cause: you cannot be with Palestine but by being alongside the Islamic Republic of Iran. And if you’re the enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, then you are the enemies of Palestine and Al-Quds (Jerusalem). Why is this? These are not empty slogans. Because the only hope remaining after God the Exalted and Most High, to recover Palestine and Al-Quds (Jerusalem), is this Islamic Republic, its help and support to the people and the Resistance movements in the region, and primarily to the Palestinian people. As long as the world is divided into poles, military camps and positions, we must be clear and straightforward: if we want to be serious and sincere, if we leave aside the partisanship, if we want to be logical, this is the logical vision: this enemy (Israel) unanimously recognises what I say, there is no one in Israel that says anything else about the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As for attempts to escape this historic and decisive stance on the pretext of the “Persian project”… There is no “Persian project”! It is deception to keep people away from a genuine and sincere ally of the Arabs and Muslims and all peoples of the region, namely Iran. Everything concerning a Safavid project is nothing but empty words, exhumed from ancient history. Everything about evoking an ostensible Shiite crescent (is futile)… And besides, Iran is now accused in Yemen, but the (alleged) crescent would be distorted by such a movement. The crescent was to be Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon: how would the crescent reach Yemen? Who are they trying to fool? These are just lies concocted by the corrupt official Arab mentality which has abandoned Palestine and Al-Quds (Jerusalem), and if anyone approaches to lend a helping hand to Palestine and Al-Quds, they will present them as an enemy, as evidenced by the fact that the Shah (of Iran) was not their enemy when he was an ally of Israel [although he was also Shiite]. But now they want to present Iran as an enemy. How to achieve this? Pretend that there is a Shiite crescent, they want to spread Shiism, it is a Persian project, it is a Safavi project, etc. These are absurd and empty statements.
Translated from Arabic by Sayed Hasan
Translated from French by Jenny Bright
Here are excerpts from a 2007 report from award winning journalist Seymour Hersh. His report, published in the New Yorker under the heading “The Redirection,” outlines in clear language that the conspiracy to topple the governments of Syria and Iran, specifically by sponsoring terrorist groups as mercenaries against them, was conceived and initiated during the Bush years, and began to take shape in earnest in 2007.
In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”
Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.
The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.
The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”
This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”
In the past year, the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Bush Administration have developed a series of informal understandings about their new strategic direction. At least four main elements were involved, the U.S. government consultant told me. First, Israel would be assured that its security was paramount and that Washington and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states shared its concern about Iran.
Second, the Saudis would urge Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian party that has received support from Iran, to curtail its anti-Israeli aggression and to begin serious talks about sharing leadership with Fatah, the more secular Palestinian group. (In February, the Saudis brokered a deal at Mecca between the two factions. However, Israel and the U.S. have expressed dissatisfaction with the terms.)
The third component was that the Bush Administration would work directly with Sunni nations to counteract Shiite ascendance in the region.
Fourth, the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations. Syria is a major conduit of arms to Hezbollah.
Towards the end of Saudi Arabia?
The Saudi-American war against Yemen, led by a coalition of the richest Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, etc. along with their servants like Egypt and Morocco) against the poorest Arab country, enters its fourth month. According to the United Nations, it has killed more than 3,100 and wounded 15,000, displaced 1 million and created 245,000 refugees, and created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis which the United Nations has declared to be on the level of maximum humanitarian alert. Ruthless and indiscriminate strikes target all civilian infrastructure, up to residential areas, markets, granaries, water tanks, hospitals, schools, mosques, and even archaeological remains and tombs – which recalls that the destructive ideology of the Islamic State takes its roots in Saudi Arabia – without sparing civilian convoys fleeing violence. A merciless siege has been imposed in Yemen, a country which imports 90% of its food, and Relief Organizations are prevented from delivering supplies to the country, and even see their workers targeted while providing humanitarian assistance. More than 21 million people (80% of Yemen’s population) are without adequate access to staples and essential services such as food, clean water, medical care, electricity and fuel. Already, it appears that Saudi Arabia has used unconventional weapons (cluster munitions, and perhaps even chemical weapons) and has committed war crimes and perhaps even crimes against humanity.
However, this war remains largely ignored by the mainstream media, both in the West and in the Arab-Muslim world (with the exception of Iran and the media close to Hezbollah in Lebanon). The US sponsors this illegal and criminal military intervention that they provide full support for, putting all their resources at the service of the Gulf monarchies who have acquired the most modern weapons to the tune of $115 billion for the single year 2014: they can therefore destabilise the region without sending their armed forces, conforming to the Obama no-boots-on-the-ground doctrine that favours proxy wars. It is the same for the other NATO member countries – United Kingdom, France, etc., which is not surprising coming from the supporters and apologists of terrorism in Syria. Regarding Riyadh, Wikileaks has recently unveiled the procedure of Saudi censorship of the entire Arab world, between corruption and intimidation. All these actors provide direct support to Al Qaeda and to the Islamic state, which has appeared on the Yemeni scene and is now on the border of Saudi Arabia, their long-time goal. The Saudi blindness seems to know no bounds.
The Saudi assault was not to repel an alleged advance of Iran and/or Shiism, but to break the attempts towards independence of this country that historically has been a vassal of Riyadh. So far, this war has not realised any of its stated objectives. On the contrary, the Yemeni resistance has taken hold of most major Yemen cities, and it takes more and more initiative by carrying the war into the territory of Saudi Arabia, bombing its border towns and attacking its military bases and convoys, and causing dozens of casualties among the Saudi forces – of which the extent of the losses is inviolable military secret. Moreover, the attacks resulted in uniting the country – the regular armed forces of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Houthi rebels and other popular committees – behind the slogan “Death to the House of Saud”, an unprecedented development in the Middle East, and revealed both the barbarism of the Wahhabi regime and its vulnerability and powerlessness on the purely military field. Held in check despite the benefit of the steady stream of Western weaponry, Riyadh already sees its influence wane in the Middle East.
In a message to the combatants dated 1st July 2015 – that evokes those of Hassan Nasrallah to Hezbollah fighters during the 2006 war –, Abd-al-Malik al-Houthi, head of the Yemeni resistance, denounced the collusion of the Washington-Tel Aviv-Riyad Axis, denouncing the war and the siege imposed in Yemen as even more barbaric than the Israeli crimes in Gaza. He agrees with the analysis of the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, who recalled that even the Zionists did not have a systematic policy of targeting hospitals, tombs and archaeological remains. Abd-al-Malik al-Houthi brandished nothing less than the slogan of the holy war against the cradle of Islam, equated to the “devil’s horn”, which is, according to a famous prophetic tradition, an evil heresy called to arise in the Najd region – where Wahhabism emerged. Again, this is an unprecedented development: Saudi Arabia, which, since March 2015, broke with its policy of underground action and now acts without cover, has never been so violently shaken.
Riyadh is now in an impasse: its air campaign is a bitter failure, as was predictable given the six previous offensives since 2004 by the forces of President Saleh (yesterday supported by Saudi Arabia and now allied with the Houthi rebels), which all ended up in a failure, as well as the Israeli experiences in Lebanon and Gaza, which constitutes the perfect model of the Saudi aggression. As for the option of a ground operation, all data indicates that it would be absolutely disastrous and would end with a rout of Saudi forces. But there is no question for the House of Saud, blinded beyond any possible return, of accepting a cease-fire that would be a victory for Yemen; rather it must continue this fanatic war of terror at all costs, by torpedoing all attempts of agreement or truce, at the risk of rushing towards the abyss. As for the forces of the Yemeni resistance, they are far from having exhausted all their possibilities, and multiply the incursions into enemy territory. They could even question its territorial integrity by claiming Yemeni provinces formerly annexed by Saudi Arabia. And as a last resort, they could close the strategic Strait of Bab al-Mandeb – which they are quite capable of –, one of the largest global maritime passages, especially for hydrocarbons, which would have severe global repercussions. If, like Syria, Iraq and Libya, Yemen is threatened with disintegration, Saudi Arabia itself is now on the way to becoming destabilised, and even dismantling.
Will the Saudi crusade push into the Axis of Resistance a new country, Yemen – about which Hassan Nasrallah declared that the awakening and resistant spirit of its people were such that he could without hesitation send 100,000 or 200,000 men to fight Israel? Whatever the case may be, already the Ansarallah movement has reached the extent of a new Hezbollah, and the Saudi war is doomed to failure. It announces with certainty the inevitable fall of the House of Saud, whose Wahhabi ideology and foreign policy have been the cancer of Islam and of the Arab world for decades, and ultimately, the end of the US-Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. More than one of the region’s peoples will rejoice.
Sayed Hasan (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Translated from French by Jenny Bright
Extracts of the interview of Muhammad Raad on Al-Mayadeen Channel, May 22, 2015
Journalist: My question is: In your view at Hezbollah, when will this war (Syrian Crisis) end? Could it last for years more?
Mohammad Raad: When the US Administration and the West that orbits around it, and the regional guards and agents who are supporting the armed terrorists, when they take the decision to stop financing (the terrorists) & close the border crossings & prevent sneaking into Syria, the war will end in Syria, and the opportunity for national dialogue will open, (this very dialogue) which was supposed to take place since the beginning of the crisis.
Journalist: Do you mean by ‘the regional agents’: Saudi, Qatar, Turkey and Israel?
Mohammad Raad: I mean all those who support the armed terrorists.
Journalist: There is a view that says that Saudi Arabia, whom you always accuse, is still supporting (the terrorists) while other countries have stepped back like Qatar. And that Turkey is still giving a great amount of support to (the terrorists).
Mohammad Raad: Let us talk in general in order to avoid miscalculations and leave the assumptions to those who are concerned. In general, whoever supports, finances & facilitates the terrorists’ sneaking into Syria in order to destroy and sabotage Syria should cease to do so.
Journalist: That means the war might last for years.
Mohammad Raad: Yes, the military option can take some time.
Journalist: Today, after what was achieved in Qalamoun and the great victory you presented in this difficult region where the fighting was fierce, as we understand, today we see that Palmyra might have fallen, yesterday Al Mastouma and other areas fell. It looks like the fighting is a win here then a defeat there, a defeat then a victory, etc. It seems that no one can use military means to resolve the situation in a decisive way.
Mohammad Raad: Sami, now the media and the propaganda machine works on propagating false and hasty news about partial matters that have nothing to do with the strategic movement or even with the battlefield, the very issues which will define the results and the outcome of the war. We have an evaluation of the situation: in Syria, the military situation on the ground is in the favor of the regime and what we witness is a tightening of the (Syrian Arab Army’s) grip on the areas under the regime’s control.
Journalist: How can you explain this to us? The image circulated now in the other media is that the State doesn’t have control over many areas, and there’s a new offensive by the armed terrorists under Fatah Army and other groups. And the armed opposition, or the rebels or the Takfiris or terrorists, whatever you may call them, are achieving big gains on the ground. In your strategic evaluation, how do you see that your side, along with your ally the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, has actually started to achieve strategic gains on the ground?
Mohammad Raad: Before I answer your question, we should remember all the (previous) experiences of false propaganda talking about these terrorists & enlarging their achievements, their numbers, and their situation. Isn’t it about time for the public opinion to realize that this inflated image of the (terrorists) situation is untrue? Take what happened in Qalamoun: how many were the terrorists in Qalamoun? How long did they withstand their positions?
Journalist: Some would also say that they are in the Damascus countryside, in Jobar and in areas adjacent to Damascus, also in Aleppo…
Mohammad Raad: Sometimes there are areas and positions the regime ignores because they are not important, and he (knows he) can contain them whenever he wants. But he goes towards the strategic areas the control of which defines the preservation of the State’s structure. Isn’t it strange, in the opinion of all international observers, that after 4 years and a half, the State’s institutions are still functioning in Syria?
Journalist: Excellent, this is a very good point as the Army has been fighting for more than 4 years; the Syrian diplomacy is still functioning and maybe more actively than before. Now, I saw by myself that there is a head of a Syrian diplomatic mission in Egypt, Dr. Riadh Sneih, at an ambassador level, and he is an ambassador in fact, he was abroad; and the State institutions are still paying salaries, to the Army and even to students, scholarships and others… All this is important.
Mohammad Raad: Can you imagine a state suffering a devastating war like what is happening in Syria, and still you’ll find a traffic police officer issuing traffic violation tickets?
Journalist: It is said for that, Hajj Mohammad Raad, that if it wasn’t for the direct financial support from a country like Iran, maybe the State wouldn’t function until now, in addition to the military support, of course.
Mohammad Raad: This is not a shortfall in Syria’s ability to withstand. Why are alliances forged between countries and forces at the first place? Isn’t it to benefit from them during crises and during difficult times?
It is much emphasized now, and there is an abuse of this feeling that Iran is controlling Syria, while in Syria there is an Army that is still fighting after 4 years so far. This is part of the misinformation image being circulated.
First of all, do not believe that anybody would fight on behalf of anybody else for free. Maybe there will be mutual strategic or tactical interests imposing on two parties to fight on the same field for the same goal, but each party defends its goal within this mutual interest. Iran is supporting Syria also not only as a gratitude for the Syrian stance towards the Saddam imposed 8-years war against Iran, which was financed by all those who are now contributing in the war against Syria. Iran is standing by Syria because Iran is in an alliance with Syria within the same strategic choice, but if it wasn’t for the fact that the Syrian structure is capable of preserving its choice in the stance against (Israel), all the support Syria is receiving wouldn’t be enough to save the situation.
Enough of simplifying the issues; now it is said that we (Hezbollah) are helping the Syrian Army. Of course, we are carrying out an assistant role to the Syrian Army in the areas where we have an interest to be present in, either in defending the Resistance (Hezbollah) or to preserve the Syrian positive position in supporting the Resistance. But why is it that the heroism and bravery of the Syrian Arab Army are neglected, the army that is holding the keys of the battlefield struggle and manages the struggle until now?!
Journalist: Do you fight in the north (of Syria) Hajj Mohammad Raad? like in Aleppo, are there fighters (of Hezbollah)?
Mohammad Raad: I’m not In favour of talking about details, but I can tell you: We fight where we have to fight.
Journalist: And this is what Sayyed Nasrallah said. He recently said that after the last Qalamoun battle, Hezbollah lost 13 martyrs. Can we know the total number of Hezbollah’s martyrs since the beginning of the Syrian war? Approximately? Some say they reached a thousand (martyrs), is this correct?
Mohammad Raad: I do not believe the figure reached this much, but it is nearing five hundred. Five hundred approximately.
Journalist: Nearing five hundred. Less or a bit more? If it is nearing, it means less… Did President Bashar Al-Assad’s administration manage to survive collapsing? Now the talks saying that ‘There is no solution with the Syrian president involved’ are renewed. And even some of the fighters factions, 13 of them, gathered in Turkey recently and raised this slogan again that by force, he will fall. While for the past 4 years and now in the 5th year, he is still here? Will President Assad’s administration survive?
Mohammad Raad: Our belief is that the solution in Syria depends on the presence and the partnership of President Assad in this solution.
Journalist: Him in person?
Mohammad Raad: Him in person.
Journalist: OK. Can you tell us, Haj Mohammad Raad, why president Assad’s allies like Iran & Hezbollah at the utmost, maybe Russia to the same degree as you or less, I don’t know, why do they hold on to President Bashar Al-Assad in person? As some might argue that if President Al-Assad leaves, maybe the situation in Syria would become better. Is he (President Assad) in person the base to any solution for you?
Mohammad Raad: No, we are holding on him because the matter is not about the person, it is about the position and choice this person is committed to. You might say that there might be other persons like him, but this very person who defended Syria due to his commitment to this choice (resistance), why replace him?!
Journalist: It is said that his presence on top of the current Syrian State has maintained this State due to his personal features, his nerves of steel. I hear about this even among your ranks, that due to his calm, while most of his allies have collapsed, the veteran ones and even in Lebanon, he remained… This proves that he should remain in the partnership position to find a solution. But he’s also blamed by his foes inside Syria and abroad to be responsible for where we have reached. I want to know if Hezbollah and Iran (as Russia will not state its position) are insisting on the person of President Assad in any coming solution, whatever happens. There won’t be any solution found without President Assad?
Mohammad Raad: First of all, as long as the Syrian people are holding on to President Bashar Al-Assad, we cannot overlook this Syrian public opinion.
Journalist: Half of the people… More than half of the people are with President Assad?
Mohammad Raad: Of course
Journalist: How do you know? How do we know? Who is measuring the Syrian public opinion for us to know who is with him and who is not?
Mohammad Raad: First: who said there is anybody in the world who would accept his country to be destroyed? The hesitating portion at the beginning of the crisis of the Syrian people now joined those supporting President Assad to stay in power, because they found out that the alternative is the destruction of Syria and the end of its position and role, and making Syria a satellite in the orbit of the West and subjugating it to the Israeli conditions.
Journalist: So in your opinion President Assad is staying until the last day in his term?
Mohammad Raad: And maybe beyond…
Translation : Arabi Souri
Here set out in black and white in the Israeli media is a moral conundrum that western politicians, diplomats and international human rights organisations are resolutely failing to address – and one I have been highlighting since 2006.
It was then that Israel implemented for the first time its Dahiya doctrine – turning Lebanon back to the Stone Age. It launched an horrific assault that wrecked Lebanon’s infrastructure, killed 1,300 Lebanese – most of them, as ever in Israel’s wars, civilians – and made refugees of more than a million inhabitants of the country’s south. The exercise has been repeated in Gaza on a regular basis ever since.
Last month the New York Times kindly published an Israeli press release masquerading as a news report that the Israeli army had photographic evidence that Hizbollah was moving its military bases into villages all over south Lebanon. The evidence was paltry to say the least. And the New York Times, quite bafflingly, said it had not been able to “independently verify” the information, as though it lacked reporters in Lebanon who could visit the sites named by its correspondent in far-away Tel Aviv.
The clear implication of the story was that, when the next war with Lebanon arrives, as the Israeli army keeps promising is just around the corner, Israel will be able to blame Hizbollah when its attacks kill mostly civilians.
As Israel’s Haaretz newspaper pointed out – possibly inadvertently – in a headline, the New York Times was doing Israel’s propaganda work for it: “Israel’s secret weapon in the war against Hezbollah: The New York Times”.
Although the NYT’s propaganda role was noted by several observers, no one seemed to make the point that, if Hizbollah is only now moving its bases into these villages, how can one make sense of the prominent justification for the high civilian death toll in Lebanon in 2006? Then Israel argued – and was backed by the UN and others – that the civilian deaths were a result of Hizbollah’s “cowardly blending” with the civilian population by firing rockets from built-up areas, though no evidence was produced at the time.
Look at what Amos Harel, Haaretz’s military correspondent, writes now:
The [New York] Times reports that Hezbollah, as part of the lessons it drew in the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, moved its “nature reserves” – its military outposts in the south – from open farmland into the heart of the Shi’ite villages that lie close to the border with Israel. That in itself is old news.
Tell that to Jan Egeland, who was the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at the time (and later joined Human Rights Watch), as well as all those who echoed his accusation against Hizbollah of “cowardly blending”.
There is another, even more vital point unnoticed by most observers but highlighted in Harel’s report for Haaretz. One of the problems for those at the receiving end of these savage Israeli attacks has been: how to respond. Or rather: how to respond within the confines of international law. While Israel has been doing most of the killing, western politicians, diplomats and human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been more exercised by the efforts of Hizbollah and Hamas to retaliate in kind.
The international law argument supposedly goes something like this: Israel has the right to defend itself and so long as it is aiming for military targets with its precision armaments and acts proportionately then it is within its rights to launch attacks, whether civilians are killed or not.
The argument’s flip side goes like this: However terrible the suffering endured by their respective populations under this barrage, Hizbollah and Hamas have no right to respond with their imprecise rockets, whether they are aiming for a military target or not, because they cannot be sure their rockets will not hit civilians. In short, anything they fire over the border is a war crime by definition.
If that sounds problematic to you, check out my own public engagement with Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW back in 2006 debating this very issue.
The problem when dealing with asymmetrical confrontations is that traditional interpretations of international law are rigged to the advantage of the stronger, better-armed side.
So how does the Israeli army feel about Hizbollah’s efforts to improve its rockets to avoid this international law problem. Haaretz’s Harel explains what his military contacts have been telling him:
Israel is apparently deeply concerned by Hezbollah’s effort to improve the accuracy of its rockets. The organization has in its possession vast numbers of missiles and rockets – 130,000, according to the latest estimates – but upgrading its capability is dependent on improving the weapons’ accuracy, which would enable Hezbollah to strike effectively at specific targets, including air force-base runways and power stations.
In other words, Israel is “deeply concerned” that Hizbollah might soon be able to operate within the terms of international law as laid down by official arbiters like the UN and HRW.
How is Hizbollah trying to upgrade its rockets? Its allies, Iran and Syria’s Bashar Assad, are trying to deliver more sophisticated weapons to it through Syrian territory. How does Israel feel about this? Harel reports: “Israel is upset at the smuggling of weapons by the Assad regime in Syria to Hezbollah.” In fact, we know Israel is “upset” because it keeps violating Syria’s sovereign air space to launch attacks in Syria to stop convoys it claims are transporting such weapons reaching Hizbollah. It is similarly blockading Gaza to make sure upgraded, precise weapons do not get into Hamas’ hands.
So who will be to blame when Israel gets the next war with Lebanon or Gaza it wants and Hizbollah or Hamas respond by firing their imprecise rockets in retaliation? When Israeli civilians die under those rockets, will Hizbollah and Hamas be responsible or will it be Israel’s fault?
We will doubtless hear the answer from the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and the New York Times soon.
Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah says the resistance movement’s success in forcing Israeli forces out of Lebanon’s soil 15 years ago was a victory for all Lebanese and Muslims.
Nasrallah made the remarks in the southern town of Nabatiyeh on Sunday during a televised speech celebrating the anniversary of the Israeli forces’ withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
He paid tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to bring victory to the resistance movement.
The Hezbollah chief added that if the the resistance movement had not risen against the Tel Aviv regime Israel would have occupied Lebanon.
Hezbollah forced the Israeli military out of the southern parts of Lebanon on May 25, 2000, after more than two decades of occupation.
People in Lebanon consider May 25 as a beginning of dramatic change in the region.
The Lebanese commemorate the day as a national holiday and see it as a transformation that changed the regional equations for good, and put an end to the invincibility myth of the Israeli military.
Nasrallah said after the Israeli regime attacked Lebanon, some groups in Lebanon hesitated to stand against the Zionist regime and even communicated with “the Israelis and considered them allies and friends.”
But, he added, some other Lebanese “did not wait for the Arab League, the United Nations Security Council, the UN, the US or the West. They rather relied on their capabilities, men, heroes and friends in Iran and Syria, and the resistance was launched.”
“This victory was achieved by some of the Lebanese who believed in resistance,” said Nasrallah.
“From the very first day, the resistance believed that it was defending all Lebanese,” he said, adding that “backstabbing and treason did not prevent it from dedicating its victory to all of Lebanon, the Arabs and the world.”
Nasrallah called on the international community and especially on the Lebanese authorities to step up fight against ISIL Takfiri group which is threatening mankind.
Nasrallah said “history is repeating itself” and a scheme spearheaded by ISIL Takfiri group is threatening the Middle East region.
“We are before a danger that is unparalleled in history,” Nasrallah said referring to ISIL terrorist group, adding, “We must understand the threat.”
Nasrallah stressed that all people in the region are facing the threat of the terrorist group, adding, “We are before a threat that does not tolerate the existence of others. All people in the region are facing this barbarous situation.”
The Hezbollah chief stated that remaining silent against the Takfiri threat would be unproductive, adding, “Those who believe that their silence would protect them and their sect are delusional. It is unacceptable to wait and we must take the initiative” against the Takfiri threat.
Nasrallah stressed that those refusing to counter the terrorist group will suffer a lot.
He said the US-led coalition allegedly fighting the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria has not been instrumental in putting an end to the brutalities of the Takfiri group.
“What has the US-led coalition done? The number of their airstrikes throughout a year is much less than the number of Israel’s raids on Lebanon in the  July war or its raids on Gaza,” Nasrallah added.
He urged the Christians in Lebanon to fight the Takfiri group, asking, “Who will protect your women from enslavement and your churches from destruction?”
“We call on everyone in Lebanon and the region to shoulder their responsibilities in the face of the threat and to end their silence and neutrality,” he said, adding, “We call on you to defend your land, sovereignty and people.”
Nasrallah noted that people in the Lebanese city of Arsal are feeling the threat of the Takfiri group every day, calling on the Lebanese government to take action to save the people.
“We are ready to stand by Arsal’s people, but the state must shoulder its responsibility,” he said.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah fighters are present in Syria combating against terrorists, saying, “We are fighting alongside the Syrian army and popular resistance based on our vision that fighting there is aimed at defending everyone in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq.”
He also called on Saudi Arbia, which has been pounding Yemen since March 26, to stop bombarding the impoverished Arab country.