An Israeli think-tank said that the West should seek the further weakening of the Takfiri ISIL group, but not its destruction.
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies considered as a “strategic mistake” the destruction of ISIL, stressing that a weak but functioning ISIL can have many advantages.
“A weak but functioning IS can undermine the appeal of the caliphate among radical Muslims; keep bad actors focused on one another rather than on Western targets; and hamper Iran’s quest for regional hegemony,” Efraim Inbar said in his study published on August 2.
“A weak IS(ISIL) is, counter intuitively, preferable to a destroyed IS. IS is a magnet for radicalized Muslims in countries throughout the world. These volunteers are easier targets to identify, saving intelligence work. They acquire destructive skills in the fields of Syria and Iraq that are of undoubted concern if they return home, but some of them acquire shaheed status while still away – a blessing for their home countries. If IS is fully defeated, more of these people are likely to come home and cause trouble.”
Meanwhile, the study said that the destruction of ISIL could strengthen Russia’s grip on Syria, bolster its influence in the Middle East and enhance Iranian control of Iraq contrary to American objectives in that country, and the two effects are not in the West’s interests.
On the other hand, the study added that the destruction of ISIL could also benefit Hezbollah.
“Furthermore, Hizballah (Hezbollah)… is being seriously taxed by the fight against IS, a state of affairs that suits Western interests. A Hizballah no longer involved in the Syrian civil war might engage once again in the taking of western hostages and other terrorist acts in Europe.”
The Western distaste for ISIL brutality and immorality should not obfuscate strategic clarity, Began-Sadat Center added, noting that ISIL “are truly bad guys, but few of their opponents are much better.”
“Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys.”
Tel Hara, on the Golan Plain, Syria – The likely next American President, Hilary Clinton is fielding an array of foreign policy advisers, a few being sort of table scraps from the Bush administration and others having resigned from Obama’s. They are today preparing white papers on all manner of “adjustments” to what the presumed 45th American President reportedly believes was a weak and wrongheaded Obama Middle East policy, particularly with respect to the Syrian crisis and Hezbollah.
This according to sources at the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) Judicial Council on which this observer served representing his State of Oregon many moons ago. One staffer reports that the Neocon-Zionist lobby has a Middle East Policy deal with the Clinton campaign as a linchpin of her pledge to “eternally cover Israel’s back.” The Clinton camp, which appears to be gaining adherents within the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon, believes that the Obama administration’s policy toward Russia and Syria is badly flawed partly because, so they claim, Obama wrongly assumes that Russia wants to limit its involvement in Syria. Clinton advisers claim that, on the contrary, Putin’s key objectives include demonstrating that Russia is winning in Syria, that the US has become a paper tiger in the region, and that the Arab states best follow Russia’s lead as it dramatically returns to the region a la the former USSR.
To set the stage for the her administration, some would-be Clinton advisers such as WINEP’s Dennis Ross, are counseling that she must increase political pressure now, as the clock runs out on the Obama administration, to dramatically beef up what they view as Obama’s weak “truce agreement” between Washington and Moscow. This as former Defense Secretary and Clinton adviser, Leon Panetta, is advocating that the next president increase US Special Forces in Syria and launch air strikes to shore up “moderates” fighting the Syrian government. Others are urging that after Clinton is sworn-in the US must pounce on all “truce violations” with drones and cruise missiles and target Syrian airbases and artillery positions, while simultaneously setting up safe areas for civilians, and if deemed necessary, no-fly zones.
Still others, including a dissenting internal memo last month signed by 51 State Department diplomats advocated attacks on Syrian government forces especially Hezbollah to end aggression against the country’s civilian population, to alter the military balance and bring about a negotiated political settlement. As Clinton’s Syrian policy is being formed, details will likely be kept out of the Presidential campaign, at least from her side, so as not to alienate the crucial Obama camp before November 8th.
There is reportedly one aspect of Clinton’s Middle East policy that has been detailed and is ready for implementation following her inauguration once details are coordinated with Israel, NATO and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It is being advocated by AIPAC on Capitol Hill and among Clinton operatives at the DNC and details how the Clinton administration “must destroy Hezbollah and cut off Tehran’s anti-Arab, anti-Sunni and anti- Christian hegemonic lifeline for its rapidly escalating domination of the Middle East.”
Clinton’s Middle East foreign policy shift reportedly will focus on the complete destruction of Hezbollah. Rather than merely containment as Obama insists at meetings of his National Security Council. John Kerry, a rumored Clinton cabinet member refers to Hezbollah solely as “Iran’s Basij in Lebanon/Syria/Iraq/Yemen/Bahrain and you name it.” History may soon record whether the Clinton administration, breaking sharply with the Obama administration, is able to “reshape the region” as Israel’s Netanyahu is squeezing her to do, and destroy Hezbollah, and if necessary, Iran’s IRGC-Al Quds Force. The latter, according to Clinton’s advisers and US allies are active in all the countries on Kerry’s list and far beyond.
Destroying or severely crippling Hezbollah is also being advocated as a cheap throw-away ‘crowd-pleaser’ for the incoming Clinton administration, both in Congress where both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, would very likely applaud attacks on Hezbollah as part of a rejuvenated “manned-up” and expanding US-led War on Terrorism. The Israel lobby is expressing confidence on Capitol Hill that relentlessly targeting Hezbollah militarily and economically will please and embolden Washington’s friends who remain chagrined by Obama’s containment policy in Syria while this needed policy shift will be discomfiting to US adversaries. It is also being argued that the six GCC monarchies will welcome tough Clinton administration action and can be expected to redouble their funding to shore up the Syrian opposition while at the same time the Clinton administration will also demonstrate US resolve to renew Washington’s commitment to holding Hezbollah accountable for its claimed terrorism. All the above it is claimed would hasten an end to the war here in Syria and make a political settlement more likely.
One “emeritus” Clinton adviser is Amos Yadlin, Israel’s former Military Intelligence chief. Recently Yadlin has been arguing that Israel and the US need to intervene in Syria more actively with a policy, that leads to the defeat of the “our most bitter enemies: “Iran and Hezbollah.” Yadlin makes no secret of the fact that Israel will destroy Hezbollah ‘next time’ in Lebanon and that only the approaching date will not be revealed in advance.
Clinton supports the Hizbullah International Financing Prevention Act, signed by Obama this past April. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, (OFAC) issued regulations aimed at implementing act. The latest U.S. regulations target those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions for” Hezbollah and those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions of a person identified on the List of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN’s) and Blocked persons.” OFAC’s list includes names of officials, businessmen and institutions that the U.S. says are linked to Hezbollah such as the group’s al-Manar TV and Al-Nour Radio. Clinton advisers argue that even more has to be done targeting Hezbollah.
Several hundred pages of ‘selling points’ circulating Capitol Hill and among EU countries are designed to build “an unshakable global commitment to destroy Hezbollah” according to one staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Also being distributed on Capitol Hill are “research papers” from a Iranian opposition group called Naame Shaam. One is titled “Iran in Syria: From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force.” The 200-page report analyzes various aspects of the military, political and economic role played by Hezbollah and Iran since March 2011, following the outbreak of the Syrian conflict.
An Israeli Embassy brief targeting Hezbollah includes the following excerpt on the subject of claimed Hezbollah crimes against humanity and urges the US and the EU to intensify sanctions: “Contrary to claims by Hezbollah’s Sec-General Hassan Nasrallah and Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Ali Khameini, Hezbollah entered Syria in large numbers by April 2011 and started sniping at demonstrators and Syrian army soldiers who refused to shoot children. A July 2012 video taken by Hezbollah and published in July 2011 shows heavily armed Hezbollah fighters and a number of tanks in Horan near Deraa, the city where the uprising started. A report in January of 1212 by The Times, documented large numbers of Hezbollah and Iranian snipers were deployed “to shoot anti-regime protesters.” These reports were confirmed by scores of Deraa residents who have confirmed more than 200 eyewitness reports that Iran deployed Hezbollah fighters “to stand behind Syrian troops and kill Syrian soldiers immediately, if they refused to open fire on demonstrators.” Local residents have confirmed these reports as have some of the more three dozen Iranian and Hezbollah snipers who participated. Three months after the start of the March 2011 civilian protests, the first clashes were reported in June 2011 in al-Qusayr, in the countryside of Homs. By May 2012 Hezbollah, overran 10 of the 23 (Syria-Lebanon) border villages and established fortified bases exclusively for its use, at time expelling Syrian army troops in “their” area which led to the Syrian army killing of three Al Manar journalists at Ma’loula.”
The document, which includes satellite photos, continues, “Nasrallah explained to Lebanese media that ‘Hezbollah did not tell them what to do and this has nothing to do with the fighting in Syria. He omitted to mention that historically this area has been the main route for Iranian arms entering Lebanon and is located near Hezbollah arms depots in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.”
Another handout reads: “From the spring of 2011 until today, the Hezbollah’s siege, starving and slaughter of innocent women and children across Syria has continued to intensify despite, until recently, denial after denial. Hezbollah crimes have been extensively documented in an undisclosed European country by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established on 22 August 2011 by the Human Rights Council through resolution S-17/1 adopted at its 17th special session with a mandate to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic. Also gathering and documenting hundreds of cases of individuals committing crimes against humanity is the Commission for International Justice and Accountability.”
As the intense anti-Hezbollah campaign gets organized in Washington, Israel reportedly considers itself the winner to date in Syria, and expects to have much more influence and a green-light to destroy Hezbollah in a Clinton administration than was the case with Obama’s. Tel Aviv has to date been content to bide its time and simply deter Hezbollah in southern Syria/Lebanon and along the Golan Plain while recently occupying another roughly 20 by 12 miles strip of Syria territory. This latest land confiscation was done with impunity as UNDOF observers watched with binoculars. One reason UNDOF was impotent during the Israeli land grab was that a majority of them had relocated from the Syrian side to the Israeli side of the Golan ceasefire line in September 2014. UNDOF will not return until the Syrian war ends, if then.
Israel has made clear via its new Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the fascist Yisrael Beiteinu party, that Israel will not return one centimeter of its recently occupied Syrian territory “until we sign a peace agreement with the new government of Syria. All Muslims must know that we Israelis are their friends and that we are on the right side of this Syrian war.”
Meanwhile Israel has an understanding with various rebel groups in Southern Syria including the newly re-named Jabhat al Nusra (The Front for the Defense of the Syrian People) now calling itself – Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (the Front for the Conquest of the Levant), giving food and medical treatment to anyone asking for assistance within its new zone. Israel is also reportedly recruiting ‘operatives’ from southern Syria militia around Quneitra, the largely destroyed and abandoned capital of the Quneitra Governorate. Similar recruitment from the local population to what its army undertook during its 22-year occupation of South Lebanon before it was liberated by Hezbollah. Israel is reportedly paying up to $1000 per month, “salaries”, (compared to the average monthly salary in Syria these days of approximately of $100). Israel offers even more for “special services” targeting Hezbollah. Israel is in the process of occupying, in one way or another, parts of southern Syria. And one can feel it in the air.
Whatever success the Clinton team will have with its goal of destroying Hezbollah and however one evaluates Obama’s policy, this region appears headed for yet more prolonged violence and many more deaths of innocent civilians.
Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).
The acerbic remarks calling into question Syria’s future as a sovereign country by the CIA chief John Brennan at the Aspen Security Forum meet in Colorado on Saturday betray a very high level of US frustration over emergent ground realities. (Reuters ) The Syrian government forces, supported by Russian forces and Iranian and Hezbollah fighters have encircled the strategic northern city of Aleppo. The extremist groups supported by the US and its allies are trapped in the city.
Meanwhile, Russia has announced the opening of ‘humanitarian corridors’ to facilitate civilians to leave the city and for terrorists to surrender. The Russian announcement makes the US look very foolish regionally for having been outwitted comprehensively.
Secretary of State John Kerry thought he’d engage Moscow on the diplomatic track by discussing a ceasefire and a tantalizing proposal to undertake joint operations in Syria, while on parallel track gain respite for opposition groups to recover lost ground in Aleppo. As the recent announcement on Nusra Front snapping links with Al-Qaeda exposes, the US game-plan was to gain time to legitimise its support for Nusra and insulate the group from Russian air attacks. On their part, the Russians simply played along, while allowing joint military operations with Damascus and Tehran for capturing Aleppo to continue.
The ‘humanitarian corridor’ is a double-edged sword. The humanitarian situation is indeed critical and Russian relief supplies convey a political message of reconciliation. Having said that, the refugees coming out of Aleppo would have eyes set on European destinations and they could include terrorists, too.
The following excerpts of a commentary by FARS news agency (which is linked to the IRGC) would give a sense of the triumphalism in Tehran that the US and Saudi Arabia have lost the war:
- The foreign-backed attempt to regime change Syria and establish an ‘American Caliphate’ in the Levant has failed and is now history…. A large number of terrorists from Al-Nusra, Noureddin Al-Zinki, Free Syrian Army, Ahrar al-Sham and other groups have laid down their arms and surrendered to the Syrian Army in Aleppo province as allied forces (Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah, Iranian military advisors and Russian airstrikes) are racing towards Aleppo after completing siege of the city.
- President Bashar Assad has offered an amnesty for rebels who surrender within three months. The Syrian Army has dropped thousands of leaflets over militant-held districts in Aleppo, asking residents to cooperate with the military and calling on militants to surrender.
- Well, the party is clearly over and the foreign-backed terror machine seems to be a doomed project. This is the historical moment we are in… Those who backed ISIL and many other terror outfits are just going to have to own up to what Syria and Iraq have become… On the other hand, the trend lines on the War on Terror, refugee crisis, anti-Islam and anti-Muslim propaganda, failure of Western democracy and the vast militarised police and security system all point toward deep trouble in Europe as well. On refugee and humanitarian issues alone the crisis will deepen and most likely in a dramatic way. Recent terror attacks in France and Germany suggest they are woefully unprepared for what lies ahead.
The mother of all ironies will be that European countries face the spectre of terrorists knocking at the gates, who were trained and equipped by the CIA. Brennan’s threat to balkanize Syria is bravado, since any such misadventure will be opposed not only by Tehran, Damascus and Moscow but also by Ankara. (Al-Arabiya )
Tehran has announced that a delegation led by the chief of the foreign and security policy commission of Majlis, a key figure in the Iranian foreign-policy establishment, will go to Damascus on a 5-day mission to discuss with President Bashar Al-Assad the political and diplomatic trajectory ahead to garner the ‘peace dividend’. (Tehran Times )
Read a Russian commentary Four Reasons Why Liberation of Aleppo Would Mean an End to the Syrian War.
The successful mission by a Hezbollah drone entering Israeli air space in the Golan Heights and taking photographs is a significant development at various levels. At its most obvious, Hezbollah has mocked Israel’s vaunted air superiority. Three Israeli missiles, including one fired by an F-16, couldn’t bring down the drone which returned safely to Syria. For Israel, it amounts to a humiliating show of contempt by the Hezbollah. (Sputnik )
Second, Russian radar would have certainly picked up the drone, but did nothing about it. It is straight out of Sherlock Holmes – the dog didn’t bark. The bottom line is, neither will Russia rush to protect the Hezbollah nor move a little finger to deter it.
Third, of course, the drone is a technology demonstrator, underscoring Hezbollah’s growing capability to hit back at Israel if attacked. This particular drone probably didn’t carry weapons, but the next one always could.
To be sure, Israel can only wonder how Hezbollah has gained access to such sophisticated technology. From Russia? Or, Iran? Or, is it Hezbollah technology?
Then, there is the ‘big picture’. Israel has been reminded that Golan Heights is still a frontline. Israel’s best hope is that Syria will remain weak and fragmented with no central authority in Damascus to challenge its future annexation of the occupied territories in Golan Heights. Hezbollah may have signalled that that remains a pipedream. In fact, the Syrian government forces are incrementally gaining the upper hand on the ground. The blockade of Aleppo turns the tide of war. In a telling sign of the tide turning, there are reports that Turkey has sent ‘feelers’ to the Syrian government. (Guardian )
Now, the developments in Turkey can only mean that Ankara may roll back its intervention in Syria. Turkey’s focus is on preempting a Kurdistan taking shape on its borders with tacit US support (which Israel too welcomes) and on this platform Syria, Iran and Iraq are Ankara’s ‘natural allies’.
On the other hand, without Turkey, neither Saudi Arabia nor Qatar or the other Sheikhdoms in the Gulf would have the spunk to advance the ‘regime change’ agenda in Syria. Simply put, Israel is being reduced to a mute witness to dramatic changes and realignments in its very neighbourhood with no role or capacity to influence them politically or militarily. Arguably, Israel and Saudi Arabia are the biggest ‘losers’ in the failed coup in Turkey. Both will be desperately hoping that the US will come up with some bright idea to retrieve the Syrian situation at the 2-day anti-ISIS coalition conference taking place in Washington on July 20-21. But then, the Turkish-US standoff over the extradition of Fetullah Gulen has introduced new uncertainty regarding the US’ capacity to influence the course of events in Syria.
All in all, the drone provocation by Hezbollah calls attention to the big shift in the balance of forces in the Middle East as a result of the Syrian conflict. For the first time, Israel has to contend with superior military power in its neighborhood. Indeed, but for the Russian presence, Israeli jets would have been raining destruction on Syria by now in retaliation. Fortunately, Israel faces no ‘blowback’ as such from the ISIS or the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front — unlike Turkey or Saudi Arabia — for its intervention in the Syrian conflict. (Read an Iranian commentary Turkey Coup: Who Else Is Going the Way Of Iraq and Syria?)
Elizabeth Richard, 65, seems interested to operate in Lebanon, where she commenced her missions last week. And she, according to the video introducing her at the US embassy, is “interested to get introduced to Lebanon’s natural and cultural heritage (in the video’s background, there are scenes showing the cedars, the Bay Rock and women stuffing vine leaves, edited in a bad and unrefined manner.) The new American ambassador, who visited the “land of cedars” in 2007 under an American initiative to train Internal Security Forces and arm them, seems assertive in her first message to the Lebanese people: “As Lebanon works to save its security and build the strong government’s institutions (…) the American people will stay by your side.” It was a nice diplomatic speech that covers unplanned intentions of the new ambassador, especially regarding her concept of “saving security” and “the state’s strong institutions.” Richard was clearer in her attestation at the congress after she was nominated for the post months ago. Thereat, the specialized in law announced her actual agenda, classifying the “main” problems in Lebanon; all what the Lebanese are suffering from currently in economics, security and politics is because of one single thing: the resistance.
In economics, Richard uncovered a magic equation to deal with the crisis in Lebanon, saying: “our target is to dismantle Hezbollah’s international financial network and help the Lebanese institutions and the Lebanese people, which will contribute directly to activating the economic prosperity in Lebanon.” How would targeting the international funding for resistance lead to refreshing the country’s economy?! Richard didn’t explain this in her testimony; she was not asked to do so in her country, neither the Lebanese government, nor diplomats moved to hold accountable a diplomat who publicly announced that she is going to work from inside Lebanon to fight one of the Lebanese parties that is represented in the parliament and participating in the government! Nobody even dared to demand explanation of the ambassador’s words. Richard, as if she is holding everything in her hands, with the old American unashamed boldness, said she will work hard “not to let Hezbollah break through the Lebanese banking sector” because this is “the interest of Lebanon and the United States.” The new ambassador raised her wand in front of the Lebanese state before she arrived at the host country, yet none of the officials’ sovereignty was touched.
On the security level, Richard had her own philosophy as well. Of course, “Israel” was absent from her speech regarding the security threats Lebanon is subject to, yet ISIL and al-Nusra threats were present. However, the ambassador seems assured in threatening the two organizations that were brought by al-Qaeda. She is convinced that “partnership between the United States and the Lebanese Security Forces, through the generous Congress support, played a decisive role in saving Lebanon’s security facing such threats.” Therefore, there is no fear on the Lebanese people from ISIL and al-Nusra, so what is the first threat Lebanon is subject to according to Richard? The answer is: Hezbollah. “Hezbollah’s activities in Syria create serious security threats in Lebanon,” the ambassador said as she vowed to support the Lebanese army since it is “the only legitimate protector of Lebanon.”
The third “main problem” the Lebanese are suffering from, as Richard identified, is the political void and decrying Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, which she will also work on solving, this time in cooperation with “the voices calling for moderation and progress.” Against whom? Against “Hezbollah that is still interfering in Syria without the Lebanese consent,” Richard explains. The new ambassador’s swaggering made her talk on behalf of the Lebanese people, without the need to use numeric evidences, even if fabricated, to verify her announcement on the Lebanese people’s accepting or rejecting Hezbollah’s interference in Syria. The conclusion, as Richard informed the congressmen: Hezbollah went to Syria despite the will of most of the Lebanese, which decries Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.
Usually, western diplomats complain that they couldn’t understand the happenings in Lebanon, and complain about its complicated social structure, economic system and political scene. However, it seems that Elizabeth Richard doesn’t suffer from any of this. Her vision is clear, and so is her single goal: to target the Lebanese resistance through its party, people and money using every possible means.
In her latest post before being appointed to custodianship on the Lebanese people, Richard was the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department. In her testimony at the congress in July 2015, she boasted the State Department’s achievements; counting the projects she supervised, such as: the initiative to qualify and develop industrial cities, creating job opportunities, activating exportation in Egypt, Jordan and “Israel”, the General Motors agreement to provide Egypt with huge amounts of electric energy, qualifying the railways in Algeria, buying tons of Iraqi rice, encouraging investments in the Gulf countries, supporting the youth initiatives and medical cooperation with “Israel” and the Arab Emirates… Most of the Middle Eastern and North African countries were present, yet Lebanon was absent from the achievements of Richard and her department last year, and now she comes to the weakest country in the region, having in her pocket a single (non-developmental) political project, promises of armament… and a raised wand!
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has denounced sanctions on Lebanese banks and other financial institutions as a form of Israeli aggression.
Speaking at the Lebanese Emigrants Economic Conference in Beirut on Thursday, Berri said Israel is constantly trying to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure and economy.
Berri was apparently making reference to the US law, which calls for the closure of bank accounts of individuals and organizations suspected of links to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is credited with defending Lebanon against two wars launched by Israel – the US’s staunchest ally in the region – in 2000 and 2006.
Berri said Lebanon, through the assistance of its diaspora, will eventually emerge triumphant over a plot seeking to harm the country’s economy.
“We only have hope from the expatriates, and right now we no longer have hope but from you,” he said.
Berri further lashed out at Arab states for failing to commit to promised funds to Lebanon following Israel’s war on the country in the summer of 2006, saying only a third of the aid has been paid.
In February, Riyadh suspended USD 3 billion in military assistance to the Lebanese military and another USD 1 billion to the country’s internal security forces.
The kingdom also imposed sanctions on some Lebanese firms and individuals it accused of having links with Hezbollah.
Last month, Governor of Bank of Lebanon Riad Salameh stated that 100 bank accounts linked to Hezbollah members and legislators had been closed.
Hezbollah criticized the Central Bank of Lebanon for submitting to US pressures, saying the measures violated Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Faisal, who in the past served as Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, said at a conference of the Iranian opposition over the weekend that the Iranian regime supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine in order to cause instability in the region.
The Islamic Jihad said Faisal’s remarks serve the Israeli agenda that seeks to eliminate the Palestinian cause and open all the Arab and Islamic capitals to the Zionist entity.
“We tell those people: if you can’t stand up for Palestine and its people at least don’t stand by the Zionist entity to condemn the victim,” the Islamic Jihad movement said in a statement on Sunday.
“The Saudi Muslim people won’t accept to pave the way for the Israelis to reach Mecca and Medina.”
For its part, Hamas condemned the remarks, saying they were “baseless.”
“Everyone knows that Hamas is a Palestinian movement fighting the Zionist occupation in the land of Palestine, and has only a Palestinian agenda … and it adopts the concept of moderate Islam,” said a statement by the group.
Hamas further accused Faisal of saying things that serve the “Zionist occupation and provide it with further pretexts to carry out aggression against the Palestinian people.”
Executives from Google and Facebook have faced enormous political pressure from forces as diverse as Pres. Obama himself to the Israel Lobby, to rid their sites of Islamist content. Over the years, videos portraying ISIS beheadings have outraged the public (though not on YouTube or Facebook, which immediately removes them). Now it appears that the Israel Lobby and their right-wing allies are demanding further action restricting access for videos they deem offensive.
The companies are discussing various methods to automate the removal of the videos, which would supposedly wipe the sites clean of Islamist extremism in a more thorough, speedy fashion. Currently, they use an algorithm which help police videos which violate copyright. If someone uploads a video whose content has already been flagged, an algorithm prevents it being uploaded again by another user. They plan to use a similar process to flag offensive videos by detecting whether they’ve been previously censored.
However, there is a fly in the ointment regarding this process. The companies have invited into this discussion a neocon NGO which is a product of the Israel Lobby. The group, Counter-Extremism Network (CEN), hired a computer scientist from Dartmouth College who claims to have developed software with which it can successfully police these sites for offending content. Microsoft has, somewhat alarmingly, agreed to fund and provide research support to develop the professor’s system for its websites.
The companies have rightly displayed some skepticism about the group’s “generous” offer. CEN is a neocon organization founded by a pro-Israel apparachik from the Bush administration, Mark Wallace. Wallace is a veteran GOP consultant, turned capitalist entrepreneur and anti-Iran warrior. He also founded a sister-organization, United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI-Rightweb profile and my own profile of it), which targeted (often falsely) American companies it claimed were doing business with Iran and violating the sanctions regime.
The nadir of UANI’s vitriolic anti-Iran campaign was its targeting of international shipping magnate, Victor Restis. In these cases, Wallace and his cronies would approach a corporate target and demand a large donation in return for ceasing the embarrassing publicity UANI directed at the victims. Most preferred to pay up. Unlike the other corporate targets, Restis fought back and sued UANI for libel. The suit proceeded in federal court until the Justice Department intervened, claiming that moving forward would jeopardize U.S. national security. The judge then dismissed the case, refusing to permit Restis to clear his name.
Journalists speculated that UANI was using information supplied to it by foreign intelligence sources, specifically the Mossad or other Israeli outlets. The Justice Department intervention was reported to be a favor offered by the Obama administration to the Israeli government, so as not to reveal its covert intervention in American politics. The favor wasn’t repaid when Netanyahu became the foremost opponent of the Iran nuclear deal opposed also by UANI.
Now that the agreement is a done deal, Wallace appears to have moved on. Instead of Iran being the bogeyman, now it is ISIS. With the recent outcry over Islamist attacks in Paris, San Bernardino and Ft. Hood, Islamism has become the target of choice for the Israel Lobby and allies like Wallace.
The group’s name is a misnomer. It doesn’t fight against “extremism.” It fights against Islam. There are countless violent extremists in the world who aren’t Muslim. But CEN has no interest in them. I’m attaching a screenshot of its list of targets. Only four non-Muslim groups: the Ku Klux Klan, Golden Dawn, Jobbik, and a German neo-Nazi party. As opposed to 25 Muslim terror organizations.
To give you a sense of how ridiculous these designations are: the Muslim Brotherhood is a group which participated in a democratic election and won the Egyptian presidency. Only to have the democratic government violently overthrown in a military coup. If anyone is a terrorist, it is the putchist al-Sisi, who overthrew Mohammed Morsi. The “Nusra Front” is also on the list. This bona fide Islamist extremist group is Israel’s current ally in the war against the Assad regime.
Among prominent groups missing from this list are violent Israeli settler groups like Hilltop Youth and Jewish Underground, which have murdered many Palestinian civilians.
I’m also surprised the BDS movement isn’t on the list. No doubt that’s an oversight that will be corrected.
Joining Wallace in founding CEN was ex-Sen. Joe Lieberman. On its board are other Israel Lobby veterans, Dennis Ross and Irwin Cotler. CEN’s name is a misnomer. It is not anti-extremist, it is anti-Muslim.
It’s important to note a parallel campaign by the Israeli government to pressure these social media platforms to censor content it deems hate speech, by which it means critical of Israel and the Occupation. There can be no doubt that although CEN hasn’t formally joined with this initiative, the two are bound up with each other tighter than Siamese twins.
Which raises the critical point: who decides what is “extremist?” Clearly, a beheading is extremist. An imam’s sermon calling for the extermination of non-Muslims qualifies. Overtly advocating violence qualifies. But what about a Hamas video that advocates resistance against Israel’s illegal Occupation which has killed tens of thousands over the past 50 years? Or a Hamas video which depicts the devastation of Gaza in the aftermath of the 2014 war? Does a Hezbollah video depicting the destruction of wide swaths of southern Lebanon after the 2006 Israeli invasion quality as “extremist?” In other words, is all content published by these groups censored by virtue of their designation as terrorists? Is that really what we wish the internet to become? A restricted space policed by ideologically-suspect algorithms?
I would strongly urge these technology companies to develop their own solutions to this problem and not rely on far-right Islamophobic ideologues for methods to censor the internet.
The US and its allies are working inside Lebanon to open a new front in the Syrian conflict. Lebanon has been sedated into a state of limbo by the lack of a government and the postponing of its parliamentary elections. Complicating matters, many institutional figures and military commanders have gone into retirement and the caretaker government is unable to replace them.
Hezbollah’s intervention into the Syrian conflict has given a boost to the Syrian government against the anti-government forces trying to overrun Syria.
This has turned the attention of the US and its allies onto Lebanon as a new arena of battle. Rockets are also being launched by anti-government forces from Syria, and even from inside Lebanon, against Hezbollah’s political strongholds and against Shia Muslim villages. The goal is to ignite the flames of sedition between Shiites and Sunnis inside Lebanon.
Photo Below: Picture of the Hariris adorned with the Future Party’s flag and Al-Qaeda and anti-government Syrian flags by their followers on the way to Sidon. (Photo by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)
Al-Qaeda in Lebanon
Al-Qaeda’s flag has been flying in Lebanon for years. Driving near the airport in Beirut or on the road to Sidon (Saida) you can see the Al-Qaeda flags flying in black. The same goes for Tripoli (Trablos) and some areas inside Beirut. Since the Syrian conflict you can see the Al-Qaeda flag flying next to the Syrian insurgent’s flag. The US and its allies have actually turned a blind eye to the support that the Future Party of Saad Hariri provides to Al-Qaeda. It is worth noting that the current head of the UN Secretariate’s Department of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who was once the US ambassador to Lebanon before he was promoted in the US Department of State, also turned a blind eye to the support for Al-Qaeda by the Hariri family’s Future Party and its March 14 Alliance.
The Hariri family has had a long alliance with the takfiris and Al-Qaeda supporters. They have been political allies with groups in Lebanon that openly revere Osama bin Laden as a great leader. It was the Hariri family and members of their Future Party that also imported the fighters that would become Fatah Al-Islam into Lebanon. The exploitation of takfiri militias inside Lebanon by the Hariri family was intended to crush Hezbollah after Israel failed to do in 2006. Regionally, the same strategy involved the Hariri family’s Saudi patrons and George W. Bush’s administration, which were preparing and arming these militias as tools/weapons against Syria and Iran. The Hariris were furious when Seymour Hersh exposed them and had him publicly rebuked.
Months later Fatah Al-Islam would get out of control. Seymour Hersh would be vindicated. The Hariri-led March 14 Alliance would dishonestly try to blame Syria and the Palestinians for creating and supporting the group that they themselves had created. The fighting in Lebanon between the Lebanese military and Fatah Al-Islam foreshadowed the armies that were amassed for regime change in Libya and Syria by the US and its allies.
Tripoli and Sidon as Extensions of the Syrian Conflict
Lebanon’s second largest city, Tripoli, has seen intense fighting between the Alawite community of Lebanon, which is represented by the Arab Democratic Party, and the Hariri family’s takfiri allies. Hariri’s allies in Tripoli are open supporters of Al-Qaeda and the anti-government forces in Syria; they have smuggled weapons across the Lebanese-Syrian and sent large numbers of fighters into Syria to topple the government in Damascus. The Future Party has been involved in coordinating this also.
Lebanon’s third largest city, Sidon, has also been the scene of fighting and tensions between Ahmed Al-Assir, a Hariri ally, and Hezbollah’s supporters and allies. Al-Assir’s men have even tried to kill one of Sidon’s main Sunni Muslim clerics, Maher Hammoud, because he has constantly been working for Muslim and Lebanese unity and saying that there is an attempt to ignite a Shia-Sunni conflict in Lebanon and the broader region. A contingent from the Lebanese military has had stay in Sidon to keep the peace in the city.
Al-Assir’s men attacked and killed members of the Lebanese military in a village on the outskirts of Sidon for no apparent reason on June 23, 2013. This has ignited a battle in Sidon. Thick smoke from the city can be seen from a far distance. It has been reported that members of the anti-government forces from Syria have also joined them. The Lebanese military has deployed heavy weapons to fight Al-Assir’s group and to restore peace to the Lebanese city.
Photo Below: Lebanese Armed Forces checkpoint in Sidon. (Photo by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)
The Objective is to Force Hezbollah to Retreat in Syria by Targeting Lebanon
The Lebanese state is now being targeted. There have been an increasing number of attacks against the Lebanese military from the Syrian border since Hezbollah intervened in Syria. There were already attacks on Lebanon even before Hezbollah intervened in the Syrian conflict, but those were mostly intended to provoke Hezbollah.
Those targeting the Lebanese state are now taking advantage of the lack of a functioning government and the leaderless status of several national institutions to create a state of chaos in Lebanon. There have been attacks on both Shiite and Sunni villages in the Bekaa Valley and a cycle of violence has begun. It is clear that the objective is to turn Shiites and Sunnis against one another and the Lebanese military has understood this too. This is why Hezbollah has asked the Shiite clans in Bekaa to stay calm after they have been attacked. Protests have broken out in Lebanon too.
The violence in Sidon is part of a strategy. Al-Assir’s unprovoked attack against the Lebanese military is intended to mount pressure on the Lebanese state and exacerbate Shia-Sunni tensions.
Hezbollah refuses to get embroiled in a sectarian battle inside Lebanon. While the Amal Movement, the Shiite political party that is Hezbollah’s partner, has mobilized its militias and started manning the southern and eastern roads into Sidon, Hezbollah has kept calm. Amal’s media has also been reporting on the incident profusely and even in a sectarian fashion, but Hezbollah’s media have inversely been calm and said little.
Lebanon is being lit up with the aim of forcing Hezbollah to pullout from Syria by turning inwards to fight an internal battle. Essentially, Lebanon is now a second front in the Syrian conflict.
The US and Saudi Arabia have probably asked the Hariri family to prompt their Al-Qaeda affiliated clients to initiate violence in Lebanon and capitalize on the lack of a government and the weakened state of the Lebanese state.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist and Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He is currently working out of Lebanon. He was in Sidon during the fighting and the deployment of the Lebanese military.
Copyright © Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research, 2013
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Moscow and his negotiations with President Putin, for the fourth time this year, has created the impression of failure. Russia and Israel have been developing active cooperation recently in the field of culture, trade and customs and education.
However, Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow does look like a failure from the point of view of foreign policy. In an official statement for the press, President Putin spoke about the “open” and “constructive” nature of the talks with the Israeli PM. In the diplomatic world, though, when negotiations are held in a friendly and even neutral fashion, they usually say that the talks were held “in a friendly atmosphere.” This is something that we have not heard from the Kremlin this time. In other words, there is no understanding between Russian and Israeli leaders.
The main purpose of Netanyahu’s visit to Russia was clearly focused on foreign policy issues, such as the regulation of the crisis in Syria and a possible solution to the Palestinian conflict. Israel sees clearly that the civil war in Syria is ending. Netanyahu’s visit coincided with a remarkable speech that Bashar al-Assad delivered at the opening session of the newly elected parliament. It is obvious that the question of the end of the war and national reconciliation in Syria is a matter of time. What happens afterwards?
The conflict in Syria has created an alliance between Russia, Iran, Syria, and units of Lebanese resistance. As for the latter, it is not only Hezbollah fighters, but also a large number of volunteers from Lebanese secular parties that struggle against Islamic State militants in Syria.
Netanyahu seems to be concerned about the prospect for the new, reunited Syria to appear near Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister is also concerned about the strong influence of Iran in the post-war Syria.
What does President Putin say to all this? Putin delivers a long speech, in which he talks about culture, economy, trade and economic relations, tourism and everything else. As for the Syrian problem, Putin said only two phrases: “We have paid great attention to international issues, and of course, we talked about the complicated situation in the Middle East region, including in Syria.” That’s all.
One shall assume that there is no understanding between Russia and Israel. Russia has ignored Netanyahu’s requirements, for example, to restrict supplies of weapons to Lebanon that Hezbollah fighters could get their hands on. Russia views Hezbollah as one of the most important political parties in Lebanon. Hezbollah is a member of the ruling coalition. Russia follows its principle to supply arms only to legitimate governments. Hezbollah is an important element of the legitimate government of Lebanon. Moscow sees Hezbollah as an essential element of structure of the Middle East.
In addition, Putin reaffirmed Russia’s position for a comprehensive and just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and stressed that Russia was ready to act as a mediator. This came as another slap in the face of Israel, because it is the Palestinians who demand the Palestinian issue should be solved by the international community, while Israel insists on bilateral negotiations between Palestine and Israel.
As many as 3,000 more bank accounts, allegedly tied to the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah, reportedly await freeze in the coming days under pressure from the United States.
Those to be affected include “employees, partners, customers affiliated with the party,” Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Friday, citing a source within Lebanon’s Central Bank.
On December 18, 2015, US President Barack Obama signed into law the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act.
The legislation says Washington will target those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions for” Hezbollah or any individual, business or institution linked to the group.
As per the law, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has been tasked with releasing names of the entities it considers to be associated with the group.
Governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank Riad Salameh has so far ordered 100 accounts frozen in line with the Treasury’s instructions as any failure to abide by the law will result in US sanctions.
“If anyone is suspicious, there can be no leniency, even if the customers have millions of dollars, because the negative repercussions in not abiding by the [US] law will be catastrophic on the bank,” the source said.
Interviewed by the CNBC, Salameh recently said, “Our priority is to keep Lebanon on the international financial map, so we have taken a resolution that we will implement that US law in Lebanon, and we have put in place a structure to do this, to satisfy the objectives of that law.”
On Thursday, Hezbollah reacted to the remarks, saying Salameh’s position “shows that the monetary policy has lost its sovereignty.”
Hezbollah is credited with defending Lebanon against two wars launched by Israel, the US’s strongest ally in the region, in 2000 and 2006.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia, another staunch ally of the US, has also been targeting the resistance movement.
Earlier in the year, Riyadh imposed sanctions on four Lebanese firms and three individuals it accused of having links to Hezbollah, among its other measures against the movement.
Analysts say Hezbollah has come under such pressure due to its involvement in anti-terrorism military operations in neighboring Syria.
The resistance movement has been successfully helping the Syrian army fight Saudi-backed Takfiri militants in order to prevent the Syria conflict from spilling over to Lebanon.
A Canadian court has awarded $13 million in non-diplomatic assets seized from Iran to the families of Americans who died in several attacks globally, which had allegedly been sponsored by Tehran between 1983 to 2002.
The judgment by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, obtained by AFP on Friday, found Tehran responsible for financing and training Hamas and Hezbollah operatives, who carried out eight bombings or hostage-takings in Buenos Aires, Israel, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia over a period spanning nearly 20 years.
“Terrorism is one of the world’s greatest threats,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Glenn Hainey said in his decision. “The broad issue before the court is whether Iran is entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of Canadian courts for its support of terrorism.”
The ruling for the $13 million payout does not affect Iran’s diplomatic property in Canada but does touch non-diplomatic properties and a list of frozen bank accounts. Tehran did not immediately comment on the court judgment.
The suit was heard under the 2012 Justice for Victims of Terror Act, which allows the families’ victims to collect damages from state sponsors of terror groups. In Canada, Iran is designated a sponsor of terrorism.
The judgment on June 10 mirrors a recent American court ruling against Tehran that was also won by families of the terrorist attack victims in the United States in Spring. Iran has promised to battle the decision in international courts.