Lebanese President General Michel Aoun deemed on Saturday that “the message content of Israel’s Delegate at the United Nations, Danny Danon, poses a threat to Lebanon,” adding that “the international community ought to pay attention to the possible Israeli hostile intentions against Lebanon.”
Speaking before his interlocutors at Baabda Palace this afternoon, Aoun asserted that “any Israeli attempt to undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon shall be confronted with the appropriate response.”
The President stressed that “Israel must comply with Security Council resolutions before any other, yet it still refuses to implement Resolution #1701 and the transition from the cessation of hostilities to a ceasefire stage, despite the fact that more than 11 years have passed since the release of said Resolution.”
“Israel still occupies Lebanese territories in the northern part of Ghajar, Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hilltops, while effecting daily violations of the Blue Line and Lebanese sovereignty by air and sea,” Aoun went on to indicate.
“In addition, half a million Palestinians are still forced to stay away from their homeland, hosted by Lebanon in the absence of their right to return to their land and property, which constitutes an act of aggression against Lebanon and its people,” he added.
“This act of aggression falls under the content of Article 51 of the UN Charter, which gives Lebanon and its people the natural right to defend their land,” Aoun underscored.
The President concluded that “Lebanon, which has respected all obligations towards the United Nations and its labor force in the South, views the Israeli message to the United Nations as a blatant attempt to threaten the security and stability enjoyed by the southern towns and villages located within the international area of operations, and therefore, bears full responsibility for any aggression against Lebanon.”
Tehran has rejected a recent ruling issued by Canada’s Ontario Superior Court of Justice against Iran, saying the verdict violates international law.
“This ruling contravenes the basic principles of the legal impunity of governments and their assets, and is unacceptable,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Sunday.
Justice Glenn Hainey ruled on February 8 that the Islamic Republic had to pay $300,000 in legal costs to those who claim to be victims of Iranian support for resistance groups.
The plaintiffs had sought compensation in the Ontario court under Canada’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. The verdict has given Iran 30 days to pay the sum.
Qassemi said the Islamic Republic has already conveyed its expression of formal protest to the Canadian government and reserved the right to take political and legal measures in that regard.
In June 2016, the same court ordered $13 million in non-diplomatic Iranian assets to be given to three groups of plaintiffs.
The decision was similar to US Supreme Court’s ruling in April 2016 to hand over $2 billion in Iran’s frozen assets to American families of those killed in the 1983 bombing of US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut and other attacks.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced at that time that the country had filed a lawsuit against the US with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.
Earlier this month, Iran’s Presidential Office said in a statement that the lawsuit had been officially put in motion.
Washington’s seizure of Iran’s assets is against the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights which was signed by the two countries in August 1955 – referred to as the 1955 Treaty – and is “still effective,” the statement added.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri says Muslim nations should close their ranks in the face of Israeli attempts to take advantage of rifts in the Islamic world and the terror threats facing the Middle East.
Hariri made the remarks in a meeting with Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, in Beirut on Saturday.
He said divisions in the Muslim world, including those among Palestinian factions, besides the terror activities in the region serve the interests of the Israeli regime, urging Muslims to set aside their rifts and focus, instead, on common goals.
Cooperation among Muslim countries can turn the Islamic world into “a large economic hub” and consequently upgrade its status, the premier added.
Hariri further underlined his resolve to reinforce relations between Tehran and Beirut in all areas, especially in economy and trade, calling for measures to remove the obstacles to the expansion of bilateral ties.
In turn, Boroujerdi described his meeting with the Lebanese prime minister as “constructive and positive,” saying they discussed the restoration of security to the region, Lebanon’s National News Agency quoted him as saying.
He further emphasized that the two countries have a common position on the political settlement of the Syria crisis.
“There is no doubt that stability and security in Syria reflect positively on security and stability in Lebanon, in Iran and the region in general. We agreed that the shameful and heinous acts carried out by terrorist Takfiri extremist groups are not related to the Islamic religion in any way,” the senior Iranian lawmaker said.
Touching on the issue of bilateral ties, Boroujerdi said Iran is ready “to build on the bright, positive and constructive political circumstances that have arisen in Lebanon.”
Hariri became prime minister last December, after the Lebanese parliament elected Michel Aoun as president, ending a 29-month-long political stalemate in the country.
A senior Iranian diplomat emphasizes the need for a peaceful settlement of regional issues, saying warfare in the Middle East only benefits Israel through undermining the resources of regional nations.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaber Ansari made the remarks during a meeting with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Thursday.
“The solution to the region’s crises is not a military one. Not only doesn’t war lead to resolution of complications, but it will result in the erosion of the regional countries’ competencies, and has [hence] no winner other than the Zionist regime [of Israel],” the Iranian official asserted.
Addressing reporters after the meeting, Ansari also said the cure to the existent confrontations among the region’s political movements only lies in “serious dialog.”
Ansari described his talks with Hariri as “very favorable and constructive,” saying regional affairs as well as the expansion of Tehran-Beirut ties were discussed in the meeting.
The Iranian official further praised Lebanon’s positive role in the region as well as its “effective and proactive resistance against the Zionist regime’s occupation, expansionism and aggrandizement” over the past two decades.
The Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah is credited with defending the country against two wars launched by Israel, in 2000 and 2006. It has also been successfully helping the Syrian army fight Saudi-backed Takfiri militants in order to prevent the Syrian conflict from spilling over to Lebanon.
Hariri likewise said political solutions need the participation of domestic factions and the recognition of their views.
“If it were not for empathy and understanding among all Lebanese sides and political movements, we would not be witnessing their agreement and election of General Michel Aoun as president, the formation of a government, and the introduction of cabinet ministers,” he said.
On October 31, Lebanese legislators elected Aoun as president, ending a 29-month presidential vacuum. The Maronite Christian founder of the Free Patriotic Movement succeeded Michel Sleiman.
On Sunday, the country announced forming a new 30-minister cabinet led by Hariri. The government brought together the country’s whole political spectrum except for the Christian Phalangist party, which did not accept the portfolio it had been offered.
Ansari congratulated the Lebanese premier on the inauguration of the national unity government.
The Iranian official is to meet with other senior Lebanese political officials on Friday.
He arrived in Lebanon via Syria, where he had met separately with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution titled “Oil slick on Lebanese shores” urging the Zionist entity to pay Lebanon some $850 mn compensation to cover the clean-up cost of an oil spill caused by the Zionist July 2006 war on the country.
The UNGA voted 166 in favor of the non-binding resolution to 8 against (Australia, Canada, the Zionist entity, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, South Sudan, Tonga, Vanuatu).
Taking into account the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which in principle requires the polluter to pay environmental damage costs, the assembly found the Zionist entity guilty of the July 15, 2006 environmental disaster.
The disaster was caused by a Zionist strike on the oil storage tanks in the direct vicinity of the Jiyeh electric power plant in Lebanon. As a result an oil slick covered the Lebanese coastline entirely, stretching all the way to the Syrian coastline.
By that text, the Assembly considered that the oil slick had heavily polluted the shores of Lebanon with 15,000 tons of oil and partially polluted Syrian shores and consequently had serious implications for the Lebanese economy.
The Assembly decision followed the assessment report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which stipulated the value of damage to be $856.4 million. Now the Assembly is asking the Zionist entity to provide “prompt and adequate compensation.”
The oil slick made by the spill “has had serious implications for livelihoods and the economy of Lebanon,” the resolution read, accounting for inflation of a October 2007 estimate by the United Nations Secretary General that reported the spill caused $729 million in damage.
Lebanon bore the brunt of the spill, but the Syrian coast and other Mediterranean countries suffered as well, the UN said, asking Lebanon to continue clean-up efforts and the international community to increase funding for its environmental restoration.
The resolution noted that the UN chief expressed “grave concern at the lack of any acknowledgment on the part of the government of Israel of its responsibilities vis-a-vis reparations and compensation” to Lebanon and Syria for the oil spill.
Lebanon’s permanent representative to the UN Nawaf Salam hailed the resolution and called it a “major progress.”
“We affirm that Lebanon will continue to mobilize all resources and resort to all legal means to see that this resolution is fully implemented, and that the specified compensation is paid promptly,” he said.
“This resolution also paves the way for further compensation into other areas of damage (health, ecosystem services as habitat, potential groundwater contamination, and marine diversity), that were not considered in the current calculated amount,” Salam added.
For its part, the Zionist mission to the UN rejected the resolution, expressing wonder that it does not cover the environmental damage which occurred in the northern occupied territories following the attack on Lebanon, claiming that the entity launched the July 2006 war on the country as “a consequence.”
The Zionist entity waged a brutal 33-day war on Lebanon in July 2006, killing hundreds of Lebanese people and leaving serious damage to vital infrastructure. The war ended by a UN 1701 resolution which urged the Zionist entity to halt hostilities and withdraw behind the blue line drawn by UN forces after the liberation of most occupied Lebanese southern territories in May 2006.
A “declassified” map of an alleged Hezbollah military buildup in southern Lebanon shared by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has been exposed by Twitter users as a fake, forcing the IDF to admit the picture was just a “visual illustration” of the militant group’s “war crimes.”
The map titled “Declassified map of Hezbollah’s military infrastructure in Lebanon” was posted on the official IDF Twitter account on Tuesday, highlighting 85 towns and villages in the southern part of the country.
Spots, showing civilian settlements were surrounded by numerous multicolored dots, labeled with names such as “weapon warehouse” or “rocket launcher” and other military facilities.
The tagline of the image said “Hezbollah’s hiding behind Lebanon’s civilians,” while the tweet’s caption was the simple and rather dramatic statement, “this is a war crime.”
Such a level of detail and awareness of alleged Hezbollah activities would be truly impressive, if the map had not turned out to be a fake. Some Twitter users pointed out that it was unlikely the image was a “declassified map,” since its history showed that it had been created using Google Maps via an IDF spokesperson account. The dots, marking the alleged “military buildup,” even featured a repetitive pattern.
IDF later said the map had been an “illustration,” and users simply misinterpreted it as a piece of declassified intelligence. The map’s title, tagline and caption were presumably “illustrative” too.
“The illustration reflects how Hezbollah has positioned its terrorist infrastructure within the civilian arena,” the spokesperson told The Times of Israel.
The map, despite its ”illustrative” nature, has been shown to almost every foreign diplomat visiting Israel, to demonstrate that while Hezbollah participates in the Syrian civil war, it continues preparations for conflict with Israel and hides among civilians located near the border, according to a Channel 2 report.
Israel has attacked targets allegedly linked to Hezbollah in neighboring countries, mainly in Syria. The most recent incident of this kind reportedly happened on Wednesday, when Israeli rockets hit the Mezzeh military airport near Damascus.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman commented on the issue at a meeting with European Union envoys in Israel Wednesday.
“We are first and foremost making efforts to maintain the security of our citizens and protect our sovereignty, and trying to prevent the smuggling of sophisticated weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah,” Lieberman said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April also admitted multiple strikes on targets in Syria in order to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining “game-changing” weaponry.
A side-effect of Donald Trump’s election as president could be the improvement in Saudi-Iranian ties. Of course, cynics may argue that it is about time the relationship got better, because it can’t get any worse – short of war. But the Trump factor becomes a stimulus in a positive direction.
Broadly, the US policy (which Hillary Clinton would have happily continued) of playing Saudi Arabia against Iran on the one hand and nudging the Arab allies and Israel to form a united regional front under American leadership on the other hand, is ending. It was a hopeless strategy to begin with, and Trump will not waste time in resuscitating it on its death bed.
Egypt’s recent ‘defection’ to the Russian-Iranian camp in the Syrian conflict (which also anticipates the Trump presidency, by the way), lethally wounds the myth of Arab unity against Iran, which Saudis had been fostering. Interestingly, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry is in New York where he met Vice President–elect Mike Pence on Thursday to hand over a letter from President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi to Trump. At the same time, Sisi himself is on a visit to the UAE (which is mediating in the Saudi-Egyptian rift.) Egypt anticipates an easing of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran and is positioning itself.
For the Saudi regime, a Trump presidency means that it is losing the war in Syria. The blow to Saudi prestige on the Arab Street, regionally and internationally is enormous. But Saudis are preparing for the eventuality of President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power and the Syrian rebels facing the existential choice of surrendering and accepting the fait accompli (or meeting physical extinction.) The secret talks in Ankara, which have now come to light, between the rebel leadership with Russian intelligence and diplomats underscore that Aleppo is about to fall to the government forces and the war is over.
The ending of the war on such terms constitutes a big victory for Iran. This raises the question: Are the Saudis on a course correction themselves? There is growing evidence that this may be so.
First came the election of Michel Aoun as the new President of Lebanon on October 31, ending two years of deadlock. Aoun is very close to Hezbollah. (Iranian FM Mohammad Zarif was the first foreign dignitary to visit Beirut to congratulate Aoun.) Clearly, in the complicated political tug of war in Lebanon, Saudis appear to have simply retrenched, which facilitated Aoun’s election, piloted by Iran and the Hezbollah.
The consolidation in Lebanon and the sight of victory in the Syrian war (plus the incipient signs of a warming up with Egypt) would significantly strengthen Iran’s hand in regional politics. But, strangely, there is no triumphalism in Tehran. In the normal course, Tehran could have called the Saudis ‘losers’, but that is not happening.
Now comes the thunderbolt — OPEC oil production cut deal in Geneva on Wednesday. Admittedly, the oil market is unpredictable, the role of the US shale industry is uncertain and the OPEC deal needs to be firmed up at the December meeting in Moscow between the cartel and non-OPEC oil producers. But the bottom line nonetheless is that the deal is the final product of a big Saudi concession to Iran. Put differently, if the Saudis had dug in and refused to exempt Iran as a special case from the production cut, the deal wouldn’t have come through.
The OPEC deal signifies a tectonic shift in the Saudi-Iranian equations, which is below the radar as of now. It is not only about big money, but also the return of Iran to OPEC’s cockpit — indeed, about OPEC’s future itself. True, the Russians played a forceful role behind the scenes to bridge the gap between Riyadh and Tehran and push them to come closer. True, again, Saudis are in serious financial difficulty and the OPEC deal is expected to bring in more income out of a rise in oil price. However, in the final analysis, the Saudis did accommodate Iran’s demand that a restoration of the pre-sanctions OPEC production quota is its national prerogative and it must be exempted from any production cut. (NBC News gives a riveting account of how it all happened — How Putin, Khamenei, and a Saudi Prince Made the OPEC Deal.)
It is this shift in the Saudi mindset — away from the dogged attitude that Iran must be relentlessly punished even if that were to mean inflicting on itself a few bleeding self-wounds — that catches attention. Again, on Iran’s part too, it is this strangest of strange behaviour – total absence of triumphalism that the Saudis blinked in Geneva – is highly significant.
Simply put, taken together with the happenings in Lebanon, Iran is careering away from anti-Saudi grandstanding and rhetoric. Indeed, a similar roll back is discernible on the Saudi side also lately. (The Asharq al-Awsat newspaper recently replaced its editor-in-chief; Prince Turki bin Faisal has said Trump should not abandon the Iran nuclear deal.)
These are early days, but signs are that there is a thaw in the Saudi-Iranian ties. Given the Middle Eastern political culture, Saudi Arabia and Iran could be moving toward a modus vivendi sooner than one would have expected. Yemen will be the litmus test of a rapprochement.
A senior Israeli official says Tel Aviv should be concerned about deepening disconnect with Moscow over Russia’s role in the Syria conflict.
Avi Dichter, chairman of Israel’s foreign affairs and military committee and the former head of the Shin Bet intelligence agency, says Russia’s interests in the region by no means coincide with Israel’s.
“The gap between us and them is large and disturbing,” he told Reuters news agency after returning from a visit to Moscow where he held high-level meetings last week.
Dichter said Russia’s views on Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese group Hezbollah were in sharp contrast to Israel’s and a growing source of potential conflict.
Russia does not view Iran and its allies “according to the level of threat they pose or broadcast towards Israel,” he said.
The Russians, he said, “view Hezbollah positively” and are backing the group’s assistance to the Syrian government in the war against Takfiri and other terrorists.
“Russia thinks and acts as a superpower and as such it often ignores Israeli interest when it doesn’t coincide with the Russian interest,” Dichter said.
Israel is believed to have been assisting militants fighting to topple President Assad in Syria. The Israeli regime’s worries have risen as Takfiri terrorists have suffered major setbacks over the past few months.
Tel Aviv’s main concern is to be able to attack Hezbollah, with which it fought a war in 2006. Over the past two years, Israeli artillery and warplanes have carried out several strikes against alleged weapons convoys in southern Syria that Israel claimed were destined for Hezbollah.
The occupying regime’s freedom of movement in the area is now more restricted because of the presence of Russian jets and advanced anti-aircraft batteries that Moscow has put in place.
With Russia becoming more deeply involved in the Syria conflict, Tel Aviv has sought to keep lines of communication with Moscow open to avoid an accidental confrontation.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited President Vladimir Putin three times this year, apparently in an effort to persuade him to drop Russia’s engagement in Syria.
But Dichter said Russia thinks Assad should stay in power, that Iran is a stabilizing force and that the nuclear deal the word powers struck with Tehran was largely positive.
The most fateful chapter of the war in northern Syria may be deemed to have commenced on Sunday with the launch of the offensive by Syrian Kurdish militia, backed by American and French Special Forces, to retake control of Raqqa, ‘capital’ of the Islamic State, situated almost mid-point between Aleppo and Mosul. (Japan Times )
Raqqa’s fall will be a lethal blow for IS. But expert opinion has been that US is ill-prepared for a full-bodied campaign on Raqqa. A former US Army colonel Daniel Davis wrote in the National Interest magazine last week that with no state-supported military unit leading the assault, no allied militia, no resupply lines through friendly territory, wresting control of a major city such as Raqqa, “in a hostile foreign land enmeshed in a years-long civil war… could… result in deadly consequences.” (National Interest )
Yet, President Barack Obama decided otherwise. US soldiers have been spotted on the frontline. (RT)
What is the US gameplan? Indeed, driving the IS out of Raqqa is invested with symbolism, as Obama will be fulfilling his pledge to “degrade and defeat” the IS before leaving office. With the November 8 election no longer constraining him, Obama hopes to notch up a legacy in Syria as the president who ‘defeated’ the IS.
Second, there is the ‘big picture’. Washington is hoping to stall the capture of Aleppo by Syrian government forces (backed by Russia and Iran) so that the next US president has the option to revisit Syrian conflict. Control of Raqqa would allow the US to keep a direct influence on Aleppo.
Again, in immediate terms, the IS fighters coming under pressure in Mosul may evacuate to Raqqa and the US intends to blockade Raqqa at least partially so as to revisit the front after the battle for Mosul has been won.
To be sure, Raqqa is shaping up to be the bloodiest battle yet in the Syrian conflict. An estimated 5000 IS fighters are located in Raqqa.
The ‘known unknown’ will be the reactions of Turkey and Russia. The Turkish-Russian rapprochement faces a litmus test here. Suffice it to say, Russia will be watching Turkey’s ‘strategic autonomy’ vis-à-vis the US. There are conflicting signals that US and Turkey have a tacit understanding over Raqqa. (KUNA )
Meanwhile, Syrian Kurds also claim to have an understanding with the US to keep Turkey out in the cold. (Rudaw )
The Americans are playing a smart game. Turkey couldn’t have chosen this moment to push to capture the hugely strategic town of al-Babi without informing US, because the operation’s main aim is to thwart Kurdish plans to establish a contiguous enclave in northern Syria. Simply put, how is it possible that Turks are ostensibly hitting the Syrian Kurds hard just when the latter are fighting Obama’s war on IS in Raqqa? How could that possibly happen without some back-to-back US-Turkish understanding? (Read an excellent analysis in Al-Monitor on the Turkey’s plans in northern Syria)
In the developing situation, a Russian-Syrian consolidation in Aleppo becomes complicated if Americans and the French manage to establish a base camp in Raqqa from where they can lend support seamlessly to rebel groups in Aleppo. Prima facie, Obama’s one-year old warning of a ‘quagmire’ for Russians in Syria no longer seems far-fetched. (Reuters )
But then, Russians seem to estimate that capturing Raqqa is beyond the US’ capability anytime soon. For Tehran, too, Turkey and US’s control of al-Bab and Raqqa could foreclose a direct Iranian access route via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, which is crucial for bolstering the military capability of Hezbollah. In fact, Raqqa leads to Zeir e-Zor city in eastern Syria, just 120 kilometers away, which is under Syrian government control and is a gateway for Iran to access Lebanon. The US and Israel have been hoping to bring Zeir e-Zor under control of Salafi groups hostile to Iran.
Read an impromptu commentary by Russian news agency Sputnik titled Operation Euphrates Rage: What is Known So Far About Raqqa Offensive.
Lebanon finally has a new president. Lawmakers have thrown their support behind Michel Aoun, a strong Hezbollah ally, to fill the country’s long-vacant presidency.
The parliament convened at noon (1000 GMT) Monday for the voting session in its 46th attempt to elect a head of state.
Aoun was elected after four rounds of voting during the session.
The 81-year-old Christian leader has won the support of two of his greatest rivals: Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, and ex-prime minister, Saad Hariri.
Earlier on October 20, Hariri, the leader Lebanon’s March 14 Alliance and a close ally of Saudi Arabia, voiced support for Aoun, raising hopes for the settlement of a long-running deadlock on Lebanon’s political stage.
He described his surprise endorsement of Aoun as necessary to “protect Lebanon, protect the (political) system, protect the state and protect the Lebanese people.”
Observers view Aoun’s rise to power as a political victory for Hezbollah, which will greatly diminish the Saudi influence in Lebanon’s political arena. The kingdom has been vigorously lobbying to prevent Lebanon’s presidency from being placed in the hands of Hezbollah’s allies.
Following Hariri’s announcement, Thamer al-Sabhan, the new Saudi minister for Persian Gulf affairs, paid a visit to Beirut for talks on the “political developments in Lebanon and the region.”
Sabhan used to serve as the Saudi ambassador to Iraq until recently, but Baghdad asked Riyadh to replace him after the diplomat failed to heed Iraq’s warnings for his interference in the country’s domestic affairs.
According to some Lebanese political sources, Hariri is expected to be appointed as prime minister for the second time.
Analysts say Aoun and Hariri, 46, face a formidable task to win the cross-party support needed to make a new administration a success.
Aoun, the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, already had the endorsement of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah (R) receives founder of the Free Patriotic Movement and presidential hopeful Michel Aoun in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 23, 2016.
Last week, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called upon all Lebanese political parties to join forces and put a favorable end to the 30-month presidential void in the Arab country.
Nasrallah, who was speaking during a meeting with Aoun, stressed the need for concerted efforts in order to direct the upcoming presidential vote in Lebanon toward a good conclusion.
Lebanon has been without a head of state since 2014, when the term of President Michel Suleiman expired.
The Lebanese parliament has repeatedly failed to elect a president due to the lack of quorum.
Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shia Muslim.
Hezbollah has accused Saudi Arabia of thwarting political initiatives and blocking the election of a president in Lebanon.
Late last year, Hariri launched an initiative to nominate Suleiman Tony Frangieh, the leader of the Marada Movement.
His proposal, however, failed amid reservations on the part of Lebanon’s main Christian parties as well as Hezbollah.
Deputy chief of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qawook
Deputy chief of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qawuq stressed on Saturday that the Saudi sanctions against the party have failed to weaken it, the state-run National News Agency reported on Saturday.
“The political developments and field achievements confirm the failure of the Saudi sanctions against Hezbollah, especially since Saudi Arabia wanted to weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon which has only grown stronger at the political, popular and military levels inside Lebanon and regionally,” said Qawuq.
“By renewing sanctions and terrorism ranking against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia is but reflecting an outrage, despair and disappointment in the face of the Resistance, because the Saudi penalties have changed nothing of Hezbollah’s stances in Syria,” his eminence went on to say.
“Regardless of the pressures, we will not leave our national duty to protect our people and our nation, and we will complete the battle against takfiri terrorism, which has no choice but to be defeated in Syria, and we have no choice but to win.” added Qawuq.
He concluded: “The next phase that Lebanon is approaching will emphasize the strength of the strategic alliance between Hezbollah and Amal movement. Those who were betting on discord and division between the two were disappointed.
“If it was not for the Army, People and Resistance equation which Lebanon renews adherence to at this stage, and without the sacrifices of the Lebanese army and the resistance that has protected Lebanon from being sacked by the ISIL and al-Nusra Front, the Lebanese would not have had the chance to elect a president.”
To the vast majority of Americans, the Syrian crisis (as well as the state of affairs in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, etc.) is merely a distant blip on a cluttered radar screen. Competing with issues affecting an individual’s daily life like wages, taxes, and free trade, that small portion of the American population who hasn’t completely zoned out of the political and current-events sphere is increasingly overtaken with the necessities of survival. Those who are able to devote enough time to the Syrian crisis are confronted with an unprecedented onslaught of propaganda demonizing the Syrian government and the Syrian president as “killing his own people,” “brutal,” and “genocidal.” The Syrian people are also victims of the propaganda war as being obsessed with religion, divided, and opposed to their government.
As they are presented by the U.S. media, the Syrian people, like most other people across the world are completely dehumanized. In American media, Syrians are not human. They are numbers. 100 died today. 86 died the day before. Syrians are not mothers or sons. They are not fathers or little children, grandparents. They are blips on a screen and data in a spreadsheet. At least, this is how they are presented to an increasingly hardened American public, a nation that is becoming more and more desensitized to death, destruction, and degradation both at home and abroad.
Having recently concluded a trip to the Middle East, I can safely say that the claims made by Western media are the opposite of the truth.
While my visit centered in Lebanon, we had frequent opportunities to talk with ordinary Syrian citizens either visiting Lebanon or fleeing the ravages of the war in their home country. Indeed, Syrians and Syrian refugees were plentiful in Beirut and many would openly speak about the horrors visited upon them by the West’s proxy war and their trials outside Syria.
What is so important about the fact that these Syrians were being interviewed in Lebanon is the unique benefit of talking with someone not living in their home country because one knows with relative certainty that the person speaking has nothing to lose or gain by giving a false perception of the government. After all, one of the frequent accusations leveled by the Western media is that, whenever one speaks to a Syrian actually living in Syria is that they are handicapped by that person’s fear of retribution from the Syrian government. According to this train of thought, if a man criticized Assad in Syria, he might be subject to arrest and then, of course, torture, execution, and “barrel bombs.”
But that is not the case in Lebanon. In Lebanon, even the most vocal anti-Assad Syrian can speak his mind and be safely out of Assad’s reach. Indeed, even out of ear shot by the Syrian government. A Syrian in Lebanon can speak his piece and do so safely in the knowledge that the alleged “brutal dictator” cannot reach him.
That being said, out of all the Syrians I met and spoke to – refugees and visitors, Muslim and Christian, male and female – not one of them supported the “rebels” and all of them – 100% – fully supported their government and Bashar al-Assad. These individuals had nothing but hate for the terrorists and nothing but love for Assad and the Syrian government.
This point needs to be stressed. These individuals were not under threat of a tyrant ready to arrest them if they spoke out against him. They were free of Assad. They could spit on his portrait if they wanted and there is nothing the Syrian government can do to them. Instead, they expressed an incredible amount of pride in their country, their government, and their President.
So, with that in mind, if Assad and the Syrian government are “barrel bombing” their own citizens, committing genocide against the Syrian people, and killing civilians indiscriminately, and if Syrians are free to speak their mind about Assad in Lebanon, why couldn’t I find one Syrian who wanted Assad to “step down” or for terrorists to bring them the “freedom and democracy” the West keeps yapping on about? Perhaps I was looking in the wrong places or perhaps the information coming from Western governments and their media mouthpieces are simply propaganda. Personally, I’ll put my money on the latter.
One striking aspect of Beirut in the context of the Syrian crisis is that one does not necessarily have to seek out the Syrians in order to speak to them. If one only wears a necklace, t-shirt, or bracelet with the Syrian flag, they will come to you. Any indication of solidarity with their country, especially exhibited by a Westerner (even better, an American) and a man who speaks only one word of English will stop whatever he is doing so that he can have a conversation with the foreigner, even if that conversation is done by body language, hand gestures, broken English, interpreters, or Google Translate alone.
Others more skilled in the English language are willing to have long discussions about their experiences, their support for the government, and their hatred for the terrorists infecting their country. They would tell tales of watching people they knew killed in front of them and having lost family or very close friends at the hands of America’s “moderates.” Indeed, in Syria, as well as in the diaspora of the last 5 years, it seems impossible to speak with a single Syrian who has not lost someone close to them.
The sheer magnitude of the crisis is unimaginable in scale, much in the way that the horrors inflicted upon the Syrian people by America’s democracy loving cannibals are beyond the comprehension of most Western audiences. But despite all the bloodshed, loss, and terror perpetrated on Syria by the United States, the Syrian spirit remains and the Syrian people remain some of the kindest, friendliest, and most hospitable people on the face of the earth.
In addition, Syrians remain a seemingly highly informed audience despite the fact that their country has been crippled by warfare for the past five years and that they themselves have been turned into refugees. Knowledge not only of their own situation, but about the players behind it and the developments taking place in Europe and America is common and, while American audiences watch the 24 hours news cycle in utter befuddlement as to the events taking place in Syria, Syrians are profoundly aware of just who is responsible for the crisis their country is facing.
While Americans chalk the crisis up to the “they have been fighting for thousands of years” line or accept the propaganda that Syria is facing a civil war, Syrians know that what they are facing is a proxy war against their government, against their very way of life, and against Russia. Syrians are fully aware of the fact that the terrorists beheading their way across the country are funded by Saudi Arabia, facilitated by Turkey and Israel, and trained by the United States. They are fully aware that there are no “moderates” fighting against the Syrian government and that the United States is responsible for creating the ISIS terror organization it is claiming to fight.
All of this may come as a surprise to Americans but, in Syria, it is well known.
With that in mind, it is an extraordinary thing that Syrians can welcome foreigners visiting their country with such patience and forgiveness. It is truly amazing that Syrian refugees struggling to survive in a foreign country is willing to sit with a citizen of the very country that destroyed his home and killed his family members, smoke hookah with him, and discuss his homeland. It is an unbelievable act of understanding and forgiveness for a man not to judge an American as the enemy and to separate the American people from their government. I was personally struck by the genuine kindness shown to me by people who have been given every legitimate reason to do otherwise.
What the United States is doing to Syria is truly shameful and immoral but, despite the horrors the U.S. and NATO countries have visited upon Syria, the people have refused to give in.
As Mark Twain said,
Damascus has seen all that has ever occurred on earth, and still she lives. She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies.
Judging by the people I met, I am inclined to agree with him.
Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President.