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.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, addresses a ceremony on October 11, 2016 on the occasion of Tasu’a.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, has warned of plots by the US, Saudi Arabia and their regional allies to partition Syria in order to serve the Israeli regime’s interests in the Middle East.
The “real goal” of the countries that have neither democracy nor elections was not democracy or elections in Syria, Nasrallah said on Tuesday.
“The goal was for Syria to fall and be fragmented and be ripped apart” in line with Israel’s interests, he added.
Nasrallah made the remarks at the Sayyed al-Shohada Complex in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on the ninth day of the lunar month of Muharram, Tasu’a, the eve of the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein, the third Shia Imam, and his 72 companions.
He said the Daesh Takfiri militants and al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra, “are being used to serve and achieve US and Israeli goals.”
Nasrallah further noted that the US seeks to concentrate Daesh terrorists in eastern Syria, adding that Washington is allowing and “opening the roads for” Daesh militants to flee from Iraq into Syria.
He cited the recent “deliberate action” by the US to launch airstrikes against Syrian army positions in eastern Syria as an example of Washington’s attempts to boost Daesh in the region, adding, “US raids on Dayr al-Zawr were targeting the Syrian army positions so that the whole area would fall to Daesh.”
The Hezbollah leader said, “All those who are defending Syria defend the Resistance and look forward to a political solution and not to more bloodshed,” but “US, Saudi Arabia and some regional states are demanding crippling conditions to neutralize the political solutions.”
Pointing to a recent abortive truce deal between the US and Russia on Syria, the Hezbollah chief said Washington withdrew from the agreement because it called for the separation of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham from other militant groups and the identification and targeting of Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham positions.
Nasrallah said the US, Saudi Arabia and their regional allies are obstructing a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria and the easing of the sufferings of the Syrian people.
He expressed regret that “more escalation and tensions” is on the horizon in Syria, but called for “perseverance and firm stance” in order to counter the plots of the country’s enemies.
The Hezbollah chief said Syria’s foes sought “a decisive victory within a few weeks” but have faced stiff resistance from the Syrian government and nation and their allies for over five years.
Sana’a carnage major scandal for Saudi Arabia
In another part of his speech, Nasrallah pointed to the recent bloody air raid by Saudi Arabia on a funeral hall in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a and said the strike was a major scandal for Al Saud regime.
Hezbollah leader said some media circles had noted that his remarks on Saudi attack in Sana’a would affect chances of Michel Aoun becoming Lebanon’s next president, which could end a political crisis in the country.
Noting that the demand was tantamount to political blackmail, Nasrallah added, “Even [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon has condemned this strike, although he has always been silent, so how do you want me to remain silent?”
Nasrallah added that the Saudi regime committed a “historic mistake” in Yemen by thinking that it could emerge victorious from the battle within weeks.
The Hezbollah chief condemned the international community’s silence on the bombardment of Yemen by Saudi warplanes and said the world must convince Riyadh that it cannot win this war.
He emphasized that the Sana’a massacre must provide a motive for ending the war in Yemen and added that the Saudi regime has no option but to accept the political solution.
“Saudi Arabia’s insistence on carrying on with the war will not only make it lose Yemen, but will also make it lose itself. The current Saudi leadership is pushing the kingdom to the brink of the abyss,” Nasrallah pointed out, recommending the Saudi rulers to come to their senses.
All parties must preserve Lebanon’s peace and security
The Hezbollah secretary general further stressed the importance of preserving security, stability and civil in Lebanon, describing them as the “pillars of everything,” and adding, “Despite their differences, the Lebanese have managed to preserve security, stability and peace.”
Nasrallah stated that Lebanon has entered a positive political phase during the past few weeks with regard to the presidential election.
“We support and welcome any positive political developments regarding the presidency and we will acknowledge the efforts and courage of anyone who makes efforts in this regard,” Nasrallah pointed out.
He noted that Hezbollah has always pursued a clear stance on Lebanon’s presidential election, adding, “We support every positive political change, which may solve the presidency challenge.”
Hezbollah leader concluded his remarks by stressing the importance of supporting the Lebanese army without any political reservations.
“De mortuis nil nisi bene” is commonly translated in English with “Speak no ill of the dead”. The headlines of German obituaries on Shimon Peres outbid themselves in adulation. President Obama, however, outbid even the Germans. He praised Peres without irony as “a champion of peace. […] As Americans, we are indebted to him”, he said. He even got metaphysical: “A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever.” The US president should have really known better, that even “Peace Angel” Peres was only interested in peace with the Palestinians on Israeli conditions, namely, their subjugation under an Israeli peace diktat. Obama’s hypocrisy was topped off by Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who had fought fiercely against the “peace policy” of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
Two Germans, former Germany’s President Christian Wulff and Charlotte Knobloch, former President of the Central Council of Jewry in Germany, outbid even the general adulation of Peres. Christian Wulff wrote: “[Peres] outshone his time, with his empathy, his great heart, his philanthropy and his courage, his apparently unshakeable belief that Good is possible. Shimon Peres has shown what the world so desperately needs and what it simultaneously so sorely lacks.” Ms. Knobloch said: “He was a symbol of the Zionist dream”, undoubtedly believing that she was thereby praising the deceased. This “dream” had however turned out to be a nightmare for the Palestinians. Peres’ entire political life was, according to her, a “struggle for peace”. Was he really a “smart bearer of hope, a tireless reconciler”? It seems that such delusions characterize the public image of a politician, the reality of which he had created on the ground had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with such eulogies. I need not dwell here upon the assessments of the official political class, as they are drafted in the same vein.
Peres’ career is well known to everybody: He drew his nimbus as a confidant of David Ben-Gurion; he was the main initiator of the Israeli nuclear program, friend of German CSU leader Franz Josef Strauss; he spent two stints as Israel’s Prime Minister; he held almost every government post, crowning his long career as “President of the State of Israel”. He was not elected to this function by the population but by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. In each election, Peres always came out second. He was nicknamed by the public the “eternal loser”. An important reason for that, is that Israelis deeply distrusted him.
Without much ado, it can be said that he has served the Zionist entity until the last breath. This is not to be equated with the cause of peace with the Palestinians. His image in the West has always been that of a “liberal” or a “good Israeli”. Less known is the fact that Peres was a Zionist hardliner who managed to garb his ideas in the rhetoric of the so-called “Zionist Left”. His vision was not different than that of Ariel Sharon or Netanyahu, but he knew how to present it in a less confrontational manner, designed for a Western audience. On this point, the contrived visions of Peres resemble political obituaries of political leaders in the US and Germany.
In Peres’ various political positions, he always supported the colonization of the occupied territories. After his “partner in peace”, Premier Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated in November 1995 by Yigal Amir, a Jewish right-wing extremist, Peres followed Rabin in the Premiership. Peres had never served in the Israeli military, hence, in the May’s election of 1996, opposing Netanyahu, he tried to make a showing of a “strong” leader by, inter alia, authorizing Operation “Grapes of Wrath” against the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. In that operation Israel’s army bombed the UN base at Qana. In this attack, 106 Lebanese were killed and an equal number were injured. As usual, the Peres government “regretted” the massacre. Despite playing the strongman, Peres lost the elections for Netanyahu.
Ten years earlier, in 1985, Peres as the then serving Prime Minister of Israel, was responsible for an act of aggression against Tunisia that killed 75 Tunisians and Palestinians. According to international law, Israel’s aggression violated “the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or (was) in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations”, wrote Elias Davidsson, a native of Palestine, as far back as 1993. As there existed no international enforcement mechanism at the time, which would allow “the arrest, trial and punishment of criminals such as Mr. Peres”, Davidsson urged “authorities of civilized nations to refuse any official dealings with persons for which there is prima facie evidence of implication in such crimes”, including Shimon Peres.
Shimon Peres received together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize for the so-called Oslo peace process, which brought only havoc and desperation upon the Palestinian people. It’s not unusual in our world that former terrorists such as Menachem Begin or war criminals such as Henry Kissinger will be bestowed with this distinction. Immediately after taking office, Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, i.e. before he reneged on his promise to close Guantánamo and started extra-judicial executions around the world.
In obituaries, only good and beautiful things are written about the deceased. May mine only serve to complete the picture of a man who authentically personified Zionism.
The world saw him as a friendly diplomat who called for peace and talked about the importance of future generations in his speeches, using phrases such as “the future of our children and their children”. Well, Shimon Peres went AWOL and we can all see what became of the political “peace” project, which reinforced the dominance of the Israeli occupation over the land and destroyed the chances of the Palestinians ever having a bright future, or even a viable state.
The truth is that Israel’s occupation could not have done without a politician like Peres, who climbed the ladder to a civil role that is usually reserved for retired generals holding leadership positions. He was forced, in the autumn of his life, to take a lead on Israeli diplomacy, even when a vengeful, racist and arrogant man – Avigdor Lieberman – was the foreign minister.
Peres was keen on being seen in the corridors of power in the guise of a peacemaker and he seemed to be a political visionary who spoke about the future in the way of a dreamer. He spoke tirelessly about the culture of forgiveness and he wanted his name to be associated with peace by means of multiple acts, including an eponymous centre dedicated to peace.
However, the reality speaks another language. Shimon Peres was always an example of those Israeli officials who ignore throughout their decades in prominent positions the rights of the Palestinian people, international humanitarian law and UN resolutions. He completely disregarded the Geneva Conventions and continuously and repeatedly violated them at the cost of innocent lives and human rights.
Peres was Israel’s president – head of state – during successive military offensives against the Palestinian people, such as the so-called Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) against the civilians of Gaza. He never shied away from the atrocities committed by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Indeed, he often publicised them, even at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He gave his backing to the appalling attacks on civilians, and always sought to justify them. In this, he played a part in Israel’s propaganda machine; you will not find a single example of him being critical of the violations committed by the IDF.
As prime minister, Peres ordered the invasion of Lebanon in spring 1996, which was known as Operation Grapes of Wrath, during which Israeli troops shelled a UN base at which refugees were sheltering. The bloody massacre killed 106 civilians and UN peacekeepers from Fiji, and wounded many more. Peres remained as prime minister even after the massacre for which he was ultimately responsible. This set a precedent for him to act with impunity, as was the case with his predecessors and successors. The same base was attacked by Israel a decade later.
Two years before the Qana massacre, Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but for what exactly? For his role in reaching the Oslo Accords with a weakened and exhausted Palestinian leadership. The agreement promoted slogans of peace and security, but it lacked important terms such as human rights, fairness and justice for the Palestinian people. There is no need for me to explain, today, what Israel meant by peace in this agreement, because the reality on the ground is enough to explain what ultimately resulted from the implementation of the agreement. The occupation has been entrenched even further, with ongoing settlement expansion under an Apartheid-style government. The Palestinians, meanwhile, fell for it and were trapped; Israel restrains them with Oslo’s unfair clauses.
Peres was hailed as a visionary in his view of “The New Middle East”, which was the title of his 1995 book. The idea around which his theory revolved was that the volatile region should allow Israel to act as the intelligent brain with the others following its instructions. This is basically what one can conclude given the overtones of superiority that are consistent with the logic upon which the Israeli state was founded.
After that, Peres remained an implicit partner of the extreme right-wing Israeli governments made up of ministers who adopted neo-fascist policies and positions; he acted in his capacity as Israeli president in a manner that reinforced the programmes of such governments. The “patron of peace” did not object to the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, despite international condemnation, including that from the “Quartet” – the UN, EU, US and Russian Federation.
Similarly, Peres colluded with the construction of the Apartheid Wall built by Israel on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, despite the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the decision of the UN General Assembly (2005) against the construction of the structure. Peres also played a part in the suffocating siege, collective punishment and closure imposed on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that this entails serious violations of international human rights law, the UN Charter and the logic of peace itself. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg of his support for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine throughout his long political career.
Within Israel he made no objections known to the series of racist laws introduced by the Israeli government or passed by the Knesset (parliament) since 2009. Nor did he oppose the measures to restrict independent human rights organisations and gag civil society organisations that are opposed to occupation policies and record and document Israeli government violations.
Despite all of this, Peres will be honoured after his death and will be glorified as a patron of peace. However, before believing what you see, hear or read about him in the mainstream, why not ask the Palestinians what they think about him, or the people of Lebanon? He may have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but Shimon Peres was far from peaceful.
© Sputnik/ Zahraa Al-Amir
The international community bears responsibility for what is happening in Syria and should do more to help Lebanon hosting a huge Syrian population, an adviser to the Lebanese Democratic Party (LDP) leader told Sputnik.
“They are giving us nothing absolutely… even though the international community is the one responsible now for what is happening to Syria and in Syria,” Saleem Hamadeh said.
Lebanon, alongside Jordan and Turkey, has been a key destination for thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the five-year-long war in the country.
According to Hamadeh, Lebanon now hosts around 1,750,000 Syrians, which is a third of its own population.
“I think that international community should give us support in this, financial support and give us direct path on how to deal with this serious issue which will affect the demography of the Lebanese people and our country,” Dr. Hamadeh said.
There are concerns that many Syrians plan to stay in Lebanon after the Syrian crisis has been resolved, the adviser to the LDP president said. The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, estimates that Palestinians living in Lebanese refugee camps make up 10 percent of the country’s population.
In an interview with Charlie Rose on the 10th of August 2016, CNN’s Middle East “super-correspondent”, Clarissa Ward, said that the Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group, Japhat Al-Nosra (now known as Japhat Fatah Al-Sham) were the only ” heroes” in the mislabeled Syrian Civil War. Ward told Charlie Rose, ” … even though some of these more extremist factions are not hugely popular with everyone living in rebel-held areas, they are also the people who have unfortunately, Charlie, emerged as the so-called heroes in this narrative because they are the ones who have stepped in to fill the void. So the reality is in rebel-held Syria, these Islamist factions have emerged as an important force. Now if the U.S. was to decide to join with Russia to take out those more extremist factions, that would certainly be extremely unpopular with the Syrian people that the U.S. would purportedly be trying to actually help.”
This is not the first time a major Western broadcaster has publicly backed the terrorist group. Since Syria was invaded by foreign mercenaries in 2011, backed by U.S./NATO/Israel, with the objective of breaking up the country according to NATO’s geopolitical interests, the terrorist group are systematically described by the Western corporate press as ‘moderate rebels’. When asked if the Japhat Fatah al-Sham, have really severed their ties with Al-Qaeda, Ward states that it is unlikely as they praised Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri in their recent videos. But she still advocates US support for the terrorist group by describing the Lebanon’s Hezbollah who are supporting Assad as “terrorists”. According to that logic, if Assad is using “terrorists”, so should the U.S! Now, as the battle for Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, heats up, the terrorists are again being marketed by their puppet-masters as ” heroes”.Hezbollah was formed in Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of that country after 1982. The organisation participates fully in the electoral, democratic process and respects the political rights of all Lebanese citizens. To therefore suggest that two law-abiding nation states and a mass democratic organisation of legitimate resistance to colonial rule, are the equivalent to head-choppers, rapists, marauders and mass murderers in the pay of the retrograde regimes such as Saudi Arabia, is another cogent reminder of the moral bankruptcy of the Western military alliance and its media disinformation agencies.
The United States who created Al-Qaeda – a fact admitted by Hillary Clinton – are the puppet-masters of the death squads who have overrun Syria since March 2011. It is claimed that a ‘spontaneous uprising’ against an ‘undemocratic’ regime was met by brutal violence from the security forces. That was the big lie which launched the war on the country. The Syrian government did not repress peaceful protests. I visited Syria two weeks after the violence broke out in 2011. I had the opportunity of witnessing some protests in Karfanbel outside Damascus. The Syrian security forces behaved in an extremely professional and orderly manner. On March 15th in the town of Daraa in the South of the country, snipers opened fire killing several police and protesters. The snipers were in the pay of the Muslim Brotherhood- a terrorist organisation linked to the United States and Israel, Turkey and the Gulf dictatorships. The Western press made no effort to investigate the origin of the violence in Syria. The Syrian government was blamed for repressing ‘peaceful protesters’. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and subsequently White Helmets, played a key role in the lies and disinformation which the terrorists used as cover for their slaughter of the innocents in Syria.
Only the willingly blind and ignorant could view the U.S./NATO/Israeli role in the destruction of Syria uncritically. Since the arrival of IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) on the Syrian war theatre in 2014, the intensity of the conflict has escalated. IS – another creation of the United States – was used by NATO as a pretext for a bombing campaign against Syria, when the lies and propaganda campaign against the country failed to provide the Western military alliance with the opportunity to launch a carpet bombing campaign against the Syrian state.
The Western public are being told by corporate media giants like CNN et al, that their freedoms have to be curtailed in order to win the war on Islamist terrorists while the very same terrorists are being openly and unashamedly described as “heroes” when they commit atrocities in Syria. On September 11th every year the same news agencies will remind you about the “threat” of Al-Qaeda and the “heroes” fighting them. They will never tell you who those real heroes are; they are the men and women of Syria who are defending their country against the foreign invaders. They peacefully congregate en masse in public squares to wave the flag of the Syrian Arab Republic and the leader they believe to be an incorruptibly loyal patriot, Dr. Bashar al-Assad. Heroes are motivated by love, not hate. To understand why there is a catastrophic war in Syria, you just need to listen to what hateful people like Clarissa Ward say. And Clarissa Ward has told you that the Syrian rebels are terrorists and that terrorists become heroes when they serve U.S. interests.
Do you understand now?
Once again a plan for democratic transition in Syria has been drawn up by a coalition of opposition groups meeting in London, supported by the usual suspects in the shape of Turkey, the EU, US, and Gulf States. It is described as a detailed plan committing Syria to democratic and religious pluralism. Predictably, and the reason why it is a non-starter, it contains the pre-condition of Bashar al-Assad’s removal from power.
The coalition behind this ludicrous scheme goes by the name of the Higher Negotiating Committee (HNC), and is said to comprise thirty different ‘moderate’ political and military groups united in the objective of removing Assad as the country’s president. Who exactly these people represent in Syria itself, nobody knows. What we do know is that Assad retains the support of the vast majority of his people, who will not accept any colonial arrangement to depose their president.
The gall of those who demand the removal of a government that has played an indispensable role in the country’s survival over 5 long years of unremittingly brutal conflict against the forces of hell, unleashed as a direct result of the destabilization of the region by the US and its allies starting with the war in Iraq back in 2003, is simply staggering. London, the scene of the colonial and imperialist crime of Sykes-Picot in 1916 – plotted, prepared, and organized to deprive the Arabs of their right to self-determination and sovereignty – is one hundred years later the scene of a crime to deprive the Syrian people their sovereignty and dignity under the guise of a plan for democratic transition.
There is no greater example of democracy than an army supported by a people refusing to bow in the face of unrelenting barbarism. As British journalist and Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk revealed earlier this year, 60,000 Syrian officers and men have perished in the most brutal and merciless conflict the region has witnessed since the Iran-Iraq war between 1980-88. Not only has the Syrian Arab Army – made up of Christians, Alawites, Sunnis, Shia, and Druze soldiers – faced along with its Lebanese and Iranian allies an enemy so barbaric and murderous it bears comparison with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s, it has done so knowing that their fellow soldiers and civilians have been slaughtered by forces supported by neighbouring states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, etc., along with their Western backers.
And these are the countries and governments the Syrians are expected to trust with their future?
The Syrian government’s crime in the eyes of the West is not the lack of democracy – how could it possibly be given the longstanding alliance between Western governments and Saudi Arabia, run by a clutch of medieval potentates? – but rather the fact that Syria under Assad has long refused to bend the knee to US and Western hegemony, especially with regard to the country’s support for the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, and its friendship and alliance with Iran. Together they make up an axis of resistance which Washington and its regional allies have long been intent on breaking.
Despite the courage and tenacity of the Syrian Arab Army and people, there is little doubt they would have succeeded in this endeavour without Russia’s intervention in the conflict, beginning at the end of September 2015. When Vladimir Putin addressed the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations days prior to Russian aircraft flying their first sorties against ant-government forces in Syria, he effectively announced the birth of the multipolar world demanded by Russia’s recovery from the lost decade of the 1990s, caused by Washington and its European allies’ attempt to impose a Carthaginian peace on the country in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union, along with China’s ferocious economic growth and global footprint.
Russia’s military intervention was and continues to be a remarkable achievement of logistics, planning, and organization, necessary in the successful projection of hard power thousands of miles beyond its own borders. It has allowed it to showcase some of the most advanced aircraft, missile systems, and technologically advanced weaponry in the world today, beating Washington at its own game in the process. This, to be sure, is the real reason for the demonization of Putin that has been a mainstay of Western media coverage over the past year and more.
Vladimir Putin and Russia has staked too much in the outcome of the conflict in Syria to allow Assad to be thrown under the bus in service to a contrived and transparent attempt to depose him under the guise of a peace plan. This is not to claim that Assad should lead Syria in perpetuity. It is, however, to claim that the government of Syria is a matter for the Syrian people and that at this point Assad’s survival is coterminous with Syria’s survival as a non-sectarian, secular state.
But let’s not delude ourselves that the timing of the unveiling of this latest effort to depose Assad has anything to do with alleviating the biblical suffering of Syria and its people. It is not. Instead it comes as evidence of the desperation of those who are losing the war.
The objective of those who have suffered and sacrificed so much is victory not transition.
John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1