25 May 2016 not only marks the 16th anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon from 22 years of Israeli occupation and oppression by the Lebanese Resistance, but also the liberation of Lebanese political prisoners from the infamous Khiam prison. On 23 May 2000, 144 Lebanese prisoners were liberated from Khiam, 2 days before the complete withdrawal of the occupation forces.
3,000 Lebanese stormed Khiam, the site of infamous torture of Lebanese resisters, breaking the locks with axes and crowbars. “Set up by the Israelis in 1985 on a hill in the village of Khiam in the South Lebanon Governorate, the Khiam prison was considered to be one of the most ruthless detention and interrogation centers in the Middle East. While the Israelis governed the prison, which included 67 cells and more than 20 solitary confinement cells, they used the South Lebanon Army (SLA), an Israeli proxy militia made up of Lebanese nationals, to execute their orders,” wrote Rana Harbi in Al-Akhbar.
Over 5,000 Lebanese, including 500 women, were imprisoned in Khiam prison over the years. Lebanese who participated in all forms of resistance to the occupation and its proxy forces were tortured brutally inside the notorious prison. The prison after its liberation became a museum and symbol of the torture of the occupiers and the victory of the Lebanese people and their resistance, of their freedom obtained through struggle and years of resistance.
In 2006, when Israel attacked Lebanon, it bombed the Khiam site, leaving a pile of rubble at the site of the prison, as if attempting to destroy the memory of its torture, brutality – and its defeat – preserved by the Lebanese people. However, the memory and commitment to resistance of the former prisoners – many of whom continue to struggle and play leading roles in Lebanese movements and parties, including Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist Party – and of the people, cannot be erased by the bombing of the prison site, just as they could not be erased by torture, solitary confinement, and years of imprisonment.
The liberation of Khiam prison was not merely symbolic; it was central to the liberation of South Lebanon, just as the liberation of Palestinian prisoners is central to the struggle for the liberation of Palestine. The Lebanese people and Resistance continue to struggle against Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms; and the Palestinian people and their Resistance continue to struggle for the liberation of Palestine – its land, its people and its prisoners after over 68 years of occupation. The victory in South Lebanon and the liberation of Khiam remains an anniversary of liberation and a promise for future victories over torture, oppression and occupation.
The following testimonies of former prisoners held in Khiam prison were collected and published in Al-Akhbar by Rana Harbi in 2014:
Degol Abou Tass
In 1976, at the age of 16, I was arrested in a village in occupied Palestine for the first time. I told the Israelis that I trespassed by mistake. They knew I was lying but released me anyway. My parents packed my bags and forced me to leave the country. I found out later that I was the first Lebanese citizen to get arrested by the Israeli forces.
I came back to Rmeish [a village on the borders in South Lebanon] in the 1980s after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The civil war was still raging in Beirut but in the south different resistance movements, such as the Lebanese Communist Party, the Amal Movement, Syrian Social Nationalist Party and many other factions, united against the Israelis. A few months after my arrival, the SLA knocked on my parents door. I had to leave the country, again.
I was miserable. I couldn’t stay away for long. In the early 1990s I came back to Rmeish. All the armed groups were long gone. Hezbollah dominated the resistance scene. I tried to reconnect with old militia leaders but in vain.
One day, an old childhood friend pulled into my driveway. “Are you willing to fight with us?” he asked. I looked uncertain. “Us … Hezbollah,” he added. I climbed into his car and we drove away. In 1998, one of my neighbors ratted me out.
“A Christian with Hezbollah? Now that’s something,” the Israeli officer interrogating me said. “How much are they paying you? We will pay double, no triple. What is your price? We can work something out,” he continued. I remained silent. “Okay then Jesus, welcome to Khiam prison.”
In Khiam prison we died a hundred times every day. Torture included electric shocks, being tied naked to a whipping pole for hours under the burning sun in the summer and snow in the winter, and getting whipped and beaten continuously with metal rods, wires and nightsticks.
We were caged and treated like animals. Believe me, it wasn’t so much about the pain, but the humiliation.
On the morning of May 23, 2000, the guards were talking and walking outside, as usual. Suddenly, complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. We heard the daily UN airplane fly by so we knew it was 9:30 am. “Where did they go?” one prisoner asked. We had no idea.
“They are moving us to occupied Palestine,” yelled a prisoner in a cell right next to ours. I put my feet on the shoulders of two of my cellmates so that I can reach the small window right under the ceiling. “All of us?” I asked. “They will execute half and take half … this is what we heard,” replied another prisoner. Before I could even reply I heard a noise coming from a distance. I couldn’t see anything. The voices grew louder and louder.
“Looks like our parents are clashing with the SLA guards as usual,” one prisoner said. “I bet my mother is still trying to bring me food,” another exclaimed. And then we heard gunshots. People were screaming. More gunshots.
“They are shooting our parents!” said one frightened detainee. “No, the mass execution began. They will execute half of us remember!” replied another. Panic attacks. Anxiety. Fear.
I put my ear against the door. I heard ululations. I heard prayers. I heard women. I heard children. Suddenly, the door opening through which food was usually served broke wide open. “You are liberated, you are liberated!” I fell on my knees. I thought I was hallucinating. I put my fist out. Two men grabbed my fist. “Allah akbar, Allah akbar (God is the greatest) … you are liberated!” My cellmates were all kneeling on the floor in disbelief. The locks were getting smashed from the outside. I cried aloud and the door broke wide open. I don’t really remember what happened next.
I was the first prisoner to get caught on camera. My parents watched the liberation of Khiam on TV because Rmeish was still under occupation at the time. They didn’t recognize me though. My hair and beard were too long and well, I was screaming “Allah akbar!”
Fourteen years later, I’m living with my wife and children in Rmeish, and every morning I drink my coffee while looking over occupied Palestine.
In November 1990 I was picking up photos from a store in Marjeyoun, a city in south Lebanon, when I got arrested. I was 19 at the time.
They put a tight black cover over my head and made me strip naked. Suspended from my bound wrists from a metal pole, hot and cold water was thrown on me consecutively … hot cold hot cold until I was completely soaked. Then they attached electrodes to my chest and other particularly sensitive areas of my body and electrocuted me, repeatedly.
In the 70 day interrogation period, I was tortured three times per day. I used to lose consciousness and wake up to find myself stumbling blindly in a pitch-black, 1m by 80cm by 80cm solitary confinement room.
We were tied to window grills naked for days in painful positions, freezing water thrown at us in the cold winter nights. We were whipped, beaten, kicked in the head and the jaw, burned, electrocuted, had ear-shattering whistling in our ears, and deprived of food and sleep … it was hard, very hard.
I endured the pain. With time, I became numb. I survived it all without saying a word. I was winning, I thought.
One morning, they dragged me into the interrogation room. “You didn’t tell me your sister was this beautiful,” one of the SLA officers said. My whole world came crashing down. “Wait until you see his mother,” said another. Handcuffed, I threw myself on him from across the table. It costed me 14 hours in the “chicken cage,” a 90-cubic-centimeter enclosure used for extra-severe punishment.
The SLA used to bring in the wives, sisters and daughters of the prisoners and treat them in a vulgar manner like taking off their head scarves, groping them and threatening to rape them. For me, the mere thought was intolerable. “Your sister will pay you a visit tomorrow. You miss her don’t you?”
“I’m a Hezbollah fighter,” I confessed.
Up to 12 prisoners were crammed in a tiny room. We were buried alive. The cells were like coffins. Light and air hardly penetrated through the small, barred windows located near the ceiling. We could barely breathe. We used to relieve ourselves in a black bucket placed in the corner. The heavy odor of human sweat and wastes was intolerable. We showered every three or four weeks. Once a month, we were allowed into the “sun or light room” for 20 minutes only.
One night in 1991 I woke up to the deafening screams of a detainee being tortured in the yard. The louder he screamed, the harder he got whipped. His cries were unbearable, beyond anything I had ever heard before. “You are killing him, you animals,” one of my fellow cellmates shouted.
We started banging on the door of the cell, kicking it with our feet, yelling and asking them to stop. Other prisoners in other cells joined us, but the lashes kept falling and the cries continued. And then … silence. Youssef Ali Saad, father of eight, died under torture on that cold January night. One month later, Asaad Nemr Bazzi died because of medical neglect.
Do you know what the worst part was? Fellow Lebanese citizens did this to us. I almost died on the hands of a man named Hussein Faaour, my neighbor in Khiam. Abu Berhan, another torturer I remember was from Aitaroun. The SLA members were all Lebanese, mostly from the south. Family members, neighbors, childhood friends, classmates, teachers … Lebanese who decided to sell their land and people for cash.
Lebanese who are now living among us like nothing happened, as if they did nothing! It breaks my heart that our former tormentors have escaped punishment so easily.
Fourteen years later, I’m still waiting for justice.
In 1988, I was in Beirut purchasing medicine for my pharmacy in al-Taybeh (a village in South Lebanon) when the SLA forces, aware of my role in transferring arms to Hezbollah fighters, first came looking for me. They stormed into our house again a week later but my mother told them I was in Bint Jbeil. It was the truth but they didn’t believe her.
I remember opening the front gate that afternoon and seeing my mother waiting, weeping and trembling on the doorstep. “They took away your sister and your sister-in-law along with Hadi (her five-month-old baby.) My daughter, my grandson!” she cried. I put on my clothes and waited for the SLA on the front porch. My sister was 20-years-old at the time and I was 26. My mother begged me to run away, but I didn’t.
My mother collapsed on the ground next to the SLA vehicle. I sat in the backseat and they took me away.
Blindfolded I was shoved into the interrogation room. Boiling water was thrown on my face, and my fingers and ears were electrocuted. I didn’t say a word. This went on for a month.
“I heard Hadi is sick,” one of the Israeli officers told me one morning. He wasn’t lying. My sister in law got infected and breastfeeding her child was not an option anymore. Psychologically, I suffered greatly. I wished they would just beat me up instead. I struggled, but I remained silent. Two months later Hadi and his mother, along with my sister, got released. They were of no use to the Israelis anymore.
Women detainees, like men, were severely tortured. You see, gender equality is not always a good thing [she laughs]. Let me tell you how the torture stopped.
After spending 15 days in solitary confinement, I found out upon my return to the cell I shared with six other women that one of my fellow prisoners had an extremely disgusting skin rash. I examined her and as a pharmacist I knew that her rash was contagious. As planned, I got infected. Soon, my skin started changing and I looked like an acid attack victim.
Clearly disgusted by my deteriorating skin, the SLA guard dragged me by my hair into yet another torture session. The torturer, a woman, was waiting for me. With my hair still trapped between the guards fingers, he forced me down to my knees. Before the torturer’s fist reached my jaw, I told her that my skin condition was contagious. The guard instantly let go of my hair and they both took a step back. I tried to keep a straight face but I couldn’t hide my smile. Nobody laid a hand on me after that day.
Fourteen years later, I made peace with the past. My three years in Khiam were tough, but now I feel blessed. I really do.
A Lebanese charity network run by a Shiite Muslim cleric said it had been unfairly caught up in new U.S. financial sanctions against Hezbollah, accusing Lebanese banks of applying the restrictions too widely.
The U.S. act passed in December threatens to punish any organization providing significant finance to Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, deemed a terrorist organization by Washington.
The Mabarrat foundation told Reuters that some Lebanese banks, scared of risking international isolation, had frozen some of its accounts, even though it had no political affiliation.
The foundation was established by the late Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a top authority in Shiite Islam who was an early mentor to Hezbollah but later distanced himself from its ties to Iran. He died in 2010.
Sayyed Ali Fadlallah, his son, declined to say which bank or banks had frozen the accounts.
“The foundation’s name was not mentioned in this law … what is happening now are precautionary measures taken by some institutions that are dealing with this matter far removed from the accuracy required to ensure no one is done an injustice,” Fadlallah told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
The foundation generates funding through individual donations and a network of businesses including hotels, restaurants and petrol stations.
“We felt from our meeting with some of the banks that they are afraid and wanted to take precautions that were greater than necessary,” said Fadlallah, whose charities include schools, hospitals and orphanages.
The U.S. Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act has ignited an unprecedented dispute between Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful group, and the central bank.
The Shiite militia is Lebanon’s most powerful political and military group, has provided crucial support to the Syrian army, along with Iranian forces and the Russian air force. The group is estimated to have lost around 1,200 fighters in Syria’s five-year-old conflict. It has dealt serious blows to the Nusra Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State group.
The organization has said the law will lead to “a wide rift” between Lebanese citizens and the banks, suggesting many Shiites would stop dealing with banks for fear of being sanctioned.
The central bank has said the U.S. law must be applied to avoid the international isolation of Lebanon’s banking sector.
Central bank governor Riad Salameh said in a May 17 statement that banks that intended to close accounts of individuals or organizations considered to be in breach of the U.S. law must provide justification for that decision, and wait for a response from a central bank committee.
Mustafa Amin Badreddine was born in Ghobeiry, Lebanon on April 6, 1961.
In 1982, martyr Badreddine formed jihadi groups and trained them to confront the Zionist entity. He is considered one of the most prominent mujahidin who encountered the Israeli invasion in Beirut and Khaldeh where he was injured during the clashes.
In 1992, the martyr became the commander of Hezbollah’s central military unit and started forming military formations and devising plans. Badreddine also prepared many heroic operations against the Israeli occupation, including clashes, martyrdom bombings and post incursions as well, which forced the Israeli army to withdraw cowardly in 2000.
Martyr Badreddine played a prominent role in confronting the major Israeli aggression on Lebanon in 1993, obliging the Zionist Prime Minster Isaac Rabin at that time to acknowledge the fact that the Zionist entity was defeated by Hezbollah.
After the major Zionist aggression on Lebanon in 1996, the martyr succeeded in driving the world to acknowledge the Resistance’s legitimacy and its right to defend its country.
In 1997, Mustafa Badreddine had a central role in planning and supervising the Ansariya operation which killed scores of elite Zionist troops.
Martyr Badreddine was further able to dismantle scores of Israeli spy cells in Lebanon.
With the inception of the Syrian crisis in 2011, the martyr was one of the first commanders who confronted the takfiri plot across Syria.
Martyr Mustafa Badreddine continued his jihadi work till embracing the honor of martyrdom in Damascus on May 13, 2016.
Lebanon cannot stand on its feet anymore. It is overwhelmed, frightened and broke.
It stands at the frontline, facing Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS/ISIL) in the east and north, hostile Israel in the south and the deep blue sea in the west. One and a half million (mostly Syrian) refugees are dispersed all over its tiny territory. Its economy is collapsing and the infrastructure crumbling. ISIS is right on the border with Syria, literally next door, or even with one foot inside Lebanon, periodically invading, and setting up countless “dormant cells” in all the Lebanese cities and all over the countryside. Hezbollah is fighting ISIS, but the West and Saudi Arabia apparently consider Hezbollah, not ISIS, to be the major menace to their geopolitical interests. The Lebanese army is relatively well trained but badly armed, and as the entire country, it is notoriously cash-strapped.
These days, on the streets of Beirut, one can often hear: “Just a little bit more; one more push, and the entire country will collapse, go up in smoke.”
Is this what the West and its regional allies really want?
One top foreign dignitary after another is now visiting Lebanon: the UN chief Ban Ki-moon, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. All the foreign visitors are predictably and abstractly expressing “deep concern” about the proximity of ISIS, and about the fate of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees now living in Lebanon. “The war in neighboring Syria is having a deep impact on tiny Lebanon”, they all admit.
Who triggered this war is never addressed.
And not much gets resolved. Only very few concrete promises are being made. And what is promised is not being delivered.
One of my sources who attended a closed-door meeting of Ban Ki-moon, Jim Yong Kim and the heads of the UN agencies in Beirut, commented: “almost nothing new, concrete or inspiring was discussed there.”
The so-called international community is showing very little desire to rescue Lebanon from its deep and ongoing crises. In fact, several countries and organizations are constantly at Lebanon’s throat, accusing it of “human rights violations” and of having weak and ineffective government. What seems to irritate them the most, though, is that Hezbollah (an organization that is placed by many Western countries and their allies in the Arab world on the “terrorist list”) is at least to some extent allowed to participate in running the country.
But Hezbollah appears to be the only military force capable of effectively fighting against ISIS – in the northeast of the country, on the border with Syria, and elsewhere. It is also the only organization providing a reliable social net to those hundreds of thousands of poor Lebanese citizens. In this nation deeply divided along sectarian lines, it extends its hand to the ‘others’, forging coalitions with both Muslim and Christian parties and movements.
Why so much fuss over Hezbollah?
It is because it is predominantly Shia, and Shia Muslims are being antagonized and targeted by almost all the West’s allies in the Arab world. Targeted and sometimes even directly liquidated.
Hezbollah is seen as the right hand of Iran, and Iran is Shia and it stands against Western imperialism determinately, alongside Russia, China and much of Latin America – countries that are demonized and provoked by the ‘Empire’ and its client states.
Hezbollah is closely allied with both Iran and Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria. It combats Israel whenever Israel invades Lebanon, and it wins most of the battles that it is forced to fight. It is openly hostile towards the expansionist policies of the West, Israel and Saudi Arabia; its leaders are extremely outspoken.
“So what?” many people in the region would say, including those living in Lebanon.
Angie Tibbs is the owner and senior editor of Dissident Voice who has been closely watching events in the Middle East in recent years. She believes a brief comparison between events of 2005 and today is essential for understanding complexity of the situation:
“In a country where, since the end of civil wars in 1990, outward civility masks a still seething underbelly wherein old wounds, old wrongs, real and imagined, have not been forgotten or forgiven, the military and political success of Hezbollah has been the most stabilizing influence. Back in 2005, following the bomb explosion that killed former Premier Rafiq al Hariri and 20 others, the US and Israel proclaimed loudly that “Syria did it” without producing a shred of evidence. The Syrian army, in Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese government, was ordered out by the US, and UN Resolution 1559 stated in part that all Lebanese militias must be disarmed. The plan was clear. With Syrian forces gone, and an unarmed Hezbollah, we had two moves which would leave Lebanon’s southern border completely vulnerable, and then – well, what would prevent Israel from barging in and taking over?”
Ms Tibbs is also convinced the so-called international community is leaving Lebanon defenseless on purpose:
“A similar devious scenario is unfolding today. Hezbollah is busy fighting ISIS in Syria; the Lebanese army, though well trained, is poorly armed. Arms deals are being cancelled, the UN and IMF, and, in fact, the world community of nations are not providing any assistance, and little Lebanon is gasping under the weight of a million plus Syrian refugees. It’s a perfect opportunity for ISIS, the proxy army of Israel and the West, to move in and Lebanon’s sovereignty be damned.”
Indignant, several Lebanese leaders snapped back. The Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil refused to meet with Ban Ki-moon during his two-day visit of Beirut and the Bekaa Valley.
One of Lebanon’s major newspapers, the Daily Star, reported on March 26, 2016:
“Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Saturday accused the international community of approaching the Syrian refugee crisis with a double standard; hours after UN chief Ban Ki-moon departed Beirut following a two-day visit. ‘They create war, and then call on others to host refugees in line with human rights treaties,’ he said in a televised news conference from his residence in Batroun.”
Lebanon is collapsing. Even its once lavish capital Beirut is experiencing constant blackouts, water shortages and garbage-collection dramas. Economically the country is in a sharp decline.
Dr. Salim Chahine, Professor of Finance, at the American University of Beirut, is usually at least moderately upbeat about the country. Recent developments have worn down his optimism.
“Although the Coincident Indicator issued by the Lebanese Central Bank, BDL, has recently suggested a slight enhancement in economic activity, several officials are sending clear warnings about further deterioration in the situation. The regional geopolitical tensions, the civil conflict in Syria, as well as their implications internally have impacted tourism, trade, and the real estate sectors. According to HSBC, deposits from Lebanon’s largest expatriate population – that usually provide the necessary liquidity for government borrowing – may grow at a slower rate in the near future given the worsening conditions in the Gulf. As the country enters into its sixth year of economic slump, HSBC remains skeptical about a short-term recovery. The public deficit is currently rising by around 20 percent per year, and the GDP growth rate is close to zero.”
Yayoi Segi, an educationalist and the Senior Program Specialist for UNESCO’s Arab Regional Office based in Beirut, works intensively in both Syria and Lebanon. The education sector is, according to her, struggling:
“The public education sector is very small in terms of its coverage in the country, reaching only about 35 percent of the school age population. The state allocation to education is less than 10 percent while the world average or benchmark is 18-20 percent. The situation is further compounded by the current ongoing crisis in the region whereby Lebanon has had to accommodate a large influx of refugees. The public provision of education has expanded and continues to expand. However, it is impacting on quality and contributes to an increasing number of vulnerable Lebanese students dropping out of school, while it can only reach 50 percent of Syrian refugee children.”
Nadine Georges Gholam (not her real name), working for one of the UN agencies, says that lately she feels phlegmatic, even hopeless:
“What has been happening to Lebanon particularly these past five years is really depressing. I used to actively take part in protests to voice my anger and frustration. But now I don’t know if they make any difference or change anything at all. There is no functioning government in sight. Three hundred thousand tons of unprocessed trash accumulated in just eight months. There is sectarian infighting. Regional conflicts… What else? Lebanon can’t withstand such pressure, anymore. All is going down the drain, collapsing…”
“But worse is yet to come. Recently, Saudi Arabia cancelled a $4 billion aid package for Lebanon. It was supposed to finance a massive purchase of modern weapons from France, something urgently needed and totally overdue. That is, if both the West and the KSA are serious about fighting ISIS.”
“The KSA “punished” Lebanon for having representatives of Hezbollah in the government, for refusing to support the West’s allies in the Arab League (who define Hezbollah as a terrorist group), and for still holding a Saudi prince in custody, after he attempted to smuggle two tons of narcotics from Rafic Hariri International Airport outside Beirut.”
These are of course the most dangerous times for this tiny but proud nation. Syrian forces, with great help of Russia, are liberating one Syrian city after another from ISIS and other terrorist groups supported by Turkey, KSA, Qatar and other of the West’s allies.
ISIS may try to move into Iraq, to join its cohorts there, but the Iraqi government is trying to get its act together, and is now ready to fight. It is also talking to Moscow, while studying the great success Russia is having in Syria.
For ISIS or al-Nusra, to move to weaken and almost bankrupt Lebanon would be the most logical step. And the West, Saudi Arabia and others are clearly aware of it.
In fact, ISIS is already there; it has infiltrated virtually all the cities and towns of Lebanon, as well the countryside. Whenever it feels like it, it carries out attacks against the Shia, military and other targets. Both ISIS and al-Nusra do. And the dream of ISIS is blatant: a caliphate with access to the sea, one that would cover at least the northern part of Lebanon.
If the West and its allies do nothing to prevent these plans, it is because they simply don’t want to.
Tiny Lebanon is finding itself in the middle of a whirlwind of a political and military storm that is consuming virtually the entire Middle East and the Gulf.
In recent decades, Lebanon has suffered immensely. This time, if the West and its allies do not change their minds, it may soon cease to exist altogether. It is becoming obvious that in order to survive, it would have to forge much closer ties with the Syrian government, as well as with Iran, Russia and China.
Would it dare to do it? There is no united front inside Lebanon’s leadership. Pro-Western and pro-Saudi fractions would oppose an alliance with those countries that are defying Western interests.
But time is running out. Just recently, the Syrian city of Palmyra was liberated from ISIS. Paradoxically, the great Lebanese historic cities of Baalbek and Byblos may fall soon.
Naftali Bennet, Israel’s minister of education was the first public official to come out in support of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who executed Abdel Fatah Alsharif as he lay wounded in Hebron. Bennet was critical of the government of which he is a member for not standing up for the soldier. I was listening to the interview with Bennet on Israeli television where he made the argument that the government and the press judged the soldier harshly and prematurely. Then he said something I never thought I’d hear.
“Maybe the soldier did make a mistake; you know I also made a mistake. During Grapes of Wrath, Operation Grapes of Wrath I was apparently mistaken and a very difficult thing happened.” A very difficult thing happened. Interesting choice of words and interesting timing: It is exactly twenty-years since the massacre in Qana village in Southern Lebanon, a massacre for which Bennet was responsible. He then went on to explain that, “in my case, I received the full backing of the commanding general and the army chief of staff.” In fact he was backed by the entire chain of command going all the way up to the Prime Minister (and Nobel laureate), Shimon Peres.
Bennet was talking about the shelling by Israeli forces of the UN compound in the southern Lebanese village of Qana. It took place on April 18, 1996 when hundreds of local Lebanese were seeking shelter at the compound. Of the 800 Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge in the compound, a reported 106 were killed and 116 were injured. The attack occurred amid fighting between the Israeli army and Hezbollah during operation “Grapes of Wrath.” There was evidence that an Israeli drone was spying on the compound before the shelling, making the argument that this may have been an error, unlikely at best. Clearly all levels of the IDF command knew that the compound was there and that it served as shelter for refugees escaping the fighting. The building was clearly marked as a UN compound and was even marked on the Israeli maps. Bennet who was commander of an Israeli army reconnaissance unit called for massive artillery shelling of the site.
The BBC described the massacre as: “one of the deadliest single events of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict.” Robert Fisk who reported from the site wrote, “Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this.”
Fisk’s descriptions of what he saw are not for the weak at heart but must be read and remembered. Over and over we hear the phrase “never again,” yet Israel commits one heinous massacre after another and gets away with it, usually absolved by the US. In this case the main culprit is known, he admits his responsibility and yet not only did he go unpunished, he is unrepentant and is now in charge of the Israeli ministry of education. How ironic. Again Fisk’s description, “The Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disemboweled. There were well over a hundred of them […] The Israeli shells had scythed through them as they lay in the United Nations shelter, believing that they were safe under the world’s protection. Like the Muslims of Srebrenica, the Muslims of Qana were wrong.” And Fisk continues, “Now the Israelis are stained again by the bloodbath at Qana, the scruffy little Lebanese hill town where the Lebanese believe Jesus turned water into wine.”
Naftali Bennet was quoted as saying that he had killed many Arabs in his time and feels no remorse, and in his view “a soldier in the battlefield can not commit murder.” In a speech in the Knesset Bennet said he killed many terrorists during his military service and he wishes he had killed more. Bennet never saw an Arab he did not consider to be a terrorist, and therefore fair game. “Arabs are murdering Jews every day,” he said as he defended the execution in Hebron. An important piece of information that is completely ignored is that another soldier shot Abdel Fatah first, even though he was unarmed and his hands were raised, and only later did Elor Azaria execute him. Bennet called the scene as a “battle ground” and the shooting perfectly legitimate because according to him “Viscous Palestinian terrorists are coming out every day to kill Jews.”
The result of Bennet’s call for the shelling in Qana, according to Fisk, was “The blood of all the refugees ran quite literally in streams from the shell-smashed UN compound […] in which the Shiite Muslims from the hill villages of southern Lebanon – who had heeded Israel’s order to leave their homes – had pathetically sought shelter.” Once the news of the shelling had got out, relatives started arriving from other parts of Lebanon to look for loved ones. Their grief and anger were forceful, “we had suddenly become not UN troops and journalists but Westerners, Israel’s allies” Fisk writes, and he continues, “one bearded man with fierce eyes stared at us, his face dark with fury: […] “I would like to be made into a bomb and blow myself up amid the Israelis” the man cried.
The story of the Qana massacre was brought up during the Israeli elections of 2015, because Bennet was the head of one of the parties running. Claims were made that the “incident” was evidence that he had “poor judgment.” Today, twenty years and countless massacres later a man who knowingly brought about the gruesome killing of countless innocents is in charge of educating Israeli children and is defending the execution of a young Palestinian. And yet, the one man that everyone is calling a terrorist is one who committed no act violence at all: the young Abdel Fatah Alsharif, may he rest in peace.
Taking the measure on Tuesday, Nilesat alleged that Al-Manar had “violated the contract by broadcasting shows that provoke sectarian strife and sedition.”
The company is also to stop its operations in Lebanon as of Wednesday when its contract expires.
Saudi-based satellite provider Arabsat had stopped broadcasting Al-Manar in December 2015, a month after it took Al Mayadeen TV, another Lebanon-based channel, off air.
Late last week, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV shut its offices in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, and dismissed the local staff over “security reasons.”
Saudi Arabia has been adopting a raft of measures against Lebanon in reaction to the latter country’s refusal to side with Riyadh against Iran.
It has been targeting Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, which has been fighting Saudi-backed extremism inside both Lebanon and Syria.
Earlier in the year, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil refused to back a motion crafted by Saudi Arabia against the Islamic Republic, prompting Riyadh to retract a $4-billion aid pledge to Lebanon and demand an apology, which Lebanon refused to give.
The motion had sought to condemn Tehran over January attacks on vacant Saudi diplomatic premises. The attacks occurred during otherwise peaceful protests against Saudi Arabia’s execution earlier of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Saudi Arabia has also ordered its citizens not to travel to Lebanon and imposed sanctions on four Lebanese firms and three individuals it accuses of having links to Hezbollah.
There are also reports that Saudi Arabia may expel the Lebanese nationals working on its territory.
Some local media reports in Lebanon have, meanwhile, said the Saudis may be applying pressure to secure the release of a member of the royal family held in Lebanon since last October on drug charges.
Abdul-Mohsen al-Waleed Al Saud was detained in Beirut after authorities seized two tons of amphetamine Captagon pills before they were loaded onto his private plane.
Al-Akhbar newspaper revealed that France has been involved in spying on the internet cable that transmits the cyber services from the French city of Marseille to Lebanon, passing through Egypt.
The Lebanese daily explained that the French intelligence services monitor all the telecommunications operated in Lebanon, knowing that Orange company that is very close to the Zionist entity also supervises the entire process.
Accordingly, the experts urged the Lebanese to take extreme cyber security measures to secure their telecommunication activities.
Now that the Syrian armed forces have liberated Palmyra, President al Assad has thanked Vladimir Putin and the Russian people for the substantial support they provided to his country. Side by side, Syria and Russia have been fighting against the ISIS and other terrorist groups operating in the region – mainly the implants from the staunch allies of the West: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
After recent victories in Syria, the myth of invincibility of the terrorism has collapsed, smashed to pieces. It has become clear that if fought honestly and with full determination, even the most fanatical ones can be defeated.
It has also become obvious that the West has very little interest in defeating these groups. First: they were invented in the Western capitals, at least conceptually. Second: they serve numerous purposes and in many different parts of the world; they brutalize rebellious countries in the Middle East, and they are spreading fear and frustration amongst the European citizens thus justifying increasing ‘defense’ and intelligence budgets, as well as grotesque surveillance measures.
It is so obvious that the West is unhappy about the marvelous success of both the Syrian and Russian forces in the Middle East. And it still does all it can to undermine it, and it is belittling and even smearing it using its propaganda apparatus.
Now that the ISIS has been pushed away, further and further from all key strategic locations inside Syria, the question comes to mind: if finally defeated, where is it going to go next? Its fighters are, of course, in neighboring Iraq, but Baghdad has also been forging a closer and closer alliance with Russia, and the terrorist groups may soon not be safe there, either. By all accounts, the easiest place for the ISIS to expand is Lebanon.
Because the ISIS is already there! Its dormant cells are spread across the entire country, from Bekaa Valley, and even to some of the posh (and not necessarily Muslim) neighborhoods of Beirut.
Historically, Syria and Lebanon are a single entity. The movement of people between these two countries is substantial and constant. After the war in Syria began, hundreds of thousands of refugees, poor and rich, entered tiny Lebanon, some settling in the makeshift camps in Bekaa Valley, others renting lavish apartments on the Corniche in Beirut.
Officially, Lebanon (a country with only 4.5 million inhabitants) is “hosting” around 1.5 million refugees, mostly Syrians, but also those from Iraq and elsewhere. That is in addition to approximately 450,000 ‘permanent Palestinian refugees’ who are living in several large camps administered by UNRWA.
On some occasions, when the fighting got too vicious, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon spiked (unofficially) to over 2 million. For many years, the border between Lebanon and Syria has been porous, and even checks at the border crossings were relatively lax. It began to change, but only recently.
With the refugees (mostly families escaping from battles and from the extreme hardship caused by the conflict), came a substantial number of jihadi cadres – fighters from the ISIS, Al Nusrah and other pro-Saudi and pro-Turkish terrorist groups. They took full advantage of the situation, infiltrating the flow of legitimate émigrés.
Their goal has been clear and simple: to regroup in Lebanon, to create strong and effective cells, and then to strike when the time is ripe. The ‘dream’ of the ISIS is a mighty Caliphate in the north of Lebanon, preferably with full access to the Mediterranean Sea.
In recent history, Lebanon has become an extremely weak state, divided along the sectarian lines. For almost two years it has been unable to elect a President. To date, the government has been dysfunctional, almost paralyzed. The country is suffering from countless lethal ailments: from never-ending ‘garbage crises’ to constant electricity shortages, and problems with water supply. There is no public transportation, and public education is underfunded, inadequate and serves only the poorest part of the population. Corruption is endemic.
From time to time, Israel threatens to invade. It has attacked Lebanon on at least 5 separate occasions; the last time was as recent as in 2006. In the northeast of the country, on the Syrian border, both Lebanese military and Hezbollah are engaged in fighting the ISIS.
But the Lebanese military is under-staffed, badly armed and terribly trained. In the end it is Hezbollah, the most prominent military, social and ideological force in Lebanon, which is holding the line. It is fighting a tremendous, epic battle, in which it has already lost more men than it did when combating the most recent Israeli invasion in 2006.
So far, Hezbollah’s combat against the terrorist groups is successful. But in addition to providing defense, it is now the only political force in Lebanon that is willing to reach across the sectarian divides. It is also offering much needed social support to hundreds of thousands of poor Lebanese citizens.
In Lebanon and in fact all over the Middle East, Hezbollah is deeply respected. But it is Shi’a; it has been closely linked with Iran and Syria, and it is known to be fiercely critical of the West and its murderous actions in the Middle East and the Gulf. It is fighting precisely those terrorist groups that are armed and supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Therefore, it is antagonized.
The Lebanese government persistently refuses to place Hezbollah on the ‘terrorist list’, something that has already been done by many Western countries and by most of the pro-Western members of the Arab League. To the dismay of Saudi Arabia, both Iraq and Lebanon refused to vote in favor of declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Syria would also refuse, but predictably it was not invited to vote.
Lebanon is increasingly critical of the West, of the international organizations and of the Arab League countries. It is outraged over the double standards related to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. It is also unusually outspoken. One of Lebanon’s major newspapers, the Daily Star, reported on March 26th, 2016:
“Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Saturday accused the international community of approaching the Syrian refugee crisis with a double standard; hours after U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon departed Beirut following a two-day visit.
Bassil pointed to the inconsistency of countries that back Syria’s armed insurrection to call on Lebanon to put human rights first, noting that many of those states were removing refugees by force – a move Beirut has not taken.
“They create war, and then call on others to host refugees in line with human rights treaties,” he said in a televised news conference from his residence in Batroun.”
The Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and his party are in fact in a coalition with Hezbollah. He was extremely critical of the top ranking visitors who are lately overwhelming Lebanon: U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. Mr. Bassil even refused to meet Ban Ki-moon in person.
One of my sources that attended the closed-door meeting of Ban Ki-moon, Jim Yong Kim and the heads of the U.N. agencies in Beirut, commented: “almost nothing new, concrete or inspiring was discussed there.”
In Beirut, it is often mentioned that while Turkey and Jordan are able to negotiate billions of dollars for hosting the refugees on their soil, Lebanon is only given empty promises from the EU and the rest of international community. It is also being threatened with legal consequences, in case it were to decide to remove the refugees by force (the West’s allies like Thailand regularly remove refugees by force, often even killing them, but there are never any substantial threats delivered. Several European countries are also forcing refugees to leave).
How a country of 4.5 million will manage to cope with 1.5 million immigrants is uncertain. What is clear is that Lebanon’s infrastructure is collapsing or, as some say, is already gone.
It appears that there is a plan, a reason for choking Lebanon. Several Beirut-based experts are claiming that the country will soon become indefensible. The Saudis cancelled more than U$4 billion in aid earlier promised to the Lebanese military forces. Robert Fisk wrote for the Independent on March 2nd, 2016:
“Now Saudi Arabia, blundering into the civil war in Yemen and threatening to send its overpaid but poorly trained soldiers into Syria, has turned with a vengeance on Lebanon for its unfaithfulness and lack of gratitude after decades of Saudi largesse.
After repeatedly promising to spend £3.2bn on new French weapons for the well-trained but hopelessly under-armed Lebanese army, Saudi Arabia has suddenly declined to fund the project – which was eagerly supported by the US and, for greedier reasons, by Paris. Along with other Gulf states, Riyadh has told its citizens not to visit Lebanon or – if they are already there – to leave. Saudi Airlines is supposedly going to halt all flights to Beirut. Lebanon, according to the Saudis, is a centre of “terror”.”
The fact that last year Lebanon dared to arrest a Saudi Prince at Rafik Hariri International Airport, as he was trying to smuggle two tonnes of Captagon amphetamine pills bound for Saudi Arabia on a private jet, did not help. The Prince was also smuggling cocaine, but that was, most likely, for his personal consumption. Captagon amphetamine is also called the ‘combat drug’, and was, most likely, destined for pro-Saudi fighters in Yemen.
So what will happen if the Lebanese military gets no new weapons? Maybe Iran could help, but if not? Then Hezbollah would be the only force facing the ISIS that will soon be pouring out of the liberated cities in Syria in all directions, particularly towards the coast of Lebanon. But Hezbollah is ostracized, choked and demonized by the West and the Gulf.
One tiny new Israeli invasion and almost all Hezbollah forces would be tied up in the south, the ISIS would attack from the north, the dormant cells would be activated in Beirut, Tripoli and other cities, and Lebanon would collapse within few days. Is this a plan? After all, Israel and Saudi Arabia are two close allies, when it comes to their ‘Shi’a enemies’.
Then this tiny, proud and creative country would basically cease to exist.
The Gulf States (their rulers, not the people) would rejoice: another bastion of tolerance gone. And one more Shi’a stronghold – Hezbollah areas inside Lebanon – would be plundered and destroyed.
The West might be officially expressing its ‘concern’, but such a scenario would fit into its master plan: one more rebellious country would be finished, and Syria would for years be threatened from the western direction. After all, Damascus is only 30 minutes drive from the Lebanese border.
The “Paris of the Middle East” as Beirut used to be called, would then be ‘decorated’ with those frightening black flags of the ISIS. Lebanon as a whole would experience total collapse, year zero, the end.
This is not some phantasmagoric scenario. All this could happen within one year, even within a few months.
Right now, Lebanon has only two places from which to ask for help, for protection: Teheran and Moscow. It should approach both of them, without any delay!
Militants shot at a Lebanese army surveillance tower in the border town of Hneider early on Saturday, al-Manar correspondent reported.
Our reporter said that following the attack two army soldiers withdrew the surveillance tower to a nearby checkpoint, adding that the army fired flare bombs and targeted the militants with machine guns and artillery fire.
The army soldiers then returned to the surveillance tower, according to our correspondent.
Meanwhile, the National News Agency reported that the Lebanese army “upped security measures in the border town of Hneider and its neighboring towns in the region of Wadi Khaled, following an attack by Syrian gunmen on a surveillance tower on Saturday.”
The surveillance tower which is under construction and aims at observing and controlling the border is under the joint control of the Lebanese Armed Forces, Internal Security Forces and General Security, NNA added.
Since the start of 2016 the mainstream media in the US and the countries that are in Washington’s sphere of influence have been talking about fallout between Russia and Iran over the conflict in Syria. These media reports continuously talk about Russia becoming afraid of Iran or vice-versa, Iran becoming afraid of Russia. These reports constantly talk about competition and rifts between the Iranian and Russian governments over Syria.
Here are two examples. The Financial Times reported that Iran should be afraid of Russia on February 24, 2016. A few weeks later, Bloomberg reported that the Russian military downsizing in Syria risks a rift with Iran in an article by Ilya Arkhipov, Dana Khraiche, and Henry Meyer, published on March 16, 2016.
For months, however, the steady streams of reports about a Russo-Iranian split have been utterly wrong. They are part of a campaign of misinformation (wrong information and analysis) and disinformation (propaganda). The relations between Moscow and Tehran are stable, and their cooperation is strategically oriented. In fact, Russia is supporting Iran against the US initiative at the United Nations Security Council to say that Iranian ballistic missile tests are a violation of Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCAP) signed between Iran and the US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia (the P5+1 or EU3+3).
By the same token, other misleading and deceiving reports have been released about Iranian and Russian tensions. Some have been over the levels of Iranian oil production exports. Others have been about fallout between Moscow and Tehran over an Iranian transfer of Russian arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Many have also been about the deal and delivery of the Russian-manufactured S-300 anti-missile system to the Iranian military.
In regards to a Russo-Iranian rift over Iranian oil production, these reports focus on demands by Saudi Arabia and Russia that Iran cut back its oil production. Moscow, however, has said that Iran is a special cases and it understands that Iran is working to regain lost energy markets. It has exempted Iran from its call to cut back global oil exports under a global output freeze as part of an initiative to raise the price of oil. While visiting his counterpart in Tehran in mid-March 2016, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak even announced that the Russian government understands and accepts the Iranian position, which demands that Iran be allowed to regain its pre-sanction output levels.
In regards to Israeli media reports that there has been fallout between Iran and Russia over Russian arms being transferred to Hezbollah, no signs of this have manifested themselves empirically anywhere. The Russian government has made no statements against Iran. Nor have the Israeli reports been verified in any substantive way.
It was reported in Kuwait that the S-300 deal had been annulled on March 9, 2016. On the same day Sputnik interviewed an Iranian military spokesperson, who rejected the claim. While, from what the public knows, the delivery of the S-300 system to Iran by Russia has been delayed, this does not automatically insinuate tensions between Moscow and Tehran. Both Iranian and Russian officials have repeatedly denied reports saying that the deal has been cancelled. Delays have taken place due to legal provisions and technical matters, according to officials in Moscow and Tehran. Rostec, the government-owned national arms manufacturer of Russia, has even announced that the first orders of the S-300 will be delivered to Iran sometime running from August to September 2016.
Russo-Iranian Cooperation in Syria
About three weeks after a cease-fire agreement for Syria officially started (on February 27, 2016), Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would begin to partially withdraw from Syria on March 14, 2016. The next day the Russian military began downsizing its presence in Syria. This began being presented as a stumbling block between Tehran and the Kremlin.
Reports were published that claimed that Tehran was upset at the Russian move. The Russian withdrawal is portrayed in these reports as a surprise to the Iranian side. The Iranian government, however, has announced that the reduction of the Russian military force in Syria is a positive sign of success, which means that Iran and Russia have achieved their key objectives inside Syria. Moreover, if the Russian move hurt Iranian interests inside Syria, it would not have resulted in Israeli President Reuven Rivlin making a request on March 16, 2016 to Moscow to ensure that Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah do not benefit from the Russian decision to reduce its military presence.
Nor was Iran caught off guard by the Kremlin’s decision to reduce its military presence in Syria. Iranian and Russian generals and officials have been shuttling back and forth from one another’s capitals for months speaking on and strategizing over the conflict Syria. It is highly unlikely that Moscow’s decision to reconstitute its military position in Syria was not coordinated with either the Iranian or Syrian governments. Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus have been constantly consulting one another about the military operations in Syria.
If it was not for Iranian and Russian cooperation and resoluteness in Syria, the cease-fire agreement in Syria would not have materialized. The most recent wave of false reports about Russian and Iranian tensions in Syria are aimed at creating suspicion and managing the perception of US clients. This discourse is not only aimed at misleading people or targeting Iran and Russia, it is aimed at deceiving US clients and Syrian opposition figures in the Middle East about the reality of the situation on the ground in Syria, which is that the camps supported by the Iranians and the Russians in the Middle East are the ones on top.
Any ideas about some type of Russo-Iranian fallout are wishful thinking. Both powers are moving towards even deeper cooperation across the Eurasian landmass from the Mediterranean littoral and Iraq to the Caucasus and Central Asia. They are not only cooperating militarily together, but both Tehran and Moscow are also deepening their industrial, agricultural, financial, political, and economic ties too. This is no temporary alliance, but part of a long-term engagement and strategic partnership.
If you’d have said a year ago that the US State Department, Google, and Al Jazeera had been collaborating in pursuance of regime change in Syria, chances are you’d have been casually dismissed as a ‘crank’ and a ‘conspiracy theorist’.
Syria was a people’s uprising against a wicked genocidal Russian-backed dictator and the West had nothing to do with the bloodshed which engulfed the country. If you thought otherwise then you were considered an ‘Assad apologist’.
However, thanks to Wikileaks, the Freedom of Information Act, and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private, non-secure email server, we can see what was really going on behind the curtain.
Overall, 30,322 emails and attachments dating from June 30, 2010 to August 12, 2014, including 7,570 written by Clinton herself, have been published.
They haven’t made much of an impact in the mainstream media, which is not surprising considering their explosive content.
The emails reveal how the US State Department, ‘independent’ media and Silicon Valley have worked together to try and achieve foreign policy goals.
Particularly damning is a communication from Jared Cohen, the President of ‘Google Ideas’, (now called ‘Jigsaw’), which was sent on July 25, 2012.
“Please keep close hold, but my team is planning to launch a tool on Sunday that will publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from,” Cohen wrote.
“Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition,” he went on.
The head of Google Ideas added that his organization was partnering with al Jazeera “who will take primary ownership over the tool we have built.”
Cohen finished his email by repeating his warning: “Please keep this very close hold… We believe this can have an important impact.”
The email was sent to three top officials, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns (a former Ambassador to Russia), Alec Ross, a senior Clinton adviser on innovation; and Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan.
Sullivan forwarded the email to Hillary Clinton with the message: “FYI-this is a pretty cool idea.” On August 4, 2012, Clinton sent the information to her aide Monica Handley. The title heading was: Syria Attachments: Defection Tracker.PDF.
“The Silicon Valley’s technotronic oligarchy have been exposed as a mere extension of the CIA in terms of playing a role in Washington’s state policy of regime change in Syria,” was the verdict of 21st Century Wire.
If you think it’s surprising that a top man at Google should be so interested in a ‘tool’ which could help the ‘opposition’ take power in Syria, then a closer look at Jared Cohen’s career background helps shed some light on the matter.
A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Cohen was a bright guy who was clearly fast-tracked for big things. After an internship at the US State Department, he became a member of Condoleeza Rice’s Policy Planning Staff in 2006 when he was just 24 years of age. That same year he had a book published on the Rwandan genocide, while a year later his ‘Children of Jihad – A Young American’s travels among the Youth of the Middle East’ was published.
In 2009, it’s claimed that Cohen personally asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey not to interrupt his company’s service in Iran for maintenance. Tehran at the time was preparing for elections and it was apparently believed that the opponents of President Ahmadinejad would be hindered without access to social media.
Since 2010, Cohen has been an Adjunct Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2013, Time magazine listed the then 32-year-old as one of its 100 Most Influential People in the world.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who met Cohen and Google chairman Eric Schmidt when he was under house-arrest in 2011, has written about Google’s role in assisting US foreign policy goals. “Whether it is being just a company or ‘more than just a company,’ Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed within the foreign-policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower,” Assange said.
The Wikileaks founder discovered that Jared Cohen had “quietly worked” in Lebanon “to establish an intellectual and clerical rival to Hezbollah, the Higher Shia League.” In Afghanistan, Cohen had tried “to convince the four major Afghan mobile phone companies to move their antennas onto US military bases.”
In June 2010, when Syria was a country still at peace, Cohen traveled to the Arab Republic with Alec Ross. “I’m not kidding when I say I just had the greatest frappuccino ever at Kalamoun University north of Damascus,” he tweeted. Ross, in a more serious mood, tweeted: “This trip to #Syria will test Syria’s willingness to engage more responsibly on issues of#netfreedom”.
In an email dated September 24, 2010, entitled ‘1st known case of a successful social media campaign in Syria’, and which was later forwarded to Hillary Clinton, Ross wrote:
“When Jared and I went to Syria, it was because we knew that Syrian society was growing increasingly young (population will double in 17 years) and digital and that this was going to create disruptions in society that we could potential harness for our purposes”
Those “purposes” were of course “regime change” and break Syria’s alliance with Iran.
We already know, courtesy of Wikileaks, that Washington’s plans to destabilize Syria long pre-dated the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.
A 2006 cable from US Ambassador to Syria William Roebuck discussed “potential vulnerabilities” of the Assad administration and the “possible means to exploit them”.
One of the “possible means” was to seek to divide the Shia and Sunni communities in Syria. In a section entitled PLAY ON SUNNI FEARS OF IRANIAN INFLUENCE, the Ambassador writes:
“There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis. Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business.”
Another was listed as ‘ENCOURAGE RUMORS AND SIGNALS OF EXTERNAL PLOTTING’. This would increase “the possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction” from the Syrian government.
Lo and behold when the protests against the Assad government did kick off in early 2011, the US was quick to accuse the Syrian authorities of over-reacting – which is exactly what they had wanted.
The earlier Wikileaks revelations on Syria tie in with what we learn from Clinton’s emails.
While Western leaders and their media stenographers feign horror and outrage over what’s been happening in Syria, Wikileaks shows us that the possibility of the country being torn apart by sectarian conflict was actually welcomed by Syria’s enemies.
“The fall of the House of Assad could well ignite a sectarian war between the Shiites and the majority Sunnis of the region drawing in Iran, which, in the view of Israeli commanders would not be a bad thing for Israel and its Western allies” Sidney Blumental wrote in a 2012 email to Hillary Clinton.
Blumenthal does point out that not all in Israel’s governing circles thought that way, with concern expressed that the spread of “increasingly conservative Islamic regimes” could make Israel “vulnerable”.
We must remember that if the US and UK got their way in August 2013 and bombed the Assad government, then its likely that IS and al-Qaeda affiliates would have taken control of the entire country. And the most bellicose voices calling for the bombing of a secular government that was fighting IS and al-Qaeda in 2013 were American neocons. This was the same group of hawks who had pushed so hard for the invasion of Iraq 10 years earlier and who had also propagandized for the NATO bombing of Libya in 2011.
Wikileaks confirms that – as was the case in Libya and Iraq – almost everything about the official “western establishment” version of the war in Syria was false.
Far from being an innocent bystander, the US went out of its way to destabilize the country and exploit ethnic and religious divisions.
A huge amount of weaponry was provided -via regional allies -to violent jihadists, euphemistically referred to as ‘rebels’, to try and achieve the goal of ‘regime change’. The rise of ISIS can be directly attributed to the destructive, malignant policies of the US and its allies towards Syria. Don’t forget we’ve already seen a US Intelligence report from August 2012, which stated that “the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria” was “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime”.
In 2006, the same year that Ambassador Roebuck sent his cable on how the US might exploit the “potential vulnerabilities” of the secular Assad administration, the Syrian authorities foiled a terrorist attack on the US embassy in Damascus.
You might have thought that it would have earned Syria some brownie points with the State Department and its collaborators. But as the HRC emails confirm, it counted for absolutely nothing.
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at http://www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
An article titled It’s Time to Seriously Consider Partitioning Syria published recently by Foreign Policy raises serious concerns.
The author writes that the war in Syria has devastated entire cities, the death toll is 470 thousand (there are no reliable statistics to confirm the figure) and 6 million people have become displaced. As a result, religious communities in Syria cannot live together in one state anymore. He believes that Syria should be divided into parts populated by Alawites (for some reason it includes Damascus) and Sunni Muslims. The options include a partition of the country into independent states or forming some kind of loose confederation like Bosnia and Herzegovina. James Stavridis is a four-star Admiral and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. He is an influential person in military and political circles.
The Admiral made public his views on Syria soon after US State Secretary John Kerry referred to plan B in Syria in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 1.
According to the US top diplomat, he will move towards a plan B that could involve a partition of Syria if hostilities continue because the political forces cannot coexist in one state.
The idea of dividing Syria, Iraq and other states in the Middle East has been considered by US strategic thinkers since the 1980s. Bernard Lewis, the patriarch of American oriental studies, was the first to suggest it. For many years he has been a member of and consultant to the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Formally an independent think tank, the Council exerts great influence on shaping US foreign policy.
In The Roots of Muslim Rage, an essay published in 1990, Bernard Lewis describes a ‘surge of hatred’ rising from the Islamic world that “becomes a rejection of Western civilization as such.” The thesis became influential.
The essay inspired Samuel Huntington, the author of the clash of civilizations hypothesis. Lewis is a widely read expert on the Middle East and is regarded as one of the West’s leading scholars specialized in that region. His advice has been frequently sought by policymakers, including the Bush Jr. administration in the early 2000s. Jacob Weisberg, a prominent US journalist, writes that Bernard Lewis was perhaps the most significant intellectual influence behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In 1979, Bernard Lewis first unveiled his project aimed at reshaping the Middle East to the Bilderberg Meeting in Baden, Austria. The goal was to counter Iran after the Islamic revolution and the Soviet Union with its military deployed to Afghanistan the same year. According to him, the anti-Iranian policy was to include the incitement of an armed Sunni-Shia confrontation and support of the Muslim Brothers movement. The Soviet Union was to be countered by creating an «Arc of Crisis» in the vicinity of its borders. The national states of the Middle East were to be ‘Balkanized’ along religious, ethnic and sectarian lines.
The Lewis project was advanced further after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1992 the scholar’s article titled Rethinking the Middle East appeared in Foreign Affairs, the US leading forum for serious discussion of foreign policy and international affairs published by the Council on Foreign Relations.
There he presented a new map of the Middle East. The plan envisaged breaking Syria up into small fragments with the territories populated by the Druze and Alawites separated to become independent mini-states. Lewis wanted to establish new entities: a tiny state on the territory of Lebanon populated by Maronites, an independent Kurdistan comprising the Kurds-populated areas of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, an independent Shia state in Iraq, an Arab state in the Iranian province of Khuzestan – the major oil-producing region of Iran. The plans also envisaged the creation of independent Balochistan.
Bernard Lewis advocated a policy called ‘Lebanonization’. According to him, “A possibility, which could even be precipitated by Islamic fundamentalism, is what has late been fashionable to call ‘Lebanonization’. Most of the states of the Middle East – Egypt is an obvious exception – are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity… The state then disintegrates – as happened in Lebanon – into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions, and parties,” the scholar wrote.
The main goal of such projects is to prevent the emergence of regional forces able to challenge the hegemony of the United States [or Israel]. That’s what made the US add fuel to the fire of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). Washington succeeded in making the war last for eight years. By provoking the hostilities, the US killed two birds with one stone: it prevented Iran from growing stronger and weakened Iraq ruled by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party.
The West launched Operation Desert Storm to keep Iraq weak. In 2003 it concocted a false pretext (the possession of weapons of mass destruction) to occupy Iraq and deprive it of sovereignty. By and large, the same fate awaited Syria.
In 1990 Syrian troops remained in Lebanon as peacekeepers in accordance with the Taif Agreement. The US gave its consent because Damascus took part in Operation Desert Storm against Iraq. Besides, the Syrian government of Hafez Assad effectively committed itself not to take hostile actions against Israel. In ten years the situation changed. Damascus launched the policy of strategic partnership with Iran. It supported the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. Washington changed its stance to say the Syrian military in Lebanon was an occupying force. Using the imposition of sanctions as a weapon, the United States made Syria withdraw from Lebanon. In 2011 the US started to undermine the Syria’s national sovereignty.
The most faithful US allies – Saudi Arabia for instance – have no guarantees they will not become part of such plans. Nowadays, the United States does not depend on the oil supplies from the Middle East. It has put an end to the policy of direct confrontation with Tehran. As a strategic partner, Riyadh is not as important as it used to be. It’s hardly a coincidence that US media outlets started to publish maps with Hejaz (a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia) drawn as part of Jordan with the eastern part of the Saudi Kingdom together with South Iraq shown as part of Shia Arab state. Actually, a genuine settlement to the problems faced by the Arab world is something quite opposite from what the United States has to offer.
The partition of the Middle East into tiny powerless states will give rise to new crises accompanied by ethnic and religious cleansing. It will lead to a ‘war of all against all’ (bellum omnium contra omnes) – the term coined by Thomas Hobbs.
In case of such a war, the small principalities will need someone for arbitration. Washington will offer itself for this role.
In the future, the creation of large Arab space (Grossraum) may lead the region out of the deep crisis it faces, but that’s a different and a very serious matter to be discussed some other time.